Formerly gay activist David Bennett, who gave his life to Christ and vowed to live a life of celibacy, has spoken out about a new ministry which seeks to “heal” people from homosexuality.
Well-known California-based church Bethel has been promoting a ministry called “Changed,” which describes itself as a “community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+ and through encounters with the love of Jesus, have experienced His freedom in their lives.”
Much of the ministry’s emphasis, however, is on the idea of being spiritually healed from a particular orientation. This is something that many believe is not aligned with the reality of same-sex attraction and which leaves people with questions like, “What happens to people who pray about it yet are still same-sex attracted? Do they have a place in Christian community?”
Bennett, the author of “A War of Loves,” responded to the issues of the ministries assertions, noting that while he was “a fan of Bethel,” he wishes the ministry “would be angled differently.”
“I’ve been totally changed by Jesus and born again, but I still experience SSA/am gay in the sense of sexual orientation,” he explained in an Instagram post. “It feels as if this is framed in such a way as to sidestep and not include the testimonies of obedience in celibacy and mixed-orientation marriage of people who still have those attractions, are open about them, feel no shame, have repented from sin and lust but who never chose the particular embodiment the fall and creation gave them.”
David noted that he had personally never met anyone who claimed to be healed from their homosexuality, noting that most “still have same-sex attractions,” privately.
In light of the newly announced ministry, Bennett urged caution on two fronts. Firstly, the Oxford academic warned against the “pseudo-medicalization of sexual orientation as a pathological disease.”
Secondly, he warned against the “denial of the real effects of the fall still on the body,” even if decisions have been made, as in his case, to live celibately.
Bennett urged that, instead of ostracizing those who have not been completely healed of their desires, the church should be “championing those who still experience same-sex attraction, and yet are choosing to trust in Jesus and live a life of celibacy as a result.”
“If we say we are cured or healed from simply having same-sex attraction without testimonies where this isn’t the case but Jesus is followed obediently, we construct a paradigm that risks putting SSA/gay people into a situation that requires hiding a part of reality to be fully accepted in the Church,” Bennett continued. “This risks leading to a hidden culture of shame.”
Instead, the PHD student urged the church to “celebrate our paths of obedience and gifting in celibacy” and the “radical obedience of those who don’t experience any “change” in orientation but who trust Jesus is an opportunity for the Church to be real.”
In response to many of the criticisms leveled at its latest ministry, Bethel posted a video featuring “Changed” founders, Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning, who were both formerly involved in a gay lifestyle.
“A lot of the responses are about how dangerous our message is or how hopeless it makes people feel,” Elizabeth said. “Well, Ken and I have both experienced that hopelessness. And because of that, we are creating a community and environment that says, ‘no, Jesus has hope for you.'”
“We share testimonies not to pummel people with, ‘you need to change,’ but to invite people to see that when you experience the love of Jesus, there is a dramatic impact.”
One of Bethel’s pastors, Kris Vallotton, made some strong comments on the video, declaring that the pair was “giving hope to everyone that wants out of the gay lifestyle or is having unwanted sexual attraction.”
“Of course, people that have embraced the gay lifestyle in the name of “ I can’t change” need to discredit you to make themselves feel validated,” he jabbed. “So they build a case against you. But the truth is NOTHING is impossible with God. There is no one He can’t heal!”
You can read our interview with David Bennett here.