The phone on my desk rings, and I answer it. I’m asked a question that I’ve been asked before:
“I heard that you are gay. Is that true?”
Sometimes I know the person; sometimes I do not.
I work in a church, and I came out to my community a while back. It sent shockwaves throughout my community and surrounding communities.
Even years later, I still get these phone calls.
On rare occasions, the person on the other end of the line is someone who is LGBTQ+, or a friend or family member to someone who is, and s/he needs help. I like those phone calls.
Most of the time, though, these calls involve justifying my existence as a Christian, a pastor, and yes, someone who is attracted to the same sex.
For some, it just does not make sense; I shouldn’t exist.
To many Christians, I am a burden.
I have strong faith convictions, and I try to live according to those convictions. I love studying the Bible and find joy in my faith.
I also give up a lot. Living the celibate life is not easy at times. But all too often the burden of this celibate gay/SSA (same-sex attracted) life is only increased by the church.
One of the most compelling narratives of churches that affirm same-sex relationships is that they celebrate LGBTQ+ members. They do everything they can to show that these members are an important part of the community.
As I see these churches express such visible support, I get discouraged that in my faith tradition I am a problem.
In my weakest moments, I think: I give up everything, something most people are unwilling to give up, and what do I get in return? People spread rumors, I am considered controversial, and I am seen as trouble.
It seems the opposite of what it should be.
Why don’t I see visible expressions of support? Why don’t I see safe spaces for me in Christian communities? Why do I have to walk this Christian life alone?
I guess all these questions boil down to this — I want to know from church communities if I am a burden or a gift.
Churches need us, but when someone comes out in the church many respond: Is this person going to cause problems and get married to someone of the same sex?
Instead, what if someone came out in the church and the church responded: This is great! S/he can show us how to express empathy and inclusion to those who feel left out and rejected.
Or instead of thinking, oh that poor person, if someone is celibate, the churchgoer thinks: Here’s an example of someone who lives entirely for God.
There are many ways we in this community are gifts to churches.
For one, celibate gay men tend to understand and reflect issues of masculinity better than most straight men.
Celibate gay people also have a deep understanding of the family of God and helping raise kids in the church. Since we will never have our own kids, it is a high priority to support families with kids.
And celibate gay people tend to think deeply on sexual desire — what is holy and what isn’t holy.
Simply put, what if churches were excited when their members came out as celibate and gay?
To the straight people reading this blog, could you do us a favor and stop seeing us as a burden but as a gift?
Have you felt like a burden to your church because of your sexuality? What gifts has God given you to serve other Christians?
Will, many times I had to answer your question to myself:
“I give up everything, something most people are unwilling to give up, and what do I get in return?”
I am married for 18 years and I am trying to be a good father. However, some effeminacy quickly denounces me… My memory also hurts me, because I have sinned with a male friend some years ago… All my efforts seems “gone by wind”…
But God looks at me. He says:
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10,29).
Unfortunately, I am not able to reveal my SSA (so many reasons…). But your transparency comforts us. Believe me, you are a GIFT.
I’m definitely the “odd man out” at the church I go to here. I haven’t been able to go to church much in the past year due to my mom’s illness etc. But, the demographics of the church cater to married people, families, seniors and that’s about it. I’m caught in a “no man’s land” quite honestly. I know people gossip about me and they shun me but I try to remember who I am in Christ and what His word says. If people were to officially know my being SSA/SGO it would be grounds for immediate explusion. Great post of yours!
I feel this kind of dynamic not in my church, but in my home. No one at my church knows about my SSA, but I recently told my parents about it. They had to ask me a lot of questions, and I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say, but at least they know. It’s a little intimidating to think about where life might lead me now, but at least this part of me is not in the shadows anymore. I too have hope that others will give me support rather than looks or rebukes. Another great post!
Thanks for sharing this, I pray that you do get the support you need. And I think you probably will. There will always be negative and hurtful responses, but there will always be support from friends as well.
This…. This actually touches on a concern I’ve had with the broader church for a few years now. To me, the biblical churches seem so dug into defending their views on marriage they’re making an idol out of traditional marriage. It seems to be that is the only option. Marriage seems to be getting pushed along with it’s benefits while celibacy is barely talked about or acknowledged. I also guess part of the problem is that the church in general is currently buckling down on reminding itself what marriage actually is and what it looks like (because it dropped the ball on it). But i think a lot of it may be fuelled from the current culture’s opinions and attitudes on marriage today.
And so, with the church trying to preach biblical marriage in response to all of this, celibacy and it’s benefits fall by the wayside, and sometimes even becomes dismissed as an option. It’s bad enough the current culture expects you to be in a relationship with someone. Surely, the church shouldn’t put a similar expectation on someone.
To be blunt Will, the fact have you have to justify yourself and celibate lifestyle just shows how much the church and Christians need to remember the virtues of celibacy and that it’s a worthy path as marriage is. But mate, you’re honesty and vulnerability is comforting and refreshing. You’re certainly a gift! Those folk just don’t see the shining crystal you are yet. 😀
General question. I’ve heard celibacy is only an option if it’s in service to God and a church. Does YOB support that idea, or do y’all have a different opinion on celibacy in general?
Thanks for your comments. In response to your question about celibacy, I haven’t talked to all the authors about celibacy, but I am guessing we have different opinions. I feel comfortable in saying that YOB has a very a positive view of celibacy. Just the specifics get tricky. Part of the difficulty is many Protestant churches do not have well developed views on celibacy. Those of us who grew up in Protestant churches are figuring out our understanding of celibacy from scratch.
In my Catholic Church there is a tradition of celibacy through history, but it’s mostly associated with life as a priest or a religious. The concept of lay celibacy (being celibate, but not taking religious vows) actually does exist and is being mentioned from time to time, but the most common attitude is still: “If you’re not gonna be a religious, get married! Otherwise, you’ll stay alone and miserable.”
Luckily, there is a practise of cannonizing individuals who had lived a virtuous life, to serve as an example to other faithful. And there are some great lay celibates among them!
But I understand the problem: if you’re married you get acceptance from society, approval and guidance from the Church and, most importantly, support from your family – your wife and children. You are part of a family system that’s pushing you to do your part of the job and it’s more likely for you to find a sense of meaning in life. If you’re a priest and celibate the situation is a bit different: the folks will maybe reject your lifestyle, but the Church is supporting you, you’re actually part of the system which suports your lifestyle. But if you’re just a regular single celibate you’re left somehow in-between. Your situation is less clear: are you in anticipation of marriage, or are you having bad luck in life, or are you just a failure?
Strenght is needed here. God, give us strenght, and a wise heart, not to complain all the time about the difficulties of life!
You’re braver than I am, Will. I haven’t come out to either my church or my family because I’m afraid of having those conversations. I keep telling myself that silence is only making things worse; but I know that once that cat is out of the bag, there’s no going back, and nothing will ever be the same.
I wouldn’t say I am braver. I just had an emotional break down that lead to me telling everyone. But I think telling at least some people will be better. It has been rough since disclosing to everyone, but overall I am emotionally healthier. But you are right, nothing stays the same once people know.
I keep wondering how hard it would be for us to form our own church, but I know running away and sequestering ourselves from ridicule isn’t the answer.
There’s not a whole lotta openly ssa single pastors at non-Side A traditional churches, are there? You’re kind of a pioneer, which makes you a beacon but also a target. Traditional churches have come a long way but not far enough. Hopefully the day comes soon when living faithful as you are will be seen as following Jesus. Fwiw, I would’ve given anything to have known a pastor like you to talk to & walk with when I was trying to figure things out. You’re the real deal man, what being faithful looks like, what Jesus looks like.
Thanks for these encouraging comments. I haven’t met a Side B pastor yet in a traditional church, but I am sure we exist. I have been told I am a pioneer, but to be honest I don’t feel like one. I didn’t tell my church in order to be a pioneer, I was struggling under the immense weight of not being open. But I also would have given anything to have a pastor that I could have talked to about this stuff that understood where I was coming from. I hope I can be that person to others.
Not all pioneers choose their journey, sometimes being faithful, the journey chooses them. Ya ever see Hacksaw Ridge? It’s the true story about Desmond Doss, he fought in a war never picking up a gun. He got so much grief for so long from so many other soldiers, but he rescued them. Good movie, great story. Who knows how many guys you’ll help staying faithful to your journey.
Thanks for this. Obviously I have had similar questions. Often when I hear of a ssa person going to the side A position, I hear negative comments from Christians on how they are leaving Scripture. Usually I think, when a ssa person follow Scripture they are rejected, and when they leave Scripture they are rejected. It is a rough situation to be in. I have also thought about going to mainly ssa communities, but I still like being with married couples and families and widow/ers and all those different walks of life. I just wish my experience was included. I do want to add a disclaimer, my immediate church has been great to me as they are learning to adjust. Most of my problems at the moment are nearby churches and Christians.
There are times I definitely felt like a burden to my local church. Never by spoken words or actions but moreso by the lack thereof. I just felt invisible, better not to rock the boat than say a messy word. These last few years it’s been a huge paradigm shift for me to experience more of an intentionality, spoken or otherwise, that I am not only welcome but encouraged to participate in the local church. What a thing. I hope this reality for every believer, regardless the struggle.
Grateful for your boldness and vulnerability with this post, Will. Grateful for your testimony!
Hey, Will, you’re certainly not a burden to the Church! 🙂
While I was reading your post I started thinking: maybe Jesus allowed for the whole gay thing to happen in our lives in order to draw us closer to Him. More like Him. Maybe our suffering has a meaning. You say: “People spread rumors, I am considered controversial, and I am seen as trouble.” It actually reminds me of Jesus and his life. Doing harm to nobody, speaking the truth of life to pepole, living in constant sacrifice and laying down his life in the end. I’m amazed at how well your words fit into that.
So, maybe our homosexuality is actually God’s gift to us, his tool he wants to use to shape us into human and christian perfection. The same as He did with Jesus and the cross.
Oh, man, so much to grasp…
Anyway, great post and great reflection!
More power to guys like you!
I appreciate this so much. One of my on going questions with the churches I have attended – where is the space for me?!? And this in regards to my unique situation as one attracted to the same sex, but also as a single in my thirties. Often I feel like us singles (for whatever reason) aren’t appreciated for what we bring to a church family, aren’t brought in as well/easily. And I’m glad you included that we also show important aspects of masculinity that can be lacking.
Love this, Will! Honestly, we are naturally going to feel like a burden (perhaps even are burdens at times- just like the Church can at times be a burden to us). But many of the good things God gives us feel like burdens, yet develop in us characteristics we love or bring about wonderful things. We live in a Christian culture right now that idolizes comfort. That God would allow people faithfully following him to suffer in the way we do is incredibly uncomfortable for many in the Church, particularly in the western world. Yes I suffer for the sake of Christ, but that suffering has brought about so many wonderful blessings in my life. So while we may cause the Church discomfort or suffering at times, we too will bring about blessings and growth. Its discouraging how the Church fails to recognize the gifts we can be, but I find I have no choice but to continue sharing my story and testimony, and I think in time God will use that to open some eyes.
What I’m about to say is probably wrong, but please extend me some grace and understanding. I’ve decided when I meet Christians, I will tell them I’m a gay believer in Christ without any further explanation, then leave them to struggle with their own feelings about that.
I’ve decided to do this because never once has a Christian ever stepped close to me after learning I am same-sex attracted, even if I tell them I hold to a biblical sexual ethic. They always do the exact opposite, they back peddle as fast as they can to escape forming a meaningful relationship. Many have said and done some of the most insensitive and hurtful things but I never get the opportunity for a rebuttal, they disappear from my life at the speed of light.
With this in mind, instead of cautiously presenting myself to these Christians in the hopes they will love me, I’ve decided to barge right in and confirm the worst of their suspicions. Then, when they slap me down, like they so often do, at least I got to watch them squirm in discomfort.
I will attach to myself the label they disgust the most because by doing so it accelerates the rejection. They are convinced they don’t need me as a celibate gay man anyway, so who cares?!
No, I’m not bitter or anything…
Having said that, I know the only label that sticks to me is the label the Lord has firmly attached to my soul. All other labels are meaningless. God needs me as a celibate gay man, that’s good enough…it has to be enough.
Thanks for sharing, Xiao. In my experience people are “warming up” to the idea of SSA/gay believers with a traditional ethic, but there’s still a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there. Hopefully in these many years to come the discomfort you’ve described fades. I’m sorry you’ve experienced that. Glad to have you here amongst us.
I go to an Anabaptist church, and I, having recognized my SSA, wonder if it is wrong that I do not make it known (as one who confesses his faults to another), or if it is wrong that such a condition is considered so abhorrent to my Brothers and Sisters that such a confession would bring all the questions you have wrote about. Very little is clear to me, but I do ave some thoughts.
I believe that I have been converted from my former, sinful self who reveled and acted upon my SSA. What I once loved, I now hate, and vice versa. Yet, I am still vulnerable to temptation and failure.
I do not wish to deny/doubt God’s work in my life, nor do I go about discussing my former sins. Yet, I cannot deny the special cross I am called to bear.
I can decide not to use any label on my identity, and instead, believe I can recognize my specific struggle without it being an integral and public part of who I am. Yet, I wonder if anyone on the outside looking in would believe there were SSA members of our church.
My conclusion is that letting my light shine doesn’t involve rehashing what my specific sins/struggles are. Rather, it’s the good work God is doing in my life today. Will I hide it if the question is asked? No. I’ll trust that God can call the lost. That being said, I do try to soften the conversations that I hear. Politics has hardened opinions. I also recognize folks from an Evangelical background might totally disagree. I just encourage everyone to allow yourselves to be more than the label.
Thanks. A needed article that express what a lot of us feel.