All this is to say that Christians who deal with same-sex attraction are neither alone nor unique as to struggles in this one area of life. To perceive oneself as particularly called to exceptional suffering borders on pride and ignores the reality of the rest of the body of Christ. A same-sex attracted person matters to God and to the church, but is no more special or exceptional than any other believer.
A new battle of the sexes has appeared in the Church—a battle that was unimaginable not long ago. All who are involved profess to be Christian. This battle involves three parties, two of whom relate directly to those coming out with same-sex attraction and a third party who relates indirectly to the first two.
To understand the battle’s bases, an explanation must be given. Of the first two parties named as same-sex attracted, one side is called “Side A” and the other “Side B.” Those called “Side A” represent a nontraditional Christian view of human sexuality. Those called “Side B” represent a traditional Christian view of human sexuality. The third party rejects the perceptions and positions of the first two. Specifically, the issue is sexual orientation, practice, and identification.
“Side A” decided the traditional Christian view was not correct (after more than 2,000 years!) and affirms and condones same-sex sexual relationships. “Side B,” on the other hand, decided that while it is not sin to be gay it is sinful to have same-sex sexual relations and, therefore, does not condone such sexual relations.
It would appear that churches and believers could easily choose between the two as to what to believe and how to perceive those with same-sex attraction. An added wrinkle comes in, however, on the part of “Side B.” Though the biblical principle of sexual relationships only between a married man and woman is affirmed—the traditional Christian view—they wish to retain identity as homosexual and refer to themselves as Gay Christians but who will remain celibate.
This brings in the third party to the battle, that is, churches and individual believers who consider identity by a sexual orientation that encompasses same-sex sexual relationships to be in the very least problematic and maximally non-biblical, blasphemous, or possibly heretical. This field of the battle is being fought perhaps in several denominations and particularly in the Presbyterian Church in America.
It may be difficult for the average church member to come to terms with the ramifications related to these various sides. I wish to attempt to either expose or reveal some of the clear or subtle ramifications and concerns. For many, “Side A” is not an issue because 1) the Bible clearly condemns same-sex relationships, and 2) for over two millennia the Church universal (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) without question accepted them as sinful acts. It’s difficult to read Scripture and not recognize how strong and harsh are the words defining same-sex relationships: “abominable,” “detestable,” “unnatural,” “indecent acts,” “flaming lusts,” “shameful.” Then historically, nowhere and at no time in the Church universal did believers identify their Christianity by sexual acts, desires, struggles, or temptations. It would appear both biblical and church historical records do not support this identification. There are other reasons today to consider such identification to be unwise and also sin-oriented burdensome.
Churches are composed of men and women, married and single. All are called to be chaste, pure, and holy in their sexuality. For the married that demands fidelity to one another and to their marriage vows. For the single that demands celibacy. Single men and women represent a mixed group of people: the never-married, the widowed, the legally separated, and the divorced. As the latter three were once committed to fidelity but are now single due to burdensome circumstances, they must adapt to a new reality and biblical requirement. Therefore, those who wish to be called Gay Christians but choose to be celibate are not alone in potential sacrifice or struggles. Since perhaps no one is asexual, each and every believer is faced with a moral code and call to chaste, holy obedience. Even the married may experience periods of sacrifice due to separations or illnesses. Should this be considered only as a cost or sacrifice, that is, a burden? Or should such periods in one’s life—regardless of length—be considered opportunities to offer love for and faithfulness to God in a new or steadfast way? One of love’s greatest gifts to another is giving up something dear, meaningful, or precious for or to another.
All this is to say that Christians who deal with same-sex attraction are neither alone nor unique as to struggles in this one area of life. To perceive oneself as particularly called to exceptional suffering borders on pride and ignores the reality of the rest of the body of Christ. A same-sex attracted person matters to God and to the church, but is no more special or exceptional than any other believer. This may also indicate or give inordinate attention and focus to one area of life. There is so much more to our lives than our sexuality. Other than in God’s commands or illustrations relating to moral failures in this area, the Bible does not promote sexuality above any other area. Any inordinate attention or focus can easily become idolatry.
Additionally, since there are many singles in the church based on diverse causes, none of them choose to identify their Christianity or faith based solely on or in any way to this area of life. Do those with same-sex attraction struggles not realize that heterosexuals also deal with unrelenting struggles? This is one of the evil one’s prime playing fields in people’s lives.
There is also another concern that those who profess to be same-sex attracted and who desire to identify with their homosexuality either ignore or are clueless. That concern is one that does not seem to be raised even by those who express deep concerns about such identification. What does it communicate to children in the church to hear of someone as a Gay Christian or identifying oneself as such? They’ve not heard of anyone identifying as a “straight” Christian or heterosexual. This is before the children become acquainted or familiar with pertaining biblical passages or any concept of sexuality becomes part of their knowledge. They’re too young to begin sex education by their parents. What confusion and possible affirmation will set in so early in their lives? Is it fair to them to confront them at such young ages with this issue? As for youth and young adults, it could even become a subtle recruitment calling card to join if they admire those persons.
These are just some of the issues that fairly and justly discourage “Side B” being acceptable to most churches. They are valid reasons to challenge the sanctity, the practicality, the theology, the wisdom, and the spiritual health of expressing same-sex attraction, that is, “gay” or “homosexual,” or even “same-sex attracted” with the word “Christian.” It’s setting apart a minor group of people based on a product of the fall rather than a privilege of redemption.
Lastly, in light of the fact that neither God’s revelation nor Church history accept, allow, or promote identification based on a recognized sinful propensity or proclivity, isn’t it wiser to not begin, affirm, or embrace it now when we are so much closer to the time of Christ’s return even if it’s still a thousand years or more away?
Our most important pursuit vis-à-vis one another and regardless of our individual sexuality is to please God before pleasing others. That’s just one more extraordinary freedom from the bondage we all experienced as sinners before we were “. . .washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6: 11).
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.