Surprised at Love Won Out – The Church and Homosexuality, pt.1

This is part one. Part two can be found here.

I attended the Love Won Out conference this Saturday, hosted by Focus on the Family, and I was pleasantly surprised. Their website reads:

Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out ministry exhorts and equips the church to respond in a Christ-like way to the issue of homosexuality. And to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, we offer the Gospel hope that these desires can be overcome.

The reputation of the Christian community, within the Church itself and most definitely in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-Gender/Trans-Sexual) communities and the culture at large is very damaged; and for good reason. Most of us have seen the billboards and wooden stick signs that have Scripture references and all out hate language. And though Focus on the Family doesn’t endorse that kind of behavior, they tend to fall into a similar hyper-conservative category when it comes to controversial issues such as this. So, I was nervous and skeptical. I was concerned that this conference would only encourage behavior that continually alienates and disowns anyone struggling with sexual identity issues. But as I said, I was pleasantly surprised. Here, in this first post, I list my reasons why; notes from the concluding talk by Joe Dallas entitled “How Should We Respond?”

(Joe Dallas)

Dallas states that,

the church has a MANDATE to be CONTROVERSIAL when controversy for the sake of truth is called for. [1]

Fine. That’s nothing new. In fact, it’s usually that ethic that gets us into trouble. But what was so refreshing to hear is that there are

three areas of REPENTANCE and RECOMMITMENT [that] need to be addressed as we respond to this crucial issue.

Did he just tell the Church to repent?! Yup. And, in his opening lines, he calls the Church to first look at our moral shortcomings before we can even begin to address those beyond the church walls. This is refreshing to me because even a quick NIV word search will reveal that “repent” is most often used for godly people (Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 32:26), the nation of Israel (Isaiah 59:20), and godly cities (Matthew 11:20-21). Looking deeper at the Hebrew word for repentance “shuv” or “teshuvah” (תשובה) one discovers that it simply means “return” or “turn back.” Biblically speaking, repentance is primarily done by people of faith who have lost their way, not sinners or pagans who are not followers of God.

So to hear Dallas make these remarks is, in my opinion, an excellent start towards the healing and redemption process that needs to happen, really, not just with LGBT issues, but with every issue the Church faces. Thank you Joe.

So, what are the three areas? Again, I think you’ll be refreshed to read:

1. The church must REPENT of her own immorality and RECOMMIT to a biblical standard of holiness.

Here Dallas used Samson as an analogy of the church’s compromise on the vow of separation; otherwise known as “holiness,” that is, to be different, set apart. We, the church, have compromised God’s very best for our lives by succumbing to all sorts of immorality. We must take serious stock, really repent, and do some serious work internally before we can even look outwardly.

2. The church must REPENT of hostility toward homosexual people and RECOMMIT to bold love.

Using Jonah as the character for this point, Dallas suggests that we have not cared for the people to whom we minister. We seem them only as an “issue to be defeated,” rather than a people needing to be loved and redeemed. And, much of our argumentation has only served to “inflame Christian contempt” towards these groups of people (well articulated). We must repent from this as well, and seek to “serve” with “bold love” all the while without compromise.

3. The church must REPENT of being intimidated by the gay rights movement and RECOMMIT to her prophetic role.

While this last point of repentance is more a clarion call, it is a good one, for even as we repent of our sins, this does not mean that we simply acquiesce to opposing characterizations that are meant to intimidate and silence us from expressing valid and reasonable arguments and positions. There are still people in serious hurt and pain out there, and we still have a message of hope and healing that needs to be voiced. We ought not overtly value appeasement for the sake of avoiding opposition. “The church must boldly protest immorality in any form while simultaneously building a place of safety for those who respond to our message.”

I hope you too, are surprised at the call to the Church given by a group such as Focus on the Family (and in conjunction with Exodus International). It’s not every day that you hear people from within the Church, who speak on such controversial topics, tell the Church to repent. That’s a message worth hearing, believing, and doing. And just as this has surprised me, perhaps we can now, with this commission, be a loving surprise to our LGBT brothers and sisters around us.

[1] All quotes are from the Love Won Out Conference Guide, (Focus On The Family, 2007), and Joe Dallas’ last talk entitled How Should We Respond.

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

11 comments

  1. Daniel Gonzales

    Did Melissa Fryrear as she often has at previous LWO events make outrageous claims like all gay people have been molested?

    For audio of her past claim see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJMd6R1o4a0

  2. It seems that you’ve fallen for the false “love” talk that disguises the true intentions of groups like Focus on the Family, Exodus International and others. If you wish to truly learn what they are doing and what they *aren’t* telling you, visit http://www.truthwinsout.org/

  3. VIA

    Buffy & Daniel,

    Thank you for your URL referrals. I’ve approved your comments as I feel it’s important to keep the conversation live. And, I did check out your resources, and will do further reading so as to be as well educated as possible. I think, however, we must be honest with a couple things that you two mentioned.

    First, I do believe Melissa Fryrear did mention something about abuse and the correlative effect it has on homosexuality (I apologize, but I do not have the notes, transcript, or recording, so I can’t be 100% positive). But that DOES NOT MEAN that she is suggesting a CAUSAL relationship. Nor is she positing a wide sweeping fact of molestation for ALL gay people (sorry for the CAPS; I can’t italicize in comments). Her comment is strong, I admit, but it was clearly testimonial, not declarative. It is clear throughout the rest of her talk, and the entire conference, that homosexuality is complex, and there are many factors that must be considered, abuse being one of them. The witness of Alan Chambers (YouTube video link above) overhearing someone reporting that she just realized that her son had been molested because she heard Fryrear make that comment, ought to be taken as an anomaly, and not as normative. It’s very clear in the literature, and in the overall content that we know close to nothing about the origins or causes of homosexuality. Which leads me to the second point.

    Given that reality, this leaves all of us, people on the ex-gay side and people on the EX-ex-gay side, to one avenue of discourse, and that is testimonies. Again, I thank you for passing on your web pages and I have a great appreciation for your activism. But please realize that the strength of your organizations are the same strengths of movements like Love Won Out and organizations like Exodus International. People with stories. I spoke with an Exodus representative, and even inquired about the founders of Exodus having returned to a gay-affirming identity. He willingly admitted that Exodus has about a 30% recidivism rate. 30%?! Wow. Close to one-third of all who come through Exodus and its affiliates return to their gay-affirming identity and lifestyle. So of course there are plenty of people who had negative experiences with reparative therapy; no one doubts that. But just as those people have a story that no one can deny them, neither can you deny the very real stories of people who HAVE “changed” and found a new identity, sexual and otherwise, and have found freedom and healing in a new season of living.

    Buffy, you suggest that I have “fallen” for the “false ‘love’,” and if I “wish to truly learn what they are doing” I ought to see your website. Well, I went there, and to be honest, I found more rhetoric there than I did with the material at LWO. Now, I don’t want to discount the validity or sincerity of your movement, or the very real stances and beliefs of TWO. I say again, I am very appreciative of your activism and the passionate desire to keep people from damaging therapies that cause more pain than worth. But just because the two organizations are in disagreement, and just because I have a surprise respect for LWO, this does not mean that I have “fallen” for false truths. Both are well documented, and both are very real. And I suggest that we have a deep respect for what both are trying to do for those whose hearts are open to receiving the assistance.

    In addition, read more clearly my post. I was surprised at the REPENTANCE focus being ON THE CHURCH for their damaging behaviors and virulent rhetoric. On that, I still stand thankful for the message.

  4. throughthestorm

    Thanks, VIA, for your honest evaluation. You are right in saying that the only thing both sides of this issue have is stories. As I continue my journey as a gay Christian man, I hope one day to have a story of hope to tell… right now, as with the church at large, the story seems to be only one of confusion.
    Thanks for adding your moderate voice of compassion here.

  5. Pingback: Surprised at Love Won Out - The Church and Homosexuality, pt.2 « VIA

  6. “I spoke with an Exodus representative, and even inquired about the founders of Exodus having returned to a gay-affirming identity. He willingly admitted that Exodus has about a 30% recidivism rate. 30%?! Wow. Close to one-third of all who come through Exodus and its affiliates return to their gay-affirming identity and lifestyle.”

    VIA, can you verify that Exodus told you their recidivism rate was 30%?

  7. VIA

    David,

    As mentioned, I received this through a phone conversation. I’m sorry I do not have verification beyond that, and I should reiterate what was implied; that this is unconfirmed, not based on any real study. I am trusting the inside voice for the general principle and issue that it raises, not as hard data that we can be conclusive about. I hope that helps answer your question.

  8. paul

    “It’s very clear in the literature, and in the overall content that we know close to nothing about the origins or causes of homosexuality. Which leads me to the second point.
    Given that reality, this leaves all of us, people on the ex-gay side and people on the EX-ex-gay side, to one avenue of discourse, and that is testimonies”

    Hi VIA.

    My own years of experience with various ex-gay ministries (Exodus recommended) was that they did assume to understand the “origins and causes of homosexuality.”

    For example, reparative therapy assumes a damaged relationship between a father and a son and looks to fix that by matching a gay man with a straight man in an effort to “repair the breach.”

    There were the sessions where we had to repent of idolatry, another assumed cause for our condition. There was a session were “demons” were cast out, another cause.

    My experience was that the ex-gay movement is based on the assumption that being gay is “un-natural, bent, perverse.” The assumption is derived from an interpretation of a few bible verses and the belief that God doesn’t like gay. If we were to leave our understanding of gay folk in that context, I would agree that all we have is “testimonies.”

    I believe it is impossible to live without faith. Even the atheist puts her faith in say, theory of science vs. sacred text. Some science is more advanced than other. There was a time when the theory of the earth revolving around the sun was considered heresy by the ‘godly’ of the day. It was clear that the bible taught that “the sun stood still,” not the earth. But science did advance to a place where even the most ‘spiritual’ had to admit that they were wrong. Meanwhile, I wonder how many were harmed in God’s name? I don’t doubt that those who believed the earth was the center of the universe were sincere, and that they feared displeasing God if they went against “God’s word.”

    Will science advance to a place in our lifetime were we can all say, “oh, hey, homosexuality is quite natural,” and the lion will lie down with the lamb, and the Christian will lie down with the heathen on this one too? I don’t know.

    Until such time though, Focus on the Family (who brought us ‘Love’ Won Out), will continue to lobby to deny gays the equal right to marry, as one small example. FOF will continue it’s agenda to use the gentle threat of eternal damnation to encourage gays to conform to their image of God.

    I think you are wrong VIA. I think that organizations like Focus on the Family assume they know the origin and cause of homosexuaity. They believe it is “sin.” Every other conclusion they reach about homosexuality is built on that.

  9. Thanks VIA. They have given informal responses to these types of questions for years, but I had never heard them give a recidivism rate so low, hence my interest.  The only attempt to document the results of some of their member ministries was the Jones and Yarhouse book, Ex-gays? (Exodus funded study). 

    The ultimate results of that were quite a bit lower, and then only in behavior.  There is no data yet on how long these people will report such “change” (the study covered 3 years but I believe is being funded out to 5), but I find it disappointing, even somewhat deceptive for them to continue handing out informal, anecdotal guestimates that are so far from what their own study revealed.

    Thanks again for the clarification.  The link above to XGW is not self-serving; the exchange their between Dr. Patrick Chapman and the authors of the Ex-gays? book is still the best discussion of the material available on the web.  Take care. 

  10. VIA

    Paul,
    Thank you so much for adding your experience to this string. I hope to post soon about the Biblical and theological workings of the issue so as to help illuminate this discussion with that element.
    I concur that we all live by faith. And I concur that many are harmed in God’s name (see my most recent post on Constantine’s Sword. Though J.Carroll deals primarily with Jewish-Christian relations, I would suggest that there is much in common with the homosexual issue. AND, I agree, that FOTF, in many ways, will be deceitful (to others as well as themselves) regarding what is actually believed, and what is actually taught. I can only respond to the material I’ve been given, and I can only speculate as to whether or not FOTF and Exodus Int’l are coming to terms with that.

  11. VIA

    David, thanks for the referral. I’ll look forward to reading the material.

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