Friday, May 1, 2009

Churches: Don't get involved

April 30, 2009

By Zakir Hussain , Wong Kim Hoh

THE National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) says it does not condone churches getting involved in recent matters related to the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

In a statement on Thursday, it said it did not condone pulpits being used for this purpose.

'Our member churches are not involved in the present saga. In fact, our heads of churches have very recently reiterated to their clergy the standing instruction on the proper use of the pulpit,' said the statement issued by Archbishop John Chew, president of the NCCS, and Mr Lim K Tham, NCSS general secretary.

The NCCS brings together Christian groups like the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Salvation Army and Syrian Orthodox churches, among others. Dr Chew is also the head of the Anglican church in Singapore.

Last week, it emerged that staff and members of the Church of Our Saviour in Margaret Drive, which is under the Anglican communion, were encouraging people to join Aware and support the new team in the society's leadership dispute.

They said the old team at Aware had been promoting lesbianism and homosexuality, a charge the team has rejected.

In a weekend sermon, Senior Pastor Derek Hong urged the women in his flock to 'be engaged' and support new president Josie Lau and 'her sisters' at Aware.

The NCCS said it had been following the recent events related to Aware.

'We are concerned that religion has been dragged into the unfortunate situation. The matters related to Aware should be solved by its own members,' it said.

Some Christians are however uncomfortable that the saga has thrust their religion in the limelight, for the wrong reasons. In blogs and forums, many Christian netizens said religion has no role in secular organisations.

April 30, 2009
Not 'normal alternative lifestyle'

By Nur Dianah Suhaimi

THE Church of Our Saviour takes a stand against those who promote homosexuality as a 'normal alternative lifestyle'.

In a statement to the media on Thursday, its senior pastor Derek Hong said the acceptance of such practices goes against biblical teachings and erodes family values.

'Accepting homosexual practices and endorsing any education programme that teaches our children that such practices are neutral or normal, would lead to the erosion of the sound family values on which Singapore society has been built,' he said.

But he stressed that the church is neither anti-homosexual nor does it have an agenda against homosexuals.

'We believe homosexuals should be extended understanding, kindness and love like every other human being. No homosexual should ever be deprived of any right enjoyed by every other Singaporean,' he said.

There has been much speculation that the church, in Margaret Drive, was involved in the Aware leadership takeover on March 28.

Six of Aware's new executive committee members, including president Josie Lau, are part of the church's 4,000-strong congregation.

Dr Thio Su Mien, a well-known lawyer who claims to be the 'feminist mentor' to these six women, is also a member.

She said Aware's sex education programme in schools encouraged lesbianism and homosexuality.

Although the church has denied its involvement in the saga, online sites are abuzz with news that a pastor has written an e-mail rallying people to attend Aware's extraordinary general meeeting (EGM) this Saturday and vote for the new exco.

[At issue is public space. We are defined by our faith, our religion. We cannot act in contradiction to our faith and our religious beliefs. However, the contraints and restraints that we need to recognise and respect is how we persuade and convince others that our faith, or beliefs are correct or relevant in public discourse.

For secular organisations, rational arguments relying on logic and shared assumptions have to be the basis of decisions and policies. It is not enough to resort to religious dogmas and doctrine as basis for decision. If so, then the secular organisation in effect becomes a religious-based organisation.

Talking about homosexuality as being not normal promotes anxiety and negativity towards homosexuals and undermines the platitude of "understanding and love" for homosexuals. You cannot promote both. "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is idealistic at best, and hypocritical at worst. How can one "understand homosexuality", but already prejudge it as not normal? This implies that one "understands" homosexuality, not on impartial facts, or with an open mind, but on pre-determined terms. That's not understanding.

Thio Su Mien's comments were telling in her sweeping statements about lesbians being sexually abused as children. So every father of a lesbian daughter stands accused of and is pre-judged as a child sex abuser. Very understanding of them.]

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