INTERVIEWS | Tess Holgate
Tuesday 15 March 2016
Until 2013, Greg Lake worked for the Australian Immigration Department as a director of various Immigration Detention Centres, including Christmas Island and Nauru. He continues to work with government to help build stronger diversity and refugee policies. Greg attends Seaforth Baptist Church on Sydney’s northern beaches. He recently announced on Facebook that for as long as he can remember he’s been more attracted to men than women. Eternity caught up with Greg, to find out more.
Why have you decided to go public with this now?
People who know me well already knew that this has been something I’ve lived with for a long time, and they knew that it isn’t in the top ten things that define me. I guess I’m just at a point now where I don’t feel like there’s people left in my life who I need to have told personally before it just becomes publicly known, and it’s not something that I feel like is a big feature, so why not?
This is an issue the church has to confront more today than it ever has, at least in living memory. I am disappointed by the lack of grace and thoughtfulness that I often see in the words spoken by some Christian leaders, when speaking about this issue. It’s something I care about personally, not just because of my own attraction, but because I know a lot of people who suffer the effects of these comments and words.
Can you tell me some of the ways you’ve suffered under the weight of people’s comments around this issue?
I’m fortunate in that I don’t let it get to me the way I think some people kind of have to. I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a pretty comfortable and accepting kind of environment.
But, especially in the church, people are constantly trying to set me up with people. As a single person in a church there’s always an expectation of marriage, especially as a bloke I think, and the pressure on a guy to be married is ridiculous and completely not at all scriptural. It’s just not. At times it’s been enough for me to want to leave churches, because I’m so sick of people trying to set me up – people who have no way and no language to support me in the ministries available to me by virtue of my singleness.
I saw a comment on Facebook recently that simply said, “the LGBTQI community is wrong.” And I questioned it. They’re the kind of comments you hear all the time. When I hear comments that fail to see people as humans, that upsets me. Either because they’ve said it about me, not realising that I’m one of them, or they’ve said it about other people who I care about.
When did you first know you were more attracted to men than women, and when did you start telling people?
I have known for as long as I’ve been sexually aware, so since I was about 11 or 12 years old.
All the way through high school I had a lot of people – youth group leaders, friends at school – who I’d told for the purposes of keeping me accountable, or being encouraging or you know, just being someone I could go to when it wasn’t going very well. So I’ve been surrounded for a long time by people who’ve known, and who I could go and speak to about these things if I ever needed to.
What was it about those relationships that made you feel comfortable to tell them these big and taboo feelings?
As a teenager, for example, I felt wrong. I felt, I knew it was bad, that’s how I thought of it.
And I think it wasn’t so much that they were accepting that made me feel comfortable – it wasn’t comfortable. It was more that the idea of accountability for our sin among our Christian family was such a feature of how we went through church. When you struggle with something, you get someone to be accountable to, especially on the sex stuff as a teenage boy – you make sure you get people to keep you accountable. I felt the obligation to share it, in a way. And I am fortunate that a lot of the people I shared it with reacted well, although some of them didn’t.
In hindsight, my youth group leaders basically just booted me off any involvement in leadership or any formal role in the youth group, to the point where I ended up leaving my church’s youth group and finding another one. I could understand it if I was in a practising relationship, but all I’d done was express that this is a sexual struggle, and I bet if you’d asked any of my Christian mates they would have all expressed that they have struggles, sexual struggles, as people.
I mean, why was mine somehow worse? I don’t think that’s how God views it. I think he sees us all as both beautiful people and at the same time corrupted. And my corruption is no worse or better than yours, it’s not like that, it’s just corruption and thankfully it’s dealt with in Jesus.
When you were younger did you wish you were different, or think it would pass?
I knew it would never pass. But I did then, and I still believe now, that God is capable of changing people’s sexual orientation, either drastically or minutely, but I also am convinced that he doesn’t promise to.
Do you pray for that?
I have at times; I don’t always. Now I think I see it differently, where, while all that is true, I don’t think this change [of sexual orientation] will somehow make life easier.
The sexual frustration that is sourced from our brokenness as humans is evident in all of our experiences, whether we’re gay, straight, single or married. It’s just the reality. And if that’s the case, well I’m not so sure that having [my sexual orientation] change would make my life any better, easier, or more or less godly. Actually, what I pray for is that in whatever situation I’m in, be it with this attraction or anything else in my life, that I’ll be driven to the foot of the cross, thankful for what’s been achieved, regardless of what my sin looks like.
I don’t pray for change very often now, but as a high school kid I definitely did, and I didn’t feel it would happen. And it was the source of a lot of mistrust of God as a kid, where I wanted to know why He made me like this, and why He wouldn’t change me. I was never angry, but I was definitely depressed.
What does attraction look like for you?
I’ve always been sexually attracted to men. But sexual attraction isn’t the only thing that makes a person attractive. A person isn’t the sum of their looks and their name; they’re the sum of a whole complex thing that God has done. I’ve definitely been attracted to women, just not sexually.
What is life going to look like for you?
At this point in my life I’m very happy and comfortable and content in my singleness. I don’t have any sense of urgency to enter into a relationship.
I’m never going to get married to a bloke. I would never be in a relationship with one. It’s because I’m a Christian that I couldn’t and wouldn’t. If I wasn’t [a Christian] there’d be no reason not to.
I have very strong views about God’s stance on human marriage. And I think his stance is quite clear in scripture that marriage under him is between a man and woman under God. So I don’t think it’s possible for me to marry a man, and for that marriage to be under God, because I just don’t think that works, it’s not a marriage anyway.
I would never say I’d never marry a woman, but I don’t think it will happen. With my current orientation, I think it would be unfair on a wife and I don’t believe getting married would make me more able to love and serve people.
Some Christians would disagree with you. How do you want to respond to them?
I don’t need to. My job is not to acquiesce to views, or even to take a public stand on that. If people feel the need to ask me whether or not I plan to enter into an active same sex relationship, well that is just no-one’s business, unless they get to know me and invest in a relationship with me, and learn why I might not.
Cause the other thing I’m conscious of is that I’m not perfect, and I might stuff up, because we all might, because we’re sinful. With the Spirit we are in good stead to win, but it doesn’t mean we always will. We all know that; we still sin. And I hope I don’t. But I might, and if I do, I want you to know me, and where I’m coming from and why that’s significant, rather than assume that my one answer given on some Facebook post when I was 32 is the thing I’m always going to live by. Because I just don’t want to promise that I won’t fall.
Have there been any negative responses?
I have been very disappointed by some responses where people have just automatically questioned my theology, asking why I wasn’t more explicit about my faith, or why I didn’t make a stand on living a celibate life, or why I didn’t use it as a gospel opportunity. A lot of people have asked me to confirm that I’m not in a relationship.
They’ve been really quick to care not at all about me, but jump immediately to the common issues that people have, and in doing so they have betrayed their lack of commitment to me as a person, or their lack of understanding of the seriousness of this issue in someone’s life. It makes me hugely angry. I can cope with it because I know where I stand before God, but some of the people they’ll speak to don’t.
Regarding this issue, what do you want the church to be?
The struggle of the Christian life is hard enough, for all of us, to then add to that the struggle that someone has to live with privately, if their church is unwilling to support them in this. What I would love to see churches do is be places where people who have this as a feature of their sexuality, would feel that they are a valued member of God’s community, encouraged to live a godly Christian life, with the support of the people who ought to be the ones who love and know them best. At the moment we’re not there.
I get that churches are full of broken people, but my brokenness is no more or less broken than yours, and what we need to do is understand that until we get our own house in order, perhaps taking a public stance on a political topic that in many ways is at arms length has meant we’ve forgotten to take an opportunity to speak prophetically into the world about the way God views people and the way God views human-to-human relationships.
*Editor’s note: a personal reference to a member of Greg Lake’s family has been removed from this story.