Sexual Orientation

Principles

All people are created in the image of God and have inherent worth and value. As Christians we celebrate God's intention in creation, that sexual intimacy be reserved for the exclusive, life-long commitment of marriage, between one man and one woman. Recognizing humanity’s brokenness, we affirm the need for all people to engage in the journey towards wholeness in Christ including those dealing with sexual and gender identity questions. We uphold the biblical principle to love our neighbour and affirm that same-gender attracted people should be treated with the respect that is consistent with communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Issue

Since the Charter’s recognition of sexual orientation as a protected category in Canadian law, there have been tangible attempts, resulting from court cases and provincial human rights tribunals, to limit the religious freedoms already defined in the Charter. In particular, initiatives to draft hate crimes legislation on the basis of sexual orientation and the redefinition of marriage has put pressure on the religious freedom of Christian individuals and organizations who uphold biblical teaching about sexual practice. Even as we advocate for religious freedom in Canada, we are reminded that God has called the church to relate graciously to all people, including same-gender attracted people. The church is to provide a safe, supportive environment in which one can experience God’s healing love, as we guide all people to a restorative relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Current Status

Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects against discrimination and has been interpreted to include sexual orientation. Federal and provincial human rights legislation include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

This legislation has led to redefinition of the term "spouse".  Since the M. v. H. case was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1995, the federal government and several provinces have amended legislation granting "spousal" benefits to same-sex partners.  Nova Scotia established a registered domestic partnership system to address the granting of marriage-like benefits and responsibilities to same-sex partners. Quebec has passed legislation allowing "same-sex civil unions".

The Ontario Court of Appeal redefined marriage as being between "two persons" on June 9, 2003 to include same-sex couples. On July 17 the Minister of Justice unveiled the legislation to redefine marriage as the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. He also made a reference of three questions to the Supreme Court. The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and subsequently became law in July, 2005. In addition to redefining marriage as being between "two persons," the Bill states the legislation is not intended to affect the “freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

Religious freedom has come into conflict with the rights of gays and lesbians.  The Supreme Court of Canada decided that Trinity Western University could not be denied accreditation of their education program on the basis that their students signed a document in which they agreed to refrain from homosexual behaviour while a student on campus.  It also ruled in the Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board case that in public schools, concerns of religious parents must be tolerant of gays and lesbians. The Ontario Division Court has ruled that a Christian printer may not refuse work from an organization promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle unless the material itself is offensive to his religious beliefs (See Brockie v. Brillinger). A Christian camp in Manitoba is facing a possible human rights complaint because it refused to rent to a gay and lesbian group. A British Columbia Board of Inquiry’s recent ruling that the Knights of Columbus may refuse to rent their hall for a same-sex wedding reception because it violates their “core beliefs” as a religious organization is relevant to all churches that rent their facilities. While the tribunal ruled in the Knights of Columbus’s favour, they were still fined "for injury to the lesbian couple's dignity, feelings and self-respect.” See the EFC's resources on developing church policies for issues like this.

Statistics

How Many Gay and Lesbian People are There?

Whether in discussion or heard in media reports, often cited is that roughly 10% of the population is gay or lesbian. Although widely accepted, the actual population of gay or lesbian people is actually significantly lower.
 
Alfred Kinsey's research in the late 1940's gave us the 10% figure which has been so widely used in terms of homosexuality. [1] Although widely believed at the time, Kinsey’s research methods have since been seriously questioned, because the people he surveyed did not represent the general population (many had been prisoners and many were also sexual offenders). [2]

Recent studies have found that there are significantly lower numbers of gays and lesbians in Canada, usually ranging between 1-4%. The 2001 Census is the first to provide data on same-sex partnerships. A total of 34,200 couples identified themselves as same-sex common-law couples, accounting for 0.5% of all couples in the country. There were more male same-sex common-law couples than female; about 19,000 male same-sex couples or 55% of the total. The Census also showed that female same-sex couples were five times as likely to have children living with them as their male counterparts. About 15% of the 15,200 female same-sex couples were living with children, compared with only 3% of male same-sex couples. [3]

The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS Cycle 2.1) is the first Statistics Canada survey to include a question on sexual orientation to understand differences in health-related issues between the homosexual (gay or lesbian), bisexual and heterosexual populations. These issues include determinants of health, such as physical activity, mental health issues, including stress, and problems accessing health care. The survey determined that “among Canadians aged 18 to 59, 1.0% reported that they consider themselves to be homosexual and 0.7% considered themselves bisexual. About 1.3% of men considered themselves homosexual, about twice the proportion of 0.7% among women. However, 0.9% of women reported being bisexual, slightly higher than the proportion of 0.6% among men.” [4]

Among individuals aged 18 to 59, 21.8% of homosexuals and bisexuals reported that they had an unmet health care need in 2003, nearly twice the proportion of heterosexuals (12.7%). Homosexuals and bisexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to find life stressful. In addition, 31.4% of homosexuals and bisexuals reported that they were physically active in 2003, compared with 25.4% of heterosexuals. [5]

Despite the numbers and figures listed above, consistent with Christian behaviour is to treat everyone with respect and kindness, regardless of sexual orientation or anything else. At the same time, it is important to use data from current studies rather than from outdated and poorly constructed ones to better respond to the issues that churches are faced with today.

Footnote

[1] “How Many Gay and Lesbian People are There? The new numbers on sexual orientation” New Direction Ministries of Canada http://www.newdirection.ca/
[2] “How Many Gay and Lesbian People are There? The new numbers on sexual orientation” New Direction Ministries of Canada http://www.newdirection.ca/
[3] The Daily, 2001 Census: Marital status, common-law status, families, dwellings and households Tuesday (October 22, 2002) Statistics Canada
[4] The Daily, Canadian Community Health Survey (Tuesday, June 15, 2004) Statistics Canada
[5] Ibid.


 

What You Can Do

The evangelical church is increasingly aware of and committed to relationally engaging people dealing with sexual and gender identity issues.  With missional commitment to be a transforming presence in their local communities, churches are opening their doors to all people with a commitment to meet people 'where they are at'.  As faith communities welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, the integration of outreach, discipleship and restorative ministry is unique in each particular context.  The diversity of engagement runs the spectrum from small group engagement to 12 step-style support groups to inner healing & prayer ministry to referrals to specialized para-church ministries.

 

Resources

All resources related to sexual orientation in the EFC Resource Library

General Resources

Court Interventions

Government Submissions and Open Letters

Commentary

Resources

Recommended Books

Webb, William J., Slaves, Women and Homosexuals, Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, Downer’s Grove; Intervarsity Press, 2001. (a good attempt at separating what is cultural in Scripture from what is timeless in relation to our understanding of homosexuality in the church as well as other issues)

DeYoung, James B., Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law; Grand Rapids; Kregel Publications, 2000. (a very thorough and detailed theological review of biblical passages on homosexuality)

Dallas, Joe, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1996. (a good general discussion of Biblical responses to pro-gay arguments)

Moberly, Elizabeth R., Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic; Cambridge; James Clarke & Co.; 1983 (A psychological theory on the cause of homosexuality)

Payne, Leanne, The Broken Image, Crossway Books, Westchester, Illinois, 1981 (homosexuality in relation to true masculinity and femininity. Emphasis on healing prayer)

Jones, Stanton & Yarhouse, Mark, Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate, Intervarsity Press, Downer’s Grove, 2000 (An excellent review of current scientific research on homosexuality from an evangelical Christian perspective)

Foster, David, Sexual Healing: God’s Plan For The Sanctification of Broken Lives, Hermitage, TN, Mastering Life Ministries, 1998. (A good resource written by a ministry leader who formerly was a homosexual and male prositutute)

May, Gerald, Addiction and Grace, Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions, Harper, San Francisco, 1988. (Good book on addiction by a Christian psychiatrist)

Worthen, Anita & Davies, Bob, Someone I Love is Gay: How Family & Friends Can Respond, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1996.

Paulk, Anne, Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction, Harvest House Publishers, 2003.

Satinover, Jeffrey, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. Baker Books. 1996.

Howard, Jeanette, Into the Promised Land. Beyond the Lesbian Struggle. Monarch Books. 2005.

Thompson, Chad, Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would: A Fresh Christian Approach. Brazos Press. 2004.

Haley, Mike. 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality. Harvest House Publishers.2004.

Yarhouse, Mark & Burkitt, Lori. Sexual Identity. A Guide to Living in the Time Between the Times. University Press of America. 2003.

Dallas, Joe. When Homosexuality Hits Home. What to Do When a Loved One Says They're Gay. Harvest House. 2004.