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Continued: Gay evangelicals press fellow believers to rethink homosexuality, stop stereotyping gays

  • Article by: RACHEL ZOLL , AP Religion Writer
  • Last update: June 30, 2013 - 11:20 AM

In his Charisma articles, evangelist Larry Tomczak wrote that he wanted to clear up confusion caused by Lee's arguments.

"An entire chapter in the Old Testament lists certain activities and calls them 'detestable,' stating in no uncertain terms, "Stay away!" The New Testament uses five terms to describe both male and female homosexual conduct: 'unnatural,' 'perverted,' 'degrading,' 'shameful' and 'indecent,'" Tomczak wrote. "Not to be facetious, but is that hard to understand?"

Tomczak said being gay is a choice — and one that dishonors God.

Inadvertently, Exodus and other ministries that have promised a gay-to-straight transformation have played a role in prompting gay and lesbian evangelicals to go public. Many gay evangelicals who unsuccessfully sought out a "cure" in the programs have emerged with profound misgivings about the way Christians approach the issue.

A 2005 graduate of George Fox University, Southwick said he was encouraged by the school to enter a two-year counseling program with a local affiliate of Exodus, which included a graduation ceremony that Southwick dismissed as "a straight diploma." He became depressed and suicidal during the program.

Lee, of the Gay Christian Network, was raised Southern Baptist believing that gays could become straight "if they trusted God and had the willingness to do so." In college, he attended Exodus conferences and sought out other similar ministries hoping to become attracted to women. It didn't work. Lee says he's always been celibate, so the ministries' focus on changing behavior wasn't helpful.

"I was focused on changing the attractions. That led me to ask a lot of tough questions about whether people's attractions were changing and I realized they were not," Lee said.

The Rev. Russell Moore, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, cautioned against reading too much into the collapse of Exodus International or any talk of a more compassionate evangelical response to gays and lesbians.

' 'There is no change in the Christian sexual ethic, because there can't be. For us it's a matter of Gospel fidelity," Moore said.

Instead, he considers the Exodus shutdown the end of a misguided therapeutic approach that Moore argues promised a quick fix it couldn't deliver. "We like conversion stories, and we like them to be quickly resolved in two or three minutes with a happy ending, but that's not what the Christian life is like in Scripture," he said.

Still, Moore agrees religious conservatives are at least approaching the debate about homosexuality differently in what he calls "a more authentic, honest conversation about sexuality."

At Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif., the group OneTable formed to foster open discussion about religion and homosexuality.

Last October, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first bishop in world Anglicanism to live openly with a same-sex partner, spoke to the students, at a screening of a movie "Love Free or Die," about the uproar that followed his 2003 election as the New Hampshire bishop.

"Everyone thought there would be some horrendous blowup. It was a wonderful evening. The questions to me were absolutely honest and thoughtful and faithful," said Robinson, who recently retired from his diocese. "A lot of people came in certain and a lot of people left confused — which is huge."

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