Furore over gay bishop highlights plight of Christians whose sexual orientation is regarded as a sickness
A rift is widening in the Anglican Church community worldwide over Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to become a bishop who was consecrated three years ago in the United States.
'There is a real possibility the church could be split by this,' says Frank Alagna, a gay reverend from New York, who because of the controversy hasn't been able to secure a ministry since arriving in Hong Kong more than 14 months ago.
The furore around Robinson, in Hong Kong this weekend, has highlighted the plight of many gay Christians.
'Being a gay Christian is like being caught between a rock and a hard place,' says Alfred, who has been a Christian for most of his life and found refuge in the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship.
Many have turned to the non-denominational church group after finding mainstream churches unfriendly towards homosexuals. The fellowship now has some 80 members.
'I remember once hearing a sermon in a mainstream church that compared gays to dogs,' says Alfred. 'That to me was so extremely offensive and such blatant discrimination.'
For several years, Alfred attended an anti-gay ministry before realising he could not change his sexual orientation.
'Some Christians see being gay as a disability. They say they will accept you but not your sexual orientation. They treat homosexuality like a drug addiction and believe it is a brokenness in you that can be healed by God.' Gay activists say the church's stance is detrimental to the health of the homosexual community and gives wider society a negative perception of gays and lesbians.
'Religion has a tradition of being well respected in the community by providing education services, with many influential people a part of the church community,' explains Roddy Shaw, chairman of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities. The Anglican Church did not respond to requests for an interview.
'I know that part of the solution lies in me,' says Alfred. 'We are the best material for educating society about gays but, with most of us afraid to speak up, we are caught in a vicious cycle.'
Gene Robinson's talks: Securing Justice for Sexual Minorities, Oct 20, 3.30pm, LT 17, City University of HK, Kowloon; The Mystery of Inclusive Love, Oct 21, 6.30pm, Wellcome Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts, Wan Chai.