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Summer / Autumn 2013 Volume 14 Issue 1
Grace for a Foul and Fair Day
“For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans11:29 “So fair and foul a day I have not seen.” Macbeth, Act 1: Scene 3 Dear Friends, Ten months of foul and fair days have passed since you received an RL newsletter. Were it not for the irrevocable calling of God I would have happily walked away from Redeemed Lives. But His call and empowering grace pulled me and RL through. Allow me to give you only a partial list of the foul that preceded the fair. Nancy and I, as well as Redeemed Lives, somehow drew the attention of the IRS. The 2011 Bergner tax return was misread by a computer, which we cleared up. But due to a clerical error, the IRS successfully shut down RL Massachusetts because of a failure on our part to file an annual form (although we had paid all our taxes as required). This was an oversight due to a succession of office managers. Hence, at a cost of several thousand dollars, RL had to re -file for our 501c3 status so that our donors could legitimately give to RL and rightly claim a year -end tax-deduction for last year (2012). We successfully accomplished this task and the tax deductible status of your donations has never been lost. But, it was the debacle of the closing of Exodus USA (EUSA) and the two year lead -up to this that was truly heartbreaking. Because RL was never an ex -gay organization we were not a member ministry of EUSA. Moreover, because of my Anglican orders and the RL trustees, I have not had the need of another organization for authoritative guidance and accountability. Still, many dear colleagues in the ministry of emancipation from unwanted sexual attractions were profoundly affected and hence the memory of the founders of EUSA was dishonored. For these reasons, this newsletter includes A Tribute to Alan and Willa Medinger, the founders of Regeneration Ministries in Baltimore and Washington D.C. and pioneers at EUSA. Plus, I offer my takeaway on the Aftermath Exodus USA. But foul cannot block the fair in the Kingdom of God. RL continued to run support groups and give missions in the USA, including YWAM in Hawaii, Finland and the Netherlands. The RL Northern Illinois group sent a praise report which we have reprinted here. And the LORD has blessed us with two new wonderful staff members. RL is like Vincent Van Gogh in his painting of Lazarus (seen below). It is a self -portrait of Vincent rising from death to life after a season of turmoil. Please pray for RL; by God’s empowering grace we are emerging from the most foul season of ministry ever into a fair new day. In His Adventure, Mario+
Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
- Titus 2:1
In This Issue
Page 1: Grace for a Foul and Fair Day Page 2-3: Aftermath Exodus USA Page 4-5: Tribute to Alan and Willa Medinger Page 6: Stories of Redeemed Lives Meet the New Staff
Van Gogh’s Lazarus
Aftermath Exodus USA
Recently, lots of people have asked me two questions. First, what do I think of Alan Chambers' apology to the LGBT community? Second, what’s my take on Exodus USA (EUSA) closing its doors? Let’s start with the first. As for the apology, because some of the ministries affiliated with EUSA did do harm, some should ask forgiveness. I well remember a ministry led by a person in the mid 1980’s whose approach included praying three times, ‘BE MADE NORMAL!’, then speaking in tongues and attempting to cast out demons. I am sure this Christian hurt some people and creeped -out others. But, while Alan's apology had some merit, it was too broad and not applicable to any of the EUSA leaders I have known these last thirty years, such as Alan and Willa Medinger, to whom I have paid tribute in these pages. The majority of EUSA ministries did not engage in such practices. Alan overstepped his authority when he made himself the authoritative voice of EUSA’s thirty-seven year history and asked forgiveness of the LGBT community. Perhaps the former EUSA leadership should consider apologizing for embroiling EUSA in political debates they were ill -equipped to handle, and giving Reparative Therapy a place of primacy over the healing power of the Holy Spirit at their annual conferences. But, there are people not associated with EUSA who should apologize to the LGBT community as well and to those of us who have struggles with unwanted same -sex attractions.
There are plenty of people who say nasty things about those who self -identify as LGBT and are ungracious
toward people who have come out of homosexuality. During my time in seminary, I cooked Sunday night dinner for a busy family every weekend. One day, an Episcopal Priest in Pittsburgh was standing next to the mother of this family and whispered to her as I passed by, 'He used to be gay. How weird is that?' And then he made a face like he was barfing. He did not see the hole she burned into him with her loving eyes. She told on you, the Rev. Holy One of Pittsburgh. A few years before, as I returned to Christianity, I attended a church associated with the evangelical church where I first met the Lord. One Sunday morning a former high school classmate of mine looked at me in shock and asked, ‘Are you Mario Bergner?’ As I nodded, this person snickered, ‘I bet you could tell a few stories.’ And walked away. I was totally demoralized. Fortunately, that same Sunday morning an older wiser Christian asked, ‘Are you Mario Bergner?’ And as I nodded she said, 'I've prayed for you every day for the last twelve years, ever since I first met you and saw the deep sadness in your eyes. Now it is gone and I can tell the love of Jesus has found a home in your heart.’ I wept. Then there was the Christian leader I confided in that I once bought an R-rated steamy video that I destroyed instead of watching. This leader then told several people about my ‘confession’ in an attempt to discredit me by invoking my struggles with unwanted same-sex attractions (ssa). Fortunately, the two Anglican Priests who were brought into this leader’s self-appointed ‘sealed prophetic confessional’ came to me directly about the matter. Generalizations about people with same-sex attractions is not limited to people who have never experienced these. Alan Chambers, as he presided over the dismantling of EUSA, used an unfounded statistic to make a gross generalization about people who have come out of homosexuality. From an interview on the Gay Christian Network (GCN), Alan is quoted as
saying, ‘99.9% of them [people who have come to Exodus for help], have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.’ Here is the conflation of two Alan Chambers being interview on the GCN separate ideas linked to a singular unsupported statistic: Was Alan talking about orientation change? Or temptation? Was he saying people are tempted 99.9% of the time? If so, then just what does the 0.1% that remains represent? Everyone I know in this ministry teaches on temptation and redemptive suffering, so to our ears it sounded like he was saying we live with 0.1% change in same -sex attractions. Still, no one bothered to ask Alan, “And from what scientific study with a control group did you get your statistic that 99.9% of same -sex attractions remains unchanged?’” To be sure, I have experienced way more than 0.1% of change, otherwise I would never have married. I really needed to know that my sexual intimacy with Nancy was going to be sweet, fun, holy and pleasurable. It is. If I thought I could not remain faithful to Nancy in genuine love, I would have never had five children with her. Now I wish we had married earlier and had seven children. Really. But, for those of you who want an answer about my experience of change, I have put it in quotes since I say it so often.
'I can go months and months without a same -sex attraction (ssa), thought or feeling: a holiday of sorts, but raindrops of anger and pride will surely fall on my head. Then I will have weeks upon weeks with it right there, like a flea in my ear. Sometimes, I have ssa thoughts and feelings for several days like the flu. Then several days without any, like when my wife and I actually have a string of days alone and our friendship and love for each other is uninterrupted. If one of my children is sick, I become a nutcase with worry, like when our third treasure was born with a birth defect. When Nancy almost became a quadriplegic, I was in a sleep -deprived anxious condition for a month. Who is aware of sexual attractions at all when the most important people in your life are in danger? I'd gladly never have another sexual feeling of any sort if it meant extending the life of one of my children or Nancy even for an hour. So
the answer is some days it's 100% gone, or maybe I am just so busy I don’t have time for libido. Other days 50%. Never 99.9% present because my life does not allow for me to be continuously aware of what remains of my ever shrinking sin nature. I just wish I had less of a problem with swearing and anger (so do my wife and children, whom I love more than life itself). Temptations come and go. But Jesus is our priestly advocate in our temptations. He was tempted in every way in which we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).’
Now to the second question. W hat’s my take on EUSA closing its doors? It's probably
for the best. Surely, it was discouraging for people who went to EUSA in 2013 in hope only to discover they no longer proclaimed transformation from unwanted ssa in Christ. So it seems appropriate for EUSA to close since its original vision for proclaiming freedom from homosexuality through the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been publically abandoned.
One of RHN’s board members, the New Testament scholar
During Alan’s tenure the board of EUSA became insular and fell under the sectarian influence Dr. Robert Gagnon, of an erroneous doctrine called ‘pure grace’. This ‘grace’ is asserted in a poorly researched book entitled Pure Grace (PG, Destiny Image 2012) written by Clark Whitten, a former EUSA asserts an overly board member and Alan’s pastor While upholding the finished work of Christ on the Cross as schematic hierarchical the source of all grace, Whitten claims he has uncovered the ‘uncontaminated grace’ of a new Reformation (see p. 25ff). According to Whitten, ‘pure grace’ is superior to the tainted grace of doctrine of sin that Martin Luther and John Calvin. Advocates of Whitten’s ‘pure grace’ have publically stated ranks homosexual there is never a need to confess sin after conversion, despite the fact that the Lord’s Prayer behavior just below includes a daily petition for the forgiveness of sin. Plus, Whitten espouses at least two gnostic ideas of human personhood. First is his assertion of the Freudian dualism of conscious versus bestiality and incest. unconscious as categories for sin (p. 19). Such concepts are not found in the Bible. Second is his view of a gnostic split between body and spirit. I am not saying my flesh is sanctified. It is not. Whitten declares (p. 33). But sanctification in our flesh grows concurrently with holiness in our spirits, as 2 Cor. 7:1 attests. Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. The flesh and the spirit are one unified entity of the human being. We are a psychosomatic unity, not two dualistic opposing features that cannot abide together. The conflict between flesh and spirit is not due to the incompatibility of the two, but to the occupation of sin infecting and dividing them. Paul attests that nothing good dwells in the flesh (i.e. sinful nature, Rom 7:18) but that sin dwells in me (i.e. the whole person, Rom 7:20). Christians do not believe that sin dwells only in the flesh of the body. That is the mistaken assertion of the First Century gnostic Cerinthus, who claimed to be a Christian and against whom John wrote his first New Testament (NT) epistle. In the NT, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) may mean physical body or sinful nature. Linguistically, sarx in the NT operates as a homophone, that is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, although it may be spelled the same. Additionally, sarx is not a synonym for both physical body and sinful nature; its usage in translation is determined by context. As a caveat, a homophone is not a mobile device for homophobes (I thought a little humor might lighten this article).
A positive outcome of the closing of EUSA is that some of the most reputable ministries that left EUSA started the Restored
Hope Network (RHN). Andy Comiskey is the president of RHN and I believe that Andy was one of the best presidents EUSA ever had. Why? Because he has the education and expertise to always keep the Gospel in a primary place, wisely use the gifts of the Holy Spirit and draw helpful insights from a variety of schools of psychology, not simply one modality like Reparative Therapy (RT) (I know some who have been helped by RT and others for whom it did no good whatsoever). RHN has produced doctrinal statements in concert with historic Christianity from thoughtful Christians within their membership. But not all ministries who left EUSA have joined RHN. Some former EUSA ministries are waiting for the dust to settle after all this turmoil and are taking a long season of prayerful discernment before affiliating with another organization. Several leaders of former EUSA ministries have expressed concern over a harsh doctrine of sin associated with RHN. One of RHN’s board members, the New Testament scholar Dr. Robert Gagnon, asserts an overly schematic hierarchical doctrine of sin that ranks homosexual behavior below bestiality and incest. Although RHN has not endorsed Gagnon’s view, it has also not distanced itself from this pastorally insensitive and destructive doctrine coming from the only Biblical scholar among their ranks. Gagnon’s first book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (TBHP, Abingdon 2001), is still the gold standard for text and hermeneutic evaluation of homosexuality in Holy Scripture. But since 2001 his foray into the Christian doctrine of sin (harmatology) has not garnered any of the scholarly backing of TBHP. In fact, after several years of research, I have yet to find a New Testament scholar who supports Gagnon’s assertion. Still, Gagnon articulates his typology of sin with greater logical integrity than the illogical ‘ pure grace’ that infected EUSA. It seems unlikely that many RHN ministries support Gagnon’s harmatology and certainly none embrace Whitten’s ‘pure grace’. The reality on the ground is that all of us who have for decades offered effective ministry to people with unwanted sexual attractions will continue to do so. That is our call; it is irrevocable (Romans 11:29). The staying power of our ministries is that of changed lives. All the ministries affiliated with RHN can attest to that. Likewise, so can many ministries that have not affiliated with RHN. And ministries like RL, that were never part of EUSA, will continue to serve Christ Jesus and His Kingdom just like our friends at RHN and within the diaspora of former EUSA ministries.
In the spring of 1984 by the providence and grace of Almighty God, I met Alan and Willa Medinger. They were in their early fifties (my age now) and I was twenty-six years old. Little did I know that for the next twenty-six years these two saints of God would pop in and out of my life with prophetic power. Alan was only the second person I had ever met who had come out of homosexuality. But he was the first person I ever heard speak of homosexual attractions in the past tense with Willa by his side nodding in confirmation. They were both so nonchalant about the topic of his past homosexual experiences, many of which had occurred during their married life. Conversely, I was nonplussed. Were these two people for real? Three months earlier I was battling for my soul before God. Like Job, I felt as if the Devil had cut some kind of deal with the LORD to test and try me. I had landed on the dung heap of the twentieth century with conflicting messages about homosexuality and Christianity adding to the stink. In faith, I had recommitted my life to Jesus, and in faith I was doing my best to walk out of same-sex attractions with the hopes of one day being married with children. And here, before me, was a Christian man telling me that he was married with children, and had been acting out homosexually for many of those years. And next to him was his wife with a face full of sweetness. How could this be? We had all gathered at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio for a weekend conference on Rational Christian Thinking, a Christian version of rational emotive therapy. My pastoral counselor, Hal Schell had invited me for the weekend event. And it was Hal who introduced me to Alan and Willa that first night. Hal was the first person I ever met who came out of homosexuality. Like Alan much of his acting out occurred during his marriage. Unlike Alan his marriage had not survived and Hal was now divorced. But that seemed more appropriate to me than what Alan and Willa presented. I thought to myself, They must be impostors. The rest of that weekend, every meal, every coffee break, I was beside Alan and Willa. I was like a spy satellite orbiting their world, trying to acquire as much information as possible. Their honesty and openness in our conversations elicited the same from me. I But everyone shared with them all sorts of things about my past I had never told anyone. who prophesies When speaking of my childhood, I recounted that I had been over-weight and speaks to men that some of my family members and peers taunted me. Alan recounted, ‘I’ve for their strengthening, always had a belly.’ Then he grabbed a few inches of his middle between his encouragement thumb and index finger. ‘The Lord showed me once that I just have to accept and comfort. this is part of who I am, and not hate myself because I carry some weight in my gut. After all, I am middle aged.’ He was so real. Willa chimed in, ‘I’ve 1 Corinthians 14:3 always been a bit round.’ As a young, vain, working out five times a week, professional actor and voice and speech teacher, I was shocked anyone could have that kind of self-acceptance. Today I’m middle aged and can pinch an inch or two and Alan’s words are a balm to my gravitationally challenged mid-section. On Saturday evening after dinner, Alan and Willa shared with me the painful details of his homosexuality as it manifested in their marriage, which he later so eloquently wrote about in Growth Into Manhood (Shaw Books, 2000). When speaking of his full conversion and regeneration to Jesus Christ, he gave the day, month and year. He testified that after that day he never acted out homosexually again, thanks to Jesus. This gave me such hope. A few months earlier I had had a dramatic return to Christ and wondered if it would be enough to keep me on the road to holy living. It was and is. Alan was living proof that regeneration in Jesus Christ is the greatest healing any soul can ever have. No doubt that is why the ministry he founded is named Regeneration. As our conversation came to a close that night they both offered to pray for me. I do not remember what they prayed.
Tribute to Alan & Willa Medinger
But I remember the very last thing Willa said to me, ‘You must come to the Exodus conference in Baltimore in June.’ I had never heard of Exodus. But I was determined to go if for no other reason than to see Alan and Willa again. When we said good-bye on Sunday afternoon, I no longer thought them to be impostors. They were genuine, like no other two people I had ever met. A few months later in June of 1984 I arrived in Baltimore I am a fellow servant with you for the Exodus conference. Alan and Willa were waiting there and with your brothers who hold to the to greet me. Willa called me ‘honey’ and gave me a big hug. She must have noticed the anxious lines on my forehead and testimony of Jesus. Worship God! frightened, darting eyes. For the first hour I hung around the For the testimony of Jesus Medingers; then Willa said, ‘Let me introduce you to some of is the spirit of prophecy. our guys from Regeneration, you don’t want to hang out with old folks all week, do you?’ Actually, I would have loved to Revelation 19:10b hang out with them. Some of the people I met there remain dear friends today, nearly thirty years later. Moreover, my life was changed that week. The speaker at the conference was Dr. Robert Frost, author of Our Heavenly Father (Logos Books 1978). For five days he taught on fatherhood and the need we have for a father’s love, something that was desperately missing from my life (and most of the lives of those around me). After Dr. Frost’s final address he called forward a ministry team and offered healing prayer for those of us with father wounds. I went forward, received prayer, cried heaving sobs, and then encountered the Presence of God the Father as never before. Something inside me changed profoundly. For the first time, I knew the love of God the Father in the deepest recesses of my soul. Moreover, I was assured His love could make up for the love my earthly father did not have to give. Had Willa not insisted I come to the Exodus conference, I would have not received that life changing healing. For the next seven years I saw Alan and Willa at every annual Exodus conference. They were always the first people I looked for, acting as if they had been waiting for me to arrive (they made everyone feel that way). We always made sure to share a meal together at the conferences, and then I was honored to minister alongside them as the years progressed. In my book, Setting Love In Order, (Baker, 1995) I wrote how God brought Willa and me together to pray for a woman coming out of lesbianism at an Exodus conference in Nyack, New York in the late 1980s. If ever there was an incarnation of motherhood, it was Willa. When this dear young woman began to weep, Willa enfolded her in her arms, stroked her hair as one would a baby’s, and prayed this hurting girl into the presence of Jesus, where she found profound healing. When the 1990’s rolled in I went to seminary and graduate school, and could no longer afford to attend the annual Exodus conference, which was a great loss. For those first seven years of my journey out of homosexuality, the Exodus conference was a sure source of fellowship, encouragement and healing. And Alan and Willa were always there, like a mother and father encouraging hundreds and thousands of men and women coming out of homosexuality. I saw Alan and Willa twice between 1992 and 2002. Both times they spoke profound words of edification. Once was in the early 1990’s during a Pastoral Care Ministries conference in Fairfax, Virginia, where I was a prayer minister and speaker. After one of my lectures, the Medingers came up to me and quietly shared an observation about a positive change they had seen in me. Then they prayed for me and in the prayer a prophetic word came forward, which I did not fully understand. Actually, I am quite certain Alan and Willa did not know they were speaking a prophetic word to me then. But the quality of the prayer was so unique, like a church bell ringing truth. Then almost ten years later, in 2002 at the Exodus conference in Wheaton, Illinois, Alan and Willa greeted me once more. Not remembering what they had spoken to me many years earlier in Fairfax, they spoke their unacknowledged prophetic word again, word for word. The Holy Spirit fell upon me and a great weight which had accumulated upon my shoulders in those years between Fairfax and Wheaton lifted from me. Alan and Willa lived prophetic lives. They died just three months apart from each other in the summer of 2010. Together, they held to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10b) and spoke prophetic words of strengthening, encouraging and comfort to thousands of men and women (1 Corinthians 14:3). They were not the kind of Christians who would declare themselves as prophets. I doubt they ever thought of themselves that way. That’s what made them so real, so genuinely prophetic and humble. Alan and Willa overcame life’s most difficult challenges, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. (Revelation 12:10).
Stories of Redeemed Lives
We praise and thank God daily for the work He has done, is doing, and will do through Redeemed Lives! So that you can share in our praises, please read this email from Mindy, a woman who has participated in the Redeemed Lives Program in Northern Illinois with Dawn Zeller, and SPS, who just sent Mario a Facebook message.: In RL I believe God seeks to both confront Christians with how they fall short relationally and elicit compassion from Christians relationally involved with those struggling. I believe by repenting of my past sins and forgiving others of their sin against me, God has called me to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, so they can freely express His love in relationship with others. RL touches on topics like deprivation, codependency, and anxiety in a way that explains the behavior and, with God’s word, clearly defines what our relational response should be. Finding the connection between “recognizing and forgiving how I have been sinned against” and “how I then acted out in sin because of being hurt, and how to seek redemption” is clear through both RL lectures and personal testimony. Personally, having a place to truthfully tell my painful story among believers after having such aforementioned topics defined, having confirmation on how I was responsible for acting out in pain by sinning, and having believers pray for me, encouraged me to seek God’s transforming grace and healing. God worked greatly to restore both my integrity and empathy through the RL ministry. I am called to lead others to seek the Lord in the same way so they can experience the same healing I have experienced. Why RL? Simply because it is a convenient way to intentionally set aside focused time and attention in an intimate setting where these topics can be addressed. —Mindy Mario, My mother introduced me to you at the Tuttle Vineyard a few years back at a conference Ron Hobelman set up (my former recovery group leader at Vineyard Columbus). Currently, I am attending Vineyard Church of [EDITED OUT]. When I was in the gay lifestyle, she gave me your book ‘Setting Love in Order’. It challenged me and scared me at the same time. That was the first time I ever threw a book away. Nonetheless, God used your ministry to help pull me out of the gay lifestyle in 2008 after 12 years. For any suffering or trial you went through, this brother made it in. Thanks for your life in Christ! — SPS
To share your stories confidentially, email us at email@example.com.
Redeemed Lives New England Program
A 26-week course of pastoral care and discipleship for the cure of the soul Wednesday Nights October 16th, 2013 through May 14th, 2014 South Hamilton, Massachusetts Final Application deadline: October 26th, 2013 Apply at www.redeemedlives.org
Meet the Redeemed Lives Staff
Bethany Plante serves as an administrator and office manager for Redeemed Lives. A mother of three, she recently returned to work after twenty-one years of homeschooling. Bethany loves using her administrative skills to serve the ministries of Redeemed Lives. She also writes Murder Mystery dinner theatre scripts in her free time. Pieter Valk is an intern for Redeemed Lives through the Boston Fellows Program based out of Amesbury, Massachusetts. He recently graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Pieter shares Redeemed Lives’ mission to love Pieter, Bethany, and Mario and heal men and women dealing with sexual brokenness. He is excited to enhance Redeemed Lives’ ability to serve the community while discovering God’s plans for him in the near future. Pieter also enjoys playing the bassoon and running.
Redeemed Lives 2013 Autumn Schedule
Personhood: Divine and Human Tyndale Theological Seminary Amsterdam, Netherlands October 7-8, 2013 Redeemed Lives New England Program South Hamilton, Massachusetts October 9, 2013 - May 7, 2014 Shepherd’s Voice Day Retreat Adelynrood Retreat Center Byfield, Massachusetts October 26, 2013
Redeemed Lives PO Box 451 Ipswich, MA 01938 www.redeemedlives.org 978.356.0404 firstname.lastname@example.org Mario Bergner, President Bethany Plante, Admin. Pieter Valk, Intern Board of Directors Mr. Brandt Gillespie The Rev. Christopher Greco The Rev. Neil Hubacker The Rev. Leslie McKinney Ms. Lyn Silarski
Redeemed Lives, Inc. is a Federally Registered 501(c)3 Tax Exempt religious organization
Bringing all people into the healing and saving embrace of Jesus Christ.
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Inside This Issue
Aftermath Exodus USA
By Mario Bergner
Summer / Autumn 2013