Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, and the author of God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, recently gave an interview to Julian Hardyman (senior pastor of Eden Baptist, Cambridge) in Evangelicals Now on his struggle with same-sex attraction.
David Ould has highlighted some excerpts, which are reproduced below.
Does the disclosure that same sex attraction is one of your personal battles mean you are defining yourself as a homosexual?
No, it doesn’t. . . . All of us are sinners, and sexual sinners. But, if we have turned to Christ, we are new creations, redeemed from slavery to sin through our union with Christ in his death and raised with him by the Spirit to a new life of holiness, while we wait for a glorious future in his presence when he returns.
These awesome realities define me and direct me to the kind of life I should live. In acknowledging that I know something of all eight battles covered in my book, therefore, I’m not making a revelation about my fundamental identity, other than that, like all Christians, I am a sinner saved by grace, called to live in the brokenness of a fallen world until Christ returns and brings all our battles to an end.
How do you think churches communicate [a] negative message?
The problem is largely caused by the fact that most of our comments on homosexuality are prompted, not primarily by a pastoral concern for struggling Christians, but by political debates in the world and the church. . . .
Also, in countering the simplistic binary model of the world that people are either born gay or straight (or, occasionally, bi), we are prone to make overly dogmatic comments ourselves about causation and cure. These can be heard to imply that homosexual attraction is just a matter of personal choice. This only increases the sense of shame already felt by those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction and can leave them with the impression that this is a battle that is not safe to share with others in the church. I have become convinced, therefore, that we need not only a greater openness in discussing issues of sexuality, but also a more positive vision and presentation of the nature of faithful discipleship for those who struggle in this area.
. . .
And is change possible? Can these attractions be redirected or altered?
The development of sexuality is complex and is, I think, best understood as being on a spectrum, along which individuals can move, especially in the years soon after puberty, but also later. A small proportion of people, including Christians, find that they remain exclusively attracted to the same sex as they grow into mature adulthood. God has the power to change their orientation, but he hasn’t promised to and that has not been my experience.
Research suggests that complete change from exclusively homosexual desires to exclusively heterosexual ones is very rare.
While supporting the right of anyone to seek help to change if they wish, our emphasis needs to be on encouragement to be godly and content in current circumstances.