A book maintaining that homosexual men should be free to marry heterosexual women has brought a storm of criticism down on the author, an instructor at Vancouver’s evangelically inclined Regent College, from both liberal and conservative sides in the sexuality debate.
Jonathan Mills, who attends St. John’s Shaughnessy, an evangelical Anglican church in the city, says he has come in for a lot of opposition since the book was published by the college – but he stands by his basic premise that sexuality alone doesn’t define a marriage.
Although no authoritative studies have been conducted, Mr. Mills says, anecdotal evidence at which he and others have looked indicates that there are many happy marriages involving homosexual men (he calls them non-heterosexual) and heterosexual women.
Christians should encourage this phenomenon, he believes. If a homosexual man genuinely loves a woman and wants to have an ordinary marriage and raise children, why shouldn’t it be possible?
That notion has been attacked by liberals and conservatives. Liberals and homosexual activists say that once a man realizes he is homosexual, he should stop living a lie and seek a male companion or companions. Christian homosexuals have held up the ideal of monogamous homosexual relationships, and pushed for the church to celebrate and recognize such relationships.
Conservative Christians scoff at Mr. Mills’s idea of homosexuals having a happy marriage while remaining homosexual. They support homosexual recovery or ex-homosexual movements that call for the transformation of homosexual men, whom they regard as suffering from a disorder or sinful lifestyle choice.
Mr. Mills disagrees with both approaches and offers marriage with heterosexual women as a real alternative for homosexual men, who need not then renounce their sexuality. In some cases Mr. Mills knows, women are aware of their partner’s true orientation. In others, the man remains closeted.
Ideally, Mr. Mills says, a man should be able to tell his partner. But sometimes a man doesn’t feel able to do that.
“There are some women who don’t know their husband is gay,” he said. “They have a happy sexual relationship. The man has just decided that he can be satisfied in a marriage, even if finding a gay partner would be more exciting sexually.”
The most serious question the book poses is why society should assume marriage between a homosexual partner and a heterosexual partner would be miserable. Many marriages between heterosexual couples turn out to be sexless, Mr. Mills says, so sex obviously isn’t the only defining characteristic of a marriage.
Reaction to his book — Love, Covenant and Meaning: Why Liberals and Conservatives are conspiring to prevent ‘homosexual’ Men from Marrying has been mixed. Regent College has received a number of hostile calls from liberals and conservatives and Mr. Mills has taken abuse on hotline shows from both sides.
He has also found gratitude, both from supportive faculty members at Regent, such as J.I. Packer, and in messages he has received, such as the anonymous phone call from someone who thanked him for telling his story.
Many Christians still have difficulty with biblical injunctions against homosexuality, Mr. Mills admits, but he notes that there is clearly no reference in either New or Old Testament to the notion of homosexual men participating in a heterosexual marriage. Some people have asked Mr. Mills — who married last year — whether the book is autobiographical. He isn’t saying.
“Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.” But that’s not the point, he adds. Society needs to broaden its understanding of marriage. Bob Bettson is a freelance writer living in Toronto.