Safehaven is a non-denominational Christian group in Singapore. It was started by 10 gay believers who had been gathering since 1997 for prayer, Bible study and fellowship. It is LGBT-affirmative and made up of people from different age groups, backgrounds and religious traditions.
Safehaven was formed because several founding members had been made to feel unwelcome or were rejected outright by mainstream churches on account of their homosexuality. As such, many LGBT Singaporeans in mainstream churches chose to remain closeted for fear of being blacklisted and ostracised. One of the founders was Nicholas Lum who passed away on Sunday, 9 December 2018.
A salient example of discrimination was witnessed when the New Creation Church (NCC) showed little grace in expelling one of its gay male members. With no place to worship, that particular individual later gathered a few gay friends and began meeting weekly in one of their homes located along Zion Road just opposite Great World City. When their number grew to 10 to 15 within two months via word of mouth, they moved their place of congregation to Utterly Art along South Bridge Road which they rented from the gallery's owner.
This was the start of the fledgeling support group in which gay Christians could find solace and which provided devotees an environment to work out any conflicts they may have had about being gay and Christian. Many key members of Safehaven, and the Free Community Church (FCC) which later developed from it, also came from the Choices ministry of the Church of Our Saviour (COOS) (Singapore's main ex-gay church). One of FCC's worship leaders joined the it after he was rejected by City Harvest Church's (CHC) worship team for being gay. In a blog entry entitled, “Homosexuality: a geographical angle” by a pastor from a mainstream church, FCC was denounced as a pro-gay space which had failed to uphold what he called “heteronormativity” and instead only served to reinforce “deviant sexual identity”. Hence, Safehaven and FCC ironically owe much to NCC, CHC and COOS for their existence.
As attendance and confidence swelled, the group decided that it needed a larger place to worship and set up a full fledged church called the Free Community Church (FCC). The name was chosen because the acronym FREE stood for "First Realise Everyone is Equal". FCC was officially registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) as a private limited company in 1999. This was a strategic move which enabled the organisation to operate without any hassles from the Government since the congregation each Sunday was simply regarded as a private gathering.
FCC was also not affiliated with any other church although it strove to be accepted as a regular church. It wanted to avoid being labelled a gay church, preferring to be known as "an all-inclusive church" since it was open towards not only sexuality in its multifarious manifestations, but also to all religions and church denominations. Safehaven subsequently became one of its ministries.
Rev. Yap Kim Hao
- Main article: Rev. Yap Kim Hao's involvement in LGBT activism
On 10 August 2003, Miak Siew, a member of both Safehaven and the pioneering LGBT advocacy group People Like Us and who was later to become a pastor at the Free Community Church himself, and Jerry Siah, a gay Christian who would later organise the huge LGBT-led charity A Nation In Concert events, learned about a certain Rev. Yap Kim Hao preaching at the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church through Eileena Lee who had posted the information on SiGNeL, the Singapore Gay News List.
Before Rev. Yap assumed his position at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, Lee, who was not yet a member of the church, had heard that there was another LGBT-friendly pastor before Yap who was conducting services there and this was what enticed her to attend his sermons. This individual was, in fact, none other than Singapore's first all-embracing and inclusive Christian pastor, Rev. Kang Ho Soon. After joining the welcoming church, Lee helped out there in her spare time. This was how she first met Rev. Yap Kim Hao as the latter was invited by his predecessor, Rev. Kang, to preach there.
Miak Siew and Jerry Siah went to Kampong Kapor Methodist Church to meet Rev. Yap in person. Clarence Singam, who had recently taken charge of Safehaven, had read Yap's letter to The Straits Times forum published on 18 July 2003 which brought him to the attention of the LGBT community at large for the very first time. In the landmark letter, Rev. Yap supported the right of LGBT individuals to live their lives in peace, community and openness. On behalf of the group, Singam invited Yap via e-mail to dinner at Imperial Herbal restaurant along Seah Street. A total of nine gay men attended the dinner including Miak Siew, Peter Goh, Cyrus Ho and Clarence Singam.
During the meal, Yap learned that Safehaven was thrilled he was willing and dared to come out openly to support them. It was a great source of encouragement to them. Coincidentally, Singam had received infant baptism at Wesley Methodist Church, Kuala Lumpur when Yap was a pastor there. Safehaven wondered about the cost of Yap's action but he assured them that it was a conviction on his part and that he regarded it as a calling from God to minister to the gay community. For those who were critical and negative of his action, it was not his problem but theirs. There had been no loss anyway. On the contrary, he had gained respect especially from the gay community who had been neglected for too long by the Church.
After the dinner, which they thought resembled an inquisition, they invited Yap to preach at Safehaven's first service at Utterly Art along South Bridge Road on 14 September 2003. Yap delivered his sermon "Doing a New Thing" and today, the founders of Safehaven marvel at the unfolding of events that led them to the status quo.
First family reunion dinner
On Saturday, 10 January 2004, Safehaven organised a family reunion dinner hosted by Rev. Yap Kim Hao and his wife. The aim of the inaugural dinner was to help its members and their families deepen their relationships. It was co-organised by the then 26-year old Alphonsus Lee who attended the gathering with his father.
- Free Community Church
- Yap Kim Hao
- Rev. Yap Kim Hao's involvement in LGBT activism
- Archive of talk, "Gay Law: Emancipation And Emasculation" by Lim Wee Kuan, 1 October 2002
This article was written by Roy Tan.