One More is One More too Many…

‘Media vita in morte sumus.’[1]

‘In the midst of life we are in death’.[2]

A monumental decision has been made in the United States, allowing people like my friend and colleague in ministry to enjoy the full rights of marriage with his partner. At the same time, they and all the other members and allies of the LGBT+ community going to the KQCF Pride Festival and Parade tomorrow in Seoul are being warned to watch out for obstructions, delays, and even flying objects[3]. It seems like the ways of death are not going to be that far away tomorrow.

Yet, there’s another sadness that’s hanging over my heart on the eve of my first Pride. It’s going to be a monumental day tomorrow, no matter what happens, but something I read on Facebook the other day is going to be in my mind, too.

It was written by a fellow expat and minister, who teaches at a university in the greater Seoul area, and who also works with the English-language ministry of a prominent Seoul church. He wrote about a memorial service he conducted the previous day. It was for a young university student, who died at the age of 23.

Now, the death of a young man, at the beginning of his adulthood, would be tragic enough, but this was a student who fell into depression in the previous year. There were rumours of an overdose, of suicide. If this weren’t enough, he was also a committed member of his church, who played guitar regularly in the worship band, went on mission trips, never drank, went to the Friday night prayer meetings, and was known for his Christian example even in small things. Surely, his presence would be missed.

But, to pile on the tragedy even more, there were rumours that he was dealing with, as this minister put it, ‘the g-thing’(!). It became pretty clear where this young man’s church stood on the issue. When the university where his friends attended started organizing a memorial service, his church declined to participate. It did not send a message of condolence of any kind – not even a text message. The church prohibited any of its members, including members of the worship band he played in, from attending or participating in the service. What was the reason? Apparently, in the view of the church leadership, his struggles and resulting death ‘embarrassed the church’. When he reached out to his church for help and compassion, leaders apparently abandoned him when he wouldn’t change in the way they expected. I can hear the hypocritical self-righteousness now: ‘Bear the fruit that befits repentance…’

On the day of his memorial service, the university auditorium was packed. People came anyway. His professors came. His friends and classmates came. Even a few of his fellow church members came, in defiance of the directive given by his church. They showed videos of him, sang the songs he loved, told stories about him, and cried.

What does one even attempt to say about something like this? Well, the minister had a prepared sermon, but in the presence of the overwhelming sadness in that gathering, his mind went to Matthew 9:36 and this description of Jesus: ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’

He chucked his prepared remarks. He spoke from the heart about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about extravagant love, radical inclusion, and relentless compassion. Good choice, say I. I am confident the Holy Spirit led him to say a word of life, a Word from God, to the people gathered at that service. However, he now has to mind his p’s and q’s to ensure that a fight between his church and the church of the young man he wished he knew doesn’t flare up.

This death, and the events which have surrounded it, should be a reminder to us, if we need one. As great and as important as court rulings are, allowing parades to take place and ensuring that marriage equality is the law of the land, they cannot eliminate the hate and hurt spewed at LGBT+ persons, more often than not by those who proclaim the name of Jesus as the Messiah. As important as it is for the LGBT+ community and their allies to gather and celebrate the diversity of life and love, there are still those who are unable to be open about who they are, for fear of rejection or worse from family, workplace, friends, and church. The very fact that this memorial service had to take place, and took place in the manner that is did, should give us all pause for thought, and cause us to ask, ‘Are we doing everything we can to support those who need it?’

Each year, the LGBT+ community in Seoul gathers together for an Ecumenical Vigil to Remember Those Who Left Because Of Hate. Next year, we’ll be remembering another person, even if it’s not wise to mention him by name. That’s still one more too many…

‘Media vita in morte sumus ; quem quaerimus adjutorem, nisi te Domine…?’[4]

‘In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord…?’[5]

[1] From a Latin antiphon written in the 8th century, used at funeral masses.

[2] English translation of 1. Used in the funeral service liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican tradition.

[3] Hu, E (2015, June 26). A Showdown Looms At South Korea’s Gay Pride Parade. In NPR – Parallels. Accessed 27 June 2015 at


[4] See 1.

[5] See 2.


A Coming Out, Of Sorts

I came out to my students last week.

No, I haven’t made some shocking discovery about my sexuality; unless my anniversary weekend with my wife counts (it’s as good as ever! – not shocking, but a pleasant discovery). I disclosed a little bit about who my friends are, in a workplace where diversions from standard heterosexuality are not the norm.

You see, I don’t make my living as a pastor (yet!). I still work in the English language teaching field in South Korea, and at the moment, I teach people who work in an area[1] where homosexuality is officially discouraged. It’s an area in which a person is released from their duties if they disclose they’re not straight, or if they declare themselves transgender. Many of my co-teachers are aware that I volunteer at a church, although some of them are don’t know the nature of the congregation I’m part of. Neither my students nor the senior management in the school where I work are aware of that, either.

So it took me for a bit of a loop when a couple of pairs of students told me in our small group clinic-style class (that’s my specialization) that their Friday presentation and discussion assessments took the form of a debate – about ‘transsexuals’ (their word). They were asked by their instructor, who must have cojones of his/her own, to discuss whether transsexuals should be allowed to certain facilities open to the public. To the instructor’s credit, students who took part in the debate were obliged to take positions for or against the motion, so there were some who had to argue, whether they wanted to or not, that transsexuals should be allowed to use facilities.

As I listened to the students speak about their experiences in this debate, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if they see this as just an exercise. Do they have any sense of “reality” attached to this question?’ I just thought it was time to offer a ‘real-person’ perspective on this – so I spoke up.

‘I have a transgender friend.’

There was genuine surprise from my students. There were sincere questions, which I answered carefully. I didn’t encounter any overt hostility in their questions or comments. The only comment that came close to hostility was from one student who said, ‘This is a very sensitive issue.’ I said to the student, ‘You’re 100% correct’, realizing that the nature of Asian understatement meant this student could possibly have been concealing resentment or even anger about this issue being addressed. I made it clear that I was aware of the fact that the sector in which I work has very clear anti-LGBT policies, and acknowledged the right of this sector to make these policies. I also made clear that I disagree with these policies. I concluded by saying, ‘I have transgender friends, I have gay friends, I have lesbian friends – and they’re people first.’

In doing this, I realize that I am possibly putting myself in opposition to my employer (not to mention the instructor who decided to use this topic for assessment purposes), which could have implications for my future status with the school where I work (as of the time I write, I have not yet been asked to meet anyone from senior management). As important as it is to have employment, I’ve decided it’s also important to answer questions and be honest about my stance on these issues when I’m asked.

As I’ve written before, I live in a country where it is very clear there’s a concerted effort to silence the LGBT+[2] community. To review, it began last year when conservative Christians decided to block the Seoul Pride Parade, causing it to be delayed.[3] These groups have been flexing their collective political muscles since then, causing Mayor Park Won-Soon to backtrack on his stated hopes that Korea would embrace marriage equality[4], shutting down attempts to proclaim a human rights charter for Seoul[5], deleting any references to sexual minorities in sexual education guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education[6], and culminating in their temporarily successful attempt to shut down the KQCF Pride Parade[7]. Even as recently as last week, the Christian Council of Korea met with Mayor Park and urged him to cancel the Festival altogether due to the MERS outbreak.[8]

It seems blatantly clear to me, and to the people I speak to, that the conservative Christian lobby in this country has no other interest in this debate other than to silence citizens and residents who wish to use their freedoms of assembly and expression to celebrate a cause they don’t agree with. Well, these citizens and residents are silent no longer. A four-day sit-in greeted the mayor when the human rights charter did not pass, forcing Mayor Park to apologize for his backtracking[9]. The amazing thing about this sit-in is that it included not only the usual LGBT+ organizations, but also progressive political parties, feminist groups, environmental groups – all those who began to realize that one attack on one aspect of a more progressive Korea is an attack on the whole project. Symposia have been held in Seoul during the spring on issues like marriage equality and partnership rights for LGBT couples, and organizers successfully fought the original plan against the Pride Parade[10]. And the thing that makes me the proudest – 114 religious organizations have agreed to join a human chain against discrimination in explicit support of the KQCF and the Pride Parade. Better yet, the harvest of justice continues! We’ve just found out that the injunction against the Daegu Pride Parade has been lifted and will go ahead on July 5th!

Now, I will not sugarcoat the situation here. A lot still has to change here, and it looks like there’s another person who may have left us due to hate – more on that in a future blog – but I want to leave this post with hope. That hope is best re-capped in some sentiments preached in a sermon given by my colleague in ministry, the Rev. Daniel Payne, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent last year.

He referred to “The Enemy”[11] as being happy when we’re isolated. He suggested the Enemy is not concerned about our objections to whatever injustices we see when we speak them individually, by ourselves, because we act like we are alone, and the powers that be can deal with individuals pretty quickly. He went on to explain that the Enemy can’t stand it when we are in community, in solidarity. When we are in solidarity with others, who share our goals, our sense of justice and moral outrage, there is strength. That strength is what can propel us to take stands, to take actions that we might not take on our own, like my being able to talk openly to my students about my gay, lesbian, queer, and transgender friends. The strength of community has been discovered among the LGBT+ community and its allies – and that, praise God, is not going to go away!

[1] To respect my workplace, its management, and my students, I will not be disclosing the name of the institution.

[2] I’ve adopted this acronym to include other ‘sexual minorities’ who may not fit within the initial four categories designated by the original four letters. To attempt to include them all would make this acronym – well, rather cumbersome.

[3] Lee, J (2014; 8, 10 June). Conservative groups disrupt Korea Queer Festival. Korea Times. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[4] Wee, D (2014, 20 October). Seoul mayor backtracks on gay marriage. Gay Star News. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[5] Lee, C (2014, 30 November). Anti-gay protesters derail Seoul human rights charter. The Korea Herald. Accessed 15 June 2015 at

[6] Um, J W ( 2015, 30 March). New sex-ed guidelines forbid teaching about homosexuality. the hankyoreh. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[7] Heo, S (2015, 6 June). Seoul police cowed by homophobic Protestant groups in denying LGBT event. the hankyoreh. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[8] Beom, Y S. (2015, 18 June). “메르스 확산시 퀴어축제 자제 검토” (Trans.: “Review controlling the Queer Festival due to the Spread of MERS”). News Power. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[9] Senzee, T (2014, 14 December). Seoul’s Mayor Apologizes for Nixing Gay Rights Charter. Advocate.Com. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[10] AFP (2015, 17 June). South Korea court rules in favor of gay pride parade. I24 News. Accessed 25 June 2015 at

[11] Interpret that how you will.

A Decision, and a Prayer

A decision came from a court in Seoul yesterday. It has overturned the decision of Seoul Metropolitan Police to ban the KQCF Pride Parade in Seoul on June 28th. This is great news for the LGBT+ community, but there is no doubt that anti-LGBT+ groups will seek other ways to voice their displeasure with the LGBT+ community.

I’ve provided a rough translation of the news article I saw from E-Daily News last night, and a prayer I’ve composed which seeks to address what I, and possibly other people, are thinking and feeling right now.

Court: The ‘legitimate Pride Parade’ will take place on the 28th at Seoul Plaza

  • Ruled to suspend ban on outdoor rallies
  • Will proceed as scheduled at Seoul Plaza on 28th
  • KQCF organizers: ‘The voices of sexual minorities will be heard’

Picture Caption: The key event of the Korea Queer Culture Festival, the Pride Parade, will be held legally on the 28th. Photo from the 2013 Pride Parade. (Photo: KQCF Organizing Committee)

(E-Daily Reporter Kim Yong-Woon) The coming Pride Parade will be held on June 28th at Seoul Plaza.

On the 16th, the KQCF Oeganizing Committee announced, ‘The 13th District of the Seoul Administrative Court (Judge Ban Jeong-Woo presiding) notified the Commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency that the decision to ban outdoor rallies – in effect, to ban the KQCF Pride Parade – was overturned’. They also said, ‘The main event of the KQCF, the Pride Parade on the 28th, is able to legally proceed.’

Since 2000, the KQCF has been held annually; this year, sexual minorities were planning to gather in Seoul Plaza for the festival parade. However, since the Seoul Metropolitan Police Commissioner issued the order banning outdoor rallies, festival organizers applied to the court two days ago to overturn the ban.

The Court said, ‘The order prohibiting public rallies may be permitted only if there is a direct threat to public order’. It also said, ‘The ban on rallies is to be applied only after all other possibilities of less restrictive conditions for the freedom of assembly have been exhausted.’

Kang Myeong-jin, head of the KQCF Organizing Committee, said, ‘The Court’s decision, noting the poilce’s notice of the unfair prohibition of reported rallies, guarantees the ability of sexual minorities to voice their opinions concerning society as members of civil society in a democratic state…The KQCF should welcome this decision which legally allows us to continue our street marches as a way of social communication.’

God of all,

We are before you as one people.

Some are celebrating, some are grieving, and some are outraged.

Some are planning celebrations, while some are planning counter-demonstrations – perhaps even worse.

We, the members and allies of the LGBT+ community in the Republic of Korea, are grateful that a harvest of justice has come. We are grateful for activists, lawyers, and all those who have stood up to make sure that sexual minorities may take their place in this society. We are grateful for those who have stood, and stand, unafraid, willing to face discrimination and hatred. We are grateful for spiritual leaders of many religious traditions who are willing to recognize the identity of LGBT+ persons as your children.

At the same time, we recognize that there are those who are unhappy. People who have made decisions have had those decisions overturned. People who don’t understand a Gospel of inclusion must adjust to a changing reality – a reality they are, no doubt, afraid of. We know how fear can turn to anger, anger to rage, and rage to violence.

We know there is no easy solution in this situation. Some have drawn battle lines. The body of Christ in this country is experiencing brokenness. Some parts of the body are saying to other parts, ‘We have no need of you!’ Those Christians and congregations which seek to support the LGBT+ community are viewed with suspicion, or are told to ‘repent!’ We don’t know who could serve as the ‘honest broker’ between sides. We are not of one mind. We confess that we are, at this point, unable to reconcile divergent understandings of Scripture, sexuality, and faithfulness. We are a broken body.

Yet, the Gospel, the story you give to us, speaks of nourishment and refreshment through a body which is broken and blood which is shed. It speaks of a Christ who breaks barriers down and brings unity. It speaks of a Christ who is peace, who gives a peace to us which cannot be given by any other source. It speaks of a Spirit which is alive and active throughout all creation. It speaks of life overcoming death, grace overcoming sin, and reconciliation overcoming estrangement.

We don’t always know or understand how this happens, and we’re uncertain of how it will happen in this situation – but we trust it will happen. We trust that your Reign will come, and your will shall be done – ‘as in heaven, so on earth’.

Therefore, we ask that you sow seeds of love, justice, and reconciliation among us, around us, and beyond us. Let these seeds take root and grow among us, even though we may not always understand how it happens. Let the growth of these seeds choke off weeds of enmity and distrust. Help us to harvest the growth of these seeds as patience and forbearance, but also as honesty and truthfulness. Lead us, your people, currently estranged, into greater harmony and greater community.

We pray this in the name of your Beloved, Anointed One, Jesus, the Christ, in the power of your life-giving Spirit. AMEN.

(PS – If you’d like to use this prayer, or any part of it, no problem. Just acknowledge where you got it from. Thanks.)

Thinking and Action, Conscience and Witness (Part Two)

As noted before, the MERS scare in Korea prompted the Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) Organizing Committee to ask people to stay away from the Opening Ceremony at Seoul City Plaza and watch it online. Some conservative Christians decided they would have a demonstration against the festival while the opening ceremony was going on. People debated and argued online as to whether this was the right thing to do. I was leaning toward going anyway because I thought it was essential to have a physical alternative witness at that site. It’s something I had done earlier when I stood in Seoul Plaza while the Christian Democratic Union of Korea (CDUK) held a similar demonstration, so it was something I had done before.

Then, an activist whom I deeply respect posted on Facebook[1]:

‘It’s a game we’re playing here. In order to win, we need to play smart. If ANYTHING BAD happens related to MERC virus at pride opening, the christians will blame us queer and most likely the media will too…

My personal note after talking to organisers: If things go wrong today, we might not be able to even use seoul plaza on the 28th for booths, performances and parade…So i respect the organisers’ decision and i will not go to seoul plaza today.’

I made a decision. I posted the following:

‘I’m sorry, I cannot stay away. If only to be a witness to what transpires, I must watch.’

I cast my die. While the debate continued to rage on (‘Why are you not respecting the will of the locals, who know best?’ ‘Having a group of expats show will just play into the hate groups’ hands, e.g. “it’s just Westerners trying to poison our society!”’), I just got my clergy shirt ready and headed to the Plaza – into what, I did not know.

I got there about 5:30 and met up with my colleague in ministry and a couple of other members. I saw was that those going to the ceremony had taken on a suggestion I had made earlier. I’d suggested that people show up wearing masks with hearts pasted or painted on them, to counteract the black X’s on the masks of the demonstrators. When we arrived at the stage area, barricaded and guarded by the police to keep the demonstrators away from the ceremony stage, there were no words of condemnation, no lectures – we were greeted with embraces from the organizers. They were not going to turn us away!

My colleague and his partner brought along some signs containing pro-LGBT statements from religious leaders which they’d used before. After getting permission, we agreed to stand on the perimeter of our area, next to the barricade, and quietly yet clearly show our signs, wearing our heart-signed masks. The police, to their credit, did very well to keep protestors back. I didn’t get much trouble at all – the occasional demonstrator, but mostly picture takers and media camera crews. Some others got demonstrators right in their faces, screaming vitriol and showing with their contorted faces just how bent out of shape they were getting. Yet, my fellow sign-holders held their ground, quietly holding their signs, and the police intervened as necessary.

On occasion, I got a person who looked at my sign, containing the well-known quote of Pope Francis which ends ‘…who am I to judge?’ These onlookers read the sign quite intently, looked at the sign, looked at me, and walked away in what I can only describe as deep thought. I uttered a quiet prayer that they would have a good think about that quote. Who am I, who is any of us, to judge?

Slowly, more and more people trickled in, Korean and expat – it was a diverse yet unified community, sexual minorities and their allies, all wearing our masks of love. By the time the ceremony began, we had over 200 people there. It was estimated there were about twice that number of demonstrators. There were also over 1400 computers which logged on to the ceremony broadcast. Many of those computers were broadcasting to groups who gathered to have parties celebrating the ceremony. Representatives from 16 different embassies (yes, 16!) came to show their support for the festival. Representatives from two churches and two Buddhist denominations came to declare their support. And most importantly, we held our own. We were, as one Facebook post put it, ‘…an island of love and unity in the midst of a sea of hate.’

Since then, a certain momentum has been building. There has been a suggestion that the ban issued by Seoul Police goes against a previous ruling from the Supreme Court of Korea[2]. Metropolitan Community Churches[3] and Human Rights Watch[4] have called for the ban to be lifted. Another petition calling for the rescinding of the parade ban is (as I write) only 100 signatures short of its goal[5]. The activities of the KQCF – the parties, the film festival, and the main festival – will go ahead.

And what about me? Do I have any clearer idea of what I’m going to do on the 28th? No, I don’t. The risks I see involved with marching, with being fined and possibly spending the night in jail are still daunting. I’m still a volunteer minister at this point, and I need to keep teaching in order to keep body going. Besides, the prospect of possibly being deported from Korea is not one I relish at the present. Nonetheless, I’ve had one test of having to take a stand for something I believe to be important when others say ‘You shouldn’t’ or ‘It’s not important’. I admit, it may be only a small test, but – I feel like I’ve passed! It feels like I’ve been faithful – to God, my sense of witness and ministry, and the leading of the Spirit. Now, on to the next test, whenever or wherever it may come.

[1] To respect this person’s privacy, I am not posting an official reference.

[2] Heo, S. (2015, 6 June) Seoul police cowed by homophobic Protestant groups in denying LGBT event. In The Hankyoreh (trans.) [online]. Accessed 9 June 2015 at

[3] The Global Justice Institute (2015, 6 June). ‘Join us in supporting The Korea Queer Culture Festival…’ [Facebook post]. Accessed 10 June 2015 at

[4] Adams, B (2015, 11 June). Letter to the Government of South Korea on Permitting Seoul Gay Pride Parade. Human Rights Watch [online]. Accessed 12 June 2015 at

[5] Ueda, Y (2015, n.d.) Remove the ban on Seoul Pride Parade. 퀴어문화축제 퍼레이드 금지통고의 철회를 요구합니다. ソウルクィアパレード禁止通告を撤回してください。 Rétractez l’interdiction de la marche des fiertés de Séoul. In Accessed 12 June 2015 at

Thinking and Action, Conscience and Witness (Part One)

Well, I’m still trying to process it all, but I’ll try to let you know some of what’s been happening, and how I feel about it.

As regular readers know (see ‘Learnings: About Community’, June 3) the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency turned down the application of the Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) to hold its Pride Parade on Sunday, June 28th, due to a competing application from a conservative Christian group. A few days later, a definitive response came from the parade organizers: they are prepared, if necessary, to defy the ban and march anyway.[1]


There was a gauntlet thrown. It caught me out, since I found it out through the news online, and not through some kind of official announcement. This caused me some serious consternation. I’ve had to start asking myself, ‘Am I prepared to defy police orders – some would say ‘break the law’ – to make a point?’ I became aware of my internal debate:

‘You aren’t even a member of this community – you’re an ally!’

‘Once to every one and nation comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side’[2]

‘Are you prepared to risk a fine, jail time[3], your job for this?’

‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ (widely attributed[4] to Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Is it any wonder I chose ‘Dietrich’ as my saint’s name at my confirmation as an Anglican?)

‘Surely there must be an easier way to deal with this in a safe, neutral manner!’

‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.’ (Desmond Tutu)[5]

I toyed with the idea of trying to find a way to be a ‘supporter’ of the march. I tried to think what I could do – get certified for First Aid and be ready to help with injuries? Provide water for thirst, and for God knows what else (washing teargas out of people’s eyes)? Watch and cheer on the sidelines?

Without a doubt, I began to realize that I can’t trumpet my re-discovery of my activist self (see “Learnings – About Myself, or ‘Who, Me? An Activist?’”, June 4) without taking into consideration what it might cost me. I began to get the idea that to take on the activist life, there is no ‘cheap grace’ (more Bonhoeffer!). It’s not simply thinking about what course of action to take. It’s about listening to my conscience, discerning where I really think this ‘Spirit of God’ is moving, where it’s going to take me, whether I’ll follow or resist, and whether I’ll be able to live with my decisions, whatever they may be…

Then, the MERS scare happened.

People started getting sick. People were getting infected. People began to die. People began to go into quarantine, ignored quarantine, exposed their infections to others. Schools have begun closing, people have started to not go out, levels of government have incriminated each other for spreading panic, for not being up-front about the situation. Uncertainty abounds, to which the response tends to be over-caution to the point of panic.

Well, the KQCF organizers made a decision in the midst of all this. They decided that the KQCF Opening Ceremony, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, would be an online ceremony. Organizers would prepare for an abbreviated ceremony with performances and speeches, but asked people who wanted to attend to stay away and watch the ceremony on YouTube. Their rationale was as follows (a rough translation):

‘The KQCF Organizing Committee has considered the safety of festival participants as a top priority all the time. Due to the rapid spread of MERSC (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), we have judged that the health of people who support and participate in the festival is most important in this situation. Hence, even though the OC has had a large budget for the opening ceremony, we made a hard decision to hold the opening ceremony with minimal staff and no field participants, and to broadcast online…

We promise to strictly follow all the safety guidelines of Seoul City and Health Authorities, including the epidemic prevention activity plan for MERSC.

Please keep supporting the 16th KQCF, and make our opening ceremony and the festival more meaningful with your valuable participation online.’[6]

Unbeknownst to us, conservative Christian groups were planning a counter-rally of their own, prompted by a phone message from a college professor:

‘This is an emergency message regarding the Queer Cultural Festival, it is not cancelled…

While some components of the festival are cancelled due to MERS, it is still going ahead…

MERS may spread through the Queer Festival. Homosexuals who have Aids (HIV Positive) do not have an immune system are at high risk of contracting MERS.

Also, homosexuals who have MERS who use the subway will then endanger the public as they may spread the contagious disease.

Take your children to Chunggye Square and provide the right values regarding homosexuality.

If you want to go to the Queer Festival…go across the pedestrian walkway to the other side of the road and wear a mask marked with an X to silently (individually) protest against the homosexuals.

By filling Chunggye Square and the pedestrian way with protestors we show our Korean morals to the world.

We have a duty as Koreans to do our utmost best to show our morals, as Korea is the only country to prevent the trending flow of homosexuality.’[7]

The debate raged. Should we just follow the lead of the locals, who know what’s best in this culture? Has the Organizing Committee caved in and given the conservatives a victory? Do we need to win a public relations battle? Does this counter-march mean we HAVE to go and show our presence? The debate was frank and pointed, at times.

What to do, what to do? Find out in Part Two…

[1] Jung, Ha-won (2015, June 4) Seoul gay pride organisers vow to defy police ban. In Yahoo! News. Accessed June 4 2015 at

[2] Lowell, James R. (1845). Adapted from the poem ‘The Present Crisis’, published in the Boston Courier (December 11 1845). Accessed June 10 2015 at

[3] Jung, op.cit.

[4] But I couldn’t find an original source. If anyone can find it, I’d be grateful.

[5] From Brown, Robert McAfee (1984). Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 19. Accessed June 10 2015 at

[6] KQCF Organizing Committee (2015, 7 June) ‘Opening Ceremony of 16th Queer Culture Festival 2015 to be broadcast simultaneously round the world’ (trans.) In Korea Queer Festival [online]. Accessed 10 June 2015 from

[7] In Hyams, J (2015, June 8), ‘Non-affirming Christians plan protest against Queer Cultural Festival’s Opening Ceremony’. In The Korea Observer [online]. Accessed 10 June 2015 at

Learnings – About Myself, or ‘Who? Me? An Activist?’ (Part Two)

Earlier, I posted about the community which has emerged as a result of the experience of sitting in for, and eventually being turned down for, a Pride Parade permit in Seoul (see Part One). Something more important that has come through to me during this experience, is a part of my faith which has been long dormant, even when I was still active in the church.

This discovery began while I took part in an Emerging Church Leaders course; it was a six-week course put on by MCC (one of the groups our congregation is affiliated with) for people like me who are helping to lead Emerging Churches, or who are thinking about doing so. In it, we covered things like ‘Church Planting and Development’, ‘Ensuring Diversity’, ‘ Developing Leaders’, and ‘Branding and Marketing’ (I still prefer using words like ‘Identity’ and ‘Evangelism’!). We also worked on Personal Spiritual Formation. As part of this, we did a personal spiritual inventory, finding out where our style of spirituality fits along four parameters. Now, I will admit I have some trouble with the parameters chosen (Head, Heart, Mystic, Advocate) because I believe it leaves out one important aspect – the body! It felt like something was missing. Nonetheless, I did the inventory.

I found out that I have healthy doses of ‘Head’, and ‘Mystic’ about me (no surprises there), but the parameter strongest in me is ‘Activist’…WAIT A MINUTE! Is that for real? I, the liturgical geek of the congregation, the one who is jokingly called ‘the bishop’ (someone even talked about getting a miter and staff for me!), the one who much prefers Taize to Hillsong – an ‘Activist’ at heart?!?!? What the – ?!?!?!

Then, I looked back at my faith journey. Who inspired me the most in my home congregation? My Intermediate Sunday School teacher, who took Sunday school materials on poverty, Christology, the communion of saints, and communications and made them real to an 11-year old kid. She also let us listen to Jesus Christ Superstar when it was scandalous to do so in church. My minister during that time, was priestly in his worship leadership, but also had an eye to what was going on in the world. I’ve figured that out because people in my congregation complained about how ‘political’ he was, and ‘why couldn’t he talk about the simple things of the faith?’ It also helped that I grew up in a denomination (the United Church of Canada) that was outward-looking; unafraid to elect women as Moderators; producing ministers who cared about justice in the world; willing to take stands on things like prison riots, a strike at Eaton’s, and South Africa; and willing to tackle aspects of that word which was still dirty when I was growing up – sex.

Therefore, when I entered university and started my theological formation, I naturally gravitated towards justice concerns. I became active with Project Ploughshares, I signed petitions, I attended rallies against nuclear weapons. I really listened when I heard the references to justice in the Catholic masses I attended. I gladly embraced liberation theology.

Then, I had a summer pastoral charge in rural Newfoundland. People got bored with me quoting Allan Boesak and Desmond Tutu, and they didn’t care much about what was happening at the WCC Assembly in Vancouver. I got involved with someone who was more conservative. It didn’t help that we were on opposite sides of ‘the Issue’. I ended up marrying her. Then came another pastoral charge in rural Newfoundland, where they were concerned for ‘soul salvation’ and thought ‘Lord of the Dance’ was scandalous. A stupid call to an open-line radio call-in show more or less sealed my fate there.

Then, on to Toronto, where completing my Bachelor’s degree and getting into theological college were paramount. I had to take on a part-time pastoral charge to finance my MDiv, so learning and making it from Sunday to Sunday took precedence. And then, when it became clear that ordination wouldn’t work for me, it was another move – first to Nova Scotia, then to Asia, and the eventual drift away from the church, my first marriage, and general spirituality (that could be an entry in itself).

So, when I came back to the church, I went back to what was familiar – the liturgical nature of the Anglican church, and then at my current church, bringing what I learned about preaching and worship presiding there. I think it’s not too conceited to say I’ve still got it, although I prefer the holiness language of still ‘having an anointing’. Nonetheless, my experience with the Namdaemun-gu sit-in has revealed to me that I still have a great passion for being active in the causes which, to me, express what the essence of the Gospel is about – standing with ‘the least of these’, seeking justice and resisting evil, living out self-giving love (agape, αϒάπη), forming community with others, encouraging the fainthearted, proclaiming with word and deed that Jesus, not the domination system of our day, rules. I know all these things sound high and lofty, but these are things I’ve experienced in the last couple of weeks.

I’m grateful for being able to recover something I’d forgotten I had – it’s like re-discovering muscles you forgot about while working out, another new thing I’ve been doing recently. I hope I never lose the ability to use them, in either case..

Learnings – About Community (Part One)

Well, the week came and went – the sit-in at Namdaemun-gu Police Station came and went – and the decision of the Seoul Police Agency has been issued. The Pride Parade has been disallowed on the basis of ‘competing rallies’ and ‘inconvenience to traffic’, although the Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) still has its permits for its opening ceremony on the 9th and the main festival on the 28th. ‘So’, some might ask, ‘why aren’t you happy with that? Take your partial victory, have your festival, and be happy!’ I’ll let the statement of the KQCF Organizing Committee speak for itself:

‘…the attendance at the KQCF has increased consistently over the past 15 years, while there has been no inconvenience to pedestrian or vehicular traffic on routes such as Cheonggye-daero,…where the Pride Parade has been held 4 times.

(T)he planned assembly is not interfering with pre-scheduled events…Conservative Christian groups intending to disrupt the KQCF Pride Parade scheduled for June 13th camped out in a tent in front of the Hyehwa Police Station for more than a week; this was one of the ‘simultaneous rallies’ cited in the police report. In addition, meetings were held with Hyehwa Police Station representatives after the parade had been reported, in the month preceding the parade, with the intent of interfering with the parade scheduled and reported by the KQCF Organizing Committee.’

‘Nuff said ’bout dat, says I! (can you tell I’m originally from Newfoundland?) The struggle will continue – an appeal has been launched, plans are being made for a human chain of Peace Against Hate and Discrimination, and plans are going forward for the festival. And the community which formed over that week continues to gel, to strengthen each other, to spread the story of what’s going on, and to act. The main organizer of the sit-in had this to say about how expats and Koreans are coming together:

‘What I realized during the staying in front of the police station is
Forigners are also the member of “OUR” community.
Lots of them comes to join the line and try to support as much as they can.
because, they are also care about pride parade just like Korean. We are just same people who LIVES IN KOREA.
I was touched and impressed a lot as well.

This was part of my response:

We are one community – Korean and expat; gay, lesbian, straight, queer, and transgender. We are united in our caring for each other and our desire to see equal rights for all!’

It is amazing to see a community coalesce like this. It’s also amazing for me to find out something about myself…see my next post.