The internationally loved Christian preacher and pastor Sy Rogers is being remembered with affection across the globe, after his death from cancer on April 19, aged 63.
Known for his ‘ex-gay’, ‘ex-transgender’ testimony, Sy was a popular speaker for megachurches and conferences around the world, often speaking on issues of gender, sexuality, purity, and relationship with God.
Born Sinclair Rogers in 1956, Sy had a traumatic childhood that he once described as an “emotional concentration camp”. In a testimony first published in 1987 by Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries newsletter, Sy wrote of being sexually molested as a very small boy by a family friend; his mother’s alcoholism and death in a car smash when he was only 4; a broken relationship with his father; and schoolyard bullying.
“After my mom’s death, I was separated from my father for a year,” he wrote. “I lived in an emotional vacuum. My identity and security as a male was left unaffirmed and unnourished. Later in school, I was routinely ridiculed, rejected and physically abused due to my effeminate mannerisms. Even though I tried to ‘conform” to the norm’, I was continually labelled a homosexual and a failure as a man. It’s no wonder I had problems.
“As a teenager, I had not yet identified myself as a homosexual. Yet, I was certainly aware of my attractions to the same sex and I felt fear and shame. A few years later, when eventually involving myself in the gay scene, I felt such a sense of relief. I felt accepted and understood. At last, I had a place to belong. It was great for a while.”
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‘Life in the Fast Lane’, And an Encounter With God
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Sy spent years living a gay lifestyle “in the fast lane”, became involved in prostitution, spent some time in a church that affirmed gay relationships, and took steps towards a sex change – including hormone therapy, and living as a woman for 18 months. But even then, he says he “realised that surgery couldn’t really solve my problems and wouldn’t secure love for me”.
It was in 1980 while reading Isaiah 1:18-20 in the Bible – a scripture that speaks of sins of scarlet being made “white as snow” – that Sy experienced his dramatic faith conversion moment. Tearfully handing his life over to God, he felt a sense of a new beginning, and a confidence that God would help him live a different life.
“It was my re-ignited faith in God that led me down a new path I once thought impossible for me,” he writes. “It wasn’t that I was trying to stop being gay. I didn’t know ‘how’- or if it was possible. I was however, willing to stop living my life on my terms. Instead, I yielded to God on His terms.”
Sy married his wife Karen in 1982 and became a father and grandfather, and over the years of his ministry, he often emphasised that his sexual orientation, past or present, was not the focus of his story; rather he preferred to highlight the orientation of his heart – devoted to God.
In the late 1980s Sy was a former president of the ex-gay ‘conversion therapy’ ministry Exodus International, but in later years as ‘conversion’ ministry became more controversial, Sy’s messages shifted and became more simply focused on peoples’ relationship with God.
Christianity Today reports that he is survived by his wife Karen, daughter Grace, son-in-law Steve, and his grandchildren ages 8 and 4.
Tributes From Around the World
In Instagram tributes after his death, many influential leaders wrote of their love for Sy and his wife, Karen.
“Sy Rogers lived a life of truth, sharing the hope and grace found in Jesus with everyone he could. 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 [Forward Conference] when he spoke.” ~ Free Chapel pastor, Jentezen Franklin
“This is a huge loss for the Church ….and for any of us who knew him. His message and ministry was INCREDIBLY unique. His brilliance was astounding. Jerry & I will miss his voice in our lives.” ~ International preacher, Priscilla Shirer
“Sy was truly one of the kindest people you could ever meet. He exemplified grace and freedom and a passion to always bless others.” ~ Bobbie Houston
“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.” ~ Hillsong pastor, Bobbie Houston
“What a kind and amazing man of God who knew how to love so well. If kindness was a person, it would be Sy. We met over 20 years ago when he spoke at a youth weekend and I was the guest artist. We fast became friends in that season, which led to the privilege of singing on his album his version of the song “Bette Davis Eyes”. He was out of the box, didn’t fit the mold, and he knew how to get people thinking. Whenever I would see him somewhere, he would light up, run accross the room and give me a big hug. It had been many years since I had seen him, but I will remember him with fondness and look forward to seeing Him again in Heaven. Well done good and faithful servant- you will be missed. Thank you for all you have done for the kingdom, which lives on in your legacy.” ~ Australian Singer, Roma Waterman