Sy Rogers, Leading Christian Voice on Sexuality, Dies After Battle With Kidney Cancer

Sy Rogers (Instagram/@jentezen)

Sy Rogers, a leading voice and apologist on biblical sexuality, died Sunday, April 19, after an eight-month-long battle with kidney cancer.

Rogers was considered a pioneer the ex-gay movement in its early years during the late 1980s. And although his testimony of turning away from homosexuality to follow Christ drew attention, he was also well-known for his worldwide teaching ministry that lasted over 30 years. He spoke at various well-known Christian events (such as Hillsong Colour, Promise Keepers and National Youth Leaders) and colleges (including Biola, Christ for All Nations and Azusa Pacific Regent). For the last two decades, Rogers was known as an apologist for sexual integrity and health relationships.

Jentezen Franklin took to Instagram to eulogize the popular preacher.

"Sy Rogers lived a life of truth, sharing the hope and grace found in Jesus with everyone he could," Franklin wrote. "After battling cancer, he was welcomed home with Jesus this morning. Sy made us a more compassionate ministry and he had an enormous impact at @forwardcon when he spoke. Our hearts and prayers are with his wife Karen, their children and grandchildren."

Other popular preachers and teachers expressed their sadness at Rogers' death.

"This is a huge loss for the Church ....and for any of us who knew him," Priscilla Shirer wrote in response to Franklin's post. "His message and ministry was INCREDIBLY unique. His brilliance was astounding. Jerry & I will miss his voice in our lives. Sending HUGE love to his beautiful wife Karen."

Pastor Greg Laurie said he had met Rogers and believed he was "a wonderful guy."

Hillsong co-founder Bobbie Houston wrote: "Brian and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of dear friend Sy Rogers today. Sy was truly one of the kindest people you could ever meet. He exemplified grace and freedom and a passion to always bless others. We will miss you Sy. You ran your race perfectly, always giving honor to your Savior King. Our sincere love and prayers are with Karen and family. Heaven truly welcomed home a treasure today who will light up that landscape with his warmth, humor and goodness. With love and affection — Brian, Bobbie and your global Hillsong family."

Teacher John Bevere called Rogers a "great general in the kingdom" who "went home to his reward."

"You have impacted so many lives and have been so faithful to our Lord Jesus," he said of Rogers. "I look forward to the day of our reunion in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our families!"

The preacher battled kidney cancer years earlier but was in remission for five years. But in the fall of 2019, his cancer reportedly returned. In response, he canceled his speaking events and shut down his social media accounts so he could focus on his health.

As a young man, Rogers lived a homosexual lifestyle. At one point during this time, he identified as transsexual, living as a woman for a year and a half. When he became a born-again Christian, he turned away from homosexuality and transgenderism to follow Christ.

He and his wife, Karen, married in 1982 and started a family. In 1991, the family moved to Singapore, where Rogers served as a pastor at Church of Our Savior, according to Dr. Julie Hamilton, a licensed marriage and family therapist in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 1998, Rogers and his family moved to New Zealand, where he launched his teaching ministry and spent a year serving in the evangelistic ministry No Longer Music.

In the late 1980s, Rogers was a pioneer in the then-nascent ex-gay movement. He directed an Orlando-based parachurch ministry called Eleutheros (which means "freedom from bondage" in Greek), which has since ceased operation. Through this ministry, Rogers offered pastoral care and support groups for people who struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction, trauma from past abuse, and gender identity issues.

From 1988 to 1990, he was president of Exodus International, a coalition of support groups for people with unwanted same-sex attraction. The ministry, which drew some controversy from pro-LGBT activists, ended in 2012.

While Rogers believed that homosexuality was sinful, he taught that the goal should not be to get rid of unwanted same-sex desires, but to draw near to Jesus Christ. He shared his insights and his testimony of overcoming homosexuality and sexual abuse in a documentary called One of the Boys: The Sy Rogers Story. For the last 20 years, though, homosexuality was not a main part of Rogers' message, which instead focused on pointing people back to the Word of God.

Rogers is survived by his wife, Karen; daughter, Grace; son-in-law, Steve; and his two grandchildren, ages 8 and 4.

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