Over at Evangelical News is a very honest, personal, and candid interview with Vaughan Roberts on Same Sex Attraction. Vaughan Roberts is the Rector of St. Ebbe’s in Oxford, probably the best preacher I’ve heard in the UK in the last ten years, and he gives an honest talk about the temptations that pastors face, and the one that he faces as a single man with same sex attraction.
Vaughan: I’ve often wondered whether more might have persevered if they had felt there was another way open to them other than the affirmation of a gay identity and lifestyle advocated by the world and the isolation they experienced in the evangelical church with their largely private battle. The world stresses freedom and authenticity and says: ‘Everyone is born straight, gay or bi. You need to be true to yourself and accept who you are’. Same-sex attraction is seen as being entirely natural for some, who are therefore encouraged to embrace their identity as gay people and live it out in whatever way they choose. This message is supported by the individual stories of many whose openly gay lives offer a model of a particular way of living. By contrast, however, we in the church are too often heard to be presenting only a negative message which can leave them feeling deep shame and discourage them from emerging from the isolation of a lonely and private battle, which creates a fertile soil where temptation increases and compromise becomes more likely.
Julian: How do you think churches communicate that negative message?
Vaughan: 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. We do need to engage in these debates, but it’s vital that we’re alert to the messages that some of our brothers and sisters may be hearing. Media reporting often doesn’t help and can give the impression that we think this particular sin is especially heinous. 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.