Friday, June 21, 2013

Grace Communion International, Exodus International, and Gay Christians In The Churches of God

At the end of this month Grace Communion International is holding a conference in Disney World at the Hilton.  Of the different ministry sessions there will be three devoted to those who have same sex attractions i.e gay/lesbian.

Sharing in Christ’s Ministry to those Dealing with Same-Sex Attraction

Sharing in Christ’s Ministry to those Dealing with Same-Sex Attraction – to register click here
This workshop will be offered on Thursday afternoon.
In this three-part workshop we will consider the complex questions involved in serving with Christ those who experience same-sex attraction. The first session will address discerning the moral and spiritual dimensions of this issue. Biblical and theological foundations will be a central consideration, but the claims of social science will be given some consideration. In the second session we will begin considering the practical implications of ministering to such persons and how best to approach it. The third session will be devoted entirely to discussion, sharing experiences and attempting to discern together how best to conduct such a ministry.

Attendance at all three sessions is strongly encouraged. Pre-registration will be required as well as some preparation which will involve the reading of a couple of papers. These will be sent to all those who pre-register for the class, via email.  Gary Deddo and Ted Johnston will lead this seminar.
 More about the GCI conference a little later.

The Church of God has always had gay members in it.  They were in WCG, they are in UCG, LCG, PCG, RCG and many of the other splinter groups.  Many are there for the love they feel for God, others are there thinking that God has placed them there so they can be cured and made straight.  Even LCG has gay members, though God only knows why considering the garbage that Rod Meredith continually spews out at them.

Herbert Armstrong employed several in his years ruling the church.  The interior decorator of the church was and helped HWA decorated three campuses and countless offices and homes.  Meredith and others tried over and over to get HWA to fire  the man and he would not.  He and his partner showed up for HWA's funeral.

If you look on the Painful Truth website at the Suicides page, you will see a lot of young men and women.  While not all were gay, several of them were.  They struggled and struggled to be something they could not.  After listening to sermon after sermon, having hands laid on them to cast demons out, praying and fasting for literally decades, God did not change them.

The Church of God and many Christians churches have destroyed lives all in the name of the God they claim to follow.  One of the biggest tools of this damage has been the ex-gay ministries that have popped up over the years.  There are Ex-Gay Ministries in the Mormon Church, the SDA's, Evanglical groups, and several others.  All claiming that they have huge success rates in changed gay and lesbians Christian's into 100% straight heterosexuals.  The biggest of these groups is Exodus International.  Many COG members have went through this organization.

Today, Exodus International announced it was shutting itself down because of the damage it had done to peoples mental and spiritual lives over the last close to four decades.

Its leader, Alan Chambers,  announced this on Wednesday:

I Am Sorry

Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me. 

And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated. 

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. 

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.  

A Room of Ex-Gay Survivors Reacts to Alan Chambers' Apology
After Alan Chambers reads his apology (watch the full, uncut apology here) on behalf of the former "conversion" and "reparative" therapies that Exodus International ministries preached with him at it's helm, some ex-gay survivors are less than enthused. Watch as they question his message, his motives, and ask the ultimate question: where does his apology and announcement leave Exodus now? To view a scrolling, historical timeline of events since the first Our America episode of "Pray the Gay Away?" click here.

Exodus International's founder came out years ago and said that the organization did not work and refuted the claim that gays can be cured:

John Paulk Apologizes for Ex-Gay Gospel, Wife Ann Says She’ll Pray for Him

Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelical preacher and author had this to say:

The ex-gay myth has crashed.  Fallen.  Shattered.  Exodus International president Alan Chambers announced last night that Exodus is shutting down.  Tonight in a televised interview with Lisa Ling (OWN 10pmET), he will publicly apologize to all who have been harmed by the organization.  (See apology here)
The ex-gay house of cards has been falling for some time.  Over a decade ago, Focus on the Family’s Dr. Dobson was advocating the use of so-called ex-gay ministries.  Prior to 2000 Focus on the Family broadcasts featured their own John Paulk, “the story of how one man overcame homosexuality.”  In 2000, however, when Paulk was spotted in a gay bar, he quickly disappeared from the organization family.

A most interesting Focus on the Family story you may have missed was in 1997, when Focus on the Family co-founder Gil Alexander-Moegerle, having left the organization, wrote a letter of apology for the organization’s stands on homosexuality and women’s issues. (This story of course was not broadcast, and Dr. Dobson certainly did not endorse it.) He could no longer keep silent. In his words: “I apologize to lesbian and gay Americans who are demeaned and dehumanized on a regular basis by the false, irresponsible, and inflammatory rhetoric of James Dobson’s anti-gay radio and print materials.”

Now to GCI's conference workshop.  The  two men running it are Gary Deddo and Ted Johnston.  Deddo is a Presbyterian minister,  an adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary, and also in the employ of GCI's online "seminary."  Johnston is a WCG/GCI minister who embraced the changes and runs a blog called The Surpising God, the blog that Gavin Rumney loves to hate.

A former WCG elder, Micah Royal,  who resigned several years ago over the mistreatment he saw the COG was doing towards gay members has been very vocal in his criticism.  He and his wife have been very critical of the WCG/GCI stance over the years, as well as the anti gay stance of various COG's.

He still seeks and honest dialogue with the Church over this issue:

 I spoke with one of the organizers and they said they will NOT present an alternative point of view to this paper this year, but may later. When I stated that I viewed the paper is very misinformed on the nature of sexual orientation, the organizer seemed shocked and said they would be willing to hear my critique. I have put together a critique to send them, and here it is.My hope and prayer right now is not that Grace Communion International come to my stance on this issue -- which is full inclusion of same-gender couples and recognizing the equal place GLBT people have before God already -- but that they move to the place most mainstream denominations are at: where intellectually honest discussion goes on that include presentation of more than one side on an issue.  This is a standard approach for denominations both that exclude and include same-gender couples in their life of faith, including Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, various Episcopal/Anglican denominations, Quakers, Anabaptists, and many others. 
Deddo bases many of his arguments against gay Christians based upon trinitarian approaches to marriage.  You can read more of Royal's critique here:  One Step Forward, Three Steps Back: Problems with Grace Communion International's Current Approach to Explore GLBT Issues

It remains to be seen what GCI's stance will ultimately be, but it most likely will be that God still rejects them as Children of God.  While they won't hurl most of the insults and derogatory comments that so many "christian" ministries do, they will still present a stumbling block to it's gay and lesbian members.


Douglas Becker said...

Now if only the Cult of Herbert Armstrong and GCI would admit the harm they have done as total failures as Exodus International has and go out of business, all would be well.

Joe Moeller said...

If people are honest with themselves, they will admit that illicit sexual desires are common to nearly everyone. Christian and non-Christian alike.

This can be adulterous thoughts by both male and female heterosexuals, thoughts of fornication by the unmarried, for some it is homosexual thoughts, or any manner of the plethora of fetishes that exist.

I would be greatly embarrassed if some of the thoughts or temptations that have passed thru my soul were public knowledge. Im sure all of us would agree with that same assessment.

The temptation itself is not sin. It is the acting out of such desires that is the problem.

Christians are called to be celibate and to have sex in an appropriate venue in heterosexual marriage. There is no working around the fact that this is the high calling of the Biblical standard.

As a young man, I did not fornicate, and I was a healthy , "Red blooded American Male" in every way. I faced many temptations, almost failed, but did the right thing in the end.

So managing sex is possible. Many have done so. Admittedly , it is not easy, and some are stronger than others.

I have talked with many homosexuals over the years, with them being quite open and frank with me. Some have been in the COG. One man that I knew was one of the finest examples of Christianity, kindness and service that I have ever known. He was private in his orientation, but He practiced celibacy.

Reparative therapy, (turning someone from homosexual to heterosexual) seems so very rare that it is an illusive vapor. The few cases where it "appears" to have worked were with bisexuals who decided to just stay with the opposite sex.

Although genetic studies with identical twins shows that the idea of a "gay gene" does not exist, everyone I have talked to say the same story... that they had these feelings for as long as they can remember, even from early childhood. They are being truthful.

Acting on ones sexual desires is not the answer, regardless of what they are . Heterosexuals are called to not commit adultery, wife swap or fornicate. Homosexuals are called not to act on their desires either.

Celibate sinners of ANY stripe should be welcome and accepted in the Church. Even Paul referred to the Corinthians saying "of such were many of you". The power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Jesus Christ and his shed blood have great power to heal.

Let us be kind and merciful towards those who struggle with all manners of this world. I often remember the words of "he who is without sin, can cast the first stone".

Your Friend,
Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

DennisCDiehl said...

I'd suggest a good read of John Spongs view on the possibility that the Apostle Paul as a very repressed gay man.

The "symptoms" were certainly there in his own writings.

"I would that all men were as I" = single. Paul never heard of any Gospel Jesus talk about leaving father and mother and clinging to a woman. They weren't written yet.

"I beat and keep myself lest after preaching to others...." And he meant beat. It was literal

"The things that I should do I don't. The things that I should not do, I do...." What were these things??? Sexual in nature I imagine.

"If you marry you have not sinned." (Gee thanks Paul)

"Let every man learn how to possess his member." This is not speaking about church members or wives.

"Never the less to avoid fornication..let every man have his own wife." So marriage is to avoid fornication. Great relationship.

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh lest I be exhalted above measure..." Prayer did not take this away. Eyesight? who knows. No love for a woman? Perhaps. No desire to marry a woman? perhaps.

Perhaps Paul's utter failure at lawkeeping was his motive for going overboard on the grace view and law going away. Maybe it was too painful for him and too difficult. So he made up a new view. He found out the hard way in Corinth that faith only was a formula for lawlessness . Law struck churches learn that Grace is more their friend as it is needed more among the members. Grace stuck churches find out a few rules help.

"Paul was a student of the Law. If homosexuality was his condition, he knew well that by that Law he stood condemned. His body was a body in which death reigned. He lived under that death sentence. What Paul knew himself to be, the people to whom he belonged and the Law to which he adhered called abominable, and Paul felt it to be beyond redemption. Is it not possible, even probable, that this was the inner source of his deep self-negativity, his inner turmoil, his self-rejection, his superhuman zeal for a perfection he could never achieve? Could this also be his thorn in the flesh, about which he wrote so plaintively? With this possibility in mind, listen once more to Paul's words: "And to help me keep from being too elated by the abundance of revelation, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I sought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' " (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

What if the 11 (minus Peter who had a mother in law at least, even if he was not too proud of his wife as she never showed up,) were all gay? lol Just kidding.

Douglas Becker said...

----- or -----

Was Paul (originally Saul) a member of the Sanhedrin?

Weren't the members of the Sanhedrin supposed to be married?

Had Paul been married at some point?

To analyze writings from nearly 2,000 years ago written in another language than our own is quite problematic. (Of course, the above statements are made advisedly because all of our assumptions could be entirely wrong in so many ways.)

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest a good read of John Spongs view on the possibility that the Apostle Paul as a very repressed gay man.

As long as we are on the subject...

The Shocking Truth About 'Queer' Men!

Anonymous said...

If god made sex, and the sex drive, and gave us fertile imaginations (pun)...
then I fail to see why christians should feel so guilty about operating normally (straight sex). But the puritans and their values and sensitivities (pun) have, in part, become prevailing American cultural ones, and the puritans were about the most god-haunted pharisaical bunch that ever existed. And I haven't begun to talk about anything beyond that which is merely necessary for the survival of the human species. BTW, marriage is not a factor in the human sex drive, and our attraction mechanisms know nothing about it.

I am not gay and have no desire ever to be gay, but the one bad thing about having like absolutely zero gayness, is that the male body is not sexy to me *at all*, and I have almost no idea why women should desire sex with, say, an average guy. I get it logically, but that's a very indirect way to understand human sexuality. I also get the whole money/power thing for women. But, for my part, I wish my gay dial was not set at *absolute zero* just because it might help me understand human sexuality from a woman's point of view a little better. So, the gay thing kinda cuts both ways.

I think it's funny how we're these rational people who demand that everything we do make some kind of rational sense, to the point of making up completely fictitious explanations after the fact without even realizing it to to justify all the utterly irrational things we actually do, so we can still pretend that we're these supremely rational beings. And the jewel in the crown of this is human sexuality. Not that there isn't a rational logic generally behind procreation, obviously there is, but all the specifics, like when, how, with whom, and the entire negotiation of it has nothing to do with the rational parts of our brain, and any attempt to switch that on is a sure-fire mood-killer. Sex is primitive, animalistic, and unhygienic, and then afterwards we return to our logical, rational, hygienic selves. Wtf? Who took my f*****g Purell? Dammit!

DennisCDiehl said...

I personally think Paul was not a Pharisee but a Temple Policeman working for the Sadducees who ran the temple for the Romans. Why would a pharisee be sent to Damascus to arrest Christians? Not how it worked.

There is a tradition that Paul was rejected by the daughter of a priest and thus his hatred for the law etc. We can never know the real story of these people based on just what we have in the NT.

Anonymous said...

Anon said,
"I think it's funny how we're these rational people who demand that everything we do make some kind of rational sense..."

It is funny. There are people who have a helluva time jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for fun! There are others who get off on collecting stamps or some other mundane activity. It's not the activity that makes it fun but your mind that attaches the fun to some said activity. Homosexuallity will not produce offspring. Neither will masturbation. The funny thing to me is that ALL heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, celibate people came from a heterosexual act. We should'nt forget this in a politically-correct atmosphere. Some might call it hate speach but I think they hate that fundemental truth. Also, if homosexuality was genetic, wouldn't it have died out in the gene pool long ago?
So, I believe homosexuality is wrong(from a rational pragmatic POV). Then again, I am a freedom loving libertarian. I will respect other people's freedom if it doesn't encroach on another person's freedom. What consenting adults do behind closed doors is their business and NOT mine. The question is though, would they respect my freedom of speech in this PC-charged climate?

another seekeroftruth

Raymond Conder said...

What was Sodom and Gomorrah all about? Noah's flood? And Paul's letter to the Romans? The issue of homosexuality, right? So what don't you understand about the fact that homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord God Almighty? Poofterisation of the world is a tool from the devil's tool box which is being used with alarming results. Wake up everybody. God is looking for faithful servants who will speak with clarity and truth.