My brothers and fathers serving Jesus Christ in Cincinnati,
Last week Cincinnati decided to “prohibit… the use of sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts with minors, including reparative and conversion therapy.” Two days before the vote, I tried to get pastors from the area to join together in opposing this new law. Although about a dozen joined me at the City Council meeting, the response from others wasn’t enthusiastic, especially on the part of my fellow reformed pastors.
One pastor asked an important question: “What does this have to do with ‘proclaiming Christ’ or ‘advancing His Kingdom’?” I’d like to take a moment to answer that question. Would you please read this and consider standing together publicly as Christian pastors united in our opposition to this law?
My only assumption is that we agree on one basic fact: that living a homosexual or transexual lifestyle is sinful. If you disagree, this letter isn’t to you. But if you agree with that one statement, any other disagreement we might have related to this topic is irrelevant for the purposes of this letter. Admittedly, it matters a great deal in how we minister to individuals tempted by such sins, but further agreement isn’t necessary because the new law has as its objective the silencing of the proclamation of the Gospel to minors living in or tempted by such sin.
Let’s examine the interface between the Gospel and this law with three quotes from the text of the law.
- The new law declares that certain sins are not actually sinful:
“the Council hereby finds that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming”
- The new law declares that repentance from sin is actually harmful:
“sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons”
- The new law’s stated goal is to prevent calling minors to such repentance:
“it is the desire of the Council to prohibit within the geographic boundaries of the City of Cincinnati the use of sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts with minors”
This law is a direct attack on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this reason, Christians—especially shepherds of God’s flock—must oppose this law. Contrary to claims by the media and others, this law does not just prohibit a certain kind of therapy they claim is professionally discredited. Rather this law prohibits “any treatment that aims to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual or to convert an individual who identifies with a gender other than the gender assigned at birth to the originally assigned gender.” (Emphasis mine.) There is no question that calling somebody to repent of such sin falls under the punitive measures of this law.
Do you love the sexually confused and rebellious and, like me, desire for them to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Then you must see how evil this law is, with its goal of preventing these young men and women from hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and instead leading them into sin.
It would have been easy for them to pass a law similar to this, and yet protect religious freedom and the proclamation of the Gospel. Numerous people requested such a change, but the city council had no desire to do so. Instead they established a new, official moral code for the city that calls evil good and good evil, and which will attempt to silence loving Christian counselors and therapists who won’t toe the new line.
Many have claimed that this silencing doesn’t apply to pastors—as if that somehow makes a law denying the Gospel of Jesus Christ peachy-keen. But since the topic has been raised, let me point out, again, that pastors are granted no exemption despite it being the work of a moment to write such an exemption into the law. Lawyers who have examined the code have different opinions concerning the degree to which this law could be used to silence Christian pastors in our work. Certainly the wording of the law is not reassuring, including as it does the statement, “or any other persons offering such mental health services.” In this sort of situation, a judge will decide who it applies to based on the wording of the law. If a judge says that it includes pastors, then it does, including the fines. We simply don’t know, yet, and that very fact ought to sound an alarm to us even if we are not concerned about protecting the religious liberties of Christian psychiatrists, psychologists, and certified marriage and family therapists.
Liberty Counsel is filing a lawsuit against the city. In their words, this law “infringes upon the First Amendment right of pastors (licensed and non-licensed) to provide counseling consistent with the Bible.” They have also recommended that churches in Cincinnati take some specific actions to protect themselves legally from potential harm because of this law. If you want more info, I’m happy to put you in touch with them. In fact, I encourage you to join them in their work.
In the meantime, would you please consider joining the coalition of churches and pastors that God has begun to form here? Many others in this city refuse to declare God’s love to those trapped in these sins, and have publicly abandoned them, as though the Gospel is only for heterosexuals. Many, indeed, are ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its call to repentance. But I am convinced this does not describe you and me as Christian shepherds of God’s flock. We know the Gospel and the obedience it leads to is God’s lovingkindness to mankind, and that it is able to transform individuals, communities, and whole cities by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Would you please join us so we may present a united public witness of opposition to this wicked ordinance? Please do so for the sake of the souls of believers and unbelievers, alike. Please do so for the sake of those dear souls who are caught in the sins of homosexuality. Please do so for the sake of the unity of the church of Jesus Christ, and for the strengthening of God’s work here in this city.
If you are willing to join your voice to ours, would you please contact Pastor David Bryan at Grace Point Church and let him know?
With love, your brother in Christ,