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Church, stop treating LGBTQ people as illegitimate children

Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon
Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

In 1969, a beautiful college sophomore had imbibed enough lies to be duped; she thought premarital sex was necessary to gauge compatibility. The boyfriend she had dated since high school was happy to oblige. This experiment yielded tangible results: a crisis pregnancy, an abandonment rather than an engagement, and a baby born out of wedlock. My father did not give my mother his protection, nor did he give me his name. I knew neither his love nor his discipline. I was an illegitimate child; in the harsher language of yore, I was a bastard.

Today, children in America are four times more likely to be born in circumstances like mine. How grateful I am to see men and women affected by the “false and empty promises” of the Sexual Revolution receive much needed support — especially women in crisis pregnancies — within the Church. In offering that embrace, pastoral care is not separated from acknowledging the truth of sin, repentance, God’s mercy, and the way forward in faith and discipleship. There is (in general) no demand for compromise on Christian sexual ethics or face accusations of not showing mercy and love. If anything, these situations highlight the wisdom of God’s boundaries around sex. Pastors and Christians are charged with responding redemptively to the objective blessing of a child in difficult, less than ideal circumstances. With heterosexual immorality, this remains fairly clear.

Yet in a strange turn of events, the Sexual Revolution’s natural barrenness and demand for sterile sex has yielded an even more prolific way of producing “illegitimate” children among God’s people, or at least treating His children as such. Scripture is clear: our good and loving Father corrects and “scourges every son He receives.” If sons and daughters are without discipline, they are not being treated as beloved heirs, but as illegitimate children. Tolerating sexual sin is not showing love or justice; rather, it is treating people as less than their dignity demands. Though heterosexual sins may go without sufficient address at times, no one is more affected by this treatment than those who deal with same-sex attraction and/or are LGBT+-identified.  

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In college, I had abandoned any attempt to practice the Christian faith and openly identified as lesbian. After fighting and resisting my attractions for many years, the surrender seemed sweet for a season. But the Hound of Heaven pursued me, and eventually, I could not deny Him. I knew I needed to repent. On the last “official” date I had with a woman before finally surrendering, I spoke of my faith struggle. She replied: “This is the 90s! The Church needs to get with the times!” I shook my head — my friend didn’t understand that Christian teaching on this matter can’t change because it is Truth given by God about the fabric of reality woven and ordained by God Himself.

Last October, the same week Pope Francis signaled openness to blessing those in same-sex couple situations, Evangelical megachurch leader Andy Stanley made headlines for his confusing stance on homosexuality. With sadness, I thought of his father, the late Charles Stanley, a sermon series on Romans, and a five-hour drive to Little Rock. One weekend, just a few months after my official repentance, I was getting out of town as my ex-girlfriend had returned and wanted to see me — a literal “fleeing of youthful lusts.” I listened to Charles Stanley’s sermons on cassette tapes to Arkansas and back again, and with his help, came to a deeper understanding of dying to my old self as well as the new life in Christ God was calling me to, not just the old life He was calling me from. I memorized Romans 6, 7, and 8 upon my return, and my face was set on obeying Christ.

But that was 30 years ago, and now much of the Church is indeed “getting with the times.” Now there are a panoply of denominations and individual churches and parishes on both sides of the Tiber where it appears I could easily be “blessed” and affirmed to stay right where I was. In some places, Christian sexual ethics have been repudiated altogether and replaced. In others, official Church teaching remains but is consistently undermined through “compassionate” pastoral practice. Neither of these are loving as God the Father loves.

What kind of church does not rouse itself to rescue sinners by calling them to repentance on the fiercest moral battleground of the culture and individual lives: sexual integrity? A compromised or a deceived one. Such a church treats its members as “those in lustful passion, who do not know God” rather than beloved children called to “possess their bodies in sanctification and honor.” Are those who experience same-sex attraction and various other temptations not heirs of the same promise? Do we not bear the same dignity and responsibilities before God — as His beloved children? Are we a different class? Are we not called to sanctification?

For years after my Arkansas excursion, I sought to grow in Christian discipleship, walking with God in celibate singleness. Believe me when I say it was a bumpy road, including seduction by an older female counselor at the church I attended at the time. Years later I moved to attend graduate school and found rich Christian community with faithful mentors. With their help, I walked in increasing sexual and relational integrity. Those years were honestly painful and yet truly full of joy. However, in my early 30s, I found myself in an enmeshed friendship. Despite my desires for it to be pure and healthy, my heart was not rightly ordered. There was temptation, and thus a “near occasion of sin.” I could not deny it. When I sensed the Lord leading me to lay the friendship down for good, I resisted. “Can’t we just set more boundaries? There has to be another way!” I cried as I bargained with God. Then His gentle whisper, “There is no better way.” I wept. And by His grace, I obeyed.

A good Father directs His children away from things that harm them. “Whom the Lord loves, He reproves.” A good Father also directs His children toward what is good. To my utter surprise, just a few years later, I married. What if I had tarried in that relationship — become entangled once again? Had I delayed obedience at that point in my life, I realistically picture my marriage disappearing. What if I had been in a church that blessed same-sex couples, or even one that compromised with blessing “celibate unions”? I shudder, as I picture the two faces most precious to me, born of my body at age 38 and 41, never coming into being.

Once when inside an explicitly LGBT-affirming church, I saw same-sex union symbols for both male and female couplings in the stained-glass windows along with the symbol for an opposite-sex union. The sunlight streamed in, illumining them such that each cast the same beautiful hues on the altar at the front of the sanctuary. Three possibilities for human sexual relationships, all presented as equivalent, holy, and valid. It would be almost impossible not to get confused here. Now from Atlanta to Italy, those false symbols are being streamed into more and more Christian churches.

In light of recent events, where all seems cast through an LGBT-stained glass lens, it’s become impossible not to be confused. Nearly 30% of Gen Z young adults now identify under the LGBTQ+ rainbow. Pastors, will you affirm the polyamorist, the pansexual, and all the infinite identity possibilities the “plus” sign implies? Or will you speak the truth that is inseparable from love? Only then will your church be a “safe space” for them.

Will you bear the Cross with them? For if you call the LGBT-identified to the Cross, you will bear a Cross as well. June “Pride” is upon us, along with a month-long reminder that fidelity to God in current culture will cost you, as you well know. In contrast, if the media celebrate the direction your church is headed regarding sexuality, it is reasonable to ask if friendship with the world has displaced your fidelity to God.

O Christian pastors and churches, seeking to love, we are not bastard sons and daughters. We are boys and girls, men and women, made in the image of God, fellow heirs, called to walk in a manner worthy of His high calling. For the love of God, Father of us both, treat us accordingly. 

Amy E. Hamilton, PhD, is a research associate and a happily married mother of two school-age children. Previously she wrote under the pseudonym Jean C. Lloyd. Website:

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