I am writing this as an ordained minister; I was a Pastor for 15 years, with two very different congregations. I know your job is not easy. I understand the pressure that comes with the expectations and opinions of so many—denominational affiliations, church leaders, fellow ministers and congregants.
As Pastors/Shepherds, our divine commission is to protect the flock put into our charge. I believe that comes with an inherent desire to care for the hurting and encourage those who have fallen. It’s the heart of a Shepherd, part of our commitment to the mission of Jesus “to preach the gospel to the poor...to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19 KJV).
Today, I beseech you to honor the Spirit...the essence and intent...of Jesus’ Word when you preach about homosexuality.
I know there is much interpretative disagreement about this subject, and I’m not writing to debate theology. But surely there can be no disagreement that the rising suicide rate among LGBT teens is a tragedy. The Center for Disease Control has estimated that LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as straight kids. A recent study of transgender youth reported that 25 percent have made suicide attempts.
I cannot imagine any true Shepherd wanting to contribute to the death of the vulnerable lambs we are called to protect. Yet we know that words of condemnation can wound the heart of a young person confused about their identity. Exclusion, rejection and expulsion can forever damage the faith of one who’s seeking spiritual guidance. I cannot conceive of a called-by-God Pastor hitting someone with a baseball bat, but we know this constant, disparaging rhetoric can incite some to take it on themselves to carry out divine punishment with bullying, and even violence.
Jesus said our message is the Gospel, and that’s supposed to be Good News.
Jesus called us to love, which is the Greatest Commandment.
Our content and our tone should always feed our sheep with the reality that God loves us.
So I appeal to you, fellow Shepherds, give heed to our responsibility, and protect the sheep, particularly these precious "lavender" lambs. Let’s not become for them the very sources of the problems Jesus said he came to solve.
- Don’t sully and diminish the Good News by elevating this “sin” as unpardonable, or worse than all others.
- Do not bruise and break hearts with threats of eternal damnation merely because of a sexual orientation.
- Avoid blinding someone to the possibility of God’s sacrificial and unconditional love with the idea that God hates...just because of internal attractions.
- Don’t oppress by using religious principles to deny basic civil rights to all Americans.
- And for Heaven’s sake, please don’t put them into the captivity and bondage of groups that falsely promise freedom and “cure.”
As a former leader of an “ex-gay” ministry, and a Survivor myself, I beg you not to support these programs; they are dangerous and deceptive. Every major professional medical and mental health organization affirms that sexual orientation is not a disorder, and it cannot be changed. It's been shown that attempts to change sexual orientation can cause deep and lasting mental, emotional and psychological damage—depression, self-loathing, despair and sometimes death, especially when it’s discovered the treatments do not work and the promises were a lie.
After I came to that realization many years ago, I turned my back on these groups. Now I’ve spent 30+ years working along side many other former "ex-gay" leaders, helping those who’ve been damaged by these soul-crushing treatments that promise “change.” I know of sincere Christians who’ve abandoned their faith after experiencing the assault on their soul of realizing it was a lie. (Shouldn’t that in itself give us pause?) I personally lost a dear friend who tried for years to "change," but then under the weight of guilt, choose to put a shotgun to his head and pull the trigger rather than disappoint his father, a Pastor.
These groups promote themselves with outdated, disproven research and typically employ discredited, bogus methodology. Their promises of change usually include exaggerated, unverifiable stories of “success.” In some cases, these groups are led by those with their own sexual struggle, resulting in documented incidents of sexual impropriety with those who've come to them for help. Could we live with ourselves for being party to that kind of trauma?
As Shepherds called to protect the flock, I think if we point to, promote or participate with these groups, we share in this harm they inflict on our precious lambs. Requiring (forcing) the homosexual into so-called “conversion” or “reparative” programs as part of some religious discipline is tantamount to spiritual abuse.
Christians are called to “walk in the light” of Truth and Integrity. Isn't this more necessary for Ministers of the Good News, who are called to a higher standard? Regardless of our beliefs, when we talk about this subject, I ask you to be honest. Please don't utilize inaccurate, misleading propaganda and deceptive characterizations (caricatures) of homosexuals disseminated by groups/individuals who make their living marketing to confused young people, anxious parents, and uniformed clergy.
I'm not asking you to abandon your convictions about what the Bible's teaches (though I hope you'll do more study on the subject). But I believe we can proclaim The Year of Jubilee’s message of acceptance and forgiveness with embracing words of love, compassion, mercy, encouragement and grace.
I plead with you, as brothers and sisters in the ministry of God, please, please, please do not contribute to the continued abuse of these fragile lambs in your charge. Prayerfully consider what I've share; it comes from my Pastor's heart to yours, and grows out of 30 years of personal experience. "Conversion" or "Reparative" ("ex-gay") programs and treatments do not work. They can harm those who are pushed to participate. You do not want the blood of one of these precious young people on your hands.
Do your research.
Learn the facts.
Talk to Survivors.
Tell the truth!
P.S. If you’re interested in further dialogue (not debate), I’ll respond to respectful comments, answer sincere questions or provide additional resources.