DALLAS (Christian Examiner)—Charley Hott knew that giving in to the same-sex attractions that still haunted him after his return to his Southern Baptist roots wasn't a possibility. Scripture was clear on the topic. Twice a week he met with a counselor to help him through the struggles. New Christian friends were there to support him.
Though he longed for it to happen, God never took the attraction away. His counselor, Joe Neely, gently reminded him that temptations were not sins. Jesus, too, was tempted. But Hott couldn't help but wonder why God wasn't taking away his same-sex attraction. He began to wonder whether he was truly "saved."
"Then Joe told me how I could settle the doubt issue once and for all," said Hott, during a September testimony he shared at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. "At that coffee shop I confessed to the Lord that I was unsure, asked Christ to be my Savior for all of eternity and left confidently a child of the king."
Despite having absolutely no doubt about his eternal security in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, temptations remained. It seems the wisdom W.A. Criswell had shared just after his return to the church still provided the lasting solution. Only by daily submitting himself to the Bible's teachings on homosexuality and aid of the Holy Spirit would Hott ever find freedom. The answer, with the Holy Spirit's help, was to "just say no."
"That's where the choice comes in—to either act on it or not act on it," Hott told Christian Examiner. "I would have loved to have had the temptation go away, but it just didn't."
Scripture, which had been a key part of Hott's initial repentance and return to the church, would continue to guide Hott's journey to wholeness and healing. Verses such as 1 John 1:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Proverbs 10:27 and James 1:12 have been particularly important to him.
"The main thing is I had to learn to humble myself and just cry out to God when I was lonely—or felt rejected," Holt said. "Before, I'd just go to the bar and hook up with somebody, and I'd feel better in an hour. But that was no longer an option. "
Though he's had opportunities, Hott has never been interested in marriage. Three times in the past 30 years he has dated women who would have been willing to marry him—even if he couldn't guarantee that he'd ever have sexual feelings toward them.
"I just didn't want to take the risk," Hott said. "I've seen a great deal of bad marriages through the years. I sure didn't want to be unhappy, and I didn't want to put myself in a situation where I could cause a great deal of heartache for somebody else."
Though Hott says he doesn't believe he ever consciously chose to be attracted to men—since he never remembers being attracted to women—it doesn't believe that means he was "born gay."
"I think it's a complex process that starts at a very early age," Hott said of the same-sex attraction that some experience.
Bob Stith, who has previously served for five years as the Southern Baptist Convention's national strategist for gender issues, says Christians need to make a distinction between being genetically predisposed to a certain sin and genetically predetermined to sin. He adds that many studies have shown people are predisposed to certain sins. Anger, even criminal activity, has been shown to have genetic components. However, no one accepts that this predetermines or excuses a person who engages in those behaviors.
"When Christians say 'it's just a choice,' we have probably lost any hope of reaching a person struggling with homosexuality," Stith told Christian Examiner. "We must recognize that sin is always a choice, but temptation isn't. It is important for Christians to understand the difference."
Hott hopes his story can be helpful to other people who are dealing with same-sex attraction. For most of the past 33 years, Hott has kept his story private, sharing it only with people he trusted or who needed to know for some reason. So as not to put himself in further temptation, he has limited his ministry efforts to others dealing with same-sex attractions. For several years, his church's counseling ministry had his permission to provide his phone number to those struggling in this area. He talked to a number of people through that ministry but only once did he meet someone dealing with the temptation in person.
Hott urges Christians who have friends or family members dealing with same-sex attraction to relate with them in many of the same ways his mother did him—love them, pray for them and listen to them.
"It's going to take somewhat of an indirect approach," Hott said. "Offer support for whatever is going on in their lives. You have to build a relationship. Through that you can bring up what scripture teaches about homosexuality. Then you can get them to the point where they realize that they do need a savior. You have to get them lost before you can get them saved."
Hott encourages individuals and churches to avoid secular arguments against homosexuality. The real issue isn't homosexuality's impact on society or even homosexual marriage's impact upon the institution of marriage. The real issue is, Hott asserts, is what the Bible says about it.
"It's pretty simple," Hott said. "It's wrong because Scripture says it's wrong. All the secular arguments are not something that the Holy Spirit can latch on to and use. All it does is alienate the very person you are trying to minister to. It causes many other believers in the church to lose compassion for those guys."
Stith urges churches not to focus on a person's sexuality first when ministering to someone with same-sex attraction. The first, and most important, issue is a person's relationship with Christ. Then he tells churches to love the person regardless of how they respond to the Gospel.
"I would say to love people genuinely," Stith said. "For those who are willing to look into change, be willing to stand with them, realizing that this is likely not something that will change overnight."
If your church would like help in ministering to those with same-sex attraction, contact Stith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was based upon a testimony shared by Charley Hott at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a later interview with him.