Record – Newsletter

RECORD: Fall 2014

(PDF version available here.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was gay!?  It’s suggested in Strange Glory, Charles Marsh’s new biography of the heroic theologian killed by the Nazis. A University of Virginia religious studies professor, Marsh zeroes in on the unusually close relationship Bonhoeffer had with his student, Eberhard Bethge.
++One response is histrionics from an ex-Religious Right winger who jabs at his old cohorts who’re Bonhoeffer fans: “Bonhoeffer Was Flamingly Gay – Deal With It!”  Some seize onto an obfuscating conflation of “just friends” and “erotic love”.  In a Christianity Today review, Wheaton’s Timothy Larsen states: “Marsh makes a convincing case that Bonhoeffer harbored feelings for Bethge that extended beyond friendship.”  Indeed, as Marsh puts it: “Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Bethge had always strained toward the achievement of a romantic love, one ever chaste but complete in its complex aspirations.”
++The two shared a bank account and spent many hours in each other’s close company. Marsh suggests that Bonhoeffer’s prison engagement to a woman he’d known for years was an attempt to stay a “soul mate” of Bethge who’d became engaged to Bonhoeffer’s niece. Bonhoeffer left only a memento to his fiancée while leaving all the rest of his property, including his money, to Bethge.

Contemporary Christian composer and performer, Vicky Beeching, has come out as gay and the response has ranged from “How could she do this to us?” to “God bless her!” She tells of many years of turmoil when she prayed without ceasing that God would take away her same-sex attractions and even sought “deliverance” from the “demons of homosexuality” at a big healing crusade. After over three decades of struggle and denial, she’s still an evangelical believer who happens to be gay and she now understands that God is fine with that. She’s received strong support from the evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury and his family with whom she’s been friendly for some time.  She will be a keynoter at the 2015 Gay Christian Network’s conference in Portland in January.    Read more →

RECORD: Summer 2014

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The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism by Brian Stanley, Professor of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh is the latest volume (2013) in the IVP series, “History of Evangelicalism”.  The subtitle is “The Age of Billy Graham and John Stott”.
++In fewer than six pages (of 283), he looks at “Evangelicals and Homosexuality”.  He notes the public launching of Evangelicals Concerned during a National Association of Evangelicals convention, though he says EC’s meeting “was provocatively held over the street from the [NAE] conference”.  But, as an NAE member, Blair thought it prudent to meet across the street, assuming the NAE had more clout at its Shoreham Hotel than it had at our Sheraton. Stanley rightly differentiates EC from MCC, understanding that MCC “maintained only sporadic connections with the evangelical community”. But he’s confused in saying that EC “bylaws” state that homosexuality is “part of God’s created order”. No such anachronism was ever the view of Evangelicals Concerned, Inc.
++ Stanley’s take on Paul Jewett’s view of homosexuality is misleading. Granting only that Jewett allowed that, “within the fallen estate of humanity the legitimacy of committed same-sex relationships may on occasion have to be conceded as the lesser of two evils” hardly reflects Jewett’s strong support of EC. Even in the 1970s, he called Blair’s work on homosexuality “the most informative and balanced thing on the subject anywhere”.  In the early ‘80s he wrote to Blair: “You have done some really pioneering work.  I trust you get some positive response and particularly that you will be able to help many escape the terrible bind that they have been forced into.”  On Blair’s critique of “ex-gay” claims, Jewett wrote: “I read it and had my admiration renewed for your control of such detailed material. … It is surely very informative – and persuasive!”  On Blair’s Sunshine and Rainfall for All, Jewett wrote: “I think it makes a very helpful point which may ease some tender consciences over the bridge to tolerance and openness.”  When Jewett died, his widow wrote to Blair: “Paul has always admired you and your work as well as your publication, Review.  So I feel that you are my friend, too.”

EC’s 2014 Fall Weekend at Ocean Grove will be October 3-5.  We’ll be remembering Matthew Henry, George Whitefield, William Romaine and James Hervey on their 300th anniversaries and viewing their hand-written commentary and letters and other items related to them.  On this 200th “Star Spangled Banner” anniversary, we’ll also see a handwritten letter of Francis Scott Key about his Sunday School.  Ralph Blair will do a  lecture on their lives and significance and give three sermons on a neglected aspect of Christ’s identity.  There’ll be time to enjoy the seaside, our gourmet meals, homemade ice cream and connecting with friends old and new. Sign up at www.ecinc.org. Read more →

RECORD: Spring 2014

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The 72nd summer connECtion of Evangelicals Concerned will be held May 30 – June 1, 2014 at Kirkridge in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania.  Our keynoters will be Amy Plantinga Pauw, Professor of Doctrinal Theology at Louisville Theological Seminary, Jim Rayburn III, author, speaker, jewelry designer and son of Young Life’s founder, Jim Rayburn, and EC founder Ralph Blair.

In November, Christians commemorated the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis. No 20th-century Christian writer has had a greater influence on evangelicals.

Many Lewis fans don’t really know what he wrote on homosexuality, but he was wiser and kinder than many of his later devotees.  Asked by Sheldon Vanauken for help in dealing with homosexual friends, Lewis summed up: “All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it.”

. In 1955, Lewis said he saw “much hypocrisy” on the topic.  He sensed, in heterosexuals, “a certain nausea” around it, and rightly noted: “I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment.”  (Antigay crusader Robert Gagnon uses “repulsive” and “disgusting” in dealing with the “abomination” (to’evah), at Leviticus 18:22.  He’s on point in that the term, to’evah, points to what’s culturally disgusting, e.g., ingesting non-kosher food (Deut 14:13) or, for pagans, to eat with Jews (Gen 43:32). The category is cultural, not moral; a term of taboo, not sin. But today “abomination” is taken to signal the worst sin.)

Lewis asked rhetorically: “Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians?” He asked this long before the Religious Right’s antigay harangues.  But it’s still an appropriately rhetorical question. “And,” Lewis mused, “what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel [as ours] would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh.” He concluded: “The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law.”

Ron Belgau, a celibate gay Christian, says: “When I read Lewis’s words on homosexuality when I was 17, it is no exaggeration to say that his humility and realism preserved the credibility of traditional Christianity for me.” A gay Christian brother replies to Belgau: “My reaction to Lewis was much like yours when I read him at 19. It was a relief to finally find a Christian who did not despise me and find me disgusting just because I was attracted to other guys.”

Arthur Greeves and Lewis were closest friends from childhood. Throughout life, Lewis exchanged more letters with him than with any other correspondent.  Greeves told Lewis about his homosexuality in 1918 and the 19-year-old Lewis replied: “Congratulations old man, I am delighted that you have had the moral courage to form your own opinions independently, in defiance of the old taboos. I am not sure that I agree with you: but, as you hint in your letter, this penchant is a sort of mystery only to be fully understood by those who are made that way—and my views on it can be at best but emotion.” Back then, Lewis called himself an atheist, but he did not “christianize” his response on this in any of their correspondence down to his death in 1963.  And, in 1933, Lewis dedicated The Pilgrim’s Regress, his first Christian book, to Greeves.

In 1960, Lewis wrote to Delmar Banner (the painter and homosexual) to say that he supported decriminalization of homosexuality and added (in his habit of abbreviation) that he stood with “the persecuted homo against snoopers and busybodies.” Banner was married to sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos, a devout Christian.  She learned early on that it was to be a sexless marriage.  It lasted 53 years. She died at 100, 22 years after his death.

No doubt Lewis would not have been disturbed over the recent demise of the “ex-gay” movement.  In God in the Dock, a posthumous collection of his essays, he wrote: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” Read more →

RECORD: Winter 2014

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An “ex-gay” rally that promised to bring thousands of “ex-gays” to the Supreme Court Building turned out fewer than ten people.  Among them was Richard Cohen, famous for his “cuddling on the couch” counseling with young male clients. “Grandpa” McIntyre drove his pick-up truck from Texas and claims he’s “the founder” of “the oldest” of all “ex-gay” groups, “Homosexuals Anonymous”.  But Colin Cook founded HA.  Gordon Seminary’s Richard Lovelace called Cook’s claiming-the-heterosexuality-of-Jesus approach “the silver bullet”.  But Cook’s Seventh-day Adventist sponsors fired him for having sex with young men coming to him for the “ex-gay” experience.  He then set up shop out west.  Actually, the earliest church-sponsored “ex-gay” effort was Guy Charles’ “Liberation in Jesus Christ” in the mid-1970s. Christianity Today puffed his claims. But, his charismatic Episcopal sponsors fired him and closed “Liberation” because he was having sex with young men coming to him for the “ex-gay” experience.  He then moved to Chicago and lived as an openly gay man until he died.

Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal is still pushing the double-talk of “change” for homosexual “identity”.  In October, LJ gave 5-stars to Charlene Hios’ “Leaving My Lesbian Past” – ignoring the Exodus “ex-gay” network’s disbanding after many decades of false promises and “ex-gay” leaders’ sexual failings and firings. Exodus’ final president, Alan Chambers, joined other ex-“ex-gay” leaders in apologizing for all the harm that’s been done through the “ex-gay” claims.

“An End to Ex-Gay Ministry?”  Mike McManus of VirtueOnLine refuses to think so.  He asks: “Is it possible for a homosexual to become an ‘ex-gay’ ” and responds by shifting vocabulary the way “ex-gay” advocates have always done.  Instead of dealing with the mass of evidence that “ex-gays’” same-sex attraction never changes, he asserts that, “it is possible for many gays and lesbians to leave their old life and become new creatures in Christ.”  But such slippery doubletalk is an unintended confession that so-called “reparative therapy” doesn’t work.

Gulielmo Marinaro replies to McManus by supplying a “random list of people who publicly testified that their sexual orientation had changed from homosexual to heterosexual, thus proving that for them, at least, sexual attraction is mutable.”  He notes that, “These were the ‘stars’ of the ‘ex-gay’ movement, the ones who held themselves up, or were held up by others, as living proof that ‘Change is possible!’ All of them once ran ‘ex-gay’ ministries to help others to change, just as they allegedly had.  All eventually admitted that their change of orientation was nothing but self-deception, and that none of the clients of their ministries ever changed either.”  Marinaro’s list: “John Evans, Michael Bussee, Gary Cooper, Jim Kaspar, Frank Shears, Jeremy Marks, Raphaël Creemers, Günter Baum, Jeff Ford, Paul Martin, Sergio Viula, John Smid, Kurt Jacobowitz-Cain, Roger Grindstaff, Rick Notch, Mario Rodriguez, Guy Charles, John Paulk, Bruce Grimsley.”  Many more names could have been added to this list of ex-“ex-gay” leaders.

Still, against all the evidence of this tragic history of failure as well as loss of Christian faith, McManus writes in habituated denial: “Exodus has died, but ministry to those with same-sex attraction will continue and largely be successful.”

Republican Governor Chris Christie has signed a law barring licensed therapists from trying to turn gay minors into heterosexuals.  New Jersey now joins California in banning such spiritual abuse in the name of “reparative therapy”.  Christie wrote: “The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientations can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”

National Review editors denounced Christie for refusing “to honor a minor’s request for help in becoming heterosexual”, as though NR had never heard all the apologies from Exodus that, however much a gay minor might be told by church and parents that he must become heterosexual, the “therapy” does not do that.

Refusing to pay attention to the long and continuing history of apologies from ex-“ex-gay” leaders, including John Paulk who once led Focus on the Family’s “ex-gay” program, Focus’ Tom Minnery dismisses the new law as merely “politically correct”.  But it’s Minnery’s attack that’s “politically correct” – in his Right-wing Focus world.

Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, spoke at Calvin College. He noted the sad and familiar fact that, for young Americans, Christianity is best known for being antigay. “That’s a problem. That should not be what we’re known for.”  He went on to say: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree and that doesn’t mean that one side thinks the other side’s view is just as valid.”  He said that many have given up on churches because of church mistreatment, but others have gone deeper into Christian faith to cope with that.  While the official position of Calvin and its Christian Reformed sponsors was recited by administrative spokespeople, Lee’s presentations were very well received. Read more →

RECORD: Fall 2013

Exodus shuts down after nearly forty years of failure at trying to change sexual orientation.  Nearly four decades of claimed success were wishful thinking and deceit. Exodus president Alan Chambers says: “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”  He apologizes for the damage done by “ex-gay” promise of change and by derogatory rhetoric against same-sex oriented people. “More than anything”, he said, “I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. … I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation.” He adds: “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters.  Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom.  God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.”
     He told Jeff Chu at The Atlantic: “What I renounce [is] the whole gay-to-straight process.  That the goal is changing your sexual orientation, which we realized isn’t something that happens.  That that’s what makes you acceptable to God.”
     Eminent church historian Martin Marty observed: “Quite remarkable is his avoidance of the pop-penitence so often practiced today.  Not content with ‘if we offended or hurt anyone’, or ‘we made a mistake’, [Chambers] apologized for the pain, hurt, and all that went with the Exodus approach.”
     Exodus board’s Tony Moore did do some spin: “We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change.”  Ralph Blair: “Previous generations of Christians were looking for change that Exodus repeatedly promised but never delivered.  That’s why ‘a new generation of Christians is looking for change’ – change to what’s honest, what works.  Folks are looking for a change from faulty conclusions on Bible verses and false claims of “cure” to a better-informed exegesis and to achievable goals, to integration of an un-chosen same-sex orientation with a chosen Christian faith and a loving same-sex marriage.”

Exodus announces a new ministry with no “ex-gay” component.  Chambers explains: “Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities.”  The new ministry is meant to align with Jesus’ message in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. [This ministry will be] something brand-new that won’t have anything to do with the issue of ex-gay.”
     Other ex-“ex-gay” leaders – besides all their clients who failed to change through “ex-gay” programs – had already dropped out of the “ex-gay” movement because their own same-sex orientation never changed.  These former leaders now include John Paulk, John Smid, Jeremy Marks, Ann Phillips, Peterson Toscano, Anthony Venn-Brown, Alex Haiken, Roger Grindstaff, Michael Bussee, Gary Cooper, Jim Kasper, Rick Notch, Ed Hurst, Jeff Ford, Greg Reid, Guy Charles, John Evans and many more.

Anne Paulk is not pleased with Exodus’ admission of failure and apology.  She and husband, John, who’s apologized for the harm he caused through his years of “ex-gay” advocacy, are divorcing after 21 years of an “ex-gay” marriage.  But she’s now in a new “ex-gay” group endorsed by the Religious Right’s Janet Parshall, talk show host Georgene Rice, “reparative” therapist Joseph Nicolosi, seminary professor Robert Gagnon and Matt Barber and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.
     Recently, Bethany Monk, on Focus on the Family’s online “CitizenLink” interview, asked Paulk about her newest “ex-gay” effort.  Monk referred to the closing down of Exodus and criticized the national media’s spin.  She said it “left out” testimonies of those who [contrary to Exodus’ own apology and admission of failure] “found hope and transformation out of homosexuality.” But, Monk left out mention of Paulk’s divorce. Read more →

RECORD: Summer 2013

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John Paulk admits: “I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.”  This former head of Focus on the Family’s “ex-gay” program, former Exodus board president and 1998 Newsweek cover story (with his “ex-lesbian” wife) has, in April, issued an official apology for his part in all the deception and harm of the “ex-gay” movement.  He admits that his same-sex orientation never changed.  He acknowledges that the marriage that he and his “ex-lesbian” wife contracted “is in the process of ending.”  They have three children.
   “From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness.”  He expresses concern that, “there are still accounts of my ‘ex-gay’ testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote”, and says, “I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my ‘ex-gay’ story.”
     For decades, ex-‘ex-gay’ leaders have been apologizing for the harm they did in Jesus’ name.  Where are any apologies from Rightwing preachers, media and counselors who pushed them into the ‘ex-gay’ hoax?  Where are any apologies from co-conspirators at Christianity Today, Charisma and World magazines, the American Family Association, Focus on the Family and other agencies of deceit and cover-up? Even after he was found in a Washington gay bar in 2000, while in town for his Focus on the Family speaking engagement, Focus spokeswoman Julie Niels insisted that, “the reality is that John has 1,000% left homosexuality.”

Ralph Blair’s review of Paulk’s 1998 “ex-gay” book, Not Afraid to Change: The Remarkable Story of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality, can be read in EC’s Review, Fall 1998 (available here). Read more →

RECORD: Spring 2013

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The 100th person to keynote an EC summer retreat will be Shari Johnson.  She’s the author of Above All Things: The Journey of an Evangelical Christian Mother & Her Gay Daughter.  Johnson is president of P-FLAG in Odessa, Texas.  The 101st person to be an EC keynoter will be Jared Porter of the Bob Jones University GLBT alumni group.  His BJU degrees are in church music and drama production.  He’s the great grandson of Fundamentalist evangelist Ford Porter.  EC founder Ralph Blair will also keynote.
   ConnECtion2013, EC’s 71st, will take place at the Lodge at Kirkridge, the Appalachian mountaintop site of EC’s eastern summer retreats since 1980.  Dates are May 31 – June 2.

EC held our 26th annual winter Bible study weekend in February.  EC folk gathered around the Kirkridge lodge’s roaring fireplace and studied Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

EC’s 2013 Preaching Festival at Ocean Grove, NJ will be October 11 – 13.  The event will honor bicentennials of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Soren Kierkegaard, David Livingstone and Jemima Luke.  Ralph Blair will give the annual history lecture as well as three sermons during Ocean Grove’s Harvest Festival weekend.

Read more →

RECORD: Winter 2013

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On November 6, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington legalized same-sex marriage and Minnesotans voted down a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.  Six states (New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa and New York as well as D.C.) had already legalized same-sex marriage. Thirty-two states have voted to restrict legal marriage to heterosexual couples only.

“I Still Stand as an Evangelical for Gay Marriage”, Jared Byas says.  Yet, “I get it,” he tells his fellow evangelicals who lobby and vote against the legalization of same-sex marriage. “You aren’t out to oppress anyone, hate anyone.”  Still: “My faith requires that I stand up for equality and with people who do not enjoy the same rights that I do.”  This heterosexual young man, married and dad to three, writes: “I know it’s hard to grasp, but this matter has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin.”  He points out that, “there are lots of things that Christians consider ‘sinful’ that they do not legislate against.”  Moreover: “Paul seems to make it very clear that Christians have absolutely no place to judge the behavior of non-Christians.” (I Cor 5:12)  Byas laments that “evangelicals are very good at making sure people who are not Christians know that they are ‘breaking the rules’ of Christianity.  And as such, we have gained the reputation for being judgmental, a moniker well-deserved for the most part.”
A graduate of Westminster Seminary, Byas teaches philosophy at Grand Canyon University.  With biblical scholar Peter Enns, he’s co-authored Genesis for Normal People.  Another of his essays, “The Gay Checklist” is at www.jbyas.com.

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Fall 2012

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Longtime “ex-gay” leader John Smid says he’s never seen sexual orientation change through all his 22 years in the “ex-gay” movement.  He’s written a book, Ex’d Out, about coming to this public acknowledgement.  EC’s founder, psychotherapist Ralph Blair, endorses it: “However well-intended, the ‘ex-gay’ efforts of the past four decades were always as ill-conceived, ineffective and counterproductive as were all those bygone secular efforts at sexual orientation change.  Now, after years of entrapment in and endorsement of ‘ex-gay’ promises, John Smid tells of the painful desperation and disillusionment that drove him deeper into the Good News of God’s grace and peace. Christians who continue to misunderstand and misadvise on gay issues need to take his hard-won testimony seriously.”

“Alan Astray?” This is World magazine’s follow-up on Alan Chambers, head of Exodus and World’s “Daniel of the Year” in 2011.  He’s now blunt: Homosexuals don’t change their orientation!  Read more →

Summer 2012

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“So great to learn that God is saving people in gay Christian circles.  I guess I have felt, along with many evangelicals, that once someone drops the traditional view of homosexuality, eventually all the other dominos will fall and the result will be some kind of vacuous liberalism or secular humanism.  From our latest correspondence, that would seem not to be the case.  I don’t understand God’s way of working, but what else is new?”  This is an emailed response from a prominent conservative evangelical theologian after he heard a firsthand report on the 2012 summer retreat of Evangelicals Concerned. Read more →

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