In a tremendously brave move Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, and a prominent leader amongst English evangelicals has announced that he experiences same-sex attraction and yet he remains celibate since this is the clear teaching of Scripture.

It’s helpful for background to understand that in the Church of England, in which Vaughan is an ordained minister, we have had increasing interventions by theological liberals over this issue, advocating for the acceptance of homosexuality in general and the blessing of same-sex relationships. Vaughan’s statement and interview ought to be read not least as a contribution to that debate.

Vaughan has issued the following press release,

In the preface to a new edition of my book “Battles Christians Face”, which features eights areas of struggle, including homosexuality, I write that, to a greater or lesser degree, I face them all myself. Close family and friends have known for a considerable time that I experience same sex attraction. None of the issues in the book define me. As a single man I am celibate, because I believe the Bible teaches that the right context for sex is only in marriage between a man and a woman.

My motivation for writing the preface and answering the questions in the interview in “Evangelicals Now” is pastoral. I believe there is value in a greater openness to talk about these issues in evangelical churches. I hope to encourage those who experience same sex attraction and yet believe that fulness of life is to be found in Christ and holding to his teaching. Singleness can be challenging at times, but I have many good friends, and a loving family, and I thank God for the blessings and opportunities it offers.

As indicated in the release, there is a full interview with Vaughan in the October 2012 edition of Evanglicals Now, reproduced at the end of this article. In it, Vaughan makes a number of very helpful observations,

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.

There’s plenty more very helpful material in the interview which is (I assume not coincidentally) conducted by Julian Hardyman, Senior Pastor of Eden Baptist Church where Roy Clements used to minister.

Vaughan’s interview, indeed the whole co-ordination of this release, is evidence of a continuing godly maturing not just in his own life but amongst evangelicals in general as they come to a more balanced and helpful position on this whole question. Insistence upon a God-given “cure” (something that, as Vaughan observes, the Scriptures never promise) has rightly been increasingly sidelined (but not rejected) in favour of the Biblical response of godly contentment in and through our struggles.  Which is the model of a godly response to any of our temptations.

Well done Vaughan. Christian pastoral leadership at it’s best. Do keep him, and indeed all who struggle in this way, in your prayers.

Comments

comments

19 comments on “Vaughan Roberts, “Same-Sex Attraction – A Battle I Face” – a model of a godly response

    • thanks for your comment, tony. I read your piece and I think you’ve understood perfectly what Vaughan was trying to achieve. Let me commend you on being fair to him, listening to what he’s said, and also correctly outlining the main differences in approach between yourself and him.

      FWIW, I think your post is helpful to help others understand what is heard by those on the other side of the table on this matter.

  1. He acknowledges it is a sin and is dealing with it the following is from the opening post.

    [quote]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.[/quote]

    Just one of many sins in this world and every Believer has their own specific weaknesses.

    I can’t wait to get to Heaven because I know Sin will not follow us there and we will finally be free.

    Until then …

    Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus going on before.
    Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
    Forward into battle see His banners go!

    Refrain:
    Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus going on before.

    At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
    On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
    Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
    Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

    Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
    Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
    We are not divided, all one body we,
    One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

    Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
    But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
    Gates of hell can never ’gainst that church prevail;
    We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

  2. Same-sex attraction IS NOT A BATTLE! How can something so innate and beautiful be a struggle? The only 'Battle' is trying to live up to man-made rules about who you ought to be in response to a nonsensical book stemming from the DARK AGES!
    It is full time people get beyond this rubbish about 'struggling with homosexuality' and how one needs to live in accordance to the precept of the bible. TO HELL WITH RELIGION!

  3. The Bible, or should I say God, who inspired it, feels the same way about religion as you do " To hell with religion". Instead he offers you a relationship with Himself, and loves you enough to tell you the truth about your condition (and mine) We do not have fellowship with God because of that condition and does he want to punish us? No, he does not. He wants us to recieve His free gift of salvation simply by admitting who we are ,Rebellious sinners meaning we want to be our own god and don't want to be accountable to Him and acknowledge His Son for who He is, the one who lived a perfect, sinless live for us and took the punishment that we deserve upon Himself in our place and if we just place our faith in Him we are forgiven, are given a new heart and a new start and eternal life in heaven. You will not want to sin. You will want to please your Heavenly Father who gave you life in the first place and gives you every beat that your heart beats. So regardless of what your doing or have done, same sex , out of marriage sex, stealing , lying , killing , we all fall short of God's standard, but Jesus doesn't . Place your faith in Him brother and join us in fellowship with God.

  4. Ralph Click Please speak for yourself, because I am not a 'sinner:' no one is a sinner. 'Sinner' is just a religious TRICK term used to abuse others while giving foolish religious people a false sense of worthiness. I am a rational and intelligent person. Therefore, what I care about is 'Right and Wrong.'
    Homosexuality is no more a 'condition' than Heterosexuality, so I am hoping your use of 'condition' is not in the negative, because being gay or heterosexual does not deprive a man from being a compassionate and just citizen.
    Christians tend to make the case that when they are in 'sin' they are in darkness, but as a Christian, they are in the light. Well, as someone who was raised in a Christian home and became a Christian…I can say that is a lie, because my eyes were not opened until I strip myself from all the lies of the Christian faith. Now when I read comments like yours I see how silly I once was: I can't believe all those years I actually believed me pointing to a Bible written by poorly educated men and talking for a non-existent God were acts of a rational mind. I was clearly insane, because the Bible stories are ridiculous and the God of the Bible is no more real than the God of the Avesta, Vedas , Koran etc.
    Ralph, if your God/Jesus was real you would not have a need to speak for them, they would speak for themselves, and to make the case that Christianity is not a religion is unsupported: I am ashamed to say I used to make the same assertion.

  5. Aje Eja Aje Eja Vaughan Roberts once described liberal theology as parasitical. Reading your misguided words I can see what he means. Modern churches which have chosen to move further and further away from the original truth of the gospels in order to accommodate contemporary, changing, subjective values, misguidedly believing that Christianity will then become more appealing to 21st century Western cultures, have, ironically, badly damaged the image of the church and have actually stripped many people of their faith. True Christians do not come to Christ in order to celebrate their immunity to sin (which you sadly proclaim about yourself), but to come to terms with the opposite. I suspect that you might well be a victim of those liberal 'Pied Pipers'.

  6. Peter Charnley There is nothing 'misguided' about my comment. I am not a product of liberal theology and I will add that Christians who consider themselves 'liberal' and want to make the case that God is loving and caring, are actually deviating from true Christianity. True Christianity which you have hinted, is really an EVIL institution put in-place to manipulate and to control the lives of human beings.
    The reason why Christianity has to compromise its fundamentalism is because of secularism. Had it not been for such shifts, Christianity would be rightly DEAD, because intelligent people have now realised that the Bible is not 100% literal. So you should be happy for liberal Christians, because they are the ones keeping your traditional Christianity in existence.
    I will end by repeating, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SIN: what rational intelligent people concerned themselves with are Right and Wrong!

  7. Ralph Click A relationship with God is no different from a relationship with Santa Claus: in the end you are talking to yourself and using coincidental experiences to make the claim that God is communicating with you.
    If a person wants to pray, meditate, chant, talk to the sky or to a tree…I have no issue with that. I however have issues when such persons want to impose their beliefs on others.

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