My Interview with H.B. London
Due to the fact that several high-profile pastors in Evangelicalism have resigned over the issue of homosexual behavior, I called H.B. London at Focus on the Family to conduct a brief interview with him for SI. He is vice president of ministry outreach/pastoral ministries at Focus. As a fourth-generation minister, he understands the heart and hurts of pastors and has been helping them for the past fifteen years.
JJ: With the latest high-profile pastoral resignations over homosexual behavior, is this a bigger problem than we may realize? Are a large number of pastors dealing with this?
HB: I guess that if you looked at it across the board, it would be a lower percentage engaged in homosexual practices than the general population. We have a crisis line for pastors, and we get 400 to 600 calls a month, many of them dealing with moral failure. I would say that about six percent of those are dealing with homosexual behavior.
JJ: Why did you start helping pastors in this way?
HB: My father was a prominent minister, and when I was 16, he had an affair that demolished our family. At that time, I had no idea that God would use me to help men and women who were going through the same thing.
JJ: It has been reported that you are helping Ted Haggard. How is that going?
HB: I am the point person on the restoration committee. We’ve been working tirelessly to come to a conclusion on a severance package, a restoration agreement, his lifestyle, further education, and continued counseling.
Contrary to popular belief, it has not been determined that he is a homosexual. Just because someone engages in that type of behavior does not mean that he is a true homosexual by definition.
JJ: What’s the difference?
HB: Well, if he is truly a homosexual, he will probably have to deal with those inclinations for the rest of his life, just like a heterosexual does. True homosexuals really need God’s help in overcoming temptation.
Regarding Ted Haggard, he has been very responsive to counsel, and I feel very optimistic about him living with Gayle and them having a long, happy, productive life.
JJ: If a pastor reading this is struggling with homosexual desires or behavior, what help is available?
HB: Focus on the Family has invested millions of dollars in providing restoration and renewal to fallen clergy. We have a huge network of organizations and institutions that help with this as well as provide necessary funding.
JJ: What steps do you take in dealing with a homosexual who is seeking recovery?
HB: First, total honesty. He must realize that he will have these tendencies and that you act out on these … whether or not you want to. He must come to grips with his own sexuality, childhood, and relationship with parents. He must be able to address any kind of violation as a child or teen that was perverse. Then, we help him determine whether or not he is an addict. Many are addicts.
Focus on the Family believes that humans do not choose sexual orientation but that we can make a choice on how we act out on our orientation.
Pastors must confess, repent, and find healing. Most people are unaware that the same day that Ted’s resignation was read, probably 200 other churches read resignations from their pastors. In fact, the pastor of the largest African-American church in Colorado Springs resigned on the same day as Ted Haggard for the same sin. He wasn’t caught. He openly admitted it and took steps on his own.
JJ: If a pastor falls into this behavior, is he disqualified from pastoral ministry for life?
HB: I would say that in the evangelical circles that any pastor who admits to homosexuality and an offending homosexual lifestyle disqualifies himself from ever being a pulpit pastor again. Homosexuality represents blatant perversion which God calls “an abomination.” I’m not convinced at this point that a heterosexual adulterous relationship would have the exact same ramifications.
JJ: What should churches do if they discover that their pastor has been engaged in homosexual behavior?
HB: Immediate dismissal and notification to the congregation that this man or woman is on leave. They have been denied the right to practice as a spiritual leader in that congregation. There needs to be a discovery process where the offender is very honest and open with a chosen number—three or four—who will listen to the confession and determine if he is being repentant or just sorry for being caught. Then, the church must decide whether or not they want to provide counseling and restoration for that pastor.
JJ: How detailed should they be with the congregation?
HB: It must be measured. They should acknowledge what sin he committed. Pastor Barnes in Littleton was allowed to stay in the congregation.
JJ: If the pastor has had a national ministry, what responsibility does the church have?
HB: The greater the visibility and notoriety, the more damage it does to the body of Christ. It’s pervasive. It continues on and on. The church must have open disclosure.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. London’s ministry, you can go to his website at www.parsonage.org. His free help line for all pastoral issues is (877) 233-4455.