In America right now, unlike so much of prior human history, minority groups receive compassionate attention and support. There is good that has come from this heightened encouragement by scholars, journalists, corporations, church ministry and social media influencers.

Amid this month’s celebration of a proliferating variety of sexual minorities (from gender fluid to nonbinary, to gay, lesbian or queer), one group has received remarkably little attention: those who experience same-sex attraction or identify as LGBTQ+ and are also deeply committed to following a traditional Christian sexual ethic.

This group remains profoundly misunderstood and, in some ways, ostracized, from both those in religious and the LGBTQ+ communities. 

Fortunately, there are numerous national organizations among major Christian denominations who represent and minister to these individuals. Among others, they include Courage for conservative Catholics, Revoice and Restored Hope Network for Evangelicals and North Star International (meeting this weekend in Salt Lake City) for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Like the individuals themselves, these groups are too often misunderstood and judged harshly by secular and progressive observers. Some of the most common misunderstandings are that these organizations promote shame and self-hatred, encourage aversive conversion therapy and prevent self-acceptance and inner harmony.

Misunderstandings also arise from traditional believing Christians who misperceive a threat to their faith communities. For instance, some might assume anyone who experiences same-sex attraction rejects traditional religious teaching about gender and sexuality. Others assume it is dangerous to get all these people together with offensive comments like “Would you have an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at a bar?” 

With misunderstanding coming from many directions, it can be difficult for these individuals to find a fuller sense of belonging in faith communities. This explains some of the reluctance of LGBTQ+ folks who embrace a traditional marriage ethic to speak up in popular discourse. Latter-day Saint Blake Fisher has written about “patronizing pushback” that sometimes comes from other LGBTQ+ folks no longer practicing their faith, which goes something like this:

“Oh, I remember when I was back in that [religion]. I was motivated by fear, shame, internalized homophobia/transphobia and external expectations … I imagine these people are, too. If they’re actually honest with themselves and educate themselves with some ‘unbiased’ research materials, they’ll inevitably come to the same conclusions I did. Life is so much better when you live authentically (the way I am). I’m mad at the church for forcing them to live that way.”

These are the kinds of attitudes believing Christians affected by these issues sometimes encounter, and why gatherings of these faithful and devoted individuals are especially uplifting and strengthening. Formal associations of faithful and believing LGBTQ+ folks have been found among just about all Christian groups and beyond, such as the Strong Support Muslim peer-support organization and the Israeli Family Institute for Orthodox Jews who are navigating analogous experiences in their respective faiths.

North Star International is not a formal organization associated with The Church of Jesus Christ, but rather independently seeks to be a “faith-affirming resource” for those who specifically “desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” As the organization says, “We look to our Savior Jesus Christ for guidance, hope and spiritual healing.”

For evangelical believers, Revoice has a similar mission: to “support and encourage gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted Christians — as well as those who love them” with an ultimate aspiration of working “so that all in the Church might be empowered to live in gospel unity while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”

Each of these groups is firmly rooted in the Judeo-Christian commitment to marriage between a man and a woman.

Each of these initiatives has ongoing ministries and different kinds of smaller support gatherings, as well as extensive resource sharing to help individuals and families navigate challenges. North Star’s website, for example, features many short testimonies and longer stories of men and women who experience joy and peace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

While encouraging faith, reconciliation and belonging, each of these groups avoids trying to become an alternative to church fellowship itself, instead hoping to prepare individuals to better receive the fruits and blessings of their own worship, while taking what they learn at their gatherings and direct their energy and unique gifts to build up their local congregations. 

Nate Collins, the Evangelical author of “All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality,” calls for greater, ongoing attention to helping the church “be a place where gay and lesbian men and women can discover the abundant life that the gospel promises them.”

The relief of finding support that doesn’t somehow subtly undermine or more overtly lead away from faith is palpable. And together, these groups push back on the dominant narrative that portrays this pathway of reconciliation between sexuality and faith as harmful and limiting at best, and impossible at worst.

“God hasn’t called me to an impassable path,” as one Christian believer has remarked. “There is life and joy in submitting to Christ and following him.”

Jeff Bennion is a co-founder of North Star International and a marriage and family therapist who also writes about marriage, sexuality and gender. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and teenage son.