Confession: my faith is pretty pragmatic. I’m a social scientist, a researcher; I like things I can study and observe, our brains and bodies. That doesn’t always leave much room for the unexplainable.
Then one day in 2012 the unexplainable happened. I was taught growing up that same-sex attraction was like an addiction - harmful yet treatable. I was taught that prayer and therapy could help a gay person resist the urge to “act on one’s impulses”, helping them to either:
Change their orientation
Commit to celibacy
Marry the opposite gender anyway
The more I researched and worked in the field, the more I came to see these theories didn’t lead to health and wellness. Very few people report being helped by reparative therapy, and many change their story over time, and/or exhibit serious mental, physical, psychological, relational, and spiritual impairment as a result of their nonaffirming experiences.
“I have absolute faith God can heal, and often does, from addiction, illness, and brokenness.”
Of those who go through reparative therapy and seem to be thriving, they may be bisexual and genuinely fall in love with someone of the opposite gender, or they may be blessed with a sincere spiritual call to celibacy - a gift not everyone is given (1 Cor 7; Matt 19).
I have seen faith bring healing from addiction, illness, brokenness. But sexual orientation change efforts don't follow that pattern. For a summary of the findings of the American Psychological Association's research on reparative therapy click here. There is little evidence for the effectiveness or safety of these approaches.
However, when treated with affirmation, loving, committed, gay couples and families enjoy health, wellness, psychological adjustment (Patterson, 2000). Relationships are good, and these are no exception. This finding is confusing for someone raised with traditional evangelical Christian views.
“Empathy struck like lightening."
Photo by Gabriel Silvero on Unsplash
Then something unexpected happened. The change wasn’t something I anticipated. Empathy struck like lightening. I was sitting in a large auditorium, in the back, listening to a story I’d heard a hundred times before. In that moment, on that particular day, I heard it differently.
In the New Testament, there's a story in Acts where Peter's on a roof and God drops down a sheet with pictures of things Peter had been taught were “unclean”. God essentially says, “Do not call unholy what God has cleansed." And for me, in that moment, everything changed.
Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash
I left that auditorium changed. I felt compelled to learn everything could about the scriptures in their original language, the historic context, the science of gender, love, and bonding, the health and wellness of gay Christians, etc. My goal is to provide research and information to further these conversations and foster informed empathy.
Gena Minnix, Ph.D. is a theological educator, counselor and researcher specializing in the integration of theology and psychology. She teaches at the Seminary of the Southwest, and serves with her husband at an Evangelical Covenant Church in Austin, TX.