Discussing Homosexuality with Kindness — and Conviction
In a more innocent era, 8-year-old Joe Dallas gave little thought to going to a movie theater by himself. Although his mother warned him in 1963 that men in that section of the city would “want” him, the boy didn’t comprehend the darker sexual meaning.
Indeed, a friendly and charming man began chatting with Joe in the lobby as he waited to watch a motion picture. The man, who quickly gained Joe’s trust, followed him into a restroom stall and sexually abused him for 30 minutes. Over the next couple of years, the man regularly repeated the abuse, and introduced Joe to other pedophiles, who also molested the boy. The men lied to Joe and manipulated him, warning the youngster he would go to jail if he ever told anyone. Joe said nothing because he craved the attention he failed to receive from his workaholic father.
“I was a hungry boy,” Dallas says. “When people are hungry, they are inclined to accept things they normally wouldn’t.”
By the age of 10, Joe — realizing the men had exploited him — stopped showing up at the theater. But the experiences and the accompanying pornography that the abusers showed Joe set him on a destructive path of sexual fantasies. At 15, he began a series of clandestine meetings with men he met through an underground newspaper.
A year later, Joe’s life transformed — at least temporarily — when he accepted Jesus as his Savior after a friend invited him to an evangelical church service. Before long, Dallas joined the ministerial staff of Calvary Chapel in Long Beach, California. For several years, Dallas stayed away from sexual immorality. Then he no longer resisted the lure.
“I decided I was entitled,” Dallas says. “I was tired of saying no.”
He began regularly visiting pornographic shops, engaged in clandestine relationships with men he met in gay bars, and committed adultery with a friend’s wife, who aborted the baby they conceived together. All the while he faced an inner turmoil, yielding to same-sex desires, yet simultaneously sensing the inherent wrongness of them. He didn’t find any help at church for his quandary.
That is until he heard about the Metropolitan Community Church, a nascent pro-homosexual denomination. Dallas didn’t want to relinquish his faith or his rebellious sexual behavior; this group taught he could have it both ways. In 1978, Dallas became a gay activist on staff at an MCC church. From the ages of 23 to 29, Dallas continued to read the Bible, attend church, and pray — while being sexually promiscuous. Dallas encountered many fellow travelers who, like him, had a born-again experience, but then tried to harmonize it with a pro-gay existence.
By 1984, Dallas realized his life revolved around a lie he had embraced that kept him out of God’s will. He repented, found a new circle of godly friends, gained insights from a solid Christian counselor, and returned to Calvary Chapel, where he found emotional healing.
He realized he had opened himself up to demonic influences that removed him from God’s protective covering. His return to the fold didn’t involve deliverance but rather discipleship.
“I had to learn to crucify the flesh when my lust kicked in and to abstain from wrong actions,” Dallas says. “With a robust prayer life and applying myself to reading the Word, temptations of the old nature became less and less.”
Dallas, and his wife, Renee, have been married for 31 years and have two grown sons. Since 1992, the couple have attended Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa, California. Dallas serves on the board of elders.
During his lifetime, Dallas has witnessed a sea change in church attitudes toward homosexuality. In his early years of struggle, a large swath of the church preached contempt against gays not expressed toward other sexual sins. Congregations eager to help rebel bikers, drug addicts, hippies, and alcoholics didn’t offer much sympathy toward those contending with same-sex attraction. In the early 1990s, Dallas served as president of an interdenominational ex-gay Christian organization, however he found few pastoral leaders inclined to believe the church should be part of the recovery process. The parachurch ministry disbanded in 2013.
Now, Dallas, as well as his wife, are on the board of ReStory Ministries, which is endorsed by the Assemblies of God. The ministry equips local churches in addressing homosexuality and gender identity issues in a compassionate, yet biblical, way.
The ministry is especially timely in a culture that in recent decades has gone from condemning homosexuality as a disease to one in which same-sex marriage is legally protected nationwide. Dozens of pro-gay groups continue to pressure institutions — including evangelical churches — to further accommodate the validity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sexual viewpoints.
While various liberal denominations affirm LGBT relationships, evangelical church bodies often are reticent to say anything. For Dallas, the silence is reminiscent of the confused emotions he experienced four decades ago.
“There are too few examples of people being helped in dealing with their struggle,” says Dallas. “As a result of finding little guidance or encouragement, we keep losing people. There are too many backslidden AG believers who grew up in our churches, who have gone to Christian universities, and who have even been our ministers, that have finally given up and given in to their feelings.”
ReStory Ministries is designed to help churches plug the glaring lack of resources gap for those who want to repent of homosexuality.
The dulcet-toned Dallas certainly is doing his part to educate those desiring a change, as a church and conference speaker. Dallas, who is a pastoral counselor, also has authored half a dozen books on human sexuality from a biblical perspective, including his latest, Speaking of Homosexuality.
“No one is as well qualified or as well-spoken in providing helpful, instructional material,” says ReStory founder Ginger Haan. “He has a talent for articulating the right words to provide a deeper understanding for people grappling with same-sex attraction.”
Dallas believes the primary deception of those who want to be Christian and gay is a sense of entitlement — that self-gratification is what matters most. Believing that one’s sexual identity is paramount is the antithesis of the gospel message of dying to self, he says.
“When we judge something’s rightness or wrongness primarily by our conscience, confidence, peace, or whatever experiential device we lean on, we’re taking advice from the wrong source,” Dallas writes in Speaking of Homosexuality. “God’s Word is an objective certainty, in clear contrast to my longings, and my inclination to believe my desires are His promises.”