Sexual Sanctification

By Karen Booth

Karen Booth


I am always amazed that God called me to sexual sanctification ministry considering the choices that I made in the past. After I repudiated my Christian upbringing during college years, my life quickly disintegrated into a wasteland of relational brokenness and sexual sin. A failed marriage in my late 20s left me even more emotionally hardened, with serial promiscuity providing a false intimacy that could not satisfy. But Jesus sought and found me just a few years later; at 32 years old I gave my heart and entrusted my faith to him.

Even though the Lord forgave, healed, and redeemed my sinful sexual past, I was hesitant to criticize anyone else’s moral choices. For that reason and others, I was on the “pro-gay” side, and continued to be for several years after my conversion experience. I believed then that I had valid reasons. Several family members and many, many friends had “come out” as gay or lesbian, and I loved them dearly. I thought they were “born that way,” that homosexuality was genetically “hard-wired” and therefore unchangeable. Most importantly, I thought Scripture was entirely condemnatory, and if that were the only alternative, I’d choose unqualified acceptance.

When I received my call to ministry in the early 1980s, I chose to attend one of United Methodism’s most liberal seminaries. Homosexuality was endorsed there as a social justice cause, and upon graduation my mindset about the issue was even more firmly entrenched. Then in 1994, the Lord brought a former seminary friend back into my life. Joe (not his real name) had been openly gay at school, but now, almost a decade later, he told me how Jesus had begun to transform him. He was married and looking forward to starting a family.

At first I didn’t believe him; I’d never heard that kind of testimony before. But he was firmly insistent, addressing all my objections and answering every question. I don’t really like having my worldview challenged, but this time I became intrigued with the whole idea of sexual transformation. I read books by Mario Bergner, Joe Dallas, and Anne Paulk – their stories were similar to my friend Joe’s. I attended a national sexual purity conference where I worshipped and fellowshipped with hundreds of men and women who were committed to overcoming same-sex attraction, as well as other forms of sexual sin.

Next, I dug deeper into the scientific research about same-sex attraction, homosexual orientation, and gender identity. I realized I’d been misled by the media and “conventional wisdom” and therefore had been mistaken in believing that homosexuality was genetically caused and predetermined.

Finally ready to take a more open-minded look at Scripture, I searched the Bible and discovered a message of hope that confirmed the testimonies I had heard. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul wrote that there were some within the early Church who used to be involved in homosexual behavior, but that Jesus and the Holy Spirit had changed them. Somehow, in previous readings of that list of prohibited behaviors, I had missed that greater piece of good news.

A few years later I met my predecessor at Transforming Congregations, Jim Gentile, and he invited me to join the TC Board of Directors. When he resigned in 2003, I sensed the Lord calling me to be Jim’s replacement. Saying “goodbye” to 16 years of service as a local church pastor, I embarked on this awesome adventure — to help God shape local congregations into safe and welcoming “redemption centers” for all those who struggle with sexual sin.

During the decade that I have served as director of Transforming Congregations, God has continued to heal me relationally and sexually. As I have reflected on the transformation in my own life and in the lives of those I’ve been privileged to minister with and to, I have a much deeper appreciation for the goodness of God’s design for sex and marriage — one man and one woman in covenant faithfulness for a lifetime. And I have a keener understanding of the soul damage that occurs when individuals stray outside those boundaries, whether that happens with the same or the opposite sex. I can truly say that my heart breaks over those caught in the bondage of sexual confusion, brokenness, and sin. And I think God’s heart breaks, too.

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