Journey Canada is a Christian discipleship organization, and does not provide psychotherapy or counselling. Instead our aim has been to provide a place of Christian discipleship, in the context of community, in which program participants can, with love and honesty, address relational and sexual issues which they identify as places of struggle in their lives – including, but not limited to: problems with anger, low self-esteem, marital problems/divorce, dysfunction within family of origin, sexual addictions (including addiction to pornography), consequences of trauma and grief associated with abuse, sexual orientation or identity. Only about 5% of those who come to Journey Canada name sexual orientation or sexual identity issues as their reason for coming. However, given the high profile of this issue in our societyi
, the following paragraphs outline Journey Canada’s approach on this important topic.
Of those who choose to enroll in the Journey Discipleship Course (JDC), some do so because they experience a dissonance between their same-sex attraction and their religious beliefs regarding sexual ethics – these participants tend to be seeking congruence between the two. JDC presents an opportunity for them to address this dissonance in a place of trust and safety and in the overall context of Christian discipleship.
These participants, as noted in the American Psychological Association’s 2009 report Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientationii
, tend to be people who “choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (e.g., telic congruence).”iii
For these people, finding telic congruence is achieved not by denying or “changing” their sexual orientation, but by accepting who they are (including their sexual attractions) and nonetheless living in accordance with their deeply-held beliefs. Journey Canada takes a “client-centered approach” and believes that these are decisions for each program participant to make for themselves.iv
Generally, JDC participants share Journey Canada’s Christian faith and orthodox Christian understanding of sexual ethics, including God's plan for sexual relations between a man and a woman within marriage, and intentionally choose to participate in this Christian discipleship program. These participants are asked to sign the Journey Canada Statement of Faith and Beliefs
, acknowledging that they have read and understood it, and that the program is based on this statement of faith. Journey Canada also makes it clear that we do not promise, or even make it our goal, to change participants’ sexual orientation.v
The heart of JDC is one of Christian discipleship whereby participants come to see their primary identity as being disciples of Jesus, children of God (who loves them unconditionally, again, regardless of sexual orientation or behaviour), and members of the church. For many, the result is that they become less desperate for God to ‘take away’ their sexual ‘issues’ (be they with pornography, sexual orientation dissonance, or anything else).
For many JDC graduates, their sexual or relational issues may remain, in one sense, ‘unchanged,’ but will have moved from being a dominant feature of their lives. Participants may gain a deeper appreciation of their Christian identity, whereby they experience reduced shame over their unwanted sexual feelings and greater acceptance in Christ (regardless of whether those sexual feelings persist or not). Many will have experienced safe relationships in which to become known and to provide and receive mutual support. They will have accepted and integrated previously unwanted sexual attractions into a deeper identity built around Christ.vi
Among those who participate in JDC due to felt dissonance around same-sex attraction/orientation, a majority experience a reduction in the strength or power of same-sex attraction/orientation and increased hope, strength, desire, and ability to live in accordance with their personal beliefs regarding sexual ethics, but this is very much an indirect result of the Journey Canada program, and neither its primary aim nor a litmus test for its success. A successful program is one where all participants leave knowing the love of God more deeply than before, understanding their place in God’s family, and being empowered to take the next step of faith towards a flourishing life in whichever way God is leading them.