This August I will be having a ceremony to dedicate myself to a life of singleness. A ceremony like this is not a common thing. I’ve heard of one or two people who have done something similar, most notably Kate Wharton, who was on the leadership team of New Wine for some years.
As a woman with same-sex attraction, I have a history of running away from God and suppressing the conviction of adhering to biblical holiness that He graciously placed on my heart. In my country, same-sex attractions are neither generally spoken about, nor properly addressed in churches,. Therefore, it’s quite easy to not only to compromise belief, but to avoid accountability for ungodly living and keep under the radar.
I thought I might start by laying my cards on the table. I am someone who experiences same-sex attraction and has done since childhood. I am not only attracted to people of the same sex; I am married, and my wife graciously supports me. My desires are rather carnal than romantic. By which I mean, I have never desired a long-term romantic relationship with a man.
The boy was looking at me like I was crazy. I can still see his face, bemused and laced with disdain.
“Why are you answering? You’re a girl!” It was a primary school assembly and the teacher had just asked a question, specifically directed at the boys, to which I had responded effusively. The boy’s words doused me like a bucket of icy water.
“Oh yes,” I remembered with a start, “I’m a girl.”
That was the first time I realised that despite being female, I’d assumed I was male. And it was not to be the last.
Independent evangelical churches very rarely appoint single men as elders. Personally, I don’t know any other single elders. The reasons for this are cultural, historical and a mis-reading of Bible teaching. The key texts used in the argument against single elders are 1 Timothy 3:2 where the elder is to be the husband of ‘but one wife’ and Titus 1:6 which again talks about the elder being a husband of ‘but one wife’ and ‘whose children believe’.
A few years ago, I visited a church to preach. I vividly remember the small talk with somebody before the service. “I assume you are married with kids,” they said. “No. I’m single actually,” I replied. They were somewhat surprised. “Oh! Have you never found anybody you liked?” And then an altogether different suggestion struck them. “Or have you never found anybody who likes you?”
I was born in Shrewsbury and raised in the somewhat odd border town of Oswestry, where I think it is fair to say I retain some rather fond memories of my early years. In my primary school years I, of course, had not developed any real identity or serious interests that would define who I was.
As a 75-year-old, I’ve learnt that it is unwise to make assumptions about how one’s life is going to pan out. Now looking back, I can say that as youthful libido wains, and by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, one’s same-sex attraction can sublimate into something useful. For me this has been an introduction to the practice of ‘father care’, free of sexual content, but fuelled by spare emotional capital.
Allow me to tell you my story:
A number of years ago, the term “agree to disagree” came into popular parlance in relation to compromise over the biblical interpretation of same-sex practice. When encountering a difference in opinion, could we amicably “agree to disagree” with others and continue to fellowship with them? At the time, it was inconceivable that I would ever have to take a stand if faced with my minister changing stance from holding an orthodox, historical view of scripture on sexual relationships to allowing other views to have equal value. Well, that exact instance happened recently.