I attend a predominantly gay church (although, ironically, the musicians are all straight). In discussion with my pastor this Sunday, I learned that a mutual friend is considering an ex-gay ministry. Although he is not self-hating nor under the belief that being a gay person is in itself wrong, he can’t get beyond the literal interpretations of the Levitical prohibitions against sex between men.
Basically, he’s afraid of Hell.
In our discussion we identified two areas in which the Church in general, and our church specifically, is failing to meet the needs of gay Christians like my friend.
First, there is a failure on the part of the Church to support and encourage gay Christians who are, for whatever reason, seeking to live a celibate life. There are many legitimate reasons to seek to live without sex including overcoming additions, a desire to “save yourself” for the right guy, spending some time in self reflection without the distraction of sexual encounters/partners, or even -– as in this case –- not being reconciled in your faith to gay sex.
The ex-gay groups do not fulfill that need. Rather they all (at least all I’ve been able to find) focus on changing self-identification, rejecting life-style, and trying to diminish desire. This isn’t what my friend is wanting (or at least the first two are not and the third has had very little success in the ex-gay groups) and I am concerned that this will only confuse him more.
It appears to me, although I can’t document an exact claim of such, that the belief on the part of Exodus is that identifying as gay is a horrendous sin while “lapsing sexually” is just a little flaw that’s quickly forgiven. The focus is on identity and acceptance (or the lack thereof) regarding sexual orientation. Unless you are willing to believe that “change is possible” they aren’t particularly interested in helping.
Consequently, my pastor asked one of our members to pray about starting a group within our church focused on providing support to those seeking simply to avoid sex without having to re-identify or give up their friends and community.
The second issue we identified where the church could step up to the plate is in reconciling those who have been harmed by ex-gay groups. I told my pastor that I would consider thinking about a support group structured to provide help to those who do not succeed in the ex-gay ministries. (Assuming Chambers’ numbers of “hundreds of thousands” and that they don’t claim more than 30% success, imagine how many suddenly find themselves in pain over having “failed” in their attempts).
So I’m asking for help. Does anyone know of any program that we can use or build on for either of our groups?
For celibacy, Courage, the Catholic group, is the only ministry of which I’m aware that focusses on celibacy and their approach is all about judgment, sin, and anti-gay rhetoric. We simply want to provide a safe place for gay people to stay gay and yet be able to discuss their feelings, temptations, and concerns with others who share their goal. We aren’t trying to preach celibacy.
For the second, I know that Soulforce is very active in fighting against spiritual violence, but I’m thinking more along the lines of healing the ravages that the ex-gay ministries cause.