I don’t think you can get two guys who are so similar in some respects and yet totally opposite in other respects. The two people I’m talking about are Roy Clements, formerly the Senior Minister of Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge UK, and Rev Vaughn Roberts, the Rector of St Ebbes Church, Oxford UK.
Roy Clements was a highly respected, leading British Evangelical in the UK with a very successive ministry to university students. He was a greatly gifted preacher as well as a prolific writer of commentaries. I first heard Clements speak at the Men’s Katoomba Christian Convention in Sydney Australia back in 1999. He was deep, thought provoking and engaging as he expounded the scriptures. On the other hand Vaughan Roberts, while not as big as Clements, is slowly making a name for himself as a gifted preacher and writer. Like Clements, Roberts has also spoken on the platform of the Katoomba Christian Convention. And Clement’s he is a very gifted preacher of God’s word. However both have also confessed to their own personal and life long struggle with Same Sex attraction. However that is where the similarities end. Their personal response to their struggle are as opposite as you can get.
For Clements his same sex struggle eventually overtook him so much so that it now defines who he is. Six months after having preached on the Katoomba platform news broke out from the UK that Clements had left his wife for another man. Not surprisingly it stunned the international Evangelical community and even more so, given his very high profile figure. It shocked us all. It certainly shocked me. I have some of his commentaries on my shelf and it is hard, very hard to go anywhere near them. Recently when I checked out what he has been doing I find that he is still holding firmly to his stance on same sex relationships and even argues that faithful same sex relationships is God honouring. Where once he was a leading figure in the Evangelical community he has now become a voice for the Christian Gay and Lesbian community.
In contrast to Clements is Vaughan Roberts response. In a recent, yet very courageous, interview with Julian Hardyman, Senior Pastor of Eden Baptist Church (where ironically Roy Clements was the previous senior minister) Roberts confessed to his own inner turmoil and struggle with same sex attraction. However his response to his struggle is so completely opposite to that of Clements. Robert’s would not describe himself as gay but as a sinner with a broken sexual drive. Like everyone else he is a broken man waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus for his complete healing and restoration. Roberts strongly believes that the only valid sexual relationship is a faithful exclusive heterosexual relationship between a man and a woman. Because of this he and given his brokenness he has chosen to be celibate for the sake of the gospel instead of giving to his broken passions. He is a hero in my books.
It is sad, truly sad to see what has happened to Clements and how much he has been duped by the evil one. However it is truly inspiring when you have people like Roberts who admits to his own sexual struggles and yet, for the sake of the honour of the Lord Jesus and the building of his church he has chosen to be celibate.
In the Same Sex marriage debate raging on around us Roberts is a beacon of light and a powerful reminder that having same sex attraction doesn’t mean having to be defined by it let alone be dictated by it. We are constantly called by scripture to put to death the passions of our sinful nature (Romans 8:13; Col 3:5) and to exercise self control in the power of the spirit.(Gal 5:23; Tit 2:2) The mood of our society is to do what comes natural to you but what the world fails to understand is that they are slaves to the evil one (Ephesians 2:1-3) In contrast the word of Scripture tells us to keep in step with the spirit. (Gal 5:16-25)
Roberts frank interview also gives insights for how we, as a church community, can care for those around us and amongst us who struggle with same sex attraction.
Julian: What sort of things can churches do?
Vaughan: While being careful not to put any pressure on those who don’t want to be more open, we could be looking for appropriate ways of enabling greater openness from some. I heard recently about a church where a young believer spoke honestly in a public testimony about his ongoing experience of same sex attraction. That was a real encouragement to some in the church who struggled in the same way and made it easier for them to speak with others. Another church has begun an occasional meeting for members in this situation. It has been a spur to some to speak about their struggles for the first time, knowing that they are not alone and that there is support available. Other Christians have found Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waiting really helpful. His refreshing honesty about his own experience and his godly approach have provided an excellent model to many, as well as giving supportive church members a deeper insight into the similar struggles of others. Alex Tylee’s Walking with Gay Friends, written from a woman’s perspective, has similar strengths.
Both Clements and Roberts are people who need our prayers. For over two decades Clement brought countless blessing to thousands upon thousands of people through his gifted preaching and writing. But it is truly sad to see how he has been taken captive by the evil one. For this reason we need to pray that God would have mercy on him and bring him to his sense and escape the trap of the evil one (2 Tim 2:25,26). For Roberts, we need to give thanks to God for people like him and pray that he, as with all of us, will continue to keep in step with the Spirt of the Lord Jesus.
In the Same sex movements that is sweeping our world people like Vaughn Roberts is a powerful reminder that our ultimate identity is not found in our sexual orientation but in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us and will return one day to make us new and whole and restore our brokenness, even our broken sex drive.