I lead a workshop on working with same-sex attraction for counseling trainees and interns at Life Pacific College last weekend. The clinicians were hungry for information and tools to help their clients cope with not just same-sex attraction, but a long list of other sexual issues.

I presented the work of psychologist Mark Yarhouse on narrative sexual identity therapy, along with some provocative thoughts from anthropologist Jenell Paris’ new book The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Both teach at conservative Christian colleges where they are seeking more compassionate and helpful ways to think about and work with issues of sexuality among this very confused, ill-equipped and all-too-often guilt and shame ridden group of young adults.

Pastor Steve Smith of Malibu Presbyterian church says that from puberty to marriage students from conservative backgrounds are in sort of exile from their own sexuality — he calls it “Sex-ile.” The church tells them to “wait” until marriage, but then offers minimal resources to integrate and develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality while they wait.

A former student from Azusa Pacific University where I taught human sexuality and sex therapy for 8 years sent me a link to a story that illustrates how well intended but limited efforts to prescribe chastity as the answer for sex-ile can end up doing more harm than good. Samantha Pugsley says that she waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity and wishes she hadn’t. It’s a tragic example of the kind of outcome that I suspect will become even more common among these young people if we don’t develop alternatives.

Meanwhile, five days ago ethicist David Gushee, who’s wise counsel helped me with my decision to discontinue teaching at Azusa Pacific this past summer, stirred the pot in a big way with his speech “Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church’s Sexual Minorities” at the Reformation Project Conference. As expected in the heated conversation taking place about same-sex attraction in the church world, he was soon on the chopping block of those who disagreed with his presentation.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

I remain in the conversation, committed to staying open and being part of the solution. One day at a time.