Being a celibate gay Christian means being an object of suspicion. The wider LGBTQ community sees you as shockingly conservative (“You think gay sex is wrong?”), while the wider evangelical community sees you as worryingly liberal (“You call yourself gay?”).
One day, someone will be expressing disgust toward your “fundamentalist” beliefs. On the next, someone else is targeting your “perverted” sexual orientation. Disparate groups see you as an existential threat, and their attacks can be fierce, as recent online responses to conferences like Revoice and ministries like Spiritual Friendship and Living Out would attest.
Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step bravely (foolishly?) into this battleground with their comprehensive study of people like me: Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. It’s an important book with an academic feel that grows more pastoral as you read on. Yarhouse has written multiple volumes on LGBTQ experience based on careful research from the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University in Virginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s ever written, but I thank God for the gracious tenor of his contributions.
This newest book is essentially a listening exercise, based on an in-depth survey of celibate gay Christians. You hear their stories of milestone events and experiences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their mental health outcomes and relational challenges. But they are not the only voices recorded: There’s also input from friends, along with some fascinating insights into the perspectives of some ...1