September 23, 1999
Dear Archbishop Tay,
As a Singaporean, I read with surprise your open letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion concerning the need to read the Bible literally, and to vest those literal truths with ultimate authority. You accuse the U.S. and Scottish Episcopal Churches for being revisionist and heretical. But your own record does not make you a Biblical literalist either!
For example, the Province of South East Asia has the largest Moslem population in the world---some 200 million souls--- yet you and the Church have not publicly evangelized them as required in the Great Commission, nor upbraided them for worshipping a false god. Why? Because the laws of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia forbid the evangelization of Moslems.
The Bible is also very clear that idol worshippers and their temples are to be destroyed. Nevertheless, you have yet to publicly renounce the idolatry of 60% of our fellow citizens---Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists--- who all pray to graven images in their very homes. Nor have you asked for Christians to boycott their idol worshipping parents.
Singapore has legalized cheap abortion, making that the most popular form of birth control. Biblical literalism requires that you and the Church witness against the government of Singapore for its promotion of genocide. But the Church has been silent.
Over the years, a handful of Christians have not been silent against these issues. For this, they have all been jailed under the Internal Security Act for fostering communal unrest. As Biblical literalists, they consider their imprisonment as faithfulness to Christ. But you are not in jail. Surely this is not for lack of faith or courage? Rather, I believe that you are an Anglican, pursuing the via media, and that you and many of us want to prevent the religious and racial bloodshed of the 1960’s when Chinese and Malay people killed each other. Scriptural literalism is eventually fatal. Not that we get killed, but that we end up killing others.
Living in peace and prosperity among people of different beliefs Singaporean Christians have therefore revised their understanding of scripture in light of our experience. In a multi-religious society, we do not condemn each other but let reason, tradition and experience help us interpret scripture.
Similarly, as gay and lesbian Christians live their faith in Christ openly, Christians around the world are re-thinking their traditional antagonism towards homosexuality. Because of the violence against gay people, the Bishops you accuse of revisionism are making an important pastoral decision to rethink the issue. This re-thinking is even taking place among the people of Singapore. You are aware of course, that this Eastertide, some gay Anglicans publicly proclaimed both their gay and Christian identity while going forward for communion at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
Now if we are all interpreting scripture in light of our different social experiences and cultural contexts, won’t we be a Church of contradictions? No, because Anglicans meet in consultation with each other, to listen and to learn, trusting that it is the Holy Spirit in all of us, and not the literal Bible, which guides us into all truth, as Jesus himself promised the Spirit would do. Your boycott of the consultation in Scotland is therefore rather tragic, for Bishops are then showing the world that dialogue is useless. Surely Jesus did not shun, but first and foremost talked and ate with us all?
The Rev’d You-Leng Lim
cc. The Primates of the Anglican Communion
Please sign my guestbook and view it.
Statistics courtesy of