Pastor Martin: By God's Grace Plus Nothing
by Audrey Dorsch
"I had this war going on within me. I knew that my relationship with God was real. And I knew that this other thing was overpowering." For 14 years as a pastor and missionary, Martin (not his real name) struggled with a secret burden that only his wife and his gay sex partners knew about.
Then one of his partners talked openly about this encounter. Martin was brought up before mission officials, stripped of his credentials and sent back to Canada.
Martin has mixed feelings about those events. He believes the denomination was right to compel him to leave public ministry; but the lack of understanding, support or even hope for restoration was both painful and unhelpful.
"There was no 'We're praying for you' or 'We'll check on you every six months.' It was just 'So you're back in Canada. Have a nice life.'"
Martin' homosexual leanings began as a child. By his mid-teens he had recognized that he was gay, but thought it was something that would go away. Maybe he just needed to get into the right atmosphere. He dated girls occasionally, "more as something to do than as any particular attraction."
When he became engaged to Ann (not her real name), she knew about his struggles but believed they were temporary and behind him.
In his early 20's Martin experienced a life-changing encounter with Christ.
"I thought that this experience - my relationship with Christ - and being engaged to be married, surely this will go away."
Ann later came to Christ; they married, went to Bible college, had children and entered the ministry with an evangelical denomination.
Martin experienced only a temporary reprieve from the inner struggles that tortured him. The temptations were still there, but giving in to them almost disappeared - for a time. While in Bible college he resumed occasional homosexual encounters.
"I would repent terribly and promise God it would never happen again." But it did. That pattern continued through seven years of pastoral ministry, and then another seven of ministry at an overseas Bible school.
"I though I just had to work harder at it, pray harder, keep away from temptation. But it just didn't work. The temptations and the yielding came closer and closer."
He even wondered if he had committed the unpardonable sin.
"I would administer communion then go out and have an encounter. I thought that was the epitome of hypocrisy and evil. Yet it wasn't hypocrisy because I loved God with my whole heart." Though he knew the denomination would disapprove of his behavior, Martin rationale was that each episode was going to be the last one, that he was really going to conquer that area of his life.
In that sense he sees similarities to alcoholism, drug abuse and other addictions.
"There is denial, the belief that you will get over it, that one of these days God is going to do such a great work in my life that I won't fall any more."
Martin longed too be able to talk honestly about his struggle. He wondered if he was the only person to battle with his problem. He did not know or any organization that was helping people in this area.
"Sometimes that would have helped would have been a simple meeting with other pastors, saying, 'We all have struggles. Yours is in this area, but we all have struggles with sin.'
"It would have been good to be honest with each other, then we could have become accountable to each other. Pastors smile a lot, but we won't ever talk about our personal struggles."
Nevertheless, Martin believes it was right for him to leave the ministry.
"I had to get control over my own personal sin and addiction issues before I could really be trusted to really help others. Amazingly, in those awful times, God was able to use me and I was able to lead people to Christ even when I was in sin. But that was God's grace, not God's plan."
On returning to Canada, Martin took up secular employment and began to attend an evangelical church.
"By this time I had pretty well given up struggling. I knew two facts: I'm a Christian. I can't give that up; its too real. But I'm a homosexual and it's too strong. Much as I try I can't stop it."
It was his arrest for committing an indecent act that pushed Martin to the point of change. He had stopped confiding in his wife, though he knew his secretiveness must have made her suspicious. It was too painful fro him to talk about the arrest, so he wrote her a note: "I cannot remain a practicing Christian and a practicing homosexual. I am going to get help."
When Martin went to a counseling centre the only counselor available was a former classmate from Bible College. More pain and embarrassment. But it turned out to be a happy circumstance.
"He was amazingly supportive. He cried with me. He wasn't afraid to ask probing questions. He said, 'There is help. You can get through this." On that day I began to get my first glimmer of hope."
Martin considers himself a homosexual in orientation, but no longer in practice. One of the foundational steps in coming to terms with his conflict of being a desire was his commitment that "If I sin every day for the rest of my life, I will not give up my faith in Jesus, and I will not accept my sin and say it's okay."
Martin has since become active in an ex-gay ministry and has also found support in his church. He has confided in his pastor and in "a select few people" in his congregation.
"I have been constantly amazed at the love and support that flow. I think Christian love is really coming through on this issue."
* From FAITH TODAY Jan/Feb 1993. The complete issue was on HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE CHURCH--Seeking to Blend Compassion and Conviction.
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06 Sep 2009 03:07 PM