Throughout the history of Adventism there has been a deafening silence regarding homosexuality. How do I know? Because I lived through it. I grew up in the sixties and seventies; people pointed at me and whispered within the walls of the church. Why were they looking at me? Why were they whispering? Why did I appear to them as a leper? When reading my Bible at about age thirteen, I began to find references to homosexuality. I began to feel like the Bible was talking about me. It painted my symptoms as a pathway to eternal damnation and destruction. I remember feeling exasperated and helpless. There was nowhere to turn. We didn’t dare speak of homosexuality. It was vile and disgusting. If it was so vile and disgusting, why did I have these strong feelings?
Pastors, teachers and counselors seemed clueless. They only suggested ways of trying to get me to become more masculine. This was the one sin for which there seemed to be no solution. No one spoke of it unless they were taking their finger and randomly flailing it about with power in their voice (so that no one would suspect the speaker), insisting on the destruction of such sinners, without so much as a tender call from a compassionate Savior. Seminary just skipped right over any concentration on this. Pastors seemed clueless about the enemy’s deceptive lies introduced through feelings. The enemy held us mute while he built an empire of people enslaved to a seemingly unspeakable sin. The enemy convinced believers that even temptations were equal to committing the sin itself.
At eighteen, I couldn’t take it anymore. I came out. I declared my same-sex feelings as truth and ran from God and the church. I told God He had made a mistake and certainly, come judgment day, I would provide Him with a convincing explanation as to why I couldn’t do things His way. And for nearly forty years I immersed myself with those like myself who had been declared the pariahs of the earth. This satisfied Satan to no end.
After nearly forty years—and the loss of all of my gay friends to AIDS—I had an unexpected, but vivid encounter with Jesus Christ. It was at a moment when I humbly sat and considered my destiny. It hit me like a bolt of lightning, and “it” was the Holy Spirit. “Wayne, you don’t have the right to blame me for your confusion, your same-sex feelings. You can’t insist that I made you this way; an enemy has done this (Mat. 13:24-30). The only two people I created were Adam and Eve, and they were perfect (Gen. 1:31). You don’t really know me Wayne. I’ve extended myself to you, but you haven’t searched me. You haven’t been listening. You were born with a fallen nature” (Psalm 51:5; Gen. 8:21).
All of the sudden I was struck with the clarity of the presence of evil, and what evil had wrought over time. My subjective feelings had become my truth, only it was not truth. The enemy had insinuated his lies through the desires of my flesh. Our feelings are not truth (Jer. 17:9); rather, God's Word is truth (John 17:17). God has provided us with a wealth of promises and instructions to deny self and live for Him, not for the enemy (Luke 9:23; Mat. 16:24). My mind was racing with the clarity He revealed. My heart broke as I saw how He had preserved me through all my insistence over the years that I was gay and therefore had to live as a gay man, just as my feelings insisted.
Unfortunately, the silence on homosexuality continues in many churches. Satan uses the silence to whisper lies to believers, and those who have neglected to immerse themselves in a deep study of God’s Word receive those lies and believe them. Today we are reaping the results. Satan is laying hold of multitudes, which brings me to the sad case of Jonathan Henderson. In his presentation, “Adam and Steve,” in front of impressionable students during Week of Prayer, he makes a number of declarations. It’s almost as though he’s in a fist fight with God’s Word insisting on a new and different “truth.” He mocks those who believe in God’s written Word, mocks God, and mocks the sanctity of marriage.
Henderson opens the presentation admitting he is not qualified to speak on this topic from personal experience, and that we need to hear from those who have walked this journey. Indeed! Yet in this moment of truth he forges beyond his qualifications. He fails to add that we need to hear from those who have walked this journey and have come to surrender to and abide in Christ, redeemed and living in agreement with Him rather than those who are tearing God down and insisting that He’ll see things our way.
Henderson is keenly aware that homosexuals have been wronged in the church by church members. Many have preached God’s wrath without hope of redemption, with no balancing message of the matchless love and grace of Christ. It is not right. It is inexcusable. Tender souls have been bruised and wounded. Naturally, there is sympathy for the victims of hatred, ostracism, bullying and humiliation. The sympathy we rightly feel must never be allowed to become Satan's tool to gain control of preachers, pastors, family and friends. Satan is relentless in insisting that because someone feels same-sex attraction they are entitled to conduct their life contrary to God’s direction. But Scripture says otherwise (1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10).
There is a need for humility before the Word of God. Our knowledge does not equate to God's knowledge (Isa. 55:8-9). And the sharing of His gospel will always agree with His Word. We don’t just arrive at some new gospel (Gal. 1:8-9: 2 Cor. 11:3-4). God’s character has not changed (Mal. 3:6). God’s request of us remains obedience, out of love for Him (John 14:15). But you will not fall in love with Him if you don’t spend time with Him and allow Him to change you (2 Cor. 3:18).
Henderson’s views and teachings are not worthy of being publicly heard. They are blasphemous and flawed, inserting a non-biblical assumption of sex between Jonathan and David. They are not worthy because they mock the believer who is continually seeking Christ. They lack God’s invitation to the practicing homosexual to repent and surrender, and thus be included among the redeemed, washed, and sanctified “such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Should we stop “clobbering with truth”? Yes, but we should love with truth, and Christian love includes inviting the sinner to repent and accept the salvation available to all at the cross of Christ, and never does Henderson affirm this.
Oh what I would have given to come to know intimacy with Jesus in my youth instead of intimacy with my feelings that led me to disgrace myself and my Savior! I needed a practical working knowledge of the Word. I needed to know Jesus. He has not hidden these important truths and His love from us. We’ve skipped over them. We’re so busy soaking up the pleasures of the world that many have lost sight of Jesus and His plan for us. Brothers and sisters, be shaken and awaken! There is a sifting taking place. Won’t you invite the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you to hide His Word in your heart? This is the promise to be victorious over sin.
Henderson says much about God “calling audibles,” lowering His standards because of human demands. Yes, at Israel's insistence God gave them a king, but what a result! God allows human freedom, and sometimes gives people what they ask for, but they reap the consequences of departing from God's design, some in this life and some on judgment day (Gal. 6:7). Our Savior is sovereign (1 Cor.15:27; Eph. 1:22). Life on this earth for a Christian is not smooth sailing (John 16:33), but a commission to live apart from the world, distinctly different from the world (Rom. 12:2; John 17:14-15). We are redeemed by the blood of Christ from our sin, not in it (Rom. 6:1-2; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:4).
At the point of my conversion and life in Christ as a new Creature, I began to hear some in leadership proclaim to be an authority on homosexuality, almost as though they wanted to be part of the current action, but without the experience to back their proclamations. Many want to implement their ideas and courses of action without even checking to see if they agree with God’s Word. Stop! After a hundred and fifty years of silence on homosexuality, not everyone has suddenly been infused with some new light that is the instant solution. Consider for a moment who you are listening to. What is their experience? Have they lived as a gay person? Have they experienced same-sex attraction? Do their teaching and recommendations agree with God’s Word? Have they just chosen to have something to say because it’s suddenly popular to have something to say? It’s so important to evaluate whether something is being said with good intention, credibility and always pointing back to God’s Word as the final authority.
As the Word instructs, test the prophets (1 John 4:1). To the listener, don’t just take someone’s word. Don’t just agree with Wayne Blakely or Jonathan Henderson or a film like “Seventh Gay Adventists” that you’ve seen and wept over. Weeping doesn’t make the sin permissible. Weep like Jesus does when He sees His precious children making up their own truths instead of abiding in His truth.
Henderson made his most valuable and redemptive point in the first five minutes of His presentation: Listen to someone who has been on this journey who thought there was no way out, someone who suffered pain, alienation, ridicule and bullying. Listen to the heartbreaking story that ends in glory and redemption. Surrender. Not culture. If you’re living in Adventism strictly for culture, you’ll never see more than this side of Heaven. Jesus doesn’t want your culture. He wants your heart. He wants your obedience.
Today I share my testimony around this world, because God gave it to me and it agrees with His Word. The power of His Word is in me today, because He redeemed me. I share it not to convince you that I’m right, but because I want to challenge you to surrender anything that is anchoring you to an identity in this world instead of an identity in Jesus where there is comfort, love, joy and a “safe place” far safer than a chaplain's office where someone is content to hear you declare that there’s no way out. Jesus has answers for your pain and your struggle.
I will close with my recommendation for Jonathan Henderson. Return to the Word of God and study it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that humbles us to agree with God’s ways, truths and redemptive love. To leadership I say: under prayer, compassion, tenderness, and tears, remove this man from regurgitating rebellion and compromise of God’s Holy Word. God’s young ambassadors need to be armed with a love of the truth that has not changed since the beginning of time. Christianity is not simply a belief system, it is not just a set of propositional truths. Christianity is about choosing to live Godly lives for Christ as a result of a love relationship with Him. It is a combination of divine power and human effort. Surrender is our part.