Two Surveys: One for LGBTQ Persons Who Came Out to a Christian Parent; the other for Christian Parents Whose Loved One Came Out as LGBTQ

At the institute I direct (Sexual & Gender Identity Institute), we recognize that this is a very stressful time for us as a country and the world community as a whole. During this time, we feel it is important to continue with research that is important for our families and loved ones as it helps us to become closer and understand each other better. We have two surveys currently open.

By participating in this research, you help us better understand the experiences of LGBTQ+ persons who at one time came out to a Christian parent(s), or you help us understand the experiences of Christian parents who had a loved one come out to them as LGBTQ+.

In the first study, we are specifically investigating the quality of relationship with their parents before, during and after coming out.

If you decide to participate in this anonymous survey of LGBTQ+ persons who came out to a Christian parent(s), then please follow this link to the survey to review the informed consent form and then complete the survey, which should take about 20-30 minutes.

The second study we are conducting is for Christian parents who had a loved one come out to them as LGBTQ+. In this study, we will specifically investigate the quality of relationship with their LGBTQ+ loved one before, during and after coming out.

If you decide to participate in this anonymous survey, then please follow this link to the survey to review the informed consent form and then complete the survey, which should take about 20-30 minutes.

Forthcoming Book

Brazos coverAs we are finalizing a few details in our book, Emerging Gender Identities, we’ve received a couple of initial endorsements. Thought I’d pass them along. Here is one from Jenell Paris:

Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky unpack one of today’s pressing issues: transgender and emerging gender identities. As Christian psychologists, they integrate Christian insight with accurate scientific knowledge, offering well-informed and up-to-date understandings of a rapidly changing dimension of society. Current political and cultural discourse offers little room for critical engagement, and Yarhouse and Sadusky courageously offer wisdom and advice. They challenge Christians to move beyond getting theology right, even asserting that correct theological knowledge doesn’t always translate into knowing how to minister to persons with nonnormative gender identities. With many examples, they encourage Christians to accompany others, not simply instruct or admonish them from a distance. They invite the reader to renew their encounter with a merciful God, as part of developing ministry that incarnates God’s love. This book will be a gift to pastors, youth pastors, parents, and friends of transgender and gender expansive individuals. I came away with my faith strengthened, more certain that I can entrust my loved ones to Christ and that I can continue to question, learn, and wonder about transgender and gender expansiveness. My only disappointment is that I’ve only read the book once, so far!    – Jenell Paris, professor of sociology and anthropology, Messiah College

Here is another endorsement from Stanton Jones: 

We are faced with a dizzying ongoing evolution in cultural understanding of and recommended responses to a kaleidoscope of emerging gender identities. This book offers richly informed and thoughtful Christian analysis of these phenomena, along with compassionate and challenging recommendations for ministry. Yarhouse and Sadusky have the breadth of knowledge and experience to challenge readers to move toward more theologically grounded and pragmatically effective engagement. – Stanton L. Jones, provost and professor emeritus, Wheaton College; coauthor of the God’s Design for Sex family sex-education book series

Rech Inaugural Address

Just before our Spring Break, I delivered the inaugural address for the Dr. Arthur P. Rech and Mrs. Jean May Rech endowed chair. The video has just been made available, which you can view below. The title of the talk is “Sexual Identity, Gender Identity, and Christian Faith: Or, On Being an Evangelical Christian in LGBTQ+ Studies.”

COVID-19 and Our Overseas Adventure

IMG_4599We are back in the U.S. after quite a surreal experience overseas. We departed the U.S. for the Czech Republic on March 5, which was our college’s spring break, and we had two conferences on our schedule. The first was an all-day conference on applied integration on Saturday, March 7. This was for an association of Christians interested in the dialogue between the fields of psychology and theology. We then had most of Sunday off. The second conference started with a meet-and-greet on Sunday night and then was held Monday through Wednesday afternoon, March 9-11.  This was for Christian mental health professionals from Eastern European countries. In any case, this conference also went well, but we were beginning to hear about the corona virus (COVID-19) and some of the concerns about how many conditions were worsening, particularly in Italy.

By the time the conference ended on March 11, some flights appeared to be consolidating due to a decrease in air travel that I assume necessitated some quick maneuvering by the airlines. We had originally set aside a couple of days for site-seeing with the intention of returning on March 14.

So we weren’t sure what to make of the news reports. Different reports seemed to be saying different things. We were alerted on March 12, however, that new measures were being taken and that we needed to return to the U.S. by March 13 at midnight. There was some confusion surrounding early reports, as it was unclear whether we’d be stuck where we were for 30 days if we didn’t return by that date/time. It turned out as U.S. citizens we could return later, but we were strongly encouraged to make changes to our flights.

The problem with making changes to our flights was that there appeared to be no way to do that. We tried by phone multiple times for as little as 1 hour and as much as 90 minutes at a time (on hold). Our call was dropped. We tried online, but pages either weren’t loading or they didn’t have the links they ordinarily would have to make flight changes. It was bizarre. There was no way to change flights. Some of our group went to the airport to change their flights with a real person only to find that they were redirected (by real people) to change flights by phone or internet; they were not going to assist with flight changes at the airport. It was surreal.

We ended up actually trying to enjoy the rest of our stay, content that we had taken every step we could take to change our flights but that we were blocked at every turn. Then, when we were checking in (during that 24-hour window before a flight takes off), which was the morning of March 13, we were given the option of changing our flight for the first time. All of the flights would put us on a waitlist with the exception of one, which had some open seats, which we all quickly snatched up. So we left later that same day for the airport and arrived home later that same night.

planeThat last morning before we departed for the airport was really strange. Prague is normally packed with tourists. This time as we walked around the city, it was just the opposite. Very few people were taking in the sites. Museums had closed, as had other popular tourist sites. Some shops were open with very friendly staff hoping we would stop in and buy a souvenir.

Once we were back in the U.S., we began a 2-week self-isolation per directions from the CDC and the college. The college I work for extended spring break to provide students time to leave campus and faculty members time to move their courses online, so I’ve spent this week in online trainings and just flipping my classes, as well as reaching out to students and my research team to help them adjust to the present circumstances.

The college has done an exception job prepping faculty members, in my opinion. Many of my colleagues have not taught online, so there is a bit of a learning curve.

This is obviously just a small event in a much larger story of this pandemic. This is just a  very challenging time for everyone, and there is a fair amount of free-floating anxiety in the face of uncertainty. This is to be expected. At the same time, we believe that God is providing for us each day, and that there is great encouragement to be found in reflecting in gratitude on God’s many provisions for us. For me, God’s provision included, among other things, the opportunity to be a part of these two conferences, as well as the timely departure and return to the U.S. with my colleagues, so that we could travel home together.

Another provision, of course, is the very technology that enables us to stay connected for the remainder of the semester, so we turn our attention to the work that is in front of us that enables us to do just that.

Thoughts on the “Slippery Slope”

imagesOne of the concerns I often hear about a celibacy (or side b) position and conferences like Revoice is that the position itself can be a “slippery slope” toward a doctrinal shift that commends same-sex sexual behavior as morally permissible (or side a).

What is interesting about this concern is that it presupposes that there is a position that adequately “protects” a person from the possibility that their view of what is morally permissible might change.

When I started my career twenty years ago an ex-gay (or side x) ministry model was much more prominent and had a larger share of the ministry space in the evangelical Christian community. That has changed.

There were many factors that led to a diminished ex-gay narrative. Although I am unable to go into too many details here (we discuss some of the reasons in the book Costly Obedience, if you are interested), some of those factors had to do with those who had been ex-gay sharing that their own experience was that the ministry model did not appear to deliver on what was promised: namely, for some individuals (or many or most, depending on who weighs in on this), their same-sex sexuality remained a part of their lives in ways that could not be reconciled with assumptions surrounding that it means to be ex-gay (or, more pointedly, could not be reconciled with the claim that they were straight).

Some individuals came to identify as ex-ex-gay. Again, without going into specific stories, a quick search with your “Google machine” should provide a few examples. Some individuals previously identified as gay. They later held a prominent place in ministry circles as ex-gay. But, in the cases I am thinking of, that was not a position they could occupy indefinitely. As they came to acknowledge their enduring same-sex attractions, some would self-identify as ex-ex-gay. In some cases, their sexual ethic shifted to a “side a” position to reflect a change in their views. For some individuals, perhaps their enduring same-sex sexuality contributed to a cognitive dissonance that was resolved not with a change in underlying patterns of attraction but with a change in their beliefs about what was morally permissible. It is hard to know how frequently a person went from ex-gay to ex-ex-gay, but we know that it has happened.

Let’s get back to the slippery slope. It’s unclear to me that pursuing celibacy is any more of a slippery slope than pursuing heterosexuality. That is, it may not be a slippery slope at all. Do we really know that the pursuit of celibacy puts a person at greater risk of changing their view away from what conservatives would describe as a traditional Christian sexual ethic? Many people who were ex-gay at one time are now affirming. If the concern from conservatives is that celibacy and the use of the vernacular to describe one’s sexual orientation (i.e., gay) is a slippery slope, there doesn’t seem to be an account for how the alternative path has also been a place from which people have launched into an affirming position.

The “slippery slope” accusation locates the discussion topographically, as though one path was located alongside a sheer cliff, as though one position was closer to falling off the edge of that cliff than the other. The reality is the people have “fallen off” that place from many different positions. It is unclear that one is closer to a downward slope, and it ignores the reality of ex-ex-gays and at least one of the reasons why the ex-gay narrative has diminished in recent years.

Now from a research standpoint, I am certainly open to the idea that one ministry position increases the likelihood of a specific outcome. But we’d have to study the experiences of those who have changed their doctrinal position. We’d want a large, representative sample of sexual minority individuals who would share the journey from where they were to where they are to see if what they moved away from was more of an ex-gay (or side x) position or more of a celibacy (or side b) position. We’d also want to take into consideration the cultural shifts that have taken place and may be reflected in ministry prominence today. (Even more ideal, we’d want to study people’s experiences going into these different ministries rather than asking them what it was like retrospectively.) Short of that, it is unclear that those who are celibate should concede that their position is a greater risk than any other position in terms of shifting views on sexual ethics.

Since I don’t think that issue will be settled anytime soon, what are thoughtful Christians to do? Rather than denounce groups of people and their attempts to live faithfully before God, it may be more helpful to look at what these two ministry paths have in common. And maybe you’d think they don’t have much in common given the current conflict over preferred models of ministry and risk to the church. However, what they share in common are some of the ongoing challenges of a desire for support and encouragement, a sense of identity and community, a place to discuss their faith journey and sexuality and the intersection of the two, a place to grapple with important questions surrounding sexual ethics and intimacy, a positive vision for a future where they could thrive, ways in which their own gifts and talents can benefit the Body of Christ, ways in which their faithful witness can be a source of encouragement to others, and so on.

The accusation of a slippery slope will only push further from the church those who are trying to live out a traditional Christian sexual ethic. It may just fray the rope they are desperately trying to hold on to.