Gay and lesbian Adventists often believe they have only two options — either to submit to change therapy in order to become “heterosexual” or to join the gay world in indulging in gay sex. But this either/or argument is one invented by the devil himself, I’m sure, because attempting either option can result in a kind of slavery. And Satan specializes in slavery.
The Good News is that Jesus came to give us freedom! So please stay with me to examine some other options.
In other essays I’ve expressed disagreement with the philosophy of change ministries. (See “About Change Ministries” and “Change Ministries Revisited.”) So, I don’t consider that a viable option, except as a way to meet some dedicated, like-minded Christians and learn some coping methods. (And you will meet some fine, dedicated Christians there and could possibly make some life-long friends.)
We don’t know of any change ministries currently run by Adventists, even though Homosexuals Anonymous, originally started by former Adventist Colin Cook, still has chapters here and there. (Friends tell me that HA meetings can be helpful and supportive.) However, the history of Colin Cook and his repeated sexual indiscretions while running change ministries seem to have soured Adventist leadership on backing ministries involved with homosexual issues. It is to their credit that editors of Ministry magazine tackled the topic some years back, and they have given us permission to re-publish some of these articles. See “Adventist Leaders and Writers Address Homosexuality.”
And this is a good place to point out that a homosexual orientation does not make anyone any more sinful or “abominable” in the sight of God than a heterosexual orientation. (See What Is an Abomination to God?) We are all born sinners (Romans 3:23) with a heart that “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9) All except Jesus. He was God in human flesh come to deliver us from sin and to show us the way to live a victorious Christian life. And His way was the way of self-denial: He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him (John 6:38). He calls us to the same path, saying to all who would follow him, “Take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) It’s one of the paradoxes of the gospel that we find joy and happiness by giving up our own way and submitting to His.
Satan has deceived us into thinking that we will be happier when we do things our way instead of God’s way. He has pictured God as the kill-joy and himself as the “liberator.” But you know he’s a liar. The Bible tells us that true freedom and liberty is found by those who walkwithin God’s Law — the fence He has set around us to keep us from harm. (See such passages as Psalm 119:45, Isaiah 61:1, James 1:25) A little lady who had some real insight into how things really are wrote this some years back: “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him.” (Ellen White in Ministry of Healing, p. 479) But Satan hOption 2as many ways to cause us to doubt the goodness of God. One of the most terrible is the abuse of children by their fathers. Thus I know some gay men and lesbian women who have had a very difficult time relating to God because the Bible refers to God as Father, and their father has abused them. (That is a whole subject unto itself.) While there are also other images of God in the Bible, it may be best just to think of God as the ideal father they should have had. Our imaginations are very powerful, and there is no better use for them than to make truths feel real to us.
An option that the world presents to homosexually oriented persons is to just go for it — indulge in gay sex and live the “gay life.” While at first, this thought repels the conscientious Christian, it’s quite possible to become used to it. As Alexander Pope wrote,
Vice is a monster of such frightful mien
That to be hated needs but to be seen.
But seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
(from Pope’s “Essay on Man”)
And that’s the danger in watching gay movies, and even listening to the news. Inhibitions are broken down, and, once tried, gay sex seems so “natural.” Furthermore, it’s highly addictive.
Advocates of gay sex and gay “marriage,” represented among Adventists by SDAKinship International, argue something like this: God created me gay; therefore it must be all right to indulge my sexual desires. The texts in the Bible referring to same-gender sex must not refer to relationships between those who are homosexually oriented. (Please understand that I believe that SDAKinship has done and is still doing a valuable service by rescuing Adventist gay people from the pit of despair. They fail, however, in providing a genuine practical and biblically sound solution.)
Books have been written to interpret the five texts in Scripture referring to same-gender sex in such a manner as to exclude loving relationships. (Hey, it takes books to turn these clear texts into something that permits gay sex!) Gay theologians argue that the texts mentioning same-gender sex in Scripture refer to temple prostitutes in connection with idol worship, for instance, and they do not refer to loving relationships between two persons of the same gender. What they fail to take into account is that, even if this were true, gay sex ismentioned in the Bible, but never favorably. By contrast, marriage between a man and a woman is mentioned frequently as being blessed of God. Indeed, God often uses marriage as an analogy of the kind of relationship He wishes to have with His people. Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that all sex outside this relationship is abhorred in God’s sight — whether that’s heterosexual or homosexual. I figure the same God who made us knows that there’s something about the sexual “one-flesh” experience that takes something away from us unless we engage in it within the boundaries God has provided. We ignore His rules to our own injury.
The position of the Adventist church on this issue is unequivocal: Sexual intercourse is to be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. (See the Adventist position statements referenced on this site.) This is based on the biblical record which indicates that God invented sex and blessed sexual union for the purpose of procreation and promoting “oneness” between a man and a woman joined for life in the covenant of marriage. He gave sex to humanity made in His image so that we might partake in His creative activity, and He often speaks of His relationship with His people in terms like that of this original marriage covenant. By contrast, same-gender sex is only mentioned five times and never in positive terms. Gay theologians thus stand on rather shaky ground.
The fact that several Adventist churches are “gay-friendly” with openly gay members participating and holding offices in the church should not be confused with a divine pronouncement on the issue of gay sex. We must each answer to God for ourselves, and no pastor or local church board has the authority to broaden the way that Christ called “narrow.” Neither do they have the authority to define sin differently from the Bible which defines sin only in terms of action, not in terms of orientation or inclination. Thus, we applaud the stance of churches that welcome gay members without inquiring closely into their intimate lives while at the same time they make clear that they uphold God’s rules of sexual conduct. (This would apply equally to gay and straight members.) While the principles are clear in Scripture, precisely what behavior is inside or outside God’s plan for us is a matter to be settled between individuals and their God.
Options 3 & 4
A third option involves acknowledgment of one’s homosexual orientation before God and submitting it to Him — in the same manner that heterosexual should submit their sexual desires to Him. In the case of gay people, this can mean a celibate lifestyle which includes emotionally fulfilling relationships with both men and women. But that’s not the only option.
Gay people on our lists have testified how their sexual compulsions have lessened and taken up less of their emotional and mental energy after they admitted to themselves that, yes, they are gay/homosexually oriented. Then they could turn their attention to ways of living their life to the glory of God instead of spending their energy on denying their orientation. Others have testified how seeking emotionally fulfilling relationships with others of their own gender have nurtured them and normalized their sexual urges so that they have receded into the background, where they belong, rather than being front and center in their lives so as to consume their identity. Seeing attractive men or women as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than sex objects, allows them to have a perspective on life that is more like that of God.
Option 3: Celibacy in the Single Life
The lives of Jesus, Paul the Apostle, many of the prophets as well as saints of the Christian era demonstrate the lives of rewarding service possible to those who choose celibacy to the glory of God. One thing is sure: Jesus understands those who choose the single, celibate life. He’s been there, done that. And the Apostle Paul went so far as to express the opinion that it would be best for others to be single as he was, if they could. (See 1 Corinthians 7:7,8)
A life of celibacy need not be a lonely life. It can be full of friends and social and spiritual activities, as some of our members have so clearly demonstrated. It requires the development of a friendly spirit, for he who would have friends must show himself friendly. It requires taking the initiative in making friends and inviting people to your home. That becomes a possibility after you let go of the guilt and shame associated with gay sex and gay fantasies. Freedom in Christ opens many possibilities you have not yet dreamed of.
Option 4: Heterosexual Marriage
Others on our lists have demonstrated that it is not necessary to undergo change therapy and develop a heterosexual orientation in order to have a satisfying marriage. It is necessary to be attracted to only one person of the opposite sex in order to have a family after God’s plan. All other sexual attraction needs to be disciplined by both gay and straight people. But there’s a difference in the way gay people and straight people get to the marriage altar.
Straight relationships often begin with sexual attraction and (hopefully) develop to the place where they include emotional, mental and spiritual attraction and fellowships. (Often they don’t move to that level of true bonding that God intended, and that probably accounts for today’s high divorce rate.) Gay people who marry someone of the opposite sex usually start at the opposite end of the relationship scale. They develop a close friendship with emotional, spiritual and mental bonds before they feel any sort of physical attraction. And that attraction is likely to develop slowly and gently, rather than tempestuously and overwhelmingly. Is that a bad thing? Judging by the divorce rate among those whose relationships began with sexual attraction, I think not. I have seen better gay-straight marriages than the average straight marriage. (However, marriage is not an “answer” to homosexuality. It is an option that needs to be seriously considered and approached with absolute honesty and openness and a willingness to wait for God’s timing.)
These are the major options, even while there are others that are not practical for most people — such as the long-term relationships that develop into celibate relationships. (We’ve had several such couples on our lists –individuals who began as sexually active couples but chose celibacy after being convicted by the Holy Spirit — but we’ve found that two gay people purposely planning a celibate relationship from the outset have difficulty maintaining it.) However, God can and will give wisdom to all who ask Him, as He has promised in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously, without finding fault, and it will be given him.”
The teachings of Christ are full of paradoxes, such as “The first shall be last,” and to die to self is to live eternally. He taught us that to follow Him means committing to a path of self-denial — whether we are gay or straight. “If anyone would be my disciple, let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) This “cross” is often more obvious to the gay Christian than to the heterosexual Christian, and perhaps that’s a good thing because this “cross” cannot be borne alone, and hooking up with Christ is the only way any of us will be saved. He is willing and able to walk with us every step of the way.
As in all other areas of life, true joy and satisfaction is found only in submission to our infinitely loving Lord who never asks us to do anything that we would not choose for ourselves if we could see the end from the beginning as He sees and discern the glory of His purpose for our lives.
May He grant each of us the wisdom to live our lives to His glory so that our joy may be full, as He promised!
- Some genuinely committed Seventh-day Adventists believe that a committed same-sex relationship is the best solution to their situation. We believe that is between them and God. However, the gay theology that supports such decisions is questionable at best. Arguments that the prohibitions against same-gender sex is just for temple prostitutes or promiscuity are not based on sound biblical scholarship, and have to be read into the text. If you are in in such a relationship, you will have to throw yourself on the mercy of God, as we all have to do. But please make sure that you have genuinely submitted your will to God in this matter. If you have and are willing to do what he says – no matter what – he will lead you safely. Not listening to the still small voice that goes against your desires is dangerous. Eventually you won’t hear it any more.
- You will find specific support for Options 3 and 4 on our GLAdventist and GLOWfriends lists at Yahoogroups. (You only need to sign up for one; we’ll subscribe you to the others automatically, providing you tell us your gender and your church affiliation.) If you’re not sure of your own view, feel free to join us and ask questions. You’ll meet some of the finest Christians on the planet, and you can make some real friends there who are willing to share the truth about their experiences and lift you up with their prayers.