Jeff Winter does not buy the argument touted by the secular media that homosexuality is innate. He says there is no science to prove existence of a “gay” gene people have that causes them to be born gay or lesbian. From his perspective, homosexuality is learned behavior – a lifestyle choice – and it’s one that can be changed.
To educate church and community members about homosexuality, First Presbyterian Church of Haines City hosted a seminar Saturday, Jan. 18 that revealed homosexually identified people can change through the transformative power found in Jesus Christ.
Winter said the seminar was peaceful with no demonstrations or outbursts, even though a number of online derogatory comments were made about the purpose behind the event and a misperception that it was to persuade gays and lesbians to renounce their same-sex attractions.
“There still was some pushback, but people need to know the truth about homosexuality,” Winter said. “This was not about converting people but sharing the Gospel to help them come to know Christ and develop a deeper relationship with Him. That will lead to change. When people with same-sex attractions know Christ and grow in their relationship with Him, they will stand on God’s Word and experience change.”
Experiencing a change through Christ
Speakers Brad Grammer and Kristin Tremba, each of whom formerly identified as homosexual, shared with those in attendance just how the Holy Spirit convicted them and led them away from their former gay and lesbian lifestyles to a relationship with Christ that now sees both of them married with children.
“Both speakers were led by God away from homosexual relationships into a deeper intimacy with the Lord,” said Winter, who has been the pastor at FPC-Haines City for two years and also serves as chairman of OneByOne, a Presbyterian-affiliated organization with a mission of educating and equipping the church to minister the transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ to those in conflict with their sexuality.
The organization’s web site corroborates the purpose behind the seminar, reading, “The Bible teaches that all sexual relations outside of a marriage commitment between one man and one woman are contrary to God’s plan for our lives. Yet, we affirm that the Gospel proclaims God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and redemption of all sin as we submit our lives to Christ.”
Education of a cultural shift
Winter explained that the seminar – attended by approximately 125 people – was used as an avenue to educate people about homosexuality.
“The media has sold the public on the legitimacy of homosexuality,” Winter said. “People are believing the lie that homosexuality is of the Gospel, that God creates both heterosexuals and homosexuals, that it’s an innate trait and we are created that way. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that. Homosexuals base their beliefs on their feelings. Someone has to make a choice to move in that direction.”
Winter was one of the founding members of OneByOne when it started in 1995 to minister to those people struggling with same-sex attraction.
“It was a way to speak to the aggressive, liberal wing of the church at the time,” he said. “We had no idea back then how pervasive homosexuality would be today. Now it’s so ‘in your face.’
Changing hearts and lives
Offering a seminar dealing with homosexuality was just part of the educational purpose Winter had in mind for the presentation. He also hoped it would be an opportunity to show that God still changes hearts and lives while shedding some light on a subject that many conservative churches tend to shy away from discussing.
“There are many people who believe that homosexuality is OK, but it’s swallowing us up as a culture,” he said. “We need to be teaching people the truth about homosexuality because we don’t hear it enough in our churches, and the media is doing a good job telling us it’s OK.”
Winter pointed out that people need to know that God can bring about change in all people, even those who show same-sex attraction.
“God still is in the business of changing lives, and He can bring someone with same-sex attraction out of those feelings,” Winter said. “The message we don’t hear spoken is that people can change. The message that people can change needs to be heard by the church.”
Grammer and Tremba were examples of such life-changing events.
Focus of the speakers
Grammer spoke of traumatic issues in life that often lead to a change in lifestyle. In his case, it was a desire to receive affirmation for who he was from his father, a reason often cited in the traditional view of homosexual males.
Tremba focused on how the church has done a bad job reaching out to those with same-sex attractions, failing to witness to them and share with them the redeeming grace of God.
“Church should be a safe place for people with such attractions to come and share their struggles,” Winter said. “Instead we have not loved well those who have same-sex attraction; we have pushed them away.”
Tremba pointed out that there are many people with same-sex attractions who know their behavior is not right, and they seek God’s grace and forgiveness as they try to change.
“She spoke of praying for and showing grace to those who are struggling with same-sex attraction,” Winter said of Tremba’s address.
Overcoming through a relationship with Jesus
In a day and time when the Presbyterian Church (USA) has moved to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians as pastors and lay leaders, Winter noted that the Bible still shows that sexual relationships are reserved for a man and a woman in the context of marriage, and FPC-Haines City holds to that Scriptural teaching as a confessing church even with the denomination looking to redfine marriage at its upcoming General Assembly in June.
“This church has gone on record that we believe sex should be between a man and woman in the context of marriage,” he said. “We believe in Biblical marriage. Anything outside one man and one woman in terms of sex is wrong, therefore, homosexuality is wrong based on what we believe.”
Noting that homosexuality is a sin, Winter still sees the need to reach out to those with same-sex attractions, providing them an opportunity to experience God’s transformative power offered through acceptance and following of Christ.
“In my opinion, the church has done almost nothing to minister to homosexuals. We don’t want to get to know them or learn about their problems,” Winter said. “We need to pray for and love those homosexually indentified persons. I do believe their lifestyle is one of sin, but we need to provide tangible love for them.”
With that love comes the opportunity for those burdened by same-sex attraction to establish a relationship with Jesus.
“The only way someone can fully change is to come into a living relationship with Jesus Christ,” Winter said. “It’s not a matter of doing what’s right or wrong, but encouraging these people to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. The goal is not to make a homosexual become heterosexual. The goal is to let those struggling with same-sex attraction go deeper with Christ. They need to know that hope comes from knowing Jesus to help them say no to that homosexual attraction. Through a day to day walk with Him they will commit to stay true to the Word of God.”