News about fallen leader doesn't change truth of ex-'gay' message, friends say

by Michael Foust, posted Friday, August 08, 2003 (15 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--News that a prominent member of the ex-"gay" movement has fallen into sexual sin should not overshadow the success of the movement itself, Christian leaders say.

An upcoming book, "Anything But Straight," as well as several homosexual newspapers are reporting that Michael Johnston, who appeared before Southern Baptist Convention messengers in 2000, fell back into homosexuality after saying he had been freed from the lifestyle through his faith in Christ.

The reports -- confirmed by his friends -- say that Johnston had unprotected sex with men during the past two years but failed to tell them that he was HIV-positive. Johnston, founder of the now-defunct Kerusso Ministries, has since repented and is undergoing Christian counseling, his friends say.

While the news is being touted in the homosexual community as another sign that homosexuality is genetic, the focus instead should be on the thousands of former homosexuals who have experienced freedom through Christ, the head of Exodus International said.

"[T]o say that discredits the movement [is wrong]," Exodus International's executive director, Alan Chambers, told Baptist Press. "You have to look at all of the people who haven't fallen. And that's real proof that people can change."

Exodus International is a nonprofit organization that ministers to homosexuals. Chambers himself is a former homosexual.

The percentage of people who change but then fall back into homosexuality is "minute," Chambers said. But there is "a very high percentage of people who continue to stay true to the Lord and stay true to the fact that their sexuality has changed."

A new book by homosexual activist Wayne Besen is sure to add to the debate over whether homosexuals can change. Besen, former spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign -- the nation's largest homosexual rights organization -- has written "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth." In it is included the news about Johnston.

"The extreme right wing touted the ex-gay ministries as a knockout punch to the gay community, but it has instead become a punch line in less than three years," Besen said in a press release about the book.

Tim Wilkins, director of Cross Ministry, another outreach for homosexuals, said that Besen does not understand fully the goals of such ministries.

"Besen, like many, mistakenly believes that the goal of such ministries is to make homosexuals into heterosexuals," Wilkins, a former homosexual, said in a statement to Baptist Press. "... [Instead,] the ultimate goal for the person with unwanted same-sex attractions is, as with any sinner, to become a follower of Jesus Christ, which in turn brings freedom from homosexuality and restores his true identity in Christ."

Chambers, Wilkins and another friend of Johnston, Peter LaBarbera, say they are praying for their friend. LaBarbera is senior policy analyst at the Culture & Family Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Homosexual activists will surely charge that this latest falling 'proves' that homosexuality ... cannot be changed, and that ex-'gay' ministry is a failure," LaBarbera wrote in an Aug. 6 column. "Of course, such reasoning is fallacious, and is tantamount to asserting that Alcoholics Anonymous is a fraud because some of its adherents slip back into drinking."

Chambers made a similar argument, saying, "[T]he fact that people fall into adultery doesn't mean that marriage is a lie."

Christians who believe homosexuals can change point to Scripture, where in 1 Corinthians 6 the Apostle Paul lists several groups of people -- such as fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals -- before concluding, "Such were some of you ... but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (NASB).

But Christians aren't the only ones finding tension between God's law and homosexuality. Just this year David Bianco, founder of Q Syndicate -- a news service for the homosexual community -- said he's no longer having sex with men because the Torah prohibits it. Bianco calls himself a "traditional Jew" and no longer considers himself a homosexual.

Wilkins said the Bible's teachings are clear.

"The only sexual relationship which existed before the fall of man was the husband/wife relationship," he said. "Heterosexuality is God's creative design. After the fall of man, counterfeits to God's ideal emerged -- adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, etc. When this differentiation is understood, freedom from homosexuality is accelerated as it was in my case."

Those who come out of homosexuality and then go public face much scrutiny, Chambers and Wilkins noted.

"We're criticized every single day," Chambers said. "We're called liars. We're called frauds. Our marriages are questioned. Our children that we have are questioned. [Critics ask,] 'Are these things just ploys?'"

Living in a world that often celebrates homosexuality can make living a morally upright life difficult, Wilkins said.

"This world is rampant with U.S. Supreme Court decisions and appointments of gay bishops that makes being in the world and not of the world more difficult," he said. "On a daily basis we witness a virtual parade of pageantry that claims homosexuality is good."

But, Chambers said, the Bible calls leaders to uphold a "higher standard" than the average person.

"When you come out of anything and you put yourself in the limelight, in the firing range, you have to be really sure that that's what God is calling you to do," he said. "And it's not for everyone. But those who do [speak publicly] have to remain grounded. They have to be accountable. They have to be brutally honest about who they are and [about] the condition of their heart and soul and mind every day."

Interestingly, Chambers and the book's author, Besen, are friends and often communicate with each other. Besen interviewed Chambers for the book, which Chambers said is the first one critical of the ex-"gay" movement.

"He goes on a TV show and trashes us, but my wife and I have had him in our home," Chambers said. "We feel like to reach out to him is what Jesus would do. He is cordial. He's on our Christmas card list [and] we're on his Christmas card list."

When a story such as Johnston's surfaces, Chambers said Besen contacts him and says, "Are you sure you don't want to come out today? ... If you want [to,] I'll help you."

Chambers said he replies, "Wayne, when you get ready to kneel before Jesus, I'll kneel with you." Chambers said Besen "kind of shrugs that off and laughs and goes on."


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