Finding healing from homosexuality
The very idea that God would heal people of homosexuality is a complete anathema to our culture on multiple levels. It's hard to see this changing in the near future. However it does reflect poorly on media diversity in Australia that the voice of ex-gays tends to be under-reported.
The press needs to simplify complex stories in order to communicate the main issues effectively to readers.
When reporting on homosexuality in the Church, the media tends to achieve this through focusing on the personal stories of homosexuals. Not only does this dovetail with the liberal media's progressive bias, it also helps simplify the debate by using the typical shorthand press technique of the underdog battling the big bad institution.
However, sometimes this technique can distort the reader's understanding of the whole story.
In reporting the Anglican Church's homosexuality listening session at General Synod, the media reported the issue through the eyes of Canberra layman Brian McKinley who lives in a "committed same-sex relationship with another Christian' and claims the "huge cost' of the Anglican Church's stance includes the suicide of young gay men.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr McKinley's story was the main focus: featured in a colour-box with a large photo of him. However in fact, the actual listening session involved four carefully balanced stories from Anglican church-goers about their experience of homosexuality. These stories tended to be buried deep in the text of the long features.
One story was told by "Amanda', who was sexually abused as a child, and tried to live as a man in a lesbian relationship until, in suicidal desperation, she called out to God.
"As I was about to end my life, I called out to God that I couldn't live like this anymore. Well, it was like a decade of psychotherapy in an hour. I understood who I was.
"I was not a man, just a very injured woman. It was as if I was 16 again, with the chance to start all over again.
"So I began the journey back. I stopped the hormone treatment and had years of electrolysis to remove the body hair. When I was 29, I met my future husband. It was love at first sight. We were married the next year. He knows my whole story, of course. We have three children now. It was very traumatic not being able to breastfeed them."
All media outlets have a bias. For Southern Cross it is upholding the Synod resolutions of the Diocese of Sydney. It is a shame other media aren't as honest about their perspectives, and prefer to maintain a pretence of objectivity.
Ministry making a difference
An inter-denominational Christian ministry that provides support, hope and encouragement for men and women who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction and also educates the Christian community is seeking support from Christians.
Liberty Christian Ministries Inc (LCMI) which for over 13 years has sought to educate the wider Christian community about same-sex attraction and how to care for those impacted by this issue has had a continued challenge financially throughout the year.
LCMI Director and Pastoral Support Coordinator Simon Riches says a slump in finances earlier this year meant there was a need to contact all their current supporters asking if they could either increase their current support or provide a one-off gift to support the ongoing work of the ministry.
"We did a big mailout to let people know our funds were low and people responded generously and boosted the funds," Mr Riches says.
"We are currently seeking to increase our financial support structure so we can plan for the future development of the ministry."
Mr Riches admits that an inter-denominational ministry such as LCMI will always need to seek the wider Christian community for financial support in order for it to expand and meet the increasing needs and demands.
"There are many great things we would like to achieve as a ministry. Developing a greater financial support structure will allow us to accomplish some of our goals for the future." he says.
"The dilemma for us is that we are not funded by any denomination. We do however receive financial support from Christians and individual churches that believe in and value the work of LCMI. However, in desiring to expand and maintain the ministry the current financial structure will not provide the means of achieving this outcome."
Mr Riches says various denominations throughout Sydney including Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Churches of Christ and Assemblies of God refer people to LCMI as they are unsure how best to support men or women struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
"As churches from different denominations refer people to us I would like them to partner with us and contribute a sum of money annually to our ministry. It would be a great recognition of our work," he says.
Mr Riches says he is looking to see how LCMI can develop formal alliances with each denomination to assist funding.
"This is a vital ministry especially in light of the current climate and debate within the Christian community concerning the issue of homosexuality,” he says.
“We are trying to find the means to generate income that doesn't just sustain the work but allows us the chance to expand the ministry."
The work of Liberty
Mr Riches says LCMI receives on average 20 to 40 contacts per month, from various sources. These come either by ministers, parents, families or individuals themselves ringing seeking support.
Mr Riches says the three main aims of LCMI are as follows:
1. Supporting individuals struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
2. Supporting families impacted in some way by the issues of homosexuality; either those with a Christian loved one struggling or someone in their family living an active gay life.
3. Equipping and educating the wider body of Christ on the pastoral and theological issues concerning homosexuality and how the church can be a healing community to those who are seeking support. This is done by speaking at church services on Sunday, mid-week training nights, theological colleges or youth groups.
Recent speaking engagements for Mr Riches have included Winmalee Anglican Church, St Matthias', Centennial Park, Christian City Church Oxford Falls young adults’ group, Parramatta Baptist Church, God in the City and Meadowbank Presbyterian Church.
"I have also had the privilege to speak in the major theological colleges in Sydney," Mr Riches says.
These included Moore Theological College, Morling Theological College, Christian City Church Oxford Falls Ministry Training Colleges and Anglican Youthworks College.
Mr Riches says the one drawback of his busy schedule that he is not able to develop the ministry and train up new ministry workers.
However, he has recently been approached by a student attending Sydney Missionary and Bible College about completing a one-year placement with the ministry in 2008.
"The student will work three hours a week over two semesters, which is a great opportunity for us that I hope other colleges will seek out in the future," Mr Riches says.
"I have done 35 speaking engagements this year which has been a great opportunity to tell people about the ministry but this has obviously kept me busy."
The challenges ahead
Due to these major demands on Mr Riches' time he has not been able to mentor ministry trainees thus far.
"The SMBC student will be a new initiative for us and I believe a beneficial one as we look to expanding the work of LCMI. I would like to develop an even greater infrastructure of support for individuals and families who in some way have been impacted by this complex issue," Mr Riches says.
"These people often live with a code of silence about this issue, even amongst their own Christian community. This is mainly because of people's awkwardness or lack of understanding relating to the matter of homosexuality."
Mr Riches hopes to train up more people to assist him.
"I want assistance with the initial contacts I have made and with some of the day-to-day functions of the ministry so I can meet with key denominational leaders and people in the business community to develop greater financial resources for the ministry's development," Mr Riches says.
Mr Riches, who is employed four days a week, and an office manager who is employed seven hours per week are currently the only paid staff of LCMI.
The LCMI committee of management is made up of numerous high-profile Christians from various denominations who volunteer their time and skills to the ministry.
"We are privileged to have a reference board of people we can seek for advice on ethical or theological issues should the need arise," Mr Riches says.
Currently on the board is Archbishop of Sydney Dr Peter Jensen, former Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church in Australia the Rev Bruce Christian and founding Chairman of LCMI Rev Dr David Peterson who has recently returned from the UK to take up a position on the faculty of Moore Theological College.
"If people are interested in volunteering with LCMI they can contact us. Any involvement with the ministry is discussed and approved at a committee of management level," Mr Riches says.
For more information on the work of Liberty Christian Ministries Inc, visit their website or ring the office which is open every Thursday on 02) 9798 4685.