It’s been over 25 years but I still distinctly remember what was one of the most challenging conversations of my young adult life. I’d just taken on the role of President of the University Christian Union and one of my friends, a very gifted worship leader, asked to speak with me. It was a deeply emotional time, through tears or anguish he opened up about his life and his struggle with the reality that he was gay, he described how he’d prayed God would change him but that what he felt was undeniable and he didn’t want to live a lie. He didn’t know what to do, or what that meant for his faith, or his serving of God.

What would you say in a situation like this? What should I have said? I guess for many of us we don’t know and simply hope that this conversation never happens. Perhaps that was a reasonable expectation years ago but as the number of people identifying as LGBTQ+ increases these conversations are becoming unavoidable – I live in a city where the latest 2021 census tells us that more than 10% of the population identify as gay or another sexual orientation other than heterosexual. What do God’s people have to say about these issues? Is all we have to offer an embarrassed silence or is there something good that God wants to speak?

In the years since that time I’ve had many conversations with people struggling with their sexuality, trying to make sense of the feelings they are having, and how that squares with Christian faith. I have and continue to wonder how best to approach this issue and the precious people affected by it whom God loves so deeply (John 3:16).

In this blog I want to tentatively offer a few things I think I’ve learnt from that original conversation and things we are continuing to learn in Brighton.

Be willing to listen and speak

I guess one of the most important things I’m learning is that silence is not a good option. Silence leads to at least two dangers – the first is that God has nothing to say about our sexuality and how life is to be led. The second and perhaps bigger danger is that people assume you are the bigoted person they have seen caricatured in the media or unfortunately experienced. One of the big battles is simply entering conversation, being willing to listen and to speak, to be honest about what you believe even as you admit you don’t understand everything, which was certainly something I needed to do in that original conversation when I admitted I had more questions than answers. Authenticity goes a long way.

Be Kind

The Apostle famously defines one of love’s key tenants as being kind (1 Cor 13:4). Another church leader who holds a different view on gay marriage to us said, ‘the confusing thing about your church (which holds to an orthodox view of marriage) is that you are kind’. Sadly one of the biggest weaknesses of those who hold to a biblical view of marriage is a tendency to be harsh instead of kind. However when kindness is present it has had a deep impact on those wrestling with this issue and those around them. Part of being kind is simply pursuing genuine friendship with people regardless of the issues in their lives – loving them as they are, loving as Jesus loves. Who can you show kindness to at the moment?

Be humble

This might be a controversial statement but being gay is not a salvation issue – No one gets closer or further from God because of their sexual orientation. We all have a broken sexuality to some degree, something I thankfully realised in that original conversation. We must not elevate this issue above others, in fact Jesus warns it’s perhaps hardest for the rich to enter heaven (Matt 19:24) cue camel and needle images! Thankfully Jesus also says all things are possible with God. Salvation is only ever a free gift of grace, open to all who will repent and believe. It’s been famously said that evangelism is simply ‘one beggar telling another where to find bread’ – we must remember our own need for mercy. Would people say that the way you speak exhibits humility – maybe you could ask them?

Be hopeful

Sometimes I simply need reminding again that the gospel is good news that is intended to lead us to life in all its fullness (John 10:10). I can sometimes forget this. Glynn Harrison’s book ‘A better story’ is a great resource reminding us we have good news to share, that Jesus offers us a new identity, a gospel of transformation that promises hope and joy. But the path to that is a strange one. We live in a society that tells us that self-denial is almost self-destruction. However Jesus tells us that it is in taking up our cross, in laying down our lives that we discover true life in Him. (Matt 16:24-25). Which leads to a final learning which I find most challenging.

Be an example

In his book ‘The Plausibility Problem’ Ed Shaw (who describes himself as celibate and same-sex attracted) lays the challenge at the feet of all Christians when he asks: ‘where is the example of self-sacrifice and denial from everyone else?’ One of the greatest things any individual Christian can do is to be themselves an example of self-sacrificing love. It is here we get closest to looking like Jesus, it is here we can start to operate like family, and it is here that we might start to discover how to bring good news to our needy neighbours. As I reflect on that conversation, I’m thankful I did some things right however where I went most wrong was the failure to ask: How do I need to change?

Take time to pray, think about the areas above, and ask God how you need to change to become more like Christ.


Tim Vellacott

Tim is Elder and Pastor for preaching and strategy at Holland Road Baptist Church in Brighton.