Sunny Side of The Stream: Ten Christian Marriages Come from Pastor’s Faithfulness to Care for People Suffering from Same-Sex Attraction

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on June 8, 2024

With Pride Month upon us, the question presents itself anew: How should Christians engage with people who suffer from same-sex attraction or gender confusion, and with a society that celebrates disordered lifestyles?

One pastor has decades worth of experience on this topic to share.

In 2003, Sam Andreades took on the position of senior pastor at a church in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, home to the famous Stonewall riots that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the 1970s.

“That was kind of gay central,” he tells The Stream.

Andreades felt compelled to learn about the people around him, so he asked a church elder — a “big Texan guy,” as he recalls — to go with him to a transvestite party and ask people there what had led them to choose that path. It was an eye-opening evening.

“I began to realize where American culture was going,” he says now. “I offered myself to the Lord. I said, ‘If you want to use me for this, I will make myself available.'”

Over the next two decades, that promise would lead Andreades to many more interactions with people dealing with same-sex attraction and gender confusion.

“There are things for which, normally, a busy pastor would say, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ I said instead, ‘Okay, because I made that promise, I’ll take the time to try to walk with these people who really want to follow Christ, but have these difficulties that plague them.’ And I feel very privileged to have walked with some of them. They’re really heroes to me.”

Water, Bathrooms, and the Truth

Andreades says that as a pastor, “you want to be ministering to the people and the needs in your area. And in our area, it just seemed to me that we would not be faithful if we tried to ignore [how gay the neighborhood was] or just had a fortress mentality. So I spent a lot of time trying to help the congregation to engage the culture, to open up” and take the truth and power of the Gospel out of the building and into the village.

During that time, the local gay pride parade — which passed right outside the church’s doors on West 11th Street during its Sunday morning service — began to transform from a fringe event into an enormous production as politicians decided to support it. Every year members of his congregation would worry about what they should do. How would they respond?

“I got my leaders together and I said, ‘Let’s respond as Christ would with truth and grace,'” Andreades says. Since people at a parade needed water and bathroom access, the group decided they would open their doors during the service to offer those two things. So as Andreades preached, members of the congregation handed out water bottles and escorted people to the restrooms.

As people from the parade walked past, Andreades would lay out from the Scriptures why gay pride is not Christ’s way for people. Some people who were getting water bottles and going to the restrooms would then sit in the back of the room. Once a couple — two men — came in together and sat down and started listening to the sermon. Andreades watched their faces change as they began to understand his message.

“One of the guys got really angry,” Andreades recalls. “He finally stood up and tapped the guy next to him, like, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ He ran over to the door. But the other guy didn’t follow him. I could just see from his face, he was like, ‘Wait, I want to listen to this guy. I want to hear what he’s saying.’”

Those two reactions reflect the general response to the church’s efforts. “We had some people who were able to be helped. Other people who would have nothing of it,” he says. But “we made ourselves available.”

Sharing Hope

Andreades will be one of the featured speakers at the annual HOPE conference taking place in Rocklin, California, June 21-22. It is hosted by the Restored Hope Network, an interdenominational coalition of Christian ministries serving those who desire to overcome relational and sexual issues through therapy. As a speaker at HOPE 2024, Andreades will be sharing that a Christian response to increasing levels of homosexuality and gender questioning is an opportunity to give grace to the perishing, build a theology of gender (he has a 2019 book on that topic), roll out the red carpet to the repentant, and always expect God to move. He’ll also lead a workshop related to his 2023 book on talking about transgenderism with your teen.

Andreades is founder of Higher Ground, a ministry offering group meetings and pastoral counsel to people with same-sex attraction who are seeking to live in alignment with their Christian faith. In the early 2000s he called the leading umbrella organization for such ministries and asked which member organizations were helping people in New York City. They replied that there wasn’t one.

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“I’m in a city of eight million people in Manhattan and nobody, I mean, nobody [was answering that call that I could find],” he says. “So, it was just us. So we started that and just said, ‘We’re here for people. You’re going to get biblical truth and you’re also going to get compassion. We want to walk with you. We don’t want to push you out. We also don’t want to acclimate to the culture. We want to provide the way of Christ as we as best we can see it.’ And so we did.”

There was a cost: Some church members didn’t want to be associated with that kind of ministry and left. But Andreades wouldn’t back down.

“I really felt like to be a faithful church, this is what we needed to do.”

To Be a Faithful Church

So the discipleship group for people who needed a place within the church to bare their souls and learn God’s truth for them continued. And though Andreades has since passed on that ministry to others and now pastors elsewhere, it has now been in operation for about 16 years.

At least ten marriages and about a dozen babies are some of its fruit. That’s not Andreades’s primary metric of success though; people have been able to be transparent about their lives rather than living in shame, to grow in their understanding of their gender and in their relationships. That’s how he measures success.

The creator of affirmingender.com says this moment in history is calling the Church to grow in a greater biblical understanding of gender so we can minister grace and truth to the hurting and perishing.

“God always has a reason for what He does. He is never arbitrary in His commands, and whenever He commands things, as the prophet Jeremiah says, they are for our good,” Andreades explains. “When we depart from God’s commands, we end up in a worse place. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that.”

 

Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow her on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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