From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
NEW GROUP PROPOSES EX-GAY MINISTRIES
05 May 1996 13:20:52
95227 NEW GROUP PROPOSES EX-GAY MINISTRIES
IN LOCAL PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATIONS
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Barry Anderson stayed away from the Presbyterian Church
for years. It was too painful to attend and not let others know about the
most significant spiritual conflict in his life: his struggle with
Though, he says, he did not directly hear homosexuals condemned either
from the pulpit or in Sunday school, the inferences and asides in casual
conversations were much worse.
"The jokes, the innuendo [implying] homosexuals are ... beneath us,"
says Anderson, hurt more. "The church needs to be a place where people can
come out of the closet. ...
"But the Body of Christ on a local church basis is not an environment
conducive to being open about our lives. We're encouraged to play games,
pretend everything is fine and wonderful -- and we're forced to deal with
the real issues [of our lives] very privately."
Anderson -- who has come back to the Presbyterian church -- is not
just speaking about his own experience. An ex-gay man, Anderson now
directs Set Free in Richmond, Va., an arm of a national ex-gay ministry,
where homosexuals are supported in their efforts to change their behavior.
Several Presbyterian churches across the country are now aligning
themselves with organizations like Set Free. The Brighton Presbyterian
Church in Rochester, N.Y., currently funds and houses its own locally based
ex-gay ministry, The Malachi Group.
And a new group within the Presbyterian Renewal Network, known as
One-by-One, has just been established to circulate educational materials
and develop workshop leaders so ex-gay ministries may be more
congregationally based and less dependent on parachurch organizations.
One of the ministry's co-directors, Kathy Moore, describes One-by
One's educational material as designed to equip the church to "minister the
transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ to those in conflict with
their sexuality." That includes information on child abuse, pornography
and healing the homosexual.
"I think we would be surprised if we learned what people struggle with
in our pews," says Moore, who co-directs One-by-One and The Malachi Group,
and who believes churches may provide "safe places" for people to struggle
with community support -- particularly when the struggle is as complicated
as changing homosexual behavior.
She says a traditional biblical perspective is sought by some seeking
to leave a gay lifestyle. Moore distinguishes between homosexual behavior
-- which is, she says, biblically defined as sin -- and the homosexual, who
is a struggler, like every other person seeking grace.
Few other sinful lifestyles become adopted as a false kind of
identity, Moore says.
"[Changing behavior] is hard work on the part of a person," says
Moore, a heterosexual woman who has worked with The Malachi Group since the
late 1980s. "There's a lot of self-contempt, hopelessness, helplessness
and, unfortunately, the belief that God agrees with how they see
And that means, she says, wrestling with deep and painful identity
issues, from childhood to the present. It also means tossing aside images
of God that are rigid and angry or Santa Claus-like and magical -- and
beginning to reconceptualize God.
"I really believe God desires the Body of Christ to come alongside and
be friends," says Moore, who believes professional counseling needs to be
reinforced with community support. Moore's counseling is supervised by
both her pastor and a clinical social worker.
Corona Presbyterian Church in downtown Denver provides meeting space
for the ex-gay organization Where Grace Abounds. A mission worker to
Denver's gay community is also financed by the church. "We're debating
this thing to death," says the Rev. Jeff Winter, Corona's pastor. "But
very few churches are reaching out.
"Where Grace Abounds only works with those people who want to make a
move," says Winter. The church now has a ministry to a mixed group of
people, he adds, that includes some men who define themselves as "strays"
who are no longer part of the gay community but who do not feel straight
The honesty of the gay community about its struggles, says Winter, has
pushed others in the congregation to examine their own struggles with
heterosexual sexuality, such as promiscuity and intimacy.
"We all struggle with our sexuality, whether we're heterosexual or
homosexual," Winter says, adding that he tries to serve as a heterosexual
role model and pastor. "They minister to me," he said. "When you're with
people [who] get honest with you, you get honest with yourself. And
there's real power in that."
Struggling with what intimacy means has led to a conference scheduled
at Corona Oct. 19-21 called "Tools for the Journey: A Biblical Look at
Anderson believes homosexual orientation is not in itself sin.
Homosexual behavior, he says, is what the Bible rejects. "Behavior," he
says, "we have some choice in, regardless of what our inclination may be."
One-by-One has a 10-member board, directed by Moore and her husband,
Jim. Winter and Anderson are board members. Its mailing address is: P.O.
Box 10055, Rochester, NY 14610.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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