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September 22, 2004


The judgment we have made at All Saints is, I think, ultimately the right one: gays and lesbians who want to change their sexual orientation are, to one degree or another, in need of reassurance that they are good and loved just as they are.

I'd be wary of any church or other institution that assumes there is one right answer for everybody. Some gays and lesbians who want to change their sexual orientation have self-esteem problems, are being pressured by someone else, or have other issues that need to be dealt with on that level. Others may have their own reasons for wanting to "switch teams," which should not be dismissed out of hand. I knew a man-hating ultra-feminist woman in college who for years bemoaned the fact that she couldn't be a lesbian and dispense with having to deal with men at all. Eventually, she got her wish, and has been in a stable lesbian relationship for over a decade. If some heteros can become homos, who's to say no homos can ever become heteros? And if they can, who is anyone else to tell them they shouldn't (or should) if that's their choice? I'm not saying that everyone who wants to switch sexual preferences can, nor even that most can. I'm only saying that SOME can, and that their choice should be respected as much as anyone else's.

And those are just the real gays. Inevitably, some of the self-identified gays who seek counseling from your church will not be gays at all, but confused, experimenting heteros who have yet to figure out what they are. The last thing they need is for a church minister to pat them on the head and tell them to accept "their" gayness rather than seek the professional help they truly need.

Whether the specific religious-based "therapies" you cite are appropriate substitutes for a real, licensed therapist is, of course, a very different question. If someone is truly confused about his sexuality, whether he's a gay who wants to be straight, a straight who wants to be gay, or a confused individual just wants to know what the hell he is, he ought to a professional, not a would-be faith healer who thinks he can cure him of any potential gayness (which he may not even have to begin with) simply by showering him with God's love. Perhaps the better analogy is not to a plastic surgeon, who has the potential to do some real good, but to a witch doctor.


I don't think it's just a question of whether or not homosexuality is innate. After all, lots of inborn things about the human character are sinful, as any two-year-old can demonstrate. If becoming a Christian is supposed to be sanctifying and transforming, there's no inherent theological reason why that shouldn't include sexual orientation, although the way it works out in practice suggests otherwise.

I think the problem with plastic surgery isn't that it's unnatural, but that it's changing nature to conform to some dubious standards. Changing yourself to be like Pamela Anderson is one thing; changing yourself to be like Jesus is another. The question is, is heterosexuality really more in the image of God than homosexuality?


Humans love dichotomies. My personal belief is God doesn’t because the world is so messy and complicated.

People are strongly encouraged to declare themselves gay or the straight. I tend to view human sexuality as a range with purely gay or purely straight to be extremes with many more people somewhere in-between. I like sex with women, something learned through experience. That doesn't diminish my wanting affectionate male friendships as well as well as the rare, but real, crushes I’ve had for a couple of men. Was I confused about it? Not much. I was already comfortable with other parts of my personality that are not in the expected range for a white male and I enjoyed learning more about myself (something encouraged by a few terrific HS teachers by the way.)

I also don’t know any, but I guess many of the confused out there may be better off realizing they don't fit into a well-defined societal role and accept that. Encouraging people to explore themselves in a non-judgmental way is a good thing. Prayer, meditation, therapy, life experiences & sympathetic listeners all help to varying degrees with different people. The groups you mention do not take an approach that encourages the person to learn & grow in an open-ended way, but rather have a goal ahead of time for how the person should be and judge their success on how well the person conforms to those predefined goals. I much prefer your way. People are smart enough to figure things out for themselves.


Is this not the moment, XRLQ, to say that "homo" and "hetero" may both be Latin prefixes, but it's awkward to use the former as a plural noun by itself?


If someone walked into our church and said, "I'm uncomfortable with my gayness, please help me be straight" I'm not sure the answer is to automatically assume sexuality is the problem (not that you're suggesting this, Hugo).

If someone walked in claiming they were possessed by demons, I don't think we'd try an exorcism. I think the proper response would be to recommend professional counseling, secular or pastoral.

I think we should affirm and love those who come to us (and those that don't). And if they're in pain, we should help find healing, but not start with an assumption that we (or they) can diagnose their problem. A professional, ethical therapist will help them heal, whether it is dealing with their confusion over their sexual identity or something else entirely.

But I'll admit this is a hard issue for me too.

Jonathan Dresner

I was struck by the converse of your discussion. Another question to consider is: what happens when a person says "I'm heterosexual, but I'm not terribly happy. I think I'd like to explore alternatives"?

In that case, a GLBT-friendly congregation might well support their 'coming out' quite consistently.

Not sure what it means, though.

John Sloas

Hugo, I’ve just read your post and it has me thinking. I’m trying to unlearn my ultra conservative background so be patient.

For one, I don’t have much to say on the issue since I personally don’t know any openly gay people (I do have a friend who recently came out but she promptly moved to China to teach English). I’m sure I know gay people and don’t know it. I wish I had the chance to engage more homosexuals in order to understand their perspective.

Secondly, I think there is a tension between accepting people where they are at and encouraging them to transformation. My goal is to be more “Christ-like” (a catch phrase thrown around by many Evangelicals). I’m sure I have gay brothers and sisters out there who have the same goal—I would like to chat with them. How do we encourage people to desire to more than they are without being a “coach” (perhaps living a transformed life in front of them is more powerful than any coaching). To be clear, I’m not saying that gay people should aspire to be more than they are by being straight (just like single people don't become "more" by getting married).

How would I respond if openly gay people came to my church and even wanted to be a part of it? Bottom-line: I would accept them, love them, get to know them and be their friend. I would be glad that they felt enough love to want to stay.


Great to have your comments again, John!

I do believe in encouraging transformation. I am just not at all certain that transforming from same-sex orientation to other-sex orientation is necessarily part of becoming more Christ-like.

Joe G.

I'm still waiting to meet someone who is an "ego-dystonic heterosexual". I have the funny feeling I never will.

PS: "ego-dystonic homosexuals" are people, "who are persistently dissatisfied with their homosexuality and wish instead to be attracted to members of the opposite sex." (per the old Diagnostic & Statitical Manual, version III).


If a man or a woman comes to us and genuinely believes that they are called to heterosexuality despite their same-sex feelings, do we do violence to them by insisting that they accept themselves as they are? I wonder.

Such a situation would certainly raise the caution flag, but I'm not sure that recommending "reparative therapy," within which are often folks with agendas, is the only option.

In a lot of pastoral situations, I highly recommend referring to a professional. I think too many clergy try to play therapist. "Cheerleading" is appropriate; accepting and affirming the person right where they are. But some folks do need a bit of "coaching;" help sorting things out. Leave that to the professionals.

Might such a referral feel like a judgment call, or even a rejection? Maybe. But if presented well, as a precaution, like a physical check-up to eliminate other concerns, I don't think it has to be a negative.

The worst case scenario would be for some well-meaning person to open Pandora's box, and then not know what to do with the stuff that comes out.

Intentionally develop a list of competent and compassionate therapists. Then refer.


I'm not a Christian, but my impression was that Jesus lived and affirmed a celibate lifestyle. So being Christ-like, wouldn't that mean encouraging celibacy as a lifestyle, regardless of sexual orientation? I mean, encouraging it equally to gay and straight people?


He lived it, but didn't affirm it as the only option; his presence and first miracle at the wedding at Cana suggests he supported marriage.

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