Evangelical Journal Says “Sexual Behavior Changes But Not Sexual Orientation”

A new study recently published in Edification, a journal from the evangelical Society for Christian Psychology reports, “Sexual behavior changes but not sexual orientation.”

According to the published study, after an average of 16 years in mixed-orientation marriage, the same-sex oriented spouse is still same-sex oriented. On the basis of self-reports there’s no shift toward heterosexual orientation on the part of the same-sex oriented spouse, even though there’s some participation in sex acts within the marriage. These findings, involving 106 husbands and 161 wives, are from evangelical psychologist Mark Yarhouse and his research team at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Their study, ‘Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples’ is published in Edification, a journal from the evangelical Society for Christian Psychology.

Given the evangelical identity of the researchers, their base of operation and publisher, together with the corroborating evidence from studies by another evangelical psychologist, Warren Throckmorton (see below), very serious and sobering questions are raised over the “pastoral” recommendations for mixed-orientation marriage made by Jonathan Mills, “ex-gay” advocates and other church leaders who are against same-orientation marriage.

On a similar note, in another study involving in depth interviews with over 300 same-sex
attracted people who married heterosexually, it was found that over all married gay people assess themselves as growing more same-sex attracted over time. This finding of intensified homosexual longing within and after their mixed-orientation marriages is from evangelical psychologist, Warren Throckmorton. Says Throckmorton, “On the whole, the group assessed themselves as more gay in their attractions and fantasies than when they were 18.” While some therapists and other ex-gay advocates continue to say that it is possible to change orientation, the evangelical psychologist reports, “Saying this is not consistent with research and clinical experience.” His summary statement may be found here.

Statistics suggest that up to two million gay men and lesbians in the United States have married heterosexually in the belief that the only way to achieve a loving, committed relationship and a family is to enter the traditional form of marriage espoused by their family, community or church. In doing so, most gay people deny, ignore, or leave unquestioned their same-sex attractions. As the heterosexual spouses who have lived through a mixed-orientation marriage have indicated time and again, eventually those feelings can no longer be suppressed. After a painful struggle between fidelity and truth, love and deception, many come to terms with their supressed orientations. In the majority of cases, the couples divorce, leaving broken families and single parents across the country. Thus, the gay or lesbian spouses’ attempt to commit to a heterosexual marriage endorsed by society or their churches ends up hurting not only themselves, but also their wives or husbands and, most importantly, their children.

Of course, this is not news. As a former leader of a so-called ex-gay ministry — during which time I also gave my testimony as an ex-gay on Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club — I’ve had the opportunity to know literally hundreds of “ex-gays” personally. Though these people were among the most dedicated Christians I have ever met, they are now almost all “ex-ex-gays.” Pastors and church leaders haven’t the remotest idea how callous it is to encourage gay men to marry striaght women with no consideration of the severe trauma this is likely to mean for their heterosexual spouses in the long term. When church leaders encourage mixed-orientation marriages in this way, they reveal a shameful indifference to the long-term outcome for everyone involved. How many church leaders would be as happy for their own daughters to marry professing “ex-gay” men? Would they be so convinced that “healing” and “change” has taken place?

As I’ve said many times, if you pray with gay Christians, you will see God perform any number of miracles. These often include the expunging of self-loathing, of bitterness toward family and wider society, and relief from previously harmful or unhealthy patterns of sexual behavior. You will not, however, see God reorient these seekers to heterosexuality in either their arousal or their fantasy patterns. That may eventually prompt you to understand that God does not consider their homosexual orientation a disorder.


About Alex Haiken

Born to a Jewish family in New York City, I came to faith in Christ in 1982 after trying to disprove the Bible. I found so much evidence in support of the claims of Jesus and the Bible that it required more faith to reject it than to believe it. I hold a Master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and among other things am a lecturer, teacher, blogger and conference speaker. I came out as gay at a young age but was taught when I came to faith that I could not be both Christian and gay. I served for a time as a leader of an ex-gay ministry but shifted my views after recognizing that when the few passages generally appealed to in this debate are examined more closely and in context, the traditional anti-gay interpretations do not hold up to scrutiny. I learned that the ex-gay route is a scripturally unsound mirage, a specious illusion that deceitfully draws people not to a life-giving oasis but to a deeper and deeper spiritual desert. Seeing the immense need for education in this area, I began to speak and write about my experience and new-found convictions. I am also passionate about helping the Church better understand her rich Jewish roots; helping other Jewish people understand Jesus as their Jewish Messiah; and helping other gay people integrate a theologically sound, committed Christian faith with their sexuality. It is my hope that the reflections in this blog will prompt you to explore the paths they suggest, leading to your own more eloquent thinking, exploration and action. If you want, visit the “Contact” page and let me know what you think.
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4 Responses to Evangelical Journal Says “Sexual Behavior Changes But Not Sexual Orientation”

  1. Terry Moore says:

    Outstanding/well reasoned blog.

  2. ste7888 says:

    Thanks for putting this out there and discussing it. I really enjoyed reading about that process and your thoughts.

  3. Powerful content here brother. Very surprising in light of the source as you mentioned. This should give a lot of pause to pastoral advice seeking for quick fixes and simplistic views of sexuality. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Deena Werner says:

    Having a gay brother and daughter, this is confirming of what I really already felt and knew to be true. Thanks for doing research and sharing it to the non-scientific community.

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