PE Conversations: LGBT Issues
Editor’s note: Four individuals who pursued sexually explorative relationships before turning to the Lord today are committed to and involved in teaching biblically orthodox views on sexuality. They are uniquely qualified to answer questions about a sexually confused culture because of their life experiences.
Those participating in the discussion are: Janet Boynes, whose ministry is based in Minneapolis, is author of the new book, God and Sexuality: Truth and Relevance Without Compromise. Boynes, 58, engaged in lesbian relationships for 13 years.
Josh Plaisance is lead pastor of The Dwelling Place, an Assemblies of God church in Holland, Ohio. Plaisance, 38, got involved in a homosexual relationship as a teenager.
Linda Seiler, 42, is a U.S. Missions Chi Alpha campus pastor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She struggled for decades with transsexual desires and was involved in an immoral relationship with another woman. Her video series, Compassion Without Compromise: A Christian Response to Homosexuality, is based on her master’s thesis at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
Christopher Yuan lived as an agnostic gay man for many years, contracting HIV, before turning to Christ. Yuan, 46, teaches Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and is co-author, with his mother, of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope and the forthcoming God’s Grand Story.
The panelists responded to questions posed by PE News Editor John W. Kennedy.
PE NEWS: How do the laws passed and court decisions rendered in the past couple of years help or hinder efforts to minister to people in the LGBT community?
CHRISTOPHER YUAN: We are definitely in a new world with the post-Obergefell Supreme Court ruling. What happened last year wasn’t passed by Congress; it was actually five people who decided this, striking down state laws affirming marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
The Obergefell decision gives the secular world legal justification for the normalization and even romanticization and celebration of what God does not bless: same-sex relationships.
But there may be a silver lining. It has opened the door for the Church and Christians to talk about sexuality more, not only from the pulpit, but conversations about personal struggles, whether it be an addiction to pornography, a man lusting after another person who is not his wife, or experiencing attraction to the same sex. It’s an opportunity to talk to each other, to hold each other accountable, to pursue holy living together.
LINDA SEILER: The laws themselves are not the main hindrance. What is most challenging is the mindset that gender identity and sexual attractions are biologically based. Although most of the science points toward environmental factors that may contribute to a non-heterosexual orientation, our society has been shaped by the commonly held notion that same-sex attractions are inborn. It is this very mindset that paved the way for laws to be passed on the basis of discrimination. Thus, in the eyes of the world, homosexuality is no longer a moral issue but rather a civil rights issue. Therefore, to oppose homosexuality puts you in the same category as the Ku Klux Klan. But that’s an illogical comparison. You will never find an ex African-American, for example; however, there are a plethora of ex-gays. Scripture even refers to ex-homosexuals in First Corinthians 6:9-11, “such were some of you.”
JOSH PLAISANCE: To some degree I believe that it has empowered individuals, on both sides of the coin.
Those in the LGBT have validation for their lifestyle decisions. This validation then leads to cultural acceptance, which in turn positions the LGBT community to be at odds with anybody that presents an opposing view.
The Church has a platform to stand upon. This has caused the Church to respond with the feeling that they have received the marching orders to take on the sanctity of marriage.
PE NEWS: What misconceptions do evangelicals and LGBT advocates have about each other?
JANET BOYNES: Some evangelicals misunderstand the homosexual community as advocates of Satan, as the enemy, as people seeking to destroy God’s plan and our children’s future. They view them as evil people trying to destroy society as we know it. But the truth is that they are deceived. Some truly believe in their minds that they were born gay. Those living a homosexual lifestyle have an identity problem; they don’t know who they are or who God has called them to be.
LGBT advocates misconstrue that evangelicals are trying to ruin their lives, keep them from being happy, that evangelicals are haters in the name of God. They often view Christians as judgmental and harsh.
Sometimes Christians make mistakes displaying the gospel because they are imperfect humans. They are trying to stand up for what they believe. Sadly, the way they stand up for their beliefs isn’t always in a loving way, and we need to change that. Loving the gay community doesn’t mean we compromise.
YUAN: One major misconception is that we hate and despise them. Hopefully we want them to know Jesus. While we don’t accept sinful actions as moral, there is no room for a Christian to hate someone else who is an image bearer of God. People in the gay community can’t separate what they do from who they are.
One misconception evangelicals have toward LGBT advocates is we don’t understand that we don’t have the same worldview. Christians have a biblical worldview. We believe we are all fallen and Jesus Christ came and redeemed us from sin and restored us. A majority in the gay community have a secular worldview: there is no God, everything is happenstance. Because of that starting point, we have to realize what we say to them will be filtered through the lens of their worldview. In constructive discussions, before we discuss what is moral and immoral, we have to first talk about worldview.
SEILER: Many LGBT advocates think that Christians are full of hate. We would do well to apologize to the LGBT community for the ways that Jesus has been misrepresented by a vocal minority.
Many evangelicals assume that anybody who practices homosexuality or embraces a gay identity does so out of sheer rebellion. They often fail to understand that many people who experience same-sex attractions felt like they were born that way and did not choose their orientation. In fact, most people's first reaction to experiencing same-sex attractions is to ask God to take those attractions away. Nobody celebrates when they experience same-sex attractions; the instinctual reaction is to be horrified because intuitively we know it is wrong. Pro-gay people would say that is because we don't live in a gay-affirming society. However, homosexuality is more normalized than ever before. The reason people react with horror is because God's law is written on our hearts, and whether we know Jesus personally or not, we know in our hearts that homosexual practice is wrong. We need help from others to override our conscience, and that is what the LGBT community does. It serves like a false church that loves gay people and tells them to embrace the old self instead of being made new in Christ.
PLAISANCE: Hate. We view those that live contrary to our understanding of salvation, holiness, and sanctification as our enemy. I am reminded of (AG World Missions Director of Advancement) Randy Hurst’s comment: “We can’t call them our enemy, when God has called them the harvest.”
Our questions, worries, and fears have paralyzed us. Instead of responding, we don’t say anything at all.
PE NEWS: Did one remark or deed help you find the path to biblically based sexuality?
PLAISANCE: It’s more of several, ongoing things taking place.
After I opened the door for Jesus to be my Savior and Lord, I dug into the Word and I attended church whenever I could. This desire allowed me to push through to see life change.
My time of conversion and walking away from the lifestyle was one that happened before it was acceptable to even talk about it. Thus, my teacher had to be the Holy Spirit.
BOYNES: It was a process, a compiling of remarks and actions over time. It was coming to the end of myself — brokenness — where I finally reached out to God for help and moved in with a Christian family. When I reached out, that began the process of digging deep into my past with a counselor facing difficult issues that could have caused me to live a life of lesbianism. Studying God’s Word and growing closer to Him brought me to a revelation of His character and will for my life.
The inner healing process has been going on for 18 years. We are all a work in progress.
YUAN: The prayers of my mother. She wasn’t caught up in my misery and circumstances, of a prodigal son heading toward prison and far from God. I had thrown a Bible my parents gave me into a trash can. After I was arrested and facing 10 years to life in prison for dealing drugs, my mom responded not with condemnation, but with unconditional love and grace. My mom, who had fasted every Monday for me for seven years, focused not on the hopelessness, but on the promises of God. With 100 prayer warriors, my mom spent hours boldly interceding on my behalf. Ultimately her joy and contentment pointed me to God. My transformation was gradual. God slowly delivered me from the bondage of addiction. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my last idol, sexual identity.
The goal isn’t heterosexuality, it’s holy sexuality. My identity is not gay, ex-gay, or even heterosexuality. My identity must be in Jesus Christ alone. God said, “Be holy because I am holy.” Change is not the absence of temptation; change is the ability to be holy in the midst of temptation.
SEILER: The turning point for me was when I confessed to my college campus pastor as a 21-year-old who had never told anybody my deep, dark secret. I expected him to react with disgust, expose my sin, and kick me out of the group. Instead, he thanked me for trusting him with that information and affirmed me for the courage it took to tell him. He assured me that his opinion of me had not changed, and that he saw the hand of God on my life. I was suicidal, and if he had reacted any other way, I probably would not be here today. His response of compassion without compromising the Word is what set me on the path toward transformation. My pastor got me connected to some other resources, and I heard testimonies of people who have been set free from homosexuality, and that inspired me to pursue Jesus and His plan for my sexuality.
PE NEWS: Did any comments from Christians prevent you from wanting to leave the lifestyle?
SEILER: I never openly embraced a gay identity, as I lived a double life. The one thing I did find hurtful is when Christians would make fun of gay people and make derogatory comments. That made me feel like it wasn't safe to tell anyone my secret.
BOYNES: No. The only thing that kept me in the lifestyle was my own sinful heart and my soul looking for other things outside of God to meet my emotional and physical needs.
PLAISANCE: I had such a dramatic change in my life after I accepted Christ; there was a consistent moving away from the lifestyle. But I didn’t share my testimony with anybody for a year, as I felt there was a grading of sins.
The mentality of treating sins at different levels, by their “manmade” severity, caused me to keep things locked up inside longer than I should have.
YUAN: I wasn’t saved out of homosexuality; I was saved out of unbelief. Jesus spoke compassion before He spoke truth. We tend to err either by speaking truth at the expense of grace or showing grace at the expense of truth.
PE NEWS: Is there a way to declare that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender acts are wrong without being insensitive to the real struggles some Christians have with gender identity?
YUAN: There is if we come back to the foundational worldview. Before you ever talk about morality, talk first about why they don’t believe in God. If they don’t believe in God, it doesn’t make sense to talk about God’s morals.
And it’s OK to deflect. When Jesus was cornered He didn’t always answer questions. Sometimes He would answer with a more important question.
SEILER: Yes. Christians make the mistake of categorizing homosexual practice in a different class than any other sin. However, First Corinthians 6:9-11 mentions homosexual practice in the context of other sins, like adultery, drunkenness, and greed. No one questions whether someone can be set free from marital unfaithfulness, alcoholism, or worldliness. The path toward freedom from same-sex attraction is similar to that of any other sin struggle. Rather than just stopping the outward behavior, we need to address the root issues that contribute to acting out. While we must never condone homosexual practice, we must acknowledge the very real angst experienced by those who have same-sex attractions. Such attractions are most often rooted in emotional/relational brokenness. The temptation in and of itself is not sin; rather, the temptation gives us clues as to where emotional/relational brokenness has happened and where we need to release forgiveness from past hurts.
Many times, when the Holy Spirit shows us where there has been deep pain, betrayal, or neglect, and we release forgiveness from our heart, that can affect our soul in a profound way and set us free from the devil’s foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27). And because we are body, soul, and spirit, emotional healing can affect our sexual desires. Of course, inner healing needs to be accompanied by relational discipleship in the body of Christ. And transformation will not happen overnight. In my case, it happened over the course of 11 years, and I am still being transformed every day that I walk with Christ.
PLAISANCE: The only way we can declare these acts as wrong is when we are willing to address all of sin’s results on someone’s life. With a flawed understanding of biblical sexuality, we focus on the area of sexuality that we feel is worse than another, when in all actuality any sexual act outside of the realm of marriage between one man and one woman is contrary to God’s Word.
When we level the playing field and deal equally with all sin, then we can truly welcome others to the table to talk through biblical truth and living a life that is growing in every area as we pursue holiness and righteousness.
BOYNES: Yes, empathizing with someone is possible, especially when you have lived the lifestyle. I have experienced many of the same feelings and thoughts those in the LGBT community have, and can certainly understand where they are coming from. I can relate, and being able to relate to where they are can be very powerful. I can share not only where I was, but the healing process I have gone through, and where God has brought me up to this point. My testimony declares that God is able and willing to change the life of anyone who is willing to surrender.
PE NEWS: What should the Church’s response be to an LGBT person who attends services?
BOYNES: Our response should be: We’re so glad you’re here and honored you have come to visit. This is a safe, grace-filled place where you can come and rest, share your heart, ask the hard questions, and dive into the truth of God’s Word. We believe in the redemptive power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, knowing we’re each on our unique journey personally, yet still together, as we discover the heart of Jesus and experience His power in our lives. Any time we are all under the Word of God, the truth will eventually set us all free. We all are people Christ died for.
YUAN: Not all who call themselves gay Christians are the same. The majority believe they are gay and God blesses same-sex marriage. They don’t hold to the true gospel; they believe in one that is void of personal sin and repentance. There also is a small growing group of people who call themselves celibate Christians. They believe same-sex acts are wrong, but they think same-sex orientation is good. They have a faulty view of the sin nature.
Should LGBT people be allowed to attend evangelical church services? I would say an unequivocal yes. Where else are they going to hear God’s Word preached? Will that make things complicated? Of course! We may have to have uncomfortable conversations with our children. But I’d rather have those conversations than not allow sinners into church.
But should they be allowed to serve as members? We have to be consistent. Members should be born again, with clear evidence of a life surrendered to Christ. Members must be held to a higher standard, not given to unrepentant sin.
SEILER: It should be the same response as any other sinner that comes to church. Again, I think we make the mistake of categorizing homosexual sin as different than any other sin. How should you treat your co-worker who sleeps with her boyfriend, lies without guilt, or gets drunk on the weekends? No matter what the sin, a sinner's greatest problem is not their sinful actions; their greatest problem is that they do not know Jesus. We tend to focus on the sinful act, as if stopping a sinner from sinning is the key to salvation. Focus instead on introducing them to our benevolent King and Savior who conquered the power of sin and death. Once they meet Jesus, and the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of them, the Lord will bring genuine conviction of sin.
We should welcome anyone and everyone to a service, just as the Father has welcomed us in the midst of our sin. However, every church should have standards for leadership that include sexual purity. The same standard applies to the heterosexual person who is fornicating with a boyfriend or girlfriend, as well as the person who practices homosexuality.
PLAISANCE: The same response that would be given to someone who is struggling with drugs, alcohol, or divorce. They don’t need to have a finger pointed at them. They need to be welcomed. We have to remember that Jesus woos and draws us to himself. As they are accepted and encouraged to be a part of the body, God will continue to move in their life.
The Church’s responsibility is to speak the truth, but speak the truth in love. And ultimately, the work of redemption, sanctification, and holiness comes from the moving of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.