Please now welcome CHRIS YINGER – recent graduate from a leading Pentecostal Bible College. Chris, along with several students, produced a class project DVD entitled “HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE PENTECOSTAL CHURCH” posing two questions;
Has the Pentecostal Church’s response to the Gay and lesbian Community been appropriate? and Does the Pentecostal Church need to re-think its position on homosexuality?I guess tonight I represent the other side…the friends and family who only see a behaviour or ‘issue,’ rather than a person…the church members who only see a sin, rather than an identity/orientation…so my journey, instead of being one that seeks acceptance, is one that moves towards acceptance.
For me my views towards homosexuality and the gay community began to change as far back as a few years ago, but the real progress has only happened in the last 6 or so months. I’ve never been a very judgemental person but, having been brought up in the church, I was always taught that homosexuality was wrong and, like most Christians, I took this as truth without doing any further research myself. This all changed when last year, in the final semester of my theology degree at a well-known AOG bible college when I was required for my ethics class to put together a project which basically sought to address the question ‘should the Pentecostal church reconsider their position on homosexuality?’. With a group of about 8, I set out to tackle this question, having no idea the journey that I was about to embark on.
Initially, I think we all felt that yes, the church has certainly mistreated the gay community, however we still were all pretty convinced that homosexuality was wrong, and were unsure how to resolve the tension there. As we looked into it further though, reading and researching for ourselves (including extensive study of the related scriptures), we began to realize that the issue of homosexuality is WAY more grey than we’d ever been taught; where we thought there were defined lines we instead found endless unanswered questions.
All of this was massive in changing our views, but the turning point, especially for me, was meeting Anthony (who we interviewed for our project). It’s so easy to have all this theory and opinion, but when you actually meet a real person, all of that goes out the window. Here was this man, gay, but also a Christian, two things we were taught could never go hand-in-hand…and he seemed so content, so happy with his life and at peace with himself. It totally shattered the judgemental boxes I had put the gay community in, and I left my initial meeting with him with a grieving heart. I knew that homosexuals had suffered much at the hands of the church, but it was only when I met Anthony and heard his story first hand that the reality of this really sunk in.
From then, I knew that, with integrity, I could not keep quiet about the way the church has mistreated the gay community. Being a Christian is about loving people and fighting injustice, and in today’s culture, in my everyday world, I can hardly find more injustice than that which is being experienced by homosexuals everyday. Thus, I feel it’s my duty to do something about it. For me, this doesn’t necessarily mean being something like an activist for gay rights…it more means that I no longer distinguish between gay or straight…I recognize that we are all just people in need of God’s (and each other’s) love and acceptance. And I’m happy to now be a part of a church that feels the same. So where that will take me, I’m not sure, but I know that the heart of God is for (NOT against) the gay community, and I will do my best to represent that when and where I can…
Field Worker for Hope Street Baptist Darlinghurst.