ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Southern Baptists must continue their stand for biblical morality but also must be willing to extend God’s unconditional love to people caught in homosexuality, leaders of three ex-gay ministries said June 14 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
“Our purpose today is to honor Jesus Christ in supporting the biblical stand Southern Baptists have taken regarding homosexuality,” Tim Wilkins told reporters at a news conference.
Earlier in the morning, Southern Baptist Convention messengers had adopted a revision of their Baptist Faith and Message statement that calls on Christians to “oppose all forms of sexual immorality, including … homosexuality.”
Wilkins, director of CROSS Ministry, Raleigh, N.C., appeared with Bertie Barber of Eleutheros, Winter Park, Fla.; Alan Chambers of Fringe Youth Outreach, Orlando; and Yvette Schneider, policy analyst for the Family Research Council.
“Southern Baptists have come under increasing attack for sincerely holding the biblical view that homosexuality is sinful and that Jesus Christ can and does set men and women free from sinful lifestyles,” Wilkins said. “No other denomination has taken the public stand that Southern Baptists have on this issue and the heat that stand has generated.”
Christians, however, have not always loved homosexuals unconditionally the way God does, the group acknowledged.
“We embrace the inseparable standard of God’s truth and love,” Barber said. “While we make no apology for standing on and for God’s truth, we confess that we have not always stood as zealously on and for God’s love.
“For the times we have tried to present biblical truth in ways that were unloving or even hateful, please forgive us. For the times we have self-righteously pointed our fingers and declared your sin greater than ours, please forgive us. For the times we have condemned and offered no love, no mercy, no hope, please forgive us,” Barber continued.
Schneider, once a self-described “militant lesbian,” said it was her friendship with a Christian co-worker named Jeff who balanced truth and love that helped her find freedom through Jesus’ transforming love and power.
“He shared the love of Christ with me, not only by sharing biblical truths, but by being my friend, by caring what happened in my life and by lending me a helping hand when I needed it,” Schneider said. “Jeff exemplified Christianity by telling me the truth and loving me as well.”
Wilkins rejected the idea that efforts to help homosexuals become heterosexual are misguided just because some homosexuals have tried to change and failed.
“Millions of people every year go on diets and weight-loss programs. Some of them lose weight, some of them gain it back,” Wilkins said. “We have to ask the question: Does the diet fail, does the weight-loss program fail or is it the failure of the client to do what it takes? I think it’s the latter.”
Wilkins also said he found it significant that homosexuals, not heterosexuals, are the ones who struggle with sexual identity.
“There are many gay people who have experienced confusion or anxiety about their homosexuality, thinking they should be heterosexual,” Wilkins said. “But I have yet to come across a person who is heterosexual who has expressed confusion or anxiety, thinking they should have been homosexual.
“That’s because heterosexuality is God’s creative intent. It is born within us.”