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,

Ben Rutkowski

~ ~ ~

For further reading, consider:

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?

  • Ben,

    I found the YOB site just yesterday and have already been so blessed by what you, Tom, and Eugene have written. So much has resonated with me. I’ve been SSA for years, since my preteen years (earliest I can recall is when I was 12). I’m also married and experience heterosexual attraction and hold to a biblical sexual ethic between one man and one woman within marriage. However, I’d tried to bury the SSA in the process instead of bringing it to the light and dealing with it honestly. Sadly, I’d never felt safe to do so in the context of the church.

    What you have written above is something I hope Godly pastors will take to heart. It has taken my life and marriage basically imploding for me to get to the point where I had to bring out all the issues in my heart to the light. God broke the porn use and has brought me the best of friends to support me over the past several months. The day that I first told my best friend that I needed to come clean to him on everything, all I asked that he still be my friend. His response was to simply embrace me. I knew then I’d be truly safe, and I have since divulged the depths of my struggle to him. The friendship and reservation of judgment brings me to tears sometimes.

    Later, I was able to confess to my pastor as well. He had started a Conquer Series men’s group, and some of us fully confessed all our sexual struggles to each other within the group. I’m the only one who experiences SSA, and a few have been open and able to love me through this. I’ve since met with my pastor multiple times, and I can say that simply staying present with me and not judging me for my SSA has been a *massive* source of healing for me. I now know that I can “make it” through life, even if the SSA never goes away. I can still be fully known and fully loved. That’s all we really want anyway. Thanks for writing what you have above.

    • This is beautiful to read, Ian. Thank you for sharing. As a young man struggling with SSA but still desires for the opposite sex, I am encouraged to hear that you are making it. I often get afraid of not having male support in life, and not satisfying a wife. It’s great to hear from someone who is doing both.

  • Ben, I love your blogs-so helpful!

    Do I want to tell my pastor of my SSA? Not really.

    Frankly, I don’t know whether it’s wise or prudent to reveal that information to him, but what I keep thinking about are the men in our 1000+ congregation who are struggling with SSA and probably need some help and an ally. That would be my motivation to reveal this information. Yes, I am in leadership already-with the men and in leading a small marriage-focused group. I go to an Assembly of God church and as you know we are quite conservative.

    Your blog is a catalyst for me though to consider this because I know there are men who are suffering in silence there as I did for 38 years of my marriage until I confessed to my wife. For all intents and purposes they see me/us as a very successful married couple of over 40 years where I lead men and a small group of married couples centered around building and protecting our marriages, and we do pre-marital counseling, also.

    Ben, if you were in my shoes, what would you do? Keep my SSA quiet or perhaps take a risk so that other men could be helped? We just joined this church early 2020 after being on the Board of another church for 16 years and I believe I will be tapped as Board member at this church soon because my year waiting period is ending and I gave bandwidth due to my retirement. What do you think? Is it necessary my congregation or at least leadership knows me in this way?

  • Ben Rutkowski

    Call me Ben, or call me Beamer. I am in my early thirties, married, pastoring in the Midwest, and Jesus is my reason for living. I'm either an ENFJ or ENFP. My Enneagram is 2 or 6 depending on the day. I am a chameleon – being who I need to be to care for others. Most of my favorite activities center on being with people in any outdoors setting, whether hiking a mountain trail or simply lying in a hammock and drinking a beer.

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