News Articles

Putting a name, face on homosexuals forces churches to consider problem

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–As long as homosexuals remain a nameless and faceless group, Southern Baptists can choose to ignore the problem that is common in many churches, a husband and wife missionary team said.
“As long as we make homosexuals faceless, as long as we say, ‘All homosexuals look alike,’ Satan will be able to take over and work within that lifestyle. But once we put a face on homosexuality and AIDS, God’s work will live through those faces and make us sensitive to the problem,” said Fred Loper, who with his wife, Lavada, serve as national missionaries specializing in health care missions for the International Mission Board.
The Lopers, who live in Oklahoma City, were teaching the class, “Hope for Homosexuals,” during Black Church Leadership Week at Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center, Aug. 4-8.
Fred Loper, who is a medical doctor, said homosexuality and AIDS became real for him when he began treating his first AIDS patient in the mid-80s.
“I eventually became friends with this man who made the very moral decision to be sexually abstinent for the rest of his life. He first put a face on homosexuality for me.”
Loper said his work in medical missions required that he speak with people about the symptoms and threats of AIDS.
“That, of course, overlaps with that disease called homosexuality. Lavada and I then had to learn to respond in a Christian way to people involved in homosexual lifestyles.”
When churches fail to respond to homosexuality, they miss an important ministry to a very real group, he said.
“Homosexuality today is for the church what divorce was long ago. People just can’t talk about it. We tend to think some sins are worse than others, and sexual sins are among them,” he said. “White churches have a horrible time even saying the word sex out loud. When it’s not just sex, but homosexuality, it’s completely off the list.”
The Lopers and the seminar participants listed several reasons why they think churches refuse to respond to homosexuality. They are:
— fear. Churches fear losing people who have talents and/or money and use both to support the church.
— ignorance. They don’t know anything about it, so they don’t discuss it.
— taboo. Homosexuality is not a socially accepted conversation topic, especially in churches.
— denial. There is a deep and passionate denial that homosexuality exists in the church.
— faceless. It remains a faceless sin in many churches.
— changeless. Many believe homosexuals cannot change or be delivered from the lifestyle.
“They believe that people can be delivered from drugs, alcohol or use of pornography, but not from homosexuality,” Loper said. “They think God is not powerful enough to take care of that problem.”
Loper said he believes if churches understood homosexuality is just another sin, they might be able to deal with it more effectively.
In I Corinthians 4: 9-10, sinners are described as sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers, Loper said.
“The church is full of all kinds of people, and Paul’s list in those verses doesn’t seem to have much priority. The fact is all of us are predisposed to a terrible disease — sin. And it will kill all of us if we are not washed in the blood.”
Loper said people are drawn to the homosexual lifestyle for “many, many reasons.”
“Homosexuality is a common disease. Some people who are drawn toward their own sex are often just confused — and many times they are teenagers who just feel more attraction for people of their own sex,” Loper said. “It’s normal for teenagers, but confusing.”
Loper said, as a member of the medical profession, he has not seen any signs that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition.
“But even it were, there is still hope for beating it,” he said. “Some people have a genetic predisposition to alcohol. But they give it up. Some struggle with it every day. Some never struggle after they give it up.
“It would probably be the same for a homosexual who gave up the lifestyle. Homosexuality can be an addiction.”
He said some homosexuals he has known have chosen to live a sexually abstinent lifestyle, while others become heterosexual.
“Which ever route a Christian goes, he can choose to live a Christian lifestyle no matter what.”
The Lopers offered several resources for homosexuals or those who hope to minister to homosexuals.
Those include:
— “Hope for the Homosexual,” a video tape offered by the International Mission Board that includes a testimony from a recovered homosexual — Mike Hawkins. Hawkins died of AIDS two years ago, but before his death, he traveled with the Lopers and talked about his struggle with homosexuality. The tape can be ordered by calling the IMB at 1-800-634-2462.
— CROSS (Created for the Opposite Sex) Ministries, headed by a former pastor, Tim Wilkins, who abandoned the homosexual lifestyle more than 20 years ago, and is now married. Based in Raleigh, N.C., the number is 919-787-3348.
— Walking Together Ministries. Founders Ron and Juanita Sutphin were parents to a homosexual son who recently died of AIDS. They seriously considered murdering their son before the Holy Spirit stopped them and showed them how they could minister to him and his friends, according to Lavada Loper. Their number in Skyland, N.C., is 704-274-9408.
— First Stone Ministries, a ministry that specializes in homosexuality and other sexual lifestyles. Its purpose is to educate churches and Christians how they may respond biblically, compassionately, and knowledgeably to those impacted by homosexuality and AIDS. It gets its name from John 8:7, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Based in Oklahoma City, First Stone can be reached at 405-236-4673.
— Exodus International North America refers people to specific ministry organizations within their living area. Based in Seattle, the number is 206-784-7799.
For additional ministry information, call Fred and Lavada Loper at 405-528-7688.
Black Church Leadership Week is coordinated by the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board and sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission and North American Mission boards, Woman’s Missionary Union and the Annuity Board. About 950 registered for the conference.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey