The cultural shift regarding public acceptance of homosexuality has been simultaneously remarkable and troubling. Like it or not, churches will inevitably be thrust into a position where they have to take a stand on this volatile issue, and lest they be caught unprepared they had best get up to speed on the issue and its many implications for the local church.
One of the best presentations I have ever heard on homosexuality from a Christian perspective was made by Mark Yarhouse[i] at the Association of Youth Ministry Educators gathering in November, 2012. When I received his paper recently entitled “At the intersection of religious and sexual identities: A Christian perspective on homosexuality” I knew it would be a must read. I was not disappointed.
Here are some of the valuable statements made by Yarhouse which I find compelling:
- A Christian understanding of human sexuality is that it reflects who we are as much as or more so than what we do. (p. 2)
- About 2-3% of the U.S. adult population reports a homosexual orientation. (p. 4) [This is strongly supported in recent studies in contrast to higher percentages reported in the past.]
- I think it is important that we recognize that people do not choose to experience same-sex attraction or to have a homosexual orientation as such. They find themselves with attractions toward the same sex. It is unclear why some people experience same-sex attractions or have a homosexual orientation. (p. 6)
- Most people do not experience change of sexual orientation; the reported changes are best thought of as gains along a continuum of attraction rather than categorical changes from homosexual to heterosexual. (pp. 9-10)
- Christians understand that change is also not directly relevant to the moral debate. The Christian sexual ethic is a part of a larger identity that is grounded in being faithful to God’s revealed will and honoring God with our lives. (p. 10)
After you read the article let’s dialogue about it. We will explore the implications for the local church in upcoming posts.
[i] Yarhouse is Professor of Psychology and the Rosemarie Scotti Hughes Endowed Chair of Christian Thought in Mental Health Practice at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he has taught since 1998. He earned his MA in Theological Studies, MA in Clinical Psychology, and PsyD in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College. He is the director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (www.sexualidentityinstitute.org).
About Ron Marrs
Ron Marrs is presently a Professor of Youth and Pastoral Ministry and Chairman of the Center for Ministry and Leadership at Western Seminary, Portland, OR. Ron is the leader of the Portland Youth Workers Network. He served at Westwood Baptist Church, a Converge church, for 24.5 years primarily as the youth pastor and then as executive/worship pastor. He has been married to Becky for 35 years, has three children and three grandsons. He is an elder at Hinson Baptist Church. He recently completed doctoral research in which he interviewed 26 people about their rookie youth pastor experiences along with 24 of their supervisors.