Christ our hope and glory
work in us
Tug of War
The Rev. Mario Bergner's Story
Like the rope in a tug of war, I once was
by homosexuality on one end. My soul, relationships and the Church
the other end.
In childhood I met God’s saving love through Roman Catholic
sisters and American evangelicals. During adolescence, cruel
whispered “homo” as they passed me in hallways. Concurrently, two
Christians engaged in a national media campaign against homosexuality.
viewed homosexuals as predators. The gay community perceived Christians
as bigots. The conflicting pull between homosexual attractions and
At university I met openly homosexual people, none of whom
were predators. Two compassionate gay professors encouraged me to find
in homosexuality. Declaring myself gay, I disengaged from the Christian
pull for a while and became involved in gay political theater. Trying
reconcile homosexuality with Christianity, I read pro-gay Christian
by writers such as John Boswell, a Catholic scholar who taught at Yale
School. But his scholarship failed to convince me. Meanwhile, I engaged
an internal dialogue with Jesus. One night in a gay bar, the anguished
of older gay men pierced me. I pleaded to Jesus, “Surely you have more
these men than this?” He responded, “You will help me deliver these
I left the bar quickly. Jesus now pulled on the rope. The tug of war
At twenty-three I was hospitalized with eleven symptoms of
AIDS. From my bed, I questioned the Lord about homosexuality and
Jesus appeared saying, ”I want to heal your whole person, not just your
sexuality. Choose.” Not understanding what “choose” meant I just chose
I recovered and years later tested HIV negative.
My sister telephoned expressing concern over my
I assured her, “I prayed to Jesus and He healed me . . . but I don’t
to talk about it.” She responded by sending a book about overcoming
homosexuality. I read it, but didn’t believe most of it. Between its
pages Annelyse included a letter asking forgiveness for harshly judging
me. The book and her letter softened my heart. My conversations with
Jesus now included forgiveness prayers toward my father for abusing me
as a child. Not only was the tug of war in full force, but for the
first time in years the Christian pull was winning. Conversely, the
pull of self-identification as gay was weakening. When I accepted
myself exclusively as a Christian, not gay and not gay-Christian, the
of war ended In the following years I discovered a number of
authoritative works on homosexuality ignored by both the politically
correct gay movement and the Church. These include Lawrence Hatterer’s Changing Homosexuality in the
Male (McGraw-Hill, 1970), William Aaron’s Straight (Double Day,
1972), Irving Beiber’s Homosexuality
(Jason Aaronson, 1988), Elaine
Siegel’s Female Homosexuality:
Choice Without Volition (The Analytic
Press, 1988), Charles Socarides’ Homosexuality:
A Freedom Too Far (Margrave Books, 1995) Jeffrey Satinover’s Homosexuality and the
Politics of Truth (Baker, 1996), and Robert Spitzer’s recent
published in the October 2003 Archives
of Sexual Behavior: “Can Some Gay
Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?” All
sources offer considerable hope of change for those seeking it.
Recently, a fellow priest took offense when I said to some of his
parishoners, “If your
teenager tells you his or she is gay and they want help, don’t go to a
Go to a good psychologist, secular or Christian, who specializes in
treatment.” I am sorry to have offended him. Unfortunately, what I said
In America’s culture war between homosexuality and
the Episcopal Church has consistently sided with the gay agenda.
conservatives have focused energy and money fighting Integrity, a
group and the Episcopal Church’s only official outreach to homosexuals.
For thirty years, revisionists have set the agenda to which
conservatives have reacted. A Place To Stand October 2003 in Dallas was
historic because as faithful Episcopalians we proactively set an agenda
and stood. We are still standing. However, conservatives, weary from
revisionists, seem disinterested in doing anything pro-active for the
Ministries such as Redeemed Lives and Living Waters, which
offer pastoral care for overcoming same-sex attractions receive little
or resources from Episcopal churches. Because we pose so little a
revisionists do not bother us. At Redeemed Lives twenty per cent of
who come to us are seeking help for homosexuality. The other eighty per
cent need help with impaired intimacy related to the fall-out from the
revolution. Our main source of help is our twenty-six week program of
care and discipleship. We also equip leaders to use this and other
in their ministry settings. Additionally, we work with local
psychologists and psychiatrists to better serve those who come to us
I live near a city of seven million people. With
accounting for three percent of the American population, the Episcopal
offers little to Chicago’s gay population, which numbers
two-hundred-ten-thousand souls. The spiritual poverty of the Episcopal
Church (especially here in
Chicago) is such that a self-identified homosexual entering one of our
is likely to find an affirmation of their same-sex attractions by one
our many openly gay priests. I can say with certainty that Redeemed
is rarely, if ever, offered as a possible course of pastoral care.
Alongside my priesthood, I teach at a secular university.
of my students asked me about a Christian who scours Boystown, one of
gay neighborhoods, shouting condemnation through a megaphone. I told
“He’s wacko and doesn’t speak for all Christians.” She inquired, “What
you think about gays?” I replied, “Jesus hangs out with sinners until
find transformation.” She frowned and smiled. She’s in the tug of war.
Through effective pastoral care and discipleship, as well
psychotherapy, I dealt with my homosexual attractions and found freedom
for heterosexual marriage. After living in abstinence for twelve years
met a wonderful woman. We married and now have five children.
attractions occasionally still pull at me, but I understand them now
they no longer identify who I am. The tug of war is over for me.
The Rev. Mario Bergner was born in Thetford Mines, Quebec.
is the founder and director of Redeemed
Lives Ministries, which
a ministry of pastoral care and discipleship located near Chicago. He
also an Anglican priest.
Page design © 2005 The Zacchaeus Fellowship - All Rights Reserved
Article copyright © 2005 Mario Bergner. All rights reserved. Used
any site problems