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Spotlight Interview with Garry Ingraham: Helping the Church minister to relational & sexual brokenness

September 14, 2017

Garry Ingram is the Founder and Director of Love and Truth Network. It’s a ministry that equips Christian leaders in the very essential areas relating broadly to issues of sexual brokenness. Prior to launching the Love and Truth Network, he served as a pastor for 12 years in upstate New York. Both he and his wife Melissa have come out of homosexual histories, so he speaks to these topics with the conviction and compassion of someone who understands them personally.

Listen to our interview here:

Carmen: Garry, welcome to the Reconnect.

Garry: Thank you very much Carmen, it’s great to be here.

Carmen: So, at the Love and Truth Network, you are speaking the truth and love into what is just widespread cultural confusion in the area of sexuality.¬† So, everyone that’s listening to us sort of instinctively knows that something is wrong in the world, and in the church, related to sexual identity and sort of the myriad issues that collect around that. How about you just educate us on the real battle that the church is up against when it comes to sexual confusion and brokenness?

Garry: Well, absolutely. It really stems I think many, many years, and frankly, generations of the church ignoring the issue of sexuality, and not developing a good theology around those areas, not communicating much about those things, except perhaps in ways that would simply be sort of a, “Just don’t do it,” message, and really shaming. So, I think the roots of it go way back, and a lot of heterosexual brokenness. Divorce within the church, as well as in the world, that kind of thing.

Now, we’re really seeing the impact of ignoring those issues, extending into the area of sexual confusion, identity confusion. LGBT issues, and the church again, not really having a good or solid message, or what does it mean to be a man made in God’s image? What does it mean to be a woman made in God’s image? How do we bear out His image differently from one another. We’re not just human beings made in his image, we’re male and female made in His image, and we’re meant to bear that differently, but equal in value.

Carmen: So, I love how you framed that, because what you’re doing is you’re actually giving us a positive articulation of who we are, as image bearers of God, instead of just casting some sort of shame shadow over particular ideas or behaviors. So part of the push back that over the years, I have experienced, and I’m suspecting you have experienced as well, from some church leaders, and some folks in the church in general, would be, “Hey, these are things that we shouldn’t even be talking about, God tells us to guard our hearts, and guard our minds against sexual immorality, so I’m not even going to talk about these things, I’m going to avoid these issues altogether.” Tell us why that is an ineffective approach, and what you think we ought to be doing in terms of guarding our hearts, and minds in this area.

Garry: Well, absolutely. I think one of the things, all we have to do is pull our head out of the sand long enough to look around a little bit, and we can see the result of that kind of position in the church, and by church leaders, and we’re living with it now. It’s going to probably become worse. I think that it’s self evident, that, that is not the way that the church should be behaving, and again I think the emphasis should be placed on what is the church for? What is God for? What is the beauty and the glory of fulling living out the image of God in who we are as masculine and feminine image bearers, beings? What is the glory and the beauty of that?

What’s wonderful about sexuality? The expression of our sexuality isn’t just in the bedroom, it’s not just in sex, or in intercourse, it’s so much more than that. That’s sort of the culmination of it, and the glory of it, between male and female, God’s design, according to Jesus in Matthew 19. That’s the only union he blesses, but I think we need to be talking a lot more about the positive aspects and casting vision for young men and young women, and even boys and girls, for the wonder and the beauty of what it means to be made in His image as male and female, and to uphold the reality of two genders, that it’s not a binding and discriminatory saying to believe that God created two genders, and that, that is how he needs to express himself on the Earth, and of course that extends into our sexual expression as well.

What’s wonderful about sexuality? The expression of our sexuality isn’t just in the bedroom, it’s not just in sex, or in intercourse, it’s so much more than that. That’s sort of the culmination of it, and the glory of it, between male and female, God’s design, according to Jesus in Matthew 19. That’s the only union he blesses, but I think we need to be talking a lot more about the positive aspects and casting vision for young men and young women, and even boys and girls, for the wonder and the beauty of what it means to be made in His image as male and female, and to uphold the reality of two genders, that it’s not a binding and discriminatory saying to believe that God created two genders, and that, that is how he needs to express himself on the Earth, and of course that extends into our sexual expression as well.

Carmen: So, Garry, not everyone has the same sort of level of concern related to this particular issue. Some people feel like it’s a live and let live kind of area of life. You bring an authority to this conversation because of your own journey, that I think is important for people to understand. So, if you would share a little bit of your own story, and why you are personally so convicted about these matters.

Garry: Sure, so quickly about my life, Melissa and I both come out of homosexual histories. She had quite a bit of heterosexual experience early on too, but she broke off an engagement with a man to get involved in a relationship with a woman, and it felt like this is what she’s been looking for her whole life. For me, I grew up in Christian home, quite very legalistic, very fundamentalist, lots of truth, very little love, and very little connection with my own father, that translated into, and a lot of over-identification with the feminine. That’s another piece that I think is really critical, that happens for many of us, is not just a lack of connection with our same gender parent, and others, peers and others, but it’s also an over-identification often with the opposite gender. So, that was true for me, and as far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled with same sex attractions, and introduced to hardcore porn at the age of five or six years old too, and all of that had a big impact.

So, I grew up in church, went to Bible College, and didn’t finish, was asked to leave, because they were concerned about me being suicidal, that kind of thing. But I left Bible College, and I just … really my attitude was, “To hell with God and the church, I don’t want to have anything to do with the church or anything, because there’s no good answers here.”¬† “I beg God to take these things away, he seemingly does nothing.” Now I know, looking back, I believe that God’s heart was aching and broken for me, and for so many others, for us, because we’re so broken, and yet, oftentimes the church doesn’t know how to minister well, and this idea of live and let live, is not a loving response.

I understand how it seems that way, but to not include the truth, and to not underscore what God says is true, and what his design is for us, is actually a very unloving thing to offer someone. Yeah, so my story is coming out of homosexuality, as a bartender at a gay bar, I felt when I finally walked in my first gay bar, I felt like for the first time in my life, I had found my people. I didn’t see it in my family, I didn’t see it in the church, and it was a very, very powerful experience for me, for quite a number of years, until I really began to feel the decay in my soul, and it took a while for that to happen. A couple years at least.

Carmen: Alright, well then let’s talk about the good news on the other side of that, because I think that right now I can almost be assured that there are people that are listening to this, and they have a child who is in the life that you are now describing, and they are parents who are despairing, and they don’t even know how to pray, let alone how to interact with their own child on holidays, and what to do if the person who they love so much, and for whom they have so many dreams, chooses a same sex partner to marry. Can you just walk us through how Christians ought to be positively responding to folks who are engaged in, not just the homosexual lifestyle, but in a myriad of these areas of sexual brokenness and confusion in our culture?

Garry: Sure. There are so many parts of that, so I’ll just touch on a couple of things quickly, and probably, listeners may feel like, “Well he didn’t really hit my situation.” It’s so varied …

Carmen: So, let’s pause right there Garry, because if we don’t hit on somebody’s situation, but they feel like you are the kind of guy that they could process through their particular situation with, how do you want them to track you down?

Garry: Sure, the easiest thing is just to jump on our website, and that’s LoveandTruthNetwork.com, and they can email me from there, and reach out to me either through email or by phone.

Carmen: Okay, perfect. That’s LoveandTruthNetwork.com, and all the words are spelled out. Alright, Garry. Go ahead and answer the question.

Garry: That’s correct. Sure. So, the first thing I would say is, oftentimes, parents that I’ve interacted with, may have had multiple children, and they’re really ripped up about the one child that is same sex attracted, and involved in homosexuality, or pursuing maybe transgendered, and wrestling with their identity, and yet they have a child or two that’s actually maybe living with the opposite gender individual, and while they’re not happy about that, it doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal.

What I would say, is that really can come across as, and I think there’s some validity to this, to the same sex attracted child, as hypocritical. Like, they can come over and stay over, you allow them to come and stay at the holidays, and maybe even sleep in the same room, which personally I would say, “Nope, you don’t get to do that.” If it’s my son, and you have your girlfriend coming over, you’re welcome to do that, but if you’re going to stay over, you sleep in different rooms, or whatever. I think the same thing would apply, if you’re doing it in that situation, then it seems more reasonable, when you’re telling your son whose boyfriend is coming over, and you say, “No, you guys can stay here, but you’re going to sleep in different rooms.” That’s more reasonable, for example.

I think that whatever parents can do, and loved ones can do, whether it’s parents or otherwise, one of the most important things we can do is ask people stories. Rather than just applying judgment quickly, and pulling out all the verses of scripture that talk about homosexuality not being part of God’s design for us, and that kind of thing. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do a little bit of that, but I think we get the cart in front of the horse, and what we really need to do is connect and understand how a person has come to the conclusion that they’ve come to about their sexuality, about their identity, and connect with them on those levels. Let them talk, and take that information to prayer. Take that information.

I think that whatever parents can do, and loved ones can do, whether it’s parents or otherwise, one of the most important things we can do is ask people stories. Rather than just applying judgment quickly, and pulling out all the verses of scripture that talk about homosexuality not being part of God’s design for us, and that kind of thing. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do a little bit of that, but I think we get the cart in front of the horse, and what we really need to do is connect and understand how a person has come to the conclusion that they’ve come to about their sexuality, about their identity, and connect with them on those levels. Let them talk, and take that information to prayer.

Also parents desperately need so often, you know, when I come out of the closet, my parents went into the closet. When children come out of the closet, oftentimes, their parents go in, and they are so full of shame, and they’re so fearful, “Maybe this is a phase, and I don’t want to tell my church about this,” and then have them sort of eject him or her, and yes we want to be wise about who we talk with, but parents desperately need support.

So having a friends and family group is really essential, for parents, or siblings, or somebody that feels called into this kind of ministry, or has neighbors, or others that they care about, and they want to learn, “How do I minister well to them?” “How do I love them well?” That support group is really important, and we can help people kind of get those things off the ground too.

Carmen: Okay, can we pause right there?

Garry: Sure.

Carmen: ¬†Because I think that when we invite the story to be told, and we talk about, “How did you get to this place in your thinking?” If it’s a child that’s been raised in a main line church, this is something that their church has been affirming for a really long time, and we talk about parent support groups, or family support groups, you actually have to look below the surface in terms of, what the mission statement of that support group is, as to which variety of teaching you’re going to get on this subject.

Garry: That’s true.

Carmen: So, I want to affirm to my listeners, that you can trust what they’re doing at the Love and Truth Network, and so if you go to LoveandTruth.com, you can actually get Biblically faithful information, and assistance related to these topics. Not the kind of false teaching that you are going to hear that affirms every variety of sexual identity and exploration, and expression. I just wanted to pause and say that Garry. I know that it grieves and saddens you, like it does me, but there are just a lot of folks getting false teaching on these subjects in the church.

If you want to hit on that, I’d love to hear you wax eloquent on that subject.

Garry: Well, absolutely. So, we have churches that, kind of the traditional, fundamentalist churches that don’t want to deal with the issue at all, are not equipping themselves, don’t want to walk with people, but then the pendulum is swung in the other direction, I think largely by pastors and leaders that don’t want to be associated with that at all, rightly so, and now they’re very welcoming and celebratory, and really being confused, and led away by the culture, and really buying into the idea that this is an identity issue, and it’s not primarily an identity issue.

But then there’s many churches in the middle, and they’re wondering, they’re Orthodox, but they having teaching out there, that’s been re-popularized by a couple of current authors, that promote pro-gay theology. When you really want to believe it, it’s quite persuasive, but then there’s also another line of thinking that’s been popularized by Wesley Hill, for example, who would say that he’s a gay Christian, but he’s celibate. He believes that sex between two members of the same gender is wrong Biblically, and yet he identifies as a gay Christian. Love so much about what he writes about, but I think the idea of embracing brokenness as an identity and tacking it on to who I am as a Christian, really puts a cap over our heads, that doesn’t allow us to really … We’re not looking for transformation, we’re not looking for God to do the more, we’re simply trying to live in some cases, in the misery of this place that we’re in, and believing that change is not possible in any way.

So I’m going to be clear too, that my wife and I still experience some levels of same sex attraction, and our attitude about that is, “Big deal!” Everybody experiences attraction and desires that are contrary to God’s word, and wills for us, and we learn out to submit those, and still walk in freedom. So, there’s a lot of confusion out there, and that’s why the majority of what we do is, we equip Christian leaders, we do conferences, we preach and teach, and things like that, and come to areas to help equip Christian leaders around the whole topic of sexuality, including LGBT issues, so that the church can be more vibrant on these issues, and the church is going to reach far more people, than we are individually. So, we really want to help equip and come alongside and support the work that the church is doing.

Carmen: Well, Garry we are so thankful for you, and for Melissa, and for your ministry. Friends, you can find Garry at LoveandTruthNetwork.com. Garry, thank you so much for being with us today on the Reconnect.

Garry: Thank you, Carmen. So appreciate it.


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