Tradition Christian Message To Homosexuals Offer Hope While Liberal Position Offers None
From: Henry Stewart
In the first weekend of March Jim Gentile came to Phoenix for the 3rd Annual UMUnity Seminar speaking on the subject "Change is Possible." On that Friday evening we had a dinner at First United Methodist Church of Mesa in which he spoke to about 40 people.
Lawn Griffiths, religion editor of the local paper (East Valley Tribune) covered our dinner and generated a feature article based on Jim's remarks. I found the article to be fair and a very accurate reflection of Jim Gentile's message. It was printed in conjunction with a report on Mel White's visit to the valley which occurred about two weeks after our seminar. Here's the first paragraph of each article, which appeared in the paper on Saturday March 16, 2002. They are excellent summaries of the differing positions the two hold.
As executive director of the Transforming Congregations, Jim Gentile considers himself proof that God can free people from 'the bondage of homosexuality. 'With Jesus, we can make it through,' he told a gathering March 1 at First United Methodist Church of Mesa before leading the third annual "Change is Possible" seminar at Cook College and Theological School in Tempe, sponsored by United Methodist Unity.
Mel White contends hatred, intolerance and legal actions targeted at homosexuals ultimately can be traced back to the churches. 'In my estimation, there would be no persecution against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered peoples, no discrimination, no intolerance in this country today, none without the church and its policies,' said White, executive director and co-founder of Soulforce, a national organization working to gain full acceptance of gays into society and faith communities.
In the newspaper articles, Mel White had nothing positive to say with no hope offered to anyone. Jim Gentile had many positive things to say with a large measure of hope.
Jim's message was that every man has a "legitimate need to be connected to the master. Every little boy has a need to know he is loved by his dad." When that need isn't met legitimately, those people may turn to homosexuality to meet that void in their life. He shared his long struggle to overcome the illegitimate expression of that need, and how much the transforming power of the Holy Sprit and the love of Christian brothers and sisters helped him to return to a proper expression of masculinity.
On Saturday the Unity seminar was presented by Jim in conjunction with John and Tami Butler of His Image Ministries. Some on the discussion centered around the origins of sexual brokenness and how much the church almost never teaches on that topic. In order to really address the issues, the pastor needs to first preach on "Sex is Good! (in it's proper place)", the preach on "Where sex is bad in heterosexual practice". Finally at that point the pastor can address the issue of homosexuality.
We also spent part of the day in small groups. During that time one of the women shared how she was coming out of lesbianism, and was now known by her "real" name after over 2 decades of being known by a "masculine" name! We also explored what those of us in the church who had no experience in the homosexual lifestyle could to to help those attempting to leave that lifestyle. She said the best things were 1) prayer, 2)simple Christian friendship, inclusion into other group activities, invitations to dinner and other things to affirm the person as a child of God and a member of the community.
Jim also called upon congregations to "repent of our homophobic responses to the gay community. Think about it" How many homosexual people want to come to your church? They go into church and few people say hello to them, few people embrace them, few people love them and get to know them or invite them over to dinner. If we are going to invite them out of that (homosexual lives), we had better have something really wonderful to invite them into."
On Sunday Jim preached at one of the local United Methodist Churches. I was not there, but I understand he gave a powerful witness and had a chance to do some personal ministry.
Jim's heart for ministry and message of hope was an incredibly refreshing change from the posturing and nihilism that so commonly accompanies any debate on this issue. He presents a witness that change is possible in such a way that those who believe that homosexual practice is innate in a person cannot refute him. My prayer is that more people would hear what he has to say and his message of transformation through Christ.
May God continue to bless his ministry!
Henry Stewart email@example.com
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