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Christian denominations' beliefs about homosexuality

Review of an exchange of views
on a Southern Baptist web site

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Churches' responses to homosexuals:

Alan Chambers is the President of Exodus International, a conservative Christian group specializing in homosexuality. 1 He wrote an essay titled "How will you respond to homosexuality?" that was published during 2007 on the website of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. 2 The theme of the essay is that many faith groups are missing the boat by rejecting homosexuals who are "saved" and who approach them for support and help.

The essay mentions an incident on the 700 Club where co-host Sheila Walsh asked all homosexual viewers to pray with her for their salvation. She then invited them to go to a church in their locality and to "...tell the pastor that they had asked Jesus into their heart, and say, 'Sheila Walsh sent me'."

A listener did just that, and later wrote a letter to Walsh. He said that he went to a nearby church, told the pastor that he was gay, described the TV program he had watched, and that he had "asked Jesus into his heart." The pastor responded by rejecting the gay man, saying: "We don't have room for fags in this church."

Chambers criticized what he feels are the two extreme policies on homosexuality found in Christian churches:

bulletAn angry and judgmental response that rejects homosexuals, and

bulletAn acceptance of homosexuality as a normal and natural sexual orientation.

He suggests a middle ground:

bulletRejecting homosexual behavior as a not viable and unbiblical lifestyle, while

bulletExtending "God’s grace to those who are same-sex attracted. For many of us, it is easier to see the issue as right vs. wrong than it is to love them."

He described the role of Exodus International using vague terms often found in conservative religious media:

bullet"... change requires not only pointing the way, but also grabbing a person’s hand and walking alongside."

bullet"... the journey out of homosexuality."

bullet"... Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction but want to experience freedom in Christ."

bullet"... those who have overcome homosexuality..."

bullet"Listen to those who have overcome homosexuality and learn how to help others." 2

The Exodus International website uses similar phrasing:

bullet"Start the journey; freedom is possible."

bullet"Thinking about leaving homosexuality?"

bullet"Looking for help to leave homosexuality? 1

Many people reading similar phrases by Exodus, other conservative Christian ministries, or secular therapists offering reparative therapy will conclude that the end goal of these programs and therapy is to treat persons with a homosexual orientation so that they switch to having a heterosexual orientation. That is, through prayer and/or therapy, they will stop being sexually attracted to members of the same sex, and start being attracted only to members of the opposite sex.

The studies that we have examined appear to indicate that the success rate of reparative therapy and transformational ministry programs in altering clients' sexual orientation is miniscule and may actually be zero. These programs have some degree of success in convincing some clients with:

bullet A homosexual orientation to choose celibacy, while retaining their sexual orientation unchanged. Since they are not engaged in same-gender sex, they are referred to as ex-gays.

bullet A bisexual orientation to confine their sexual activity to members of the opposite sex, while retaining their sexual orientation unchanged. Again, since they are not engaged in same-gender sex, they are referred to as ex-gays.

What one almost never sees on a transformational ministry or reparative therapy website is a personal story like:

"I, John Smith, at puberty, realized that I was a homosexual because I was sexually attracted only to other men. I went to "x" agency. After a few years, I emerged a heterosexual, and am now attracted only to women."

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Responses by readers to the article by Alan Chambers:

Readers of this essay posted 46 comments in the first two weeks. They include an interesting range of beliefs and understandings of homosexuality and sexual orientation. We found these comments to be unusually frank. Those posting were relatively open to each other's viewpoint, and almost completely free of anger towards other contributors. As expected:

bulletThose who saw homosexuality as a choice and a sin emphasized same-sex sexual behavior.

bulletThose who have accepted their own homosexual orientation viewed homosexuality as morally neutral, as fixed and major part of their identity, and emphasized sexual feelings.

Some of the comments are reproduced below. The rest are well worth reading, particularly if you are interested in the differences in beliefs and terminology among conservative Christians, homosexuals, bisexuals, religious liberals, and others. 2

The Southern Baptist Convention should be commended for allowing viewpoints contradictory to their own to be freely expressed.

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Some comments on the SBC article:

bullet1. Homosexual behavior is a sin, but not worse than other sins: Andy I: As a pastor, I have found sadly that people have a very hard time seeing homosexuality as it really is.  Because of the way it is expressed in our culture, many Christians view it as a sin that is set apart from all others, when in fact sin is sin.  Their sin and mine just happens to show itself in a different manner.  Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten that its only by God’s grace that we have been set free from our sin and that His grace is available to all who will believe.

bullet3. Conservative position divorced from reality: Dan V: "... I suspect that there are not really people who “overcome” being gay. Being gay is not something to “overcome”, it’s something to embrace by accepting who you are.  This whole business of “overcoming” yourself is just nonsense -- a way of furthering some bigoted political agenda.  It’s not real. It’s phony science and very dangerous to those who might think they can become straight.  That’s nonsense.

bullet5. Testimony of an ex-gay: Daniel M: Your ministry God has used to help me love me for who I am in Christ. That change is possible, that it takes time and effort on our part to allow God’s will be done. (He does not define precisely what the "change" was.)

bullet7. Unable to love homosexuals; they threaten society: Jerry D: I no longer hate homosexuals or anyone else, but I have not been able to “love” them, because I allow my emotions to control me as I still feel that their lifestyle is a threat to our society and to our children in particular.  And it is the children that are so vulnerable.  This is an issue that I may struggle with for a long time and I know that unless I can honestly ask God to cleanse my heart and help me love them, it will never happen.  So, sadly, I will continue to sin by not loving everyone, as God wants me to. 

bullet9. "Change" is a smokescreen: Dan V: John S. says..."23 years of freedom later”.... What he doesn’t say is 23 years of being totally heterosexual. If they really no longer feel the urge to homosexual activity, why don’t they just come right out and state that in plain English?  This double speak of “finding freedom” and “change is possible” is just more right wing propaganda.  Why are these men so afraid of being gay?  That is the real question in my mind.  What has happened in their lives to make them so full of self loathing that they can’t just accept themselves as they are?  This is not legitimate or real.  This is a smoke screen.

bullet10: "Change" is possible: David W: I am Jewish and supporter of “Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality” [JONAH]. The facts are that homosexuality is changeable. We must all work together to let the world know that “kheroot” freedom is possible.
bullet16: Heterosexuality is not the goal: Bob S: ... In thirteen years of involvement with these ministries I’ve never heard them say the goal is heterosexuality. The goal is to be whole in Christ. ... You use terms like “phony science,” “not legitimate or real” and “dangerous.” Yet the facts are that several studies have shown that change is possible. You may not like that but it is not reasonable to continue to accuse people of lying because their experience upsets you.

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bullet17: Homosexuality caused by events during childhood; not permanent: Angela: I am a mother of a 15 year old that has been struggling with same sex attractions since age 9.  I have walked with him through this struggle (counseling through NARTH) and though I do not believe he was born this way, a series of events that happened as a child has made him embrace this emotionally, I do not believe his feelings are by choice.  I do believe that God loves him and I also believe that Jesus is the answer to what he is dealing with.  As of now, he doesn’t want to be homosexual, he enjoys his friends, skate boarding and his music but, he will choose what he wants to do and I will support him because I love him, gay or not (this has nothing to do with political views) but I do believe that God can make him whole as he can any homosexual it is not who he is, it is something he struggles with, as any homosexual, it is a struggle you embrace or fight, it is not who he is, First hand, I understand the struggle, but I do not believe being gay is the final say so.

bullet23: Apparently bisexual man celibate and later married: Rev. John S: ... I have experienced 23 years of sexual faithfulness in singleness and in the 19 years of my marriage.  I am thrilled to experience 23 years of freedom.  This does not mean that I am never tempted to think about or to look upon another man with some tempting thoughts or desires. ...

bullet27: Pastor rejects of gay son: Mike G: I heard in college about a Baptist preacher's kid whose dad found out he was homosexual.  The boy was forced to eat in his room, sit in the back of church, etc.  For high school graduation his dad gave him $300.00 and a one way train ticket to New York City.

bullet30: Ex-gay accentuates self-loathing and guilt: Eric: Small wonder Alan Chambers is perpetuating the lie of the ‘ex-gay’; he makes his living by it. The more people he can infuse with guilt, self-loathing, and denial, the richer he becomes by ‘curing’ a few. There’s even a handy link at the bottom of the article, to contract his services.

bullet32: Ex-gay groups project falsehoods: Tain: ... Ex-gay groups seem to wish to shut down the possibility of happy, healthy gay life, on the grounds that being “ex-gay” is inherently better. The problem that homosexuals have with ex-gay organizations is that they promote themselves as a kind and simple alternative, while repeatedly stating that individuals should change, and that an individual who is gay cannot be happy, healthy, and content with life.

bullet34: Ex-gays still have same-sex desires: Rev. John S: ... I have said repeatedly in public and in private: I do experience same sex attractions.  I also typically speak of the goal of “the program” [Love in Action] 3 is to help convicted men and women to heal from wounds and to learn to live a godly life free from sexual sin. In no way have I professed that anyone would experience total freedom from same sex desires.

bullet35: Ex-gays still gay: Dan V.: [The term] “Ex-gay” sounds like no longer same sex attracted to the casual observer, but that’s not AT ALL what they are all about. They propose that we gay people just not THINK of ourselves as gay or maybe not even as sexual beings. They would have our natural inclinations sublimated in some form of “holy sacrifice.” That is just plain silly to most compassionate people. It’s much healthier for a person to integrate wholly rather than compartmentalize this and that.  Any therapist would agree. If you have same sex attraction, you are gay.  You can also integrate as Christian but at the end of the day, you are gay.

bullet42: Attaining freedom by accepting one's homosexuality: David S.: I’m a gay Christian now and attend an all inclusive church with other gay and straight brothers and sisters. As mentioned above there are many who are full anger and bitterness; gay & straight. It’s only through Christ that real freedom has come for me to finally walk in the calling that He has for my life. I’ve learned how to interpret scripture appropriately and in light of discovery, I’ve humbly had to admit I was wrong.

I love and respect all ex-gay ministries and their commitment to sincerely want to help the suffering because I know they are motivated by what they believe the Bible says. I’m also extremely excited about the future for gay Christians because God is doing something different today and bringing revelation concerning scripture on this issue. God bless.

bullet43: Handling homosexuality in one's child: Dan V.: To the mother Angela taking her 15 year old son to NARTH I urge you please don’t do that to your son.  That is the worse thing you can do to an impressionable young person.  Have you heard of PFLAG?  They are a much healthier resource for families dealing with gay children.  I can only imagine the resentment I could potentially harbor against my mother if she had tried to “cure” me.  She just accepted me, especially since she saw me grow up gay.  It wasn’t that big of a stretch.

bullet44: Handling homosexuality in others: Greg: I must second Dan on his last comment. You have to let your children make their own choice. This country is becoming more and more evenly split over whether they believe homosexuality is something “to overcome” or a wholesome, religiously acceptable and viable alternative to heterosexuality. The choice has to be made by each individual. I know of a family that PFLAG 4 has helped and two families that organizations like NARTH 5 have destroyed. I personally will hold resentment against my father for recommending I get counseling for the rest of my life. We have different views on homosexuality, but we have to learn to respect these differences. In my community gay, bi, straight is like white, black, Asian . . . etc.

bullet45: Allowing gays to be free and have equal rights: Greg: That is what I grow up with and that is what I believe. I respect those that believe it is sin, but I don’t agree with you so please don’t force your beliefs on me through laws like bans that prevent me from getting married.

I would like to thank Alan for this article. Although I disagree with a lot of what you say it is much more respectful towards homosexuality and shows that progress is being made in the fight against ignorance and blatant homophobia. Have faith in your own path. But don’t pass judgment on the paths that others choose.

I don’t believe people choose to be gay, but I believe we should allow them the choice of whether or not to be comfortable with themselves or to try and ‘overcome’ it. That is their choice.


bullet46: Ex-gay ministries & conservative faith groups should be more open: Bruce R.: 6 Material on homosexuality written by conservative Christians often imply, without stating clearly, that people can change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. All of the solid evidence that I have seen indicates that:

bulletPersons with a homosexual orientation who want to “change” are unable to alter their orientation; they can only decide to become celibate and spend a life in loneliness.

bullet Many persons with a bisexual orientation who want to “leave the homosexual lifestyle” can make a decision to confine their choice of relationships to the opposite gender.

All evidence shows that persons with a homosexual, orientation remain stuck with a homosexual orientation. So too for bisexuals and heterosexuals. It is time for Exodus International, other similar ministries, and conservative denominations to come to terms with reality and be up front with what is possible for homosexuals to do.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Exodus International has a home page at: http://www.exodus-international.org/

  2. Alan Chambers, "How Will You Respond to Homosexuality?," Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 2007-OCT-02, at: http://erlc.com/

  3. Love in Action has a home page at: http://www.loveinaction.org

  4. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has a home page at: http://www.pflag.org/

  5. National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has a home page at: http://www.narth.com/

  6. This is the same Bruce R. as wrote this essay.

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Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-OCT-17
Latest update: 2011-MAY-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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