After Steve Chalke and Rob Bell joined the ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ Group in affirming faithful same-sex erotic relationships earlier this year a new group of ‘post-gay’ evangelical Christian leaders has emerged.
Their testimonies are clear, powerful, hugely encouraging and most welcome at a time when many young evangelicals are genuinely confused about the issue.
These are men in pastoral ministry who admit to feelings of same sex attraction but who also see the Bible’s prohibitions on same-sex relationships as non-negotiable.
The core of this new group, recently interviewed by Christianity magazine, are Sam Alberry, a church leader in Maidenhead, Sean Doherty, a tutor at St Mellitus College, and Ed Shaw, who helps to lead Emmanuel Church in Bristol.
They are shortly to launch a website called ‘Living Out’, aimed at helping others think through the realities of being same-sex attracted while remaining committed to a biblical sexual morality.
Doherty (pictured), who has experienced some degree of shift in his sexual feelings and is now married, explains how his own church experience helped him:
‘Church was a place of nurture and unconditional acceptance, but at the same time the teaching was clear that I shouldn’t act on those sexual desires. In an environment where young people were being encouraged to experiment, I was really grateful that I had been kept from acting on my feelings.’
He is reluctant to describe himself as gay and instead adopts terminology adopted by blogger Peter Ould who has a similar testimony:
‘I don’t speak of myself as an “ex-gay” person. I prefer the term “post-gay”. You choose to move away from the label of “gay” altogether, which has come to be associated with a certain lifestyle. I’ve clearly experienced some change in my feelings so that I am attracted to my wife. But it’s definitely not a 180-degree reorientation. All of us will continue to have desires and feelings which aren’t right, until Jesus returns.’
Alberry and Shaw share Doherty’s perspective, but accept that they will remain celibate if their orientation does not change.
Alberry previously posted an article titled ‘How can the Gospel be good news to gays?’ on the Gospel Coalition website, where he takes a firm biblical stance on the issue but argues strongly and compassionately that people with homosexual orientation need more grace and not less.
Last year Vaughan Roberts, a leading conservative evangelical, spoke for the first time of his own struggle with same-sex attraction in an interview with Evangelicals Now. His testimony is clear, biblical, passionate and pastoral and well worthy of study.
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Alberry, Doherty and Shaw's experience, and those of Ould and Roberts, underline the fact that there is a difference between experiencing same sex attraction and choosing to participate in homosexual erotic behaviour.
The Bible is very clear that all sexual relations outside marriage (a life-long exclusive monogamous heterosexual public covenant relationship) are morally wrong (Leviticus 18:6-23, 20:10-21; Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Timothy 1:9,10; Revelation 22:15). This includes fornication, adultery, same-sex relations and all other sorts of sex imaginable, even if you are deeply in love with the other person.
Claiming that we are just ‘being true to our feelings’ in this area is just as wrong as claiming that our feelings justify any other form of sin. As Jeremiah put it ‘the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure’ (17:9) It is God’s Word that must guide us, not our feelings.
So people who become Christians, who recognize that they experience same-sex feelings or have a homosexual orientation and/or identity, are in the same category as anyone who has opposite-sex feelings but is unmarried, divorced, widowed or in a marriage relationship where, for physical or psychosexual reasons, sex is not possible.
They must accept that not having sex is their only option. For those who recognize themselves to be exclusively of homosexual orientation this may well mean that the only course open to them is staying single. Sometimes sexual orientation may change over time, but often it doesn’t.
Jesus of course was unmarried and never had sex yet we know that he ‘was tempted in all ways as we are – yet was without sin’. This must surely have included the temptation to sexual sin.
Is it possible to live a full life without having sex? Well Jesus himself did just that. And he is able to help any Christian to do the same. Marriage is a great calling but so is singleness, and sex is neither compulsory, nor necessary, in order to live a fulfilled and fruitful life.
Sex is a wonderful gift but like any gift it is not granted to all. If for any reason you can’t have sex, then ask what other good gifts God has given you, and enjoy those instead.
For a list of helpful resources for those seeking an evangelical Christian perspective on homosexuality see my earlier blog.
Reprinted with permssion from PJ Saunders