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Change Ministries Revisited

Change Ministries Revisited

by Inge S. Anderson

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[Also see "About Change Ministries"]

Conservatives Christians tend to believe that homosexually oriented persons must change their sexual orientation in order to be Christians. Underlying this argument is the presupposition that being heterosexually oriented is more holy than being homosexually oriented. But is this a biblical teaching? Considering that heterosexually oriented persons are responsible for the greater part of family distress in this world -- the divorces, sexual abuse, child neglect and all the distress accompanying broken families -- this seems to be a weak argument.

Despite my philosophical disagreement with the teachings of most "change ministries," I have a great deal of respect for those involved in such ministries. Among them are some of the most dedicated and sincere Christians anyone could hope to meet. And some of them have been and are members of our discussion lists, contributing thought-provoking posts.

Once in a while a leader in such ministries demonstrates that he or she is still very much "gay" at heart, and the world sees this as evidence that those involved in change ministries are hypocrites at worst or self-deceived at best. It's so sad to see such well-meaning folks trapped in a mind set that sets them up for defeat.

Yet change ministries seem to work for a lot of individuals who consider themselves "ex-gay," and now have spouses and families to demonstrate their new "heterosexual" status. And, despite what the critics say, I've met those whose sense of joy and freedom was palpable. They freely admitted, that they were not attracted to the opposite sex the same way "heterosexuals" are, and I wonder why they feel compelled to call themselves "heterosexual." (Some reflection indicates that the problem is one of differing definitions of "gay.")

On the other hand, for a great many who have earnestly tried to have enough "faith," it hasn't worked, and they have joined the rank of "ex-ex-gays."

Is Heterosexuality Necessary to Be a Christian?

I disagree with the premise that a change in sexual orientation is necessary in order to live a Christian life.

Change ministries seem to put a lot of emphasis on "faith" of a kind not found in the Bible -- faith to believe in their "created heterosexuality." Homosexually oriented persons are taught that they were created heterosexual and that they must continually claim their heterosexuality by faith, even when they are homosexually tempted. I believe this is based on the false premise that being heterosexually oriented is somehow a spiritual step up from being homosexually oriented. That underlying assumption is the biggest weakness of change ministries, in my opinion.

Jesus asked us to pray, "Deliver us from evil," but He did not promise to take away our sinful nature with all its tendencies to evil. He did promise that we would not be tempted beyond what we would be able to bear but, that He would provide a way of escape for us. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Expecting a homosexual orientation to be removed is not unlike expecting part of our sinful nature to be removed -- things such as a tendency to be self-centered, to over-eat, to be less than honest, etc. Generally, we need to be on the alert and guard against such tendencies all our lives. They may recede into the background, as we learn to submit to Christ and become more and more like Him, but they are not removed as the result of prayer and faith. Instead, the Lord gives us strength to overcome such tendencies. Recognizing that we still have a sinful nature causes us to rely on God for strength, rather than trusting in our own goodness.

We believe it is unrealistic and unbiblical to expect a homosexual orientation to go away or to be removed as the result of faith and prayer. Such an orientation includes so much more than sexual attraction, and not all attraction to one's own gender is bad. For instance, it is good and healthy to have close, emotional ties to friends of our own gender, in proper relationship with our ties to God, family, and work mates. However, the tendency to see others of our own gender as objects of sexual desire, rather than as children of God, is not part of God's design, and we can expect God to give us the victory over such tendencies when we submit our sexuality to God. This is not an instantaneous process, but a growth process, as is true for all our character development.

Heterosexuality is not necessary in order to be a committed Christian any more than a perfect singing voice. What is necessary is a deep sense of our own need so that we do not trust in our own goodness but cast ourselves fully on Christ's mercy. Perhaps that's why so many homosexually oriented persons of our acquaintance have such a close relationship with God. They know their weakness, and thus cling closely to Him who is their Source of strength.

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