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Appendix 3
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Appendix 3: Same-sex attraction

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 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 an identity. It is also important to distinguish the orientation or same-sex attraction from homosexual activity and distinctive 'gay' lifestyle - though 'gay' is generally accepted as a term for SSA social identity. Same-gender attraction (SGA) is a term sometimes used.

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 usually the source of bewilderment, confusion and resentment. It can provide a special challenge to fully integrate truth and love.

With the gay ordination issue rending the church, especially in UK and USA, and gay marriage being canvassed more widely, the evangelical response is reasonably well defined at a political level. But at the pastoral level it is much less clear, and indeed is fraught. This is especially a problem at churches with a very large population of unmarried people in their 20s to early 30s. But the basic dilemma is no different elsewhere.

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 Here 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.

For many homophile Christians, lifelong singleness is the only option. While (heterosexual) divorce statistics are alarming, even in the church, the chances of SSA 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 limits life options in 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 http://www.e-n.org.uk/6028-A-battle-I-face.htm 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 has tended to mean that anyone who comes 'out' is stigmatised in the evangelical fellowship, which will not help them with constraints on SSA expression.

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. 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 orientation.

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 as part of one's range of gifts and abilities nonetheless that is 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 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

Of course the question of sexual orientation is not absolute, 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 SSA expression.

As to whether homophile orientation can change or be changed, the evidence is not clear-cut. For some around the middle of the spectrum with ambivalent sexual orientation it can change to some extent, perhaps not so much by being removed as by it being overlaid with or outweighed by heterosexual desire, progressively trained or conditioned, 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, the question is beyond the scope of these few words, not to mention their author. 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' and 'reparative therapy' reportedly result in depression more than basic positive change in homophile nature. Any such courses of treatment 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 don't let this become in any way a distinguishing feature of them socially. Give them social space and opportunity to mature in their sexuality.

I see two outstanding examples of individual men (both now departed for more than a decade) who I 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 I 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, it is a trial rather than any kind of gift.

Heterosexual 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 met similarly. For most strongly homophile Christians, ensuring that the community gene pool is not deprived of their DNA means recourse to a sperm bank.

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.

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.

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

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'.

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.

Expression and support
Deploying their emotional energies in the church will not necessarily be the calling of all homophile Christians and the balance between social expression of same-sex relationships and genital restraint (on the basis that any "one flesh" understanding of such relationships is inappropriate), can be delicate. If sexual expression is unacceptable, 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. 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. 77b Quite apart from the focus of this Appendix, the importance of those relationships for Christians cannot be overemphasised.

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.

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. If a person has strong SSA the mental pathway will always be there, and within normal restraint of lust they might as well enjoy masturbation to the full. But the reality is that most people who are not absolutely hetero are ambivalent along that spectrum, and masturbation there can be used to reinforce pathways in either direction. They can build on what innate inclinations there are, using the dopamines from orgasm to reinforce that orientation. Any encouragement in conditioning towards heterosexual inclinations 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 I see as a clear expression of God's mind on the subject as found in Scripture and who embark upon full homosexual relationships. My 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. But 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

The most valuable recent summary article on this issue I have seen is by Ben Underwood in a 2013 edition of Essentials. 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.)

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 do not 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 (this would mean all genital homosexual expression in terms of Bradshaw's two vocations - marriage and single-celibate, and the well-established definition of chastity).  There is plenty of scope for the self-giving agapé love with this intense emotional affection, especially as it is spread around several people.

Thus for most Christian homophiles, 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 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 homophile 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.

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.

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 seems to me very 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. Secondly, unless someone is well up towards the homo end of the spectrum, 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. This 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

Christians with 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, 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 gay marriage debate seriously clouds the issue and raises the temperature. When homosexuality is asserted as an identity, rather than an activity issue, then anyone who opposes homosexual practice appears to be opposing SSA people, 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.

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.

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

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.

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 www.truefreedomtrust.co.uk - 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 "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." 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.

80 should-all-same-sex-attracted-christians-come-out? The FreeToBeMe website is also useful generally, and on coming out: www.freetobeme.com

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