How Can Evangelicals Minister to Gays?

Gene B. Chase

Suppose you want to translate the Bible for a third-world people group so that they can come to God in faith through Jesus Christ. You expect that their language, their customs, and their beliefs will be different from yours. You begin by listening, so that you can learn the culture, better to relate Jesus to the people. You are prepared to make cultural mistakes, so you learn to laugh at yourself. You expect to feel uncomfortable as you see practices that seem to violate the best ethic of the New Testament: perhaps polygamy, or ritual disfigurement, or disrespect of elders. You listen for the cultural equivalents of hospitality, adoption, heaven, health, and a thousand other things that the Bible commends but whose cultural representations will be unfamiliar to you.

Most importantly, you will want to continue a love relationship with Jesus Christ. Love is a universal language, welcome in any culture. Love is the hallmark of a Christian. The Bible should first be translated into "living letters" that are "read by everyone." [2 Cor 3:2]

But what if you wanted to minister to gays at Cornell University?

I submit that this too is a cross-cultural experience for Evangelicals today, and that the way to minister is the same. Listen. Make mistakes. Feel uncomfortable. Find cultural equivalents. Avoid language that is misunderstood in ever-changing gay culture. In short, love.

About twenty years ago when I finished my Ph.D. at Cornell there was one gay group on campus. Now there are over fourteen groups, a gay studies program, the world's largest collection of gay literature (including pornography), and the support of a majority of Cornell culture.

What is an Evangelical Christian response to this?

Exodus International is a coalition of Evangelical organizations that minister to gays in love without approving gay behavior. Since 1986, I've been the director of Free, the Harrisburg, PA, chapter. We have offered weekly support groups for gays, and my wife Emily has run a support group for wives of gay men. We have a tape lending library. I do individual lay consultation. (I didn't say "counseling" because I'm a professional mathematician, not a professional counselor.) I speak in churches and on college campuses. I have written professionally on the topic of homosexuality from an Evangelical perspective. I'm the webmaster for Exodus International. During my sabbatical at Cornell this year, I hope to do some of these same things at Cornell.

You can help. Pray. Encourage Emily and me. Ask questions, so as to be a better minister yourself. Ask for a helpful article I wrote to give to a Christian wanting to overcome homosexuality. I want to draw your attention to two web sites if you surf the internet: At the Exodus home page you will find dozens of articles, testimonies, apologetic material, and a book-ordering service. Bridges Across is a project in which I disagree in love with gays.

Let's translate the Good News, by our lives and by our words, into the language of those who seem to be distant from it. Proverbs 16:7 says, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him." Let's not regard gays as an enemy in a cultural war. Let's regard them as men and women whom Jesus loves.

Gene Chase
chase AT messiah DOT edu
[607-273-2906 no longer correct telephone]