Nick 1 , a new client, walked into my office and without much prompting summarised his reason for seeking counselling: ‘I have read the Bible through and through and find no passages that condone same-sex relationships or marriage. I have not been able to reconcile my relationship with my boyfriend with what the Bible teaches, so I have chosen Scripture’s teaching and have ended the relationship with him.’ Fighting back tears he said, ‘Can you help me?’
Working with Nick helped me to understand the pain and heartache.
Working with Nick opened my eyes to understanding the pain and heartache involved in ‘forgoing a permanent, faithful, stable same-sex sexual relationship in the here and now because he was already enjoying a permanent, faithful, stable relationship with Christ in all his beauty.’ (Ed Shaw). His love for his Saviour was driving his decision. However, following Jesus did not erase the pain, the loss, or the loneliness he felt. The loneliness was magnified since he did not feel accepted anymore among others with same-sex attraction, nor did he feel that he would be known or accepted in the Church.
Following Jesus did not erase the pain, the loss, or the loneliness he felt.
This encounter – this relationship – was the genesis of a community group at my church focussed on caring for those experiencing same-sex attraction, who chose, like my client, to live a life of chastity, saying ‘yes’ to God’s plan for sexuality. I remember Sam Allberry’s charge to the Church to be the Church, a genuine family, a place of refuge and encouragement, where intimate friendships could thrive. ‘We can live without marriage. We can live without sex, but we can’t live without intimate friendships,’ he stated emphatically.
So, we embarked on starting a group, not knowing what we were doing or having a study guide or plan. We just decided to create a group, by invitation only, for those similar to Nick wanting encouragement and friendship. We started using the same prepared Bible studies that the whole church was using for their community groups, knowing that the Word of God addresses everyone at whatever stage they find themselves.
We would allow the whole story of Scripture to speak to us.
We did not have to pick and choose specific passages on sex, gender, marriage, etc., but we would allow the whole story of Scripture to speak to us. After all, all the members of the other community groups had their personal issues too. Whatever was helpful to them would be helpful to us. We are all more alike than unalike. Of course, the first weeks, to my surprise, we didn’t get around to much Bible study, since those attending just wanted to share their stories. In all my years at church, I have yet to experience such vulnerability. It was like a dam had broken, as reflected in comments shared by members of the group:
‘It’s given me an outlet to share.’
‘It’s a place that normalises my struggle and removes stigma and shame.’
‘I have found a safe community where I don’t feel alone.’
‘I can ask for prayer where I really need prayer.’
'I now feel free to volunteer and serve at church.’
The group is open to men and women who experience same-sex attraction and share the same commitment to God’s wisdom and love. We meet alternate weeks, so each person can attend other community groups as well and be a part of the whole church family. Sometimes we do choose to study a specific book, address a certain topic, or invite a guest speaker. We are connected by group email, so that anyone can reach out for prayer and encouragement as needed. Recently one member gave a musical concert and invited us all. Another member invited us to an art exhibition he had curated. These are all young professionals, striving for holiness in their lives, in order to impact our city and the world for God’s Kingdom. They make me want to love God better.
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- Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.