On Being Gay
Tim Evans, author of this article (real name withheld, to protect his family), was formerly the pastor of a flourishing evangelical charismatic community church. He was also married with a young family. When inner conflicts with his feelings of same-sex attraction not acted upon) became too much, he left the ministry under pressure from his church eldership. Tim’s words eloquently express the dilemmas for so many gay Christians who want to be true to their faith, and live their lives in a way that is honouring to their Lord, yet who lack the Christian ethical thinking and role models to work out the way forwards, especially when it comes to considering a same-sex partnership. They also wonder whether, as a Christian, they can legitimately call themselves "gay".
For some twenty-five years I have tried to avoid using this loaded and provocative word, ‘gay’. Now, as I write a piece entitled "On Being Gay", I find that in doing this I am choosing a term that has become to me a symbol of light and life. It is perhaps strange to find myself using the word gay (coined by secular society to describe homosexual people) to mean a symbol of life, when the word is so divisive within the church. If one needs to describe sexual orientation, you might ask, why not use the phrase, ‘same-sex attracted’, or even, ‘with a homosexual orientation’, as some do. For me, using the word gay is a way of confronting the reality—that accepting my sexual orientation has meant accepting life.
"Gay: a homosexual person, esp. a male"
That is me. Well it is and it isn’t. It’s not all of me. It’s just that it does say something about me. It’s not about wearing a badge or a T-shirt, or frequenting certain kinds of bar or attending a certain type of club. But I desperately want to pursue a value that I hear Jesus—who is for me my God, my Saviour, my Teacher and my Friend—call out loudly to society, "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1) I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to say that—this is me, all of me, nothing hidden. Yet my church has taught me, my friends and colleagues have taught me, my brothers and sisters, my parents and grandparents have taught me . . .
"Do not admit to yourself or the world who you are, in terms of your sexual orientation. Hide it, kill it, eradicate it, heal it, deliver it, break it, magic it away, deny it, marry it to a woman, heterosexually sexualise it away, therapy it, counsel it but whatever you do don’t stand up one day and say "I am gay". Because when you do, on that day, you will have finally given in to it and it will surely kill you. You will die a slow, horrible and painful death, a death of friendships, of acceptance, of spirituality and ultimately you gamble with your eternal future."
In my agreement with my church, I did all that is suggested above. Above all else I sought to deny it. "NO—I am not gay. I am not." In latter years I accepted that I was "struggling with same-sex attraction". Oh, I was struggling all right. Struggling to fix my eyes on anything but my sexuality. I fixed my eyes on God, prayed, fasted, studied and praised. I fixed my eyes on my wife and then my children. I fixed my eyes on work and I fixed my eyes on my safe straight friends. But the more I fixed my eyes on anything but my true self, the more hidden and dark my sexuality became. It grew inside me like a monster, starved of light, starved of holy and Godly influence; it had no opportunity to grow up, no opportunity to be shaped into a Godly and beautiful part of me. It was told that it was evil and so it behaved.
I have no pride in the fact that there came a period when my sexuality manifested itself in dirty and self-destructive patterns that were every bit the gutter that the church had told me it was. But to accept my sexuality, as it is, was a reality too stark and terrible to contemplate. Despite my best efforts, this evil had finally eaten its way out of my hidden compartments and was now consuming me. When the evil becomes you, you want with all your heart to do the one thing that seems right and just—to kill the evil. And for me that meant killing myself. That is what I wanted to do.
What was the alternative? The church left me in no doubt that if I were to choose to embrace my sexuality then I must leave behind all that I have learned of God’s love, grace and justice.
However, through the love, patience and kindness of my few remaining friends and closest family, many of whom have struggled with my journey but affirmed their desire for me to live, I began to choose something wholly different. Something that would lead not to self destruction, but to life.
I chose to believe that God wanted to nurture my sexuality. To give me what I was denied: the chance to grow up. The chance to give and receive the love and affection that was taken from me. To give myself permission to discover that whilst God does indeed abhor adultery, sexual immorality and all other forms of the destruction of personhood, God honours love. He loves commitment, faithfulness, patience, kindness and affection, devotion and romance, beauty and, when it honours all of those things, sex.
I want to grow up and allow myself to be an emotionally and sexually adult man. With integrity and nothing hidden. Wholly me. Honouring God and honouring who he has made me.
Does all of this mean I want to go hunting for lascivious same sex experiences? No. Just as in the past as I have advocated that young couples who are in the first throes of love (and, yes, even lust), must create a safety net for themselves to protect their physical, emotional and spiritual health, so must any gay man. Practising positive fidelity remains part of my moral view of the world. There will always be some for whom a life partnership does not become a part of their life journey. For many, however, romance and relationship will, if they embrace their sexuality, become a part of their journey through life.
To those who regard my views as heresy and believe me to have a total disregard of what, as they understand it, St Paul says about homosexuality, may I draw your attention to Eugene Peterson’s attempt to make sense of Paul’s views in modern language. When he translates Paul’s treatise against "homosexual offenders" in 1 Cor. 6. The Message says, "Do you not realise this is not the way to live? Unjust people who do not care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom."
This is not the place to discuss what this means in terms of salvation. My point is that Paul is talking about the abuse of sex and relationships. I do not believe that a relationship covenanted to love and faithfulness is abusive, merely on the grounds that it is a homosexually physical one. Of course, like all relationships, some will not maintain that covenant. But as a vicar once said to me, "There are many heterosexual marriages that fail to live up to that standard."
Again Peterson offers a possible insight in Romans 1:25-27 with the same tender but carefully theologised wording: "Refusing to know God they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love."
Reading these renditions and then re-reading the traditional texts without the lens of prejudice, the point is as plain as day. Lust and abuse is wrong and destructive, but love—now that is a different matter.
At this point we must face the historical prejudice of our society. The fact is, there does appear to be a created order for sexual relationships. When this natural order is strayed from, as apparently in homosexual intimacy, this is perceived as ‘unnatural’ in many people’s minds. Undoubtedly there is an order in God’s creation because our society is wholly dependent on men and women being joined as one flesh in order to create new flesh. It is perhaps fortunate that fewer than one in ten people are understood to be gay or lesbian. Male and female union for procreation has to be what God intended. But most people have rediscovered that God intended more.
Once again we have reached a point in society where we have moved beyond seeing sexual union as solely being about procreation. Most Christians now accept that sex can be about pleasure too. In fact the church already has many books on the subject and offers seminars on sex inside of marriage. Sex that does not create. Sex with condoms or other contraceptives. Oral sex. Masturbatory sex. None of these are procreative or part of God’s creative order for human sustainability. Yet for the most part we have accepted them. We do not say that mature women who have passed their menopause must now abstain from sex or that men who have had vasectomies should now abstain from sex because they can no longer create. We accept that God has given sex both as a creative order and as an intimate expression of committed love. Is it not then wholly consistent to argue that sex for same-sex couples can also be an intimate expression of committed love?
We should be careful here to define this love. I think the Bible is consistent—that love is something that is freely given and freely received. Love cannot be coerced, paid for or taken from one who is vulnerable or at risk. Love is never a perversion of positions of power or trust. Love is always a sharing of equality and maturity.
But what if I am wrong? What if sex in loving committed same sex relationships is wrong? Well the truth, I believe, is this: it can only be wrong for those who consider it wrong—because for many nowadays it is not believed to be wrong. Rather, for some, it is a recognition that homosexuality is an inalterable fact of their sexual make-up. And as such, a loving, committed and (if desired) sexual union—is a part of their adult life.
Some will consider this view of same-sex intimacy and love erroneous. And if, with integrity and due consideration, your view remains that same-sex union is ‘unclean’, then perhaps you will consider this:
"Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they say or do something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
For instance, a person who has been around a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat. God after all invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? . . . eventually we are all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgement facing God . . . These remember are persons for whom Christ died. Don’t you dare let a piece of God blessed food become an occasion of soul poisoning."
Romans 14:1-4 & 11; 15-16 (The Message)
This paraphrase ends with a powerful challenge. As the church, I believe we have soul poisoned hundreds and thousands of gay men and women. We have poisoned them against a moral pathway through their sexuality, against the church and for some against God. For this I feel enormous shame and sorrow.
What if we were to teach gay men and women that God could bless them and bless their love for one another? What if we were to teach them to seek guidance in ‘growing up sexually’ and learn from others how to conduct themselves in relationships, just as we would encourage heterosexual couples to do? What if we were to seek blessing for them, and hope for them that they would seek blessing?
This, for me, is the crux of it all. Can we really say that we love and accept our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction, if we are not truly willing to seek God’s blessing on them as gay men and women? If we call them blessed, then we are willing to allow God and His Word to shape their lives, their fidelity and their morality. If we call them cursed then we will forever encourage hypocrisy, a religious duplicity or an abandonment of God altogether.
Are you willing to say that Gay is OK? Because if you are, this brings a significant challenge into the frame; If you can say that Gay is OK, then for the sake of those who need the support and love of the Body of Christ, will you go a step further? Will you call gay people—blessed?
Paul says, "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." (Romans 14:17,18 NIV)
Being Gay and in a same-sex partnership is without doubt controversial and difficult. But I would like to see these relationships accepted and blessed, rather than people driven to hide, and live hypocritical lives that fall a long way short of the glory of God. But to do that, more people will need to declare publicly that to be Gay is to be blessed.
For this reason, I shall say, "I am Gay", although I am a long way off wanting to make this a crusade. I want to be blessed and I want my sexuality to be a matter of my faith, a matter that is wholly under God’s blessing, because with all my heart I do not want any part of my life to be out of step with the blessing of God. I desire with passion to live my life for God. It is not good enough for me to settle for a life that has an unholy part. I want to commit all that I am to him, so that he can make me holy.
"God, I am Gay. I humbly ask for your blessing." Amen
Tim Evans/September 2008
Published by Courage with permission of the author