From the writer of this template:
The decision to come out (or not) is very personal. There exist many different methods of coming out, and our blog has already covered some of them.
What follows is a template to give you a potential starting point for conversation with anyone in your church leadership. I write this as one who has had both positive and negative experiences coming out to church leadership.
This template is designed in such a way that it could be left anonymously in a leader’s mailbox to get him or her thinking, or as a conversation starter if you trust someone is ready to engage with you personally.
My prayer is that God is present with you and your leaders in this coming out conversation, that you would walk in Jesus’ love and grace, and that you would be seen, known, and loved.
If you are reading this, it’s because someone in your congregation has something important to tell you. He wants to begin this conversation well but might not feel he has the right words, feels afraid, or doesn’t know where to begin.
He may have been carrying the weight of this conversation for years in fear of judgment. He may have seen how people have reacted to others in similar situations, or been hurt by people’s reactions when sharing this previously.
From this point on, this post is written as if he is talking directly to you — his pastor, his leader, the earthly shepherd whom God has charged to love and care for him as a beloved child of God.
~ ~ ~
This is not easy for me to talk about.
There is something I need to tell you, but it is difficult to say. I’ve rehearsed this conversation over and over again, trying to choose my words carefully.
Really, though, there is one main point to this conversation, and everything else flows from it.
I am attracted to other men.
Know that I did not arrive at this understanding overnight, and please allow me to affirm a few truths. At present, I don’t need you to pull out your Bible and cite every verse about homosexuality. I have read them. I know what Scripture says, and I am trying to follow it.
I love Jesus. I believe in a traditional, biblical, sexual ethic, that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman for life, and that sex is reserved for the bounds of marriage.
If I do not find a marriage partner of the opposite sex, I will pursue a life of celibacy. I am pursuing holiness before the Lord in my sexuality.
Let me tell you what this looks like for me.
I am not alone in my experience. Many other Christians have also found themselves attracted to the same sex, in some cases even before the onset of puberty. Like many others who have gone before me, I prayed that God would change my sexuality, make me straight, “heal me.”
I’ve experienced anger, tears, frustration, fear, and confusion, asking God, “What am I supposed to do with this? Why won’t You change me?”
While some people report “changes” in their sexual attractions, the vast majority of us who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) will continue to experience it for the rest of our lives, even after years of praying for and attempting to develop attraction to the opposite sex.
And even if we happen to find a marriage partner of the opposite sex (a minority of SSA people), our attraction to the same sex remains.
Please don’t expect me to “pray the gay away” anymore. Instead, I humbly ask that you enter into this conversation and ask what you can do to care for, love, and shepherd me.
The reason you are receiving this firstly as a letter, rather than a conversation, is because I want to give you the resources, time, and space to process this well before the Lord and with me. I have heard many stories of church leaders jumping to conclusions, dismissing people’s experiences, and hurting people whom they are called to love and shepherd.
People who genuinely love Jesus and have never even acted on their attractions have been run out of their families and churches merely for admitting their same-sex attractions. I am not saying I expect that from you. I hope for your honest consideration and care in walking well with me.
I encourage you to recognize that every believer experiences temptation, but that there is a difference between experiencing temptation and embracing it. I say this because the Church has elevated this particular temptation (attraction to the same sex) and made those who experience it feel like they are somehow worse sinners than other people — that the mere presence of this temptation makes us more broken.
But I submit that our temptation and our response to it is not so different than any other from a fellow follower of Jesus.
Like my other brothers and sisters in Christ, I am also to turn to the Lord in my temptation. My temptations are not different from those of my heterosexual brothers in Christ; they are just focused in a different direction.
Heterosexual men must wrestle with their attractions to women who are not their wives. Each married man must pursue faithfulness and holiness to the Lord and his wife.
For those of us who are SSA, we must wrestle with temptation toward other men and also choose faithfulness and holiness to the Lord. The response and calling are the same.
The goal is not heterosexuality, but holy sexuality.
You are reading this because I want to be able to talk about these things with you as my spiritual leader. This letter is meant to be a first conversation, an opening of dialogue. There are other topics alongside SSA that we will also need to talk about.
Beyond my sexuality, I am dealing with questions of masculinity and how to thrive within the church body. Will I have adopted family in the church if I am not part of a nuclear family, particularly when church is geared toward getting single people into marriages, and so many church activities are geared toward nuclear families?
Who will I have to walk with through life? How will I handle loneliness and build supportive friendships within the church? I need to know how to thrive in my singleness and celibacy. If God does happen to bring me a marriage partner of the opposite sex, I will still need a safe space to navigate the unique challenges of that type of relationship.
Are you willing to walk this journey with me?
Is our church a safe space for me to be able to talk about this topic and all the other ones connected to it? Will you help me belong within our church family? Will you support me as I pursue Jesus and help me find what I need to thrive in my faith and sexuality?
I’ve attached some resources that will help give you an idea of what this journey could look like. Thank you for taking the time to read this and prayerfully consider what I have to say. I will revisit this conversation with you in about a month, or at a time that is best for both of us.
~ ~ ~
From the writer of this template:
Pastor, you’ve been given a tremendous gift in this person’s opening up to you and trusting you. If you feel unsure how to move forward in this conversation, you are not alone. There are resources listed below to help start you on this journey.
If you are looking for something to say right away, though, consider responding thusly:
“Thank you for trusting me with your story. I will humbly seek the face of God as we navigate this conversation. I want to know how to love you and walk well with you in this. I admit I won’t always get it right. Let’s be gracious to one another, and work to make this church a place where people can feel free to share without fear of rejection. Please help me know how I can do that better with you.”
As you navigate these conversations, know that God is good and that you are not alone. There are other pastors and church leaders who are navigating these same issues, and God is at work making His Church the place where all His sons and daughters can find their place.
You are not walking in darkness, and you are not lost. God has you and your brother who gave you this letter. Even the sparrow finds a home.
On behalf of my brother, and with the love and prayers of Your Other Brothers,
~ ~ ~
For further reading, consider:
- A blog on how to respond when someone comes out to you.
- A blog on being attracted to the same sex and following Jesus.
- A larger manual for how to have this conversation well: Guiding Families of LGBT + Loved Ones: For Every Pastor and Parent and All Who Care.
- A semi-autobiographical book exploring one man’s journey of faith and sexuality progressing over time: Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness & Homosexuality.
If you’ve come out to your church leaders, how did your experience go? Do you wish anything had gone differently? If you’ve not come out to your church leaders — but want to — what do you hope to hear/receive from your church leaders?