Overseas Conference

Introduction of LGBTQI+ activism in Asia and the new world order of Christianity in the global context

FCSJ: Liberating Theologies Speaker Series (24-25 Sept, 2021)

Presentation by Pearl Wong

Topic : Introduction of LGBTQI+ activism in Asia and the new world order of Christianity in the global context


I would like to begin by sharing with you my “coming out” story that eventually “called” me to my ministry.

  I attended a church of the Assemblies of God in Hong Kong almost 18 years ago. I was serving in various ministries at first, but once my church leaders found out that I am lesbian and about my same-sex relationship, they requested me to confess my sin and demanded that I should leave my partner. When I told them that I could not end the relationship, they immediately stopped all my ministries. None of the church leaders, including the senior pastor, could convince me why I was not given an equal opportunity to serve in the church. I felt rejected and being punished because of my sexual orientation.  I was angry, at the same time, received no support from anyone in the church; I had no choice but to leave a community which was supposed to exemplify Christ's love. 

  What redeemed me from self condemnation of my sexuality was my encounter with a lesbian pastor of United Church of Canada in Vancouver. After I left my church I visited my mother in Vancouver and stumbled upon an UCC church.  I heard Rev. Bethan Theunissen announce to the congregation that their church is an open and affirming church. I was confused so I made an appointment to talk to Bethan. The first question I asked her was, “Isn’t homosexuality a sin as written in the Bible?” And I broke down and cried. Bethan shared with me her coming out journey, books on different interpretations of the Bible, and also invited me to join their LGBT+ fellowship. I listened to many painful journeys from them; most importantly, recognize that I am not alone and I can be both lesbian and Christian.

  Rev. Bethan introduced me to Dr. Rose Wu who is LGBTQI+ ally, advocate of our equal rights and also professor of feminist theology and queer theologies in Hong Kong. I decided to study theology full time, at the time, my reason was to know if God and the Bible condemn my sexuality.  At first, the fear of rejection and discrimination still haunted me so I dare not come out in the Divinity School.  However, I could not live under this self -denial of my true identity any longer, and I am convinced that God loves me the way God has created me and that includes my sexuality.

  Finally, together with nine other LGBTQ+ students, I came out in front of the whole Divinity School. This act of “Coming Out” together affirms our identities and that God creates all human beings in God's holy image. At that moment, I pledge to walk in solidarity with others to affirm that we can be both LGBTQI+ and Christians, and we deserve to live with dignity and joy!  

  What brought me to my work and the birth of our organization?

   My own painful story is among many painful experiences of LGBTQI+ Christians in HK. We were condemned, discriminated and even excommunicated from our churches because of our sexualities as a result of the patriarchal-heterosexist Christian tradition (still very much practiced by most churches in HK).

  After graduation, I decided that other than writing about what I advocate, I want to put that in praxis. It became clear that this is God’s ministry for me.

  Queer Theology Academy was founded in 2013 by a group of queers who have similar painful experiences with their churches because of their sexualities; also allies who have theological training. Our Mission is to advocate for the rights and dignity of LGBTQI+ Christians. We support, empower, and care for them. Our Work focuses on 4 areas. 1) Publication of feminist and queer theologies in the context of Hong Kong and Asia. 2) Theological education. 3) Affirming pastoral counseling and spiritual formation for queer Christians.  4) Advocacy.

Next, I want to share more about our work and the issues we want to address.

  First is to provide pedagogy of feminist theology and queer theologies outside of seminaries.  We realize that all the seminaries and mainline churches in HK, with the exception of the Divinity School that I attended, teach what they called orthodox theology, that is,

patriarchal - heterosexist theologies. Identities and voices of sexual minorities are being ignored. Theologies and biblical interpretations written from the perspectives of LGBTQI+ are considered heretic. Therefore, pedagogy of feminist theology and queer theologies are essential in the context of HK, China and Taiwan. We (QTA) organized the first Queer Theologies project for Asian Chinese LGBTQI+ Christians in 2014, the first pilot Asian project of its kind. Our second Queer Theologies Project for Asian Chinese took place in 2019. The project has brought together 25 participants in 2014 and 33 in 2019. They are LGBTQI+ Asian Christian pastors and lay leaders from East and South East Asia, even from the United States, engaged in a week long intensive courses on queer theologies, queer biblical interpretation, pastoral counseling, sexual ethics, LGBTQI+ movements in history as well as spiritual formation.

  Second, publication of queer theologies in Chinese language in Asian context. We are also pioneer in publishing a series of books in Chinese on the topic of sexualities and queer theologies.

  • Book 1 : Topics on sexualities that are taboo for churches, also challenges churches’ pastoral approach for sexual minorities.
  • Book 2 : Who Isn’t Queer, queer theologies in the context of Hong Kong”. First public discourse of queer theologies in HK. Written by LGBTQI+ Christians using their own experiences as theological reflections.
  •  Book 3: Queering Hermeneutics in Asian Chinese contexts. Feature 18 authors from HK, Taiwan and China. Our goal is to rediscover the silent queer voices in the Bible, and interpretation done by queers as witness of the good news.
  • Book 4 is work in progress and will be published in English.

  Third, Pastoral Counseling. We offer pastoral counseling and support group to LGBTQI+ Christians and their families that are not available in most churches, and we also have training courses for volunteers of this program.

Challenges I encounter doing this work.

Theological – patriarchal - heterosexist theologies and biblical interpretations.

Traditional – church doctrine and practices about sexualities, taboo topic.

Social and Cultural of Chinese, patriarchal and heterosexual centered.

LGBTQI+ Christians – develop internalized homophobia, shame, guilt, see themselves as sinners and find our perspectives too provocative and controversial.

Successes we can celebrate.

  Outcome of our queer theology Asian projects has enhanced the skills of LGBTQI+ Christian leaders in advancing their ministry, and provide resources to counter Christian right in their countries that are opposed to the equal treatment of LGBT+ persons under criminal and civil laws.  We are happy that 4 of the project participants are now studying theology full time in the Divinity School of Chung Chi College, Hong Kong.

  We also have former participants from our queer theology workshops who have either graduated with a doctorate in theology or in a doctorate program; they have used our publications as teaching material. LGBT+ pastors in HK, China and Taiwan also recommend our books to their congregations. Even lay Christians have bought our books from bookstores.

Our publications have an impact on LGBTQI+ Christians in HK, China, Taiwan, other parts of Asia and globally, wherever there are Asian Christians who can read Chinese.

  We also see ourselves in a theological movement and we are actively involved in advocacy by providing a religious voice. I like to introduce two significant campaigns that we are in partnership with.

Covenant of the Rainbow: Campaign towards a truly inclusive church

  In HK, the loudest opposing voice to anti-discrimination legislation on the basis of sexual orientation is from mainline churches and Christian Right organizations. In the midst of this heated debate about the legislation in 2013, 11 Christian organizations and local inclusive churches initiated Covenant of the Rainbow: Campaign Toward a Truly Inclusive Church in support of the proposed legislation. Goal of the campaign is to appeal to churches to invite sexual minorities from the margins to the center, and to create a truly inclusive environment for them to participate fully in church life. We collected signatures from ministers and theologians globally in support of our campaign. Dr. Pui Lan was one of the signatories.  Our campaign affirms that the Church is a community of faith called by God to live in the unity of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church serves as God’s faithful witness and participates in the ministries of healing, reconciliation, justice and restoring the world to wholeness. Therefore, the church should promote an inclusive and equal community where all are welcome. Since then, our campaign worked very hard to carry on the dialogue with churches, and request churches to give LGBTQI+ Christians the opportunity to share their testimonies. It has been extremely difficult since churches perceive themselves as authoritative to the Christian doctrine, and ignore us who are powerless from the margins.  Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a stop to any chance of interaction.


AMPLIFY Conference

  Amplify conference was born in 2009, started with a call to be a blessing to the development of inclusive faith communities in Asia. Since then, Amplify has become the largest gathering of open and affirming individuals, churches, ministries and fellowships in Asia. The conference brings together delegates from over dozens of countries from Asia, Australia and the United States.  Together, conference participants worship in different traditions and languages, reflect, exchange experiences in their own contexts, share resources on theologies and biblical interpretations from the perspective of LGBTQI+, and explore the values of being “open and affirming”. I have been involved in the Amplify’s program planning for number of years, my take is, it is one thing to write about queer theologies, it is more gratifying to live it with so many queer Asian Christians. It is also a life-giving experience.

  I like to quote what Rev. Dr. Patrick Cheng wrote in the foreword of the book, “Doing Church at the Amplify Open and Affirming Conference” by Joseph N. Goh.  The church is an external community of radical love. One of the key functions of queer ecclesiology is to recognize how the body of Christ has dissolved traditional boundaries of that have kept people apart such as biological relationships, social class and physical attributes. In many ways, the Amplify conference has served exactly this purpose. Furthermore, Amplify has dissolved boundaries relating to national origins, language, educational backgrounds, denominational affiliation, race, gender, gender identity and sexuality. I agree with Cheng that Amplify is a sacred manifestation of rainbow theology.

Finally, I like to share my thoughts on theme of this series: The New World Order: Christianity in the Global Context

First, the importance of BB -Building Bridges

   My organization and work is primarily based in Hong Kong and we have been building bridges with our Asian partners in creating an open and affirming environment for LGBTQI+ Christians, and also advocate for their rights and dignity. Since I moved to Vancouver, Canada last December, I am able to connect and build bridges with organizations in North America such as PANAAWTM, ASIAN CANADIAN WOMEN, WATER, GLOBAL FAITH AND JUSTICE PROJECT, THE FELLOWSHIP OF AFFIRMING MINSTRIES and now FCSJ. These new bridges have broaden my horizon in going forward with my ministries, provide me with new imaginations, and more importantly, know that we are not alone in Hong Kong or in Asia.



Second, SS –Synchronize and Synergize

  I will share 2 Chinese festivals with you. Each year during the Dragon Boat festival there will be dragon boat races. And on mid-autumn festival, a fire dragon dance will be arranged.

 Both the dragon boat and fire dragon are believed to get rid of misfortunes and drive the evil spirits away.  In our contexts, what are the evil spirits and misfortunes? They are the traditional boundaries created by humanity that keep us apart according to our sexualities, race, age, class, prosperity and ability. These boundaries create hatred, discrimination, injustice and violence.

  Both the dragon boat and fire dragon dance cannot be achieved alone, there is no “I”. You need a team, each team member has a different role but moving together in synchronization. In both activities:

  •  actions speak louder than words,
  • each one is accountable to the whole team,
  • everyone on the boat or in the dance is hurting and you are not alone,
  •  inspiring others to be better is the team culture.

This is synergy; we are on the same team in getting rid of misfortunes and evil spirits, in creating an empowering beautiful fire dragon dance, and embarking on a dragon boat that carries our dreams forward to the new world order, to our promised land.