Saturday, February 27, 2010

For all the Jennifers whose fathers were gay Baptist preachers: The message of Uganda, Benny Hinn, and your misunderstood gay daddy

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep
Bronx, NY.  February 27, 2010
The Red Pepper of Kampala, Uganda, a popular tabloid-kind-of newspaper, recently reported that Benny Hinn, "while on a visit to Uganda last year," engaged in same-sex sex with a "top-notch pastor in the country." Hinn, at some point, was in Uganda conducting healing meetings. Reportedly, "Hinn's romps with the pastor culminated in a divorce petition which his wife, Suzanne Hinn, filed before a Los Angeles Court last month," the article said.

I was immediately drawn to the article. My second oldest daughter, Jennifer, a few years back, asked me to attend a Benny Hinn Crusade. Her motives were pure and simple: She wanted to see her gay daddy get healed. In 1997, at the age of 15, my daughter saw her father, the pastor of a Baptist church, walk out of his marriage and his ministry. After a life time of suppressing my sexual orientation with Biblical principles of "victorious Christian living," and after months of reparative therapy with NARTH, as well as taking other spiritual and counseling measures, I left the ministry and my marriage to live in integrity and in accord with my sexual orientation.

My four children to this day have not yet recovered, although thankfully, the oldest, Rebecca, has renewed relationships with her father. Unfortunately, during the separation-divorce proceedings between the parents, no cooperation was forthcoming for mediation, counseling and reconciliation. Nor were the hard-sought, court-fought parent-child visitations realized.

Jennifer's subsequent religious journey took her into the Pentecostal, charismatic realm of the evangelical Christian faith. This happened primarily, I suspect, because of her marriage into a wonderful family that did follow a healing-Pentecostal type of faith. In addition, because of serious back injuries she suffered in a car accident, her new-found Pentecostal faith had special appeal to her, so I've imagined. Also, my guess is, what the Baptist faith could not provide in that her father left his marriage and the ministry, perhaps the Pentecostal, religion-of-miracles, could. Her gay father could be miraculously healed.

In fact, her father-in-law, a man whom I deeply respect for his profession and for his personal faith and life, at one time told me in private, prior to my daughter having met his son, that I could experience "healing" from homosexuality, that he knew of an incident in which a gay Christian was miraculously changed.

A few years back, as a young adult and married, Jennifer phoned me to invite me to attend a Benny Hinn Crusade. At an earlier time she had invited me and my partner to attend a theatrical play performed by her church in which one of the characters portrayed was gay and either does or does not "get saved" before the end time, as I recall. My partner and I did attend her church's presentation.

Unfortunately, I was scheduled to be out of town during the Benny Hinn Crusade, otherwise we would have gladly attended with my daughter and her husband; anything to be with my daughter.

The longer I live, the more interesting the intersections of life become.

If the Red Pepper article is correct about Benny Hinn's same-sex sexual affair with a Ugandan pastor, then life's real-time intersections of people, places, counter-ideas, plans and purposes are, as they say, better than fiction.

My daughter was deeply hurt, and understandably so, when I left the ministry and my marriage and entered into a gay relationship. That was 1997. Benny Hinn became, for my daughter, what her father failed to be. Interestingly enough, Benny Hinn was born just a month and half before I was; he married about ten months before I did (he was 26, I was 27); and we both fathered three girls and one son.

But here's the irony, for me. I was in Uganda in 2007 and 2008; Benny Hinn was in Uganda in 2008 and 2009 (if I recall correctly articles I read). I was there, like him, by invitation. My daughter's wish for her father's healing by the man she deems a miracle-worker was in Uganda entering into same-sex sexual acts, where as her father, the failure he apparently is, was in Uganda working another miracle of another kind, i.e., telling the story of real deliverance: the truth shall set you free.

In 2008, my partner and I were there because a committee of five Ugandan gay Christian activists invited me to give a full day seminar, in Kampala, on what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality. It was a wonderful day. More then forty gay Christians attended. A noon meal was provided. A popular, talented openly gay gospel singer sang between the teaching segments. The spirit was powerful. The Bible, a friendly book turned foe for these gay Ugandan Christians, was being reclaimed as the PowerPoint presentation pealed away the long-held myths around verses traditionally used to condemn homosexuals. I was the featured speaker. The PowerPoint presentation was my own creation: a result of years of study, of reconciling the Bible, my faith and my sexual orientation. Now, with a passion to share my findings with other gay Christians, I was in Uganda, invited to tell my story and to give my new understanding of the Bible on this topic. I can't tell you how rewarding to be with gay Christians and share this good news.

It was in 2009, in Uganda, when Benny Hinn is reportedly to have involved himself in same-sex sex acts with a "top-notch" pastor, there in Kampala.

The intersection of themes and characters is obvious: My daughter, wishing for a miracle, placing her hope in Benny Hinn, the miracle worker; Uganda, the far-away-place where the father-needing-saving and the miracle-worker savior are acting out their individual stories on what is now a world stage because of the Anti-Homosexuality bill, - their stories of two lives met in the single heart of my praying, hopeful daughter. But what is the play that unfolds? The father-needing saving is himself the lost sheep already found. His deliverance happened when he accepted Christ's love in the act of accepting his sexual orientation. Now, in Uganda, to gay Christians like himself, he tells the news of God's inclusive love.

On the other hand, Benny Hinn, another trust shattered like her father, is, for Jennifer, not just the headline news of another Ted Haggard who whatever his sexual orientation is now splashed across the printed page as the latest religious fatality. Instead, the Benny Hinns and Ted Haggards of sexual "confusion" are the "How-can-this-happen?" to those who faithfully follow them. Unfortunately, the dose one takes to answer what is seemingly inexplicable is some religious auto-response, a hook upon which to hang one's "how-can-this-happen" dilemmas. A comfortable answer like "God understands," or "Satan is attacking the church," is all that is required of simple faith.

No, its time for the Jennifers of all gay preachers, whether nationally known like Haggard, world renown like Benny Hinn, or, like myself, the unknown small pastor as big as the world to his own daughter, to take notice:  Life teaches us what the Bible does not; that is, there is such a thing as sexual orientation and heterosexuality is only one of its names. And God, by virute of his observed creation all around us, intended it so.


Deer said...

"... to live in integrity & accord with my sexual orientation." This is powerful & what i am most viscerally learning this year. Thank you for this article.

BRIAN said...

I am now 52. I was active in the Evangelical world in South Africa and Germany, married and had 3 children. I went through agony for all my life trying to conform and suppress my sexual orientation and identity. It was only when I finally decided to live with the integrity you speak about and went through a very sad and painful separation from my family that I began healing and living, and even with the pain, I was free and realised that pain is a part of life, suffering is a choice. I have since moved on. My ex-wife and I are friends. My young adult children and I are mending our relationship. There is so much love and joy, though I suspect that much remains unspoken. But, I am taking our relationships one step at a time. We live far apart, me in Thailand and my children in Germany, but I am thrilled every time I have an opportunity to work with my kids intentionally to heal. As an Empowerment Life Coach and Director of an NGO, I am learning to be sensitive to the moment and to respond as the moment requires. This has begun bearing fruit in my relationships with my children. I am blessed! Thanks for your encouragement. Brian

Jendi said...

A beautiful message. I pray that your children will come to appreciate you for who you are, and be more open to reconnecting.

Forgiven, not perfect said...

Hi Steve,
First of all, Steve, I totally understand the pain and the love you speak of. My hopes and prayers are with you, your children, and your ex, for God's reconciliation...and, for you, and all of those who wait on His timing, I KNOW it will come to you! Keep being His "hands and feet" Steve and let God do the rest. You know all of that though:-)

lol...warning, passionate individual in the "room":-)

Do you mind if I step up on my soapbox for a moment? ;-)

I hope it's ok with you if I refer to scripture?;-)

One of the passages that has been the most helpful to me on my "journey" to a truer understanding of who God is the scripture below. Welcome to a fallen creation people! and welcome to the fact, that it's, intentionally, meant to be that way! The question becomes, who should be God? or the real, one and true God?

Matthew 23:9 (The Message)

8-10"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.