April 2005 – Stephen Bennett is executive director and founder of Stephen Bennett Ministries in Huntington, Connecticut, a pro-family organization advocating for the traditional family and the protection of children, and proclaiming the truth about homosexuality. Bennett was a practicing homosexual for 11 years before becoming a Christian and leaving the lifestyle. Now he reaches out to “gays” and lesbians with the Gospel. In early March AFA Journal interviewed Bennett about his ministry.
AFAJ: Generally speaking, how is your ministry received by homosexuals?
Most of the time homosexuals reject the message that we bring, even though we try to minister with a great deal of love. Sometimes it can get pretty volatile – not from our end, but from their end. The Gospel is offensive to all men. It is foolishness to them who are perishing. So we keep in mind that it’s not necessarily the messenger they hate, but the message.
Having said that, let me add that most homosexual men and women are the most wonderful, loving people you would ever want to meet. Many of them are more “Christian-acting” than real Christians often are – and by that I mean they would give you the shirt off their backs.
But these are men and women who unfortunately have been rejected from day one – by their own families, by friends, by their peers. As adults they’ve grown up and they’ve embraced a homosexual identity which they believe is their true identity. So when Christians come up to them and preach the Gospel, that rejection resurfaces. It’s really just like stirring up those old hurtful, painful and muddy childhood waters once again.
That’s why we continually examine our way of reaching the homosexual and try to bring an aspect of love to the homosexual community. It’s important to ask ourselves what works and what doesn’t work in reaching them with the message of Christ. That’s why at Stephen Bennett Ministries one of our main purposes is to educate the church on how to effectively reach and minister to the homosexual.
AFAJ: How do you handle the paradox ‘love the sinner, but hate the sin’?
We need to look at the homosexual’s sin as anyone else’s sin. When have we ever seen Christian groups going out in front of bars, protesting with signs proclaiming “the drunkard will not inherit the kingdom of God”? For some reason the homosexual community has been singled out.
Now, there’s no doubt about the fact that the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. But God also calls lying an abomination. We are all fallen sinners. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and the key is not to try to change someone from “gay” to straight. It’s to give them the gospel of Christ. If they bring up the homosexual issue, sometimes I’ll say, ‘Let’s not even discuss that right now. Let’s talk about eternity and Jesus Christ.”
So we take a dual approach. We minister to those who are struggling with homosexuality and are searching for God, but at the same time we take a public and vocal stand against the promotion and acceptance of homosexuality in our culture.
AFAJ: Do you think your own past as a homosexual makes you more compassionate?
No doubt about it. I’ve lived in a glass house, so I’ve learned not to throw stones. As a former homosexual, I believe I know what works and what doesn’t work in approaching that community. Of course, I’m still in the learning process – I haven’t arrived, by any means.
AFAJ: How does the media handle your claim to be an “ex-gay”?
I very rarely get any respect from the media as an ex-gay man. Former homosexuals are made to look like clowns, like laughingstocks. I was on a CNN show and I was introduced as a ‘self-described former homosexual,’ and others have done the same thing. When they do that I correct them immediately. I am a former homosexual. Period.
Ironically the most fair treatment I’ve ever received in the media was from a lesbian journalist for the Provincetown Banner in Provincetown, Massachusetts, when we did an outreach there. She said in the article that I changed, that I left my homosexual lifestyle and went from gay to straight, and I’m married with children now. She didn’t question my sincerity or put it into a negative light. And I actually called her and thanked her for it.
But overall, the media ignores our claims to have left the homosexual lifestyle. And this is all based upon the demands of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association, which has provided a stylebook to everyone in the media, telling them what language to use when addressing the issue of homosexuality. And this influential organization tells the media not to give any credence to the claims of ex-homosexuals. Most of the media have bought into all that.
AFAJ: How do homosexuals respond when you say you’ve left the lifestyle?
Some will listen, and say they have never heard that before and are really intrigued by the message and are open to hearing about it. And on a regular basis we keep in contact with many of those active homosexuals who are curious.
But in most cases, they will tell me I was never “gay” in the first place. And I tell them, “Yeah, you go and ask my 100-plus partners how ‘gay’ I was not.” I was “gay.” Many homosexuals are in extreme denial, and I believe, again, that it’s based upon all the rejection they’ve experienced. So when someone tells them, “I’ve come out of the lifestyle,” they will just verbally attack you. One of my favorite analogies is that the thing a smoker hates the most is an ex-smoker. It’s the same situation with homosexuals.
Of course, some of them send us E-mails that are absolutely vulgar and hateful, even sending us “gay” pornography. Some of them have Web sites that follow our ministry. They’re obsessed and fixated on ex-homosexuals. Some of them are disgruntled because they have tried to change, tried praying it away, tried going through reparative therapy – and nothing has worked. So now what they’re trying to do is to discredit people like myself.
AFAJ: How have churches responded to your ministry to homosexuals?
We first began our ministry in 2000, and in the beginning it was extremely difficult to get into churches with this message. It was taboo. Churches wanted nothing to do with homosexuality.
Besides that, a lot of churches thought that we were these radical extremists, like Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling.
But when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas, that really jolted many pastors. And then when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage, churches really got nervous, and then our phone started ringing. It’s been nonstop ever since. Last year we ministered at over 50 churches and events.
SB Ministries releases new CD Teaching instructs, encourages churches to reach the homosexual
Stephen Bennett Ministries has produced a brand new one-hour audio CD, The 10 Most Effective Ways to Reach the Homosexual for Christ. This special CD not only contains Bennett’s personal testimony of how he left the homosexual lifestyle, but also instruction about what to do and what not to do in ministering to members of the homosexual community.
An optional companion study guide is also available. The guide is suitable for personal use, as well as in small group sessions or teen and adult Sunday School classes.
“The whole point of the CD is to develop a heart for the homosexual,” said Bennett. “While it is critical for churches to resist the effort to normalize homosexuality in our society, it is equally important for the church to reach out to these hurting, broken people.”
The CD and study guide are available for a gift of $15 each. To order these materials or to book Stephen Bennett for your church, call Stephen Bennett Ministries nationwide toll-free at 1-800-832-3623 or visit the ministry’s Web site, www.SBMinistries.org.