My work as a psychologist has been in the study of sexual identity development among people of faith. I conduct research on the experiences of Christians who are navigating their sexual identity in light of their religious identity. Most of that research ends up at professional conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. I’ve been told that an average of three people actually read any peer-reviewed journal article, so I try to blog about some of the findings here and also discuss current happenings related to an institute I direct here.
I have conducted other studies as well—some truly controversial studies that are indirectly related to sexual identity development—and I will share in the future how those projects have changed the way I approach this topic.
How do I fit into all of this? My interactions with folks at SF have grown over time. I had read Ron Belgau’s work and Wesley Hill’s book quite a while ago, and I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Wesley in England a couple of years ago. I’ve also followed Melinda Selmys’ and Julie Rodgers’ blogs for some time now. Like most readers, I have benefited from learning some facet of their lives, the challenges they have faced either living single or celibate or living in a mixed orientation marriage. They have also challenged me to grow in important ways.
Let me just share one brief example. I learned how to pray for gay people in Uganda at exactly the same time I read the tweet from Melinda Selmys that read: “Whatever you believe about the morality of gay sex, everyone deserves life and freedom. Take a moment to pray for gay Ugandans.”
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I do not spend that much time praying for people—not as much as I know I should. Interestingly, a couple of days before reading that tweet I had signed a letter of support for gays in Uganda that I discuss here, but that letter of support and weighing what I thought of the research cited took precedent over taking the time to pray.
The other thing that is hard to admit but has become increasingly important to me is this: Spending time with folks who are often referred to as “Side B” gay Christians has helped me appreciate how they see gay people who may or may not agree with them. (I am using “gay” here in the generic sense of experiencing same-sex sexuality as an orientation.) I think that is precisely why gays in Uganda were on Melinda’s mind. I knew at that moment I had learned a valuable lesson about what we hold in common.
Bono sings, There is no them, but that is exactly the wall I bump up against in my mind. It is that wall that the folks at SF knock down time and time again.
At the end of the day, I hope to see the church grow in its capacity to love sexual minorities better. I do not want to hold up any kind of a vision or ideal without rolling up my sleeves and doing the hard work that could make that vision possible or appealing.
I wanted to at least introduce myself and share a little about what I’ve learned when it comes to seeing global events through the eyes of several gay Christians I know. I have a feeling I have much more to learn from them in the years to come.
Mark Yarhouse is Professor of Psychology and the Hughes Endowed Chair at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, where he directs the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. He can be found on Twitter @markyarhouse.