Why I am an Evangelical gay Christian…

This week, Jeremy Marks writes on being Evangelical and Gay…

Having spent most of my adult life in the evangelical church, thinking, believing and living as an evangelical Christian, being an evangelical is second nature to me. In recent years, my view of the gay issue has radically changed—from a traditional viewpoint, believing that to call oneself a “gay Christian” is an oxymoron—to full acceptance of my homosexuality as a gift from God. 

Many of my evangelical friends (who believe me to be seriously deceived in this) tell me that I cannot call myself an evangelical anymore, insisting that I have given up the true orthodox faith as entrusted to the saints (Ephesians 3:8).  It has been extremely painful to lose many friends who I have truly loved as brothers and sisters in the faith, because they now believe me to be deceived. Worse still, they see my ministry of pastoral care and support as “misguided” and to be leading vulnerable people down a slippery slope into deception. “Faithful are the wounds of friends” (Proverbs 27:6)!  Or are they?

It has taken me years to recognise this, but I have begun to see that it is surely they, not I, who should be questioning their evangelical credentials. Because as I understand it, the word “evangel”, from which the word comes, simply means “Good News”, or “Gospel”, and an evangelical is one who believes in and shares the good news of Jesus Christ. In fact, being an evangelical has nothing whatever to do with what you believe about being gay or straight; nor has it anything to do with rejecting or accepting one’s homosexuality. It is all about receiving the Good News of Jesus Christ by faith and making Him known to others.

When I began “Courage” in 1988—a ministry that provides a safe place of fellowship for lesbian and gay Christians to develop their spiritual journey, through worship, prayer and Bible study, I accepted the traditional view, as taught. In those days, we saw homosexuality as a diabolically-inspired temptation to pursue a deviant lifestyle that parodies heterosexual marriage in defiance of God’s good creation plan—in which all are created heterosexual. As gay people, we believed ourselves to be deviant heterosexuals (Romans 1:26,27) who had somehow been tricked into believing a lie about ourselves. We believed that we needed to be renewed in our minds, and that to achieve this we must uncompromisingly set our face against any worldly temptation to live a “gay lifestyle” (Romans 12:1,2).

From our traditional evangelical standpoint, seeking to resist such temptation and to encourage one another to overcome seemed to be a laudable goal. In reality, it subtly shifted our focus away from the joy we had found in Christ to the pursuit of “self-improvement”, which became an idol. The fruit of such idolatry was a miserable reward for all who pursued the ‘ex-gay’ process. Many became deeply depressed and full of inner conflict; some lost their faith altogether—the complete opposite of our objective, which was to help people to grow in their Christian lives. We were slow to learn; but after years of seeing the catastrophic consequences of such an approach, we eventually came to understand the concept of “overcoming” in a different way: it had to mean embracing our true God-given sexual orientation, overcoming our neurosis about sexuality, and finding healing from the corrosive damage of internalised homophobia, brought about by years of trying to conform to social pressure. Then we can serve Christ fully as the people He wants us to be.

Over my 24 years of ministry, I have come to see so clearly that when people take their eyes off the all-important task of making the Good News of Jesus Christ known (ensuring of course that one’s own life is rooted and grounded in the love of Christ—Ephesians 3:16), then they become plagued with inner conflicts and lose heart.  This happens, I believe, when we allow our focus to be misdirected into preoccupation with our failings and the need for self-improvement. 

 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12) 

We lose our joy in Christ when we devote our time and energies to fighting who we are— and eventually lose our faith altogether.  When Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25), the context was a little different, but the observation could not be more apt for our situation. Repentance is not about trying not to be gay; repentance is about turning away from living by our wits and our own understanding (Proverbs 3:3-7). A holy and righteous life is a life lived by faith in what Christ has done for us. In serving Christ we become whole. This is the Good News that every evangelical Christian is glad to share above all else.

As a gay Christian man I give thanks to God that I have been able to rediscover my true evangelical roots and recover my joy and salvation in Christ. It has been a great privilege to help others find their way along this path too. Thanks be to God—my sins have been forgiven, including those covert sins of internalised homophobia and self-hatred that tempted me into the spurious pursuit of self-improvement through my own endeavours. My hope for life in Christ has been restored together with my self-respect. This is the fruit of true evangelicalism I believe. 

For further study, may I recommend an excellent article by Dr Roy Clements, “What is an Evangelical?” (www.courage.org.uk/articles/article.asp?id=147 ). 

Jeremy Marks: Jeremy@courage.org.uk

You can also read Jeremy’s talk “A Change in the Tide?” which he persented to our Second Annual Meeting  AE Annual Meeting talk June 2011

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7 Comments

  1. Thank you. An excellent and thought provoking article. I also enjoyed Roy Clements’ excellent article “What is an Evangelical”. There was a time, in 2003, to be precise, when I felt ashamed to think that I was an Evangelical, and my wofe and I started attending a church with some more liberal and accepting elements, but I have come to realise that I AM an Evangelical at heart, and that this is nothing to be ashamed of…quite the contrary.

    • I had a very similar experience at that time! It was AE that persuaded me that I was an Evangelical after all.

  2. Pingback: Do Evangelicals have to condemn gay sex? - Gentle Wisdom

  3. An excellent thought provoking article by Jeremy. It shows me that many evangelicals are stuck in upholding a ‘tradition’ rather than proclaiming the Good News afresh to this generation. In fact, the very thing that our Evangelical forebears used to criticise other christians from doing. How times have changed!

  4. Patrick Gillan

    Jeremy your story is inspiring and your journey similar to my own.I was one of those unfortunates who came to see you many years ago thankfully like you God showed me there is a better way.So glad to have people like you on our side.

    Patrick Gillan! Dad,Christian,Evangelical and loving Jesus!

  5. One of the passages of scripture used to defend the traditionalist position is 1 Corinthians 6:9. It is immediately followed by this, in verse 11: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Note the use of the past tense – this is something that has already happened, and it is achieved merely by accepting Jesus. Furthermore, we know from Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. If a gay Christian has been SANCTIFIED and justified by the Lord Jesus and is consequently under no condemnation, there can surely be no argument against them having a blessing of a loving, permanent, faithful and stable relationship, nor of them taking up ministry at any level. I simply ask: what more can anyone possibly ask for? I write as a straight and married man who is appalled at the continuing denial of high office to gay people, (even if they are celibate), and the refusal of the C of E to consider gay blessings. It seems to me to be born out of prejudice and ignorance.
    With reference to Jeffery John and his being denied the posts of Bishop of Reading and Southwark, I note The House of Bishops booklet “Issues in Human sexuality” states “5.19 Regarding clergy who come out and who are committed to a life of abstinence, “(This) ought to present no problem to anyone…….A community which cannot accept such an honourable candour is not worthy of the name of Christian”. The usual grounds given for refusing the post of Bishop even to celibate gay people is that they could allegedly “not act as a focus for unity in that community”. If that is so, it must seriously be questioned whether such communities are “worthy of the name of Christian”.

  6. Jeremy, I loved your article. I am reminded about whats exciting about being an evangelical. Its dynamic, radical, different, proclaiming, anti-oppressive, forgiving, gracious, open-minded and above all far from traditional!! That’s what modelling Jesus looks like too! Like you, I sometimes feel that grief with the loss of some ‘friends’ but when I think about it, I would not exchange this truth for that lie any day, and the new friends gained on the way are unconditional in their love as opposed to conditional!! But to you I say thank you for leading the way!

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