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Christian Friendship Reveals Christ’s Radiance: Greg’s Story

As part of Equip’s “More Than (just) True” campaign, we’re sharing the stories of LGBT+ people and loved ones about their search for God’s good and beautiful. Check out this reflection from Greg McElyea, the Associate Director of Global Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary.

As a child, I was the sensitive type. Although God meant for this gift to serve His purposes, it morphed into something destructive as I became aware of subtle shifts in others’ responses to me. My default interpretation was that I was to blame, thus, from an early age, I questioned others’ love for me, leading to doubts about my own worth. As a result of this self-doubt, I engaged in all sorts of people-pleasing over the years.

One of the areas where the need to measure up really gripped me was in relation to “boyhood” itself. In my mind, boys were athletic, confident, and strong. I was none of these, I thought, so I began focusing on my friends and other boys who were. This preoccupation was not a passing thing; it lasted throughout my childhood and adolescence.

I believe this idolization became sexualized during puberty. Please understand, I am not making a statement on how same-sex attraction develops. The evidence does not point to any one thing as the determining factor. Still, I believe that my preoccupation with measuring up as a boy played a part in my own journey.

Love and Fear of Church

When I was 13 years old, I auditioned for the church choir and got in! During the years that followed, I had other opportunities to participate in music ministry. I was able to sing on the praise team, to play the organ and the piano, and to lead worship.

Church was the place where I could express who I most truly was—a fellow worshiper! I think this is a testament to the kind of environment that my parents and church leaders worked to create. In our culture, encountering God together in worship was core to our religious identity and experience.

One of the primary reasons I kept my same-sex attraction secret was that I did not want to jeopardize my place in this tight-knit community of worshipers. I had always imagined that somebody would tell me I could no longer come to church or sing on the praise team or play the organ if everyone found out, so I kept my secret for a long time. I am not talking about six months or a year or even a few years. I was 26 before I told the first person

By that point, living with my secret had morphed into a crisis of faith. My mid twenties were the lowest point in my life, and I blamed God for “setting me up.” I could not understand why He would allow me to develop same-sex attractions in the first place, and I certainly could not understand why He did not remove them when I asked.

Over the years, I had prayed hundreds if not thousands of times for God to “deliver me.” I went to the altar countless times, just hoping that “today” would be the day. Despite all my petitions, God never took away my same-sex attractions.

A Turning Point

In 2012, I started visiting an Assembly of God church in West Memphis, Arkansas. After visiting this new church only a few weeks, I responded to the pastor’s altar call one Sunday evening. What a powerful service it was! Standing near the altar, I remember looking to my left and to my right. I saw so many people connecting with God. I saw the tears streaming down their faces as their friends prayed alongside them. I longed so desperately to experience what they were experiencing, but all I got was deafening silence.

After several minutes, I went back to my seat. I was very discouraged, but, again, something told me not to give up on God just yet. I told Him, “I do not know what else to say to You. I went to the altar and prayed, but I could not find You there.” This was certainly not the first time this had happened. It was yet another disappointment. Then, in desperation, I asked something different from God: “Will You please send someone to pray for me, to pray the words that I do not know to pray?”

I rested my head on the top of the pew in front of me for at least a minute or two. Again, silence. But just as I raised my head, a man who had slipped by me unnoticed placed his hand on my shoulder. He immediately began to pray for me out loud. Something broke inside. Amid all my efforts to reach God, God had come to me! 

That moment has been an incredible blessing along the way. I knew from studying Scripture that God called me to steward my sexuality in celibacy. After He met me that night in church, that load became easier to bear. Two years later, I decided to tell my pastor at First Assembly about my same-sex attractions. I thought I was going to throw up, but he responded to me with grace and a surprising level of understanding.

In the years that followed, spiritual friendship became the primary vehicle through which the love of Christ began to take root. The relentless grace of my friends and mentors would gradually erode the protective barriers that I had erected in my heart. Time after time, they loved me in spite of me. They had every opportunity to reject me, but they remained faithful instead.

In the contexts of these relationships, I gradually revealed my deepest wounds: I admitted my doubts. I confessed my battle with lust. I explained my disenchantment with religion. I even disclosed my attraction to men. At each point, I expected my friends and mentors to bow out. They never did. They showed me what unconditional love looks like instead.

Recent Developments

Since moving to Asbury Seminary in 2021, God’s provision for deep connection has grown beyond a select number of spiritual friends to a community of faith that welcomes me with open arms. In Kentucky, I have experienced the freedom to speak openly for the first time in my life. It dawned on me one day while eating lunch with friends in the dining hall that I no longer had to look over my shoulder before sharing something about my sexual orientation. I am very grateful that I finally have that freedom. That would not be possible if the community here were not so supportive.

One of the underlying themes in my own story is that God brought stability in my relationship with Him through providing meaningful relationships with His people. I thank God for the students, the faculty, and the staff who have helped me weather the journey. I do not want to imagine sharing my story so openly without their support. Not too long ago, I assumed I would never “go public.” It amazes me that I am now able to be so truly known.

I also thank God for the friends and mentors in Arkansas who have faithfully cared for me along the way. Were it not for their constant encouragement, my many years in Arkansas would have been much more challenging. I continue to lean on them, and I know that they will always be here to love me and spur me on to good works.

Through a deepening intimacy with God’s people, I can attest that my implicit knowledge of God’s call has grown. I thank the Father for this, and I believe that the Spirit will continue to grant me strength in my inner being so that I may grasp with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ.

Somewhere along the way, I began to experience the Church not merely as the guardian of truth, but also as a living portrait of God’s goodness and glory. This shift came as my relationships with the people of God became more secure. The result is that I now understand discipleship as cultivating adoration of a loving God largely through experiencing belonging in a loving community.

In my journey, coming to see God in His beauty and goodness has been a means by which I have grown in my understanding of the truth of His love. It has been through the Church, the very object of so many of my deepest fears, that Christ has revealed His radiance.

Discover Equip’s vision for LGBT+ Christian thriving, read the stories of communities leading the way, and give today to help more churches offer LGBT+ people something more than just true at

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