Pastors alarmed by Christian leaders' push for Calif. churches to accept homosexuality, transgenderism

California state capitol building on 10th Street and L Street in Sacramento, California, on March 23, 2010.
California state capitol building on 10th Street and L Street in Sacramento, California, on March 23, 2010. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Steven Pavlov)

Update June 29 9:30 AM: In a Friday email to The Christian Post, Kevin Mannoia clarified his support for the resolution, saying: "To clarify, I did not speak on behalf of Azusa Pacific University at the committee hearing. I represented a handful of pastors that have been seeking to change the tone of the conversation. We have not altered our belief in the biblical view on human sexuality and that LGBT is not God’s plan. We are thankful that this non-binding resolution successfully averted the passing of a restrictive law that would have hindered pastoral ministry to people struggling with sexual identity who come to our churches."

Original report: 

Individuals who once identified as gay are speaking out against a resolution in the California Assembly that calls upon pastors and other civic leaders to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism, and condemn "conversion therapy."

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The resolution, ACR-99, Civil Rights: Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people urges counselors, pastors, churches, educators, and others to avoid supporting the historic Christian view of sexual ethics. The measure says such support can result in "disproportionately high" rates of suicide, attempted suicide, and depression among persons who identify as LGBT. The resolution makes a point to condemn in broad terms what is often referred to as conversion therapy, calling the practice, also known as sexual orientation change efforts, "harmful."

Notable among the supporters of the resolution was Kevin Mannoia who is the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals — which represents tens of thousands of churches from many denominations — and the chaplain of Azusa Pacific University.

In a letter expressing "various levels of support" for the measure on behalf of some pastors and church leaders, the APU chaplain wrote that "the call to compassion and caring treatment is consistent with our deep desire to reflect Christ in all we do. Though we start from differing points regarding human sexuality, this call to compassion resonates with the heart of Jesus in relating to everyone."

Last week Mannoia spoke in favor of the resolution in Sacramento, stressing the importance of changing the tone on the subject and the necessity of greater dialogue with those who hold opposing views.

Pastors Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning, both of whom once identified as gay and now co-lead a ministry called Equipped to Love, which is based in Redding, California, spoke to legislators in opposition to the measure. While they expressed appreciation for Mannoia's compassion for LGBT-identified men and women, the content of the resolution and his backing of it is detrimental to many others, they added.

Williams noted in an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday that the resolution and its Christian supporters left him feeling like he no longer has a voice, particularly since a notable leader in the church is now backing it, sending the message "that there should be no place for me or the therapies and church ministries that helped me."

"If there is no resistance to the idea that homosexuality must always be encouraged, then there is no ground for people like me to stand on," Williams said.

He elaborated: "How are people who have certain convictions about sexuality going to be able to get any help? Comments like Mannoia's have completely eroded any notion that there are any people in the Church who believe that homosexuality is not condoned by God, and therefore no redemptive solution. For if even God doesn't oppose it, then there is no transformation possible for a struggling person who does not want to embrace it."

Considerable time in the debate in the hearing over the resolution centered around equality as it pertains to LGBT-identified men and women, which is emphasized in the resolution's summary. Supporters of the resolution are backing the measure as a seeming no-brainer under this rationale, Williams explained, stressing that such framing is unfair.

"Of course we care about equality for people," he added. "I just don't agree that every kind of therapy is torture and is causing [LGBT] people to kill themselves. But now, thanks to [Mannoia], I and people who agree with me are made to look like we are not for equality or that we don't care how other people feel or how gay people feel, which is ridiculous," he said.

"I believe that Mannoia's intent was to do good, but with all due respect, if he's going to be speaking on behalf of LGBT people, please consult those of us who have the personal life experience of transformation and are holding to a traditional interpretation of Scripture before making rulings and signing documents. Because we should have a voice."

CP reached out to Mannoia for comment and will update this piece once a response is received.

In a blog post titled "The [not so] subtle discrimination of ACR-99," Woning maintained that the resolution paints an incomplete picture of the experiences of many people.

"ACR-99 leads Californians to believe LGBT is a unified people group with like-minded values and suggests that the LGBT experience is innate and unchanging," she explained earlier this year.

"However, many of us experience what the American Psychological Association concedes: that sexuality can be fluid. As a result, we find this resolution painfully discriminates against our rights to understand and shape our own sexuality."

ACR-99 was sponsored by Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat, who is both openly gay and who last year was the sponsor of AB 2943, a bill that would have banned therapies and counseling services for individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion. The bill placed such services under the state's consumer fraud statute. Although AB 2943 passed easily through both chambers of the legislature, Low ultimately withdrew the bill before it could be signed into law by Democrat Governor Jerry Brown.

“My intent is still to stamp out conversion therapy, but rather to do it in a more deliberate fashion, enlisting the support of evangelical and faith leaders,” Low said last week, noting that he is seeking "buy-in" from faith groups.

“There are those in the LGBTQ community that say we shouldn’t compromise, but I think this is the best approach to changing hearts and minds.”

Woning added that she and her colleagues were "never invited to the table in any of the discussions regarding this resolution and we represent the most impacted by any ban on counseling because we are pursuing change and are being pursued by others seeking change."

"We desire that a spirit of mutuality would continue to take root in the state of California and are asking that LGBT Pride’s push for equality and respect extend even to us ... so we can continue to freely and openly live out our personal faith and convictions."

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