“We cannot deny the fact that to discuss faith is challenging in the LGBT community because the church has a long history of demonizing gender non-conforming people,” said Rev. Alfred Candid M. Jaropillo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
This is why for Rev. Jaropillo, as “an openly gay minister of the UCCP and student of theology”, observing LGBT Pride is not easy because of the challenges in crying out/getting LGBT voices heard and in listening to the voices of the people who need God the most.
“As a church person, Pride reminds me of the Exodus story that provides the movement from victimization to resistance: crying-out,” Rev. Jaropillo said. “The Hebrew word for this is ‘za-ak.’ It is not a crying out that comes from resignation to defeat or a sense of helplessness. ‘Za-ak’ is a cry that demands a response; a cry that calls for justice; a cry that calls for liberation. It is only after ‘crying out’ of the Hebrew people in Exodus story that God responds saying: ‘I have seen the affliction of my people… have heard their cry… know their suffering and have come down to deliver them [Raquel, L. G. T. (2015). Crying-out Resisting Asserting Celebrating Proclamation and Poetry].”
The church – generally speaking – is a challenging context because it may have a pro-LGBT position, but it can still continue to have anti-LGBT practices.
Rev. Jaropillo started working to promote LGBT-related issues in the faith community in 2015, after experiencing for himself “gender discrimination from my former parish assignment in Iloilo City.” But he also found support from UCCP, which has a pro-LGBT statement called “Let Grace Be Total”, which “means that LGBTs should not be discriminated against, but should be unconditionally accepted in the fellowship and membership of the church,” Rev. Jaropillo said.
In UCCP’s case – and in his experience – “until now, many members and clergy still dwell in the heteropatriarchal interpretation of the scriptures, which leads to an exclusivist interpretation of the Bible.”
And so “the challenge now for advocates like me within the UCCP is how to educate our faithful on how to approach the scripture in the spirit of great reverence, humility and life affirming, nurturing and inclusive hermeneutics.”
Rev. Jaropillo eyes this as an opportunity to educate as it can be “an opportunity to put our faith into action and to be inclusive and all embracing community. The church cannot claim to be a progressive or prophetic church unless it deliberately works for inclusivity and acceptance, not mere tolerance of LGBTQ people.”
To evidence an affirming and welcoming position in the church, Rev. Jaropillo recommends:
- The creation of a gender desk in national offices, jurisdictional areas and conferences or dioceses tasked with the oversight of the church’s gender equality advocacy;
- Designing of a continuing study for the clergy and church workers on the Biblical theological reflections on LGBT and sexual Orientation and gender identity and expressions (SOGIE);
- Creation of a Christian education and nurture committee to supervise the liturgical life of the church;
- For the church to work for equal gender representation in the higher judicatories in the church up to the local church leadership; and
- Supporting the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill in legislative bodies.
“The church should repent and detoxify herself from the long history of toxic interpretation of the scripture that fuels discrimination and othering of the homosexual community,” Rev. Jaropillo ended.