I recently spent time with a friend who is a pastor. He was in the middle of a sermon series on contemporary issues and the topic for the following week was same-sex marriage. He held to a fairly stock-standard conservative evangelical approach and it was clear that his congregation expected him to articulate it.
I suggested that when he preached the sermon his target shouldn’t be the 55 year old man or woman who wanted to hear a strong condemnation of same-sex marriage, but the 15 year old kid who is homosexually oriented but terrified of coming out.
Suicide rates among gay youth are many multiples higher than among their straight counterparts. The key factors are the inability to accept oneself and the absence of supportive and caring community.1Gabs Rosnestreich, “LGBTI People, Mental Health & Suicide” (National LGBTI Health Alliance, 2011) Despite their rhetoric of love and welcome, most of our churches are places that are anything but supportive and caring communities for people whose sexuality doesn’t fit a heterosexual norm. The 15 year old who’s grown up in the evangelical wing of the church has spent his entire life in a faith community where it is assumed that heterosexual orientation is the God given norm for sexuality; where almost every discussion of homosexuality will have focussed on what’s wrong with homosexuals; where the “gay lobby” is fiercely denounced; and where friends and parents and other adults make derogatory comments about homosexuals without censure from their peers. There’s a good chance that that 15 year old has internalised all these messages, wakes up every morning convinced God hates him, and is terrified of rejection if his true self is known. I know this because over the last few years I have become friends with a number of gay Christians and this is the story so many of them share.
Others have found the same. In 2013 Nigel Chapman, who was part of a Baptist church in Surry Hills, Sydney, that established strong relationships with the local gay community, wrote that
The lasting impression gained by listening to the experience of same-sex attracted Christians and community members is that a same-sex attracted person who grows up in one of our churches experiences alienation and fear, expects to be stigmatised and misunderstood, and is given every motivation to stay silent about this issue.2Chapman, “Evangelical Churches & Same Sex Attraction”, 2013. http://chapman.id.au/files/EvangelicalChurchesAndSameSexOrientation.pdf
It’s backed up by research. A 2010 study3Lynne Hillier, Tiffany Jones, Marisa Monagle, Naomi Overton, Luke Gahan, Jennifer Blackman, Anne Mitchell, “Writing Themselves in 3. The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people.” by LA Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society found that compared to other same-sex attracted youth, religious same-sex attracted young people were:
- More likely to feel bad about their same sex attraction.
- More likely to have experienced social exclusion or had to tolerate homophobic language from friends.
- More likely to report homophobic abuse in the home.
- More likely to report feeling unsafe at home.
- More likely to not be supported by their mother, father, brother, teacher or student welfare coordinator/counsellor, when disclosing their SSA.
- More likely to report thoughts of self harm and suicide or to carry out self harm.
As a member of the church this makes me weep. Surely something has gone horribly and tragically wrong when being part of a church means gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex young people are more likely to suffer social exclusion, feel unsafe, not be supported, to report thoughts of self-harm and to carry out self-harm.
We’ve been so eager to remove the splinter from the eye of our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters. Perhaps it’s time to take Jesus’s advice and start removing the logs from our own.
I believe we must begin with a period of introspection and repentance. Let’s put an end to all the sermons denouncing same-sex marriage as though this is the key issue for the church on sexuality. The key issue for the churches is surely our failure to be places of grace and safety for LGBTIQ people.
Human understanding of sexuality and gender has progressed rapidly in recent years. For example, it is now widely accepted that people do not choose their sexual orientation but that it is fixed and given for most of us by the time we reach adolescence. We have learned that the variations within sexualities are far more nuanced and complex than we previously thought. We have learned that people whose sexuality does not fit a heterosexual norm are not perverted or deviant in character, but beautiful creatures made in the image and likeness of their Creator.
Yet our churches remain repositories of bigotry and ignorance. In our efforts to defend a traditional sexuality we have failed to subject that sexuality to the blowtorch of critical reflection. It beggars belief that views that came to us from a time when there was widespread ignorance about sexuality, when sexually different people were thought to be morally deviant, and when violence was perpetrated against them in the name of Christ, do not need changing. Whatever we may end up retaining from a traditional sexuality, we must recognise that there is much in the traditional sexuality we inherited that is not pure nor Christ-like.
We must come to grips with the fact that our churches are toxic, life destroying environments to LGBTIQ people, even when it is not overtly spoken out. I was at an event last night in which a transgender person described the opprobrium that has been thrown at her by members of her church. She concluded by saying:
In the end it wasn’t harassment that made me leave . It was quiet, peaceful, passive rejection.
Those of us who are heterosexual must stop doing all the talking and start listening to the stories, experiences and insights of LGBTIQ Christians and then having listened, consider afresh what God might be saying to us and the way God might be leading us.
|↑1||Gabs Rosnestreich, “LGBTI People, Mental Health & Suicide” (National LGBTI Health Alliance, 2011|
|↑2||Chapman, “Evangelical Churches & Same Sex Attraction”, 2013. http://chapman.id.au/files/EvangelicalChurchesAndSameSexOrientation.pdf|
|↑3||Lynne Hillier, Tiffany Jones, Marisa Monagle, Naomi Overton, Luke Gahan, Jennifer Blackman, Anne Mitchell, “Writing Themselves in 3. The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people.”|
Ok so if the lgbti individual comes to your Church awesome…
preach Christ crucified…love them….include them….but when they ask about homesexuality and or lesbian acts that are forbidden what do you say to them?
We are told to preach the Truth in season and out of season, that will make a lot of people uncomfortable but this should not stop Christians from proclaiming God’s Truth as presented in the Bible. A true Christian will see everyone who has been given the breath of life as an individual that Jesus loves and died for, however, we all need to hear the Truth regardless of how we receive it, we are to preach the Truth in love and humility but nevertheless, preach the Truth. We are to come to Christ as we are but not misinterpret… Read more »
Omg….this is why people are leaving the church in droves.
This is simplistic and wrong. The only thing I agree with is the call to love and grace – but to ignore Gods definituons of sin is not the answer. What is neexed is the calling out of all sin including adultery, fornication and every other rather than picking out this one sin over all the others that are common in the church.
This is a truly disturbing piece with a gaping flaw – what does Scripture say? It is all very well to talk about the progress in the human understanding of sexuality but if you recall Genesis you’ll note that mankind quickly progressed from monogamy to polygamy. ‘Progress’ doesn’t always mean improving on what God intends! A better question would be what is God’s view of sexuality? Any teaching which advocates a message other than sex is something to be enjoyed between a husband and wife, all others are to remain chaste is messing with God’s message. Feel free to quibble… Read more »
Hi Andrew, you have jumped to a conclusion that the article is arguing for evangelicals to abandon their view of sexual ethics. That is not what the article is doing. What I am arguing is that in our rush to condemn same-sex relationships we are not making spaces of grace, welcome and hope for people within our churches who are same-sex oriented to be open about their orientation and find the love and support they require to live as faithful disciples of Jesus. LGBT IQ people report repeatedly that the churches are places of alienation, fear and rejection rather than… Read more »
Jumped? No I didn’t jump I simply read what you said and found it toxic towards Christianity. I’m perfectly prepared to accept that you have a point – that churches aren’t as welcoming to outsiders as Christ was to whores and tax collectors, but what I read in your post isn’t merely a criticism of style, but substance. The three references you rely on appear to be part of the homosexual lobby – yes I suspect you object to that term given the use of speech marks around the term in your original post, but the fact you rely on… Read more »
Hi Andrew, I think you are misunderstanding me. First, to quote from a secular source is hardly inappropriate. The apostle Paul managed to do it any sermon in Acts 17 in the book of Proverbs incorporates large slabs of wisdom derived from the pagan world. you seriously suggesting that the research of an Australian university that demonstrates young people who are same-sex attracted a more likely to engage in self-harm if they belong to a church than if they don’t? That sounds to me just like shooting the messenger. Second, it does pick a belief that views don’t change. Two… Read more »
so what do you say to those who are lgbti persons who are practicing same sex when they ask is it ok?
what do you say?
One day, after listening to some very informative interviews on Oprah, I realized that there are many people in the world who don’t ‘fit’ into the categories of “man” or “women”. I don’t know why I was an adult before I realized this. Maybe it’s because most churches preach it is the only way and so as I grew up in church I accepted it as truth OR maybe it’s because society has traditionally demanded it to be so. Some countries still persecute, imprison and execute anyone who dares to show a different sexuality to the norm. It was news… Read more »
Beautifully said Kim.
It’s funny if you have a couple where the husband is engaging in adultery I am sure there would be no call for the pastor to preach on monogamy or sanctity of marriage. Similarly when de facto couples attend church. Why are we so interested in only one type of sexual behaviour that belongs to others but not ourselves. Doesn’t Jesus’ example to the tax collector of inclusion, or the woman at the well or adulterer of love point the way to go rather than the religious leaders huffing and puffing for healing on the Sabbath. Gender identity is a… Read more »
Well done Scott for standing up for us. It is sad to see that people do not or are not inclined to having that understanding. I’m a Christian and gay and there has been things said which I find very distasteful and disturbing. If they only knew by what they say are actually recorded and sometimes I ask God if He can blot it because I still care even when they’re cruel to my face. I think the pain of witnessing the end time causes me more anxiety knowing what God would say about on their day of reckoning. I’m… Read more »
I guess no-one will, or wants to answer my question of…… “so what do you say to those who are lgbti persons who are practicing same sex when they ask is it ok? what do you say? Well all I see here are grey comments…wishy washy on the fence agreements….ill-informed theological viewpoints that have no bias scriptural wise whatsoever… These are all dangerous and really…REALLY scary, what the Bible says is clear. There is only one Bible and any sex act outside of marriage is a sin in Gods eyes…other sex acts with the same gender is a sin. Do… Read more »
The reason I have not responded to your question is that you are illustrating the very issue I’ve raised. I write an article pointing out that young people who are same-sex attracted are more likely to self-harm and fall into despair if they are in the church than without and suggest we spend less time condemning them and more time helping them work through their sexuality in a safe and graceful environment and all you want to talk about is condemnation.
So what would you say or Minister in reply to my question then Scott?
Not say anything?
How is condemnation following the very Word of truth?
Im confused brother?
This issue has become a real emotionally biased debate that at times does not allow both sides to safely exercise valid reason. Thank you for your post irrespective of any hint of biases or prejudice or lack thereof. Can I offer my humble (hopefully) opinion that can be unpacked, nit picked, mis read etc, or any wise discussion that can be good if it leads us healthily towards God and the liberation of His Divine Word. It is more a ramble without fine editing so please forgive me in advance as it is not intended in any way to be… Read more »