Leaders of the NationalGay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA) have planted churches in the United Statesby teaching that homosexuality is not a sin, and leaders of the group insist that Bible verses condemning same-sex relationships have been misinterpreted for centuries.
Meanwhile, leaders of ex-gay ministries have refuted the NGPA's theology as a dangerous delusion.The NGPA's members say they experience the same lively worship and spiritual gifts enjoyed in traditional Pentecostal denominations. There is one majordifference, however--their churches are made up of, though not limited to,gay men and women.
The NGPA has grown in nine states and eight countries by preaching adoctrine of acceptance for all people regardless of sexual orientation--muchto the chagrin of mainstream Pentecostals. While the NGPA openly promotesits so-called Bible-based pro-homosexuality views, its leaders wouldn'trelease membership statistics to Charisma.
"In reading the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek, we do not find anycondemnation of homosexuality whatsoever," said William H. Carey, co-founderof the NGPA. "In the Hebrew Old Testament, we find the record of twohomosexual marriages. We find no evidence connecting Sodom and Gomorrah tohomosexuality."
Carey also believes there have been deliberate misinterpretations ofLeviticus 18:22 and 20:13, passages that condemn immoral behavior. "In theHebrew, it simply states that two men cannot lie down for any purpose in awoman's bed," Carey told Charisma.
Joe Dallas, past president of Exodus International--an evangelical ministryto homosexuals--warns that Carey's arguments are deceptive. In his 1996 book,"A Strong Delusion: Confronting the 'Gay Christian' Movement," he says Godisn't going to change His moral standards to accommodate someone else's.
"Please don't decide something is right just because it's hard to get over,"Dallas writes. "That's tampering with the Word of God."
The NGPA also dismisses other biblical passages that mentionhomosexuality. "We find that 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 have beenmistranslated, and Romans 1:26-27, while not mistranslated, are beingcompletely misunderstood because people are taking them out of context andapplying them to 20th-century America instead of first-century Rome, where adifferent lifestyle prevailed," Carey said.
Carey was preparing to enter ministry in a United Pentecostal Church inSchenectady, N.Y., when he was revealed as being gay and was then forced toleave his church in 1979. A year later he helped form the NGPA. Small NGPAchurches operate in Michigan, New York, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina,Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, Nebraska, Russia, and Ukraine.
Not surprisingly, mainstream Pentecostal ministers dismiss the NGPA asheretical.
"To expunge from the Scriptures all those verses that deal withhomosexuality as sin would automatically mean that you are not Full Gospel,and you can't call yourself Full Gospel," said Arnold Lastinger, who haspastored First Assembly of God in Gainesville, Fla., for 20 years andstrongly disagrees with the denomination's premise that homosexuality is notsin.
The organizing of gay churches into a denominational structure isn't new. In1968, the Rev. Troy Perry, a Pentecostal minister defrocked for admittinghis homosexuality, started a church in Los Angeles to affirm gay men andwomen. It later became the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan CommunityChurches (UFMCC) and today has 300 churches in 18 countries and more than30,000 members.
The NGPA, which is headquartered in Ferndale, Mich., claims that itpreaches "the full Bible standard of salvation, repentance, water baptism byimmersion and receiving the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues,"according to statements on the denomination's Web site.
The group also says it believes in the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit,including prophecy and discerning of spirits. Rene Garcia, pastor of an NGPAcongregation, Lighthouse Evangel Tabernacle in Ferndale, said NGPA ministersresearch the Hebrew and Greek meanings of biblical words and teach from theKing James Version of the Bible.
The NGPA maintains that it is not for homosexuals only. Heterosexuals havebeen an essential part of the work since the group's inception, Carey said.Garcia confirmed that worshipers in the NGPA experience common charismaticmanifestations in their services, including speaking in tongues. ButLastinger believes the NGPA's link to Pentecostalism is an effort by gays totag along with the fastest growing segment of Christianity.
"They want to be on board a winning team, and Pentecostalism is growingphenomenally around the world," Lastinger said. "It looks to me that theyare trying to gain acceptance by elbowing their way onto a winning teamwhere they have not been invited nor indeed are welcome."
Alan Chambers, an associate pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in WinterPark, Fla., said traditional churches are partly to blame for the rejectionhomosexuals experience when they are open about sexual struggles."One comment we often make is, 'Hate the sin and love the sinner.' We havethe hate part down really well," he said.
Chambers disagrees with the NGPA view that gay people cannot leave thehomosexual lifestyle. "God loves us no matter where we are--but that does notmean He chooses to leave us there," he said. "Change is part of being aChristian."