Accepting LGBTQ+ Lifestyles for Disciples of Jesus: A Response to Sally Gary and the CenterPeace Ministries Decision to be Pro Gay
*Editor’s Note: Due to some recent articles exploring what the Bible says about gender, our ability to share articles widely on Facebook has been significantly suppressed. In the interest of continuing to be able to speak biblical truth in love to an increasingly inhospitable culture, would you consider sharing this important article to people in your circle of influence? Its message of civility, mutual respect, and biblical truth is much needed today. Also, please don’t miss an upcoming, free webinar on helping Christians address LGBTQ issues in the church. This free event will be held this coming Saturday (December 5) and led by the author and his team at Strength in Weakness. Even if you cannot attend this event, register to receive the event recordings for FREE.
By the time I was twenty-four years old, my life had become a train wreck. Before finally deciding to repent and be a faithful disciple of Jesus, I lived a gay life for over 12 years and had gay sex hundreds of times with different men. By the summer of 1987, I knew that I didn’t have the strength to live like that any longer.
A decade of hiding in plain sight, afraid of being real with the people I loved the most, terrified of rejection if they knew who I was, participating in clandestine and anonymous sexual encounters and the breakup of a relationship with my boyfriend had all taken its toll. I recognize most gay and lesbian people do not live as excessive a lifestyle as I did, but this is my story and that is the way it played out in my life.
What hope was there for me? I knew I desperately needed intervention and intercession, but where could I go?
My family? No way. My father, a graduate of Harding University, was a celebrated preacher and elder in our fellowship across Canada and had been for decades. Not only would such news completely crush him, it would also bring enormous shame upon our family.
The church family I had been raised in since birth? I couldn’t imagine it. Wouldn’t I be disfellowshipped, excommunicated, and banned forever?
My friends, again, most of whom were in the church? Having anonymous illicit sex with gay men in public restrooms, parked cars, and lonely parks after dark was hardly something that I could bring up in casual conversation while hanging out with the guys over wings while watching the game! And besides, who would care to be the friend of someone like me, after what I had done and all of the lies I had told to keep my double life a secret?
I had given up on God, but thankfully, He had not given up on me.
Proving Psalm 86:15 true—“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”—the Lord, in His perfect timing, sent someone who invited me back to church. I was skeptical at first, but I knew I needed help desperately, so I pushed through the fear.
It took two years of going to that church, hearing the Word, building relationships with godly men and women with whom I felt safe, and trying to figure things out before I was finally convinced that I wanted Jesus more than I wanted homosexuality. So, I repented and placed my faith in Jesus through baptism on August 15, 1987, and I can tell you that I have not participated in homosexuality since that date.
Blessings in the Midst of Brokenness
That was thirty-three years ago, and since then, God has worked miracles. Despite never experiencing an attraction to the opposite sex, God allowed me to fall in love with and marry a beautiful Christian woman. Cathy and I enjoyed 28 incredible years together, raising a family of four children, until she sadly passed away in 2018 with brain cancer.
And in a manner that only continues to show me the kindness and providence of God, I recently was blessed with another wonderful woman with whom to share all that life has to offer. Laura and I married in September of 2019. What are the chances that a same-sex attracted man would be blessed with not just one, but two amazing women! Thank you, God.
Beyond the blessing of having a family, I also went into full-time ministry and pastored in several churches across Canada, just like my dad. Then, in 2006, by the Holy Spirit’s promptings, I started a ministry designed to offer assistance to Christians whose attractions continued to remain outside of the heterosexual mainstream (StrengthInWeakness.org). That fragile little ministry has since grown to help thousands of Christian men and women and their families in over 70 countries around the world.
I am honored, along with my amazing staff, to offer support to these heroes in the faith. For the few of you who may want to learn even more, I suggest you watch the documentary movie Finding Guy available on YouTube. The movie won’t win any academy awards, but it’s well done and offers a ton of helpful information on homosexuality and how it relates to us on matters of faith.
But I’m Still Attracted to Men
Here is my reality today: despite these accomplishments, homosexual attractions are still a part of my life. Regardless of the countless times I’ve asked God to take this thorn away; His answer has remained this: Guy, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I long ago jumped off the treadmill of trying to become heterosexually attracted, convinced that such a goal most often impoverishes people’s faith. I believe that for the disciple of Christ, the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality; it is holiness. I refuse to allow my attractions to define who I am or what I can accomplish in Christ. Jesus is my Lord and identity, and I am determined to use my mess to bless others in whatever manner the Lord permits.
Just to remove any doubt of where I and my Strength In Weakness ministry stand on sexual ethics: I am fully devoted to the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic that says sexual intimacy is to be reserved between that of a man and woman, bound together only in marriage. Anything outside of that boundary is not representative of what God intended for human sexuality.
My Response to Sally Gary and CenterPeace Ministries
So, what’s with the mini autobiography, you ask? I think it’s beneficial to know who I am as I respond to Sally Gary, the founder and Executive Director of CenterPeace, for her decision to become fully gay affirming. CenterPeace has served as an anchor of biblical truth in the area of sexual ethics primarily to the Churches of Christ since its inception in 2006.
Many will say her stance on this topic started down a slippery slope years ago. Any doubts about the future direction of this organization were erased when Sally Gary announced a complete U-turn in policy to celebrating active homosexuality for Christians in a lesson titled “Still One of You” taught at a conference hosted by the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas, TX. It was also during this presentation she introduced us to her same-sex partner whom she soon intends to marry.
Ms. Gary is a former trial lawyer, university professor, author, and an incredible communicator. As I listened to her speak, much of what she said resonated with me. Having grown up in a similar church environment as she did, (yes, I grew up in a “3 times a week Christian home” too), I felt the pain and confusion she suffered, especially in her teen and college years.
Here Is Where We Agree
I was right there with her as she recounted her painful story of the challenges she endured; deeply loving God and the church while being attracted to the same gender in an environment that was not a safe place to be honest about what she was experiencing. This is a terribly sad tale that could be told over and over again by many.
In my estimation, this unloving and judgmental attitude that was (and still can be) commonplace in many Restoration churches (not all, of course) is a travesty. For every person who experienced fear, isolation, or even ostracization in Jesus’ church because of what they were attracted to, I believe God’s heart broke with theirs.
As well, I share her concern that many of our youth have decided to leave the church because they view the church’s stance on homosexuality as unloving and homophobic. This is a response to the hard fact that many Christians have been terrible ambassadors for Christ toward the LGBTQ+ community, saying and doing things in the name of Jesus that Jesus would never say or do. Shame on us.
How Have I Dealt with These Disappointments?
So, I appreciate many of the criticisms Sally Gary makes about the church. I share her disappointment. In the mid 80’s, as I was being reintroduced to church, I decided to make a firm decision that I would not allow my displeasure with the church to dictate the position I am going to take on something as important as sexual ethics.
Since becoming a disciple of Jesus, I’ve had to deal with my disappointment in God for his unwillingness to change my homoerotic attractions. As mentioned, I spent years trying to become heterosexually attracted and it didn’t work, so I decided to adjust my expectation of a complete metamorphosis. I reason from Scripture that it was never God’s plan that his children lose all capability of temptation. Indeed, even Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin (Hebrew 4:15).
Attractions are very automatic and involuntary. For those like Sally Gary and myself, who live with homosexual attractions, how much of that is nature, and how much of it is nurture? Science has yet to offer a definitive answer, so we don’t know for certain.
I do know that it would be a mistake for people to assume that the homosexually attracted have chosen this attraction. That’s just not the case. I didn’t choose to be attracted to men any more than the heterosexually attracted individual chose what they were drawn to.
So, is it a sin to experience homoerotic attractions? No. We are, however, fully responsible for what we do with our attractions.
Is it a sin then to participate in homosexual activity, either in your mind or physically? Yes, I believe that the inerrant Word of God makes that abundantly and unapologetically clear.
That reality is not a negative thing. One of the greatest gifts God has given mankind is the ability for us to choose how we will live. Our ability to choose supersedes genetics, feelings, emotions, and culture. Recognizing this reality is freedom for the homosexually attracted follower of Christ.
Why Are So Many Christians Deciding to Capitulate?
Sadly, I’ve seen many Christians who seemed solid in their understanding of Scripture fall in love with someone of the same gender and correspondingly alter their doctrinal positions on sexual intimacy.
I’m not questioning the genuineness of the love that Sally Gary (or anyone else) has for their same-sex partner, and I can understand how easy it would be to believe that, if they love someone with such intensity, it must mean that the relationship is a blessing from God. But the depth of the love does not justify a relationship. Love, in and of itself, does not make a relationship right.
A Broader Problem We Are Facing in the Church
As I listened to Sally Gary’s presentation, I couldn’t help but notice that there was very little mentioned about the Word of God and a great deal about her personal experience, which again, was moving to listen to. In this sense, Ms. Gary is exhibiting a part of a broader problem that we must be aware of: persuasion based on emotion rather than Scripture.
Our commitment in churches associated with Renew.org or Restoration churches commits us to the priority of Scripture; this means we cannot make massive changes in doctrinal policy based on emotion, experience, or stories. The authority of the Scripture must be paramount.
What I am hearing in the CenterPeace argument is persuasion based on emotion, but where is the examination of the Scriptures? Isn’t the answer for all of us to get back to “what saith the Scripture?” rather than focusing on anecdotal experiential arguments?
Isn’t the answer to keeping our youth in the church to ensure we are creating safe environments for everyone to be transparent about their areas of temptation without being confronted with an attitude of self-righteous judgement; to make sure that every person is being treated with dignity, kindness, and respect, regardless of their response to Christ—as opposed to what CenterPeace and other gay-affirming churches who misinterpret the Bible are doing: capitulating to society’s demand for acquiescence?
Is God Doing a New Thing?
To help justify her reversal to embrace homosexuality within the church, Sally Gary uses Isaiah’s proclamation to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
She then pleads with us to renew our spiritual heritage of the Restoration movement; a group of Christ followers “who were sincerely concerned about restoring New Testament Christianity, of going back to Scripture time, and time again through history to discover what it is that God has for us. Seeing Scripture with fresh eyes, helping us see where the Holy Spirit is working and moving and guiding us . . .” In other words, it is God and His Holy Spirit who is working to approve and usher in active homosexuality and gay marriage into Jesus’ church.
In my estimation, for churches to follow her lead would be an appalling betrayal of our heritage and the spiritual heroes who worked so hard to honor biblical truth. For pastors, elderships, and church leaderships to buckle on these points would be leading the sheep in their flock astray with possible eternal consequences.
It is shocking that we are even having this conversation, that we have reached a point where there are congregations within our fellowship of churches who are allowing this preposterous false teaching to be taught from our pulpits. I know there are many in our congregations worldwide who do not want to see their church go down a serious doctrinal, heretical road.
Of course, I am not at all referring to the lost.
We should pray earnestly for the souls of our gay family members, friends, and neighbors. We need to be people who are hospitable to anyone from the LGBTQ+ community, welcoming them into our lives, homes, and churches so that they can learn about God’s love. Every person needs to be treated with dignity, kindness, and respect, regardless of who they are, how they have chosen to live their lives, or what their response to Jesus is.
If, after learning what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, they decide, as I did back in 1987, that they are willing to repent and make Jesus Lord by a living faith, then, as with everyone, they would need to submit their sexuality to Jesus.
So, is God “doing a new thing” on sexual ethics? No. Some things just supersede time and culture, and God’s standard for sexual intimacy and purity have not changed. If anything, I believe that God is weeping that so many are so quickly succumbing to this relatively new series of arguments, this phenomenon that has attacked the church in recent years.
Because Sally Gary did not offer any reasons biblically for her embracing homosexuality in her speech that I am responding to, I have not spent my time refuting the arguments that are put forward by pro-gay apologists. Two sources that teach against pro-gay theology that in my estimation are solid biblically and would be required reading for anyone who is serious about educating themselves on Biblical sexual ethics are Joe Dallas’s excellent work The Gay Gospel and Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Two other must reads that would serve as tremendous guides moving forward are Bobby Harrington and Jason Henderson’s Conviction & Civility and David Young’s A Grand Illusion. And for anyone who needs help, please join us at StrengthInWeakness.org.
We at Strength in Weakness are offering a free webinar on this topic this coming Saturday, December 5, called “Helping Christians Address LGBTQ Issues in the Church.” Held from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. CT, our team will be presenting classes on such topics as “Can you be gay and a Christian?,” “Female same-sex attraction and transgender,” and “For parents and grandparents: talking to our children about sexual ethics and homosexuality.” Afterward, free recordings from the webinar will be sent to all registrants, whether they were able to attend the livestream or not. Hope you can join us!