Christian Faith and Marriage Equality from the Perspective of the Gospel Rev. Mao-Chen Joseph Chang (Taiwan)
This is the text of a speech for a Catholic View on Marriage and Family Forum held on January 29, 2014 in Taipei, Taiwan.
I am very honoured to have been invited to this seminar in my capacity as a Protestant pastor. The Catholic missionaries who came to Taiwan were captivated by the local culture, as well as the obvious diversity in love and action. I am also learning so much from the experiences of Catholic devotional practices.
In encountering the theme of Christian faith, same-sex marriage and equal rights, we must first look at church history and exercise caution in interpreting the Bible. Whether it is on affirming same-sex marriages, or any other issues involving the core issue of faith that “is not a crime,” the interpretation of the Bible in such issues is relevant.
In terms of the history of the Church, we must honestly face the fact that the church has been guilty of some wrong in the past. When facing some new discovery or idea, the church has often used Scripture to determine what is truth and what is wrong. This included science, slavery, apartheid, equal rights of women, and so on. From the beginning, the Church has maintained a traditional stance in interpreting the Bible against people who have new ideas.
But with the development of society, the emergence of the new discoveries, and even the re-interpretation of the Bible, the Church finally found its earlier interpretation of the Bible immature or too narrow. Finally, the Church found it necessary to use a new interpretation to respond to the new situation of human society, but also to understand God’s mind in different generations.
Today we are talking about this subject, but we must also be prudent in using the Bible to respond to the contemporary situation. We need to spend more time to carry out research, especially research on ethics and biblical hermeneutics, so that Taiwan’s churches and Christians will be able to know how to engage in dialogue in terms of the Bible text and its background, and not just make remarks that are literal, or rely on formality, or lack theological thinking.
What is the Gospel? From the Protestant point of view, the gospel is “justification by faith,” not by works, but by trust. But no matter how we define the Gospel, we can learn what the gospel is just by looking at how the gospel of Jesus Christ was spread.
In the Old Testament, God’s salvation was exclusively available to Jews. Although the concept of universal salvation has appeared, still there is a limit. In the New Testament, with the coming of Jesus, the whole range of the Gospel has been greatly liberated. We see Jesus interacting with those who are considered as sinners, or the socially excluded, such as the so-called prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and others. These so-called sinners felt the love of Jesus during his interactions with them, and they were willing to change their lives or wills.
Unfortunately, I feel that participating churches and Christians in last year’s 1130 parade did not practise the spirit of the Gospel. I say this because I felt deeply wounded by the church in the past. Even the congregation who are seated in church does not know that the child of the pastor whom they are listening to is the father or mother of a gay child.
I offer a bold hypothesis: if homosexuality is a sin, then in fact, we can solve the problem of sin only through faith in Jesus Christ and accept His forgiveness, and let Him take charge of our lives. However, the church’s practice is not of helping gay friends turn to the Gospel. Instead, they shut the door of the Gospel to these friends. There are a lot of gay friends who do not want to have any contact with the Christian faith altogether, and are disgusted with the Church.
What is the Church? If the Lord established the Church, the Church should be available to all faith groups. I say this not only in terms of the topic of homosexuality, but also in terms of a variety of “gender non-mainstream” members of the community. Are they made to feel welcome in the church, and are they respected and treated the same way as anyone else? What about a single person who does not want to enter marriage, or divorcees, or friends who either do not want to or cannot have children, and so on?
We need to reflect on how the Church can help everyone establish a close relationship with God. This is our relationship with Jesus Christ, for the salvation of the Lord restored “decent relationship,” rather than people coming to Church simply to live under human rules or traditions.
In my pastoral experience, I have heard that many gay people were hurt by their churches, which is very regrettable. We have to think: if Jesus were in our society today, what would he do to establish relationships and interactions among his gay friends?
Many people feel that the churches and Christians of today have a strong “self-righteous” image or are “anti-intellectual,” so we must address these issues. The church needs to reflect what Jesus said to self-righteous teachings!
I want to promote Jesus as the desired faith and life of the Church, and allow the Church to stand in the community as an important national leader and prophet. Is the Church community willing to take on a prophetic role in order to make an impact on Taiwanese society? Then we will see if we can revise and reverse the “self-righteous” image and “lack of wisdom,” so that the community can realize the faith and the salvation of the Lord that can really bring about universal acceptance and belief in the faith.
Finally, I would like to talk about the core issue. The core theme of our discussion today is: “as Christians, how do we deal with dissidents?” This is an issue. Because if we cannot address this issue through faith and theological reflection, even if gay people were eventually accepted, human society will find another group of people to persecute. Unless human beings know how to treat people who are different from the main vision of the world, we will not have genuine peace and justice.
Those who want to include same-sex marriage equality and diverse marriages in the legislative draft want to commit themselves to love each other, and include themselves in the category of people who support marriage and the family. Heterosexual persons must learn empathy, understanding, and respect for persons with diverse sexualities in areas of emotional relationship and civil rights requirements.
I believe that everyone wants to see every family and every individual in the world enjoying the Lord’s grace; whether it is love, sexual, or caring at home. I believe that each of us is very clear about this: our task is to see how we can allow everyone to experience God’s love to the world, the integrity of marriage and the family, and as such, allow for adjustments in older ways of doing mission. Let us help and play a role in this issue.
Translated checked by Chong Yee Shan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Photo credit: Rev. Mao-Chen Joseph Chang
After several years of training and working in various areas, Rev. Mao-Chen Joseph Chang has finally found his ultimate meaning in life: being a servant of God. He completed his seminary training through Taiwan Theological College and Seminary and began to work for the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan in its Research and Development Center. True Light Gospel Church, the third church he has established, represents his response to and fulfillment of God’s call to establish inclusive churches that welcome people of diverse social and cultural backgrounds and to support mission works through social enterprise. Rev. Chang also has experience as a speaker at conferences and workshops and participates in many international and media evangelical ministries.