Sean Doherty – Sexuality and same sex relationships


Genesis 1:27

Friday, August 30, 2013

New Wine reflections: Sean Doherty’s seminar on the Bible and same sex relationships

SEAN Doherty decided that he was gay. Or rather, people told him that he was – so he thought he ought to behave like a gay person – even though it didn’t exactly fit with his biblical theology. Male, female, gay, lesbian – are there four categories, as is commonly supposed today? The present Tutor in Ethics at St Mellitus College and Associate Minister at St Francis Dalgarno, an inner city housing estate church plant, looks back at his own journey and draws understandings gained through it.

Sean Doherty

Genesis 1:27
So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.


Marriage is good because it reflects creation. Singleness is good because it reflects the New Creation, where no one will be married. Paul also extols the virtue of singleness, to the extent that marriage also seems, in his depiction, like second best.


• Church can be a ‘safe place’ and a place where you can be loved for who you are, with positive affirmations and opportunities.
• Pastorally: the task is to love the human being in front of you!
• The Gospel is helpful but a legalistic stance is unhelpful.
• There is no contradiction betwen clear Bible teaching and people thinking for themselves.
• There is no contradiction between teaching people, and loving people unconditionally.

There has sometimes been a false split between teaching, and helping people to live God’s way. Similarly between loving people and teaching people. We have to love people before we can guide them.

So relational values + moral guidance should be joined up. Loving people unconditionally + how to live God’s way needs to be joined up.


Sean said that the way that he had defined himself didn’t allow room for God to do what He wanted to do. So the big change for him was letting go of a label which, he came to discover, was not a biblical definition.

He listed four elements to this:

1. KEY PRINCIPLE: Coming to terms with how you feel, then being able to let God work on it – being open to His call.
2. Hearing other people’s stories (Sean was not the only person who had found themselves “put” into a definition and an expected lifestyle that was not a good fit).
3. Being in churches where Sean could experience God’s love through the Holy Spirit.
4. “God created them male and female.” Overcoming the common presumption that there are four sexes: male, female, gay and lesbian – which immediately makes gay and lesbian people feel marginalised (the ‘gay box’ is like a sepearate place).

It is the box that is the problem! Defining oneself in the wrong way brings the wrong response.
• God defines one’s sexuality by one’s body (maleness and femaleness).
• Sexuality is about much more than having sex – it is essentially about being male or female.

It is usually unhelpful to see homosexual attraction as needing healing or deliverance.
• Lust (of any kind) is not by definition demonic.
• None of us is free from all of our disordered desires.
• Jesus was tempted in every way as we are – but was without sin.
• The desire itself is not the issue.


Sean doesn’t call himself ‘ex gay’ because that puts too much emphasis on the ‘gay box’. He doesn’t consider himself to have been healed or cured, but set free, especially from a label.

He comments that if he had gone from fancying loads of men to fancying loads of women, that would hardy be an improvement.

He doesn’t believe in the various ‘gay boxes any more. From a general point pf view, is there really any such thing as the ‘gay community’? We all have the same choice – to be celibate, or to be married (for Christians, sex belongs within marriage). Marriage and celibacy are two ways of living, both of which are blessed by God.


We need to find ways to dismantle the labels that the world has created. A start is to recogise that we don’t need to label ourselves as ‘straight’ (just another label).

In a relationship of trust, if someone shares a similar uncomfortable situation to the one Sean experienced, these could be helpful approaches:

• “Let’s look at this together” (teaching + freedom to make up own mind).
• Encourage them not to label themselves prematurely
• It is a general comment about living God’s way – you shouldn’t be having sex, regardless of the nature of the relationship.
• It is unhelpful to quote Leviticus. It is unhelpful to say “Here are a few texts”. Rather, seek the big picture with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in which we are created in God’s image.


• Love people as they are without condition, Thise who have some same-sex atraction are not immediate candidates for healing.
• Recognise that we all have lusts of various kinds
• Work from a biblical definition of sexuality – “male and female He created then”. God did not create four sexes.
• Why should who you may be attracted to, become a label? Labels imprison. No label = free to be changed by God when and how He wills (people do change). On the other hand, having and accepting a label = not free to be changed.
• There is no contradiction between teaching, and people working out themselves how to live for God.


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