Becoming Christians: what if you are an SSA couple?

We recently received an email from a member of a same-sex couple who have both just committed their lives to Christ.

As well as rejoicing in this wonderful news, we were struck by their very relevant and understandable question: they have a child, and are trying to live as a Christian family, including considering that it might be right for them to stop the sexual side of their relationship and become celibate. Where does that leave them as a family? Would it be right for them to continue living together in the same house, but seeking to live celibate lives? As this is a question which I often get asked, I thought it might be helpful to share my take on this.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. Part of what we want to do through Living Out is challenge the idea that everyone has to be married in an opposite-sex marriage, have children and so on. You can live a very fulfilling life without sex – but you cannot live a fulfilling life without intimacy and friendship. So, for some single people (whether same-sex attracted or not), living with Christian friends can be a great blessing.

But what about the specifics of this question? Well, a couple who have ceased the sexual side of their relationship is, in a sense, no longer a couple. Not that their relationship has ceased – quite the opposite! Rather, their relationship has become what God always intended it to be – a deep, committed friendship. And it makes excellent sense for two friends to live together and share their lives in this way. It would be very natural for friends who were living together to share the parenting of any children who are there too. Of course, the couple will need to think and pray carefully about whether the history of a shared sexual relationship will be too much of a temptation if they continue to live together. But that is a matter for discernment, not a matter of right and wrong.

A possible objection to this way of thinking is that the child of this couple should have parents of both sexes. Of course, the ideal biblical pattern is for children to be raised by their (biological) mother and father. But there are some times when that can’t happen (e.g., through bereavement or divorce) and times when it isn’t best for the child (e.g., when parents aren’t able to give the child the care they need). Other patterns need not be second best. Just as a wise single parent will help their children to have role models of both sexes, so same-sex friends living together could intentionally draw in role models of the opposite sex for their child. Indeed, most married parents regard it as beneficial for their children to have other role models anyway – a need warmly affirmed by the church in the tradition of children having godparents.

Above all, this couple are considering a costly and counter-cultural decision and will need the support and encouragement of their church family. God is clearly at work in their lives and they need plenty of acceptance and unconditional love as they work out the right way forward for them. I believe that God’s way will be both honouring to him, and the best possible outcome for their child.

Sean Doherty 

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