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Church helps set gay captives free

  • 25 February 2013

Slavery, as depicted in recent films such as Lincoln and Django Unchained, might seem unthinkable to modern audiences. But for centuries, it was the norm. What's more, the worldwide church, due to suspect interpretations of New Testament passages, acquiesced in it. Yet it was Christians like William Wilberforce, leading the movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire, who helped society — and the church — overcome this evil.

Today, millions of gay men and lesbian women in every country, culture and religion of the world are in chains; bound by prejudice, hatred and fear. The Jesus I try to follow said he'd come to set captives free. Yet the church, far from setting gay men and women free, contributes one of the loudest voices to keeping them captive.

I have been a Christian since I was 20. When I was 25, I joined an evangelical church that had as its main ministry a program for 'healing' gays and lesbians. 'Healing' meant to become either celibate or heterosexual.

This program's participants eventually realised they couldn't change their sexuality. And when I talk to them after their involvement with the program, I discover something else didn't change: their desire to follow Jesus. To be Christians. Yet they still remained captives as they struggled to find a church where they could belong.

I attend a small church now, part of a mainstream denomination. I went to church a few Sundays ago and from the pulpit heard the story of how this little church had helped set a gay captive free.

'David' came to Australia as a refugee. His parents raised him in the church, and over time he found faith for himself. He believed God loved him. Around the same time, he started to feel different. He couldn't understand it, he felt lonely and distressed, and it wasn't until his late teens that he realised what his difference meant.

He had no one to talk to about it. And the place he most wanted to talk about it — church — had given him the message since he was a kid that gays could not be Christians. He went from church to church, but kept facing the same message. If he felt comfortable enough to admit he was gay, he was told he could stay, if he changed.

David felt gutted that church wasn't a place he could be himself. He contemplated taking his own life. But he couldn't