Christianity and same-sex relationships don’t often go hand-in-hand, but they did recently at a large-scale event in Hong Kong.
Queer Christians from across Asia gathered in the SAR on June 7 for an event called Amplify 2013, which aims to be a welcoming oasis for members of the LGBT community to nurture their spirituality. The event debuted in 2008 in Singapore and has been gaining momentum since. The one in Hong Kong drew 300 attendees, some of whom made the journey from the Mainland.
Felix from Guangzhou and John from Shenzhen took some time to chat with The Nanfang about the conference.
This was Felix’s second year at Amplify. A born again Christian, Felix says Amplify has helped him learn about Christianity, having grown up in an atheist household.
John, by contrast, was attending for the first time. He is a practising Catholic who has yet to come out. His family still expects him to get married.
Amplify allows participants, like Felix and John, to worship in an environment where their sexuality is no longer an issue. In many mainstream churches, being open about one’s sexuality could mean excommunication, therapy sessions to ‘fix’ the problem or being labeled an outcast and a sinner.
But that’s only part of the challenge. Freedom of religion in China remains a thorny issue despite it being in the constitution. The government maintains control over where people can gather to worship. In Guangzhou, for example, worshippers must present their passport before being allowed to enter a church.
There is no political agenda behind Amplify, Rev. Paul W. Lucas of Blessed Ministry Christian Fellowship Church (BMCF) told The Nanfang in a Skype interview last month. BMCF is responsible for organizing and hosting the event.
Amplify has clearly inspired a lot of people. Rev. Dr. Patrick S. Cheng is the first openly gay Asian-American to be ordained as a minister in the United States. At Amplify, he led workshops in which he addressed the issue of whether it is possible to be both queer and Christian. “(These are) broken pieces that need to be put together, ” Rev. Cheng said in an interview.
This is not the only event in the region being held for LGBT people this month. June is Pride month and in Guangzhou, a monthly event called ‘Kiwi Night’ was launched to help lesbians meet each other.