Associated Baptist Press, Aug. 8, 2003
By Hannah Lodwick, Associated Baptist Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (ABP)–Sy Rogers, an author and speaker who lived as a woman for 18 months, has apologized to Exodus International delegates and members of the homosexual community for “a church that would rather win an argument than a neighbor.”
“Jesus didn’t rail against the Romans. He railed against those who loved the law,” Rogers said. “You who are far from God can be reconnected to him through Christ. Whatever you think of us is OK, (but) he wants you to know him as a father.”
Rogers provided the evening’s keynote address for about 1,000 “ex-gays” and their pastors, counselors and family members who convened in Orlando, Fla., this summer for the largest conference of its kind in the world.
Now in its 28th year, the Exodus conference provides a week of workshops, worship and testimony for homosexuals who have rejected the homosexual lifestyle. The sometimes-controversial organization has more than 135 affiliated ministries in 17 countries.
Now married and a father, Rogers says he was sexually violated as a child and spent years living as a homosexual. As recounted in “One of the Boys: The Sy Rogers Story,” he took hormone replacements in preparation for a sex change but decided against the operation at the last minute.
In his speech, Rogers said it didn’t matter if critics attended the conference to spy or scoff; many Exodus participants started out that way too. Protestors from gay support groups have picketed conferences and disrupted performances in years past.
“We are not your enemies,” Rogers said to any critics in the audience. “We understand that you may not understand. Our message to you is not about change. That’s putting the cart before the horse. This isn’t self-improvement. This is about establishing the lordship of Christ in your life.”
Rogers also addressed parents of homosexuals and people who still struggle with homosexuality. He offered encouragement from the sexual struggles of Rahab, David and Samson. The issue of sin for those biblical characters, he said, proved no threat to a God who provides redemption.
“God has a history of sexual stuff,” Rogers said. “So, if this is new to you, have hope in God for whom this is not.”
Rogers urged individuals who struggle with feelings of shame and guilt about homosexual urges to take hope. Like diabetics who need a doctor to provide insulin, he said, they could get righteousness only from “Dr. Jesus.”
That change would prove a struggle, he warned.
“While I felt dirty, he made me feel clean again and again,” he said to thunderous applause. “But it wasn’t magic deliverance, to be sure. Not ‘one, two, three; now you’re free.'”
But some people bristle at the implication homosexuals need “deliverance” at all.
Laura Montgomery Rutt, director of communications for Soulforce, said even using the term “homosexual lifestyle” misrepresents homosexuals.
“It’s not living a lifestyle,” she said. “I have a gay brother, and he goes to work every morning just like I do. It (homosexuality) is morally equivalent to being left-handed.”
Soulforce’s mission statement says it is “an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.” The group frequently pickets Southern Baptist Convention meetings.
Soulforce leaders say the problem with Exodus is its approach.
“The problem lies in expecting other people to follow the same path,” Montgomery Rutt said. “It is not a valid path for everyone. Many people have struggled in ex-gay ministries.”
Rogers apparently has heard that argument before. “Whatever skepticism you may have, I understand,” he told the Orlando audience. “But as things change, the impossible becomes the possible.”