This is Part 3 in my series about my friendship with Jeremy. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

When my friend, Drew, had a prodigal son experience and went back to his parents’ house, it made my SSA friend Jeremy and his younger housemates stop and think about what they were doing. Much of their wild living stopped, and Jeremy eventually turned around. He remained friends with Drew who had become a faithful follower of Jesus.

Because of his bad behavior, Jeremy lost his job as a part-time janitor at our church. He admitted his wrongs and that he deserved the firing. He began to pray, worship, and obey God’s commands consistently again. Things went well for him, and he and I remained friends.

I was glad I had not abandoned my friend when he strayed, and I was determined to keep being the right kind of friend for him.

I deliberately kept his sexual encounter with the younger guy confidential because of the trust and loyalty I’d built as his friend. As I said earlier, the encounter had been consensual and that guy was legally of age, so Jeremy had not committed any sort of crime.

A few years later, that younger guy told someone else about his encounter with Jeremy, and the story soon reached the pastors of our church. They called Jeremy into the office and grilled him about what had happened. Jeremy admitted the whole thing. The church banned him from all contact with anyone under 18, except with parents present. He was not allowed to serve in children’s ministry, youth meetings, or even missions trips.

When the pastors asked him if anyone else knew about his sins, he told them he had confessed to me years prior.

Soon, two pastors confronted and questioned me. They asked why I didn’t report Jeremy’s sins to them as soon as I’d known. I told them I knew there was no legal issue and that if any friend confesses sexual sin to me, I keep it confidential because of love and preserving trust.

The pastors told me I was short-sighted and had endangered the church by hiding a child-abuser. They commanded me to report to them any sexual activity I hear about so they could “protect the church.”

The pastors were clearly suspicious of my friendship with Jeremy, and I thought they were watching us to see if we were sexually involved. Since Jeremy and I were never attracted to each other, that would never happen!

Eventually, they saw it obvious that Jeremy had repented and that both of us were actually living in obedience to the Scriptural commands to avoid homosexual sin. Jeremy stayed in our church and lived within his restrictions.

I was not asked to lead any small group after that, so I felt marginalized. But I continued to reach out to other marginalized people in our church.

Eventually, I knew it was time for me to leave our church. Not only did I leave my church — I left my job, my friends, and the city where I had lived for decades. I moved to the other side of the country and started over with everything new.

Of course, even with my new life, I kept following Jesus Christ because I knew He is the absolute best!

To be continued . . .

Have you ever been marginalized by the church for your or another’s actions? Tell us a time you experienced confession with another believer — either giving or receiving it.

* Photo courtesy bruce_aldridge, Creative Commons.

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  • I think its apparent that a lot of churches need to reanalyze how they deal with these issues. Incidents like these are not only turning people away from churches but from God entirely. In some respects though, I believe that these people simply don’t know much about SSA and its causes. They just get scared and don’t know how to handle the issue so they resort to knee jerk reactions.

    • Brian, yes, I agree with you. Unfortunately many church leaders are inexperienced with people who deal with SSA, so they do only what has been done in the past. There also seems to be a prevalent idea that all guys with SSA are child abusers, which is definitely wrong!

  • Too often churches err one way or the other. They have good intentions to protect people, but they almost ignore the grace of God that Jesus extended to repentant sinners. Jesus holds people accountable, but he also loves them hard. I am sad for the way your pastors failed you, Marshall. They failed to give you grace you needed and to trust you. I think you were right to leave…
    About confession: I told my best friend about my SSA in 2015. He didn’t change or freak out. I felt that I was doing what James 5:15-16 commanded: to confess your sins to another person and pray for healing. I believe God honored that obedience. Instead of feeling shame, I felt released from shame and that the power of the devil to accuse me over this dark secret was broken. It was freeing for me. I have told 40+’friends including 3 pastors about my journey with unwanted SSA in the past 2 years. I have only experaffirmation and support. It is so different from the reception you had Marshall.
    I have also heard the confessions of many of my friends (both SSA and OSA). I hold them in confidence as I believe is correct, unless it would endanger a third party. I pray for them and encourage them to continue to follow Jesus. And o gave them grace and love as I believe Jesus would.

    • Alan, of course these were negative experiences with my church and pastors, but this is not the end of the story! I will post more later.
      Most of the people I have confessed my SSA to have been loving and supportive, especially millenials. For some reason, the only ones who have been less understanding have been those older than the Millenial generation.

      • Hey, just for fun, I am a Baby Boomer. Different generation…and most of the folks that I have confessed to have been older too. I am not sure who said this for sure, (maybe Oscar Wilde), but it is so perfect: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”
        Church discipline is for people who claim to be followers of Christ now, but who are also currently living in disobedience by willfully sinning. In your case and also in the case of Matthew (see his post), church discipline was misapplied to someone who was not willfully sinning at present time, but for his past sins. If that is the case, then every single person in the church should come under church discipline for their past sins. But “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone…” LOL!
        I am sorry, but it seems that a different standard of judgment applies to homosexuals in the older-than-millennial generations. I think these “older Christians” are very threatened by militant gay activists and perceive homosexuality as an attack on the church and the Bible, so their knee-jerk reaction is to over-react.
        That is why SSA Christians walking in obedience to God’s word need to lovingly reprove those who are ignorant and judgmental. YOB is a great place to air these problems, when the church “doesn’t get it” and help them find the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
        I waiting for additional posts and the end of the story! Thanks, Marshall!

        • Alan,
          As someone new to this blog (but very active in menforums.forumatic.com) I would like to share an older man’s perspective on this issue (I turned 61 this year). I have heard, I’m sad to say, a number of stories like this during my 41 years as a Christian. However, my own negative experiences have come mostly from the opposite direction. I had to leave the denomination that I grew up in (and whose worship style was most to my liking) because of its increasingly heretical views on homosexuality. Instead of excessive church discipline, it had no real Biblical church discipline at all. I have also painfully witnessed pastors and laymen who were supposedly orthodox, Bible-believing Christians (like Tony Campolo) abandon Christian orthodoxy to embrace gay theology, all the while claiming to be Evangelical. Men like this invalidate our battles with SSA by saying, effectively, that our struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil have been completely in vain. What they teach is not only heretical but it says to us that we’ve wasted our lives battling against SSA, denying our true selves when we could have found the intimacy we’ve longed for in gay relationships. A close friend of mine recently told me so in a letter that was devastating to read. He had renounced the gay lifestyle to follow Christ several decades ago, only to return to at a few years back. The church he recently started attending is part of a denomination that is, for all practical purposes, Unitarian. Now I hear that my friend has AIDS. So sad, so sad.
          The other problem we are now facing revolves around the legal issues and lawsuits brought on by the passing of LGBT laws that place gay rights ahead of First Amendment religious freedom. I know that most Evangelical churches have embraced contemporary Christian music and don’t have to worry about hiring an organist who later comes out as gay. However, in the minority of Evangelical churches (including mine) that still practice traditional worship, this has become a nightmare scenario. When an organist (or any other church employee) comes out as actively gay, refuses to give up his or her partner and is then fired by the church, expect a lawsuit. This actually happened at a large Evangelical congregation ten miles from my where I live. The situation is even worse in Christian colleges and secondary schools when a teacher is fired for refusing to repent of sexual sin. In Christian academia, you not only face a lawsuit but also the possible loss of accreditation and even criminal prosecution. As a result of this, Evangelical churches and schools are now reluctant to hire anyone who might, at some later date, come out as actively gay. Expect that, in the coming years, all single Christians – not just those with SSA related issues – will find it next to impossible to find jobs in orthodox Christian institutions. The risk of lawsuits or criminal penalties will make it too risky to hire singles. As a celibate, single Christian with SSA issues, I find it painful to think that I might never be able to find a retirement job within the church. I also find this scenario totally understandable and cannot blame Christian churches for their reluctance to take the risk. It is the LGBT movement and the radical, neo-fascist laws they have imposed on us that I blame for excluding me from future Christian employment.
          Buckdipper

          • Dear Buckdipper,
            Thank you for your lengthy reply. I am 60 years old, so I am your contemporary.
            I have to say that I agree with all that you say. Absolutely.
            The church can get it wrong in two ways: 1) so legalistic and harsh towards homosexuality that they make the Christian guy who struggles with SSA an outcast and make gays (who need the Savior and to hear the gospel message) unwelcome or 2) they can throw out the Bible and all it teaches about healthy sexuality (between one man and one woman in God-ordained marriage) and encourage people to embrace and practice sin–seek a gay relationship for example. I am reading 2 Timothy right now and in both chapter 3 and 4 is a description of people who give up “godly Biblical truth” and embrace foolishness. They have a form of “religion” but it is not based on truth and lacks the “power of God.”
            One of the things that website like YOB and other websites, books, articles, etc. can do is help the church to find a balance that loves the sinner and hates the sin. A balance that does not punish past sin forever as if it is a present reality (not something that God does to repentant sinners) nor allows sinners to continue in their sin (1 Corinthians 5) but helps sinners find godly sorrow that leads to repentance and restoration (2 Corinthians 2).
            I am sorrowful for your personal fears about the future–which I think are a reality in our current culture and politically correct worldview. So far, I have had rather positive experiences in my churches and with my friends concerning my SSA, but I am prepared to experience the negative as well. I expect more persecution of Christians to come as our American culture continues to turn away from its Christian heritage and embrace its post-Christian worldview.
            Your Other Brother, Alan

  • I think there are still the misconceptions that #1, we with SSA (whether we act on our desires or not) are somehow predators, and/or #2, that our profession of faith and our actions should come under harsher scrutiny than that of OSA believers.
    The first leads to misguided leadership decisions to ban SSA individuals from interactioning with youth. How damaging that is, not only to the SSA individual who is banned, but also to those youth they might’ve extended the hope and truth of Christ to!? In a time where the world is looking more appealing to the youth who struggle with this, what better way to give them hope in their struggle than by seeing and being able to receive counsel from an older Christian who is actively counter-cultural – pursuing holiness over his/her desires!? I also want to say that I’m not advocating for no boundaries, rather I’m for healthy ones being set for those interactions (the churches I’ve attended have had broad policies that can be summed up like this – “don’t put yourself in situations that ‘look bad’ and have to be ‘explained'”). Also, I wonder if this “predator” misconception extends to our female SSA strugglers, or whether it’s a more male-centered thing?
    The second, I think, is what the church pastors did to both Jeremy and you to an extent. Somehow genuine repentance was not enough on Jeremy’s part, and your confidentiality of Jeremy’s past sins was a dangerous thing to do in the leadership’s eyes. Had an OSA guy confessed something of this nature to you and the church found out in the same way, I wonder if the reaction would’ve been the same?
    Do reactions like these push SSA Christians away from the church body, leaving the very people who are in need of a community of Christ-centered support, without one?
    I hope somehow this situation works out where all parties grow spiritually, the church body is strengthened, and Christ is glorified in the process!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m sure our pastors got tough with Jeremy and me because they were reflecting the views of the congregation. I strongly suspect that most people in our congregation would have wanted a tougher policy against same-sex sin than opposite-sex sin.
      I do know that actual convicted OSA sex offenders were also banned from contact with youth in our church. I don’t know of any OSA men who were ever treated that way unless they were an officially convicted sex offender. Jeremy, of course, was NOT a convicted sex offender.
      I don’t know of any women treated this way in our church.
      Yes, we who deal with SSA do need community and support and these kinds of actions discourage us.

    • I have noticed that many churches have beliefs and policies that silence or distance ssa/ gay folks- prevent us from being known.
      What’s more dangerous than hiding and isolation, in the life of a believer? And what does that say to the youth when they struggle with sexual sin?

  • Man! It’s hard to believe the similarities between you and Matthew’s stories! I find it interesting/sad that church leaders are so quick to “protect” everyone else, instead of allowing a little grace for repentant individuals. If the early church had “restricted” all the individuals in 1 Cor 6:10-11, they may have had a much smaller church. Thanks for sharing!

    • Pastors do have a duty to protect the church from child predators. My concern is that they jumped too quickly to conclusions about who was an actual child predator and who was hiding a child predator.

  • While never marginalized by the Church for a SSA, I have struggled mildly, in comparison to others, with SSA. I’m approaching 58 years and have always been dominantly attracted to women, but in the era I grew up (the 70’s) when I was not a Christian and had deep self esteem issues from which I have not fully recovered, I desperately wanted to participate in the common sexual activities of my peers. Such desperation was both a function of newly raging hormones and a desire to “feel” loved. My success with girls was a non-starter, not that they didn’t find me reasonably attractive, but rather that my neediness was a turn off and not manly. As a result through not unusual circumstances, I found myself turning in attraction to the occasional male friend, none of whom were SSA. Once I confessed such an attraction to a friend while drunk (young people, sex, and alcohol should never mix), he responded mildly but was definitely put off. I later entered into a sexual relationship with a fellow employee at a restaurant where he was a waiter and I was a busboy. It was a briefly intense relationship, solely about sex, but I knew in my heart that my deepest and normative attraction was towards women. I never had another male to male sexual encounter, but I believe because I opened the door, I have never been wholly free from the occasional attraction to other men, usually ones I have become genuine friends with. It is a rare thing, rarer and rarer, but darned annoying because after having been a Christian for some 40 years and married for over 30, the mental lapses in this regard remind me of nothing so much as the pesky droning of a bothersome fly. Meanwhile, I struggle daily with inappropriate thoughts and fantasies (i.e. SINS) about women who are not my wife. Of all sins, I think sexual ones are the most pervasive. As a Christian, for years I have taken a pretty hard line against homosexuality in the Church, but a biblical approach to human sexuality does not require a hardness of heart. Any Christian who is same sex attracted who labors against it and strives to meet the biblical commands about sexual behavior is O.K. in my book, though personal accountability is of course necessary. And the same must be true for OSA. I speak from having walked both paths. In the meantime, I have adopted a more compassionate approach to gays who are outside the Church in order to demonstrate that though we may differ on the roots of SSA, and it’s appropriateness whether within the Church or without, I do not “hate” them.

  • Growing up in evangelical, pentecostal church (not in USA) being involved in ministry for more than 15 years, I finally left it. For even the fact that iwas SSA man was a good reason for those believers and ministers me to be despised and hated, because I knew wat they preached from their pulpits and I knew what they spoke about lgbt people. Even though I was never involved and never plan to be involved in same sex relatioionship, churches are very dangerous places for SSA Christians at least overseas. So now I am out of church. Better be alone rather among the hatemongers.

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