Patricia Allan is the co-ordinator of Exodus International. She was vice-president of Exodus North America for 6 years and the founder and former director of New Direction for Life Ministries (Toronto, Canada).
Marjorie Hopper vividly remembers her last suicide attempt. Deeply depressed over the breakup of a lesbian relationship, she drove her motor home into the garage of her auto shop, turned on the motor, and waited for the end. Suddenly another employee banged on her vehicle. "What are you trying to do, kill yourself?"
The issue of homosexuality demands a response of godly compassion from the Body of Christ. How serious it is to misrepresent God. We need to take a broad biblical response. The prohibitions are there, but we need a response that sees the whole person. We are so much more than our sexual repertoires and desires.
Marjorie had lived as a transsexual for 40 years, dressing and living as a man, before she first entered a church. After she confessed to the pastor, he asked her to leave his church. Marjorie had gone to psychiatrists whose advice to her, "Find yourself a woman and live happily ever after," despite the fact that she had gone through innumerable relationships and often struggled with suicidal depression. For many years, she had investigated the possibility of sex change surgery but she could never afford it. "I was on hormones for awhile," she says, "but they finally told me, 'You're as much a male as you will ever be with the exception of a few parts.'" We need compassion without compromise. We need more empathy for the struggle homosexuals are going through.
There is no typical homosexual. At the same time there are three broad groups: the militant, the moderate and the fighter. Each group begs a different response. The militant is most often in the media and aggressively pursues an agenda of unrighteousness and intolerance. He is theatrical and very, very angry. But behind the rage of the militant is incredible pain. Gay militancy has its genesis in pain.
We must respect the rage of the gay militants; they have been horribly wounded by the church. While we must refuse to be intimidated by gay militancy, we respect their pain. Are we anything but the enemy?
Homosexuals realize early in life that to be different is to be hurt. Your own sex loathes you because of attractions you never asked for. Their own fathers have told them, "You disgust me." Is it surprising they conclude, "Forget it. There must be a community that will accept me. I will never let anyone hurt me again over a condition I have no control over."
We must not be intimidated by the gay militancy; neither must we meet their rage with our rage. We must speak fairly and fight fairly. We must refuse to become what they say we are — bigots. Righteous anger empowers; hatred cripples.
The moderates are very likable, very enjoyable. They have made significant contributions to our culture. Don't write them off. Recognize their worth, their uniqueness. Our lives have so much in common with the moderates. Focus on them as people. Their orientation is not an issue, just a fact. You can go to hell straight as easily as gay. Focus on their souls, not their genitals; focus on people in their totality. I spent a week with a family member who is gay. At the end of my stay she said, "You walked into my world. You treated me and my friends with respect. I need what you have. Please don't abandon me."
A lesson this family member has taught me is that as Christians we are called to be uncomfortable in order to make a difference in our world. When you care enough to draw near to homosexuals and their community you risk a lot. You risk appearing to compromise; you risk misunderstanding. But you need to listen and discover. Be aware of cultural barriers for there is a gay culture. Laugh at yourself and ask questions.
A former homosexual who was on staff at New Direction in Toronto (a referral ministry of Exodus) said, "If they gave Oscars for the best heterosexual performance, I would get it. But I couldn't keep it up and I hit the gay bars for years, using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. Too many times religious people would say, 'I love you but I don't like your behaviour' but all I could hear was 'You're worthless.' Why couldn't they say, 'I love you and God loves you.' When God spoke to me I heard simply, 'I love you, I love you.' That's all I heard and it blew me away. What could I say but, 'God forgive me for living my life without you.'" We must hear and respond to the deeper things. Abandon your efforts to change them. You can't. Keep praying and caring.
Respond to the fighter, the one who says, "I want God's best for my life." It will take a miracle. You have to swim upstream to leave the gay lifestyle, with gay churches and bars and the media celebration of gay life. But the homosexual is not beyond the grace and power of God.
Often the homosexual thinks that coming to Christ the old desires would instantly vanish. When the old struggles continue a new fear emerges. "Maybe I haven't changed?" Let us not be like Job's friends and say, "You're not really born again." The fighters can easily become disillusioned by God and the church especially when Christians talk about homosexuals in a continually negative way. We can't just preach against a sin. We have to offer realistic alternatives and support groups. Joe Dallas has said in his new book, A Strong Delusion Confronting the Gay Christian Movement, "Pastors frame the problem out in society, yet very few add, 'Perhaps someone here is wrestling with this sin, as well. Resist it — God will be with you as you do. And so will we.'"
Somebody must hold them and make them feel significant. We must applaud their efforts. Never underestimate the power of friendship. Sanctification comes from an experience of you, me and God.
After the last suicide attempt, Marjorie went to a church and heard the sermon about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment. "If you don't send somebody to help me tonight I won't bother you again," she prayed. As she was leaving she heard a voice, "I'm the pastor's wife. Can I help you?" Marjorie started to cry, "I can't tell you because you'll ask me to leave." The pastor's wife said to her, "God wants me to tell you that He can and He will deliver you and set you free."
Marjorie began sobbing. "That was the first time in my life I had ever heard that there was hope — hope for me," she recalls.
That conversation was over fifteen years ago and Marjorie's life has changed drastically since then. "God not only saved me, but He has brought healing in every aspect of my life," she says. Marjorie is the director of Another Chance in Burnaby, British Columbia, a referral ministry of Exodus International.
Exodus International is an association of almost 200 agencies across the world dedicated to helping men and women who desire to leave a homosexual identity and lifestyle. While each agency is independently operated, Exodus International, a world-wide organization, spearheads by proclaiming the biblical message of restoration and wholeness to all individuals, including those who struggle with homosexual and lesbian issues by unifying and equipping the Christian community to minister to the homosexual. Exodus is here for the Christian community. We realize homosexuality holds many issues for the church. It is a tough and emotional issue, but it is one the church cannot ignore. Exodus is here to serve you.
Patricia Allan is the co-ordinator of Exodus International. She was vice-president of Exodus North America for six years and the founder and former director of New Direction for Life Ministries (Toronto, Canada). God graciously led her out of lesbian lifestyle. "A great part of it was because of my church who loved me and supported me through very difficult times. I am in this work to help the church handle this difficult issue in a godly way, without compromise and yet with love," says Pat Allan. She grew up in South America, and has lectured internationally and nationally on topics in the realm of homosexuality, abuse, developing ministries and support groups. She will complete her Master's of Divinity with a Counseling and Pastoral major at Ontario Theological Seminary, December 1996.
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