Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Let us tell the world of His love


Let us tell the world of His love
A forum on Queer Theology, with a theme, “Let us tell the world of His love 2”
University of the PhilippinesCebu, AVR 1, January 24, 2012, 1:00pm – 5:00pm
In partnership with UP Cebu Student Council and Social Science 5 students

By Roxanne Omega-Doron
Founder and President, Bisdak Pride, Inc.


Good afternoon, everyone.

Today, as a matter of historical commitment to individuals with different sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) we celebrate, rejoice and discern the word of God. Given our diversity, we wish to extend our warm welcome to individuals for their presence and solidarity, in particular the Social Science 5 students of Ms. Kaira Alburo and UP Cebu Student Council for agreeing to host our activity.

“Oneness”, this is the reason we came-up with a program on “Queer Theology” since 2007. We are all one and the same in His image and likeness.

To fully understand the historical context of this undertaking, let me recall some important milestones in our Queer Theology advocacy.

History and Circumstances

On May 2007, upon the request of our dear friend, Oscar Atadero of ProGay Philippines, to accommodate our guest from Chicago Theological Seminary, we never blink for a second thought. Deeply honored, we welcomed and enjoyed the presence of Dr. Theodore Jennings Jr. or Ted.

Ted, as we call him, was formerly the Acting Academic Dean of Chicago Theological Seminary; author of various theological and philosophical books used by theology and philosophy students all over the world, and a nominee of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer or LGBTQ Book Award in the U.S.

We accommodated his presence because we fully support all calls to end homophobia. . Our peers in Minglanilla, Cebu, members of Gay Empowerment of Minglanilla or GEM offered their Hawaiian hospitality coupled with sumptuous food in a beach resort.

Two months later, I attended the “8th Defending Our Faith: Religion, Gender and Sexuality” in Bohol. The week-long seminar-workshop is a project of Health Action Information Network or HAIN with support from The David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

During the seminar-workshop, discussions revolve around various religious teachings, like:

The prohibition of artificial contraception; Prohibition of condoms for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; The judgmental attitudes toward abortion;
Propagation of norms of passivity and subservience for women; Discrimination against homosexuals; and Opposition to sex education.

It is indeed liberating because at the end of the workshop, all participants were able to:

Understand that religions are not monolithic, that there are varying views and positions among officials, clergy and laity; Understand the social and historical circumstances that shape official Catholic Church policies on gender and sexuality; Understand how Catholic dogma shapes powerful ideologies around gender and sexuality, and how these affect laws and other policies in the secular sphere; Understand how scriptures are used, sometimes oppressively and sometimes in a liberating way, to justify certain views about gender and sexuality; Understand aspects of moral theology and ethics in the way they relate to gender and sexuality; Apply knowledge acquired from the workshop to personal and professional concerns; and Stimulate interest for further work in the area of religion and sexuality.

The said gatherings deepened our understanding of the complex relationship of religion vis-à-vis gender and sexuality. It further reinforced our swelled passion to introduce a new advocacy called Queer Theology.

A few months later, we discussed Queer Theology in Carcar City, Cebu in the middle of the night. The participation of Generous (formerly Gifted), Intelligent, Friendly, and Talented Sissies of Carcar or GIFTS became the first to receive a discussion on such an important topic.  

On February 2009, a ground-breaking forum on “Queer Theology: Impact to Queer Communities in Third World Countries” was conducted at the University of San Carlos with no less than Prof. Jennings as guest-lecturer. The activity was supported by three academic departments, namely, Department of Sociology-Anthropology, Political Science and Psychology, and was given generous support from Health Action Information Network and LGBTQ Center of Chicago Theological Seminary.

The morning session focused more on the academe and the afternoon delved more on the practical concerns of LGBTs in rural areas, which was participated by various local LGBT organizations from the municipalities of Minglanilla, San Fernando and Sibonga, Cebu. It was an important milestone in keeping the faith alive among the marginal voices.

On September 2009, an echo-workshop on “Defending Community Voices: Religion, Gender and Sexuality” with a theme, “Let us tell the world of His love”, which was supported by HAIN was conducted here in Cebu.

The objectives of the said echo-workshop were conceptualized in Baguio City on June 2009 during the level two seminar-workshops on “Defending Community Voices: Religion, Gender and Sexuality”. Among others, I am grateful to my colleagues who spent days and nights revising the objectives and conceptualizing the module. Let me thank Eddie Batoon, staff of Iwag Davao, Inc., Alvin Macaranas,  Ph.D in Philosophy student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman and Leo Quintilla, of UP Ilo-ilo and secretary of the Board of Directors of HAIN.

We adopted the objectives and the title of the first undertaking of “Let us tell the world of His love”. Hence, today’s activity is Part Two. We hope that at the end of our activity today, we will be able to:

Know that God loves everyone regardless of one’s sexual orientation; Read in the Bible that one’s sexuality is a gift; Respond critically to issues concerning faith and sexuality; Share with others the learning gained from our activity; Recognize diversities among sexual minorities; and, Be more responsible in the exercise of one’s faith and sexuality.

And on May 2010, during the gathering of United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) ministers in Silliman University, I was able to present Bisdak Pride’s stand on religion, gender and sexuality and how we, as a human rights LGBT group counter Church oppositions on gender and sexuality.

Queer Theology, on the other hand, is for everyone, Catholics and Protestants and even believers and non-believers. No specific religion owned it, because it is ecumenical. Even if one does not believe in the concept of God, or Yahweh, or Allah and even Anito, Queer Theology is for them, because one may take away the concept of a mystical Supreme Being, but one cannot take away the universality of love, respect, equality and oneness – which defines our existence.

While we do not leave by bread alone, “understanding queer theology is beyond queer and theology. We should also dig deeper into the economic, social and political aspect of the LGBTQ communities. Otherwise, the queer that we know is incomplete and the theology that we appreciate and adhere is non-existent.”

We are also beholden to the following for giving our advocacy on Queer Theology a remarkable inception: Dr. Theodore Jennings Jr., of Chicago Theological Seminary, Dr. Michael Tan, Dean of the University of the Philippines - Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosopy, Sr. Mary Graham of the Maryknoll Sisters, Frs. Percy Juan Bacani and Eugenius Mariae Cañete of the Missionaries of Jesus and  Prof. Yasmin Busran – for providing the theoretical foundation. To Dr. Erlinda Castro-Palaganas, Joyce Valbuena, Nilda de Vera, Tere Godito and all the staff of HAIN – for keeping our faith alive.

Before I end, let me introduce our guest-lecturer. He is our Vice-President, an Associate Professor in Silliman University and a Ph.D. student at Chicago Theological Seminary. He may not be (as of the moment) an exact replica of Dr. Jennings intellect. But I’ll tell you, he will surely inherit a portion of it. He is Karl James Villarmea.

Now, let us once again celebrate the Word of God, by telling the world of His love.

Serve God and the People! Thank you very much!

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