This article is based on the fourth and final part of a series of evening presentations done at LRBC in 2019. The series arose out of two concerns. The first concern is for the faithfulness of the churches. As Christian churches belong to Christ, it is their duty and pleasure to remain attentive to his voice rather than adjust their faith and practice to conform to the current mores of society. The second concern is for Christians who find themselves experiencing same-sex attraction – theirs is an extraordinarily difficult space that has not been well navigated. It is my hope that this series, particularly part four, will help churches to disciple and care for these members better than has often been the case.
This fourth part of this series – pastoral considerations – is relevant mostly toward the second of these concerns. Most of what follows is not my own thinking, but I have assembled what I have thought most helpful from those who have shared their own first-hand and second-hand experiences of counselling and pastoral care. A short list of useful sources will be found at the end of this post.
The people I have in mind to help by this article are orthodox Christians (who maintain that the Bible defines the nature of God and of humanity) who experience some form of same-sex attraction, understand there is dissonance between their sexual attractions and religious convictions, and seek congruence between the two. This is called ‘telic congruence’ – the aim of living consistently with values which lie outside themselves. This differs from ‘organismic congruence’, which aims at living authentically to one’s own inner self – the dominant approach that is advocated today by secular society for people with same-sex attraction (and which makes perfect sense to a culture defined by expressive individualism and largely unfamiliar with the concept, let alone the weight, of transcendent or suprahuman values). For brief discussion on telic and organismic congruence see here.
This article is for the sake of Christians who seek to live in accordance with the reality of God and his gospel, rather than desires which are out of sync with this.
As you read this, I would like you to imagine how things might be different today if the ideas here were widespread in churches 30-40 years ago. It is unfortunately common for churches to be slow to respond properly to difficult social issues – too often the response has been silence, reactionary, or capitulation. Nevertheless, ‘late’ is better than ‘never’ and churches are increasingly taking these kinds of ideas on board.
This post works with the assumption that same-sex experience can be understood at three distinct levels.
The first is same-sex attraction, which may be only temporary, or limited to a specific person.
The second is same-sex orientation, which is a more permanent and general attraction to members of the same sex.
The third is same-sex identity, whereby one’s sexuality is made the core part how the person understands themselves and wishes others to understand him/her.
These three ‘tiers’ should be treated as separable in order to better understand same sex experiences.
Discourse by both critics and advocates of same-sex sexuality frequently collapses all three of these into each other, which unhelpfully blurs together distinctive kinds experience. This is discussed more fully in part three of this series (forthcoming).