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Changes in beliefs about Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals
(GLB) among conservative Christians

Recent examples of change about GLBs
by religious and social conservatives.
Possible future trends.

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Recent examples of change among evangelicals:

  • Leadership of "ex-gay" ministries: Many of the original leaders and founders of "ex-gay" ministries were gays who claimed to be successfully sexually reoriented. They have allegedly dropped out of the movement. These include: 1
    • Mike Bussee (EXIT)
    • Guy Charles (LIBERATION in Jesus Christ)
    • John Evans (Love in Action)
    • Jeffry Ford (Outpost)
    • Roger Grindstaff (aka Roger Dean; Disciples Only)
    • Jim Kasper (EXIT)
    • Rick Notch of (Open Door)
    • Greg Reid (EAGLE)

    Many of their replacements are, and have always been, heterosexual.

  • "Hope 97" tour cancelled: One "ex-gay Evangelical", Michael Johnston, head of Kerusso Ministries promoted the belief that not every homosexual can change their sexual orientation and that those who cannot should pursue celibacy. He conducted a "Hope 97" cross-America tour, starting in 1997-MAR. Interviewed by Echo magazine, he said that when he left the "gay lifestyle", it "was about denying sinful feelings, whether the feelings ever went away or not, denying them and saying I am going to bring my life in accordance with the word of God, regardless of how I feel." Attendance at the tour was so poor that it was canceled after the second stop.

  • 1999: Exodus International promotes celibacy: In 1999-JUL, an Exodus International leader also promoted the change or celibacy approach to homosexual behavior during an interview with the Associated Press. 2

  • 2007: Conference paper: G.R. Moore presented a conference paper in 2007 titled "Political participation and tolerance: American evangelicals in transition." His reported:

    • "Evangelical belief and fundamentalist have been found to decrease tolerance for out-groups" -- such as lesbians and gays.

    • "Using a longitudinal study of the General Social Survey and examining attitudes for homosexuals, I demonstrate that evangelical political involvement is decreasing intolerant attitudes toward this group both over time and among younger Evangelical cohorts."

    • "... Evangelical political involvement is not changing Evangelical attitudes toward homosexuality as a moral issue."

    • "As homosexuality is one of the targeted groups of evangelical political and social movement organizations, this ability to embrace civil liberties while at the same time not increasing acceptance of homosexual morality suggests that a very complicated balancing of moral values and civil norms is taking root in the evangelical tradition. Evangelicals are increasingly willing to accept the civil liberties claims of gays and lesbians while maintaining their historical views of the morality of homosexuality." 3

  • 2008: Focus on the Family issued position statement: "Focus," one of the leading fundamentalist Christian advocacy group placed a statement on their website that denied that most lesbians. gays, bisexuals. and heterosexuals choose their sexual orientation. This separates them from the near consensus of fundamentalist Christians who believe that sexual orientation is chosen by the individual. They wrote:

    "While we do not believe an individual typically 'chooses' his or her same sex-attractions, we do believe that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex sexual temptation can choose to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.

    A likely interpretation of this statement is that persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation cannot eliminate their same-sex attraction. However, if they believe that God hates homosexual behavior, many can learn to control their actions by remaining celibate. 6

  • 2009: Increasing support for same-sex marriage: At the end of 2009, Christianity Today asked a number of evangelical leaders "What was the most significant change in Christianity over the past decade" John Stackhouse,professor of theology at Regent College responded:

    "The rapid collapse of Christian consensus against homosexual marriage in North America, including among evangelicals. This trend opens onto a variety of issues: theological method; the authority (or lack of it) of tradition; the power of the ideas of individualism and self-determination; and the impotence of ecclesiastical authorities and theologians to affect the tide." 4

  • 2010: Failure to change sexual orientation: During 2010-MAR, Jo Hannah Reardon of the Kyria Blog -- an outreach by and to evangelical Christian women -- posted an article titled: "Christians and homosexuals: How should we treat those who are gay." She described how she and her husband Brad met "Norman" a gay man who had been sexually active with men all of his adult life. After he was "saved" he doubted that he could change his sexual orientation, but he knew he could change his behavior and try to become celibate. Norman eventually died of AIDS. 5

    It appears that JoHanna and her husband understood that Norman was powerless to change his sexual orientation but believed that he was able to change his behavior. She concludes that Christians:

    "... are commanded to love. That doesn’t mean we excuse sinful behavior, but it does mean we listen, understand, and sacrifice our own comfort and preconceived ideas to represent Christ well. Through Norman and our relationship with him, I discovered the importance of listening before condemning and of offering the same grace that Christ shows me in spite of all my faults and foibles."

    JoHanna asked for comments on her article. She received dozens. The vast majority firmly held to the belief that same-sex sexual behavior by persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation is a great sin. However, they advocate less judgment and greater stress on allowing God to change behavior by lesbians and gays. Some of those posting carefully differentiate between sexual orientation and sexual behavior; they accept that the former may be fixed but the latter can be changed. Some examples:

    • Bonnie is evangelizing two homosexuals at her college. She commented: "... they are not their Orientation. I have been able to simply place that whole issue in God's hands to deal with as they progress and grow in relationship with Him."

    • Lilac Jules talked about his gay uncle and wrote: "I think that too often today the vast majority of Christians are too quick to judge others and forget entirely about love and grace. How is anyone supposed to see the spirit of Christ in us if all they can see is hate and condemnation."

    • Elizabeth warned about creeping acceptance of same-sex behavior. She wrote: "Many times Christians forget to separate the SIN from the SINNER and in our acceptance of the sinner, we begin to accept the sin. We must be careful to be clear about loving the sinner and hating the sin."

    • Larry discussed his two gay brothers. He wrote that if they decided to get married, that he would treat them and their spouses with love, respect, and friendship. But he would not attend their weddings.

    • Tanya wrote:
      "I think it is prideful of us to be defining a sin by declaring something that 'we' don't do is a sin, while we are not humbly stating what our sin is and that it is equal to that sin which others do. We try to assume God's position of declaring what is sinful and what is not."

      "At this point, homosexuality is not understood in our modern thinking. We do not know what causes some people to have an attraction for those of the same sex while others have an attraction for the opposite sex. I am reminded of the Middle Ages where many things we redefined as sins that we now know were just opposites to the prevailing opinions and understandings of their time. Many were even publicly killed for the stands they took, even on astronomy, medicine,psychology, etc."

      "We must stand only on the proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God and Him crucified as our redemption for all sins. To go farther than that is dangerous and inherently prideful. We must remain humble before Him and others."

      In her Middle Ages reference, she might have been thinking of the heavy bias and persecution of left-handed people.

    • Glenda wrote:
      "Ever since my son was 3 years old he used to ask me if he would wake up as a girl. He didn't like the body he was in. Does that sound like a choice? I love my son and I know that he loves God, He is not dating anyone and seems to be content being abstinent, however he identifies himself as a gay man. He worries that he is going to go to Hell because he knows what the Bible says. ... I do not agree that homosexuality is a choice. My son has felt different since he was a toddler, free of sin. ... Pray for our fallen brothers and sisters but please do don't pass judgment, my son did not decide to be gay, he always felt different and has suffered from depression because he too wants to know, why me?"
    • Lois wrote:

      "Oh boy, this is killing me. I'm apparently one of the few [conservative] Christians that does NOT believe homosexuality is a sin, but rather a biological entity which one does not have control over. Therefore, it is as natural as heterosexuality and should be treated as such. You don't 'pray' your way out of homosexuality, just as you don't 'pray' for blue eyes and then receive them. There is entirely too much ignorance about this topic in the Christian world. [This was] one more reason [why] I got away from the Catholic church and went running the other way toward a worldview which was more more educated and tolerant of diversity." 5

  • 2010-AUG: Increasing support for same-sex marriage: A meta study of all of the U.S. polls on same-sex marriage (SSM) showed that support for SSM rose from about 11% in 1988 to 50% in 2010. Meanwhile, opposition to SSM fell from about 73% in 1988 to 50% in 2010. This could not have happened without significant support from fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians.

  • 2010-DEC: Increasing support for openly gay servicemembers: Washington Post joined with ABC to poll American adults about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy of the U.S. Military. That policy was put in place during 1993 during the Clinton administration and allowed lesbians, gays and bisexuals to serve if they kept their sexual orientation secret. A path toward eliminating DADT during 2011 was implemented when President Obama signed a bill into law on 2010-DEC-22 that would allow lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to openly serve in the military. The poll showed that 86% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans, 74% of Independents, 70% of white evangelicals and 84% of NOTAS (None of the above/persons with no religious affiliation) support an end to the DADT policy.

  • 2011-JUN-19: NY: Senate passes bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State: Four Republican senators voted in favor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State. The bill would not have passed the Senate without their help. Governor Como (D) signed the bill into law on JUN-24. Loving committed same-sex couples were able to obtain marriage licenses on JUL-24. More details.

  • 2012-JUN-28: DC: The first Republican State committee favors legalization of same-sex marriage: The District of Columbia Republican Committee became the first GOP state party to break with tradition and add language to their platform that promotes same-sex marriage. This could not have been accomplished without the support of significant numbers of Republican evangelicals. The plank reads:

    "We, the Republicans of the District of Columbia support the belief that all individuals, without regard to sexual orientation, are entitled to full and equal protection under the laws and the Constitution and that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect." More details.

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Possible long-term trends:

As knowledge of sexual orientation increases, we expect that a consensus will form similar to Glendale's -- that adult sexual orientation is unchangeable, and that only bisexuals can choose to direct their sexual activity to either men or women. Hopefully, the ministries which offer conversion therapy and therapists who offer reparative therapy will eventually drop their attempts to convert people's sexual orientation. They will probably begin to focus on convincing homosexuals that God wishes them to abstain from all sexual activity, and to live a life of loneliness without experiencing a loving, committed relationship.

This will be a painful transition for conservative Christians. Much of their recent activity to deny equal rights for gays and lesbians has been based upon the core belief that a homosexual orientation is a chosen and is reversible. They have feared that any reduction in discrimination against gays and lesbians would persuade more heterosexuals to decide to become gay or lesbian. As they gradually acknowledge that sexual orientation is not something that one can "catch," the theoretical justification for many of their discriminatory actions should evaporate.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Open Hands" (Vol. 2, Number 2, 1986-FALL) Available at http://abacus.oxy.edu/
  2. "Christian Ex-gay ministry hosts Chicago conference,"Charisma. Online at Maranatha Christian Journal, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/ 
  3. Robert G Moore, " Political Participation and Tolerance: American Evangelicals in Transition," 2007-APR, All Academic Research, at: http://www.allacademic.com/
  4. "Under discussion," Christianity Today, 2009-DEC-23, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com
  5. Jo Hannah Reardon, "Christians and Homosexuals: How should we treat those who are gay?," Kyria Blog, 2010-MAR-17, at: http://blog.kyria.com/
  6. "Our position (Same-sex counseling)," Focus on the Family, 2008, at: http://www.focusonthefamily.com

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Copyright © 2010 to 2012 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-MAR-21
Latest update and review: 2012-SEP-13
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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