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To redeem homosexuals, God can use Baptists, leaders tell convention

PHOENIX (BP)–Southern Baptists love homosexuals. In fact, it’s in the “spiritual DNA of Southern Baptists to minister to lost and hurting people,” LifeWay Christian Resources President James T. Draper Jr. said during a June 17 report of the Southern Baptist Convention’s task force on ministry to homosexuals.

“God loves all people, including those trapped in homosexuality, and he is looking for people who will reach them with his saving, healing love through Jesus Christ,” Draper said in addressing the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. “We pray that you will make yourselves available to God’s leading and that He will lead you to begin a ministry to reach all the precious men and women for whom Jesus died.”

Draper’s comments came during a report from the eight-member task force on ministry to homosexuals formed by LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission after the 2001 annual SBC meeting in New Orleans. There, messenger Bob Stith, once a self-described “typical, hardened, redneck pastor,” requested that the SBC “establish a task force to inform, educate and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.”

LifeWay and ERLC staff members have been meeting regularly since to discuss Southern Baptists’ ministry opportunities to homosexuals, Draper recounted. “We discovered that our SBC entities are already involved in reaching homosexuals with the Gospel and educating people about this issue. We also discovered that a number of Southern Baptist churches have developed ministries to reach homosexuals,” he said.

ERLC President Richard Land said during the report that it is possible to reach homosexuals for Christ, citing 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. “Homosexuality is neither the unpardonable sin, nor the worst possible sin, nor the sign of God’s permanent rejection,” Land said.

Land said the Apostle Paul believed Christ had the power to change all types of sinners, including homosexuals. “The operative part of this passage for the task force is ‘some of you were like this.’ These people were no longer like this. In other words, through the Spirit of God, homosexuals can find freedom from this sinful, destructive lifestyle. They can be redeemed, they can be liberated,” Land said.

As evidence of the power of God to transform lives through the love of Christ, Land cited the examples of Christine Sneeringer and Tim Wilkins, both former homosexuals.

Sneeringer, a lesbian for six years, said she had her first homosexual experience at age 15. She later became involved with a married woman and was surprised by God’s willingness to pursue someone who was both “a lesbian and a home wrecker.” But she reached the point where she “wanted God more than homosexuality” and came to Christ in 1989 after she experienced genuine love from members of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla.

Wilkins, founder and director of Cross Ministry, a North Carolina-based ministry aimed at reaching homosexuals for Christ, said that if someone had suggested he would one day be married, he would have laughed. He said he didn’t know how to stop being a homosexual, but knew how to be obedient, accepting Christ as his Savior. He now has a wife and two daughters.

“The Bible is true when it says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ I am no longer gay, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Wilkins said.

Draper said Sneeringer and Wilkins are just two examples of “thousands of men and women who were freed from homosexuality by the power of God. We believe hundreds of thousands more could share similar stories if Southern Baptists engaged in biblical, redemptive ministry to them.”

Draper asked that Southern Baptists allow God to touch their hearts like he touched the heart of Bob Stith of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas. Stith said that no homosexual would have come to him for help before God changed his attitude and gave him a desire to minister to them.

Draper also asked Southern Baptists to commit themselves “to be God’s feet in walking homosexuals into a new life in Christ.” He said that might require looking at the ministry of the local church differently.

“We want to encourage you to consider how God could work through you and your church to reach homosexual men and women,” Land said. “Churches must become places of healing.”

The task force on ministry to homosexuals has developed resources on the Internet to aid in ministry to the hurting, Land said. For more information, log onto www.lifeway.com/thewayout, www.sbc.net, www.erlc.com or www.namb.net.

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  • Gregory Tomlin