Written circa 2015-2016. A lot has happened since then. There is not even an argument in the public square about homosexuality and the possibility of change. Some ministries that specialised in the area of helping people struggling with sexual sin have been forced to close (hence the unavailability of some links below). Christians have adapted their language to avoid being shouted down and as a result this re-posted blog will likely seem anachronistic. But God is still working.

People can change.

It’s an unpopular idea in some circles, but it remains true all the same. People can change when it comes to unwanted homosexuality. It’s like many a struggle with sin. Some people change a lot. Other’s change less. Some people change and later return to their sin. Some people struggle for years without result, and then something clicks and they find they are able to change. Some people would say they have never seen any change at all.

But there are people who do change.

Below there are a list of ministries and people who can testify to change through Christ in the area of homosexuality.

– Living Waters [No longer available]

– Liberty (see this testimony of a member of the Liberty Committee) [No longer available]

– Rosaria Butterfield (and here. For an audio testimony go here)

– Michael Glatze

– Joseph Nicolosi

– Other individual testimonies

For most of them, moving towards heterosexuality is not/was not their main goal, but in all cases where people moved away from homosexuality toward heterosexuality, I have identified three similar factors in the testimonies of those who have seen change, even amongst those who would criticise others.

Here they are.

1. The person wants to change.

Let me recognise that there are people who tell of desperately wanting to change, but being unable to, even with the help of others. But equally, there are people who submit to programmes or counselling who do so in order to please others around them, or worse, because they are forced into those situations. While it’s flat out wrong to suggest that when people do not see change in their same-sex attractions the problem is that they didn’t really want to change, – (let me say it again: it is flat out wrong to suggest that) – I believe it is fair to say that if you don’t desire change, it is unlikely any change will occur.

Let me say a little more. There are also intriguing testimonies I have heard from more than one person in which change did not occur for them until they were willing to take a broader perspective. For one man, it was moving his focus to being close to Jesus that enabled him to see progress away from homosexual temptation. Another, it was being at a different stage of life with less riding on success – i.e. being open to change rather than feeling the desperate need to change. 

So, there’s a lot of nuance involved in the need to want to change, but – grudging or not – in every story of change there is a desire to change.

2.  The person changes their understanding of their identity.
This comes out more strongly in some stories than others, but it seems to be present in every one. There is either a recognition that a person is actually a heterosexual who is acting out in homosexual ways (in secular terms – see Joseph Nicolosi), or, as Christian, there is a recognition that a person is a new creation in Christ whose homosexuality is part of the sin within them as opposed to being part of them.

This is expressed in different ways.

In Rosaria Butterfield’s testimony, she goes through John Owen’s works on indwelling sin and is given an understanding that her lesbianism is part of her indwelling sin, not her identity:

“At first I was offended to realize that what I called ‘who I am,’ John Owen called ‘indwelling sin’… As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me’ (Romans 7:19-20).”

In the Living Waters material (which is copyrighted and not freely available), it is taught:

“our true self is who God designed us to be at the foundation of the world and destined us to be in eternity”

and this is contrasted with your false self.

In the testimony linked to at the Liberty website above [no longer available], the writer says:

“I returned to those verses, once so bitter to me now made sweet with understanding: ‘…and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). Here, with Jesus, I found true hope for change… I was looking for change, for freedom; yet what I found was a new me in knowing him.”

In Michael Glatze’s account of how he moved from homosexuality to heterosexuality, he says:

It was around that same time that I wrote– and I’m still shaking as I remember writing those words– “I am straight!” When I first wrote those words, I just sat there and thought to myself: “So is this really true?” I thought: “The spirit of God is in me and this is the truth!” I thought, wow, just because I have had a gay identity, and I’ve worn that identity for more than ten years, it need not be the truth that I am gay…With this understanding, I now had a bedrock, and from that bedrock I could look at reality in a much broader and more peaceful way, so when I would encounter homosexual desires, I wouldn’t equate them with “me.” I would say “That’s just me feeling this way at this moment.” [Link no longer working.]

In that same interview with Michael Glatze you can see Joseph Nicolosi agreeing with that general approach to identity when he says:

This is –to use your [Michael Glatze’s] term “the bedrock” of Reparative Therapy. The client comes to see the truth that he is a heterosexual man, and from that perspective he looks at his homosexual temptations as a perceptual distortion.

3. The person experiences acceptance.

The emphasis is on the word “experience”.

I noticed this first when reading the book “What Some Of You Were“, put out by Mathias Media. In each story where there was a change in someone’s sexual orientation, the turning point was an experiential understanding of God’s love. This was particularly noticeable to me because non-charismatic discussion of homosexuality usually leaves the experiential out of it. Since then, of course, I’ve seen similar experiences of acceptance in each story of change I’ve come across, though in non-charismatic testimonies, the description is usually very muted.

You’ll notice, of course, that the heading above is not “The person experiences God’s acceptance”, though this is often the case in Christian stories, but just “The person experiences acceptance”. Why?

Well, in the case of Joseph Nicolosi, the therapist provides an experience of acceptance. In Rosaria Butterfield’s testimony, Presbyterian Minister Ken Smith befriends her and the church community embraces her (listen also to an audio recording of her testimony). Acceptance does not just come from God.

Christians, though, the experiential work of the Spirit of God in our lives (Romans 8:16) is the true acceptance to which all human acceptance points. One more quote to illustrate this point from the testimony on the Liberty site:

When you come to know Jesus, as you read his words and share in his Spirit, he touches your innermost parts, challenges your thoughts and desires, and slowly, very slowly, you start to see a ‘Jesus-shaped’ version of yourself emerge from the person you once thought you were.

Working with Christians across the spectrum.
What does all this mean, then? The stories of change from homosexuality to heterosexuality seem to share these three characteristics:

1. The person wants to change.

2. The person changes their understanding of their identity.

3. The person experiences acceptance.

Is this a formula?

Well, I don’t think anything is guaranteed for success, but the prevalence of these three characteristics surely means that there is something helpful in the offing. And in fact, most people involved in counselling and ministering in this area recognise these three things as part of their philosophy at least.

What I want to emphasise, however, is that the blanket criticisms are unhelpful, precisely because these biblical principles are present in every successful ministry/counsellor’s office. Instead of rejecting one another wholesale, surely a more helpful approach would be to recognise these similarities, refine our own approach and offer constructive critiques in order that Christian ministries, in particular, become more God-glorifying and more effective.

After all, none of us can see our own myopia.

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