by Holland Davis, Pastor of Calvary Chapel San Clemente
In the year of 1998 my wife and I were involved in a church plant located a couple blocks from San Diego State University. A couple by the names of Jeff and Judy Johnson were lay leaders in the church plant and they were involved in a ministry called Living Waters. They loved the way that I led the church in worship and suggested that I should lead worship at an Exodus International Conference. I had no idea what that was, but I was open to whatever the Lord wanted me to do. They gave me a Dennis Jernigan tape and said… this is what they do at an Exodus International Conference. They also explained it was an affiliation of ministries that brought healing to people who had unwanted same sex attraction. I listened to the tape and gave it back and said… there is no way I could ever lead worship like Dennis Jernigan. First of all, he’s amazing and he’s a piano player. Way out of my league. He played all the expensive chords that I couldn’t afford to play. Jeff and Judy moved out of the area and that was the end of that idea… so I thought.
Fast forward to 2000, I get a call from Exodus International inviting me to lead worship at the conference being held at Point Loma that year. I immediately sensed the Holy Spirit say… go for it, I’m going to use you. I had no idea that this relationship would continue until Exodus International closed down in 2013. Now, I need to give some history at this point to fill in the blanks as to why I was drawn to Exodus International. First of all, the topic of homosexuality was something our family was all to familiar with. My wife’s twin brother came out of the closet when we were first married. We suspected something, but didn’t know for sure. Roxie’s family and our new family dealt with the roller coaster of emotions that families deal with when a loved one says they are gay. We struggled through the fears such as… will he give our babies Aids? All real, all raw. We were Christians. We knew what the Bible said about homosexuality. But we also wanted to understand homosexuality and how to love someone who said they were gay. It made for very interesting family gatherings for sure. During this time, I ministered with Dr. Ken Blue who was on the board of a woman’s ministry named Leanne Payne. She had the only successful ministry to homosexuals that I was aware of at the time. She taught us that homosexuality wasn’t something you were born with. It was something that was the result of years of abuse, neglect or seduction. But more importantly, she taught us that Jesus could heal people from homosexuality through healing prayer. We saw people healed. Not just nominally, but we saw people come to Jesus and we saw Him deliver them from the demonic strongholds that controlled them and we saw Him renew their sense of identity in Christ alone and not in their fallen passions or desires. The goal wasn’t to make them straight or to pray the gay away. The goal was to bring healing and wholeness through the power of Jesus Christ. What we saw was the natural alignment of whole people gravitating towards God’s created intent for their lives. We saw their attractions change, their desires change and their lifestyle change. I’m sorry if there are those who don’t identify with healing on this level or who disagree that it was real, but I’m only saying what I saw with my own eyes. True transformation by the grace of God… the powerful and active Presence of God in a person’s life. It wasn’t a counseling technique. It wasn’t sheer will power. It wasn’t reparative therapy. It was Jesus setting captives free. When I learned that Leanne Payne had been a previous speaker at Exodus I was interested and excited to lead worship for the conference.
At my first Exodus Conference, I was not prepared for the hunger that I saw in people’s heart for God’s Presence. It wasn’t the typical Sunday Morning worship service where you have to prod people to engage with God. The people were running into God’s Presence and God’s Presence we sensed. It is to this day the most powerful experiences with God I’ve ever encountered in worship. I saw God heal people’s broken hearts. I heard testimonies of God’s redeeming power. It wasn’t fake. It was very real. I saw couples that were formerly gay, who were now married standing as examples to those who were looking for a way out. I also saw people who were still in process. They were honest about their struggle, but they were committed to following Jesus. Over the years I watched men and women transformed from a gay identified life to a Christ identified life and I watched them move from homosexuality to heterosexuality. But… it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t 100%. Even some of the married folks continued to have same sex attraction, but it no longer controlled them, defined them or kept them from being married and enjoying a heterosexual marriage (the only married relationship God ordains). There are those who said… well, if they have same sex attraction then they are not healed. I disagree. Freedom is not a cure. Freedom doesn’t mean that you will never feel a certain way ever again. Freedom is the ability to make a choice because you are free from the control of whatever binds you. Freedom is the ability to act in obedience regardless of your attractions. I am a heterosexual male. I love women. I married a women. I like having sex with women. I’ve had sex with more women than just my wife before we were married. I would say I have an attraction to women. It doesn’t mean that I have to act on that attraction as a married man. You would not define me as an adulterer because I continue to be attracted to women. I am free.
Now, I do know people who are not free. They see a woman and they are compelled to try and sleep with that woman. They see a bottle of alcohol and they are compelled to drink. They see someone of the same sex and they are compelled to have sex with that person. That is not freedom because it leads to a lifestyle that God says does not line up with His created intent for our lives and it leads to a deeper sense of emptiness, guilt and shame. Now, you might think what right does God have to say what my created intent is? Well, the truth is He has every right because He made you. He is your designer. And as your designer He knows what He designed you for. Because of abuse, neglect or seduction our created identity can be damaged to the point that we loose our identity and begin identifying with our feelings, our emotions, our judgments and inner vows instead of identifying with who God says we are. Homosexuality falls into this category. People believe they were born homosexual because the abuse, neglect or seduction has occurred so early in life that they are not able to express their identity in words. I know women who were sexually abused as infants. They don’t have language, but they are aware of what’s happening to them and it affects their self identity. According to Ricky Chelette, a person’s sexual identity is set before age 3. That is how profound the effect of abuse, neglect or seduction is in a person’s life. It could be intentional or unintentional, but it is no less real to the child. Exodus International was a vehicle for helping those with same sex attraction receive healing for the “sins’ that were done to them in order to help them rediscover God’s created intent for their lives. Unfortunately, in the quest to see people set free, some techniques were introduced that served to hurt people further and not help them. Some techniques guaranteed a cure and when the cure didn’t work it brought hopelessness and despair. Thankfully, some of those therapies are now banned.
On the course of my journey I met many wonderful people. Joe & Renee Dallas, Alan & Leslie Chambers, Randy Thomas, Christine Sneeringer, Sy Rogers, Bob Ragan, Stephen Black, Mike & Angie Haley, Tony Moore, John & Annie Paulk, Frank & Anita Worthen, Carol Wagstaff, Christopher Yuan, Lynda Stein, Ricky Chelette, Billie Jimenez, Carol & John Andersen, Chris Stump, Chris Mann, Daniel Mingo, Costi & Nadia Korff, Doody Howard, Jerry Armelli, Jeff & Angela Buchanan, Andy Cominsky, Kate Petersen, Kathy Koch, Mike & Stephanie Goeke, Rachel Turner, Scott & Abby Dolbear, Nathan Collins, Richard Hollomon, Sonia Balcer, Ted Schneider, Tye Gamey, Nora Seeman, Karen Toney, McKrae Game, Melanee Davidson, Don Schmierer and Dennis Jernigan. I wish I could say every name is a success story of freedom from homosexuality. I can say that Jesus loves every person deeply and that all of us are in the process of sanctification. I pray for those who continue to live out of a fallen view of themselves and not the view that God has of them.
When Exodus ended, I lost a number of friends. Mostly because I chose to remain friends with Alan & Leslie Chambers and Randy Thomas. I am their friend because Jesus is their friend. I am not their friend because I agree with everything they say or do. I am their friend because I truly love and respect them. That is confusing for some.