Anti-LGBTQ+ megachurch that baptised Joshua Bassett doesn’t believe gay people are ‘born that way’

Disney High School Musical star Joshua Bassett came out as LGBT in 2021

Queer actor Joshua Bassett sparked concern and confusion this week after being baptised by the infamously anti-LGBTQ+ Bethel Church.

Footage shared on Twitter by the star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series saw him declare that Jesus Christ is his “Lord and saviour” during a service at the Christian megachurch in Redding, California.

Asked why he wanted to get baptised by a representative for Bethel Church, Bassett, who came out publicly as queer in 2021, replied: “Long story short: I grew up Christian and I ran the other way as far as I could go in pursuit of ‘truth’, and that only ended in addiction, depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, et cetera.”

The 22-year-old Sad Songs in a Hotel Room singer added: “No other teacher gave me anywhere near the peace that Jesus Christ did, and I’m here to publicly declare him as my Lord and saviour.”

What has Joshua Bassett said about Bethel Church?

Bassett’s followers on Twitter were quick to express concern at the anti-LGBTQ+ record of Bethel Church, which has close links with an “ex-gay” ministry, akin to “conversion” therapy and whose senior leaders have opposed LGBTQ+ equality legislation in the US.

Just two hours after sharing the original video, Bassett sought to distance himself from the Church, writing on Twitter: “I visited this church and happened to get baptised here – I was unaware of some of their policies and beliefs, and do not endorse all of them. My heart is for Christ and Christ alone!”

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What does Bethel Church say about LGBT people and sexuality?

Bethel Church has a 3,500-word page on its website dedicated to the topic of sexuality and LGBTQ+ issues. While the Church opens with a plea for “forgiveness” from LGBTQ+ people for any past injustices, the subsequent specifics of what it has to say about equality and sexual expression makes for unpleasant reading.

Defining humanity as “male and female, alike but different, who produce offspring of like kind”, the Church states that “the multitude of possible gender identities and the normalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour points to a society that has abandoned the desire to accurately define and socialise humanity as a reflection of God’s image.”

It goes on to define marriage as, “a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman, and the only context in which sexual behaviour is blessed, adding that “the only other path Jesus advocated was to remain single and celibate”.

Picture of a bible with a cross lying on it
Bethel Church opposes LGBTQ+ equality and sexual expression. (Envato Elements)

Perhaps most troubling is the Church’s advocacy for the “ex-gay” movement, worded in a way that implies it agrees with the abusive and widely debunked practice of gay “conversion” therapy.

“Some people experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, including some in our Church community – not because they were “born that way,” but because they were born human into a fallen world, and because society has disrupted and confused how we teach children who they are,” the Church states.

“There are many brothers and sisters in the Church who have identified as LGBTQ who, with the sort of freedom and interactions mentioned above, no longer understand themselves in those terms.

“It is as inappropriate and disrespectful to discount their journeys as it would be to discount someone’s experience of leaving the Church and embracing LGBTQ identity and ideology.

“It is possible to move into and out of LGBTQ identifications, and therefore freedom and access to resources should be protected, even if that outcome is to never again identify as LGBTQ.”

The CHANGED Movement is an “ex-gay” network that was started by Bethel Church pastors Elizabeth Woning and Ken Williams in 2019 in response to a California bill that would have cracked down on gay “conversion” therapy in the state.

Both Woning and Williams identified as gay in their youth before renouncing their sexuality, according to the the organisation’s website.

LGBTQ+ protesters holding signs that read 'ban conversion therapy', 'ban conversion therapy for all' and 'trans rights = human rights'
The practice of gay “conversion” therapy has been widely debunked by medical bodies. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty)

The CHANGED Movement describes on social media as a community group for “men and women who have left the LGBTQ subculture and identity behind to follow Christ”.

An Instagram post shared by the CHANGED Movement in September 2022 expressed the group’s opposition to vital pieces of LGBTQ+ equality legislation in the US, including the Respect for Marriage Act that was eventually passed in December to protect same-sex and interracial marriage rights at a federal level.

When was Bethel Church founded and what do worshippers believe?

Bethel Church was founded by Robert Doherty in 1952 in the Californian city of Redding and is currently led by American Christian minister and evangelist Bill Johnson.

Over the last 70 years the church has grown to more than 11,000 members – more than 10 per cent of Redding’s population – and now wields huge influence in the city, running five schools and colleges.

It has become renowned globally for its Christian worship music and its belief in evangelical phenomena such as faith-healing and miracles.

PinkNews has approached Bethel Church for comment.