Christianity,  News,  Politics

A brief word about the ACBC conference and the protest

This week I gave a couple of talks at the annual conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). The conference themes were transgender and homosexuality, and I gave one address on each topic. Rosaria Butterfield, Sam Allberry, Heath Lambert, Albert Mohler, Stuart Scott, Owen Strachan, and others also addressed the 2,000 people who gathered for the conference.

Several news outlets covered the meeting when about 40 people showed up to protest the conference on Monday. USA Today reports that the protesters were especially concerned that the conference promoted reparative therapy. They organized their protest to oppose reparative therapy, and they told several news outlets how harmful reparative therapy is.

But there was one problem. Neither the conference nor ACBC nor any of the speakers support reparative therapy. In fact, ACBC as an organization opposes reparative theraphy. Heath Lambert, the executive director of ACBC, wrote an extended critique of reparative therapy almost a year ago. In short, the conference had nothing to do with reparative therapy except to denounce it. Lambert explained all this at a news conference on Monday during the protest (see video above), but still it made news.

Bottom Line: About 40 people who oppose reparative therapy protested a conference that also opposes reparative therapy. The conference was sponsored by Christians on the campus of a Christian seminary, and it advocated a view of marriage and sexuality that has been held by Christians for the last 2,000 years.

I don’t think anyone could be blamed for wondering why this made headlines. Heath Lambert put it this way earlier today:

Perhaps the publicity isn’t all bad as it gives us an opportunity to highlight the real reason we met together this week. We believe that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–gay, straight, or otherwise (1 Tim. 1:15). Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, and he was raised to give us eternal life (Rom. 4:25). Every person on the planet is invited to receive this salvation on the same terms–through repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). And God gives everyone who follows Christ the power to walk in holiness (Phil. 2:12-13; 2 Pet. 1:3). That was why 2,000 biblical counselors gathered this week.

If the protests and publicity serve to highlight that message, then it would all be worth it.


    • Denny Burk

      Jonathan Merritt misrepresented Mohler’s views in that article. Go read the links. You will not find an endorsement of reparative therapy in any of the links that Merritt provides. Merritt is simply misleading his readers on this one.

      • Ike Lentz

        The links are exactly as described in Merritt’s article.

        He criticizes the APA’s condemnation of reparative therapy:

        He criticizes mainline denominations’ condemnation of orientation change therapy:

        If Mohler didn’t want to endorse reparative therapy, why did he criticize those who opposed it?

        The larger point, is that describing the views at ACBC as the views of all christians for 2000 years, is misleading. Even the ACBC represents a shift.

        Even 20 years ago it was common to hear christian leaders call homosexuality a mental disorder or even demon possession, to urge reparative therapy, and to call it a “choice” (even the most ardent conservative is more nuanced today). Even your blog post a few months ago where you interviewed a gay christian who chooses celibacy would have been unheard of in decades past.

        • Denny Burk

          Criticizing the APA and mainline denominations is not the same thing as endorsing reparative therapy. And I believe he was right to criticize these groups. These groups aren’t just opposing reparative therapy. They are opposing ANY effort at changing the sinful desires that lead to homosexual practice. That means that they would oppose what Christianity teaches about the gospel’s transforming effect on all sinners.

          That is why even though I oppose reparative therapy, I don’t believe it should be outlawed (as it has been in New Jersey and California). I don’t like reparative therapy, but I don’t think counselors and psychiatrists should lose their license for practicing it. So I would defend RT against those who are trying to outlaw their existence even as I hope to persuade people that RT isn’t a Christian approach to change. But that’s not an endorsement of RT. Quite the opposite.

  • Christiane Smith

    Christians don’t fear those who are ‘different’ from themselves. We can’t continue to play the ‘victim’ and look around for sympathy when someone doesn’t understand us and expresses their own fearfulness. In a case like the one in this post, I think the onus is on the people of faith to change ‘confrontation’ into an opportunity, not to appear ‘misunderstood’ or ‘victimized’; but an opportunity to meet with the protesters and resolve the issue using patience and kindness.

    I don’t see ‘Christ’ in the reaction to the protesters. Christian people have no control over how people protest against them; but they do have very powerful ways of responding to those protests, wherein Christ is visibly represented through the use of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    That kind of witness will make a difference in the lives of all concerned; whereas an immature ‘culture war’ response may play to ‘the base’ but has no place being used by those who are tasked with presenting Christ to the world in a way that makes Him the center of their response to being misunderstood.

  • Ken Temple

    “The Bible never says that heterosexuality, in general terms, is a good thing. Sex that the Bible praises is the kind that happens in heterosexual marriage—that is sex in a marriage between one man and one woman. The Bible, however, never commands or commends heterosexual desires in general terms.” Heath Lambert, in the article you linked to.

    What does Lambert mean here, in light of Genesis chapters 1-2 and the Song of Solomon, 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 6:17.

    At the end of Genesis chapter 1, after God says He created them “male and female” and commands them to be fruitful and multiply, He says “very good” in verse 31. Then in Genesis 2:18, God says it is “not good” for the man to be alone; and creates woman; and then at the end it says, “they were naked and not ashamed” (implying the goodness of sex in marriage).

    I don’t understand what Heath means, by “heterosexuality, in general terms” – maybe he means heterosexual sex (fornication or just “hooking up” or casual sex) without the covenant and commitment of marriage ?

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi GUS,
      I’m from a different tradition, so I am not the one to offer something of value to people who are fundamentalist-evangelicals . . . but perhaps I can offer something of shared value from a ‘reformer’ respected by many in the Church who have different faith traditions. What is known from his work is that it has had the effect of changing the ‘tone’ among many in the Church towards those who are in need of Christ:

      I’m off today for some minor surgery, so I’ll try to be more specific in future, if given the opportunity.
      Thank you for asking. God bless!

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.