A Respectful Chat With My Evangelical Pastor
Life Lessons of a Loving Gay Christian
I invite you to eavesdrop on a conversation. If you love Jesus, are gay, and tolerate respectful differences, this chat will be essential.
Me: Thank you, Pastor, for initiating this chat. You have always been such a dear friend and supporter of mine. The last time we spoke was at the Revoice Conference [for celibate gay Christians] precisely two years ago. You kindly hosted me in your home for two days. You introduced me to the “primary players” in the celibate gay evangelical community, of which I became one myself. You were an excellent ally to me, and there are not enough words to express my gratitude.
Pastor, you may know that soon after that Revoice Conference, I left the evangelical denomination in which you faithfully served for four decades — the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). I also have changed my perspectives about “gayness” — a change to which you would probably disagree. Perhaps that is even why you have now sought me out for this chat.
Pastor: Mike, I, too, have appreciated our friendship and shared zeal for Jesus. As you know, I greatly respected your conservative, evangelical background. And that is why I sought you out two years ago to represent a gay voice to the PCA. I knew that your credentials would be credible to PCA pastors around the globe. You excelled as a football player, an Air Force fighter pilot, a renowned expert in developing leaders of character. You also were a former vice president of Focus on the Family and a Licensed Professional Counselor to hundreds of Christian men who experienced shame over their same-sex attraction. And you are gay. Such a combination is scarce within our PCA community, and I dare say, within all evangelicalism.
And yes, Mike, I admit I am alarmed (even saddened) by what I now hear about your theology and position on gayness. So, thanks for being willing to meet and clarify a few things with me today.
Me: You are most welcome, Pastor. And I see you have continued to be a beacon of generosity and love toward the LGBTQ community. So, what are the issues in which you are concerned?
Pastor: Well, Mike, it appears you have become more liberal regarding the “normality” of gayness. Would you agree with me that same-sex attraction is a disorder?
Me: How so?
Pastor: Possessing a romantic or erotic attraction to someone of your sex was not part of God’s original design (i.e., before the fall of Adam and Eve). God created humans to have two unique and compatible sexes: male and female. Even their anatomical complementarity shouts this self-evident truth about being human. Therefore, as the Bible repeatedly declares, it is sinful for a man to have anal intercourse with another man or lust about doing so. Consequently, it is a disorder of the Godly design for a man to give credence to, or act upon, homoromantic or homoerotic feelings.
Me: Thank you for your explanation, Pastor, of what you believe the Bible teaches regarding the disorder of gayness. I suspect the vast majority of evangelical pastors (especially those of your generation) would agree with your presumption.
So if I understand you correctly, a gay man is disordered whenever he experiences homoromantic or homoerotic feelings. As evidence to support your presumption, you indicate that Adam and Eve had anatomical complementarity that creates reproduction. Therefore, it is “self-evident” that two gay men must never allow themselves to dwell (and then act upon) homoromantic and homoerotic feelings. Furthermore, you presume such feelings inevitably lead to anal intercourse, which you believe is always a sin.
Would it be okay if you I dissert “the whole” of your position, and then each of us shares our perspectives? If so, perhaps I should begin by stating the areas in which we seem to agree. Okay?
Pastor: Certainly, Mike. Where do you and I agree?
Me: Well, to state the obvious, we both believe God exists and created humans. Further, we agree that the Bible is a sacred collection of essential writings, from which we get glimpses into the nature of God, humanity, and proper behavior. Furthermore, we agree that Jesus is God in human form and that He taught and modeled love. And you and I completely align with Jesus.
Additionally, we agree that the Bible’s authors (which in some cases cite Jesus’ teachings) command that some forms of erotic behaviors are unhealthy if done outside the context of marriage. And we both agree that six verses from the Old and New Testaments (combined) appear to condemn anal intercourse between men.
Pastor: Yes, I agree with all you just stated. Mike, I take it that you believe homoromantic and homoerotic feelings are not a disorder?
Me: Well, first, allow me to express my disdain for the word “disorder.” For years, the accepted diagnostic counseling manual listed “homosexuality” [the term used at that time] as a mental disorder, a mental sickness. Furthermore, Americans viewed homosexuality as a pathology — a form of disease that could spread and ruin the American culture. Also, homosexuality was considered very harmful: a sexual addiction, a risk to government security, a demonic oppression, and a state of sin. So, Pastor, I chafe a bit when I hear you consider me to be a “disorder.” Such makes me believe you view me as a “lesser than.” And nothing makes me madder than when a man regards another man as a lesser than. Whenever I see examples of such putdowns I want to rush to protect the victim. And to know that about me, is to truly know me.
I believe feelings are simply feelings. There are hundreds of different feelings that humans possess, and all occur spontaneously and involuntarily. Feelings are morally neutral. What one does with his feelings may be virtuous or detestable. Thus, I believe there is nothing wrong with having homoromantic or homoerotic feelings. Such is common to virtually every gay man — exactly as heteroromantic and heteroerotic feelings exist in straight men.
And, I have experienced homoromantic and homoerotic feelings that did not result in anal intercourse (or even lusting toward such behavior). Quite the contrary, some of my homoromantic feelings have produced very Christlike behaviors — acts of selfless love toward dear Brothers-in-Christ.
Pastor, you and I agree that six verses from the the Old and New Testaments appear to condemn anal intercourse between men. You perhaps view that condemnation as universally true — across all cultures and time. However, I consider the disapproval more contextual to the readers and cultures of two and three thousand years ago. The original, inspired authors, in my opinion, could not have been speaking of today’s monogamous love between two men who are married to each other.
I confess I often find some men to be erotically desirous. Such is natural for me. Furthermore, whatever that “boundary” is between attraction and lust, I am sure I have crossed it countless times. To say that I am a habitual sinner would certainly be accurate (especially when I reflect upon the many times in which I failed to provide people selfless love). But I was sexually faithful to my wife for 41 years — until only her death did we part. I fulfilled what I had promised her on our wedding day. Yet I simultaneously had attraction (to include homoerotic feelings that I never acted upon) to men during those 41 years. So, was I “disordered” during my 41 years with my wife?
Perhaps you share my belief, Pastor, that frequently humans possess the self-control to withstand the temptations to engage in wrongful erotic desires. Conversely, often we humans fail to do what we intend to so. Even the iconic Apostle Paul lamented,
“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Instead, the evil that I do not want to do is what I keep doing! What a wretched man am I! Who will rescue me out of my own body?”
Paul and I both concluded we are incapable of always doing what we believe is virtuous. And he and I praise Jesus that we do not need to be perfect — we need to stay united to Jesus and love others in His way.
Pastor: Wow, Mike — that certainly was a mouthful of theology and perspectives! First, I do not consider you to be “wretched.” On the contrary, I have a very high respect for you.
Allow me to explain through a mental picture. Suppose we could draw an imaginary line from a gay man’s heart out to its logical culmination. Its ultimate destiny is anal intercourse — which I believe is always sinful. Therefore, moving backward from the intercourse, everything along that trajectory is also disordered. Men should not desire to engage in something which ends in sin. Thus, the desire itself is sinful, disordered.
I believe all humans are broken. We all have a selfish, carnal nature. So in that way, you and I are the same.
However, I believe it would be wrong for a gay man to allow himself to get into a homoromantic relationship in the first place. To do so, I believe, is equivalent of biblically “heaping coals of fire onto one’s lap.” I think, eventually, the gay man would end up having intercourse with the man to whom he is romantically involved. Therefore, I believe the gay man should either break off the relationship or never meet one-on-one.
I believe that if a gay man is incapable of experiencing heteroerotic feelings toward a woman, then his only appropriate option is celibacy. As you well know, Jesus was celibate — and He is a perfect role model to follow!
Furthermore, there is a whole movement of gay Christians living out (or striving to live) a wholesome life as celibate. We call such people “Side B gay Christians.” Many such men are finding joy in that life role. And Mike, at one time you called yourself “celibate,” you attended Revoice, and you were a champion for Side B. What made you go astray?
Me: Pastor, I certainly know of men living successful, contented lives in their calling to be celibate. I have nothing but respect and praise for those gay Brothers who live out their celibate calling. I stand side-by-side in championing them. However, the past two years have taught me that I am not called to celibacy. I intentionally abstain from engaging in anal intercourse, but that is not the same as living out a lifetime calling as a celibate man.
Furthermore, the Bible itself showed me how normal it is to feel romantic and erotic desires toward a specific person. The Bible’s epic “Song of Songs” alleges itself to be the ultimate wisdom in love relationships. The two lovers in that sensuous (and divinely inspired) poem demonstrate romantic and erotic longings for each other — and tremendous sadness when separated. It is also clear that they engaged in erotic touch (which may or may not have included intercourse), even before marriage.
So, if we believe the Bible to contain God’s truth, we could conclude that God designed humans to experience attractions to other humans. Consequently, these attractions produce romantic and erotic feelings toward a particular human and a desire to commit to a covenanted bond. I believe that God delights in His human blueprint! In short, God believes “it is not good for man to be alone.”
I believe this divine blueprint applies to a straight man with a straight woman (a.k.a., “straight marriage”), or a gay man with a straight woman (a.k.a., “mixed orientation marriage”), or a gay man with another gay man (a.k.a., “gay marriage”). Thus, I believe attraction, romantic feelings, erotic desires, and a permanent covenant with one’s “suitable helpmate” are not constrained by sexual orientation.
Pastor: Mike, to be candid, I am shocked to hear these words come out of your mouth. You were a leader in our evangelical community, someone who other pastors and evangelicals entrusted their gay church members and gay sons over to you for professional counseling. But many such referrals were based upon an assumption that you would help the gay client attain a sexual conversion.
Me: Pastor, it is true that I received such referrals, and perhaps those doing the referring assumed I would be conducting a sexual orientation change effort. However, I underwent two years of conversion therapy from a licensed psychiatrist advertised to remove my homosexuality. Such was a demand of my wife, for her to restore her trust in me. However, as you know, my same-sex attraction remained. And today, I am only exclusively attracted to men — not women. So, the short answer is “no” — I never counseled in conversion therapy and frankly disliked the practice. It leads the client into a shameful identity: believing he will never be acceptable to himself, his family, church, and God unless he repairs his sexual orientation.
And Pastor, I have either counseled or personally mentored thousands of gay men. And yet, I have never met a gay man who could tell me that he has extinguished his attraction to men.
Pastor: Yes, I agree. The success claims of the ex-gay movement have proven to be highly exaggerated.
Mike, allow me to now change the subject. I know you left our PCA denomination as a form of protest. You disagreed with my denomination’s decision that men possessing same-sex attraction cannot speak of that attraction as their identity. In other words, my PCA denomination (as the majority ruled) declared it is wrong for a man to call himself “gay.” This position is because the majority believed the word gay represents the approval of anal intercourse — which is inconsistent with our beliefs.
Now, you know that I opposed that verdict. I have no problem with Christian men in the PCA calling themselves gay. We have one pastor in the PCA who openly declares his sexual identity as gay. You and I love this dear pastor and admire his commitment to both Jesus and celibacy. But still, the majority of PCA pastors believe it is wrong for that pastor — and for you, Mike — to publicly identify as gay.
Me: Yes, Pastor, I admire your courage in speaking in support of people like myself — men who see our gay identity as simply a matter-of-reality. We are who we are. And you and I both need to appreciate that a person’s sexuality is no small matter. One’s sexual attraction predicates his relationships and love. And relationships of love are a huge deal to the human race!
So, as you know, my primordial identity is that I love Jesus and am united in Him. And it is simultaneously, equally valid that I am gay.
Pastor: Thank you, Mike, for appreciating how I have stood against most of my PCA peer pastors in supporting your right to declare yourself gay.
Mike, I do, however, have one final question for you. There are repeated rumors that you now believe God affirms gay marriages. Is that true? And if so, I must tell you, Mike, that you are driving on a road in which the bridge ahead has collapsed. And since I love you, I must warn you that your current path will only lead to your harm.
Me: Yes, Pastor, it is true. I do believe God affirms every marriage that resembles Jesus’ marriage.
First, how can you possibly know for sure that if I marry a man, I am on the road to destruction? It just might be that, instead, I am on the road to a thriving marriage that fulfills me and my husband, while honoring Jesus.
Secondly, you and I believe that we (as Jesus’ followers) are in a covenant — a marriage — with Jesus. And yet, we both are males — as is Jesus. So, both you and I are already in a same-sex marriage to Jesus. Thus, in my belief, the issue is not that an “acceptable” marriage is only when a man is united to a woman.
Instead, in my understanding of the Bible, what makes any marriage acceptable is that the marriage demonstrates the virtuous love inherent in Jesus’ love to us. And that union requires both spouses to selflessly serve and maintain sexual faithfulness to each other, plus stay in the marriage. Those who strive toward Jesus’ marital blueprint are being virtuous. And two gay Christian men who are married to each other and are striving to follow the Jesus marriage blueprint are authorized to be fulfilled through anal intercourse. And “God-only-knows” (literally) how many straight marriages have fallen short of the Jesus blueprint — to include King David’s marriage (“a man after God’s own heart”).
Pastor: Well, it is obvious — you and I differ in our beliefs. As much as I love and respect you, Mike, please be forewarned that some views lead to destructive actions with eternal consequences.
Me: Pastor, it is indeed possible that I am wrong in my beliefs about romantic love and marriage between men. And maybe your beliefs are perfectly aligned with God’s truth. However, it is also possible that, instead, I am the one who is correct and aligned with God’s truth.
But regardless of our religious denomination, catechism, dogma, orthodoxy, and statements of faith, this is what I know is true:
Jesus loves me, exactly as I am. And He is never going to leave me. And I love Jesus and am never going to reject Him. And therefore He and I are united now and forever.
And that, my dear friend, is more than enough for me.
GAYoda is a publication to uniquely and specifically support gay Christian men. Click here to learn more
Dr. Mike Rosebush is the founder and author of GAYoda. He has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor, with 45+ years of mentoring thousands of gay Christian men. Read a short synopsis of his story here.
Read Dr. Rosebush’s complete set of articles here.
Dr. Rosebush provides friendship support to gay Christian men across the U.S. and can be contacted via Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.