To answer the question of how many people in the church are same gender attracted, we must first take a brief look at what the latest studies tell us about how many people identify themselves as "homosexual" or "bi-sexual" in the overall population.
You may have read or heard the common misconception first reported by Alfred Kinsey that 10% of the population is homosexual or gay.[i] This number is still widely held to be true, although most researchers in this field mock those findings. "Researchers rarely discuss just how deeply flawed Kinsey's data appeared to be. For a study such as Kinsey's to produce data from which we could generalize to the whole population, the same under study would have to be roughly representative of that general population. . . . But Kinsey seems to have ignored the need to keep his sample reflective of the American population. It appears as though Kinsey's sample of males was skewed because he over-sampled a variety of groups. . . . And curiously, every example of over-sampling appears to have increased the likelihood of finding a higher incidence of nontraditional sexual practices[ii]. . . . Two sample distortions are the most shocking; first, Kinsey drastically over-sampled prison inmates. . . . Secondly, (Kinsey) drastically over-sampled members of gay-affirming organizations."[iii]
Alright, so let's forget Kinsey and this 10% figure. What percentage is most correct? While almost impossible to truly pin point accurately; based on most recent studies provided, it is generally agreed that it stands between 2 to 3 % of the population. A study provided by a U.S. government survey is a little more liberal by reporting that the number of adults between the ages of 18 to 45 who identify themselves as either "homosexual" or "bisexual" stands at 4 percent"[iv]
OK, That's the "world," but what about the Church?
According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, church membership in the United States alone for the Church of Christ and Christian Church (Restoration Movement; Stone / Campbell churches) (according to latest statistics available) is 1,071,616.[v] According to Dr. Thomas H. Olbricht, a faculty Emeriti and past Chairman of the Bible Department of Seaver College at Pepperdine University; the Church of Christ has approximately 3,500,000 members worldwide.[vi]* It is clear to see then, that the number of Christians whose sexual orientation is "same gender," "homosexual" or "bi-sexual" runs into the tens of thousands across the Restormation Movement board. It would be exceedingly naïve to assume that our congregations do not reflect the diversity of our culture, considering that our memberships are made up of individuals who have been plucked from the very world from which this data is derived.
But there can't be anyone like that in MY church, right?
Evangelists, Ministers, Elders, Deacons, lay leaders and every day Christians need to wake up to the fact that there are members of your home church, (whom you sit beside every week), who come from a homosexual past and still live everyday with unwanted homosexual temptations and attractions even after their conversion.
I have counseled, talked to and cried with Christians from literally all over the world and from all stripes of the Restoration Movement who come from a homosexual past but still live with unwanted same gender attractions. Some are your Evangelists and Ministers, Church leaders, Elders, Small Group leaders and Bible Talk Leaders. They serve in our Sunday school and children's programs; they lead our songs and prayers and teach lessons in our services. They come from our Singles, Married's, Campus and Teen ministries; they are Caucasian, Black and Asian. They are male and female. They represent all different socio-economic and educational backgrounds. At every service you sit beside them in church, hug them in fellowship, eat with them in your homes; they are your friends and people whom you love and respect dearly. I know this to be true, for I've talked to them.
Yet most in our pews don't know that the person whom they are worshipping with and with whom they call "brother" or "sister" bears a story of fear, hurt, isolation and confusion that most could never appreciate. Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse, professor of psychology at Regent University could not have explained it better; "Perhaps no group of people finds itself as much a casualty of a war that has already been won than those Christians who contend with same-sex attraction. After all, they believe Christ secured them victory, and they enjoy the knowledge of salvation. Yet, they also continue to struggle with homosexual desires, and they do not believe that these attractions reflect God's best for them."[vii] Speaking as one who has lived it, the confusion and guilt is sometimes too overwhelming to bear.
Who are these people?
These followers of Jesus love the Lord deeply and are devoted disciples of His. However, most of these brothers and sisters are too terrified to talk openly about the inner battle they must wage daily because most everyone else in their church family is either terribly unaware, badly informed on the issues or too clued out to know how to help if they were ever approached for guidance.
The struggler then sits in suffering silence as the isolation multiplies because they are also frightened that they will endure the same kind of homophobic rejection they experienced outside of the church. While the rest of the congregation sits in silence because they are ignorant of the problem, or at worst, really have carried the homophobic attitudes they had before conversion into Jesus' church.
So, how do I deal with this reality?
This would be an appropriate time to remind us of the words of Paul to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:16: "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer."
And while the following is not scripture, this idiom first coined by the English reformer John Bradford certainly is useful in helping us all bear in mind how each of us been touched by the merciful hand of God and must therefore extend that same generosity to one another: "But for the grace of God, there goes I."
Come on, let's be honest with each other
Besides, let's really be honest with each other. Does not every one of us have our own unique issues, character flaws, challenges, sinful natures and temptations to work through this side of heaven? And wouldn't it also be fair to say that many, many of us (regardless of orientation) show our different areas of "brokenness" through sexual dysfunction? Sexual "brokenness" is hardly exclusive to the homosexual or same gender attracted, and is simply one of the most prevalent and common ways that Satan has worked both in our lives, and in society overall, in an attempt to keep us from the Lord and bring confusion into our lives.
Were all of these issues meant to be cured the moment we were saved? Forgiven yes, but everything healed? There is so much to be gained spiritually by having to patiently, consistently and faithfully work through these challenges, while leaning on God for strength.
Not one of us came out of the waters of baptism with our sinful natures completely healed. We may have been made perfect in the spiritual realm due to the blood of Jesus, but not one of us are able to live a perfect life. As Paul himself says in Philippians 3:12; "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." God desires to spend the rest of our lives perfecting us and making us holy. (Hebrews 10:13) (James 1:2-4)
Those in our congregations who are same gender attracted have already lived the majority of their lives under a bombardment of cruel jokes, rejection from family and friends. So please, when you discover that one of your brothers or sisters used to be gay and is still living with unwanted same gender attractions; think of these following inspired words penned by John in 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
I suppose a better question is not how many in our churches are same gender attracted, whether that number is 3%, 10% or 50%, it doesn't really matter. The question rather is: how many in our churches are sinful and need forgiveness to ever see heaven? That number would be 100%, and that makes things pretty level, doesn't it?
Guy is not only an Evangelist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he is also is the founder and Executive Director of Strength in Weakness Ministries. Click Here to read Guy's Testimony.
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[i] Kinsey, Alfred C., and Wardel B. Pomeroy. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 1948.
[ii] Further Study on this is discussed in Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People by Judith A. Reisman and Edward W. Eichel. (Layfayette, La: Huntington House, 1990)
[iii] Jones, Stanton L., and Mark A. Yarhouse. Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2000. 36-37.
[iv] Gary Gates, "Interview with Gary Gates of the Williams Institute," About.Com, Ramone Johnson, Interview; Gary Gates of the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy of UCLA, 2008 <http://www.gaylife.about.com> .
[v]"Christian Churches and Churches of Christ." 1988. The Association of Relgious Data Archives. <http://www.thearda.com/denoms/d_1070.asp>. Data were taken from the National Council of Churches' Historic Archive CD and recent editions of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
[vi] Thomas H. Olbricht, "Who are the Churches of Christ?" The Restoration Movement, Faculty Emeriti and Past Chairman of the Bible Department of Seaver College At Pepperdine University, 3 Jan. 2008 <http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/index.html>.
[vii] Yarhouse, Mark A., and Lori A. Burkett. Sexual Identity a Guide to Living in the Time Between the Times. Lanham, Md: University P of America, 2003. 3.
*Worldwide Membership figures for the Christian Church not available.