Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, recently gave an interview to Julian Hardyman (senior pastor of Eden Baptist, Cambridge) in Evangelicals Now on his struggle with same-sex attraction as he talks about the fifth anniversay edition of his book “Battles Christians Face‘ which outlines 8 areas of struggle that Christians face, but he is open about the fact that as a pastor wrestles with too. In this new edition, apparently Vaughan has included a chapter on homosexuality, and this according to Vaughan “has caused a small ripple of reaction and led some to ask why I wrote those words and what I meant by them.”
Here’s a little snippet from the interview:
Julian: Vaughan, earlier this year your book Battles Christians Face was republished in a fifth anniversary edition. You added a new preface which included these words: This ‘is the most personal of my books, partly … because I wrote out of my own experience. We all face battles in the Christian life, some of which are common to each of us, while others are shared only by a few. Of the many battles I could have written about, I chose to focus on eight which, to a greater or lesser degree, I face myself’. What responses have you had?
Vaughan: The fact that a pastor struggles with image, lust, guilt, doubt, pride and keeping spiritually fresh is not exactly a revelation to anyone who knows their own heart and understands that Christian leaders are weak and sinful too; and the admission of an occasional struggle with depression causes no surprise these days. The fact that the other chapter is on homosexuality, however, has caused a small ripple of reaction and led some to ask why I wrote those words and what I meant by them.
Julian: Does the disclosure that same sex attraction is one of your personal battles mean you are defining yourself as a homosexual?
Vaughan: No, it doesn’t. It’s important to reiterate that I have acknowledged a struggle in all eight of the areas the book covers and not just in one. The brokenness of the fallen world afflicts us all in various ways. We will be conscious of different battles to varying degrees at different moments of a day and in different seasons of our lives. No one battle, of the many we face, however strongly, defines us, but our identity as Christians flows rather from our relationship with Christ.
All of us are sinners, and sexual sinners. But, if we have turned to Christ, we are new creations, redeemed from slavery to sin through our union with Christ in his death and raised with him by the Spirit to a new life of holiness, while we wait for a glorious future in his presence when he returns. These awesome realities define me and direct me to the kind of life I should live. In acknowledging that I know something of all eight battles covered in my book, therefore, I’m not making a revelation about my fundamental identity, other than that, like all Christians, I am a sinner saved by grace, called to live in the brokenness of a fallen world until Christ returns and brings all our battles to an end.
Vaughan is clear that he holds to a historic and biblically orthodox view of homosexual sex. He says:
The Bible is very clear that God loves everyone, and welcomes all into his family, the church, through faith in Christ, whatever our gender, class or race and, we might add, sexuality. We do need to keep stressing that. But we also need to recognise the fact that the Bible is consistently negative about homosexual sex, and, indeed, about any sex outside heterosexual marriage
For me a youth worker who works with young people who can be unsure of their sexuality, I think this is a brilliantly bold step. I can’t think of any senior conservative evangelical leaders who have ever expressed this in public whilst maintaining a commitment to being celibate. This, I am sure, will be major step forward in how the church relates to those with a homosexual orientation. Vaughan’s example as one of the most respected conservative evangelical leaders and gifted Bible teachers and someone who is open about experiencing same sex attraction could be a turning point that helps the church become less homophobic and more sexually pure.