Ministering to Homosexuals in San Francisco

Charles A. McIlhenny

Extracted from Ordained Servant vol. 6, no. 1 (January 1997)

A mother tearfully confided in me as pastor that her son poignantly declared himself “gay.” She had always “known” that he was different. He didn’t play sports, he wasn’t vicious or brutal, he liked music and interior decorating, he had a slight swagger to his gait, he spoke with a faint hair-lisp, and always hung around Uncle Harry at family gatherings. His declaration, however, seemed to be the “coup de grace” on their relationship - his relationship to his mother. I momentarily reflected on her sobbing, and then replied that it seemed like she was grieving over the discovery that her son was a from another planet—a Martian! That his supposed “coming out”—his confessing a newly discovered faith-sex-condition—put him beyond the pale of her fundamentalist retrieval and that she’d better get used to him being an alien, i. e., gay!

The homosexual propaganda machine has been cranking out overtime, to an unbelieving secular media, convincing people that “gay” is equivalent to any other already legitimate genetic race-like group. And amazingly many naive Christians have been seduced by such propaganda.

News Flash, Madam! Your son is NOT a Martian. He’s a sinner that needs the grace of God—JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER SINNER.

When people ask me if we have any special counseling for homosexuals I say yes: the counsel of the Word of God, the counsel of the preaching of the Gospel, the counsel of God’s call of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the counsel of God’s corporate covenant community in worship. Contrary to the gimmicks of the world, you’d better believe we have something special.

Is the modern homosexual a special case with unique and complex psychoses which the primitive Scriptures never knew? Have we imbibed the pseudo-medical conclusion which places the 20th century homophile beyond the reach of the naive, hysterical dictates of the Word of God? Does the Word of God fail to recognize newly discovered genetic and biological factors to which, had they been known, would have made a difference in whether to condemn or accept homosexuals as just different? Does the Bible fail to appropriately distinguish between orientation and praxis? Does the Bible really condemn homosexuals or does it condemn heterosexuals acting contrary to their natures? Is it inversion or perversion which is forbidden by the Scriptures? The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO! Homosexuals have no place to hide from the scrutiny of God’s Law—no more than any other sinner who tries to invent excuses for his sin. That’s why the homosexual paradigm is so crucial for the church today. If this sin can be justified, then ANY sin can be excused; but the only justification recognized by the Word is that of sinners who repent and believe in the cross of Christ, instead of making excuses.

No, homosexuals are to be recieve no special method or message different from other sinners that need Jesus. If that were the case every sinner would have a special excuse for his peculiar type sin. The Bible is clear that sin, of whatever make and model, can only be forgiven by grace and overcome by the power of the gospel.

News flash! The opposite of a homosexual IS NOT a heterosexual. The idea that a homosexual is of another human kind is as foolish as saying the opposite of a paedophile is a heterosexual, or the opposite of an adulterer is a heterosexual. The true opposite of fornication is regeneration; the biblical opposite of paedophilia is justification; the cleansed opposite of homosexuality is sanctification. They ARE all heterosexuals! They haven’t stopped BEING heterosexuals. They have all broken God’s moral law. They all need to be converted -” to be washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” [1 Cor. 6: 11]

In a sense every sinner is different in his sin but there is only ONE common faith-message: repent and believe the gospel. Paul told the Philippian jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” [Acts 16: 31] This was not tailor-made for Philippian government workers or European white/ male or Greek mid-life crises jailers with families. Paul would have said this to anyone no matter what his background or circumstance of sin would be.

Many of the homosexuality-plagued seekers think that they must be a special case. It’s supposedly too hard to give up this sin; ergo, maybe it’s not sin after all! These people must see that it is no more difficult to abandon this sin than any other sin. That this sin has the same cleansing promise as every other sin—no more and no less than the work of Christ.

Paul does say that, compared to other sins, sexual sin denigrates the human body; but he doesn’t give them a different message of the gospel, nor promise a separate healing. [1 Cor. 6: 18]

One size fits all.

As for the homosexual’s recovery the Apostle gives him the one common holy institution for all sinners: the divinely appointed redemptive agency of the Church of Jesus Christ. I say that as a pastor who knows from the Word of God that this is the covenant institution—the family of God—which best cares for sinners and saints. She cares for sinners in warning them to flee from the wrath to come forbidding them entrance into the Kingdom of God while unrepentant; and for saints, in that it provides the comfort of the gospel of the forgiveness of sins and protection against the enemy. This institution sets the overall context for counseling those struggling with homosexuality.

San Francisco culture has a uniqueness when it comes to ministering to homosexuals. In the first place, there is such a strong support system legally organized to reinforce homosexual way of life that part of the biblical therapy process many times demands fleeing this City altogether. There is such a bombardment of homosexuality—at every level of government, education, medical/health, scientific, media, entertainment and legislation—that in order to forsake wickedness as the Apostle exhorts, one must actually flee the City like Lot of old—not because of an impending brimstone shower but because the seduction is so wickedly powerful.

Every imaginable agency, institution, and ombudsman provides for the most perplexed and questioning homosexual and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and transvestite, and transgenerational person. Even worse, virtually every mainline church—loosely defined—supports gay/ lesbian causes along with same-sex marital unions.

Just recently the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, along with the endorsement of the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, hosted a televised hearing for “Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, and Questioning Youth Summit.” Over four hours of testimony was taken from self-proclaimed homosexual teens by these agencies in order to see if added legislation was necessary to support “our gay youth” in the City. New health & medical services were demanded, free condom distribution, free needle for exchanges, gay/lesbian counseling services at the junior high and high school level.

In ministering to the homosexual inquirer, we’ve found that he must cut off all relations with his old “community”; he must reconstitute by faith into the family of God. He needs a whole new set of spiritual brothers and sisters, moms and dads, found in the Church of Christ. He needs a remodeled family in which to pattern new life and conduct; a place where God’s man is a man and God’s woman is really woman; husbands acting like husbands and wives acting like wives. It’s not simply a matter of a “role model” reversal; it’s not replacing one “role” with another “role” as if play acting. A godly structured atmosphere is found only in the church of Jesus Christ that offers real hope and remedy for the enslaved sex addict.

In ministering to the homosexual inquirer not only must the Law of God be pressed upon the conscience but God’s one forgiveness in Christ alone must be also offered. Unless homosexuality be understood fundamentally as sin—transgression of God’s one and only moral Law—no further deliverance and recovery ought to be expected.

Here are fundamental givens based exclusively on the Word of God. Do NOT compromise on the biblical message of sin and grace. That is the repentant homosexual’s only hope. Do NOT compromise for the sake of winning the sympathetic hearing. His eternal security is in the uncompromised message of the Scriptures which every sinner needs.

He needs:

  1. re-enforcement from the Word on what God says about homosexuality: grace, forgiveness and judgment,
  2. regular monitored accountability meetings with the elders; one of the elders should covenant to pray for him daily, (part of that accountability is in regular weekly prayer and Bible study gatherings with the congregation at large),
  3. reminding that the continual faith-struggle with temptation is part of the sanctification process—it’s when he stops struggling that he’s got problems,
  4. reassurance that he’s not alone in this battle for victory; other members—every member—also struggles like he does,
  5. to be careful about putting himself in temptation’s way,
  6. to avoid being introduced to someone else who struggles with the same sexual sin—that’s too much temptation. Many of these Christians live alone and temptation in such cases is much more difficult to resist,
  7. to know that in Christ he/ she is no longer a homosexual or lesbian just like converted murders and liars are no longer such despite temptations and feelings! “Such WERE some of you. . .” [1 Cor. 6: 11]

The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “flee youthful lusts. . . with those calling upon the Lord. . .” [2 Tim. 2: 22] In other words, the exhortation to flee lust is ALONG WITH others struggling against sin in the context of the covenant community. The agency of the church has no hope for unrepentant homosexual only God’s sure wrath. The church has no authority from her Lord and Head to offer any hope apart from the grace of conversion; but for any repentant sinners, all the resources of the eternal God—“. . . my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” [Phil 4: 19]

As pastor I have the sure “medicine” for sin and relief in the preaching of the gospel. The ultimate counseling session must be done in the corporate worship service not merely private sessions; the full extent of the divinely appointed-ordinances of the Lord are necessary to combat and destroy every high thing and thought exalted against the Lord. Families in the church must be made aware of their needed role in ministering to individuals struggling with sin. Yet at the same time a person’s sexual past is really nobody else’s business. A group gathering of like minded repentant homosexuals must not congregate to talk out their mutual trials. Such sessions subtly foster rather than battle temptations. The mixed—heterogeneous—congregation common ground for all is God’s safest sanctuary for biblical “group-therapy.”

Thank God there is this: the one size-fits-all gospel which alone guarantees to all sinners deliverance through our one common Savior, Jesus Christ. As I counsel struggling Christians, if the Christian faith does NOT save you from YOUR sin, then I’ll renounce the faith and join you. If it won’t work equally for you, it won’t work for me either. Whatever peculiar providences may have “caused” one’s moral adversity, unless he begins where Scripture begins, he will not end where Scripture promises—an end to sin.

November 13, 1996

The Rev. Dr. Charles A. McIlhenny is pastor of First Orthodox Presbyterian Church of San Francisco, California. For the past twenty years or so he has dared to boldly proclaim the truth of the Scriptures in America’s most infamous center for the gay and lesbian sub-culture. We would urge all our readers to get and read the book entitled When the Wicked Seize the City, by Rev. McIlhenny and his wife Donna.