Op 28 mei 2016 stelde het dagelijks bestuur van de Indonesische Raad van Kerken een dappere boodschap op over aanvaarding van homo’s, lesbiennes, biseksuelen en transgenders. In een land met oplaaiende onderdrukking van en soms geweld tegen seksuele minderheden – regelmatig gesteund door de overheid – is dat een opvallend geluid. Een warm pleidooi voor diversiteit, aanvaarding, gerechtigheid, en dialoog. Dapper en uitdagend, vooral omdat er ook binnen de Indonesische kerken nog heel veel gebrek aan kennis én verschil van mening is. En over verschillende onderdelen van de boodschap zijn nog wel wat kritische vragen te stellen. Maar kun je blijven wachten op consensus of schaven aan de ideale tekst als ondertussen de rechten van minderheden worden geschonden? Of moet je soms gewoon stelling nemen? Lastige vragen, maar de Indonesische Raad van Kerken besloot zich uit te spreken. Hieronder de tekst van de boodschap (in een niet-geautoriseerde Engelse vertaling).
Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI) Pastoral Statement on LGBT
Responding to the controversy that arose and developed within the churches and in the community concerning the existence of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), the Executive Committee Meeting of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (CCI) would like to express some considerations as noted below. We have realized that the attitude and the churches’ teachings on this matter are very diverse, and these considerations are not intended to homogenize them. These considerations are actually an invitation to the member churches to explore this issue further. The Ex-Comm would be very grateful if the result of the deepening of the churches’ reflection could provide basic thoughts as a feedback to the Ex-Comm in order to enhance CCI’s position and views on this matter.
- Humanity is the perfect image and likeness of God. As the image of God is perfect, humanity’s dignity must be respected and upheld.
- God created human beings and all the creation, which are diverse and different from each other. We live in a diversity of races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. This diversity is a reality that God has given us, and we should accept it with a positive and realistic attitude.
- Being positive and realistic in our views of this diversity means that we have to accept, love, and respect each other. Being positive and realistic about the God-given diversity means that we have to seek to understand and accept all differences with love. Being positive and realistic about diversity means that we are against all forms of hatred, injustice, discrimination, exploitation, and oppression of our fellow human beings, all beings, and all of God’s creation. Instead, we seek to articulate all differences without prejudice. Being positive and realistic means that we are to maintain and preserve the diverse human community that would bring goodness for humanity, for all living beings, and the earth.
Point of departure
- Talking about LGBT people is talking about human beings who are created by God, a God who loves us very much.
- Human existence and their LGBT orientation is an oddity that have existed for ages. LGBT people are neither the product of modern culture nor the product of Western cultures. LGBT exists in our society and anthropologically LGBT people have always been accommodated in some of the tribal cultures in our society.
- When we are faced with a moral issue, one of the biggest problems arising is from the way we interpret Bible texts. The interpretation of Scriptural texts that ignore the intent and purpose of the writers could potentially produce an entirely different interpretation of the purpose of the writing of that text. With regard to LGBT, the Bible indeed speaks about this situation, but the Bible does not give us a moral-ethical assessment of their existence. The Bible does not criticize sexual orientation. What the Bible criticizes is sexual misconduct and exploitation committed by anyone, including heterosexual people, or those who are considered “normal.” The main message in the creational story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1: 26-28; 2:18, 21-24), for example, is about the forerunner to the institution of the family and that human was given the responsibility to fill the earth and to take care of it. This story is not at all intended to deny the existence of LGBT people.
- There are several other texts in the Bible that are interpreted incorrectly so that those passages are concluded to be judgmental towards LGBT people. Yet through a more accurate interpretation, the criticism of those biblical verses are actually directed at other issues. For example: The Bible very strongly criticizes fertility worship (the worship of Baal and Asherah, Judges 3: 7; 2 Kings 23: 4) by the neighboring nations of Israel at the time, who practiced sodomy devotion, a sexual behavior which was part of religious worship of Baal (Deuteronomy 23: 17-18); as well as the Roman paganism in the New Testament (Romans 1: 23-32). The Bible also criticizes xenophobic attitudes towards foreigners by the people of Sodom by practicing sexual exploitation of their same sex. The aim is to embarrass them (Genesis 19: 5-11 and Judges 19: 1-30). Therefore, these parts of the Bible were not intended to attack, reject or discriminate against LGBT people. Other Bible texts, which are often used to judge LGBT people include Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6: 9-10; 1 Tim. 1:10. What was rejected in these biblical texts is all kinds of sexual misconduct and exploitation, carried out by anyone, on any basis, including on religious grounds, and was directed against anyone, that is, against women, men and children.
- CCI reminds us all to consider the results of cutting-edge research in the field of medicine and psychiatry that no longer include LGBT sexual orientation as a disease, as mental disorders or as any form of crime. Statements of the World Health Organization, Human Rights International, which is based on the research progress of medical science can help us understand the existence of LGBT people and fight for their rights as human beings. The Association of Indonesian Psychiatrists (PDSKJI) referring to the Guidelines for Classification and Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in Indonesia edition II 1983 (PPDGJ II) and PPDGJ III (1993) states that to be LGBT is not a mental illness. Neither is it a spiritual illness. In many cases, the tendency to being LGBT is experienced as something natural that has been received since a person is born; even though there could be cases of LGBT tendencies that occur as a result of social influences. It is difficult to distinguish what is natural and what is nurture, that is, caused by social influences. Even so, for many people, LGBT tendency is not an option, but something given. Therefore, being LGBT, especially for those who were born into it, is not a sin, and we should not force them to repent. We also should not force them to change, but on the contrary, we must help them so that they can accept themselves as a gift of God.
- The Church, as an inclusive fellowship and as the family of God, must learn to accept LGBT people as an integral part of our community as the “Body of Christ.” We must provide opportunities for them to grow as a whole human being physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
- CCI urges its member churches to prepare themselves and carry out their pastoral guidance to their families in order to enable them to accept, embrace, and love their family members who happen to be LGBT. Family’s rejection of their members who are LGBT could potentially create psychiatric disorders, creating a self-denial (self-rejection), which results in the increasing potential for suicide among LGBT.
- So far, many LGBT people have suffered physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually because of religious stigmatizations and violent behaviors committed by some people. They have become humiliated, ostracized, and discriminated even by the State. Churches must take a different stance. Churches must not only accept them, but instead they have to fight so that LGBT people can be accepted and their rights recognized by both the society and the State, especially the right to not be discriminated against or be excluded, the right to protection against violence, the right to obtain a job, and so on. The stakeholders of this country must ensure that the rights and dignity of LGBT people are respected! LGBT people should be given the opportunity to live in justice and peace.
- CCI is calling its member churches, communities and the nation to accept and even fight for the rights and dignity of LGBT people. Our greatness as a civilized nation can be seen from our ability to accept and help those who actually are experiencing discrimination and injustice. However, CCI is aware that member churches and the people of Indonesia are not ready to accept same-sex marriage. CCI along with its member churches and all members of the society still requires dialogue and in-depth theological conversation regarding this matter.
- LGBT people themselves are not the problem. LGBT people become “a problem” because we create this “problem.” We are the ones who gave them a negative stigma. Therefore, it takes maturity, humility, a rational attitude as well as the ability to be fair in dealing with this issue. We should keep away from the tendency to judge or mislead anyone. Instead, we must learn to establish a national unity and a fellowship of humankind based on equality and justice.
- We would like to first of all convey this pastoral letter to the churches in Indonesia, and also to the entire Indonesian society. As churches we would continue to direct ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to deepen our understanding and strengthen our faith and commitment on accepting LGBT people.
Jakarta, May 28, 2016