The Church on Strayer, a megachurch located in Maumee, has a new message for the community: “Being Gay is NOT a gift from God.” This new marketing campaign is appearing on electronic billboards all over Toledo, and was inspired by Central United Methodist Church’s “Being gay is a gift from God” campaign which was launched this past April in support of the LGBT community.
The core message of Central United Methodist Church’s campaign is that churches often unfairly alienate members of the LGBT community. Believing that sexual orientation is not a choice and that anti-gay sentiments are harmful to LGBT individuals, they sought to provide an open environment for gay Christians to worship freely.
Affiliated with the charismatic, Pentecostal Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), The Church on Strayer wants to “share the truth” and ensure that the community knows that homosexuality is definitely not a part of God’s plan for his followers. On his blog, senior pastor Tony Scott says, “In more than 30 years of counseling with people who have chosen the gay lifestyle, not one of them has ever said – “I am delighted to be gay.” No one has ever said to me, “My gay lifestyle is a gift from God.” In every case, those engaged in this deviant lifestyle shared with me the pain of their choice, along with the shame and guilt they carry.”
He goes on to quote Romans 1: 18-32 of The Message version of the Bible, which was published in 2002 by Eugene Peterson, hoping to capture a more contemporary, less formal translation, which reads:
18-23But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
24-25So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
26-27Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
28-32Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!
While this passage is one of the most quoted Biblical justifications for condemning homosexuality, even the King James Version of the Bible reads substantially different. There are also many that believe that, in his letters to the Romans, Paul was actually referencing pagan rites which involved people moving away from God, back to pagan religions, and heterosexuals partaking in rituals involving homosexual acts.
Pastor Tony Scott told Outlines Toledo in an email that the goal of the “Being gay is NOT a gift from God” campaign is “to positively share the truth of the Bible and for everyone to have access to that truth.” When asked about what effect he hoped the campaign would have on the community as a whole, including gay Christians, he said simply, “We want the community to know the truth of God’s word concerning the gay lifestyle.”
Potentially even more controversial than the church’s billboard campaign, are the final words on Scott’s blog post: “We were born to worship and serve the Creator. No other life will bring fulfillment of purpose. Choose this day who you will serve- the God of the Bible or the god of this world. There is hope, help, forgiveness, love, healing, and restoration to all who will simply believe in His name. And the greatest thing about sin… there is a cure.”
Outlines Toledo asked Scott about the quote directly, wondering if The Church on Strayer advocated counseling and religion as a cure for homosexuality. Via e-mail, he replied, “We definitely advocate counseling coupled with having a personal relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t matter what you are dealing with because the church and Jesus can help you live the life you were created to live.”
Conversion, or reparative therapy as it is sometimes called, is a controversial practice designed to change the sexual orientation of homosexuals and bisexuals. Leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants all agree that such therapy is potentially harmful to LGBT individuals, and that there has been no evidence in the last 40 years proving that you can “pray the gay away.”
The Church on Strayer will have 3 services (Saturday, Sept. 24 at 6pm and Sunday Sept. 25 at 9am and 11am) addressing the Church’s new campaign. According to their website, the church, which was founded in 1974, has over 2,500 members that gather on a weekly basis to attend services at the Maumee location, The Church on 53 in Fremont and via their online webcasts.