Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,
1 Corinthians 6:11.
In May, 2001, while pastoring the Golden Isles Presbyterian Church, St. Simons Island, Georgia, I received a phone call from a woman in our community who told me that Aid Atlanta was coming to nearby Jekyll Island for a weekend conference called “The Gay Men’s Health Summit.” This conference, I was told, would champion homosexuality and the participants would largely be homosexuals themselves. My caller asked what I thought we should do about it, and before I could answer she suggested, “We need to pressure the Jekyll Island Authority to not allow this conference. We ought to boycott the hotel where the conference is to take place. And we ought to buy billboards all over town, voicing our disapproval of the homosexual lifestyle.” My response was, “If that is what you are planning, then count me out. I want nothing to do with it.” I went on to say, “Now I am willing to train a few men in how to share the gospel of Christ with the men there and to go to the meeting in hopes of showing these people the love of Christ.” She said, “Okay, I like your idea better. I will make sure we have twenty-four hour prayer support for your ministry.”
So a week or two before 9/11, in late August, 2001, on the Monday afternoon before the conference began, I received a phone call from the manager of the hotel, who by the way, was a member of our church. He told me that Aid Atlanta knew I planning to attend the conference and that if I showed up, they would have me arrested for trespassing. I thought about that for a while and then planned to register for the conference. After all, if I was a paying registrant then I would not be trespassing. I also reserved a room at the hotel so that I could be there with the men. And then I started to think about that scenario-evangelical pastor, at a gay men’s conference, by myself, in a hotel room. Doesn’t look good. So I asked my wife to meet me there at the hotel on Friday night.
Early on my plan was to introduce myself to a few men upon arrival and quickly move into gospel conversations with them. But along about the Wednesday or Thursday leading up to the conference I began to sense (could it be the Holy Spirit) that that would not be the best methodology. So I arrived with two young men from our church and I paid the $200 registration fee and received my purple bag with all sorts of interesting things in it, and my name tag, “Al Baker, Gay Men’s Health Summit.” I told the people at registration (by the way they knew who I was before I even introduced myself) that our church wished to have a ministry to HIV positive men and we did not have the slightest idea how to do this, that we were there to learn. All the men there, with the exception of one who I believe was seeking to shock me with his blatant, over- the-top homosexual ambiance, were very gracious and kind to us. I went to numerous seminars on various health issues and, by the way, had several very in depth gospel conversations with practicing homosexuals. I remember one conversation in particular. This man was very sick and I read in an Atlanta Journal Constitution obituary a few weeks later that this prominent advocate for homosexual rights had died of AIDS. He said to me, “I believe in God, and I love God. I have always been attracted to men and I cannot believe, therefore, that God would forbid me finding pleasure in one man whom I love, like you love your wife.” I said, “I am not going to dispute your claim to a same sex attraction, but the Bible clearly forbids homosexual intercourse. My sons, who are not yet married, are sexually attracted to women, but they are not to engage in sexual intercourse until they are married and even then, only with the woman they marry.”
Now the plan was for my wife to meet me at the hotel at 6 p.m. I was waiting for her, standing with two of my new, homosexual friends, when she came into the lobby. When she saw me, she was aghast. There I was, standing under a sign that read, “Welcome, Gay Men’s Health Summit,” with a name tag around my neck, “Al Baker, Gay Men’s Health Summit,” with my purple bag in my hand. I introduced her to my friends and as we made our way into the hotel, she said under her breath, “Take off that badge, and put down that bag! Look at you. I am so embarrassed.” By the way, Wini has granted me permission to tell this story. So, I put down my bag, took off my badge, and we walked into the restaurant. As we walked to our table we passed table after table of homosexual men and they graciously welcomed her. By the time we got to our table, tears were streaming down her cheeks. She said, “Please forgive me. I am so ashamed of myself. I am a Pharisee. I know my response is sinful.” Of course I forgave her and we went on from there to have an amazing ministry with HIV positive men. Several months later we had a Christmas party at our house with fifty men, and at least two dressed as women, were present.
I had weekly meetings with these men, listening to their health and emotional problems, seeking medical and financial help when they needed it (these men were largely poor), and I always concluded my sessions by saying this, “Okay men, before we go, let me tell you another story about Jesus.” So I would take one of the marvelous stories in Mark’s gospel of Jesus healing the leper, casting out demons, or raising people from the dead. I would paint them in very vivid, figurative language, showing them the love Jesus has for sinners. They really loved the story of Jesus cleansing the leper by reaching out to touch him. I drew the parallel for them, in case they did not see it. “You guys are the modern day lepers. Do you think Jesus will accept you, if you come to Him humbly?”
I could tell you many, many more stories of this amazing, fruitful, and incredibly rewarding ministry to homosexual men, but here’s the bottom line-We loved them. We accepted them. We had them in our home. I paid off loans they had taken out from loan sharks. I visited them in the hospital when they were dying. And several gave evidence of conversion before they died. My favorite memory was when three, HIV positive, poor homosexuals came to church and sat down next to a couple who were very wealthy. All three gave evidence of conversion before they died. What a gospel! Only Jesus can do that! But I told them the truth. I told them that their lifestyle was sinful, that they were enslaved to sin, that their sin would send them to hell unless they repented and believed on Jesus. I reminded them that I say this to everyone, even the heterosexual, monogamous, moral, church going man. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
We cannot water down the gospel message to anyone. We are accountable to God. We are to speak the truth in love, trusting the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in those who have ears to hear. We can love sinners and simultaneously tell them the truth. When we have their hearts, we can tell them anything. This is how we address the homosexual agenda.