Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, and the author of God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, recently gave an interview to Julian Hardyman (senior pastor of Eden Baptist, Cambridge) in Evangelicals Now on his struggle with same-sex attraction.

David Ould has highlighted some excerpts, which are reproduced below.

Does the disclosure that same sex attraction is one of your personal battles mean you are defining yourself as a homosexual?

No, it doesn’t. . . . All of us are sinners, and sexual sinners. But, if we have turned to Christ, we are new creations, redeemed from slavery to sin through our union with Christ in his death and raised with him by the Spirit to a new life of holiness, while we wait for a glorious future in his presence when he returns.

These awesome realities define me and direct me to the kind of life I should live. In acknowledging that I know something of all eight battles covered in my book, therefore, I’m not making a revelation about my fundamental identity, other than that, like all Christians, I am a sinner saved by grace, called to live in the brokenness of a fallen world until Christ returns and brings all our battles to an end.

How do you think churches communicate [a] negative message?

The problem is largely caused by the fact that most of our comments on homosexuality are prompted, not primarily by a pastoral concern for struggling Christians, but by political debates in the world and the church. . . .

Also, in countering the simplistic binary model of the world that people are either born gay or straight (or, occasionally, bi), we are prone to make overly dogmatic comments ourselves about causation and cure. These can be heard to imply that homosexual attraction is just a matter of personal choice. This only increases the sense of shame already felt by those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction and can leave them with the impression that this is a battle that is not safe to share with others in the church. I have become convinced, therefore, that we need not only a greater openness in discussing issues of sexuality, but also a more positive vision and presentation of the nature of faithful discipleship for those who struggle in this area.

. . .

And is change possible? Can these attractions be redirected or altered?

The development of sexuality is complex and is, I think, best understood as being on a spectrum, along which individuals can move, especially in the years soon after puberty, but also later. A small proportion of people, including Christians, find that they remain exclusively attracted to the same sex as they grow into mature adulthood. God has the power to change their orientation, but he hasn’t promised to and that has not been my experience.

Research suggests that complete change from exclusively homosexual desires to exclusively heterosexual ones is very rare.

While supporting the right of anyone to seek help to change if they wish, our emphasis needs to be on encouragement to be godly and content in current circumstances.

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34 thoughts on “Vaughan Roberts on Same-Sex Attraction”

  1. Dave Moore says:

    I am processing this, but is it wise to declare this indiscriminately to the public? Yes, he should share it with close friends for accountability and encouragement, but it does not seem to be needful to declare it to everyone.

    Would love to know what others think…

    1. Billy Birch says:

      Your question, Should he declare this indiscriminately to the public? is a good one, I think, and one worth considering. Perhaps doing so appears too much like a Christian way of “coming out.”

      Of course, some followers of Christ who privately struggle with same-sex attraction can be “outed” by those in the LGBT community who want nothing more than to broadcast that Christian individual’s business, as Jonathan Merritt tragically experienced this summer.

      As someone who also struggles with same-sex attraction, who has been born again by grace through faith in Christ, but who never wanted to public acknowledge the struggle (I was “outed” by my own sinful actions), I see the benefits of bringing these private struggles to the public arena. The fear of people “finding out” my private struggle bore tragic consequences in my inner life.

      If we were living in the 1950′s America, I wouldn’t be so bold about my own struggles, and I might suggest others not be so bold as well. In this post-postmodern culture, however, I think sharing our struggles — no matter what they might be — will only serve the body of Christ better (and may just be an avenue the Lord uses to reach the lost as well). I really am thinking off the cuff, however. I’m open to critique.

      God bless.

      1. Mark Pertuit says:

        You question whether or not he should share this publicly, Dave, whereas my question is: why shouldn’t he share it? (And, wouldn’t it be great if many people displayed similar boldness?) People who deal with SSA (same-sex attraction) only hear one single narrative: the “if-you-have-homosexual-feelings-you-are-necessarily-defined-as-gay-and-are-fake/inauthentic-if-you-don’t-act-them-out” narrative. That story doesn’t leave many options for the Christian who discovers such feelings within himself or herself.

        Vaughan is using his private story to offer an alternative narrative of redemption — taken from the True Story of the world, wherein we’re made in God’s image, are broken through sin, are being restored, and are on the way to glory and fullness of restoration, to the glory of God. The fact that he uses his sexual story allows us to plot the issue of SSA on that map. Thus it’s redefined, given new meaning. I think it’s bold, courageous, admirable.

        I just differ with Vaughan on the issue of restoration. He says God doesn’t promise to transform anyone in terms of SSA. Well, God promises to transform everyone who’s indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that truth (as well as my experience) leads me to think we should hope for a lot more transformation — for every Christian — including those struggling with SSA.

        1. Billy Birch says:

          I’ve wrestled greatly with the notion of orientation change, and it has caused great frustration in my life. After praying for over 17 years that God would somehow change my attraction to the same sex — and seeing no change even in the slightest — I had to conclude that there is a major difference between what is possible and what is probable.

          Is sexual orientation change possible through God? I would say yes; He holds the possibility of somehow changing my mind on the matter, even when I, inherently, do not. Is sexual orientation change probable? Well, that is another matter entirely.

          I’m reminded of someone else in Church history who asked the Lord to take something away from him and the Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NASB). This struggle keeps me weak, in one sense, and yet relying on Christ’s power in another.

          “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses . . . for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10 NASB).

          1. Hannah says:

            I’m curious about the framing of the conversation surrounding the possibility of change of sexual orientation. As we begin to understand more of the complexity of sexuality, wouldn’t a more consistently Biblical response be not simply to seek heterosexual desires, but–if God would so will–the attraction to one specific person to whom you could be married and raise a family (if you desire that and God leads that way)? I understand that this will vary from individual to individual and that it would be wrong to enter marriage by compulsion or obligation. But marriage to one specific person is not the same as general attraction to a group of people. I appreciate the growing conversation about celibacy for those experiencing SSA, but even that seems a little small, a little hopeless, especially if a person greatly desires marriage and family.

            I guess all that I’m saying is this: shouldn’t we at least leave the door open for however God wants to work in our hearts and lives as He redeems and restores our brokenness? He may never choose to remove SSA, but we must not also assume that He doesn’t have the power to bring one person with whom we could celebrate marriage and love and life.

            1. Billy Birch says:

              I’m open to that … and should God will it so, I’ll glorify Him in it. If He chooses not to, I’ll glorify Him, by the grace of Christ, just the same.

            2. Phil Allcock says:

              Hannah, Vaughan has a very high view of what God can do by his mighty power. But I think he is rightly being careful not to hold out false hope and make promises that are not backed up by Scripture. Too many people with same sex attraction issues get burned by promises that the future will see them happily married. The church needs to beware idolising marriage as the only possible state in which a human can have a happy, fulfilled life. One of the more radical teachings of the early church was that singleness was ok, that the deepest needs are met by knowing God and being part of the family of believers. I fear we’ve lost sight of this. I know you are not saying that, but I think this might explain why he phrases things the way he does.

              1. JR says:

                Amen, Phil. Nicely put.

    2. Joe says:

      When people say they are gay they are not revealing anything about their private life. They are not asking you to think about any aspect of their private life. ‘Gay’ is a public category – much like American, or Republican, or married etc etc…

  2. David Ould says:

    thanks for the link Justin.
    Dave, some background context might be helpful. In the Church of England there is an ongoing fight over this issue. Prominent liberals have been increasingly pushy over the subject in the last 12 months and so Vaughan’s announcement ought to be seen in that light – it’s a conservative response providing a necessary corrective.

  3. Justin Taylor says:

    I think David Moore’s question is a fair one.

    One part of the interview not excerpted here addresses that a bit:

    ***

    Julian: As a pastor, you must have had folk who have confided in you pastorally about their same-sex attractions — has that affected your decision to be more open?

    Vaughan: Certainly. I pray for them every Monday from a list that is divided in two: those who continue to seek to be faithful to the Bible’s teaching that the only right context for sexual intercourse is in a marriage between a man and a woman and those who have moved away from that view. Sadly the second group is growing.

    ***

    I would add that we likely don’t know how many people within our churches are silently dealing with this temptation, unable to confess it or to seek help for fear of judgment or ostracization (sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly). As one who does not face this particular temptation, I can only imagine the feelings of alienation and despair that are bound up with keeping this private. If that is the case, it seems healthy to me that there be role models who can demonstrate sexual fidelity and godliness.

    1. Kyle Keating says:

      Well said Justin. There are so few role models of men who have walked through SSA in faithfulness. Testimonies like this will serve to help build up the church as we hear more stories of God’s redemptive power and overwhelming faithfulness in the face of great challenges.

  4. Tanner GIsh says:

    Hello All,

    I’d like to posit this post as another example to be added to the discussion on the gospel-forwarding benefit or gospel-hindering danger to Christian testimonies on same sex attraction ( I know the author would love your feedback, as well as prayers):
    http://www.thetwocities.com/practical-theology/testimony-practical-theology/im-kinda-sorta-yeah-not-really-gay/

  5. Marty says:

    I just want to say that I have heard Vaughan preach many times now and he is one of the most gifted Bible teachers. I have always learned something about Christ and the Christian faith from him. I know that’s not the point of the post from Justin, but it would be great if people around the world looking at reading this, checked him out via his church at St Ebbe’s Oxford, or the Proclamation Trust, London. He’s a Bible man. May the Lord continue to use him mightily!

  6. Lee Furney says:

    There is a risk in sharing such struggles (I’m working in an African context where such openness might possibly be counterproductive), but I would trust Vaughan’s seasoned judgement that this will open more bridges for the medicine of God’s grace than it will close. In 1 Thess 2:8, Paul says, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Similarly, Vaughan’s humble, servant-like honesty commends the truth of the gospel to the marginalized and, like Paul in 1 Thess 4, it gives him even more of a voice to speak on Christian behaviour as well as the doctrine it springs from. What an encouragement to read that those we listen to, and look up to, also face significant daily battles whether they be ours or not.

    1. David Ould says:

      absolutely. Lee, you and I have both benefited directly from Vaughan’s ministry.

  7. SPG says:

    I spent a semester of college studying abroad in Oxford and St. Ebbe’s was my church home while I was there. All I can say from my brief time there is that it was a church with a great and faithful heart. I think that Vaughn is acting quite responsibly and wisely by opening up about this issue while remaining faithful to biblical teaching. His points are important for a church that needs to learn to reframe this whole conversation, as we have so far largely allowed the terms of the discussion to be set by the surrounding culture.

    Instead of having a conversation in which we suppose that sexual desires must be gratified in order to be true to ourselves (and hence the need for a “healing” or “conversion” to straightness), Christianity teaches that our most fundamental identity is in Christ, and nothing else about us (race, gender, sexuality, culture, nationality, hometown, economic status, education level, disability, etc.) is so defining that it trumps our need to die to self, to love God above all else, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    Thank you, Vaughn.

    1. Mark says:

      re: “seeking ‘healing’ or ‘conversion’ to straightness”: people don’t seek healing because they believe that sexual desires must be gratified in order to be true to themselves. If people seek healing, it’s
      (A) because they know that their same-sex attractions are disordered (in terms of God’s creational intent),
      (B) because they believe in the Kingdom of God which is not only future but also already — and so there is power for transformation, and
      (C) because they don’t want to live their lives as celibates if God has more for them.

      Can you blame someone for not wanting to believe: “Oh, this is just as good as it gets for now”? Who in the world wants to hear this: “Well, in order to serve God, you must simply deny your sexual longings, until you die, with no hope of change”? Is that really so appealing? Can you blame someone for believing/hoping that maybe Jesus won’t help them only to *not* do wrong things with their desires, but that He might hallow and transform their affective faculty so that they can desire things in accordance with His creational designs?

      In fact, many people testify to the reality that He does that.

      1. SPG says:

        Mark,
        I am sorry that I was not entirely clear on that point. I don’t believe I said anything to suggest that I blame anyone for wanting transformation and I did not mean to suggest that there is no possibility of being transformed; there obviously is the possibility in this life, and transformation is certainly promised in the resurrection. It is one thing, though, to desire and seek transformation with regard to one’s desires in this life with the hope that God will intervene miraculously, but it is another thing to mandate such a transformation of desires or to proclaim that this is always certainly promised here and now.
        This is not unlike the fact that God can and does heal people of all sorts of ailments in response to prayer, but does not always do this. We are right to pray for one another for healing, and we are right to teach people to pray for healing, but we are mistaken to promise people that God will certainly provide that healing right here and right now.

        1. SPG says:

          My original point on this matter was that when churches focus too much on the need for such a transformation of sexual desires, they no longer offer those with SSA a way to live abundantly and faithfully in the midst of their struggle, but inadvertently keep them in the holding pattern until they are transformed and “ready” to live abundantly. I doubt any churches are doing this intentionally, but this can be a side-effect of over-emphasizing the need to rid oneself of temptation.

  8. Thank you Vaughan Roberts for your Christlike humility, bravery, and submission to God’s word. You are a valiant soldier for the Kingdom, and a valued brother in Christ.

  9. Dave Moore says:

    Thanks to everyone for the helpful interaction. I benefited greatly and praise God for Vaughn Roberts!

  10. William Powell says:

    What an informative interview! I learned a lot. I think the body of Christ should find a way to help those who have these same-sex attractions. I one time at my Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru, now) witnessed a testimony from someone who had same-sex attraction and who came to Christ and God turned the switch on his attraction. So I do this happen. Nothing is impossible with God, but I agree this second group that is showing up, the “I am born gay and there is no way to change so he leave me alone” is very militant and I am very saddened by the direction this country is taken. Hopefully, no one who speaks out on this is put in jail or prison in the near future (they do something like that in Canada in which I think you get a 6-month sentences for speaking out against it on the radio and TV waves). Prayer is greatly needed in dealing with this issue as well.

    1. Thanks William Powell for your stand against all this fluffy comments in support of homosexual acceptance. The truth of God never change and never will. If you call yourself a Christian you do as the Lord commands otherwise Jesus died in vain.

    2. Kate says:

      I’m a Canadian, and I can assure you that people do not go to jail for speaking out on the issue on the radio or the TV.

  11. DHK says:

    Vaughan was my pastor for three years during my time at University, and is both a fantastic preacher and an incredibly godly man. This only makes me appreciate him even more.

  12. Let me start by saying that since I was about 7yrs old I knew I wanted a husband not a wife. I’m 38yrs old now and I have known the struggles faced by people with these feelings. I would get saved and ask to be changed and it didn’t happen and I would scume to the wants of my flesh and walk away from the Lord. But thanks be to God for it is written that God is married to the backslider and kept reminding me that He wanted me back.
    Now I have been saved for about 8yrs and in the beginning, after the initial “high” settled the battle would begin again. I was in an above comment a statement that I can surley relate to. One night during prayer I was asking again to be changed when God spoke to me and said, “Bryan I tell you what I told Paul. My grace is sufficient for thee. My strenght is made perfect in weakness.” I stopped asking to be changed and started asking for the ability to bear my cross with joy and peace. I failed many times and was forgiven because I was truly sorry for my sin.
    As I have grown in my relationship with Christ more and more is reveled to me. I believe that before I was born God saw where I would be able to bear this cross AND bring glory to His name. I also believe that people that suffer with these temptations are special to God. What? Special? How? Ok let’s look at some passages of scripture. When Jesus’ disciples said to Him, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” To which Jesus replied, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:10-12) Then in Isaiah 56:3-5 “neither let the eunuch say, Behold I am a dry tree, For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant: Even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”
    About 8 or 9 mths ago something happened to me, a blessing from the hand of God. I was given freedom from those feelings and desires! I don’t think about men or women in a sexual way and when I remember my past I’m truly disgusted, I hate that me and those feelings. I did nothing to deserve His grace and mercy, I’m not special, except that I’m saved by the blood of Jesus. In the back of my mind I know that God has used my life and will use my life to help others and I so want His will to be done. I don’t know how He used me before and I don’t know His plans for me to help others in the future, so I will be still and wait on Him.
    Above is my FB page and if anyone wants to talk or needs support or just a new friend, send the request. You are not alone! Someone does care! Someone does understand! Someone wants to listen.

  13. This has been an age old problem for humanity for thousands of years. This was probably one of the reasons that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra. Also the apostle Paul wrote: ” …because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools, … Therefore God also gee them up to uncleanliness’ in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
    likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another men with men committing what is shameful , and receiving in themselves the penalty of they error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.,,” Romans 1: 21- 28.

    The words ” God gave them over to a debased mind…” says it all ! For what mind can be more debased than that of Satan. I firmly believe that homosexuality is satanic. It’s one of Satan’s devastating weapons against us. You just have to look at the faces of homosexuals to realise that something is amiss. Their countenance appear unatural and especially with men, their voice changes and also sound unnatural for a man.

    And yes, if they really want to, repent and have a true desire for The Lord, the Lord will make a new creature of out of them for The Lord Jesus came to deliver us from the bondage of Satan and to redeem us unto God the Father. Praise be to The Lord Jesus for ever and ever.

  14. Daryl Little says:

    I’m not gay, nor have I known anyone who is beyond being acquaintances.

    Having said that, I wonder if the desire to be rid of the sinful attractions can really be considered any different from the desire we all have to free of temptations.

    That is, what believer doesn’t ever think “If only God would take this lust, this anger, this attitude away”? We all do.

    But more often than not, it doesn’t happen. And, as much as we all hate that, we know it’s OK, and it’ll be OK. Jesus has paid the price, and we are forgiven.

    If somehow the struggle could be more often framed as a common struggle of believers, rather than one unique to those with gay tendencies, I think that would help struggling believers more.

    Non-believers will always lampoon believers no matter the struggle, I get that. But why is same-sex attraction treated as somehow different within the church.
    Every boy wants to do things with his girlfriend that he knows he shouldn’t, every parent will be tempted to blow up at their kids.

    Sin is a common struggle, and, I suspect, that reparation therapies are often a search for the magic bullet, rather than a daily dying to self.

    Andre, you couldn’t be more wrong in the assumptions you seem to have in your concluding statement.
    All sin is Satanic and we all need to repent and we all need to be made into new creatures. And the reality is you still struggle with sin, in many many areas. I don’t even have to know you to know that. Even Paul said that he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do.

    It’s the Christian life.

    Which is why, I think, it’s important and healthy for guys like Vaughn Roberts to admit his struggle. It helps him (and us) keep specific struggles on the level of the ordinary Christian life, rather than elevating a particular sin to a special sort of temptation, on that requires a special dispensation of permission to fail in.

    Homosexuality, I think, needs to be handled well within the church simply because the culture has made heroes of, and too often the church has made demons of, those caught within it.

    Certainly the openly gay person is anything but a hero, and a struggling believer is hardly a demon, but a person, like me, who happens to struggle with sexual temptation in a different way than I struggle with sexual temptation.

    And, it must be said, the openly gay person who claims to be a faithful Christian, is a clear contradiction in terms, just like an “Christian liar” is a contradiction in terms.

    Anything that can be done to identify that sin within a particular person as just another struggle (albeit a very difficult one, as all sexual struggles are) within the Christian life, is a good thing I think.

    1. Unless we are born again we do not have the capacity to over come our evil heart. For with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we can withstand the evil one for our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of the air.Ephesians 6:12.

      Also Jesus said:”… For from within, out of the heart of men. proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders. thefts, covetousness wickedness, deceit, licentiousness an evil eye, blasphemy,pride, foolishness. All these things comes from within and defiles a man” Mark 7: 21-23.

      Here of course The Lord sums up the heart of unsaved men for He was yet to die on the cross for us to deliver us from the bondage of Satan.

      Please don’t miss understand me for believe me my struggle against the wiles of Satan and his demons multiplied after I became born again as Satan really send his troops to take you down. So we need to put on the full armor of God: Ephesians 6:10-18.
      Also please do not think that I am in judgement of homosexuals or any sinner for like all men I have been the vilest of all. And although I believe in the grace of Our Lord my struggle against the wiles of the adversary continues every day but through the help of The Holy Spirit I can overcome whatever he throws at me.

      Also we know from the teaching of God’s word that He is against homosexual behavior or any sin for that matter so when we pray to Him we really, really need to want to change as He knows the heart of man and if we seek the Lord with all our heart he will by no means turn us away for He loved us before we loved Him.

  15. Ray Ortlund says:

    I am thankful for God’s grace in Vaughan’s faithfulness and in Julian’s interview.

  16. EBG says:

    As a mother of two sons and as a Christian, I am heart broken by Vaughan’s disclosure. It saddens me to think of this godly man privately struggling (for who knows how long).
    Having confessed his sin so publicly, I hope that he experiences a new measure of relief, grace and support within the body of Christ.
    I do believe that same sex attraction has been fully paid for by the shed blood of Christ’s sacrificial and atoning death. Christ is victorious over sin, death and satan. My prayer is that Vaughan would experience, in the words of Charles Wesley, the reality that Christ “breaks the power of CANCELLED sin; He sets the prisoner free!”
    We are standing with you, Vaughan. You are loved and appreciated.

    1. Yes there is no sin so vile that the blood of Jesus couldn’t cover. ” Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. ” Isaiah 1:18

      However Jesus specifically said;” Why do you call me Lord Lord and do not do the things I say” Luke6:46

      And ” Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and drive out demons and perform many miracles ? and I will declare to them, ” I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness ! ” Matthew 7:22-23

      Also once we are born again the Holy spirit will always convict us when we even as much as attempt a “white lie”

      So we can’t just live they way we want to live. Yes God is a God of love, thats why He died a terrible death for us, but He is also a God of justice. We still need to have the fear of God in our hearts so as to please Him.

      God bless.

  17. Scott Blair says:

    Thank you for posting this. Many are asking if he should have come public. I think this is a conversation the church must start having and not from a political agenda. It is currently the black eye of the church if you ask me.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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