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To finish the list from my previous post, we jump back to the present day to someone with a history perhaps even more complex than the Apostle Paul. This is probably the biggest risk I have ever taken with a blog post. There are people who castigate him as someone who shames gay people. There are people who laud him as an example of being cured of homosexuality and/or transgender. But if you listen to his personal testimony rather than jumping to preconceived notions, you might find that he has gone far beyond these things in his message.
Sy Rogers has run the gamut from being associated with more than one letter of the LGBT acronym to being an active member of the ex-gay movement. Now, according to recent remarks I have heard him make to audiences, he simply preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I find his story a fascinating journey from a troubled early life to a life of experimenting with lifestyles and identities to a triumphant and satisfied life of peace in Christ. And it is a story that I present here as faithfully as possible as an objective reporter, not an editorial commentator.
This is the second blog post I have written about Sy Rogers. The first, posted on 8/8/14, found no fault with him. It only found fault with those who claim that he is a cured transsexual. In their zeal, they ignore his own testimony. That post is consistent with this one. He never really is or was transgender. It was an experiment after trying a number of other paths. Fortunately for him, the Lord spared him from a terrible mistake.
It was when Sy focused on pleasing God that he found peace. And that is the core of the message he now preaches.
So early in life that he does not even know at what age it occurred, he began to be molested with regularity. Outside of the home, before he ever experienced any sexual attractions or became aware of any sexual orientation, Sy’s speech and mannerisms made him a target for reprehensible verbal attacks and bullying, using terms for being gay and/or effeminate that are too vile to repeat. While most of his peers did not join in, none of them did much, if anything, to come to his aid. And it should be pointed out that his attackers were not people who identified as LGBT.
At some point in adolescence, Sy decided that his attackers might be correct and that this is who he was. He began to seek and find same sex relationships. The verbal attacks and bullying continued through school until he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Hawaii. There his fellow sailors pretty much left him alone. He theorizes that they respected anyone who had what it took to make it through basic training, regardless of any other personal views. He used whatever free time allotted to him to lead a double life: sailor following orders on duty and active involvement in the gay community off base. This included him meeting and becoming friends with men who identified as gay Christians. They attended churches that identified as open and affirming of the gay lifestyle. While Sy believed in God his whole life, he was lukewarm even about this church because he was angry with God.
The next step in Sy’s journey occurred after he finished his tour with the Navy. He enrolled in college. It was a difficult experience for him. He became the target for any anti-gay sentiment on campus. The college would not allow him to have a dorm roommate. Petitions were filed against him. He was nominated for homecoming queen as a joke. He also says that there were some Christians who cared enough about him to try to witness to them. But the mistake they made, well-meaning as they were, was to try to win theological arguments with him instead of emphasizing that God indeed loves him.
Around this time, two of his gay Christian friends, friends whose marriage he celebrated with them, contacted him with news they were excited to share. By reading the Bible for themselves, they became convinced that the gay theology taught by their church was in error. They renounced their marriage and their gay lifestyle, were born again and started to attend a conservative church.
The initial effect that this had on Sy was to challenge a key pillar in his life, the teaching of the liberal church that God had made him gay and he should celebrate it. But that pillar wasn’t immediately replaced with a new support system. He decided that he was a failure as a man, as so many people were telling him. In fact, maybe he wasn’t a man at all. The only way that made sense for him to be born again was to be reborn as a woman. He went so far as to live as a woman for about 18 months in preparation for “sex change”.
At that time, Sy heard directly from God even though he wasn’t actively seeking Him. God found him when no Christian, no mocker, no church led Sy to Him. God and particularly the love and redemption of God became real to him. He reports that God didn’t say for him to stop being gay, but simply to walk with Him. Sy realized this was what he had needed all along. Having been told that he was reprobate and couldn’t be saved on the one hand, and that God made him gay on the other, he decided to turn to the Bible for himself to see what God had to say on the matter.
As a result, Sy turned away from living as a woman. He didn’t return to a gay lifestyle, even though his gay friends attempted to bring him back there. Soon, he realized that he needed to associate with people who shared his current values. He started attending a church. In this church, he found the male companionship he was lacking all his life and so desperately needed. They didn’t judge him as effeminate, which Sy admits that he still was very much so at the time. They simply drew him into their fellowship over and over again. For the first time in his life, he met men who simply accepted him as a man and didn’t want to either beat him up or have sex with him. This required an adjustment period for him, one that he was able to eventually work through.
Salvation is not followed by “and they lived happily ever after.” Sy faced trials. The main one was that he still had urges for sex with other men and the guilt he experienced as a result. He became a pastor, got married and has a family (a daughter) and turned to the ex-gay movement, becoming an active participant in it.
But none of those things helped to get rid of the urges or the guilt: of feeling unworthy of salvation. He needed something greater and he found it: a closer relationship and intimacy with God. Sy reports that he received a word from the Lord, reminding him of two things: that God is from everlasting to everlasting and knows the end from the beginning, and that God knew he would continue to have these urges after he was saved. The key was not the struggle against the urges. The key was to substitute something better and stronger. Sy learned to confess that yes, he still has these desires, but his love and desire for the Lord is greater.
Sy is still involved in ministry, but is no longer part of the ex-gay movement. His focus is not on rebuking people for their sins, but for showing them the light, love and Gospel of Jesus Christ. He counts his own salvation as the single most important accomplishment in his life. And he counts leading others to Christ as his most important ministry. When people give their life to the Lord, he trusts that the Lord will convict them of their sins, whatever they may be. It’s not his role to judge. He doesn’t need to do God’s work for Him.
Sy told a story in one of the videos of him that I watched. It is a good example of where his emphasis is now. He reports that a pastor told Sy that when a same sex couple moved next door to him, he shunned them and made his disapproval of them apparent. Sy asked the pastor what he would do if an unmarried heterosexual couple moved next door to him. The pastor affirmed that he and his wife would invite them to dinner at his house. Sy was able to show him the hypocrisy of offering fellowship to the one couple and denying it to the other, even though the pastor admitted that he believes both are living in sin in their relationship. The witness the pastor was giving to the first couple was helping push them away from Christ, the last thing any Christian should be doing.
I have done my best to accurately share Sy Rogers’ story. Lest I fell short in any way, here is one example of his testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gbVgcKZQtg
My testimony is quite different from Sy Rogers’. I grew up in a stable home with an older brother and parents who were married nearly 65 years when my dad passed from this earth and my mom followed him 18 months later. I had good relationships with both my parents who were both present in my life (including a stay at home mom). They loved me and provided for me, taking care of my needs and even some of my wants and desires. But they certainly were not indulgent as many of my friends’ parents were. They had old-fashioned values (and happened to be a half generation older than most of my friends’ parents). My mom made sure that I went to church until I left home for college: then I could decide for myself what I wanted to do. And I loved church and Sunday school.
For a while, I turned away from the institution of church as many of my generation did. But I met a woman when I was 27 years old. Before we even started courting, her Christian testimony as part of her life story, not as a rebuke or in an attempt to lead me to God (she knew that at some level I believed in Him), convicted me that I needed to return to church and the fellowship of other Christians. We fell in love and got married and I became both husband and instant father to my infant stepson. And even though the marriage failed within a year, as did an attempt at reconciling 25 years later, I know that my return to church was a marvelous gift of God through this woman to whom I was once married. Slowly but surely, I grew as a Christian because of taking that step. And I must add that I initially returned to the church I attended as a child, in part because the pastor always was encouraging and friendly should we meet in public during that period of being away from the church. He never chastised me for my absence.
I never have identified as gay. My transition was never about doing so to get rid of guilt or shame when having sex with men. I have never had sex with men and did not transition to seek a sexual relationship with a man. If I end up in a marriage relationship with a man, it will be because my future spouse and I will, after much prayer, have arrived at the belief that this is God’s will for our lives. I am open and submitted to God’s will for my life. I have had men attracted to me since I began transition. I did not seek them and none of them were God’s will for me to pursue.
At the same time, I knew I was female from the time I was seven years old. Unlike Sy’s testimony, it was not an experiment because nothing else was working. I was quite content in my childhood, doing well in school, having a good relationship with my brother who I emulated in many ways until I got older and started to express my own likes and dislikes. I loved sports and had male friends and was never accused of being effeminate, and certain not bullied or mocked or called insulting names. My struggle was not so much internal as my need to deal with the knowledge that there were (apparently) almost no other people like me plus my awareness that society considered people like me something to be mocked, scorned or condemned.
But none of that kept me away from the church and God. In my case, I actively served in church as a trustee and an elder before I was saved. During this time, I attended regularly and took an active part in church life. I was respected. I served on the pastor nominating committee when the pastor I had known for well over 20 years at that church resigned to go to another church.
I was quite the ecumenicist at the time, studying other religions including eastern religions and philosophies. Like Sy, God found me in my own home, an answer to a very open-ended question I asked. I was 36 years old. From that time, I put away all other religions, and my relationship with God grew closer and closer. I began to grieve when I fell short of the glory of God rather than look to excuse or justify my sins. I occasionally gave a sermon when the pastor was on vacation, and I gave the only altar call I ever heard given in that church. I was convicted to pray and read the Bible daily and read the Bible cover to cover. (I would estimate that I’ve done so at least 15 times by now, sometimes in a year, sometimes more slowly and more studiously.)
Two and a half years after I was saved, I became part of a worldwide ministry (primarily men), a non-denominational missionary outreach of local churches. It was here that I had even stronger and closer fellowship with men, wonderful Christian role models, especially as I was able to go outside my local area in the ministry and see men in positions of greater authority. I also saw many strong and loving Christian marriages, with wonderful relationships between husbands and wives.
I was in the main part of that ministry for nearly 21 years. I still love the work of that ministry and support it financially as I am now in a peripheral part of it. I have calculated that to the glory of God, He equipped me to have a tangible part in the distribution of well over 300,000 copies of His word (either full Bibles or pocket New Testaments) through personal donations, by placing them directly in the hands of people or in various locations where they were accepted, by raising funds by speaking in churches, or by creating the assignments for teams of men to go out and distribute His word.
But here is a key point in my testimony: when He saved me, God knew I would transition 23 years after I was saved. He also knew I would continue to grow in His word, love Him more and more, be active in a Bible-believing church, and give my Christian testimony (as I am doing right now). In addition to God’s foreknowledge, there’s a more subtle point. Those 23 years were a long time of being in God’s word until I saw the scriptures that showed me God’s mind on this matter of how I was created. I did not act on transitioning until I had this Biblical knowledge. In addition, although my life had experienced its share of relationship and financial struggles, the need to live as my authentic self came at a time when my life was content and untroubled by anything else.
Furthermore, I still distribute His word on a limited basis as well as continuing to contribute to the purchase of scripture (whether for me to hand out or for others to distribute, mostly in countries where they can afford to purchase far less than the need). I am currently a member of a church that is also another well-known worldwide Christian ministry: the Salvation Army. I have shared my Christian testimony and my transgender testimony with a number of people there. I walk in the light and no longer hide who I am in darkness. And just before Christmas 2016, the Lord gave me a wonderful encouragement. I was able to hand out about 75 copies of His word to the needy people of the area who were picking up presents for their children and food for their holiday dinners. And we would have been able to hand out more scriptures if we hadn’t run out. We will be better prepared next year to help our neighbors satisfy their hunger for God’s word as well as their hunger for a celebratory feast.
A second key point in my testimony is that once I reached the point where I considered acting on transitioning, I did not keep this knowledge from my pastor at the time (not the church I go to now). I came out to him early in the process. We prayed together and searched the scriptures together. I spoke to whoever he wanted me to speak to on the matter. Throughout the process, he never stopped showing me Christian love or respecting me as a person. He continued to acknowledge my authentic Christian identity.
I have no idea if Sy Rogers would accept my testimony. I have no idea if he would be willing to share a stage with me to present our life stories and then carry out the important work of witnessing for Christ. I certainly have no right to speak for him on a topic where I have not heard him speak. What I do know is that in his current testimony, he does not identify as having been gay or transgender. He considers those symptoms of the brokenness of his upbringing, not identity.
What I have in common with Sy Rogers is that I have a life story and the most important part is what God has done for me in my life. As I routinely tell people, first I am a Christian: that is my eternal spiritual identity. Next I am female: that is my innate gender identity. Somewhere down on the list is the anatomical incongruence that makes me transgender.
Someone who is generally recognized as a Christian leader in the United States recently commented that Jesus wasn’t always loving. Any Christian leader should tremble when making remarks like that. Jesus’ rebukes were almost always directed at those in religious leadership who enforced the letter of the law without understanding or including the love, mercy and compassion of God that was at the heart of the spirit of the law; who required burdens of their proselytes that they themselves would not bear; who condemned tax collectors for cheating the people when collecting taxes for the Roman government but were just as guilty for their involvement in cheating the people in the temple when it came to exchanging their currency for the shekel to pay the tax or in declaring their offering blemished so they could sell them another animal for sacrifice.
When Jesus taught and even corrected multitudes of the common people, it was never in a harsh or attacking way. As Paul advised in Colossians 4:6, so did Jesus minister to the people: his speech always with grace, seasoned with salt. The grace, lovingkindness, compassion, gentleness, healing, feeding and freeing the people from the bondage of the Law was what drew people to Him. The salt was to convict them when they were violating the spirit of the Law or were slow to see and hear the message in His teaching. But if the message is all salt, who can swallow it? It drives the people away.
And Jesus did not rebuke the Roman authorities and other Gentiles who did not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He didn’t fear them. Why should he? It wasn’t that they were excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Their time would come in the next 10-15 years. No, it was simply because He knew that they were not ready to receive His message.
But today, leaders routinely attack those who are outside of the body of Christ, who do not consider the Bible their authority, for doing things and committing sins contrary to Biblical teaching. Of course they don’t. Why would they follow the teachings of something that they don’t consider authoritative?
Judgment begins within the Church, not outside of it. When the body of Christ gets its act together and presents a Christlike face to the rest of the world, then we can do a more effective job of drawing people to Christ. Yes, there will always be those who hate us, because the world hated Him before they hated us. But if one must suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong.
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? – Romans 2:1-3