Campbell Turns Gender Confusion into Ministry

William Campbell, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry

W. P. Campbell. 2010. Turning Controversy into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In 2012 during my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, I spent a lot of time in the emergency room (ER) of a local metro hospital. One afternoon the ER was packed and overflow patients were stationed on gurneys throughout the room. As I worked my way around the room, it became obvious that a patient on one of the gurneys with a friend in attendance wanted to see me.  So I wandered over to talk with him. I was not thinking about gender.

I asked—What brings you to the hospital today?  His answer caught me off guard—rectal bleeding. The shock on my face must have been obvious. Also obvious was the fear of death on the patient’s face. I should have probed into his demeanor—Was he perhaps concerned about HIV infection? Instead, I mumbled through a few pleasantries, offered prayer, and left. My lack of preparation for that hospital visit was clearly a lost ministry opportunity.

How do we properly minister to people caught up in gender confusion?

Introduction

Bill Campbell’s book, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry, focuses on confronting our fears and offering Christ’s presence to broken people.  Campbell writes:

“This book is written to equip Christians and their churches to prove a Christlike response to homosexuality and to people who struggle with unwanted, same-sex attractions.” (7)

Woman Caught in Adultery

How does a pastor respond to someone seeking care for unwanted same-sex attractions? Campbell (11-12) starts with the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus asked:

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  (John 8:10-11 ESV)

Campbell notes two principles in Jesus response: grace and truth [1]. Jesus starts with grace—defending the woman against her unfair accusers [2] and refusing to condemn her [3].  But he also admonishes her: go and sin no more.  Campbell explains:

“Grace without truth pampers, confuses, and even deceives. Truth without grace cuts, wounds, and destroys…Salt is essential for the body, but separated into its two elements, sodium and chloride, it can be deadly.” (13)

He observes that the church has often reached out to those wounded by divorce, but has not done so with those that struggle with gender confusion (14).

Organization of Book

The book has three parts:

  1. Analysis: Your Church, Christs Body.
  2. Approach: Overcoming Controversy.
  3. Action: Building Ministry.

Campbell starts with the current status of your church and then provides information both scriptural and practical about the major controversies in church responses to homosexuality. He finally talks about the ministry challenges in ministry to homosexuals and provides links to ministry resources.

Classification, William Campbell, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry

Analysis

Campbell’s guidance to churches is summarized in an interesting graphic (see right). He ranks churches based on their emotional response to homosexuality. Churches motivated by fear either blindly condemn or blindly embrace homosexuality. Churches motivated by apathy express support (or not) but mostly remain silent. Churches motivated by ministry remain biblically obedient but extend grace to those struggling with gender confusion, much like they would extend grace to alcoholics and other broken people (28-36). The ministry response that Campbell advocates is clearly neither common nor easy.

Campbell’s experience with homosexuality began with caring for his deaf son.  Being the rare pastor who could sign, he found himself intimately involved in the deaf community and their particular problems.  Deaf children often attend school in residual programs that leave them vulnerable to homosexual activity and exploitation (40).  He writes:

“The compassion of Christ begins to bloom when [church] members begin to understand that homosexual attractions are usually not chosen by those who experience them but are the fallout of a multiplicity of factors such as prenatal dispositions, sexual abuse, parental detachment, and same-sex rejection.” (38)

He learned that at homosexual temptations are rooted in isolation and rejection (46).

Approach

The treatment of the science of homosexuality in the media and among psychiatrists offers a cautionary tale.  Scientific studies have for the most part not been able to demonstrate a linkage between genetics and any behavioral trait in spite of great efforts to explain depression, gambling, propensity towards obesity and even criminal activity (83).  A genetic linkage to homosexuality has likewise never been demonstrated even though much of this research has been done by groups and individuals anxious to find this linkage (82-89).  Nevertheless, the media has consistently claimed linkages that the scientists themselves have not reported (83).  The strongest statement that can be made based on research (as of 2010) is that some people may have a  disposition that they may (or may not) act on—Campbell compares it to a general disposition towards intellectual pursuits (86).  By comparison, alcoholism has been shown to be inheritable at a rate of 50-60 percent—the comparable figure for homosexuality is 50 percent or less (87).  While the media has dramatically increased the visibility of homosexuality, the percentage reported in the population remains a low 2-3 percent (89).

An important part of the effort to mainstream homosexuality arose in changes in the treatment by psychiatrists.  Research before the politicization of homosexuality pointed to the “distant father/overclose mother” theory, sexual abuse, and sexual experimentation as causal factors for homosexuality (110-113).  In spite of research supporting these factors in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted after intense lobbying from homosexual groups to remove homosexuality from the list of psychiatric illnesses normally reported in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)  (106-107).  Because listing in the DSM is a prerequisite for insurance company reimbursement for treatment, this change lead to a dramatic decline in scientific research and treatment in the years that followed.  Unfortunately, homosexuality was dropped from the DSM for political, not psychiatric, reasons. Still, some practitioners continue to see patients (110-117).

Action

Campbell sees ministry to homosexuals having 6 parallels to the efforts of Nehemiah to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, each having both an inner reality and outer focus:

  1. Motivation–Prayer;
  2. Vision–Leadership;
  3. Healing–Family values;
  4. Growth–Mentors and counselors;
  5. Support–Small group ministry; and
  6. Celebration–Outreach (153).

For example, Campbell notes that Nehemiah was a man of prayer.  Before approaching the king with his request to assist in rebuilding Jerusalem, Nehemiah mourned, prayed, and fasted (Nehemiah 1).  Opposition pushed Nehemiah closer to God (154).  The point here is that Campbell sees ministry to those challenged by gender confusion requiring a range of responses corresponding to a range of needs.

Background

Bill Campbell is senior pastor of Hendersonville Presbyterian Church, Hendersonville, NC [4]. He speaks from more than 20 years of ministry experience dealing with homosexuality. He recounts stories of families and individuals that he interviewed who have struggled with unwanted same-sex attractions and overcome them. His personal interface with the gay community arose from both family experiences and from his own ministry in a church located close to an AIDs clinic. He is passionate about the Gospel and has a shepherd’s heart for those in need.

Assessment

Campbell’s book is long overdue. From my own walk with the Lord, I was ministered to as a young person by staff and clergy who were later dismissed for gay relationships. In my role as clerk of session in my home church, I found myself whipsawed by church controversies over ordination standards with little guidance other than scripture and personal experiences. In ministry, I feel a need to be prepared both scripturally and practically for the challenges of helping broken people. Turning Controversy into Church Ministry has been a big help in overcoming my own fear of being faithful in this ministry.

Thanks Bill.

[1] Grace and truth are among God’s core values expressed in Exodus 34:6 immediately following the giving of the Ten Commandments. We know that these values are fundamental for God because they are repeated almost word for word in Psalm 86:15 and 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.

[2] The law is clear, both the man and woman who commit adultery are liable to be put to death (Lev 20:1).  The woman’s accusers obviously know who the man is and have hidden him from the law.

[3] Under the Mosaic law, at least 2 witnesses are required in a death penalty case.  By law, the witnesses must be the first to cast a stone (Deut 17:6-7). Perjury carries the same penalty as the alleged crime (Deut 19:15-19).

[4] http://www.hendersonvillepc.org.

Campbell Turns Gender Confusion into Ministry

Also see:

Gagnon: Bridging the Bible and Gender Confusion, Part 1 

Rogers Advocates for LGBT Equality, Part 1 

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