To friends and members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been concerned by Bethel Church’s recent public statements.
My name is Elizabeth Woning. I co-lead (alongside Ken Williams) a Christian ministry called Equipped to Love. I’m a member of Bethel Church and I’ve been invited by its leadership to share my thoughts here and speak on their behalf because of my background in the LGBTQ+ community.
There is pending legislation (Assembly Bill 2943) that focuses upon therapies addressing sexuality. In that matter, our congregation aligns with the heartfelt desire to protect all those who identify as LGBTQ+, but this legislation reaches far past those protections into free speech and free choice. For that reason our leadership took a very great risk to speak out.
You see, Bethel’s congregation pursues God for all types of miracles as reflected in Scripture. People come from around the world to receive prayer because of that core value. Bethel has concern that this legislation could be construed to limit testimonies of the impossible, the unlikely, and especially the unusual power of a good God to answer prayer, which is offered through Christian faith.
While standing firm on Biblical principles, Bethel has always cultivated an atmosphere of worship and adoration of Jesus. Bethel Music unites Christians from different congregations across the world. We are committed to honoring and respecting one another where differences of opinion could cause offense, valuing relationship for the sake of our community. Members of the LGBTQ+ community have worshipped among us for years.
I’m here in the middle, standing as one who spent meaningful years as a lesbian living among gay people in the LGBTQ+ community. My faith journey exposed areas of my life that were painful and unresolved. My gay and lesbian friends supported me for years in my journey to find peace. Without their care and concern I might not be here today. Nevertheless, only the love of Jesus brought me wholeness. My journey with Him led me away from lesbianism. Fundamentally, the power of the Christian gospel, being “born again,” leads to transformation and change. My attractions to women slowly dissipated as I embraced my born-again identity. Today I am married to my husband of 13 years.
By making a stand against this bill, Bethel acknowledges my experience is not isolated. While seeking to embrace and love all people, they have chosen to honor those whose paths have been similar to mine. Few with my experience speak publically. During the years I embraced lesbianism, in the 80s-00s, it was risky to openly be a lesbian. I attended a Presbyterian seminary “out” in an era that was rare. But today it is just as risky and misunderstood to have left that lifestyle.
In fact, there are many who experience same sex attraction but do not identify as LGBTQ+. In their core they do not feel that is who they are. This “questioning” people group seeks greater self-understanding and clarity in their identity through counseling and various resources. Bethel desires to protect these deeply personal faith journeys, no matter how the individual identifies, in order to protect free will.
Our heart is to love and honor all people, even if they disagree with our beliefs. We as a church want to continue to be a safe place for everyone seeking God. Because of this, I am reaching out to NorCal OUTreach for the sake of creating dialogue and understanding, but especially to create safety for the LGBTQ+ community. We value and honor men like Armando Mejorado whose courage and commitment are making a difference in Redding. Humbly I ask that we do something unique in Redding by fostering unity and respect in the midst of disagreement.
Co-Founder, Equipped to Love (equippedtolove.com)
With Support of Bethel Leadership
Elizabeth Woning is co-founder of Equipped To Love, a ministry at Bethel Church in Redding, California, that empowers the body of Christ to compassionately engage sexual and gender identity. She holds a Masters in Theology and is an ordained pastor. Elizabeth teaches at the Bethel School of Ministry. She and her husband, Doug, live in Redding, California.