An evangelical Christian megachurch in California is facing backlash after promoting “gay conversion” therapy on Instagram.
Bethel Church in Redding posted the question “Can a person leave homosexuality behind?” as if the answer might actually be yes. The post also suggested that some people might only think they’re LGBTQ:” “[Jesus] knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to lead us into His vision for humanity. Sometimes, that is countercultural.”
It’s also torture, if you listen to people who have gone through it.
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Post 2 of 5: Jesus gives His love freely to all, regardless of where we are in our individual journeys. When Jesus enters into our lives, He engages with our deepest feelings and beliefs. He knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to lead us into His vision for humanity. Sometimes, that is countercultural. The love of Christ declares, “I want you! I am for you! And only I satisfy!” His love gently leads us to surrendering all—even what we believe about ourselves—in order to be fully satisfied and full of life.⠀ _⠀ CHANGED is a community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+ and through encounters with the love of Jesus, have experienced His freedom in their lives. @changedmvmt wants to invite you to look deeper, to go beyond the cultural labels and expectations, and to find lasting fulfillment. To learn more or receive help on your journey, visit www.changedmovement.com #oncegay (Link in profile)
Bethel Church also advocates for conversion therapy, the widely discredited practice of attempting to “cure” an LGBTQ+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the treatment is loosely defined, it can range from everything to “praying the gay away” to shock treatment and water torture. Eighteen states have banned conversion therapy, while the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and United Nations have all condemned the practice.
Although Bethel Church does not appear to directly offer conversion therapy on its grounds, its Instagram account has been promoting CHANGED, a project of the “freedom from homosexuality” ministry Equipped to Love.
This isn’t a fringe church, even if it promotes fringe beliefs. Bethel draws about 9,000 members per week. More than 686,000 people follow the church on Instagram.
The church has also posted interviews with people who claim to have been “cured” of their homosexuality — and are now married to opposite-sex partners. And they are 100% happy all the time. Always. No repression whatsoever. None.
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Post 1 of 5: “Throughout most of my life I always felt excluded, and I questioned my sexuality and my gender. I didn’t feel like a girl, but I also didn’t identify as a boy. I ‘came out’ when I was in my early twenties after a brief marriage to a man fell apart. I felt lesbianism explained my childhood and young adult experiences. I thought I was finally being authentic and true to myself. I felt powerful and asserted myself in stereotypically masculine ways. I attended seminary as an openly gay student. ⠀ _⠀ “After seminary, I began working with youth, but questioned my faith. In that season, I reevaluated what I believed about God, what I believed about the Bible and what I believed about myself. I resolved to follow my faith sacrificially, which required re-evaluating what I understood the Christian sexual ethic to be. Up to that point, I believed I was born gay and that God had created me that way. As I further studied Christian doctrine, I no longer believed I was born a lesbian. My experience of God’s love, the Christian community around me, and my desire to pursue a life of prayer had a dramatic influence on my life.⠀ _⠀ “I pursued pastoral care and counseling that addressed my childhood hurts and perceptions. I acknowledged that I had rejected myself as a woman. I did not specifically seek change in my sexuality; nevertheless, I began experiencing changes in my desires. I became attracted to a man (which was one of the most unexpected and humiliating experiences of my life since I had so fully identified as a lesbian). He and I got married and have had a strong marriage of 13 years thus far. Today I am happy, joyful, and feminine – all things I never was while living as a lesbian. I am no longer sexually attracted to women. Rather, I am a strong advocate for their empowerment.” – Elizabeth Woning #oncegay #iamHis @changedmvmt
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Post 3 of 5: Please take a moment to listen to this message from CHANGED founders Ken and Elizabeth in full as they respond to the most common themes we saw in the comments of our last post “Can a person leave homosexuality behind?” We pray that you would experience our love and God’s love for you through the screen whether you agree with the CHANGED movement or not. @changedmvmt #oncegay
The backlash on social media was swift:
Over these past few days, @BethelRedding has reopened some of the deepest wounds that some of my dearest friends have fought their hardest battles to heal.
Bethel Church is not simply harmful — their theologically and scientifically unexamined #oncegay stance is recklessly evil.
— Jamie Lee Finch (@jamieleefinch) August 22, 2019
This is another reminder for everyone that Bethel Church in Redding, CA, the church behind Bethel Music is currently doubling down on its #OnceGay and #ChangedMovement content which is just professionally branded, megachurch sponsored LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. This kills people.
— Jonah Ven 李明恩 (@jonah_ven) August 21, 2019
Hi ��.Just a reminder that there is an instagram account glamorizing conversion therapy. pic.twitter.com/ks4fVGnPIH
— JOHNNY SIBILLY (@JohnnySibilly) August 22, 2019
This is what happens when you care more about adhering to bad theology than listening to the people affected by your beliefs. Conversion therapy only achieves two things: it inflicts trauma and it keeps people out of church for the rest of their lives.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)