Is There Even A 'Right' Way To React When Your Dad Tells You He's Gay?
The best thing to do when someone comes out as gay is support them, but under some circumstances, that's not as simple as it sounds. When two women who had been through a similarly isolating experience found each other, they decided to start something pretty cool to help everyone.
The Gay Dad Project
Coming out of the wilderness: by Paul Fairbanks
It was a warm Sunday morning in June 1963. It was no ordinary Sunday morning; it was Pentecost Sunday—and also the day that I was born. I weighed in at a little over 5lb and life began for me on planet earth.
I was raised by the most caring, supportive parents, who encouraged me to go to Sunday School from a very early age. I wouldn’t describe my parents as born-again fundamentalist people. They were religious in that they faithfully attended the local Methodist Church for special occasions and always taught me to pray before going to sleep at night. But they never really spoke about having a real or personal relationship with God.
Without question, my childhood was a very happy one and even though I had no brothers or sisters I had plenty of friends around me in the home on a regular basis.
When I was about 10, we had a mission at our local Methodist Church. It was then that I realised I needed to receive Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour. Since that day in 1973, I have constantly followed the Lord and tried to live my life in a way that I believe would be pleasing to him. But I was sure I had failed over the years in many ways.
When I was about 13 years of age, attending an all-boys High School, just as other boys of my age began to look at and make comments about girls, I found myself being attracted to other boys. At first I thought it was probably just a phase I was going through because of being in an all male environment. But I felt very scared as I’d always been told, both in school and in Church, that people who were gay were not normal: they were sick, they were feminine and they were most certainly ridiculed by a large sector of society. I thought to myself, "Well Paul, you are not feminine so it must just be a phase you are going through." At the same time, I had opportunity to meet with girls at Church, and there were girls I associated with after school with other male friends. Yet still I felt attracted to boys.
Over the next few years, all erotic thoughts that came into my mind were towards the same sex. I can remember how often I tried to think about a pretty girl and attempted to work up erotic feelings, but none came. I prayed and asked God to make me normal, but the thoughts never changed. If I dreamed about anything remotely sexual, it always involved boys, not girls.
At 16 years old, I had another great experience with God. We had a new minister at our Church who had been on a Methodist retreat where he had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had such a desire for the things of God and he certainly had something I longed for.
On Wednesday evenings a new meeting was started which involved Praise and Worship, which was new to our traditional Methodist Church. There was also powerful preaching of the Word. After a few weeks I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It was a marvellous experience and I "knew" that now God would give me "victory" over my gay feelings. A few months later I felt God call me to preach the Word and then just after my 17th birthday, I began ministering with the Methodist Church on a trial basis. I loved God with all my heart. I wanted to serve him with all my heart. "Surely God will deliver me," I told myself.
For the next few months after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit I pushed all gay desires out of my mind. If they surfaced I would swiftly "take authority over them" and command them to leave. At this time I did get partial victory, but the desires would reappear and at times the struggle would become almost unbearable.
The first time I had a so-called intimate experience with a man was when I was 17 years old. A friend from Church started asking me what I thought about gay people? My reply was negative of course and I told him that I believed it would be outside God’s will for anyone to engage in "those sorts of acts". He agreed, but then about half an hour later we enjoyed our first intimate encounter. At the time it seemed wonderful. It felt so completely natural. But afterwards, the inevitable sense of guilt crept in and I felt devastated. I earnestly prayed for forgiveness, promising God that I would never do such an evil thing again.
Over the next two years, in my weak moments, I had several further encounters with this guy. Whilst in the eyes of others, I was living a life of victory, in reality I was living in defeat. My minister thought I was wonderful and so did most of the Church. But I thought, "If only they knew what was really going on in my life!" I prayed constantly, I fasted, I sought God, and I "believed" for the victory, all to no avail.
Then at 19 years of age, a girl in the Church took a liking to me, and she started to show a lot of interest. My friend, with whom I’d had many intimate encounters by this time, had moved to college, so I thought that now he had gone I could really get the victory. I started dating this girl and we became very close. When the feelings of same-sex attraction came, I would rebuke them and concentrate on thinking about her. I now know that this was so wrong. But for awhile I seemed to be doing better and felt that possibly I was making some progress. Of course as time went on everyone in the Church expected us to get married. I began to believe that I would be making a real commitment to God in turning away from homosexuality, if I married her. So in 1986 I proposed to my girlfriend and she immediately accepted me. I was so pleased! I felt I had arrived at the place of victory and everything would now be all right.
During our engagement I felt as proud as a peacock. God had given me a wonderful woman to be my wife. I was going to be married and gay thoughts would fade away, as I would be totally engrossed with my new wife. But we didn’t even get to the altar before I had a fall. I met a guy through a fellowship I’d preached in; after the meeting we talked and found we had a few things in common. Both he and his girlfriend became friends with me and my fiancée. We had some great times together. But then I began to get the impression that he was acting rather more than a normal friend to me. He wanted to see me without his girlfriend, making excuses to talk to me about spiritual things. So I am sorry to have to say that nine months before my marriage I fell again. But this time it was not just teenage lust. This time, I felt for the first time in my life that I had fallen in love. He felt the same. It was bliss. But then the guilt came. Again we both agreed this was wrong. We felt we had to change. After all, how could we be together as Christians who say we love God? I said at one point that I must call off my wedding. He insisted that I should not; this was our only hope of victory! After a 6 month on-and-off relationship I finally agreed I would pursue my marriage. We told ourselves that this relationship was an obstacle that had been put there by the devil.
My wife and I had a wonderful wedding day and a terrific honeymoon. Afterwards, life returned to normal. At first, married life was something so new and different, that I had little time to think of my homosexuality. On the odd occasion when those old feelings or attractions appeared, I would just push them away. So overall, married life was good for the first two years. Moreover, I was heavily involved in Ministry, pioneering a new Church and working full time in a Sales job. God was blessing me as he always had and I felt that finally I was getting sorted.
But this situation was to be short lived. After only a couple of years, my desires for same-sex intimacy became so intense, I reached the point where the only way I could be intimate with my wife was to imagine I was with a guy. I felt so guilty. I lost all hope and got very depressed.
I kept asking God what was going on, but nothing changed. Then after three years of marriage my wife left me! This was not because I was gay (because she was not aware of the fact). Perhaps she just didn’t feel the love she needed from me. I don’t blame her one bit. But I was still surprised and totally devastated. I still loved her even though I was gay.
After my marriage broke up, I became very depressed. I couldn’t believe I’d got divorced! I had preached about it, but I never thought it would happen to me. I had also preached against homosexuality, but that did happen to me! Then a few months later I met a guy called Anthony. He was the same age as me and had also gone through a divorce. We just became friends at first, then after a few weeks we realised we loved each other and began a serious relationship.
Sixteen years have passed and I am still with Anthony. He has been so faithful to me through all that time. Because for fourteen of those years I suffered a wilderness experience. I was still terribly ambivalent, believing that homosexuality was wrong, yet wanting to be with Anthony. I tried to get out of our relationship many times. I prayed God would destroy it. I went to work in another part of the country on several occasions to try and break away. I fasted and prayed again and again. I cried myself to sleep on countless occasions and began suffering very major depression. In 2004 I almost had a complete breakdown. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even take the dog for a walk. I was on medication from the doctor. And I felt that God had left me—that he could never use me again because I was gay. I felt totally defeated; absolutely finished!
Then in this time of darkness, one day I went surfing on the internet and came across Courage. At first I doubted if what I was reading could ever be what God intended or accepted. But as I read the testimonies of people struggling with same sex attraction like myself, I started to wonder if God could be at work in this ministry? Perhaps the problem was with me—listening too much to the traditional views of society and the Church, rather than reading, studying and listening for myself to what God was really saying to people in my situation. Maybe that was the real problem? I spoke to Jeremy at length on many occasions. I am sure I can’t have been the easiest person he had ever ministered to. I was so insecure—living in fear of hell, living in fear that I was beyond the point of forgiveness. But after months of contact with Courage, I began to accept myself as the person that God had created. I finally started to come out of the dark wilderness. The depression began to lift, and I looked at things in a more rational way. Once again I could see hope. Then reality dawned and I started to experience victory in my life again—this time, the victory of God’s love over my entrenched fears.
For the next two years I had a closer relationship with God than I had ever experienced during the previous fourteen years. I started to understand afresh his grace, his love, his compassion and all his marvellous attributes. I became much more active in my Church, leading worship and preaching the Word on a more regular basis.
God is good. He is not the kind of God that I had created in my mind or imbibed from the teaching of the Church—always there to bash me and condemn me whenever I messed up—but he is a God of infinite love and peace. To be sure, he is a God who hates sin but, because I love him so much that I want to please him, I began to realise that if I fall into sin, he is always there to come alongside me, lift me up and forgive me.
In April 2007, a member of my Church found out about my same-sex attractions and my relationship with Anthony and he spoke to the Church leadership. This caused a huge problem. From that day to this I’ve not been allowed to set foot in the Church again. I was part of an Assembly of God Church which is very hostile to gay people (to say the least). I have tried to explain my situation to the leadership and I’ve told my story to everyone I’ve met from the church, but no one will listen.
If this had happened in 2004, I could well have become one of the statistics of gay Christians who have taken their life because they could not cope with the Church’s rejection. But thank God that in 2007 I was back in a strong and victorious position in Christ. 2007 was a difficult year, with losing my Church, but I thank God that, as Ephesians 3:20 says, "My God will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory".
God has met with me during this past year (2007) and I am pleased that I can write this testimony and tell the story of the place where God found me and how he brought me to the place of peace where I am now. Today, my relationship with Anthony is the best it has ever been—in fact it just gets better and better every day. Thanks be to God for providing me with such a wonderful, faithful partner and companion.
Having received so much encouragement through the testimonies of others, which I found on the Courage website, I wanted to write mine in the hope that my story can also encourage others.
I just want to say to all of you people who are struggling out there:
"Never give up! God is there to lead you forward; he loves us all!"
After coming out of the wilderness
(Paul Fairbanks: Update received 29th March 2012)
How great is our God? That is the thought that comes to the forefront when I think of where I have come from.
When I finally came out of the wilderness I saw God in a new light. It was like walking through the countryside experiencing the heat of a warm summer day. A rain shower has just fallen and the precipitation is evaporating in that sultry heat.
Everything seems perfect and glorious. I realised for the first time that life was for enjoyment not for turmoil.
I had been led to believe that we as Christians must almost hate the world and just strive for that eternal place called heaven!! Many preachers including myself had said, “We must not be engaged in the things of the world but concentrate on the things in heavenly places”.
Yes, God desires for us to look to him but I now understand that he has given us a fantastic wonderful world for our enjoyment. Everything about God is good. His personality, his kindness, his love, his compassion, the list goes on and on and on. He gave us a wonderful world to enjoy - and I have seen that we do indeed have a beautiful world to live in. Anthony and I were in Montenegro last year and oh the scenery was totally breathtaking. God is good.
I now look at everything in a new light. I feel that my eyes have been opened to all the glory of God, since understanding the love of God in a more personal way. We were created to worship him not to be bound by him!!
Over the past four years since I first published my testimony, my relationship with God and my understanding has gone from strength to strength. My background is Charismatic/Pentecostal which I am sure you all must agree must be possibly the worst combination for any gay Christian. But I have learned from this affliction that whatever the people may say, God will always have the final word. When the Church turned against me and asked me to leave because of my sexuality, God was there. When I felt lonely and deserted, God was there.
I then started to understand the real meaning of grace. God showed me that he loved me in spite of who I was. He paid the price for all sins on calvary, and made a way that whoever believes in him will have life and life in abundance.
I know that God wants to bless me. I now have no doubts at all. I finally understand grace. I understand forgiveness and most of all I understand unconditional love.
Courage has been a major influence in my life. Jeremy is a gift from God. If it wasn’t for him I may have become one of the statistics of a Gay Christian ending their life!!
Jeremy was there at the time of my greatest need and I am confident that God has a great reward laid up in heaven for him. Amen
I have been in my relationship with Anthony now for 20 years. “Who says gay relationships don’t work?” I am totally committed to him and him to me and we intend to spend the rest of our lives together. (What a testimony!)
Remember, all you out their struggling with your sexuality. God loves you the way you are. Don’t beat yourself up like I did and live for years in condemnation. God wants you to be free and free indeed.
On Being Gay: by Tim Evans
Tim Evans, author of this article (real name withheld, to protect his family), was formerly the pastor of a flourishing evangelical charismatic community church. He was also married with a young family. When inner conflicts with his feelings of same-sex attraction not acted upon) became too much, he left the ministry under pressure from his church eldership. Tim’s words eloquently express the dilemmas for so many gay Christians who want to be true to their faith, and live their lives in a way that is honouring to their Lord, yet who lack the Christian ethical thinking and role models to work out the way forwards, especially when it comes to considering a same-sex partnership. They also wonder whether, as a Christian, they can legitimately call themselves "gay".
For some twenty-five years I have tried to avoid using this loaded and provocative word, ‘gay’. Now, as I write a piece entitled "On Being Gay", I find that in doing this I am choosing a term that has become to me a symbol of light and life. It is perhaps strange to find myself using the word gay (coined by secular society to describe homosexual people) to mean a symbol of life, when the word is so divisive within the church. If one needs to describe sexual orientation, you might ask, why not use the phrase, ‘same-sex attracted’, or even, ‘with a homosexual orientation’, as some do. For me, using the word gay is a way of confronting the reality—that accepting my sexual orientation has meant accepting life.
"Gay: a homosexual person, esp. a male"
That is me. Well it is and it isn’t. It’s not all of me. It’s just that it does say something about me. It’s not about wearing a badge or a T-shirt, or frequenting certain kinds of bar or attending a certain type of club. But I desperately want to pursue a value that I hear Jesus—who is for me my God, my Saviour, my Teacher and my Friend—call out loudly to society, "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1) I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to say that—this is me, all of me, nothing hidden. Yet my church has taught me, my friends and colleagues have taught me, my brothers and sisters, my parents and grandparents have taught me . . .
"Do not admit to yourself or the world who you are, in terms of your sexual orientation. Hide it, kill it, eradicate it, heal it, deliver it, break it, magic it away, deny it, marry it to a woman, heterosexually sexualise it away, therapy it, counsel it but whatever you do don’t stand up one day and say "I am gay". Because when you do, on that day, you will have finally given in to it and it will surely kill you. You will die a slow, horrible and painful death, a death of friendships, of acceptance, of spirituality and ultimately you gamble with your eternal future."
In my agreement with my church, I did all that is suggested above. Above all else I sought to deny it. "NO—I am not gay. I am not." In latter years I accepted that I was "struggling with same-sex attraction". Oh, I was struggling all right. Struggling to fix my eyes on anything but my sexuality. I fixed my eyes on God, prayed, fasted, studied and praised. I fixed my eyes on my wife and then my children. I fixed my eyes on work and I fixed my eyes on my safe straight friends. But the more I fixed my eyes on anything but my true self, the more hidden and dark my sexuality became. It grew inside me like a monster, starved of light, starved of holy and Godly influence; it had no opportunity to grow up, no opportunity to be shaped into a Godly and beautiful part of me. It was told that it was evil and so it behaved.
I have no pride in the fact that there came a period when my sexuality manifested itself in dirty and self-destructive patterns that were every bit the gutter that the church had told me it was. But to accept my sexuality, as it is, was a reality too stark and terrible to contemplate. Despite my best efforts, this evil had finally eaten its way out of my hidden compartments and was now consuming me. When the evil becomes you, you want with all your heart to do the one thing that seems right and just—to kill the evil. And for me that meant killing myself. That is what I wanted to do.
What was the alternative? The church left me in no doubt that if I were to choose to embrace my sexuality then I must leave behind all that I have learned of God’s love, grace and justice.
However, through the love, patience and kindness of my few remaining friends and closest family, many of whom have struggled with my journey but affirmed their desire for me to live, I began to choose something wholly different. Something that would lead not to self destruction, but to life.
I chose to believe that God wanted to nurture my sexuality. To give me what I was denied: the chance to grow up. The chance to give and receive the love and affection that was taken from me. To give myself permission to discover that whilst God does indeed abhor adultery, sexual immorality and all other forms of the destruction of personhood, God honours love. He loves commitment, faithfulness, patience, kindness and affection, devotion and romance, beauty and, when it honours all of those things, sex.
I want to grow up and allow myself to be an emotionally and sexually adult man. With integrity and nothing hidden. Wholly me. Honouring God and honouring who he has made me.
Does all of this mean I want to go hunting for lascivious same sex experiences? No. Just as in the past as I have advocated that young couples who are in the first throes of love (and, yes, even lust), must create a safety net for themselves to protect their physical, emotional and spiritual health, so must any gay man. Practising positive fidelity remains part of my moral view of the world. There will always be some for whom a life partnership does not become a part of their life journey. For many, however, romance and relationship will, if they embrace their sexuality, become a part of their journey through life.
To those who regard my views as heresy and believe me to have a total disregard of what, as they understand it, St Paul says about homosexuality, may I draw your attention to Eugene Peterson’s attempt to make sense of Paul’s views in modern language. When he translates Paul’s treatise against "homosexual offenders" in 1 Cor. 6. The Message says, "Do you not realise this is not the way to live? Unjust people who do not care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom."
This is not the place to discuss what this means in terms of salvation. My point is that Paul is talking about the abuse of sex and relationships. I do not believe that a relationship covenanted to love and faithfulness is abusive, merely on the grounds that it is a homosexually physical one. Of course, like all relationships, some will not maintain that covenant. But as a vicar once said to me, "There are many heterosexual marriages that fail to live up to that standard."
Again Peterson offers a possible insight in Romans 1:25-27 with the same tender but carefully theologised wording: "Refusing to know God they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love."
Reading these renditions and then re-reading the traditional texts without the lens of prejudice, the point is as plain as day. Lust and abuse is wrong and destructive, but love—now that is a different matter.
At this point we must face the historical prejudice of our society. The fact is, there does appear to be a created order for sexual relationships. When this natural order is strayed from, as apparently in homosexual intimacy, this is perceived as ‘unnatural’ in many people’s minds. Undoubtedly there is an order in God’s creation because our society is wholly dependent on men and women being joined as one flesh in order to create new flesh. It is perhaps fortunate that fewer than one in ten people are understood to be gay or lesbian. Male and female union for procreation has to be what God intended. But most people have rediscovered that God intended more.
Once again we have reached a point in society where we have moved beyond seeing sexual union as solely being about procreation. Most Christians now accept that sex can be about pleasure too. In fact the church already has many books on the subject and offers seminars on sex inside of marriage. Sex that does not create. Sex with condoms or other contraceptives. Oral sex. Masturbatory sex. None of these are procreative or part of God’s creative order for human sustainability. Yet for the most part we have accepted them. We do not say that mature women who have passed their menopause must now abstain from sex or that men who have had vasectomies should now abstain from sex because they can no longer create. We accept that God has given sex both as a creative order and as an intimate expression of committed love. Is it not then wholly consistent to argue that sex for same-sex couples can also be an intimate expression of committed love?
We should be careful here to define this love. I think the Bible is consistent—that love is something that is freely given and freely received. Love cannot be coerced, paid for or taken from one who is vulnerable or at risk. Love is never a perversion of positions of power or trust. Love is always a sharing of equality and maturity.
But what if I am wrong? What if sex in loving committed same sex relationships is wrong? Well the truth, I believe, is this: it can only be wrong for those who consider it wrong—because for many nowadays it is not believed to be wrong. Rather, for some, it is a recognition that homosexuality is an inalterable fact of their sexual make-up. And as such, a loving, committed and (if desired) sexual union—is a part of their adult life.
Some will consider this view of same-sex intimacy and love erroneous. And if, with integrity and due consideration, your view remains that same-sex union is ‘unclean’, then perhaps you will consider this:
"Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they say or do something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
For instance, a person who has been around a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat. God after all invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? . . . eventually we are all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgement facing God . . . These remember are persons for whom Christ died. Don’t you dare let a piece of God blessed food become an occasion of soul poisoning."
Romans 14:1-4 & 11; 15-16 (The Message)
This paraphrase ends with a powerful challenge. As the church, I believe we have soul poisoned hundreds and thousands of gay men and women. We have poisoned them against a moral pathway through their sexuality, against the church and for some against God. For this I feel enormous shame and sorrow.
What if we were to teach gay men and women that God could bless them and bless their love for one another? What if we were to teach them to seek guidance in ‘growing up sexually’ and learn from others how to conduct themselves in relationships, just as we would encourage heterosexual couples to do? What if we were to seek blessing for them, and hope for them that they would seek blessing?
This, for me, is the crux of it all. Can we really say that we love and accept our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction, if we are not truly willing to seek God’s blessing on them as gay men and women? If we call them blessed, then we are willing to allow God and His Word to shape their lives, their fidelity and their morality. If we call them cursed then we will forever encourage hypocrisy, a religious duplicity or an abandonment of God altogether.
Are you willing to say that Gay is OK? Because if you are, this brings a significant challenge into the frame; If you can say that Gay is OK, then for the sake of those who need the support and love of the Body of Christ, will you go a step further? Will you call gay people—blessed?
Paul says, "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." (Romans 14:17,18 NIV)
Being Gay and in a same-sex partnership is without doubt controversial and difficult. But I would like to see these relationships accepted and blessed, rather than people driven to hide, and live hypocritical lives that fall a long way short of the glory of God. But to do that, more people will need to declare publicly that to be Gay is to be blessed.
For this reason, I shall say, "I am Gay", although I am a long way off wanting to make this a crusade. I want to be blessed and I want my sexuality to be a matter of my faith, a matter that is wholly under God’s blessing, because with all my heart I do not want any part of my life to be out of step with the blessing of God. I desire with passion to live my life for God. It is not good enough for me to settle for a life that has an unholy part. I want to commit all that I am to him, so that he can make me holy.
"God, I am Gay. I humbly ask for your blessing." Amen
Tim Evans/September 2008
Published by Courage with permission of the author