The day began bright and early as the three of us — Raymond Lee, One Liew and I — made our way to the airport. We found ourselves in an unbelievably long queue leading to the drop-bag counter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, but thankfully got everything done under 30 minutes from the moment we arrived. We were greeted at the Jakarta airport by Rev. Stephen Suleeman and a Jakarta Theological Seminary (JTS) student. We soon arrived at JTS and were whisked off to our rooms.
At the opening ceremony of the International Consultation on Church and Homophobia (ICCH) at the JTS chapel, we participated in an amazing opening service of prayers, hymns and reflections that celebrated the godly gifts of diversity and inclusiveness. I was particularly struck by how representations of, and references to God used inclusive language, and how the reflections evoked deep exercises in spiritual reflexivity. We sang:
“God of queer, transgressive spaces: lavish manger, empty tomb. Wine-dark loaves and precious graces bend our barren lives to bloom. God’s own deviance is Jesus: born of Virgin, word made flesh; Dead and buried, and still rises? What abnormal worldliness!” (Edward Moran, 2005)
After the opening service, participants and organisers remained in the chapel and introduced themselves.
During the liturgy, Rev. Dr Septemmy Lakawa of JTS provided a powerful meditation on the theme of the ICCH, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Among other things, Lakawa stated that “the challenge for us today is to identify how … our theological discourse and doctrines have become the embodiment of the fear of difference, rather than the embodiment of the perfection of love.” After dinner, Rev. Dr Donald Messer, President Emeritus of the Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado, delivered the first ICCH session entitled “Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence on LGBT Issues.” Messer noted how “instead of following the compass of Christ’s ministry to the marginalised and his roadmap of caring for the ‘least of these’ in society, a theology of exclusion and hate has triumphed over a theology of inclusion and love.” The day ended with an evening service comprising a psalm, a reflection and hymns.
© Joseph N. Goh | josephgoh [at] josephgoh [dot] org