I was given this book by a friend. She knew of my struggles with my sexuality and my belief in the Christian doctrine as defined by the Bible, and hoped that it would ease the tension between these seemingly incongruous aspects.

I received it with the usual scepticism a gay person would when receiving a book that offers to “help” by a Christian. I expected to get two chapters into the book, yawn and throw it amongst the heap of books I already had calling homosexuality a sin, or showing me steps to free myself of the “homosexual neurosis” (strangely similar to the alcoholic’s 12 step programme – both are addictions, apparently).

I sat down to get through what I hoped wouldn’t be complete drivel and started Graham Ingram’s Out of the Shadows. The first thing I noticed was the by-line: “Let’s get real about the gay issue”. “Let’s get real about your school of thought about the issue,” was my immediate response.

A few pages in, I realised I needed to rethink my expectations of this book. This was stuff I had never seen in published writing before. I had thought some of it, had discussed some of it with friends, but never in my experience had someone with a theological degree and the title of minister been so frank about homosexuality and the church, or his own journey as a homosexual man.

Ingram has been a church pastor for more than 40 years, and is well-respected in this role. For years, Ingram wrestled with being gay and a pastor, often in silence. With ground-breaking candidness, he tells of this journey and, in a very real and relatable way, builds a bridge between conservative Christ-followers and gay people. Well, for those prepared to listen, anyway.

I’ve written about homosexuality and Christianity before, and have been criticised by some for attempting to reconcile the two and present this on a public platform. So, let me say out right, this book is aimed at people who have a fundamental belief in the Bible and in Christ as the son of God. If you disagree with this, then the book is not aimed at you, and no need to add silly comments at the end of this about your lack of belief in God as presented in the Bible. You’re allowed your belief, as are Christians.

On the other hand, I understand the criticism, because, well let’s face it – some Christians deserve a good kick up the butt. Their judgement of lifestyles other than their own seems to deserve a response as viper-like as their own lashings. And this is what is so refreshing about Ingram’s book. He presents a very even, balanced and non-judgemental response to defamatory comments about gays – comments he has experienced in his own life, and more so, since writing this book.

Ingram starts by telling his story. Being from a boy’s school, this is Spud with a huge difference – the protagonist is dealing with his attraction to men, rather than trying to avoid Pike in the dorms.

Ingram has never had sex with a man – something the Church should applaud. After all, that is its first option for gay men; to commit to a life of celibacy. Ingram explains his stance on this without judging those who have decided to commit to a same-sex partner, even though the assumption would be that he would expect you to follow his lead.

Although he had never “sinned” by acting on his attractions, the revelation of his homosexuality created a stir amongst the church in which he served and became his first experience of rejection within this context. His response, rather than to run was to live in his truth – as he says:

“In admitting the truth I was free. I had actually harmed myself a great deal by trying to suppress for so many years what I knew to be true. I had to bring it out, move out of the shadows, and take a good look at it, and come to terms with what it meant.”

It’s this reflection that led to the book Out of the Shadows.

The book deals with many things I’ve never seen discussed before: Why is the evangelical church having such a hard time dealing with homosexuality? What does the bible really say about homosexuality? And then moves on to the good stuff – how do you deal with being a Christian who is gay? How do parents deal with a child coming out?

Finally, he asks – “where do we go from here?” This was probably my biggest frustration with the book, although I understand why Ingram takes the stance he does. Ingram doesn’t make demands of the Church to change. In fact, he got me thinking. That’s his aim. You see, so often we, as gay people want it all now. We demand change. We demand to be seen as equal. We demand marriage.

Understandably so, but sometimes demanding is not the way forward. Ingram seems to suggest that we tread this one lightly. That we start building the bridges slowly. Hell, we’ll never change some of the conservatives’ minds – there will be those who yell “God hates fags” for many years to come, just as there are those who are appalled that women are allowed to be leaders in a church. But, for some, dialogue will build the bridge. It will allow people to see gay people as humans and not “types” of people different from them.

Ingram has written a powerful and deeply personal book, which I hope will be met with the respect due to it. This is a man who is prepared to open the door to friendly discussion, where judgement has no place, but a way forward is the aim.

In later contact with Ingram, I have been pleased to hear that his book, which has struggled to find distribution, has been received favourably by members of the Church, resulting in invitations for him to speak to congregations and leaders of churches.

Gay men who believe in the Christian doctrine will find a lot of comfort and hope in this book, something often denied in this context. I hope many get to read it, and really hear what he has to say.

Out of the Shadows is available at some book stores, but can be ordered for R80 plus postage by emailing

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