This is a two-part post. Here’s the first one: “MCC-PH’s Pastor Ceejay recalls his days as a seminarian”:
Rev. Ceejay Agbayani has been all over the media lately. He has been interviewed by the likes of Karen Davila, Vicky Morales, and Kara David as the administrative pastor of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) – Philippines. MCC-PH has gained considerable attention because it administers holy unions for people of the same sex. These ceremonies may not be legally binding (gay marriages are not recognized in the country), but a significant number of LGBT couples has nevertheless been “solemnized” the past years. Three years ago (March 2008), I did a profile of Pastor Ceejay for a journalism class in UP under Prof. Yvonne Chua. I am reposting it here because although the public already know what he stands for, they still need to know him better as a person.
Pastor Ceejay says that the Holy Bible is the chief source of discrimination against the LGBT. There are many so-called anti-gay verses interspersed in the bible like those written in the Book of Genesis, Leviticus, and the Corinthians. Pastor Agbayani is quick in explaining these seemingly “damning” verses. He takes Leviticus 18:22 as an example. The said verse explicitly prohibits a man from sleeping with another man. “That order was meant for the Levites who were the holiest of the holiest people then,” he said. “This is not anymore true for us,” Agbayani adds.
He reiterates that since the original text of the Bible comes from different old languages like Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew, its meaning has become reliant on who interprets it. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis has been widely interpreted as another anti-gay Bible verse. It says that the males of Sodom were punished by God because of immorality after they supposedly expressed desire to gang rape Abraham, who was then visiting Lot.
“The key in that text is the Hebrew word ‘yadha’. It can mean either ‘to have sex’ or ‘to know.’ Sodom is a prosperous city and its people are known for their inhospitality. It is likely that the male Sodomites just want to know Lot’s visitors,” he said. He adds that there is no concept yet of homosexuality then.
He lamented the fact that Filipino LGBT’s seldom read the bible. “They should read the Bible. They should educate themselves. It is not against us. In fact, John 3:16 says that ‘whosoever’ believes in God will have eternal life. It is not meant for heterosexuals only,” Pastor Agbayani explains. That verse serves as the cornerstone of the MCC’s struggle against the LGBT’s religious exclusion.
How does he see the current state of the gay rights movement in the country? “It is very pathetic. The LGBT groups here do not have a direction, mission, and vision. They are very individualistic. Gays and lesbians who are satisfied with their private lives, LGBT’s won’t take part in the concerted struggle for equality here,” he said.
Within the MCC itself, he admits that administrative problems have hampered the growth in its membership during the past years. He remains an optimist, though. He envisions a thriving MCC Philippines that would ultimately boost the struggle in the quest for gay rights here. He also mentioned the role minority churches plays in empowering the marginalized. “Look at America. Equal rights were achieved since Afro-Americans communities established small churches for them,” Pastor Agbayani said.
The self-confessed Marian devotee says that he does not see same-sex marriages happening in this country, in his lifetime at least. “It will only happen if the Philippines becomes a socialist country like Spain where there is total equality in the society,” the political science graduate from the Far Eastern University says. “The farthest we can go here is to allow domestic partnerships,” he adds. A domestic partnership is a personal relationship between two individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are not joined by marriage or civil union.
He believes there’s no difference in the kind of love between two same-sex individuals compared to that of two persons of the opposite sex. How about gay couples adopting children? “It is just right so that they can practice responsibility as well,” he said. How about the apprehensions of some that children nurtured by gay couples would most likely end up being gay too? “I don’t think so. Homosexuality is innate. It is not a contagious disease,” he said.
He thinks that if he’s not into theology, he’d most likely be a professor of political science. Does he have any plans after graduating from the seminary? “I want to devote my time here in MCC. I want to personally oversee its growth,” he said. He dreams that one day, all Filipino LGBTs will have a unifying church in MCC. In fact, he is planning to put up MCC chapters in all cities in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. This plan however is not time-bound.
Before the end of the interview, he expressed his objections to the reference to the LGBT as the ‘third sex.’ ”Why is there a third sex? Do we have a first sex? Are the males the first sex?” he said. He says that one main converging point for the gay and lesbian liberation movement would be the challenge it poses to social patriarchy.
Six days later, the man who described himself as an “ordinary beauty queen with an extraordinary beauty” and an admirer of beauty expert Ricky Reyes became the first openly gay graduate in the 100-year history of Union Theological Seminary. (the end)