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A new book that sheds light on the issue of same-sex attraction among Christians has been released by local Christian publisher Graceworks.

Good News for Bruised Reeds: Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends is a compilation of stories from Singapore Christians who experience same-sex attraction; their family members and friends; as well as ministry leaders who have journeyed with them.

The book aims to equip local church leaders with personal accounts to enable them to “undertake critical self-examination” and journey with church members with same-sex attraction, two editors of the book, Ng Zhiwen, 38, and Ronald JJ Wong, 30, say in the introduction chapter.

“Hopefully it will sharpen our conversations so that we will have greater clarity as to how we can journey with Christians who grapple with same-sex attraction.”

Many churches feel ill-equipped to address this subject, they added, even as more LGBTQ matters are being debated in society.

“The church’s witness to a watching world and discipleship of an enquiring younger generation of members will be significantly impacted by the church’s response on this pivotal issue,” said Ng and Wong of Gracework’s latest work.

“If the church fails on this, the church will fail in its witness to the world and lose its younger generation.”

Ng added that the book does not condone homosexual practices, and affirms the orthodox view of biblical marriage, family and sexuality. This is in line with the National Council of Churches Singapore stance that the only sexual relationship permitted by God is one between a male and a female within a monogamous marriage. 

However, the church should still walk with same-sex attracted members as the gospel compels Christians to help others lead more fruitful lives of faith. Leaders can start by creating a culture where members feel safe to be genuine about their struggles. 

“That may mean that the leaders set the example in being patient by listening and not being swift to judge. It may also mean taking the lead in being open, honest and vulnerable with their struggles with sin – including sexual sin – their weaknesses, and their need for God’s grace, just like anyone else,” said Ng.

“Now, more than before, the church needs to be a safe and welcoming Gospel community,” said Raphael Zhang, 33, an editor and contributor to the book.

Dr Tan Soo-Inn, chairman of Graceworks and another editor of the compilation, said that the book is not meant to be the final word on a difficult and complex subject.

“But hopefully it will sharpen our conversations so that we will have greater clarity as to how we can journey with Christians who grapple with same-sex attraction.”

Stereotypes

One of the book’s contributors, Karen Ho, said she decided to write a piece after she learnt that some of her friends who are believers with same-sex attraction were ostracised by their family members and churches because of their sexuality. Some of them ended up feeling unworthy of stepping into church.

Ho herself was in a lesbian relationship when she first started attending church. Unlike her peers, she was not judged for her relationship choice, she said.

However, after experiencing God’s love and learning that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – “therefore realise you are royalty” – she felt convicted to pursue “holiness” and cut sexual relations, and eventually ties with her partner. Ho said the relationship was during “a phase” and she does not have same-sex attraction. 

That her friends were rejected “really hurt me because the church should never be like that”, said the 24-year-old teacher. “As a place of God’s love, how can you use His name to further your own hatred and judgment?” 

“The Gospel is available to all people, whether they are same-sex attracted or not, disabled or not.” 

Though happy that this book is addressed to church leaders who can effect change among their congregation, Ho admitted that she is afraid that it will not be picked up by “people it needs to reach”, only those who are already passionate about the topic. 

Graphic designer Kenneth Lim said that he hopes the book will help ministry leaders to better understand people with same-sex attraction so that they can provide more appropriate support.

The 32-year-old has same-sex attraction, and feels that many church leaders are still ignorant of the issue and tend to stereotype people with same-sex attraction.

“We like to think of ourselves as the light of the world, but when it’s time to love, I personally don’t see that. I feel that there’s no real effort among church leaders to want to learn more about our suffering. Instead, they tend to fall back on their pre-conceived ideas.” 

The Gospel for all

In his foreword for Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends, Bishop Emeritus of the Methodist Church in Singapore, Dr Robert Solomon, wrote that the stories in the book will help to create “necessary empathy and sensitivity” among readers as they delve into the world of those who struggle.

Dr Solomon referenced the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:28-32) and called for churches to create a “truly Christian community where all sinners can find God’s truth and transforming grace”.

Ng said that Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends is the first in a series of books about marginalised Christians. The next volume will likely cover the theme of special needs. 

The name of this series, Bruised Reeds, is based on Isaiah 42:3 and Matthew 12:20, Ng said.

The book in the series “speak of brokenness, and also the gentleness with which Jesus comes to minister to us”, he said, emphasising that all believers are bruised reeds.

“The Gospel is available to all people, whether they are same-sex attracted or not, disabled or not.”

Good News for Bruised Reeds: Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends is now available on Gracework’s online store.

About the author

Rachel Phua

Rachel Phua contributes to Salt&Light, where she was formerly a full-time writer. Her stories have also been carried by several US publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Austin Business Journal.