The first and only openly gay pastor in Malaysia said Thursday he will move forward with plans to open the country's first gay-friendly church despite government opposition.
The Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng, an ethic Chinese Malaysian ordained in the United States in May, has called on mainstream churches to not discriminate against homosexuals.
"We are going to set up a church just like any other one but the only difference is that we affirm and welcome those who openly declare themselves gays, lesbians or homosexuals," Ouyang told Agence France-Presse.
"We will follow all the rules by applying all the proper licenses. We already have a church of such stature in Singapore and I do not see why we cannot set up one here," he added.
On Aug. 12, the openly gay pastor led a Sunday service attended by nearly 80 congregants – mostly homosexuals – who hugged and sang hymns and lyrics such as, "With justice as our aim, a queer and righteous people united in Christ's name," according to AP.
Ouyang said he has received a flood of hate mails regarding his plans.
Furthermore, the pastor's intention to open a homosexual-oriented church is opposed by not only Christians but also Muslims in a country where 60 percent are followers of Islam.
"It is the deviant sexual behavior we do not condone," commented the Rev. Wong Kin Kong, secretary general of Malaysia's National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, according to the Malaysia Star. "We cannot stop him wanting to set up such a kind of church, but the evangelical churches will inform followers of our stand and advise them not to follow this teaching."
Wong told the Associated Press that his group does not recognize Ouyang's ordination.
"We have nothing against gays but we don't encourage any form of practice that contradicts the teachings of the Bible such as relationship among the same sex," the evangelical minister said.
"It is clear that the Bible prohibits a sexual relationship between people of the same sex," he noted, according to the Malaysia Star. "If a person condones same sex marriages, it is definitely violating Christian principles."
Currently, Ouyang is pursuing his doctorate at Boston University and said he plans to return permanently to Malaysia in a few years. He lives with his partner Angel Ayala, an American, and said they hope to marry when same-sex "marriage" is legalized in New York. The Malaysian pastor was formerly in a heterosexual marriage and said his former wife gave him the strength to be his true self.
It was in 1998 that Ouyang went to study sociology and theology in the United States.
While in the United States, Ouyang had worked at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in New York, which seeks to serve homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals. The MCC founder, Bishop Troy D. Perry, is also a homosexual with a partner of over 22 years who is HIV-positive.
Ouyung said he hopes to set up an MCC branch in Malaysia by 2010.
Although homosexuality is not itself a crime under Malaysian law, it is covered by a law prohibiting sodomy, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and whipping, according to AP.
Malaysia's Tourism Minister Adnan Tengku Mansor has said the government will block the plan for the gay-friendly church because Malaysia wants the country to be seen as a "family-oriented" holiday spot, according to AFP.