Important notice from assemblyHUB: This article covers the subject matter of same-sex attraction, which may be very difficult or inappropriate for some readers.
One of the things I had planned to do with Sean was to cycle through the city. It would give him a close-up view of Toronto while providing an opportunity for us to talk. As we pedaled north on Greenwood Avenue, we passed Greenwood Gospel Chapel. Instantly, memories flooded my mind.
I had attended conferences there in my teenage years. I had been part of a group of young men who had based a tract outreach from there. I used to have friends there. As we cycled past, I wondered if I would ever dare to approach the Christians there in an attempt to regain what I had lost.
The time with Sean flew by and soon I faced the challenge of taking up my old Christian routines, while disentangling myself from my friends and their ways. One thing in particular would test my resolve. I had agreed to attend a Blue Jays baseball game in Boston with my roommate.
The tickets had been purchased; all travel and accommodation arrangements had been made. I didn’t want to disappoint my friend by dropping out at the last minute. At the same time, I didn’t know just how my new intention to leave the gay life would stand up to the opportunities that such trips always afforded.
We attended the game, then went out to eat at a gay establishment. Al soon spotted a prospective partner while I looked on from the sidelines. Feeling uncomfortable with the situation for the first time, I returned to my hotel room early, alone. Something was different. Just maybe, I thought, it really would be possible to change.
The Sunday after the trip to Boston, I decided to check out Greenwood Gospel Chapel. I knew the routine, so I slipped in and sat unobtrusively at the back. The people seemed friendly enough; of course, they knew nothing about me. I returned on the following Sundays and was able to identify the leading brothers. Eventually, I mustered up my courage and approached Fred Foote and asked if I could be received into fellowship.
Fred set up a meeting with the elders for the following week. My mouth was dry as the men quickly introduced themselves. They all were pleased to have believers join their fellowship. Finally, it was my turn. As I told my story of accepting the Lord as a child, being baptized, and visiting the Chapel in the ’50s, the men smiled and nodded. That was the easy part!
When I began to talk about my life in the 1970s and ’80s, the smiles faded and the nodding stopped. Wanting to be honest, I didn’t sugar-coat my story. If these men were to receive me into the fellowship, they had to do it with full knowledge of what they were dealing with. At last, the hard part was over.
The men sat in silence. They looked at me. They looked at each other. Then the questions came. They had legitimate concerns, to be sure. How did I know that I had a real relationship with the Lord? Did I have AIDS?
Would I likely be attracted to young men in the assembly? Would I be willing to have some supervision and mentoring at first? Eventually, the men had answers to their questions. Fred asked Phil Morton to pray.
When he finished, Phil walked over to me, extended his hand and indicated his pleasure that I had sought them out and trusted them with my story. Best of all, he promised to walk with me through my transition and integration into the life of the assembly.
One by one, each of the other men did the same. I was elated. My sense that God was at work was strong. Who would have ever guessed that this group of conservative evangelicals would welcome a same-sex attracted man into their midst!
In the more than twenty years that have passed, God has blessed me with an inner change of perspective which allows me to see myself and others, both men and women, without the sexual gloss that has overtaken western culture.
I now have many friends, am deeply involved in ministry both in my assembly and in para-church organizations. While opportunities for marriage have come, they have also gone, without my moving in that direction.
One of the most meaningful things the Lord has given me to do has been ministering to others who are struggling with same-sex attraction. On one occasion, I sat by the bedside of an old friend as he was dying of AIDS. Though he could no longer speak, by squeezing my hand, he indicated that he understood that Jesus had died for him and would always receive the repentant.
Other same-sex attracted friends have taught me important spiritual lessons, helping me move my faith into practical expressions of God’s love. Some are still among my best friends and I have rejoiced with them as they have become increasingly connected to God, the church and, in some cases, have married and had children (whom I consider to be grandchildren, in a way).
The Lord has blessed me with a small farm north of Toronto and I have been able to use it as a place to reach out in a variety of ways. Friends join me there to enjoy the good gifts of nature, farm activities, friendship, Christian fellowship, and good food.
Both individuals and groups assure me that they have had deep experiences with God there, as I have shared this wonderful place with them. All this to say: my life has changed. The Lord has freed me from fixation on myself and my pleasure, to focus on others and their needs.
In November 2016, Kregel publishing, released my book Out: One Christian’s experience of leaving the gay community. It is available through major online book distributors in both hard-copy and as an e-book.
Out has given me more opportunities to help, so far in North America and Europe. Several Christian media outlets have recorded interviews with me and some of these are available on-line. For more information about my ministry go to BobsExperience.com and to contact me personally send an email to email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.