(I received this note from a long-time participant of Hope Chapel in late December, 2016. It captures and summarizes several notes with similar critiques of the Sally Gary conference held in November. I have permission to publish this letter, complete with the author’s name, but have withheld it on purpose so as not to draw unnecessary attention away from the letter’s content. –geno)
Per your request, here are my thoughts after our recent conversation about the Sally Gary weekend.
I do thank you for listening to my thoughts and concerns. I did feel like you really heard my thoughts and my heart. I also thought Brett did a good job on his summary of the weekend. I did wonder why this topic and why give it so much attention now?
I attended all the events of the weekend with Sally. I was at Westover Hills Church of Christ of Christ on Friday and at all the Saturday sessions. I have not read her book.
I understand that her biggest point in the weekend was the importance of those in the church keeping the dialogue going with those who deal with same sex attraction, and listening first. I think that is great point and often missed by the church, especially when it comes to this topic. People can jump to judgments too soon and shut people out.
My struggle with the weekend was I felt that there was no real hope presented for healing or change for those who struggle with same sex attraction.
She seemed to be saying that, for those who struggle with same sex attraction, they are basically stuck with it – that will be a struggle all their lives, whether they act out on their feelings or not.
That may be true in her personal experience, and the people she’s had dialogue with, but I don’t think that’s true, from a biblical perspective and from people I’ve known who have had same sex attraction and have found more healing and help than Sally has seen. I know people at Hope who have commented publicly on their issues that have found significant help and healing. I think stories like these very much need to be added this conversation on gender. (all italics are the author’s –geno)
There was a quote mentioned from her book, which I don’t have exactly, but the gist was that she had a hard time telling a young man he would have to live alone and celibate all his life if he was to follow Christ, because he had same sex attraction and that was his best option.
That seems incredibly depressing to me because that story conveys that there is no hope for God’s healing, or hope for godly transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit. God says, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NKJV)
If all things have the possibility of becoming new, why doesn’t this apply to something as intimate and important and deep as our sense of gender?
We have a new, growing and maturing identity of those hidden in Christ. At one point, Paul says: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28 (NKJV)
In one very real sense, God transcends gender and race. So it seems reasonable as those of us in Christ, that our sense of gender can be transformed as much as anything else.
In her talk on Sunday morning, Sally said something like this. “Of course God has power to do anything. God could take away my feelings. He could raise my mother who’s been dead for several years right now. God has the power to do that. I believe that.” But using that wording and situation as an example, is basically saying, that “I believe in theory that of course, God is all powerful, but in reality, it would border on being silly or preposterous to expect God to really do something like that because who has ever seen God do anything like that?” This kind of example basically ends the conversation of what God can actually do or is likely to do.
Using this extreme contrast, the unlikelihood of raising someone from the dead, and saying it’s comparable to God’s power to transform a life, is the problem with the way the weekend ended, in my view. I think Sally’s current viewpoint about healing for those with gender issues, is that God may be able, but He most likely will not act or help, so just suck it up. You’re stuck. That, to me, is a troubling and a nearly hopeless way to view same sex attraction – and is just not true from what God’s Word says about our true identity in Christ and His admonitions for us to always pray and ask.
I understand there is a continuum in the church on faith and healing and what’s possible in terms of the power of the Holy Spirit. I understand that some people in the church believe God can and does heal, and then blame people for too little faith when they don’t experience healing. Or some people may feel like they have to leave the church because they don’t experience healing. That’s wrong. But on the other hand, it’s also wrong for people with bad theology about faith to say ‘don’t pray for healing’ when Jesus does heal. There is a mystery to why some people see healing and some don’t. But it’s a mistake to not pursue healing just because you may be disappointed that healing doesn’t happen the way you think it can happen.
Again, this is where I think there was a lack of hope in Sally’s presentation and it’s mistake to leave the conversation on gender with just this viewpoint. I think there is hope in healing with God. And I think it would be helpful for Hope Chapel to hear stories and testimonies of those who have had a different experience than Sally.
I know that Sally, like all of us, is still on her journey. She seems to be at peace with God and herself where she is on that journey. But I think there is room for all of us to grow in understanding of our new identity in Christ. I appreciate Sally’s compassion and admonition for us to really listen and engage without a condemning attitude to those who struggle with gender. But I also think it does a great disservice to God’s ability to transform us to leave this conversation without the stories of others.
In summary, I think it would be good to hear from others from Hope Chapel to share how they have experienced healing in this particular issue. And really, I think we should have a series of talks on the larger issue of our identity of who we are in Christ and the power of grace. I think people who struggle with various addictions especially need more input about the power of God to transform. I think God is not focused so much on what’s wrong with us, but what’s missing and the possibilities of being transformed and renewed (Romans 12:1-2). I think we have a lot of room to grow in our understanding of our very real union with Christ and Christ in us.