Transforming Congregation's Ministry Grows Amidst Homosexuality Controversy
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus,
This is the first day since September that I've been able to sit down and reflect on the tremendous opportunities I've been given this fall. I hope to give you a brief glimpse into what God has enabled us to do in this ministry to the sexually broken. This past October was our tenth year anniversary as an organization, and in that decade, much has been accomplished against outrageous odds! That would take a very long time to explain, so I'll just recap Autumn '98.
The month of September I was able to locate an available spot for the transfer of the offices to the east coast. Pastor Dan Unrath of Huntingdon Valley UMC was more than gracious to donate this space while he and his staff offered abundant hospitality too! Much work continued to get this room ready & workable, but as of next week I'm happy to report this office will be functional! The new phone number is as follows. We will maintain the old number (215/757-5513) as well for a couple months until we can have our current brochures labeled with the new numbers.
New TC Office Number = 215 / 938-8770 ***effective 12/7/98 at 9:30 AM***
Phone counseling was at an all time high and much planning for the upcoming trips to Baltimore, Virginia, Tennessee, New York and Michigan.
In October I had the privilege of giving a men's retreat for a church in S. New Jersey along with three men from my church. It was a real joy to be among my brothers, knowing I had something to give, as well as receive. They heard about the freedom from sexual bondage first hand! Their fellowship on the other hand, filled me in deep places.
On National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, we had an event that showcased four (two women & two men) ex-gay testimonies as well as a couple whose son was gay. The folks sharing their stories were from the weekly support group ( Debbie, Chris, Bonnie and me) and each one rang the "bell of freedom" loud & clear. The parents shared their hearts and reflected the reality that you can still love deeply without accepting their son's choice of homosexuality. I was thrilled to have Rev. Dr. Ed Conway, one of our new board members, attend as well. Much thanks goes to Sicklerville UMC and Brian Saunders(and wonderful team) who coordinated the event.
The following weekend, in Baltimore, MD, I was challenged to speak on the same platform as Tony & Peggy Campolo, with Bishop Felton May presiding. I publicly thanked the Bishop for upholding the Apostolic faith by the clear decision he & his colleagues made this year. Although I've been a long time admirer of Tony, he really lacks when it comes to the truth of Transformation. I was able to challenge him to interview former homosexuals as he did gay men (300) and hear for himself the other side. Although I was far too nervous to remember, my friend told me that I received louder applause than anyone else when I finished speaking. This was by far one of my biggest challenges, and yet He is able to give us that which we need to succeed! A pro-gay activist came up to me afterwards and thanked me for the compassionate way I shared my story without disrespecting the others there (i.e., gay & lesbian couples). The following day I preached (shared my story) at two services and did the youth Sunday school at St. Paul's UMC in Leonardtown, MD. The Rev. Barry Hidey was a "gem" both days as he provided spiritual & physical support.
The end of the month I was in Virginia Beach as a part of the team for Living Waters Training - Pursuing Relational & Sexual Wholeness(Desert Stream in CA, hosted by Sought Out, VA). This was my personal highlight as I was able to get "hands on" ministry to those in the Body of Christ. Too much speaking and not enough ministry makes this Director a miserable man! The week was quite demanding as my lunch and dinner breaks were punctuated by meetings with local UMC pastors who showed genuine interest in our approach. I also had a chance to share, thanks to Katherine Allen, Director of Sought Out, on a local secular news station (video interview) and Christian radio program! We as an organization couldn't ask for a better promoter in Virginia than this dear, yet powerful woman in the Lord.
The month of November began with me traveling to the "Big Apple" (New York City) to lecture to The Monday Club, which is a group of UMC pastors who have been meeting for decades. Jimmy Creech was the lecturer for October and I was asked to come in November. I shared my story and then the questions were fired away. This was the most liberal gathering to date I have spoken at and yet I sensed a calm assurance that the answers would be given to me by the Lord Himself. Normally I refuse to talk at places like this, but if I don't then folks like them will never hear the other side. I posed the question, "How many of you have ever heard a former homosexual before?" The response was amazing to me...no one! Not one person there (with the exception of my rear & forward guards, Rev. Jon Swenson and Rev. Randy Paige) ever heard an ex-gay person share their miracle of personal transformation. After about 30 minutes of "Q & A", which seemed like forever, we had lunch. When lunch was over the host then opened the floor up for more questions! As if I hadn't been fired at enough! Well the next hour showed me more of God's grace & wisdom. One man became frustrated with me and said, "How come every time I ask you about love you bring up the Cross?" I couldn't believe my ears, this man went to seminary! Jesus didn't come to simply love with a "sloppy agape" that condones everything under the sun, He came to die for our sins and thus show the ultimate act of love! I felt the constant pressure to cave into the debate, but felt His strength to keep the clarity and conciseness, that Transforming Congregations is not about politics but ministry. Glory be to Him who reigns, the Truth & Love of the healing process was exalted.
The following week I had the great pleasure of spending time in Tennessee with the Moore's (of Aldersgate fame!). Three days of prayer & fasting broke me and caused deep joy to rise within. I never knew I could pray for ten hours straight! I kept following Margie Berger & Gary's lead. The next two days I felt like a baton in a relay race as I was passed from one person to the next. I was able to meet & minister to a dear brother in Christ who has been so faithful and just needed the words of encouragement & love that keeps us aware of our Abba Daddy's Presence. That Sunday I preached ( I hate saying that as I feel that as a lay person I just share what the Lord teaches me) at two Spirit filled churches in rural TN that were dynamite! The pastor & teaching pastor reminded me of the Peter & Paul combo in the first century! What a duo!!!! I was blessed out of my socks( I also ate my first Tennessee Chile Dog)! The ministry was rich and what a joy to be a part of it. Thanks Craig & Mo and to Paula who got me to the airport in the nick of time. I was the last person to get on the plane!
I was asked to teach at Master's Commission of Philadelphia (young adults who give a year to prepare & minister) the following week and will be doing this a few times a month until May.
The next weekend found me in Ithaca, Michigan for an all day seminar on Saturday and Youth Sunday School and Sermon on Sunday. This time was awesome as I teamed up with the local ex-gay ministries called Corduroy Stone and Vital Signs. These folks were the backbone of the workshops in the afternoon. Worship was soo good it brought us into His presence and we didn't leave it all day (Thanks to Bonnie, Ginny and Pastor Dave)! Gene & Gwen Becker were the best hosts and real mavericks for the advancing of His Kingdom. It continues to amaze me how the Body of Christ is standing up for the truth and doing it in genuine love! These dear new friends were filled with integrity and the peace of Christ.
Finally, I've had to stop individual counseling here in PA because of the time restraints of the traveling. It is becoming apparent to me that an effective counselor must be available to their people, and running a national ministry & local support group demands my priority.
I'm happy to report that the family is doing great and I'm enjoying my wife & sons now more than ever. Yes, in case your wondering, I really guard my time with them and when I get out of balance they are the first ones to remind me of the Lord's priorities for leadership! That's both the advantage & disadvantage of having teenagers...they have no fear of speaking the truth to you...no matter who happens to be listening.
Thank you for taking the time to read such a detailed note. The many people I've had the opportunity to pray & counsel have left me filled with the hope that "He who began a good work will complete it". He has expanded my heart to hold each one and in this I shout for joy...first love restored!
Hey, if you have any free time, say between 3:00 AM & 4:00 AM, keep us at Transforming Congregations in your prayers! It ain't over till the Big Guy's foot touches the mountain..yippee!
I remain "blown away" by His faithfulness, Jim
<Back to News