UCC racial-justice minister to Asia conference: LGBT, race issues remain big challenge in United States

UCC racial-justice minister to Asia conference: LGBT, race issues remain big challenge in United States

July 08, 2012
Written by Connie Larkman

From a racial-justice perspective, both in the United States and in Hong Kong, a great deal of work remains to be done in de-colonizing LGBT church life and ministry.

That’s the take-home for the Rev. Elizabeth Leung, UCC minister for racial justice, after the "Amplify All Asia Open & Affirming Church + Life 2012 Conference," held June 22-24 at the Chung Chi Divinity College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

One of three panelists at the conference –– themed "Transcending Boundaries. Restoring Hope" –– Leung gave a presentation titled "U.S. Racial Justice Meets Global LGBT Movement."

"People were glad to know the realities of LGBT life in the United States," said Leung, "especially from a racial-justice standpoint, to learn that it is not the Shangri-la of LGBT church life."

Leung said at least one workshop participant who is a non-resident of the United States fell into that category.

"He concluded that, even as the LGBT movement in the United States is perceived by the world to be progressive, life for racial minorities still includes the struggle with stereotyping and discrimination within the LGBT community," said Leung.

The conference comprised nearly 300 participants from 15 churches and 10 countries –– Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States.

"We worshipped in English and three dialects of Chinese –– Cantonese, Mandarin and Putonghua," said Leung. "There was diversity in the harmony, but the melody was the same."

Joining Leung on the panel were the  Rev. Stedney Phillips, chair of  the Asia Pacific Initiative for the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), from Long Beach, Calif.; and the Rev. Boon O. Young of the Global Justice Institute, the social-justice arm of the MCC in New York. Young is a Korean who was raised by Anglo parents, said Leung.

Each shared a personal story of being an Asian Pacific Islander and LGBT in the United States in attempts to illuminate the continued need for racial-justice work, said Leung.

"The struggle for racial equity among LGBTs and allies in the United States is similar to the struggle against Western colonial legacies in Asia," said Leung. "The struggle contributes to the resistance of dominant Western impulses found even in the globalization of LGBT identities and movement."

Young said that at times, she has been in deep discernment with her identity and what it means to her ministry. Depending on demographics, she said, people have varying perceptions as to whether she is American or Asian.

Two keynote speakers provided highlights for the conference –– Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire of the Episcopal Church of the USA and UCC minister Bishop Yvette Flunder of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries in San Francisco. The Asian premiere of Robinson’s new film, "Love Free Or Die," was screened June 23.

The conference was co-hosted by the Free Community Church in Singapore and Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship, a gay-affirming, non-denominational church in Hong Kong.

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