I am an ignostic, but for the thousands of LGBT persons in Jamaica, I wonder whether there is a place for them in the Christian community. Writing from personal experience in the New Testament Church of God (NTCOG) and from my knowledge of the preached doctrines of that denomination I will try to “pontificate” that LGBT persons are not welcomed in the church.
A number of persons have engaged in the debate about whether someone can be gay and Christian. It is difficult to respond to that question because we all have our interpretations of what it means to be Christian. In Jamaica, it probably refers to someone who is inter alia God-fearing, believes in the omni-everything of God, attends church regularly, ministers to others through their lives and talent, abides by Canon laws, seeks divine forgiveness if s/he sins, pays tithe and is a documented member of a congregation. With that said, let me attempt to contextualize two possible responses to that question based on the doctrine of the NTCOG: Yes and No.
YES! Of course you can simultaneously be a member of the LGBT and Christian communities. Being attracted to the same sex and embracing the power to choose your gender does not disqualify your membership in a community that preaches love, forgiveness, understanding, kindness and treating all persons as God’s creation. [Without going into the nature vs nurture dichotomy of sexuality and sexual orientation], as creatures of God’s user interface [UI] design, all persons are equal and created in His image. So while the teachings of the Great Book would suggest that homosexuality is in breach of Canon law, much like adultery, false prophecy, blasphemy and fornication, such sins do not negate the love and kindness we should show our neighbour.
The only problem with this argument for LGBT populations who want to be, or say they are Christians is, they must accept that their homosexuality is a sin before God’s ‘eyes’. Such sinful thoughts and actions require repentance, change, and the suppression of their sexual identity and expression. Consequently, if we baptise a homosexual or transgender person in holy water, it is expected that s/he will have some semblance of an epiphany and purge all non-heterosexual thoughts from mind. His/her new mantra will be dedicating her/his body and soul to the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. At least, that’s my interpretation of what would happen to a devout homosexual member of the NTCOG in Jamaica, which brings me to an alternate response: [HELL?] ‘NO’!
Because of the hard stance taken by the executive of the NTCOG in Jamaica and in keeping with the creative and sadistic story of Sodom and Gomorrah, if a member of the church self-affirms his/her non-heterosexual identity s/he better keep it a [quasi] secret. To my finite knowledge, there is currently no openly LGBT person who is a member of the NTCOG in Jamaica. And even if someone had the audacity and bravery to make their non-heterosexual identity known in the church, I am certain the pontiff Bishop Dr. Blair and his executive council of men would order that individual removed from the sacred membership roll. After all, the most learned bishop is committed to “fight[ing] homosexuality and lesbianism with every fibre of [his] being”.
The fact that we cannot have openly gay members in the NTCOG suggests that, culturally speaking, a person cannot be gay and Christian in Evangelical Jamaica. It is my opinion that subscribing to a few principles of a religion does not make you a member of that religion. And I want to be clear here: there is a difference between subscribing to Christian principles and BEING a (practising) Christian. To my non-heterosexual friends – you are not welcomed in the NTCOG unless you come for forgiveness (for being homosexual) and are willing to stamp your sexuality under your feet and find a church wo/man.
It really comes as no surprise to me that the NTCOG has taken such a position. This is the same denomination that discriminates against females as they are forbidden the highest rank available to men – ordained minister. Sometimes I feel like slapping myself for being a former member of this church – a church whose executive chief that does not dedicate every fibre of his being to resolving the issue of homelessness in Jamaica or inhumane living conditions of the poorest proletariats. But I suppose ‘Weh lesley kno who fi frighten’.
As we move forward, I advise my Christian friends to reflect a while on their utterances against LGBT persons and remember that we happen to be human beings too. If it weren’t for my dad [an ordained NTCOG minister] I would rant and rave some more . . . who knows? Maybe we need Russo #2 . . . Perchance in my next post!