MANILA, Philippines – Shalom. The Hebrew greeting of peace hangs on the door, along with a withered frond from the Palm Sunday celebration of Roman Catholics 3 months ago.
There’s a cross on the altar, as with many Christian churches. But there’s also a sacred flame of love on a candle right below the cross. The flame is usually seen on some Protestant denominations.
Then, in one corner of the room, there are 3 rainbow flags from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) movement.
Their worship service is an ecumenical celebration in which evangelical, Catholic, and Protestant practices and rituals are woven together.
The hymns of the congregation are sung like those in an evangelical ministry, communion is served like in the Eucharistic celebrations of Catholics, and they share the word of God like any Christian denomination.
The almost two hour-worship may be described as a diverse mix of Christian influences that is as colorful as the rainbow.
This is the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) in Cubao, an ecumenical Christian church, whose congregation is mostly from the LGBT community.
It’s a church founded on Christ’s fundamental teaching of love, says Kakay Pamaran, a lesbian pastor in MCC.
A spiritual journey of liberation
Mike Mia was formerly an active member of a fundamentalist Christian church, where he was a bible study leader. When he came out, he was stripped of his leadership duties. He was also asked to undergo “restoration.”
“Others think that just because we’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, we no longer uphold moral standards. We still have Christian values,” Mike lamented.
Nessa Abad said it was not just her gender identity that led her on a spiritual journey.
She was born and raised a Catholic, but later found herself hopping from one Christian church to another. Until she discovered the MCC.
“I found my home. There’s this church which can let you in for whoever you are, to celebrate your individuality, and the fact that you are a Christian. It’s a church where I can adhere to its teachings. What I really like about MCC is its activist role. It’s a church for the oppressed and marginalized. It has a clear advocacy, it’s a church for social justice,” Nessa said.
On the other hand, Ivan Malapit was an active member of a born-again church. He said he knew he was gay, but could not come out because was burdened by guilt. His Christian values taught him that homosexuality is a sin.
Ivan confessed, “I had this thinking then that the moment I accept I’m gay, I’m going straight to hell.”
When he finally came out, he was constantly prayed over by his aunt, a woman-pastor in their Church.
“One day, I just had to tell her to stop. I’m not possessed,” he recounted.
Apparently, Ivan’s former Christian church views homosexuality, not just as a sin, but as some sort of possession by an evil spirit that needed to be cast away.
“If you love God and you love your neighbor, why can’t you love us as well?” Ivan asked.
For the love of God
Jack Nicklaus Quimpo is a former Catholic who struggled with his sexuality and the teachings of the Church. He altogether ended up becoming a non-believer.
“They always say it’s wrong, that it’s a sin. It’s like homosexuals are as equally sinful as thieves,” Jack argued.
Glenn Delmonte never publicly admitted he was gay while he was still with his former Christian church, which considered homosexuality a sin.
“Even with heterosexual relationships, they say, ‘Do not yoke with the non-believers.’ One is not allowed have relationships with people who are not born-again. What more of homosexuals?” revealed Glenn, whose faith journey led him to leave that church, some seven years ago.
Meanwhile, it took about eight years before Jack found God again, and it was through the MCC.
“I found God in the most diverse way. The experience was very liberating. It sparked my faith journey,” Jack said. “There’s this community of diverse people, who were practicing Christians—Catholics, Born-Again, and all others”.
It was through Jack that Glenn found out about MCC. The two met on a mobile dating app. Not only had they found a loving God that embraced them, they also found love in each other, the said.
“To be able to marry your sexuality with your spirituality, and your entire faith journey, it further affirms your relationship with God,” Jack said.
As they are about to celebrate their first anniversary as a couple, Jack and Glenn hoped they will reach that time when they will be able to settle down together.
Like any other Christian church, MCC recognizes marriage as the pinnacle of the union between couples. In fact, MCC conducts same-sex marriages. Members of the church say it’s an affirmation of what the MCC congregation believes in – that Christianity is a religion of love. – Rappler.com