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Appendix 3
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Appendix 3: Same-sex attraction - open and understood

Same-sex attraction (SSA) or 'homophile orientation' is used here to talk about sexual attraction towards member of the same sex, in varying degrees, and without implication for activity, sense of identity or lifestyle. It is not uncommon to be SSA to some degree or at some stage of life. But God's design, evident in our biology, needs to determine how sexuality is expressed physically. As with the eros love discussed in Chapter 2, there may or may not be a genital aspect to the desire.

It is important to understand that this is not a black-and-white, either/or question, but rather relating to a spectrum of inclination, an attribute, not fundamentally an identity. It may be fluid. Sexual orientation is also distinct from gender identity, though the two are sometimes bracketed together as SOGI. But desire is not the same as gender identity or social identity.

It is fundamentally important to distinguish the orientation or strong same-sex attraction from homosexual activity and distinctive 'gay' lifestyle - though 'gay' is generally accepted as a term for SSA social identity.74d Same-gender attraction (SGA) is a term sometimes used. Some measure of SSA may be treasured, but not seen as marriage guidance!

We recognise that there is a kind of same-sex attraction that is intense and tender but not sexual, and transcends those instincts which are hormonally-driven or possessive. It is not addressed here, but is mentioned in 1.3.

So what?
In any person with very strong and enduring SSA it can end up being a source of much grief or even much blessing, depending on how it is understood and managed. It is a variety of nature which in the short term is often the source of bewilderment, confusion and resentment. It can provide a special challenge to fully integrate God's truth with how love shapes a person's deeper relationships socially. But we should be grateful that the social stigma of SSA has largely been removed in recent years.

With gay marriage or 'marriage equality' becomoing widely accepted in Western society, and the gay marriage and gay ordination issue rending the church, especially in UK and USA, the biblically-based response is reasonably well defined in the public square: marriage is properly between male and female, by complementary design. But this does not address the pastoral issue at all, and its failure to do so is especially a problem at churches with a very large population of unmarried people in their 20s to early 30s. The basic dilemma is no different elsewhere.

The main directly relevant teaching by Jesus is in Matthew 19:3-12, addressing the nature of marriage. After the disciples respond that it might be better not to marry, he says "not everyone can accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given". Some are unable due to birth, circumstance, or choice not to marry. He does not make any moral distinction among those who don't marry for whatever reason. The birth and circumstance cases fit SSA quite well, and strong SSA adds one reason to many other reasons why anyone might remain unmarried by choice.

Both of us know some high-profile Christians and others low-profile who are strongly SSA and for whom that attribute contributes significantly to their fulsome life and ministry, albeit as single people who are open about their SSA.

Sexual orientation, especially in adolescence and late teens is often fluid, for a variety of reasons. This is becoming more widely acknowledged, especially for women, and even celebrated unhelpfully. For young males, much here will be relevant.74 We simply emphasise that no-one under their mid 20s, and especially teenagers, should assume that any SSA they experience is other than transient.74c We counsel patience, restraint and normal social engagement.

Sexual orientation is affected by many factors which remain imperfectly understood. Those related to the social and emotional environment of growing up appear paramount, but genetic make-up, epigenetic influences in the womb, the wider culture a person currently lives in, and the choices which he or she has made can be significant too. Moreover, a person's precise sexual orientation does not necessarily remain constant, but can change over time, possibly in line with changes in that social and emotional environment, certainly with reinforcement of mental pathways, or in younger people, simply with greater maturity.

For many teenagers, a measure of SSA is a transient phase and will abate on its own to be replaced by heteronormative attraction if it is not reinforced by homosexual activity. This fluidity of sexual orientation is not uncommon and is no cause for great concern or opprobrium. With normal social interactions and by early 20s it will usually firm up in line with biological reality. However, recent government-supported activism to normalize fluidity of sexual orientation and expression of this in adolescents is counter to any Christian understanding of God's purposes and design, so should be countered.28a

We don't really have any choice about whether we are 'wired' as fully hetero, fully homo, or - more commonly - somewhere on the spectrum in between, so excited and aroused in both directions to some degree. But we do have choice about how we express ourselves and behave. The fully homophile/ SSA person can choose to be chaste or to indulge, the fully hetero person can choose sex before marriage or not, and to act on adulterous opportunities after it (or not). Those in between can choose to foster their inclinations one way or the other, who to hang out with, what visual stimuli to encourage or avoid, what physical stimuli (such as close romantic company of opposite-sex friend) to encourage and enjoy, and thereby condition their social orientation while not overlooking their vulnerabilities. To a significant degree the mental pathways can be trained in one direction rather than the other. They should manage their sexuality as an ability and never see it as a disability. Of course the need for self-control applies to all of us equally.

For many predominantly and strongly homophile Christians, lifelong singleness is the only option. While (heterosexual) divorce statistics are alarming, even in the church, the chances of same-sex relationships being even 'long-term' by any definition are statistically very low. This is not the key reason for Christians avoiding them, but it is relevant. Homophile orientation/ SSA is not morally wrong, but it may limit life options for a Christian. None of us can appropriately indulge any full sexual expression outside marriage. A very helpful interview with a prominent UK church leader which puts the whole issue into perspective for Christians is at A book, The Plausibility Problem - the church and same-sex attraction deals with the question more fully, review here. Hopefully this will encourage more openness and acceptance in the church, since the secretive nature of SSA among Christians hitherto tended to mean that anyone who 'came out' was stigmatized in the evangelical fellowship, which was profoundly unjust and unhelpful. We also know others who are SSA to some degree, and for whom normal marriage may be an option or reality.

Turmoil, Gift or stigma?
In respect to discerning and thinking about different kinds of love, C.S.Lewis' The Four Loves is admirable - if only he had written it 30 years later so as to include more on homophile affections! 74b

As a starting point we need to accept the well-documented fact that for three to four percent or so of our society (and presumably a similar proportion of Christians) this is an issue fairly central to their existence and even sense of identity (with up to two percent being strongly SSA). So the first thing is to grapple with the confusion of coming to terms with it as an unavoidable aspect of the way they are, a variety of nature like left-handedness, though often less clear-cut. The inner dynamics are not a matter of choice, and for many there is some turmoil involved with accepting any significant degree of homophile SSA. Some ambivalence of sexuality is not a bad thing if it is constrained a bit more sensibly than implied in the LBGTI ‘bi’ label that is often used. It can rejoice in hetero-normative sex while being a bit more switched on in social relationships with others of same sex, and very open to non-genital intimacy there.

Beyond that, in the broader scheme of things, is it to be seen as a sickness/ disability/ ailment as perceived by some, or should it be seen more as something like a gift? - albeit not one that anyone would seek, and certainly distinct from the charismata of Paul's writings; but it is simply part of a person's range of gifts and abilities nonetheless, akin to and related to other kinds of abilities and sensitivities which are deployed in God's service. Considered thus, it is something that God trusts few of his people with, on account of the readiness with which it can become a curse and bring disaster. Perhaps we should see it as a endowment like fire, because if self-control fails, people will readily be hurt rather than blessed through it.

But when the confusion and resentment abates, it does need to be perceived in the light of God's sovereign grace and of Paul's reminder that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"74a. It is something which requires a lot of wisdom and effort to manage in a godly way - a 'hard gift', since it often precludes the 'one flesh' relationship and physical-emotional intimacy of sexual union in marriage. It means therefore that the homophile Christian, more acutley than his or her peers, will often be offering to God thoughts and affections which are unworthy and asking him to transform them and use them, indeed to sanctify them, constrained by his Spirit.75

Spectrum, change and choice
It is clear that the question of sexual orientation is not absolute or binary, there are well-recognised gradations across a spectrum. Alfred Kinsey came up with a basic but useful 7-point scale which describes a person's sexual orientation at a given time. It runs from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual), with 3 being equally hetero and homo. A person's position on the scale may change during their life, even substantially. It is important not to be thinking in terms of discrete categories, let alone communities. While a person's sexual orientation in adulthood is basically a given, there is plenty of scope for choice in how that is expressed, especially for those around the middle of the spectrum. Those choices lead to a measure of conditioning in the direction chosen.

Sometimes it is asserted that homosexuality is a matter of choice, that individuals simply choose to be that way. Fundamentally this is usually a cruel misrepresentation, except to a small extent as discussed below, though evidently female SSA is often less deeply ingrained than in males, and more a matter of choice. For most, however, there is choice only in its expression.

As already mentioned, SSA can change to some extent in the natural course of events and socialising. But that prospect cannot necessarily be held out to all who would wish it, especially those who are well towards the homo end of the spectrum. Possibly it depends on how the SSA has arisen, and insofar as it may be due to the social and emotional environment of growing up it may well change after that environment is left behind. Adolescent SSA is quite likely to change if it is not reinforced by sexual practice. Habits can be changed, but it is best to assume that adult nature cannot. Beyond that, don't ever limit the potential for God to change a person, but also don't presume that he will do so as readily as say healing a lame knee or a bout of depression by medical intervention. Touted Christian 'reorientation cures' based on SSA being seen as mental illness may be shonky and unhelpful in achieving change in homophile nature. SSA is not a mental illness and any such courses of 'treatment' beyond normal pastoral encouragement of patience, chastity and social engagement are not recommended.

It seems both unwise and unhelpful to categorise anyone under mid 20s on the basis of sexual orientation or for them to self-identify thus. Certainly we must recognize that some have a degree, perhaps great, of SSA, but we should not let this become in any way a distinguishing feature of them socially, let alone defining 'gay' identity. Give them social space and opportunity to mature in their sexuality.

We see two outstanding examples of individual men (both now departed for more than a decade) who we understand to have been driven by homophile affections and to have so managed and constrained those that they were used powerfully by God to positively influence the church and bring major blessing to many in it. So we default strongly to the view that it is no accident or mere affliction, but in fact and in the long run best seen as something potentially positive in the church (though of course any gift can be misused). Will Vaus in Mere Theology - a guide to the thought of CS Lewis says that Lewis "makes the point that every disability, homosexuality included, conceals a vocation. To discover this vocation the homosexual must accept sexual abstinence." This view is supported in both the theological and autobiographical sections of Holiness and Sexuality - homosexuality in a biblical context, edited by David Peterson. The autobiographical section, by Martin Hallett, is frank and helpful - his True Freedom Trust76 in the UK is one outcome, and a great blessing to many embattled homophile Christians. But for some homophile people, SSA is a trial rather than any kind of gift.

Both adult SSA in various degrees and conditions on the autism spectrum are, broadly, departures from God's design and symptomatic of the fallen creation. However, particular manifestations of each may be God's gifting for particular people. Strong SSA is sometimes associated with intense creativity, Asperger's syndrome with creative insight.

If in your late teens you find that you have a measure of SSA, don't be anxious, but work it in to your social life without reading too much into it, though more physical restraint may be necessary than with individuals of the opposite sex. Be patient and prayerful, maybe take one or two into your confidence, and see how your emotional development proceeds through to your mid 20s. The SSA may well abate significantly by then, or it may strengthen, in which case chaste singleness may be the outlook, with avoidance of intense singular same-sex relationships. But meanwhile rejoice in how God has made you - by whatever combination of genetics and environment - and live out your social identity to the full!

It is worth noting that among evangelically-positioned organisations in this area there are those which proffer hopes of change (homo to hetero), those which rationalise the constraints on sexual expression, and those which foster and encourage resolve and mutual support, notably True Freedom Trust and

In public discourse SSA is sometimes linked with gender, which is a characteristic deeply embedded in our genes as a biological reality. Its expression may be influenced variously.

Negotiating the 20s and on
In a short-term perspective the situation of the homophile young person is really no different from that of any peers who are unmarried - both need to exercise self-control, etc. However, in fact of course there is a major difference between a young person who looks forward to the intimacy of the marriage bed as part of God's plan for them, and one who simply cannot - knowing that such wonderful bliss with their heart's desire is for them illegitimate and off the agenda. Their options and aspirations are really very constrained on that particular front, and one cannot even assume that they will see their future in the same way as the heterosexual person who decides to remain unmarried. However, beyond recognising that all long-term singles in the church need substantial care and support, it is not obvious how the church (or Christian peer group) can support homophile/ SSA Christians as such. They are in the same position as the other singles, and while we can recognise variety within singleness we should not deal with people as if different, nor let sympathy substitute for love. Any special support probably needs to be from special networks such as True Freedom Trust.

John Stott notes that homophile individuals have "a deep loneliness, the natural human hunger for mutual love, a search for identity, and a longing for completeness," and that like others who remain unmarried they should be able to find these things in the church family, if that term means anything, in providing "a Christian environment of love, understanding, acceptance and support." 77a They should not need to disclose their sexual orientation to everybody, though of course they do need to be able to talk very frankly with at least one wise confidante on what in this book we have called an accountability basis, with very specific and reliable prayer support. On the other hand, with the wide public acceptance of SSA today there is no reason for Christian adults to be more covert than others in declaring their sexual orientation, and openness gives a sort of public accountability in the church. They may need to make clear, in the context of liberal Christian views, that their SSA means challenge to be chaste, not licence to indulge.

A church men's weekend brought out the idea of hidden positives well (though not in relation to homophile situation specifically). Roy McLoughry talked about seeing "ashes experiences" - times when things seem to fall apart, such as a marriage problem, workplace redundancy, physical adversity etc. - as "strange gifts", not thwarting us but making us wiser and more open, perhaps presenting new opportunities, turning a problem into blessing, even making us changed people. Of course, this is far easier said than done or experienced, but it contains much wisdom nevertheless. It is a frequent Christian observation that there is great purpose in the tough times. These, and suffering generally, show up what is in our hearts and train us to manage that.

As youth turns into middle age, the similarity between the homophile person denied marriage for that reason and the heterosexual person who is denied marriage for many possible reasons other than personal choice is more obvious. Both need to look beyond the hurt and resentment to worship a loving God whose purposes in this particular matter may be as clear as mud.

Certainly, not being called to heterosexual marriage "does not represent a new and unique experience that requires a change in the Church's teaching and practice. Some people attracted to the opposite sex also submit to the disciplines of singleness throughout their life. Many of these do so reluctantly and with no personal sense of divine call, though initial resentment may, by God's grace, be transformed over time to a greater acceptance or welcoming of their single state as indeed a divine charisma. A whole range of personal characteristics and/or circumstances (some nothing to do with sexual orientation) may signal to a person that they are not called (and likely never shall be) to marriage." 77

Perspective on marriage
It also needs to be said that while sexual union is the epitome of intimacy here today, any marital deprivation is temporary, and needs to be understood in the context of the renewed creation, where all relationships will be as delightful as the best marital ones in this age. Jesus' response to the Sadducees (Mark 12:18-25, Luke 20:27-36) suggests that sex will be subsumed in fuller and wider relationships in God's restored creation. This is a staggeringly wonderful prospect for the single person of whatever orientation! So the SSA person's frustrations are not for ever, and we will all one day be on the same basis - 'like the angels in heaven'.

Marriage is a creation ordinance which contains sexual expression, but the dilemma for homophile individuals is that this is not an obvious way forward. While (heterosexual) marriage should not be ruled out for anyone as an alternative to chaste singleness, the further to the homophile end of the spectrum either partner is, the lower the expectations of specifically sexual enjoyment. There are two aspects of marriage: who one desires to sleep with in physical intimacy, and who one is delighted to live with socially lifelong. It's great if they coincide as designed, though they don't have to. Marriage is a wonderful social partnership, and if that obviously and enjoyably works (with clear mutual understanding about any limitations) then there is a basis for long-term commitment, and probably for progeny. The vulnerabilities would be disappointment by the partner due to misrepresentation prior, and the unmet sexual needs of both, exacerbating adulterous temptations. While the latter would obviously be greater than in a normal marriage (cf 1 Cor 7:5), they would not be greater than for chaste singleness, and would need to be resisted similarly.

Expression and support
The balance between social expression of same-sex relationships (however they may be driven) and genital restraint (on the basis that any 'one flesh' understanding of such relationships is inappropriate) can be delicate. With sexual consummation being off the agenda, in what ways is it appropriate for homophile Christians to express their affections towards other individuals of both sexes and enjoy meaningful intimacy in so doing? How is their emotional wellbeing nurtured socially so that they and other singles enjoy a set of chaste relationships which match the enrichment of marriage for those of us who enjoy that? How can they achieve a comparable sense of security and belonging?

Too often the church is seen or portrayed as wagging an admonishing finger at homophile Christians, focused solely on what they should not do. In effect they can be saying that homophiles cannot expect any emotional fulfilment and intimacy, rather than helping them see the great positive possibilities within God's loving purposes for them and other long-term singles. Certainly in the absence of marriage as a firm and secure base, some other means of stabilising affections and abating emotional turbulence must be found. Some close and ongoing, if not enduring, relationships.

A partial answer is that homophile affection - as with any other celibate love - is appropriately expressed in a number of relationships relatively equally, not primarily in one, also that it does not seek to own or possess the ones loved (as eros appropriately does mutually in marriage). In the case of relationships with younger persons they should respect and not diminish or overshadow that person's family and peer group relationships, nor seek to monopolise their affections. But there is scope for very full and rich loving relationships that don't require genital expression, as emphasised in chapter 1 of this book - 1.3. These may arguably be examples of SSA, albeit driven by the heart, not the hormones, and chaste. David and Jonathan provide a biblical precedent77b Quite apart from the focus of this Appendix, the importance of those loving relationships for Christians cannot be overemphasised.

A modern young man's testimony is relevant here: "During college and throughout my twenties, I had many close friends who were handsome, athletic, and intelligent, with terrific personalities. I longed to have an intimate relationship with any and all of them. However, I enjoyed something far greater, something which surpassed carnality in every way: philia (the love between true friends) - a love unappreciated by so many because eros is promoted in its stead. I wouldn't have traded the quality of my relationships with any of these guys for an opportunity to engage in sex. No regrets. In fact, I always felt like the luckiest man on the planet. Denial didn't diminish or impoverish my life. It made my life experience richer. Philia love between men is far better, far stronger, and far more fulfilling than erotic love can ever be. But society now promotes the lowest form of love between men while sabotaging the higher forms. Gay culture continues to promote the sexualization of all (viewing one's self and other males primarily as sexual beings), while proving itself nearly bankrupt when it comes to fostering any other aspect of male/male relationships."77b

A homophile guy can enjoy some close platonic relationships with girls, which are especially appreciated by them since they are uncomplicated by romantic or more basic sexual overtones. In any well-established friendship some physical but non-sexual intimacy may be proper and appropriate, and a particular pleasure for SSA people.

For a Christian in the middle area of the sexuality spectrum, it is important to reinforce the hetero proclivities while not overlooking vulnerability in the other direction. Hormonally-stoked masturbation there can be used to reinforce pathways in either direction. They can build on what innate heterosexual inclinations there are, using the dopamines from orgasm to reinforce that orientation. Any such encouragement or conditioning would seem worthwhile, and especially in the decade after puberty, sexual orientation is sometimes fluid in the hetero direction. So while looking for and using opportunities for non-sexual intimacy with same-sex close and trusted friends (curbing lust in the way that we all need to), in the hetero direction maybe give free rein and a helping hand even to lust and fantasies to develop those inclinations. This is definitely not an encouragement to use porn, but an application of the same sort of reinforcement of mental pathways based on the internal hormonal stirrings that happen as result of porn.

There are Christians who rationalise what we see as a clear expression of God's mind on the subject as found in Scripture and who embark upon full homosexual relationships. Our view is that while those relationships continue as an attempted facsimile of marriage, their enjoyment of such (insofar as it is that beyond the short term) is likely to preclude their greater enjoyment of God's purposes for them in remaining abstinent. More immediately, they will be ostracised from most Christian fellowship, notably churches which are ‘welcoming but not affirming’. This is hard, when many around them are following their instincts - albeit also having to live with the consequences. Many SSA individuals find that steady exclusive long-term relationships are agonisingly elusive, and Christians tempted to try that option need to be aware of it. But how readily do they find an affirming alternative in Christian community at some level? "Singleness can only be a path of human flourishing when set within the context of loving community."78 A valuable summary article on this issue is by Ben Underwood in a 2013 edition of Essentials journal. It is commended for further reading.

Tim Bradshaw's book The Way Forward? collates the feedback from dissenters (mostly) to the St Andrews day statement on homosexuality, preparatory to the 1998 Lambeth Conference.79 He adds a couple more very valuable contributions, and rounds out with a summary.  It is excellent (notably the summary) and provides much food for thought.  (Even the liberal contributions are valuable, being more nuanced than might have been expected, and some being quite extraordinary.  The True Freedom Trust input is worthwhile.)

Tim Bradshaw uses the Eros-Venus distinction of CS Lewis, which is valuable (though the term eros connoting 'erotic' misleads). But if we distinguish intense emotional affection and attraction from sensual genitally-oriented indulgence ('venus'), then we can consider how the eros might apply in the present context. Obviously its conquering and exclusive belonging aspects cannot apply, nor any singular exclusivity at all - these being properly part of the normal marital expression of eros along with the embodied connection and simple expression of sexual desire. The challenge for the church is to affirm what expressions of eros are appropriate, whether homo or hetero outside marriage, and help people put the brakes on expression of the 'venus' aspects (blatant today in the hook-up culture and one-night stands) in line with the well-established definition of chastity. Heartfelt eros without genital drive is unusual, but sexual desire without intense heartfelt eros is very common. There is plenty of scope for the self-giving agapé love with any intense emotional affection, especially as it is spread around several people.

Thus for most SSA Christians, the intimacy of a single exclusive marriage relationship can be replaced by a number of relatively intimate but non-genital same-sex and other relationships as expounded in chapter 1. Undue focus on what is foregone misses the key respects in which some degree of homophile orientation may be a gift from God, and how it might be (and long has been) applied in ministry.  We need to be more positive in the church than simply avoiding homophobia on the one hand and not condoning homosexual practice on the other - where does that leave those affected? It seems that often the church does not deal with the issue or the individuals affected at all well, perhaps due to a mixture of fear and ignorance. For his or her part, the SSA Christian can easily feel condemned to eternal frustration and denial, if not actually stigmatized, rather than simply challenged by the need for self-control like everyone else and by one non-negotiable constraint.

So how does one of these relationships with someone - anyone - very close to a SSA Christian differ from a stereotypical unconstrained homosexual relationship? The most important way is probably in that there is no sense of ownership such as is implicit in eros. Any sense of belonging is more like that of siblings or a quasi parental relationship. More obviously, with the same sex, there is no genital focus or shared genital activity. And any such relationship is most unlikely to be unique over many years, as marriage certainly is and as many gay relationships aspire to be. Here, love is expressed not in the security of exclusive mutual commitment or even in being together a lot, but in encouraging independence and growth in the other. It should be the same as any very close same-sex friendship such as need to be encouraged without fear of being seen as a bit queer. The homophile person needs to manage the closeness and intensity so that the friend is not idolised, and also so that any tendency to lust is controlled. He or she needs to organise their relationships and affections so as to avoid falling in love with anyone of the same sex and becoming besotted with them. Having more than one close relationship at any time, with no favourites, will help a lot.

The main biblical example of deep same-sex love and friendship is David and Jonathan81 , which is represented very positively, including its demostrative aspects - perhaps because it was in the context of a society where any erotic homosexual practice was intolerable, thus conferring greater freedom. Incidentally this is also a covenanted relationship, but without eros overtones. Others are between Ruth and Naomi, and Paul and Timothy, without any hint of homophile aspect. See also section 1.3 of the book on Close Friendships.

How much and when to declare?
To what extent should SSA Christian be open about their orientation, or 'come out'? There are two considerations: the fluidity of sexual orientation up to perhaps the mid 20s, and where a person is on the homo-hetero spectrum. It is usually unwise to declare anything at all publicly about sexual orientation before the mid to late 20s, as for many people experiencing SSA it will change to some degree. The possibility of change should be allowed for and therefore any frank openness about it may be unhelpful. In any case, avoid the 'coming out' terminology because of the baggage it carries. But apart from those considerations, it is often good and appropriate for mature SSA Christians to be open about their situation.

Being open about it is likely to result in more loving support, understanding and encouragement than otherwise, and is appropriate to the proper sense of church as family.80 Such Christian fellowship gives them a circle of accountability and removes them from fear of gossip. It would be wonderful if, at least at the social level, Christian fellowship with SSA brethren could completely compensate for the lack of marital relationship, without smothering them in sympathy. That of course is not a new challenge for the church - religious orders over the centuries have attempted just that. Chaste relationships among singles do not have to be depauperate.

Many people experience some ambivalence of sexuality, and can choose to act or not act on it in either direction. Identifying as 'gay' is likely to close off options and be very unhelpful for most such people. One's position on the homo-hetero spectrum will guide whether to remain single or seek a life partner, and a happy (hetero) marriage is definitely an option for most who experience some ambivalence.

Priorities for SSA folk
Christians with clear homophile disposition or orientation cannot be expected to do much about the way they are "wired", but they can and must live holy lives and ensure that all their relationships are edifying. While we cannot expect all homophile attraction and inclination to abate in this age, it is very realistic to expect - in the context of faithful prayer by self and others - that the main pastoral and other relationships will be largely free of inappropriate aspects of affection, and certainly not suborning vulnerable others. Accountability partners have a vital role here, as in so many other areas.

The important thing is that each individual can go forward faithfully, in the power of the Spirit, to experience God's blessing in line with their own gifting and calling, including those aspects discussed here. All of us are defined by our faithful discipleship and relationship with God, not by our sexuality, and all of us are subject to inappropriate inclinations, ergo: all of us face similar basic struggles regardless of orientation. The Holy Spirit should not be expected to change sexual orientation (though he may do so), but he can be expected to bring forth love and grace which transforms relationships more fundamentally. Certainly his priorities in effecting change may be different from ours.

The rhetoric of the public debate on same-sex marriage (SSM) has seriously clouded the issue and raised the temperature. When homosexuality is asserted as an identity, rather than an activity issue, then anyone who disagrees with homosexual practice appears to be opposing SSA people, and comes acrross even as homophobic or hateful, which closes down any discussion on the question and isolates those people from others.

It is worth noting that among evangelically-positioned organisations in this area there are those which hold out false hope of change (homo to hetero), those which rationalise the constraints on sexual expression, and those which foster and encourage resolve and mutual support, notably True Freedom Trust and

Those in contact with SSA Christians need to understand the intensity of pressure they are under today to conform to the seductive rationalisations of gay activists, countering this by providing quality fellowship and support which matches the warm social embrace of LGBT culture. Those unable to enter heterosexual marriage and family life for themselves need to find social acceptance, warmth and a measure of social and emotional intimacy in Christian fellowship which will make it easier for them to avoid inappropriate sexual expression and help them channel their affections positively. See also section 1.3.

Finally, we can note that the homophile condition, along with unrequited love, homophobia and much else that reflects the disorders of our fallen world, will not exist in God's restored creation - the "new heavens and new Earth". Love will be unconstrained and uncomplicated by sexuality.

Discussion questions:
In your situation, what are the sensitivities involved in talking about SSA?
How does your understanding of Christian inclusiveness affect your attitude to SSA people?
If particular friends are open about being SSA, do you include them socially as you do others?
If you experience any degree of SSA, how do you manage this? In what respects does this differ from the sexual management required of other unmarried friends?
If you are singled out as the focus of affection by a strongly SSA friend, how do you handle this?

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74In relation to transient same-sex attraction in adolescence, see the "gay" section of

74a Romans 8:28, but all of that chapter is particularly relevant here.

74b His only recorded thoughts on the specific matter are on the Livingout web site.

74c The American College of Pediatricians notes that up to 26% of young children may have sexual identity uncertainty, though only 2-3% actually settle into identifying as homosexual as adults. Encouraging children with some SSA to 'come out' in mid teens is irresponsible.

74d We prefer to use 'SSA' rather than 'gay' because it does not imply a binary situation (gay or straight) nor identity or lifestyle. However we readily accept that strongly SSA Christians often do describe themselves as 'gay celibate'.
In the 2014 Australian Study of Health and Relationships aka ‘Sex in Australia’ 6.9% of males and 14.7% of females said that they were same-sex attracted to some degree, though only 3.2% of men and 3.4% of women identified as same-sex or bisexual identity, these figures being for ages 16 to 69 years.
The La Trobe National Survey of secondary school students 2018 found 14.7% of males and 13.6% of females among 5800 in years 10-12 were same-sex attracted to some significant degree (as distinct from ‘only’ or ‘mostly’ opposite-sex attracted). This survey was on the basis of voluntary participation from Facebook advertisements so has a clear and acknowledged sampling bias.
In the UK, a YouGov survey report in 2015 said: ‘Taken as a whole, 72% of the British public place themselves at the completely heterosexual end of the scale, while 4% put themselves at the completely homosexual end and 19% say they are somewhere in between’, though 89% describe themselves as generally heterosexual. For 18 to 24 year-olds, 46% identify as completely heterosexual, 6% as homosexual, and 43% with varying degrees of bisexuality but very weighted towards heterosexual. For 25 to 39 year-olds the non-binary figure drops to 29%, and for 60+ it is 7%.

28a The US National Health and Social Life Survey showed a drop in homosexual self-identification from ~8% age 16 to ~4% age 18 to ~2% in the twenties. A respected Australian counsellor puts the proportion of teenagers experiencing significant SSA at about 10%. Adolescent sexual identity is open to change, usually spontaneously rather than guided by therapists. Other studies show that two thirds of teenagers who think they are gay change their orientation spontaneously and identify as heterosexual. It's fluid. So most young people get over their transient stage of sexual confusion if left to themselves. But the Australian "Safe Schools" program aims to ensure they are not left to themselves and encourages them to "come out" at a vulnerable stage of emotional development and identify as LGBT, and so lock them into a phase of sexual confusion as an "identity", so that more will join the adult gay community.

75 Of course this is true for all of us in various areas of life, but here it is especially significant because of the power of our sexuality expressed in relationships.

76 Holiness and Sexuality - homosexuality in a biblical context, edited by David Peterson, Paternoster Press 2004. True Freedom Trust - is a valuable resource and support on the whole question.

77 True Union in the Body? 2003. A contribution to the discussion within the Anglican Communion concerning the public blessing of same-sex unions. Para 3.18.

77a Issues Facing Christians Today 2006, 4th edition, p476. John Stott remained unmarried, evidently not because of any SSA.

77b Doug Mainwaring, 8/3/2013, Witherspoon Institute Public Discourse.
Also, the small book by Sam Allberry: Is God anti-gay? and a web site Living out are commended.

78 True Union in the Body? 2003. A contribution to the discussion within the Anglican Communion concerning the public blessing of same-sex unions. Para 5.17.

79 The Way Forward?: Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church, 2003, 2nd edition, SCM Press.

811 Samuel 18, 2 Samuel 1:26. On the basis of recorded behaviour, there is no reason to doubt David's heterosexuality.