Sy Rogers, a leading communicator on God, culture and sex, died on Sunday at 63 after battling kidney cancer for eight months. This was his second bout with cancer. He had been in remission for five years.
Regarded as a gifted speaker, Sy’s teaching ministry spanned over three decades and reached across six continents. Sy was a popular conference speaker in evangelical circles and his seminars and speaking events were conducted interdenominationally for leadership events (National Youth Leaders), Bible colleges (Biola, Christ for the Nations, Azusa Pacific, Regent), youth festivals (Parachute Music Festival in NZ), counselor training, women’s conferences, and men’s events. Sy was also an award-winning talk show host. In 1996, Sy was selected by Christianity Today as one of “50 Up and Coming Evangelical Leaders Under 40.”
For the last two decades Sy was an apologist for sexual integrity and healthy relationships. His ability to cross denominational and gender lines enabled him to speak at women’s events, including Hillsong’s Colour Conference, a mega event that packed arenas in excess of 15,000 as well as men’s events such as Promise Keepers. He preached often in evangelical circles in a wide variety of influential pulpits, from Southern Baptist to Presbyterian to Pentecostal, including Ed Young’s Fellowship Church (Dallas) to Jentezen Franklin’s Free Chapel (Gainesville, Georgia) to London’s Kensington Temple to Australia’s Riverview Church. Most recently, Sy served as a teaching pastor at Life Church, the largest church in New Zealand, for six years starting in 2012 while maintaining his international speaking ministry.
Married to Karen since 1982, Sy and his family lived on three different continents. In the late 80s, Sy was a pioneer in the fledgling ex-gay movement and directed the now defunct parachurch ministry in Orlando, called Eleutheros, a Greek word for freedom from bondage. A former homosexual, Sy’s ministry offered pastoral care and support groups for clients who struggled with sexual confusion, abuse, and gender identity issues. From 1988 to 1990 Sy also served one term as president of Exodus International, a coalition of like-minded support groups for people with unwanted same-sex attractions.
In 1991 Sy and his family moved to Singapore, where Sy was one of 25 pastors on staff with a dynamic Anglican church, Church of our Savior. While there Sy founded a recovery ministry that is still in operation today, called Choices. Then Sy’s family migrated to New Zealand in 1998, where his itinerant preaching and teaching ministry was launched, but not before Sy spent a year as part of the evangelistic ministry of No Longer Music. Sy performed as the lead vocalist in the four-continent world tour, called Primordial, a Christian rock operetta that played in major secular night clubs, portraying the character of God on trial in a world of suffering.
Sy and his family relocated back to Orlando in 2001 for 11 years, where he worked as a full-time itinerant teaching pastor. In 2012 Sy moved with his family back to New Zealand, where he served as part of the pastoral teaching staff, taught in the Bible college, and worked with the creative arts team. He divided his time between Life Church and his global itinerant preaching ministry.
His life-changing insights and dramatic story of overcoming childhood sexual abuse and homosexuality have been featured in his own testimony DVD, called One of the Boys, and numerous media interviews and articles, including Joni Lamb, 700 Club, Reality Magazine, Good Morning Australia, Open House, and Last Days Ministries, and featured in several books written by authors such as Philip Baker and Dr. D. James Kennedy.
Upon hearing of his passing, Jentezen Franklin said, “Sy’s contribution made us a more compassionate ministry and he had an enormous impact on our church.” Hillsong founders Brian and Bobbie Houston wrote, “Sy was truly one of the kindest people you could ever meet. He exemplified grace and freedom and a passion to always bless others.”
Sy is survived by his wife, Karen, daughter Grace, son-in-law Steve, and his grandchildren, ages 8 and 4.