On the Road… with Ed LeClair
On the Road
Ed LeClair attended a denominational conference recently at the invitation of the conference moderator and another pastor within the denomination’s more conservative contingent. We wanted to tell you about his journey, so that you get a sense of how we proclaim a truth-and-mercy response to the divergent views that many within the church proclaim today.
By Ed LeClair, Development Director
We went to this denomination’s conference at the request of the conference moderator and another pastor of a church in the denomination’s “conservative camp.” They knew that the LGBT organization that exists within the denomination would be represented and would also be presenting some workshops. These more conservative pastors wanted to see a biblical witness to sexual issues also represented.
Prior to going a posting appeared on our Harvest USA Facebook page. A member of the denomination expressed his opposition to our presence at the conference, and urged the moderator to dis-invite us. He saw us as an organization that was engaging in “spiritual and emotional violence” toward gays and lesbians because our biblical position on homosexuality was not affirming. We responded to his letter, replying that we were not hateful toward gays and lesbians, but rather called all people (not just gays and lesbians) to live within God’s design for sexuality, and affirmed that there was no place for violence and hatred within or surrounding this subject. Following this posting, we began to notice on the web that some others within the denomination were upset at our attending.
So, I went to the conference with some trepidation. Frankly, we are used to this at Harvest USA, but it is never easy to be disliked, attacked or have our message distorted and maligned. We have come to expect that in an age of “tolerance,” anything short of total affirmation is chalked up as bigoted and hateful. How did we get to the point in our culture where the mere expression of different positions are considered completely unacceptable, and in the name of “tolerance” virulently shut down and dismissed?
Having all this hanging over me, it was a wonderful relief on the first day to engage with many people who stopped by my exhibit table to say they were happy to have us there representing God’s Word. Many expressed concern for my well-being and said they would be looking out for me. Looking out for me? Someone reported to me that, at a previous conference when the issue of homosexuality came up, fights broke out. During this year’s conference there was a team of “Reconciliation Ministers” who roamed the convention floor, in pairs, on the alert for any signs of trouble developing. They all made it a point to assure me of their immediate support if I should need it. It’s always good to be looked out for!
Shortly into the conference, the leader of the LGBTQ movement approached me to talk. The exchange was tense at first. She explained her reasons why she did not want our representation here. She cited instances of people “being harmed” by ministries such as ours, particularly young people, which in some cases led to depression and even suicides. She expressed her concerns about “reparative therapy” which she believed we engaged in, and also a concern about how we counsel parents whose children self-identify as gay.
As I listened, it became clear that her perception of our ministry is typical. I clarified our position on reparative therapy—we never engaged in it, primarily because the gospel is not a foundational part of it. We never advised parents to shun their children who professed same-sex attractions or identified as gay. I spoke about the countless number of men and women who have come to Harvest USA over the past 30 years, who desired to follow the long-held orthodox interpretation of the Scriptures regarding their sexuality, and they needed help. Far from harming them, we gave them hope! I stressed that our mission and our methods were steeped in the mercy and truth of Jesus Christ, and that we have long been advocates of opposing disrespectful or hateful intent towards gays and lesbians.
As we talked I spoke about my own long struggle with homosexuality and the hope I encountered when I first came to Harvest USA. Gradually, the tension began to subside, replaced by a growing trust and respect between us. She even invited me for dinner with some of her friends, and I gladly accepted!
For the remainder of the conference there were cordial and pleasant exchanges coming from most of the people aligned with the LGBTQ group, while a very small number of them chose to ignore me altogether. Over breakfast one morning with a pastor who stood firmly with their position, we ended our meeting with an appreciation for one another in spite of the differences between us. But I also encountered angry people upset at our presence and our Scriptural position. I was told several times that I should pack up and disappear, that the world and the church were moving in a different direction and that our message was no longer relevant. These were sad and painful encounters. I could only silently pray for them as they quickly moved away from me after their short outburst. Standing for Scriptural truth and authority is not a walk in the park!
Overall, it was a wonderful opportunity to be here for several reasons. Chief among them were the dialogues I had with a number of people that had a narrow view of Harvest USA and a great dislike of us. While the dividing issues are still there, I believe some of the hostility and misperceptions in these encounters were diminished by respectful words and acts of kindness, which I strove to display and so did many on the other side, as well. I was also appreciative of the opportunity I had to meet many fine new people, have good conversations, and in particular directly minister to a number of people wanting to share stories of their own pain and struggles with sexuality. To God be the glory!!