14. Pastoral Care and Healing for Homosexuality by Mario Bergner
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Tue Jul 16 02:15:01 EDT 2002
Pastoral Care and Healing For Homosexuality
By Rev. Mario Bergner
Our most commonly asked question at Redeemed Life Ministries is, "How
can I help someone who is struggling with homosexuality?" My first
response is to ask a few questions, "Is the person struggling a
Christian? Has he or she been baptized, regenerated and converted in
Jesus Christ?" If the answer is, "No, they are not a Christian," then,
the primary need is not to address their homosexuality, but to
introduce them to the Great Physician Himself, Jesus. The message of
the Gospel is not, " Jesus loves you and wants to change your
homosexuality." It is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not
perish but have eternal life." If available, I suggest they attend the
nearest Alpha course or I evangelize them myself. If the answer is,
"Yes, they are a Christian," then I ask, "Do they want to change their
homosexuality?" They may have wanted to change their homosexuality,
but searched for help, found none and lost hope. Others may want to
change their homosexuality, but have not bothered looking for help
because they did not know such help is available. Still, others do not
want to change their homosexuality and believe they can marry
immorality with Christianity.
Various Factors Influence Change From Homosexuality
When someone decides they want to change their homosexuality and comes
to us for help, we look at various factors that may influence their
healing process. First, we try to ascertain the unique construction of
their same-sex attractions. There are various forms of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is not a singular condition shared by all people with
same-sex attraction. It is better to think about homosexuality in the
plural, homosexualities. Therefore, for each person seeking change we
try understand the particulars of their personal struggle. Are they
over-identified with the other sex? Are they under-identified with the
same sex? Have they been abused? Second, we take into consideration
four aspects of the person's immediate life situation.
Have they crossed the boundary into immoral sexual behavior? If yes,
they need to process past homosexual activity as well as rebuild their
moral boundaries through repentance and forgiveness. If no, they will
not have the added issue of processing past homosexual experiences and
rebuilding moral boundaries.
What is their age? For example, if someone comes for help by their
early twenties, they seem to progress quicker into heterosexual
relating. One reason for this may be that puberty, on an emotional
level, seems to extend into the early twenties. Sexual identity
formation is more pliable during puberty and is therefore more easily
redirected. However, we see people come free from homosexuality from
Are they part of a supportive local parish? Not everyone in the parish
need know of a person's struggle. But, Christian fellowship and a
shared common life are central for anyone seeking healing.
Would they benefit from psychiatric or psychological care? Proper
diagnosis and treatment of psychological and psychiatric conditions can
be a critical factor affecting change from homosexuality and other
sexual struggles. Until properly attended to, there may be a
discouraging pattern of reverting into the pleasures of sin to avoid
the suffering related to these untreated conditions.
There are many factors that affect the course of healing from
homosexuality. But ascertaining the unique construction of an
individual's homosexuality and consideration of their immediate life
situation is a good place to start. From there, we attend to other
spiritual and psychological issues related to the person's
Pastoral Care, Science and Psychology
Pastoral care for people overcoming homosexuality can utilize science
and psychology. Recent scientific research indicates homosexuality can
be changed. In May 2001, at the annual meeting of the American
Psychiatric Association, Dr. Robert Spitzer, of Columbia University in
New York City announced the findings of his study of over 200 people
who had successfully overcome homosexuality. In an article posted on
the website for the National Association for the Research and Treatment
of Homosexuality, he is quoted, "Like most psychiatrists, I thought
that homosexual behavior could be resisted, but sexual orientation
could not be changed. I now believe that's untrue. Some people can
and do change." For those who are just embarking on the road to
changing their homosexuality, Dr. Spitzer's study is a great
encouragement. As a caveat, Dr. Spitzer was considered the preeminent
psychiatrist responsible for the 1973 declassification of homosexuality
as a psychological disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
Science has developed medical treatments for psychiatric conditions
that may interlock with homosexuality and other sexual struggles.
These conditions include bi-polar, anxiety, major depression and
substance abuse. For some, treatment through medication coupled with
counseling and pastoral care has provided incredible breakthroughs in
the healing process. But scientific research has not proven
homosexuality to be an innate biological condition. Dr. Jeffery
Satinover's book, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth shows how
the goal of these studies to find a single biological feature to
account for homosexuality such as the "gay gene" is quickly brought
into question by other scientists. Most researchers agree that human
sexual behavior with its many expressions is complex and multiply
determined. They stress that a single biological feature cannot
determine or cause sexual behavior of any sort.
Satinover documents psychologists who treat homosexuality report
success rates ranging from 37% on the low end to 82% on the high end.
Psychological treatments for homosexuality address many of the same
issues. They all begin with a central understanding of sexual identity
formation within the home environment. Then they address fears and
dynamics of relating to members of both sexes. There are numerous
Christian ministries that offer help for those who desire to change
their homosexuality. Most of these ministries utilize psychological
understandings of homosexuality in their pastoral care giving. Exodus
International is a coalition of over a 100 ministries worldwide that
minister to people desiring freedom from homosexuality. Additionally,
many Christians pastoral care givers have written books, developed
programs and offer conferences that benefit men and women overcoming
homosexuality. Rev. Andy Comiskey, author of Pursuing Sexual
Wholenes,s founded Desert Stream Ministries and developed the Living
Waters program. Leanne Payne, author of The Broken Image, founded
Pastoral Care Ministries, and gives weeklong conferences on restoring
personal wholeness through healing prayer. And myself, Mario Bergner,
author of Setting Love In Order, I founded Redeemed Life Ministries
and developed the Redeemed Lives program.
Some of My Journey Out of Homosexuality
My own journey out of homosexuality and into heterosexuality included
addressing both spiritual dynamics and psychological issues.
Spiritually, my healing from homosexuality came as my conversion to
Jesus deepened and I learned to repent of my sin. I first met the love
Jesus at age 6 in the care of Roman Catholic Nuns who lived in my
neighborhood. When I met Jesus personally at age 14 through the
evangelical preaching of Leighton Ford, I was also experiencing the
emergence of homosexual attraction. I searched for help for overcoming
homosexuality, but was unsuccessful. By the time I was eighteen, I
lost all hope of finding help for healing, went to university and
entered into the gay lifestyle in New York City. In my early twenties,
I had several immunity breakdowns and landed in a hospital room in
Boston with the possible diagnosis of AIDS looming over my head. While
on my hospital bed in fear and despair, I prayed to the Lord Jesus. He
appeared to me saying, "I want to heal your whole person, not just your
sexuality. Choose." In response to His initiative, I chose Him. I
recovered fully from my symptoms and was never diagnosed with AIDS and
later tested HIV negative. The turning point in my life came when; a
few months later, I repented of homosexuality and received the
forgiveness of sins. My spiritual healing from homosexuality continued
as I learned to forgive others and resist temptation. I needed to
forgive others for how their sins had negatively shaped me.
Additionally, I had to learn how to suffer like a Christian in order to
resist the temptations to take back homosexual sin. The Lord used
psychological insights to address my lack of affirmation in my identity
as man and fears related to men and women. I came to see how I
misperceived manhood in myself. I grew to accept the unique ways God
has created me to be a man and masculine. Through healthy friendships
with men, I began to accept myself as a man among men. I had to press
through my fear of relating to both men and women. The many godly men
and women I met in my local church showed me a new model for male and
female relationships. Also helpful was the love and acceptance of
fellow students, faculty and staff at Trinity Episcopal School For
Ministry. Of special help was the prayerful counsel of Leanne Payne
and the many Christian leaders who have served on her team. As I
continued growing in the Lord so did my desire for marriage and family.
More importantly, so did my desire for woman. I was abstinent and
chaste for twelve years before I married. In 1996 I married Nancy and
since then we have had four children. Today, my growth into manhood
includes growing as a husband and father. Through His grace and the
loving input of faithful Christians, I have learned of the areas
weakness in my soul that continually requires His healing presence.
Along with St. Paul, I have had to face a thorn my flesh. Although he
asked the Lord to remove it three times, three times the Lord refused
to remove it. Instead the Lord said to St. Paul, "My grace is
sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2
Corinthians 12:9). I may always be weak and vulnerable in my sexuality.
But through His power working in me, I can be obedient.
The Church Can and Has Helped People Overcome Homosexuality
As Jesus' disciples we are to effectively minister to all persons
including those struggling with homosexuality through preaching,
teaching and healing as attested to in Matthew 9:35, "Then Jesus went
through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and
preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and
sickness." Matthew 9:35 is a bridge between the first and second
halves of Matthew's Gospel. The first half is about Jesus teaching,
preaching, and healing. The second half is about Jesus' disciples
teaching, preaching and healing. This three-fold order of teaching,
preaching and healing can be applied to homosexuality. We are to teach
and practice a moral and pastoral theology that upholds the viability
of holy celibacy, abstinence and change for all Christians struggling
with homosexuality. Spiritually, our message needs to state that
homosexuality is but one of the many sins Jesus died to redeem us from.
Psychologically, our message should include that in the majority of
cases homosexuality can be changed. We are to preach the Good News
evangelistically leading to regeneration and deeper conversion in Jesus
Christ. We are to minister healing and sexual redemption in Christ,
not only for homosexuality, but also for all sexual issues through
effective pastoral care. Finally, as Christians we must remember the
Lord has successfully helped people overcome homosexuality since the
days of the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NIV), St. Paul gives a
catalogue list of sins common to the human condition including two
forms of homosexual behavior listed in verse 9, malakoi
translated male prostitutes and arsenokoitai translated
homosexual offenders. But, in 1 Corinthians 9:11 these encouraging
words are given, "And such were some of you, but you were washed, you
were justified, you were sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and
by the Spirit of our God." Notice the use of the past tense, were.
St. Paul is clearly stating that some of the Corinthians came free from
homosexuality by a three-fold process. First, through being washed
(baptismal imagery implying the forgiveness of sins). Second, through
being justified (being declared not guilty of our sin before God
through the atoning work of Christ). Third, through sanctification
(the ongoing gracious work of the Holy Spirit to grow us in holiness).
When properly equipped, we too, can extend the same process of washing,
justification and sanctification to all who desire freedom from
homosexuality. How do we answer our most common question, "How can I
help someone who is struggling with homosexuality?" Make sure they are
regenerated and converted to Jesus Christ. Urge them to integrate into
a supportive local parish. If available, encourage them to participate
in the nearest Living Waters or Redeemed Lives programs. And should
the need arise, lead them to find the help a good psychologist or
psychiatrist can provide. Jesus forgives the sin of homosexuality.
Many psychologists tell us most people can successfully change their
homosexuality. And, with God's grace, we can all live holy lives.
Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Baker,
Dr. W. Byne and Dr. B. Parsons. 1993. Human sexual orientation: the
biological theories reappraised.
Archives of General Psychiatry, 50:228-259.
ibid. p. 186.
Exodus International North America, PO Box 540119, Orlando, Florida 32854.
Andy Comiskey, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness, Creation House, Florida, 1990.
Desert Steam Ministries, PO Box 17635, Anaheim, CA, 92817-7635. Tel.
714.701.1880, Website: www.desertstream.org
Leanne Payne, The Broken Image, Baker, Michigan, 1996. First published by
Crossway Books in 1981.
Pastoral Care Ministries, PO Box 1313, Wheaton, IL 61089. Website:
Mario Bergner, Setting Love In Order, Baker, Michigan, 1995.
Redeemed Life Ministries, PO Box 1211, Wheaton, IL 60189. Tel.
630.668.0661 Fax. 630.668.0730,
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