When sons and daughters come out of the closet…

I have four kids. None of which are gay.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought throughout the years what I would do if one of my children sat my wife and I down one day and gave us the news that they were gay.

How would I respond?

More and more pastors and church leaders are having children ‘come out of the closet’.  In fact, I’ve heard more and more stories of this happening in just the last few weeks.

Of  course the biggest story came right as the SBC got ready for their annual meeting. Pastor Danny Cortez leads a Southern Baptist Church in La Mirada, CA. The table was a little turned for Cortez.  He actually changed his views on homosexuality and told his church the he no longer believed in the ‘traditional teachings regarding homosexuality.” Shortly thereafter, his 15 year-old son declared that he is gay.

Other pastors have also had to deal with how to deal with a gay son or daughter, brother or sister, friend, family member, or even staff member.

John MacArthur has his advice for all of us if this should ever happen to us:

(Ironically, the “Grace to You” logo is over his shoulder while he gives his advice)

In another article hitting the interwebs the same day, Larry Tomczak encourages a little softer approach that doesn’t include disassociating yourself with them (although I’m not sure how this script he gives would go over… it may have the same effect):

“My son/daughter, we love you more than you can imagine, and God allowed us as a couple to unite in a procreative act that brought you into this world. Your thinking is totally unacceptable to God and us. It dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sins. It is contradictory to His eternal plan for marriage, which has been upheld for over 5,000 years of human history. Therefore this ‘coming out’ needs to be a coming out of deception and, like the prodigal son, returning to the God and Father who created you, loves you and has a wonderful destiny for your life. Have we made ourselves perfectly clear?” (link here)

So… how would you deal with a son or daughter who comes out as gay?

Or… how did you respond when your child came out as gay?

Would you Matthew 18 them? Would it cause you to change your thinking about gays? Would it make you reconsider your theology?

I would love to hear your thoughts.



  • pietrosquared June 17, 2014 Reply

    I have thought deeply about this.

    Why is it that conservative evangelicals can’t consider the possibility that someone can disagree with them on this one issue and still be a Christian in good conscience. Last I checked, there are no statements of human sexuality in any of the major creeds of the church.

    We disagree on other things and remain in fellowship. Why does this one issue have to be so blown up?

  • robfreshour Freshour June 17, 2014 Reply

    Todd, I am in my well into third decade as an SBC pastor. My wife and celebrated our thirtieth anniversary earlier this month. We have five children – each one of them are beautiful and bright, and I have enjoyed the privilege of baptizing all five based on their personal professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

    Someone told me many years ago: “When a man becomes a father he is given the greatest opportunity to express what God is like.” I wholeheartedly agree. I have learned another truth: “When a man becomes a father he is given the greatest opportunity to learn about God’s Father-love for him.”

    Two of our children, however, are prodigal. They have walked away from the church and renounced their confidence in the existence of God, at least the God my wife and I serve.

    One child, a daughter, suffers from mental illness. She is a beautiful young woman with many winning gifts and talents. She has served God faithfully and fruitfully in the past – church ministries, church mission trips, even one year of study at one of our SBC seminaries. for the past two years, however, she has abandoned the faith and ought to sate her thirst from broken cisterns. Today she battles depression and BPMD.

    Two summers ago, our eldest son – an enormously gifted young man, popular, and currently excelling in law school – announced to his mother and me that he is gay. His news understandably rocked our world. By God’s grace, we told him that day that fundamentally little had changed – he is our son, we love him, we want God’s best for him, and we pray for him. That has been true since before he was born and will continue to be our practice until the day we are parted by death.

    We have worked to keep our home a safe place where he can come and be … home. We have not changed our view about homosexuality anymore than we have changed our view of murder or adultery or gluttony or any other sin. We have not shied away from inviting him (our or daughter) to “come out” for truth, repent, and return to God. We have had very honest, painful conversations; however, we do our best and rely on God to do the rest to finish every interaction with affirmations of our love for him.

    We read and agree that prodigals will run from law, but grace will draw them home. We know God loves our children far more than we do, and His reach far exceeds our own. So, through tears and prayer and private agony, we simply trust God.

    We have a family dinner almost every week to which all of our children come, including our prodigals. We eat, we laugh, we cry, we love one another. We also seek and seize every opportunity to testify to the power of Jesus Christ to make us whole. Our commitment for our part is to do all we can do to keep the way home clear of debris. We do not sanction or approve of our prodigals’ choices, and they know it. We do love and cherish them, an we want them to know that, too.

    Someone asked my son once if his parents had disowned him or kicked him out of the house. They expected as much from a Baptist preacher and his wife. They were shocked at his response: “Why would you think that? They love me. We disagree, but they love me.”

    I beg God many times every day to grace me with the joy of seeing from a distance my son and my daughter coming home so that I might know experientially the thrill of running to meet them and falling on their necks with hugs and kisses and tears. I want to see that more than anything else in this world. I have confessed, though, that should I have to see that from Heaven, well, that would be welcome as well. In the end, all I can really do is continue to trust God and to tell the truth to my children.

  • James June 17, 2014 Reply

    Dear Freshour;
    What a beautiful story and example of Grace. Opposed to MacArthur and his sterile treatment of scripture and lifeless marginalizing. MacArthur needs to keep his mouth shut.
    Homosexuality does not disqualify that person from being a believer or follower of Jesus, in fact the opposite is true. The deception is in thinking the gay life is a simple flip of the switch or these people just one day decided to be gay or lesbian. Only legalistic Christians are deceived in thinking it’s that simple. Ever try to lose weight, stop a bad habit simply by flipping some internal switch? Read Philip Yancey’s book “What’s so amazing about Grace.”
    Some can’t change, some can, the point is, it isn’t simple nor platitudes or pat answers help. And certainly judgmental, hurtful, marginalizing statements going to change anyone or situation.
    MacArthur needs to read the scientific research that’s out there, not the prejudicial junk, and quit listening to himself. More damage has been done to Christ, by the legalistic, narrow, prejudicial, retributive applications of scripture, which is nothing more than man made laws trying make the grace of God another work earned by good moral behavior.
    Thanks to Rob Freshour, wonderful example of love, grace and acceptance. You’re love and relationship will restore your children, not some pie in the sky moralistic high ground.
    Your sons haven’t forsaken God, they have forsaken a system which has told them this is the only way to believe. Don’t buy into it.
    With Grace

  • Carl Thomas June 17, 2014 Reply

    This is a great question & something I think the church at large gets so wrong on both extremes. I just actually did a blog on this (more or less) & I think it sums up my opinion well -> http://www.carlthomas.me/church-can-learn-friend-kevin/

  • Leonard June 18, 2014 Reply

    Peter, I feel your frustration but also think at least a part of the answer lies in the words of Paul. This issue, at least for me is not about a disagreement in belief.

    Rob, thank you for your story of grace and truth lived out in real time.

    From this chair, just thinking out loud, this issue is not about the elevation of one sin but the lowering of all sin and blindness to just how sinful we as individuals really are.

    I am an unmade bed.

  • R. Benjamin June 22, 2014 Reply

    I’m rather appalled by John MacArthur’s answer.

    For starters, we need to recognize that no one chooses to be attracted to the same sex. Regardless of whether you believe homosexuality is the result of genetics or environmental factors, the orientation itself is not something you choose to have (it’s how you act on it that’s a choice).

    Therefore, if your ADULT child tells you they are gay, as MacArthur talks about, here is the likely subtext which may or may not be spoken:

    “Dad/Mom, you failed to be there when I needed you.

    I heard you rail against “those homosexuals” and the “abomination” of homosexuality growing up. So when I discovered that I was attracted to the same sex, I was horrified.

    I tried to deny it. Those members of the opposite sex I dated? That was me trying to be straight. To make it work. To make myself acceptable to you.

    You weren’t a safe person for me to come to. I couldn’t tell you what I was struggling with because I was afraid you’d reject me. I’d lose your love, your acceptance. And I couldn’t bear that thought.

    But now… well, I’m still afraid of that now. But I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but nothing seemed to work. So I’ve decided to accept that this is the way I am.

    I have friends who love and support me in this. And I’m hoping that will be enough if you no longer do. But I’m not sure it will….”

    If your child has reached adulthood before declaring they are gay, the first thing you probably need to do is apologize. Most likely, they have been struggling with same sex attraction for years. You need to ask them if you were not a safe person they felt they could confide in — if you failed to be a parent who demonstrated God’s unconditional love. And if so, you need to repent and ask God to help you become that.

    Then and only then can you tell them that out of love for them, you would really encourage them not to embrace a gay identity and pursue that path. You know that heartache and pain lies down any path that isn’t in accordance with God’s will and the Bible is clear that embracing a gay lifestyle is such a path.

    However, you should tell them that you also recognize that choosing to follow God’s will when you are same sex-attracted will also involve heartache and pain. And you commit to walking with them and supporting them if they choose to pursue God’s will in dealing with their same sex attraction.

    And if they don’t? You’ll still love them unconditionally, which means you’ll also be honest with them that your love for them means you can’t support the path they’ve chosen. But you will always have an open door and they will always have a place at the table. You’ll always be there for them and never stop loving them.

  • Doug S June 24, 2014 Reply

    I am so fortunate that my parents didn’t treat me as MacArthur suggests. My luck with churches wasn’t so good, unfortunately. I tried Exodus, and even in 1987 they said they had a 15% success rate. I was told that I wouldn’t have a ministry or be able to serve if I didn’t “succeed.” My failure to succeed drove me away from church entirely for five years. Finally I found a church that was neither offended by me, nor shunning my evangelical values. Fifteen years later, I became its pastor.

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