On Sunday, I went to a non-denominational church to hear Alan Chambers, one of the directors of Exodus International, speak to that congregation. I was interested to hear someone speak about being attracted to one's own gender openly in a church setting. Up until now, it's been something I've read about or discussed with others either online, in therapy, with a friend, or at a group. I think there's been a couple of articles in the Ensign over the years, but not in any great detail or the author was anonymous. Certainly talks over the pulpit in General Conference are not given with any specific details, with much hope or from someone who's been there. Now wouldn't that be something if the general authorities spoke specifically about temptations or sins they struggled with or overcame during their lives? But I digress...
Alan Chambers was entertaining and uplifting spiritually. He spoke about his own awareness of being gay at an early age and being raised Baptist. His memories on the subject, whether from pastors or his own parents, was about what you shouldn't do and that it's a sin. He began praying at a very young age to God to take it away, give him amnesia or even take his life. He was 11 when that prayer began. He said he continued that prayer for years, and doing symbolic things like writing homosexuality on a piece of paper and pinning it to a cross he made. He wrote it down on another piece of paper at a youth retreat and threw it into the bonfire. He always woke up the next day feeling the same. He immersed himself in trying to be the perfect christian, describing it like he was a hamster in the wheel of good deeds, going round and round without really going anywhere. I can relate to that. I felt like I was the most dedicated at scripture reading, home teaching, and serving in callings at the point in my life where I finally came out to myself.
Then he met a counselor at a young adult retreat who spoke to a group of about a 1,000 or so people. He said there was probably someone who was gay listening to him at that moment, and that that person should come talk to him. So Alan Chambers spoke to him afterwards, discretely, and outed himself to this counselor. The man taught him his first important lesson in really knowing God. He said he heard for the first time in his life that God loved him. No qualifications, conditions, or requirements. That started a long process of healing and being led to the Exodus group. He said it took him a long time to realize God was not going to use the magic wand on him. As he put it, God was not going to waive the magic wand and say, "1, 2, 3, you are straight now go date and mate." I laughed pretty hard at that one.
He put in a plug for Exodus that it is not a group to make a gay person straight, but to support in a loving way someone who is attracted to the same gender and help him or her find God. He reminded everyone that plenty of straight people are going to hell and that we are all messed up. It was a very good message.
The pastor then concluded with some nice thoughts about including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters with the liars, gluttons, greedy, adulterers, etc. who are sitting at church. He said the Christian church had much to apologize about its behavior to gay and lesbians. He concluded that we should not judge, leave that to God, and just include, welcome, and help others come to Christ.
I'm glad I went.
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