Dear Bethel: Open Letter From An LGBT Graduate Of Your Ministry School

Dear Bethel Church, Redding:

My name is Bre Hanan. I’m a Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) alumna and served on Bethel staff for 5 years before leaving Redding in 2014. I am alarmed and disheartened by the dehumanizing rhetoric I’ve heard from your pastors about the LGBTQ+ community in the past year.

I have a lot of respect for Bethel Church and BSSM. This is not meant as an attack, but a humble challenge from a child of the house.

Disagreeing is Fine…

You told us over and over, both in school and in church, that disagreement was healthy and that we didn’t have to agree to be family. Kris, you talked about God moving us away from denominationalism (where we gather out of agreement) and into apostleship (where we gather because we’re family). And I still believe that’s the direction we’re meant to take.

I also believe there’s room for disagreement on scripture within the Body of Christ.

We’re humans mulling over ancient texts, not only trying to understand what it meant to the original authors and the original audience, but trying to figure out God’s heart for us in it and how we’re supposed to apply that to our lives. That’s hard, complicated, and messy.

Thousands of people have dived in and done real research on the scriptures that some say reference homosexuality. As a result of that research, some firmly believe that homosexuality is a sin. Others firmly believe that God is blessing the love two people have for each other, regardless of gender.

Both positions deserve respect. I think there is room for both views within the body of Christ, and it’s not necessary to dehumanize each other to stay true to our convictions.

…Spreading Lies is Not Fine

But there’s a massive difference between disagreeing on scripture and spreading lies about people.

The LGBTQ+ community is beingportrayed as scary, gross, lustful, not followers of Jesus, and beyond the reach of Holy Spirit.

We are not being portrayed as members of the Body of Christ who disagree on certain biblical points. We are being dehumanized and having our character defamed from your pulpit.

Furthermore, the information you’re teaching is inaccurate. We’ve gathered a lot of the statistics you use in the latest BSSM materials, on the Moral Revolution website, and in other teachings. These statistics are being pulled from things like magazine polls in the gay version of Playboy (which hardly constitutes an accurate representation of the gay community), and estimates (not actual statistics, but guesses with no data to back them up) from people associated with gay conversion therapy using neglect and beatings to try to make children conform to the “proper masculine or feminine behavior” for their sex in order to “make them straight”.

So I have to wonder, have you actually checked your sources? Is there space for challenge and accountability here, or are you simply taking what a handful of people tell you as canon? My experience of you as leaders has been that you deeply value truth. Because of that, I was surprised to see so much poor research being used in your classes and sermons.

There is a massive difference between simply disagreeing on scripture and actively spreading lies about people. Disagreement is healthy, but I think we can all agree that spreading lies is wrong.

                                                                                                                   Beck and Bre Hanan at their wedding

God’s Presence in the LGBTQ+ Community

It is extremely misleading to present only a few specific testimonies and stories and then try to pass it off as a representation of the entire Christian LGBTQ+ experience.

Take Elizabeth Woning’s testimony, for example. She used to be a part of the gay community, but when she encountered God in a more personal, tangible way, she felt like he showed her who she really was. Long story short, today she’s happily married to a man named Doug. That was her journey, and her experience is valid. We need testimonies like hers to be shared and celebrated.

The problem is that the “I once was gay but now I’m straight” testimony is the only one we hear coming from the church. And when you make sure the congregation only hears one narrative, you’re not representing the whole of what God is doing in the LGBTQ+ community.

We need to hear the stories of the old, transgender church ladies who have gone through complete rejection from their families and had to rebuild their community from the ground up. What is God doing in their lives? How has God helped them on that journey?

We need to hear about how God’s presence never left the closeted gay teenager when they wrestled with the big questions alone and afraid of rejection.

We need parenting testimonies from two-mom families.

God is doing more than you’re letting people see.

My Personal Story, Pastor Kris, and Why I’ll Probably Never Feel Safe at Bethel Again

                                                                                          Beck Hanan being “knighted” by Bethel pastor Bill Johnson

In August 2016, Kris Vallotton preached a message called “Character Matters.”

He read a portion of Romans 1, one of the main “clobber passages” used to condemn homosexuals, and then said: “That’s in the Bible. It’s pretty clear.” As if that settles the discussion.

I found this alarming and really surprising. Why? Because this is the man who wrote Fashioned to Reign. Kris stands as a progressive voice championing women in Christian culture.

He would have never read Paul’s words on women, such as “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak…” and said “That’s in the Bible. It’s pretty clear.” and then moved on.

Kris has given intense care to Paul’s words. He understands that Scripture deserves more from us than just pulling verses out of context and taking them at face value.

But when he read Paul’s words from Romans 1, I didn’t see any of that care applied. What I saw was a “that sounds right to me, therefore it is truth and any other opinion is wrong” stance.

And had it been a fews years before, I don’t think I would have even noticed.

You see, I used to see non-straight people as being really deranged and confused and sort of out of control. When I pictured gay people, I pictured teenagers having sex in nightclub bathrooms. Sad and insecure and desperate. So if I heard this back then, I probably would have just thought “Yup, sounds right to me” and not given it a second glance.

But today, I’ve met too many real life gay and trans people —real life gay and trans Christians— to take those verses out of context without giving them a second thought. I’ve seen beautiful families with two dads. I’ve heard the stories of wonderful old ladies who have been together for 40 years. They’ve been humanized for me.

When you say “gay” I don’t picture the imaginary, perverted, insecure person anymore, I picture people I know and love and do life with. People who have beautiful relationships with God. People whose relationships and marriages are filled with love and respect.

I picture my family.

When I was at Bethel, I met Beckett. We’ve been best friends since we met in BSSM in 2010, and we got married in March. We are the proverbial Bethel students who met at school, fell in love, and got married.

                                                                                                                       Bre Hanan working at Bethel iTV

Except… we’re not straight.

Not only are we both bisexual, Beck is also transgender.

When I met Beck, everyone knew him as Rebecca. He was still going by “she” and “her” throughout his time at Bethel.

When we started dating and got engaged, Beck was still presenting himself to the world as female, so people saw us as lesbians. By the time we got married, Beck had come out as a transgender guy. So we, as a couple, have experienced a wide range of reactions and opinions  from friends, family, old Bethel friends/leaders, and random strangers.

Throughout our 3 years at school, our relationship was never easy to define. We were more than friends, closer than siblings. Noone knew me as well as Beck did, and there was no place in the world I felt more safe and loved and fully seen than with him. Even then, we started to tackle life as a team.

He was the one thing in life I was absolutely sure of. I wanted to cling to him like Ruth clung to Naomi, or David clung to Jonathan. The whole “where you go, I will go” thing. He was my person.

But it never crossed my mind that I might be in love with him. Back then, when I thought about gay people, I thought about the sad people in the nightclub restrooms. I thought about dirty, ashamed, depraved people who were hypersexual and out of control. People overpowered by lust.

And my love for Beck was so not-hypersexual. He was the person I cared for most in the entire world. Our relationship was a source of peace and brought a sense of groundedness and joy, not chaos or shame.

So when I looked at our love I didn’t see “love love”, because “love love” between two vagina-bearers would mean we were gay.

And “gay love” was supposed tolook slimy and scary.

We weren’t slimy or scary, so we weren’t gay.

That’s how it worked in my head.

We were best friends for 6 years before either of us even considered that we might be “in love.” And when we did realized it, it was because we saw past each other’s genders.

We didn’t love each other because of our genders, or despite our genders. Our love transcended gender. I love who Beck is as a person, and there is no other human being on the planet who I would rather share life with than him.

It wasn’t until after we started dating that I realized I was a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I grew up finding people of all genders attractive, but I thought that was how everybody felt. Because of the moral code I was raised with, and the society I grew up in, I learned that I was only allowed to date or marry a man. I never “struggled with homosexual thoughts” or temptation, I was quite oblivious to my not-straightness.

It wasn’t until meeting gay, Spirit-filled Christians, watching LGBTQ+ people’s stories on Youtube, studying the “clobber passages” in depth, and talking to God about it A LOT that I realized: God wasn’t the one saying “only straight relationships are okay”, that was people.

After that, I started to see that I was in love with my best friend. Love didn’t care what gender he was. For 6 years, love didn’t even care what our relationship status was. Love was just…love.

Our relationship is beautiful. We have never felt as at peace with ourselves and with God as we do today.

So when Kris Vallotton reads Romans 1, and then says “you can’t be a follower of Jesus,” he’s not talking about weird people far away. He’s talking about me. He’s talking about my spouse. He’s talking about my friends.

We are not gross, perverted people in a nightclub far away. We are your children. Your BSSM graduates. Your worship leaders. Your friends.

Kris read some verses out of context and said, “That’s in the Bible. It’s pretty clear.” As if that settled it. As if there’s no need to look deeper.

He said, “People ask, ‘Can I be a homosexual and be a Christian?’ I guess you can, but you can’t be a follower of Jesus ‘cuz Jesus isn’t going that way.” As if there’s no such thing as a gay person who’s following Jesus. As if we literally don’t exist.

He also said homosexuals are simply people whose character has atrophied to the point where we no longer have the moral fortitude to hold ourselves back from our lusts. We’re people who have decided “if I’m attracted to it, I should have it.” And because of that, we’d also say (in his words exactly): “not only am I gonna be okay with having same sex but I’m also gonna be okay with anything else I’m attracted to.”

So at this point he’s directly asserting that we have no self control and are slaves to lust.

Perhaps worst of all, he tries to take away our autonomy and our voice. To explain away why we don’t feel convicted, he said, “If you resist God long enough he’ll finally let you do whatever it is you wanna do. And then what happens? I no longer feel guilty. You know why? Because I have a depraved mind, I actually have a mind that no longer acknowledges God in the foundation of the way it thinks.”

And with his words… After 6 years of serving, studying, worshipping, and pursuing God alongside this group of people —6 years of being a part of the family— my character is being defamed in a moment.

I am being publicly shamed and disrespected. I am being written off as a gross, lusty, out-of-control person who cannot be trusted. Who can’t even trust themselves. Who’s so depraved even Holy Spirit can’t reach me.

And it’s entirely based on the genitals of the person I love.

                                                                                                                   Beck Hanan Painting on Bethel Stage

And along with me, other BSSM alumni and members of the church are also being thrown under the bus. Not to mention the gay and trans Jesus-loving community at large.

The amount of pain that one message brought was immense. I cannot begin to explain how it affected me when I heard that sermon, or how it affects me every time I hear a new thing Bethel is saying about me and the community I belong to.

I have had to mustereverything I learned at BSSM about keeping your love on, brave communication, boundaries, and forgiveness in order to healthily co-exist in this world with you.

The Tightly Controlled Narrative

The danger in a message like Kris’s is not so much in the one sermon, but more in the cycle it’s perpetuating.

All of the rhetoricstarts to add up. We paint a very specific picture of who gay people are (gross, ashamed, depraved, dangerous) and we fill our church’s culture with this narrative. It makes it very hard for anyone who disagrees to speak up. Especially if they’re not straight themselves, because they no longer feel respected or like their voice would be taken seriously.

You’ve told everyone “those people are deceived,” “they don’t have a conscience,” “they can’t be listened to.” Before we’ve opened our mouths to defend ourselves, the gays-are-depraved narrative has rendered our voice untrustworthy.

So we either keep it to ourselves, try really hard to be conform and let you “pray the gay away”, or leave and go somewhere we feel safe and can be ourselves.

Which means the little bubble has steadily less and less real representation from people like us, and the false narrative gets even stronger.

Which, in turn, makes us less safe and more quiet.

I highlight Kris’s message as an example, but it’s not just this one sermon. And it’s certainly not just Kris Vallotton.

It’s that Brian Johnson referred to relationships like mine and Beck’s as “an epidemic in the church.” It’s that when you speak of homosexuality you often lump it in with pedophilia and rape. That Bill Johnson referred to it as a “violation of design” and in his list of reasons why he voted for Trump, said, “redefining the family according to the latest immoral code is in fact cursed by God.” It’s that even believing homosexuality is okay means you are barred from church membership.

It’s the fact that you’ve recently started a ministry centered around helping those “impacted by homosexuality” with an entire team of ministers who share only one narrative. It’s the days in BSSM devoted to teaching the students about LGBTQ+ issues. The “Homosexuality in the Church” teaching series. The “Navigating Homosexuality” all-day video conference Global Legacy is hosting.

It’s the fact that you as a church and a ministry have established yourselves as experts on us —not only to the congregation, but to the entire revivalist world that you influence— and then turned around and spread lies about us and grossly misrepresented us.

My Challenge to You

What I see coming from Bethel in this area is not respectful or honoring. My hope is that while you stay true to your beliefs and convictions, you do so in a way that reduces the Church’s contribution to LGBTQ+ hate, injustice, violence, and suicide, instead of adding to it.

So Bethel Church, pastors, leaders, members of the congregation, students of BSSM, I offer you this challenge: Dig a little deeper.

Talk to gay and trans Christians. Listen to our stories and hear from our own mouths what our relationships with God are like. Make sure you don’t just talk to the people that feel like they’re struggling with same sex attraction. There are thousands of us who have strong, thriving, LGBT relationships that we feel God’s blessing on or who see new aspects of God in the amazing diversity of gender-expression among trans people. If you’re not sure where to start, do some Googling, check out Youtube. There are a lot of us and we’re not hard to find once you start looking. Here’s a list of good places to start: beckandbre.com/resources 

– When it comes to biology, statistics, sociological studies, and science, do your research. Hear multiple viewpoints, not just the ones that are being catered to you. Look for other people’s stories. Pulling from many sources is healthy, taking everything one doctor says as canon is not. When spreading information from the pulpit or in teaching materials, I implore you to make scientific honesty a core value.

Create room for safe, honest communication on the subject, so you can share what you’re thinking and learning with each other. Respectful disagreement is healthy, and there needs to be space for that free from peer pressure, shame, and fear. This is important both within the church/school bodies, and amongst the leadership and staff. Without that safety, it won’t be possible to have fully authentic conversations.

Study the scriptures for yourself. Take Paul’s words seriously enough to give them the time and research they deserve. Seek different perspectives. Use your discernment and your critical thinking skills when other people talk about their take on the passages. Find out what the context was to the original people. Use the exegesis and hermeneutics skills you’re learning in BSSM. As you go deeper, maybe you’ll feel more and more confident in the beliefs you currently hold. Maybe you’ll completely change your mind. You won’t know until you dive in.

While it’s not perfect, Bethel is a beautiful place. Thank you for the 6 years of community and equipping. I hope Bethel is able to have a positive impact on people for years to come.

 

Bre Hanan lives in Austin, TX with her spouse, Beckett Hanan. They’re moving to Portland, OR in June.
Beck and Bre graduated their 3rd year of BSSM in 2012, and led worship together in the Worship Room for 2 years. Bre served as a camera operator and technical director for Bethel.TV from 2009-2014 and was on the school worship teams in 1st and 2nd year. She also interned for the 1st year worship pastor and a revival group pastor while Beck interned for Bethel Music and Bethel Media in 3rd year. Beck went on to work for Sheri Silk at the Redding Civic Auditorium for two years.
Their priorities are currently: eating bacon, cuddling with each other and their dog Charles Wallace, and listening to people’s stories. Bre is currently studying animation while Beck works as a consultant and tech wizard from home.

58 comments

  1. They seem to be in a state of collective cognitive dissonance. I too went through all 3 years (13-16). I am straight, married, 64 years old. I love Bethel but yes I agree with most of your points. One-sided. Their box is bigger than other places. But a box is still a box, no matter how big it is allowed to be. Much love!

  2. Thanks for this, Bre. A friend posed the link on Facebook. Ironically, I’ve been thinking about these things a lot of late. FWIW I am not gay. But.. the LGBTQ+ community has affected me and my family for good. I am still learning to discard preconceived ideas and so, I really appreciate everything you’ve written here. It resonates deeply.

    My experience with Bethel and BSSM dates to the early 2000’s, around the time of Bill’s first book, When Heaven Invades Earth. I’ve attended at least two Advances that I recall, along with a few week long leadership workshops with others from the church I used to attend. I recall a time when either Bill or Kris said in effect, we welcome all people including gay people but we also hope over time to help our gay brothers and sisters out of that lifestyle. It never bothered me at the time because like you, I was spiritually, emotionally and otherwise ripe. I didn’t blink an eye but went along with every word.

    Best of luck to you and Beck in your journeys.

    1. Thank you for stepping out on a limb to write this letter. God made each and every one of us… somehow people lose sight of this. I too tried to pray away my gay on my own while in church 3 times a week. God clearly told me not to live a lye, that he made me who I am and he does not make mistakes.
      It sickens me that many church members won’t tackle the issue of petofilea or sex slavery and point fingers at many in their congregations…… it seems to be unspoken for some reason.
      Thank you for standing up for all of us!

  3. I am so so so proud of you two for speaking out with vulnerability, passion, and humility. You could not have said any of this in a more honoring and firm manner. Bless you guys, I’m sharing the crap outta’ this.

  4. A great piece of writing. I am not gay but realised after feeling so uncomfortable about the sort of teaching you describe from Bethel, that I make my own exploration of interpretations in the bible.
    I was really enjoying what I was learning through Bethel podcasts CD’s then boom – I was subjected to their interpretation of what I understand now as the clobber verses. I can’t be near that stuff it makes me feel nauseas. I really like the way you have called out the statistics as well as the loaded writings about LGBTQ people. Be very blessed, enjoy life, being a Christian and being close with our beautiful Jesus.

  5. So.Well.Done. My heart aches for you and with you. I’m in your corner, though we dont know each other. You are loved, and worthy and beautiful. I was a bethel student as well, and I am so sorry the way our old church hurt you. Your voice is so powerful, and so needed. Dont stop speaking out and writing about this, please.

    1. Thank you so much for this carefully and compassionately written letter. Thank you for choosing to speak in loving words. Thank you for refusing to shame and for inviting dialogue.
      In the past year I too have seen a new face of Bethel giving voice to harsh and ill-informed judgment of LGBT people and relationships. I was shocked, not at their theology… Which I expected… but at the shaming cruelty of words, and even mocking spirit. That I never expected.

      I also heard Kris Vallotton’s sermon last year and was so disturbed I left the room weeping. I kept thinking, if I don’t feel safe in that room, how must the LGBT students in BSSM feel? How deeply into the closet must they have to go in order to hide themselves. In order to avoid shaming? I felt crushed and bewildered.
      I approached Kris privately and asked if he intended to communicate that one could not be gay and a Christian. He refused to answer my question and repeatedly tried to use the clobber texts to “show” me “correct” theology. I kept saying, I understand the theology please explain to me whether you intended to say one can’t be gay and a Christian. Over and over he detoured and refused to speak to my question. Finally I pressed him quite pointedly and he granted that perhaps someone might be gay when they become a Christian, but if they “continued in sin “that demonstrated their conversion had not been true

      I felt especially confused because I know Bethel’s long teaching that disagreement is permissible and even healthy in both community and church. And that agreement is not necessary for love.
      Sadly this was The third time in as many visits to Bethel that I heard, from the stage, Cruel judgment or dismissive words used in relation to LGBT people. After finding so much joy and nurturing at Bethel for years, I felt, instead, only pain and confusion. Now, instead of looking forward to much needed retreat time and the respite from intense urban ministry at Bethel, I just feel unsafe and wary. I haven’t been back since last fall.
      I am sad that your experience has been similar… And much more because of the many years you gave your heart and time and service. I am sad that your words may be dismissed. Thank you for giving them anyway.Thank you forasking for dialogue and showing respect and love.

  6. Hi there, Bre. I’m gay. I’ve loved Bethel for years and found their music and materials helpful. But over the last few years, I’ve heard some of the teachings you described, and it hurt so deeply to be compared to ‘any old dog’ who sleeps around. But while I’ve attended services and conferences at Bethel, I haven’t written an article like this because it’s something that has to come from a member of the Bethel family. Thank you for giving voice to this and for being willing to beat up under the pressure this may bring. You’re in my prayers.

  7. Really fantastic article Bre! And you hit all the key points right on the head.

    The weirdest thing about Bethel is that they have central beliefs that differentiate them from mainstream Evangelicism, yet they are completely unwilling to follow-through on the trajectory those beliefs take them. They are arbitrarily selective about where they decide to question scripture, and every argument they use against the more conservative parts of the American church can be equally applied to them by the more progressive parts.

    Thanks for being willing to share your story! I’d love to republish this on BrazenChurch.com with your permission.

    1. Yes, Jacob! It feels like they are on a journey but some things are just too frightening to even consider. They’ve managed to break free in so many ways, but then they lock down on other things. But imagine the freedom and hope that would be born if they could navigate these difficult waters and come through with a place at the table for everyone!

  8. Very helpful piece written with great humility, vulnerability and integrity. I am a married woman in my 60s, and don’t understand it all but I have a heart for those who are damaged by the church. I love the church, but not entirely what it has become. What I do know is, that God honours and blesses those who love and honour him. I am convinced you are loved and loving followers of Jesus. For this reason I do not need to wish you ‘God’s blessing on your life’ because you already have it. But I thank and honour you for your courage and wish you well for your life’s mission and journey together.

  9. Wonderful letter, truly brave and insightful and completely wasted on Bethel.

    They will not hear because they cannot hear, you are talking to a mountain of dogmatic theology disguised as “a culture of honor”…

    Bethel (and I attended there a year) has no room for a different narrative and the community at large, the “vision” of Apostolic ministry that drives the leaders to the echo chamber of same minded leaders approval will not tolerate a different song…they simply cannot AFFORD it…it comes down to an economy of exchange here…

    When your theology is rooted in an economy of exchange (PSA or any variety) then that yeast influences your eccliesiology, which in turn determines your anthropology, which of course rest solely upon a hermeneutic of infallibility (in spite of all the variations in the texts and how we got there)…are you beginning to see the scope of the mountain you must climb to get a message to the top yet?

    Bill/Kris/Brian/Paul/etc…will start with “the word of God is infallible” (despite the fact that the word of God WAS perfect and when he turned 18 he grew a beard)…they will move on to “protect the flock”, and that will mean they must define man and female as purely binary one or the other (despite the fact that every human ever born falls on a SCALE of male/female somewhere and is never 100% either and made EXACTLY that way by a God who is THAT way)…

    This mountain they will declare is the kingdom of God…and since you have spoken to it (grace, grace, grace) you will be deemed in rebellion to it…

    But lets put all the monkey ups aside…Bethel will not/cannot/shall not pass this way because in their core they are just a Trumped up version of an Assembly of God church with music mimicking Cold Play and Mumford and Sons…revival is good business…and your ideas disrupt very profitable business…its this kind of thing (turning over the money tables) that got Jesus his exit letter nailed to a cross.

    Scapegoats insure the money continues to flow…so sorry to say that but you want the truth, there it is in its hard cold glory.

    1. this is exactly what I was thinking as I was reading this blog (although you said it more eloquently). Thank you for feeling less crazy for my observations about Bethel and churches who respect it. Echo chamber, can’t afford disagreement, culture of honor. Yes yes yes.

    2. “despite the fact that every human ever born falls on a SCALE of male/female somewhere and is never 100% either”

      Despite the fact? Come on, what a joke. I’m all for acceptance of LGBTQ+ but you can’t decide it’s a fact that people are on a scale. That’s purely speculation and has no scientific grouding.

      That aside – Beautiful, heart wrenching article and I truly feel for you. It may feel like a David and Goliath situation but please just remember who won that battle. God bless you

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. As a woman, I have felt so honored and affirmed by the Bethel approach to scripture and women in the church, and then dismayed to see them abandon the same approach when it comes to LGBT+ Christians. My heart is so glad that God has been faithful to you every step of your journey and I just wish I could say the same for the church. In the years since I’ve been impacted by Bethel’s ministry, I’ve wanted so much for a church home full of holy spirit life and joy that would still welcome my LGBT+ friends. I’m starting to worry it doesn’t exist outside the internet, but I’m so thankful for people like you and your spouse who are willing to tell these stories outside the “church narrative” about gay and trans people. We’ll make progress. I hope Bill and Kris get to read this with tender hearts.

  11. I began to sense that Bethel was off around the same time I was being led out of western evangelicalism into the heart of Gods inclusive love. The first thing I noticed was Vallatons just war stance. The next was Bill Johnsons wife’s live for D.T.
    I think their view fits the natural trajectory of believing in biblical innerancy.

  12. You’re putting into words the experiences and feelings so many of us have. As a gay man coming from a similar situation, I wholeheartedly thank you for writing this; may it help bring change and progression to the church.

  13. My fiance and I also met in ministry. We’ve felt many of your points, but knew God had brought us together. Her sister is currently attending BSSM and we don’t hear from her anymore. It’s been heartbreaking not to have her in our lives. I hope she sees your words.

  14. My husband and I came out of the Southern Baptist Church movement. Raising our four kids in church. We were troubled by the lack of love being shown your community. Even worse as you asserted the conversations about homosexuality and how they went hand in hand with discussions of pedophilia. I was personally offended by that as a survivor of molestation by a straight deacon in my church. We had an opportunity to serve in a gay Pentecostal Church in our area for a time. We wanted a different perspective and our kids to see god moving through all his people. My husband supported this event though he was sure his beliefs about the word was correct. To his credit he loved our new church family with abandon regardless. We got to meet and do life beside many spirit filled gay Christian’s. They shared their stories and lives with us. I can say this in truth….Regardless of what you believe Jesus is with all his children, he loves like he loves, God moved, healed, and blessed my brothers and sisters in Christ. I had my eyes opened, world widened and my kids got to learn to love and not be afraid of people who are different. I am different today because of my experiences. Thank God for that. And when he was done with us there we ended up in a church where the pastor’s oldest son came out. I have been priveledged to pray for him and his family. His mom is my friend and I have tried to be there for her. It seems my heart is tender for those so maligned and hurt by our churches. My children’s hearts too. Change is coming. God is calling his bride to purify her heart from the hate and judgement of this world. I pray we answer that call.

  15. Wow! What an incredible article and challenge given to Bethel and BSSM. As a Spirit-filled gay man, I agree with you. The Church as a whole needs to dig a little deeper into this. I’m glad I found a place like the church I serve in. Since you’re in Austin, The Gathering Place is an affirming church with truth, character and anointing. If you’re ever in Houston, I’d love to hug you both and thank you for giving voice to so many of us…and what we’ve experienced within the larger church as a whole.

  16. Hey 🙂 thanks for sharing! It’s so good to be able to read a little of your heart and thoughts.

    A few Christian friends of mine who also got married or in a realationship with the someone of the same born gender all have one thing in common: they’ve All been/are worship leaders or greatly involved in the ministry of “praise and worship”.

    With all respect and love I’d like to share with you something I’ve wondered about….I’m guessing by the way you wrote this and as an open letter you are welcoming for others to share their opinions as well. 🙂

    I’ve grown up in a community with people who define themselves as gay and transsexuals.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most Christians who decide to believe and pursue same gender marriage have all been/are devoted to “worship on the stage/public”. I’ve questioned if there is an attack of perversion especially directed on worship leaders because satan before the fall was a worship leader??! And as Kris vallaton also says: satan can’t create so he perverts. I think it’s a tactic of trageting any vague disfuntions, insecurities or hurts that we all have and twisting love and affection to something that’s not the original design. David and Jonathon had a bond. Marriage is a bond. But not the same bond David and Jonathon had. David and Jonathon loved and cherished each other so deeply and fondly that they’d die for each other and they created a bond to seal and proclaim there love. Their love was only shared between the both of them. And I’d even argue it was deeper then the love they had for their wives. And non substitutional. A love God designed for Jonathon and David. But i don’t think there was sexual love involved. And for me is a major point In the conversation.

    1. Hi Sara,
      My name is Andrew, I’m the founder of The Peaceful Warriors. Let me just say a few things. First of all, as someone who goes to a church with plenty of LGBT people, I can assure you that your assumption that all or most LGBT Christians are worship leaders is false. Perhaps that has been your experience but it is not true for the LGBT community at large.

      Next I would like to ask you if you know where that idea that Satan was a worship leader came from? It’s not in the Bible. I know where it came from but I would challenge you to do your research on that front.

      Finally, I’m not sure we can definitively state that David and Jonathan did not have a homosexual relationship. The Bible states that they kissed each other. David wrote a song stating that Jonathan’s love was better than that of women. Sure you could say “well he meant this or that” but then you are applying your opinion to the text and not simply taking it for what it says.

      Just a few things to think about. Have a good day!

  17. I attended all three years of BSSM and interned with the Sozo ministry. I struggled with being bisexual most of my life. When I came to Bethel, I had just ended my first relationship with a woman. I was treated like a pedophile and not allowed to serve in the children’a ministry after telling my revival group leader, Jason Vallotton. I came out fully about two years after leaving Bethel and I am finally at peace with myself. I’ve broken completely with Bethel, not just because of their beliefs about the LGBTQ+ community, but also because I have found them to be socially tone deaf. Congratulations on your wedding and thank you SO MUCH for putting this out there. We exist, the post-Bethel LGBTQ+ community, and many of us are hurting because of how we’ve been treated. So again, thank you.

    1. Thank you for sharing this article and your heart in such a public way. I have wondered about this very thing in the Bethel context. .
      I applaud your bravery and thank you for bein honest.
      It’s time for a much bigger more inclusive, brave conversation

  18. This is beautifully written. I have watched Beck’s journey from a distance for years now. I knew him and his family a long time ago from the Vineyard and I have found his journey to be amazing to watch. i never attended Bethel, but I have seen the pain expressed in the recent posts he has shared. I am so glad that you two are putting your voices out there in such a respectful way. It’s very hard to do. Thank you.

  19. Great article. Respectful, but telling it straight (no pun intended). This is one of several reasons that I (as a straight/cis BSSM alum) have disconnected from Bethel after a few years there. I still appreciate their core focus on God’s goodness, but they’ve stopped short of what they could be doing. Anyway, thanks for being authentically you and knowing you are loved and perfect.

  20. That’s a great open letter to Bethel, and something they really need to hear.

    Since leaving Bethel myself, I’ve been through a lot myself. I continued in the whole charismatic movement for a while, but then became agnostic. When I came back to Christianity, I wanted a more liberal church and found Wedgewood Church here in Charlotte. I’m straight, but I know a number of great people in the LGBTQ community through the church that I am now friends with. My girlfriend and I are very supportive of the community here too. It saddens me when I hear the things coming out of Bethel these days, but I shouldn’t be too surprised. As Jacob McMillen said earlier “The weirdest thing about Bethel is that they have central beliefs that differentiate them from mainstream Evangelicism, yet they are completely unwilling to follow-through on the trajectory those beliefs take them.”

  21. Thank you. there is a huge change afoot in the Church. Looked at closely, those feet bear the scars of the crucifixion. Jesus taught us that God is Love. He is speaking forth the Word, and He’s not using bible verses, He’s using the only valid translation, flesh. The Word is become flesh, and is dwelling among us. Some will behold His glory, and be changed by Love. Others will continue on in their studies of “scripture”, ignoring the manifestation of Love right in front of them. We wish you, Bre & Beck, Godspeed on your new life together, may you blossom in the City of Roses, and BE the fragrance of Christ there too. Much love & prayers.

  22. Thank you so much for boldly sharing your story and standing up to those who would use scripture to bully others. Know that we at Missiongathering Christian Churches Stand with you and for the world where the whole Body of Christ is free to express the full range of diversity that God has created.

  23. I read the full article and all the comments and my eyes are filled with tears. I used to believe homosexuality was a sin and my whole family still believes it; PAPA has a sense of humour as HE placed my children and I right next to a gay married couple when we moved house. I was all ” hate the sin, love the sinner” but no more. They live a quiet happy life and are totally committed and faithful to each other. We are good friends and the second commandment ,” love your neighbour as yourself” became a reality to me. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your journey!

  24. I think one of the issues, beyond Bethel to the Church at large, is a distinction is made (by people) between heterosexual sexual sin and homosexual sexual sin. Homosexuals are often seen and portrayed as lustful, uncommitted, etc. – but the same behaviors in heterosexuals are practically ignored. Then since the narrative is that homosexuals are driven only by sexual lust, any examples that don’t fit that story are ignored. There is some focus in the Church on (heterosexual) purity, but it seems minimal in comparison to the focus on homosexuality and the belief that a homosexual relationship cannot be based on anything but physicality. Why are so many straight people so obsessed with what other people are doing in private? There are all sorts of connections to Puritanism and body shame and any number of unhealthy beliefs that have been passed down for generations; many simply don’t realize it, often because they’ve not encountered (or had an open mind to consider) other paradigms. Where in Scripture are we instructed to inquire after the sex life of anyone? Perhaps the closest example of Jesus (nearly) discussing this with anyone was the woman caught in adultery and about to be stoned: Jesus told her he did not condemn her, and instructed her to not sin any more. He did not specify that she should only not repeat the (heterosexual!) sexual sin she was accused of, but rather advised that she not commit any further sin, period. (Whether that’s possible, how, etc is another discussion.)
    We need more voices, and we need to give those voices consideration rather than outright rejection. It’s differing opinions that can allow for real growth and maturation. Stress and stretching are integral parts of growth all over the natural world. No one should ask another to blindly accept a worldview or even small opinion; but no one is beneath having their thoughts and feelings heard and considered. Hearing another’s perspective can have one of two results: you will either reconfirm your own beliefs (good), or you will learn something new, change the way you think (literally “repent”), and add strength to your convictions because they will have been tested (good). Scripture instructs us to renew our minds; renewing your body, a relationship, or an object generally involves an addition (food, time together, material). Seek out what you can add to your perspective, not to clutter or confuse, but to renew, to sharpen, to refine.

  25. I am someone who had attended Bethel conferences and worshiped through Ibetheltv from the early Jesus Culture years for about 10 years or so and still feel like I grew up spiritually through their ministry and have strong appreciation for them. But I want to say how much I appreciate your letter and how thoroughly thought out it is. It really is stunning in depth, I loved it. I am also someone who has been startled and dismayed on Bethel’s leadership stance on Trump and massively dismayed at the lack of intellectual honesty that is obvious coming out of Bethel that you touched on in your letter and my heart and spirits lept at your mutual insight into this. I have attempted to dialogue, challenge and call out leadership on social media (mostly Beni) and it has become obvious to me after engaging with her a couple times the unwillingness to hear truly listen to ideas and thoughts that challenge the type of hyper-binary theology they are engaging in. I have been praying that some people they respect that they can listen to in relationship will come alongside the leadership there (especially Beni) to teach them how to critically think and thus learn how to push back on the hyper confirmation bias that they seem mayne implicitly ignorant about. Blessings to you and your husband and I live in Portland, OR and you’re gonna love it!

  26. Hey guys! I’m currently in 3rd year and was part of the “experiment class” where the leadership devoted a week to talk about sex and culture, specifically homosexuality. I’ve asked questions of the 2nd year Bible teacher during the “Women in Ministry”-AMT and others, trying to find out the true biblical basis for every theologically position held. I’ve even had personal conversations and personal Bible-study time on the topic of homosexuality and women in ministry and tried to apply the same scrutiny to both positions.
    What it all comes down to for me isn’t whether or not it feels right or seems right, or even if it is succesful. If the Bible says that “Women being in ministry is wrong”, then I feel I have to bow my intellectual knee and submit. That is NOT my conclusion. However, the homosexual position is so much harder to defend on a sheer biblical basis. Apart from David and Jonathan (which is a speculative point anyway), there are NO affirming scriptures for homosexuality.
    I’ve read all these comments and love the tone with which all of this is communicated, but for me it comes down to the authority of the Bible in our lives. I’m gonna listen to the resources on this page, but if anyone else has biblical evidence or even biblical “hints”, then I’d love those responses!
    Wish you all the best, and may love and truth win ^_^

      1. Haha, no not at all. If there are reasonable interpretive methods that humbly shed new light on entrenched passages, then I’ll consider them. Homosexuality, slavery, whatever the topic!
        In the case of polygamy, the New Testament consistently promotes 1-man 1-woman marriages. That some of the biblical patriarchs under the Old Covenant had several wives does not imply that it’s God’s perfect will. In fact, I believe Solomon’s harem was a sign of his depravity. Pretty sure that’s a prophecy in the Bible.
        In regards to slavery, there aren’t any -positive- talks about slavery in the NT. Yes, there are a few passive comments being made by Paul to “humbly serve your master”, etc, but I believe he encourages freedom in several passages. He even exhorts Philemon to receive his former slave Onesimus, not as a servant but as a brother. Yes Paul leaves it up to Philemon whether or not he will let Onesimus go free, but it is clearly Paul’s will that Onesimus be set free to serve the gospel.
        The emphasis of Christian exhortation is always “the greater serves the lesser”. Paul encourages Onesimus to submit to his master, so that his conscience may be clean. However, he also encourages Philemon to humble himself and let his economical investment go bad, for the purpose of the Gospel. “Wouldn’t you rather be wronged than be correct?” is the essence, I feel. It’s the Phil 2-principle of honoring others above oneself.
        Does that answer your question? 🙂 (Sorry it got so long. I haven’t defended my condemnation of slavery in a while, haha)

        1. You had to do a lot of hermaneutical gymnastics to get to that place. Paul writes “slaves obey your masters”. That’s pretty clear, no? The point is that Paul had no way to condemn the institution of slavery because nobody was doing that in his culture. Yet Christians led the abolitionist movement in Brittain and America. Because we look at the arc of scripture which leads to freedom for all. Paul had no understanding of loving committed same sex marriages. The concept did not exist in the first century. However, the arc of scripture, in the same way as it leads us to condemn slavery, should lead us to affirm LGBT people. The LGBT community is literally saying to the church “just let us live” and the church is emphatically responding, “no, we would rather you kill yourself than we have to question our doctrines.”
          I will say to you if you’d like to see a Biblical case for LGBT affirmation you should read a little more widely. Matthew Vines, Andrew Marin and Bryce E. Rich are a few scholars who have done work on this topic.

          1. I’d love to read a biblical case for LGBT affirmation! I’m currently watching Colby Martin’s videos on youtube that Bre&Beck referred to on their resources page. Finished the 1-hour long Romans-video this afternoon 🙂
            The “arc of scripture”-model you propose is a great one which one of the Bible teachers proposed as well. He said to 1. Look at where the original recipients’ culture is at one a subject. 2. Which direction is the biblical author sending them? 3. Are there any finalistic/heavenly/eternity models out there?
            In regards to women in ministry we found something like this: 1. Women were oppressed and unlearned. 2. Paul says that “women should learn in quietness and submission” (the original audience wouldn’t bat an eye at the submissiveness-part, but “WHAT? A WOMAN should LEARN??? Learning is what MEN do!”) 3. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ”
            The arc seems to be flowing towards more liberation, more equality.
            I asked him the question if not this could be used in favor of homosexuality as well? While you can argue that “the greatest of these is love”, the Bible needs to be our sole definer of what love is, and not one place does it equate sex outside of 1-man 1-woman marriage as love.
            The arc in the homosexuality-side would be: 1. Homosexuality is common (albeit largely unhealthily and lustful) 2. Homosexuality is condemned as sin. 3. ??
            Or in the Jewish context of Jesus: 1. Homosexuality is culturally frowned upon as sin already. 2. Jesus doesn’t mention it once, except reaffirm the 1-man 1-woman marriage that’s already common (and we know that Jesus wasn’t shy about confronting religious traditions!) 3. ??

            Again, if we humbly try to submit to Scripture: It’s hard to read the Bible and so conclude that homosexuality is God’s best for His kids. I’m trying though, and I’ll receive any (reasonably lengthed) material you would like to send my way. Love and truth will win in the end, we all hope ^_^

          2. Wait so “there is neither male nor female” only gets applied to the topics you’re comfortable with it being applied to? If there’s neither male nor female then love is love. Your jumping through hoops to make the scriptures say what you want them to say while denying liberation to those groups you wish to deny liberation to.

    1. Remember in fashioned to reign, Kris looked at everything from authors intent, to histo rival and cultural context, to translational questions, . If he had simply referred to the NIV translation in English, he never would have come to the conclusion is he reached. Because he wouldn’t have been doing true study. The issue of the same gender relationships is no different. Here are some books I would recommend that do Drew study, risking Grace by Dave Jackson, torn by Justin LEE, God and sexuality… Can’t remember the author. Oriented to Faith by Tim Otto
      Get copies of these books and read them. Consider the issues of context and translation and intent. Carefully look at the Scriptures in light of those issues. And see what happens.

      1. That’s a lot of books for a college student, haha. Do you have a favorite one, Julia? 🙂
        (also, I wasn’t a huge fan of Kris’ arguing in that book. If you could pick the most biblically based one, that’s what I’m after. The Francis Chan clip is my general approach.)

  27. Taking off the traditional glasses and reading that “clobber verse” with fresh eyes. Read Romans 1:22-26 in a Greek-English interlinear. I see a powerful teaching against the cult of male superiority and female subordination. “The natural use” of woman is described in Genesis 1:26-28. She is equally God’s image and equally charged with dominion. For males to view and treat females as inferior in any way is to yield to power lust putting their gender on a idolatrous pedestal. Read it that way and much of evangelical culture gets clobbered.

  28. This took a lot of courage. It brought many tears to my eyes. I don’t have a “black and white” answer but I don’t think God does “black and white” I think They do rainbow. Bethel changed my life and love their vision but I don’t agree with everything they believe. I appreciate their concept for agreeing to disagree that idea has freed me in so many ways… Thank you for sharing your heart very powerful stuff you share.

  29. Good article and well written. You show love and respect even in your disagreement with the message being presented at Bethel. I pray you get the same love and respect back. Jesus said love God and love others, he did not say love only the others with whom you agree. We are all created in the image of God, why we cannot accept one another as we are is beyond me. Thanks for taking the time to write and share this article.

  30. I absolutely agree that the church must stop contributing to the hate/persecution/isolation towards the LGBT community. I’d be interested to know what bible verses you’re referring to when you say that the guys at Bethel should be having a deeper look at for my own study? Thanks

  31. Thank you, Bre for such a well-written, compassionate letter.

    I also attended BSSM, and it coincided with the year after my daughter came out as lesbian. Needless to say, I shared it with very few at school as I was trying to do due diligence on the clobber verses and wade through the minefield of my conservative, evangelical root system. Soon after the school year began, I shared my story with my RG pastor, and she was gracious and encouraging – not at all condemning. But I assumed she was in the minority.

    I highly respect Bethel and the staff. My year there was well-spent, and God used it for good (as He loves to do with any road we choose), but the issue of homosexuality was always referred to as something folks should be delivered from. I found myself constantly torn over my daughter. What if these pastors are right? Would she ultimately go to hell? What mother wants that for her precious child?

    Long story short, my husband and I moved to TN after my 1st-year graduation, and our daughter followed later. We found a Jesus-based, inclusive church that allowed us to brush shoulders with many in the LGBTQ+ community, and accept our family as is. (Yes, churches like that exist.) Like your experience, these beautiful people put faces and names to brothers and sisters who deeply love God. Their hearts are as hungry to know Him as ours are, and I would never, ever say they don’t – or can’t – know Jesus. It simply isn’t true.

    My daughter is a delight to our family and God.

    Verses on homosexuality deserve the same exegesis, and “probability” study as the women and divorce verses do. Many are afraid to dig deeper because they’d have to uproot years of prejudice. I understand that. I had to, also, but Jesus doesn’t mind the journey. He was all about getting rid of old mindsets that kept people enslaved. Maybe many at Bethel have done the scriptural work and are choosing this particular stance (I know my Bible teacher did), but both sides should be presented so congregants can make up their own minds. I would have appreciated that.

    Again, thanks for the open, honest post. I applaud you!
    Chris
    http://www.betterthoughtmedia.com

  32. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you receive a reply to your open letter. This is an important issue to all believers and needs to continually be discussed, but most of all, ALL people are deserving of respect, love and being valued.

  33. Thank you so much for this post. I am a follower of jesus and strand God is taking me on this journey of opening my eyes to loving more like Jesus and being open to being wrong about what I believe. I live in Austin and would say I have been “mentored” from afar by Bethel. They have had a huge impact on my life and how I love.
    And ironically, it is because of their influence that I have been challenged(not directly by them but indirectly) to be honoring and loving to the LGBTQ+ community and break open some of my beliefs.
    Here is a podcast that I listened to that has challenged me more than anything. It’s long but worth listening to, especially if you’re in my shoes(straight evangelical who was raised with the beliefs written about in this article).

    http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2015/5/18/episode-20-lgbtq

    I have a lot of respect for Bethel but I agree that those teachings are not consistent with how they teach in other areas to honor and love people no matter what.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *