Today at River Camp, this lovely Irish guy called Simon Foster, who looks a bit like Hugh Grant, walks on stage to preach, and something about his bleached blonde hair, his walk, his face, alerts my gaydar.
I whisper to Roy, “He’s gay.”
“Ssssh,” Roy says.
And then Simon sweetly giggles a little bit. Laughs. Says a few sentences, flings his head back, then bursts into song in the most gorgeous singing voice .
There’s an indefinable something…
“He’s definitely gay,” I whisper to Roy.
Roy says, “Sssh. He’s an Elim Pentecostal leader.”
I am chastened. So did my gaydar gave a false reading?
And then Simon says, “Well, I was trapped in a homosexual lifestyle from many years, but now am married.”
“What did I say, Roy?” I whisper triumphantly, and now Roy looks properly flabbergasted.
* * *
Simon Foster has told his story here. He was a Eurovision contestant, and came 10th with his band, the Duskeys, and then stepped into a life of show-biz, singing in nightclubs and cruises, drinking, substance abuse and homosexuality, which he gives up after an encounter with the love of God, and after he reads the Bible verses about homosexuality which he becomes convinced is sin.
In his case, the move was definitely a blessing. It released him to a fruitful ministry (prophecy, healing, and preaching) in the body of Christ, which is unavailable to non-celibate gays in most every Christian denomination.
He said yesterday, “All my life I have been waiting for a man to ravish me. And in Jesus, I’ve found him”
What? Several people look affronted, and Simon laughed and said, “Oh, I see your religious spirit rising.”
* * *
This is how Simon explains his homosexuality “I was set up for homosexuality through circumstances of life. I had a dysfunctional relationship with my dad, which left me feeling unloved and unwanted. My attempt to connect with others boys at school failed which only compounded my feeling that males rejected me. The name-calling and continued rejection left me with nowhere to belong.
Years of living with this identity problem produced a fantasy life in which I dreamed of men desiring me. The pull to engage with men sexually followed. The father I desired became the man of my dreams and led me to develop homosexual relationships.”
I am sure he believes this narrative of his childhood leading to his homosexuality, but that does not explain how within minutes of observing his face, his hairstyle, make-up, gait, demeanour, speech, voice, laugh, I realised he was a gay man–or post-gay in this case.
It seemed an ontological, as well as circumstantial part of his identity to me.
However, for each Christian gay man or woman who marries and becomes heterosexual, there are many who fail in their quest to do so, to their own heart-brokenness (and their spouses’).
And I thought of Lonnie Frisbee, the most influential gay man in twentieth century Christianity, a key person in the Jesus People or Jesus Freak movement, who unleashed a wave of the Holy Spirit which was instrumental in the founding, and phenomenal growth of two major Christian denominations, the Calvary Chapel, where he attracted thousands to his Bible Study, and the Vineyard, which was established after Lonnie Frisbee asked youth, 25 and under, to come forward, then prayed, “Come Holy Spirit.” And those so filled, baptised others in hot tubs and swimming pools!!
Lonnie resisted his homosexuality, to the point of marrying a woman who left him after she had an affair with their pastor; was sad and guilty about his repeated homosexual flings; was rejected by both denominations he helped found and flourish when his homosexuality became obvious; and died broken-hearted of AIDS, yet forgiving those whose careers and denominations he had established, but who ostracised him and almost wrote him out of their histories for a sin he could not shake.
And yet he was responsible for thousands of people being converted and filled with the Holy Spirit, and changed the direction of twentieth century Christianity through the millions influenced by the Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard Movement.
God’s blessing and anointing was on his life, perhaps because of his brokenness; perhaps because his unsuccessful struggle with his homosexual longings convinced him he needed a saviour and needed forgiveness, and led him to intensely love the one who forgave him.
* * *
What interests me is that Lonnie partied on Saturday, including promiscuous gay sex, and preached powerfully on Sunday.
I doubt he was a hypocrite. I fancy it’s like the overweight who eat chocolate, and then preach; or those who have a drink too many and then preach; or those who are foul to their spouses and kids and bully their parishioners, and then preach.
And sometimes God blesses their preaching for the sake of those who will listen to them, as he blessed Lonnie Frisbee. Or because we see the one sin and are shocked, but God sees their hearts, the whole man or woman, and sees someone he can use as his conduit of grace.
We see sin on a continuum with abortion and homosexuality at the far end of the spectrum. Jesus did not see sin on a continuum. One should not murder nor be angry, he teaches. One should not commit adultery nor lust, he teaches. (Matt 5 21-27).
Perhaps Jesus did not see Frisbee’s sin of promiscuous gay sex as worse than the gossip, pettiness, envy and meanness which good church people are guilty of.
Of all the people he could have chosen to unleash the wave of the spirit which reached the nations through the Vineyard, he chose a tormented gay person, Lonnie Frisbee.
Was He perhaps trying to tell us something?