March 29, 2017

Annotated Bibliography of Select LGBT References

Rev. Bruce N. G. Cromwell, Ph.D.
SCOD 2013

Bell, Rob. Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.

Rob Bell is, well, Rob Bell. This is a very readable and compelling book that is more about relationships than sexuality per se. Roughly 200 pages (when you include the end-notes, Scripture citations, and the like) it’s a book that I’d certainly recommend but not one that necessarily speaks loudly into this particular conversation. Could it help someone improve their marriage? Absolutely. Could it help us in formulating a compassionate response to the LGBT question? Perhaps, but not directly.

And to be honest, the fact that it’s Rob might turn some people off. I like this work of his. I don’t remember anything in it that made me squirm or get queasy. But it might not be the best thing for some people to be handed a book but someone whose name is inflammatory in certain circles. Just a thought.

Brown, Peter. The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1988.

I first read this work while working on my doctorate in Patristics. Peter Brown is a genius when it comes to Christian antiquity, and I pretty much trust his analysis and scholarship at face value. With that in mind, I found this work illuminating. Just at 500 pages in length, it’s not something intended for widespread audiences, but it has helped me a lot in how I’ve thought about a theology of sexuality.

In part that’s because I’m a bit of a contextual thinker. When I last took the Strengths Finder survey my top five were Strategy, Achiever, Relator, Context, Includer. I need back story and broader understanding of why people did what they did, not just what they did. This work provides that.

Let me quote from the work itself to give you the overview:

“In this book, I study the practice of permanent sexual renunciation: continence, celibacy, life- long virginity as opposed to observance of temporary periods of sexual abstinence, that developed among men and women in Christian circles in the period from a little before the missionary journeys of Saint Paul, in the 40s and 50s AD, to a little after the death of Saint Augustine, in 430 AD. My principal concern has been to make clear the notions of the human person and of society implied in such renunciations, and to follow in detail the reflection and controversy which these notions generated, among Christian writers, on such topics as the nature of sexuality, the relation of men and women, and the structure and meaning of society.”

Though he does address same-sex relations in the early church, the primary value of this work is as an historical overview of a theology of sexuality.

Chu, Jeff. Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America. New York, NY: Harper, 2013.

Jeff Chu graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and received a fellowship from Harvard Divinity School. He’s also gay. This 350 page book is more memoir than critical analysis.

Jeff traveled the country and spoke with various persons who represent various perspectives on the LGBT debate, arranging his conversations with these persons in the categories of doubting (such as Westboro Baptist), struggling (such as Exodus ministries), reconciling (such as Metropolitan Community Church), and a final chapter on hoping.

For a confessional work that looks into the heart of a person struggling with their Christianity and their sense of an LGBT identity, this is a really well done work. It’s not academic, but it does provoke questions and can help stimulate discussion.

Hill, Wesley. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

I met Wesley in October in Grand Rapids and found him thoroughly engaging, quite committed to his Christian faith, and fully reconciled to his identity as a gay Christian. He has a BA from Wheaton (2004), an MA from Durham University (2008), an MA in Biblical and Pastoral Studies form Bethlehem College and Seminary (2012), and a PhD from Durham University (2012). Currently he’s Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry (where Joel Scandrett is also on staff).

I share his vitae in part because I think this small book (160 pages) may be the single best source I’ve found to articulate where I think the FMC-USA will land when it comes to our position on LGBT issues. I highly recommend it. Let me quote from the book flap:

“How do the gospel, holiness, and indwelling sin play out in the life of a Christian struggling with same-sex attraction? And how do brothers and sisters in Christ show love to them? Wesley Hill offers wise counsel that is biblically faithful, theologically serious, and oriented to the life and practice of the church.

“As a celibate gay Christian, Hill gives us a glimpse of what it looks like to wrestle firsthand with God’s ‘No’ to same-sex relationships. What does it mean for gay Christians to be faithful to God while struggling with the challenge of their homosexuality? What is God’s will for believers who experience same-sex desires? Those who choose celibacy are often left to deal with loneliness and the hunger for relationships. How can gay Christians experience God’s favor and blessing in the midst of a struggle that for many brings a crippling sense of shame and guilt?

“Weaving together reflections from his own life and the lives of other Christians, such as Henri Nouwen and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hill offers a fresh perspective on these questions. He advocates neither unqualified ‘healing’ for those who struggle nor accommodation to temptation, but rather faithfulness in the midst of brokenness.”

Lee, Justin. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays Vs. Christians Debate. New York, NY: Jericho Books, 2012.

At the same time that I met Wesley Hill, I also met Justin Lee. The three of us were able to “hang out” a little and talk, and it was one of the more enlightening and (frankly) beautiful conversations I’ve had. Justin’s book has received incredibly high praise, and not without reason.

It is also part memoir, as he recalls what it was like to come out to his family and friends and how disillusioned he became with the “ex-gay” movement. He shares openly about his personal studies through the Scriptures and the conclusions he’s drawn from those studies. This was the first place that I became aware of the “Side A, Side B” differentiation within the LGBT community. In essence, Side A holds that gay sex, like straight sex, is morally acceptable in the right circumstances. Side B holds that gay sex is inherently morally wrong.

I think what I enjoyed so much about the conversation with Wesley and Justin is that Justin is Side A, but Wesley is Side B, and yet they both claim to be gay Christians. Even with these marked differences we were able to have a conversation as Christians, with love and respect and compassion, truly listening to one another even though we disagreed about something this important and personal.

At the time I read it I felt that Torn was the best memoir I had read from a gay Christian when it came to helping me understand the struggle from “the other side.” I think I still feel that way. At 250 something pages, it’s an easy but important read.

Marin, Andrew. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Andrew Marin and his wife live in a predominantly LGBT neighborhood in Chicago. When some of his closest friends all revealed to him within a three month period that they were gay, his thoughts about this issue moved from the theoretical to the personal. He founded The Marin Foundation, which at the time of the writing of this book was conducting the largest-ever research study on religion in the gay community.

I read this book almost immediately after it was published. To my mind it set the standard for compassionate Christian responses that followed.

Based on his experienced with persons in the LGBT community, Marin writes with the purpose of shifting the Christian conversation from that of an issue to be solved to that of faces and friends and children of God to be engaged. He stresses the focus on Jesus, who loved those on the fringes and those that the religious establishment often rejected. As Shane Claiborne commented regarding this work, “Andrew reminds us that, whether conservative or liberal, we can have great ideas and still be mean and self-righteous. And ultimately they will know we are Christians, not by our proof-texting, but by our love.”

Around 200 pages in length, this book as much as any helped me to see persons in the LGBT community in a different light. It stresses unconditional love, without arguing for unconditional acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.

At one of the churches I have pastored the eldest son of the church members came out as gay. It was difficult for the young man, and a very stressful and difficult time for his mother, too, who wanted to be faithful to the Scriptures and felt that his choices were not only sinful but embarrassing to her and her family. We (she and I) talked often about keeping the focus on him and his struggle, about how she and her husband could best love him through this very intimate admission, but sadly she seemed to drive him away with every conversation they had. In time he stopped attending church and cut off consistent contact with his mom, but continued to talk regularly with me. I wish I could remember the book we worked through together, because it helped him to understand the fears his mother was feeling, and to be able to restore that relationship.

My point? I wish I had this book at that time, too. It would have been perfect for the mom, as a way not to explain away what God says about same sex attraction and lifestyle, but as a clear call to love and compassion, even in the midst of our confusion.

Michaelson, Jay. God Vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality. Beacon, MA: Beacon Press, 2011.

Jay Michaelson is the founder of Nehirim, a national organization based in New York that seeks to build community programming for LGBT Jews and their allies. Michaelson has written several books and articles on behalf of an affirming LGBT position.

Divided into three parts, this book claims that the Bible does not forbid homosexuality, but rather supports the equality and dignity of gay and lesbian persons. He argues that the narrative of creation states that “it is not good for a person to be alone,” and this demonstrates less a directive on sexuality and more a commentary on community. As religious communities then grow and reflect on various passages and the persons in their midst, they develop a greater conscience which realizes that sexual diversity is a part of the beauty of nature and that same- sex families strengthen, rather than threaten, the values that religious people hold dear.

The first part, roughly 50 pages, takes phrases from Scripture and uses them to argue that our fundamental values support, rather than oppose, equality for sexual minorities. The phrases and his primary points include:

  •   “It is not good for a person to be alone.” Intimate relationship heals the primary flaw in creation.
  •   “I am asleep but my heart is awake: the voice of my beloved knocks.” A loving God could never want the “closet.”
  •   “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love demands authentic compassion from others.
  •   “By the word of God were the heavens made.” Sexual diversity is natural and part ofGod’s creation.
  •   “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Honesty and integrity are sacred, so “coming out” is a religious act.
  •   “Justice shall you pursue.” Inequality is an affront to religious values.The second part, approximately 60 pages, tries to demonstrate how what he terms the “bad verses” in the Bible, those that are often used to decry homosexuality, do not really condemn it. My sense is that his arguments are strained and not convincing, though he does articulate a position that other pro-LGBT persons will proclaim.In his third part, another 50 pages or so, he claims that inclusion of what he calls “sexual minorities” is good for religious values, not bad.To me, the value of the book was in the extensive bibliography (15 pages), a list of LGBT religious organizations, and suggestions for further reading, listed in various categories including general introductory books, Christian pro-gay readings of the Bible, testimonies and autobiographies of faithful gay Christians, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Lesbian, Transgender, queer theology and ethics, gay spirituality, science of sexual orientation, history, world religions and cultures, LGBT religious websites, and ex-ex-gay resources.Otto, Tim. Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014.

    Another short book (just 132 pages) but containing a nice bibliography, I found Tim Otto’s work inspiring. Rather than trying to “pick a side” in the discussion about LGBT concerns and sexuality, he tries to help the church discover ways that we can live out our unity in Christ as we engage politically and civilly with one another. If it’s true that others will know we are Christians by our love, then Tim suggests we do a better job of demonstrating that.

    As pastor of the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, and holding a Masters of Theological Studies degree from Duke Divinity School, Tim articulates and argues well his position. As a gay Christian himself, there is clearly a certain bias. But it does not detract from the power of his statements nor his call to each of us to work through our struggles in this debate.

    I don’t know that this work helped me so much in solidifying or questioning my personal opinions on the LGBT question. It did, however, help me think about how I process aloud and work through my personal opinions with others. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion.

    So for example, one such question asks, “Have you tried to talk with people who have a differing perspective on same-sex relationships? If so, what were those conversations like? What things made those conversations go well or go poorly?”

    Or, “the argument about homosexuality in the church is often focused on whether God affirms or condemns same-sex relationships. This introduction argues that a better question might be, ‘How is God working for the good in this controversy?’ What kinds of answers can you imagine to that question?”

As a study guide for a group of pastors/leaders who are trying to maneuver through this issue and are perhaps struggling with talking points, I think this book could be helpful.

Paris, Jenell Williams. The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Jenell attended Bethel University, holds a Ph.D. from American University, and currently is a professor of anthropology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. She and her husband have been married for several years and have three boys still at home. And in this 160 page book I found the best anthropological analysis of the LGBT question that I’ve read.

She points out that concepts such as “gay” or “straight” are fairly recent developments. All of us, to a degree, are defined by our socially constructed notions of sexual orientation and identity (part of why it’s so important, I think, for the FMC-USA to articulate something to guide the conversation for our churches!). But as a Christian, she also rightly points out that allowing societal norms to drive the conversation is most likely not the best way to think about sexuality.

With that in mind, she attempts to script a framework for sexual holiness accounting for current societal realities. I think she does a balanced job of addressing problems within both the Christian worldview and the popular culture approach to homosexuality and heterosexuality. And in the end she opens some doors for further conversation as we process together what our theology of sexuality might fully entail.

With good discussion questions and notations at the end of the work, this again would make a fine resource for pastors/leaders, especially those that are interested in an anthropological approach.

Robinson, Gene. God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2012.

The Rev. Gene Robinson was the first openly gay person elected to the episcopate in the Episcopal Church, serving at the Diocese of New Hampshire. You may recall that he was married to a woman for fourteen years and fathered two children with her before getting a divorce. In 2003 he married his partner, with whom he had been a relationship for over twenty years. This book is his attempt to explain why he believes gay marriage is permissible and consistent with biblical principles and Christian values.

Of interest, sadly Bishop Robinson filed for divorce from his husband in May of this year.

Regardless, in this just under 200 page book, Bishop Robinson attempts to go through the Scriptures and answer the common arguments against same sex marriage. Written with clear compassion and not even a hint of vitriol, his arguments are nonetheless a bit weak, I believe.

This work is good insofar as it demonstrates how we can discuss the issues with grace and kindness, but I did not find it compelling in scope. A nice volume that helped me understand some of his personal struggle, and again, see the issue from “the other side,” I don’t think it is all that helpful to our attempt to articulate a guiding document or statement.

Scanzoni, Letha Dawson, and Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1994.

First released in 1978, this work was ahead of its time in calling the church to reevaluate its approach toward persons within the LGBT community. Though still somewhat dated in its examples and certainly outdistanced in recent years (to my mind) by other sources, this work still, in trying to discuss scientific, psychological, and biblical perspectives on sexuality, is compassionate as well as informative.

For example, the 242 pages discuss the risks and challenges of moral growth, the concept of seeing persons in the LGBT community as modern-day Samaritans, moving from homophobia to understanding, and evaluating the debate in Christendom, particularly American Christendom, today (well, 20 years ago at this point). It even attempts to provide what it calls a “homosexual Christian ethic.”

This was one of the last books I read in this study, and perhaps because more recent works have discussed some of these issues as well, perhaps because there are more current examples than found in this text, or perhaps just because I had read quite a bit and was growing weary of the conversation, I did not find this book extremely helpful. I’m glad I read it. I don’t think any knowledge is ever wasted. But I’m not sure I’d recommend it as one that everyone needs to get.

Shore, John. Unfair: Christians and the LGBT Question. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

If you want something that will make you gasp, cry, and be viscerally moved with both sympathy and anger, this might be the book. In its short 208 pages, John Shore (a straight Christian) presents his case for why the person with an LGBT identity does not have to sacrifice their sexual identity in the name of Christianity. He tries to argue that they are not incompatible.

And though the arguments he makes, particularly the Scriptural arguments, are not new and are found in many other works that advocate an accepting position on LGBT matters, the real benefit of this work is in the testimonies of persons wrestling with their sexuality. Those were the sections that most profoundly spoke to me.

This book is not for the faint of heart, as these first person accounts are quite real and very raw. They are graphic and, only rarely from my point of view, unnecessarily so. I would most definitely not recommend it for the casual Christian or for a Sunday School book discussion. However, I would hope that as we wrestle with a denominational stance on LGBT matters we would do so out of a heart that breaks for all of God’s children and that seeks to better understand how we can engage with all people in drawing closer to the likeness of Christ. Hearing from the very persons that the Church has often ostracized and driven away in its effort to protect itself, rather than a desire to give itself away in service, helps keeps the focus on where I believe we want it to be. Allowing leaders to hear those voices is a good thing.

What we believe matters. Issues matter. And we want to guide people into all truth. But the penultimate truth we proclaim is that God is love. If people can’t hear about our God of love because our actions of suspicion and judgment are speaking too loudly, I suspect that’s more of an indictment on us than on them.

Snyder, Howard. Homosexuality and the Church: Defining Issue or Distracting Battle? Wilmore, KY: Seedbed, 2014.

I expect we’ve all read this… if not, we should, if only because it’s from perhaps the foremost Wesleyan scholar in our ranks. Howard is clear and concise (the book is only 66 pages long) and yet covers a lot of material.

Anticipating many of the questions asked of the church regarding engagement with the LGBT community, as well as providing solid biblical support throughout his argument, he provides a good book that could be placed in the hand of any Free Methodists that would help them better appreciate the challenges facing the church regarding this issue and better equip them to serve persons within the LGBT community with compassionate care.

As an aside, Howard references both the Jeff Chu and William Webb books that are listed elsewhere in this bibliography.

Vanderwal-Gritter, Wendy. Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014.

This 281 page book is written by Wendy Vanderwal-Gritter, who for over ten years has served as executive director of New Direction Ministries in Canada, a program originally part of the Exodus ministries. The best summary I can give is to quote at length from a blog she posted in 2008.
It’s printed on pages 18-23 of this really good book. Forgive the length, but it summarizes well the direction and intent of this helpful text. It would be hard for me to more highly recommend this book… one of the best that I’ve read without a doubt.

“I want to begin by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that some of those who follow this site have experienced from leaders like me and ministries like the one I lead. I’m sorry that some of you connected with this site who identify as Christian have had your faith questioned and judged. I’m sorry there is a felt need for a site like XGW (ex-gay watch). I’m sorry that it feels like legitimate concerns have not been listened to. I am sorry for the arrogance that can come across from leaders like me….

“I deeply believe that God’s intention for sexual expression is the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman. God has also deeply convicted me of my own pride in assuming that I had a perfect pipeline to God, and everyone who disagreed with me was simply deceived by the enemy or putting their own wants and desires ahead of commitment to God. I have had the opportunity that many conservatives have not had, and that is to come to know people who have deeply and honestly sought God through prayer and Scripture and come to a different conclusion than I. Their faith was neither trivial nor superficial, and though there were points of disagreement, I respect their deep commitment to God. And so, I’ve come to a place where I’m grateful that God has humbled me and given me the opportunity to listen and engage with those who come to different perspectives.

“I don’t think my job is to change the minds of all those who think differently than I do. As an eclectic Calvinist, I believe God is the one who convicts and reroutes us in our minds and hearts. My job is to walk in step with the Spirit and do my very best to do what He tells me to do…. As I work and serve, I find more often than not that what the Spirit whispers for me to do is to simply focus on serving and loving those He brings across my path.

“I do think there needs to be a safe place within the Christian community for those who experience same-gender attraction who have wrestled with Scripture and come to believe a traditional biblical sexual ethic. I believe we have a long way to go to eradicate hateful and homophobic environments and responses in the Christian community. We have a long way to go to demolish the pervasive hierarchy of sin. And we have a long way to go to counter-act the perpetual sense of shame that many experience due to the reality of their same-gender attraction.

“I work toward the day when a follower of Jesus who experiences same-gender attraction can be honest and open about that reality and receive support and encouragement in living a life that is pleasing to God. And I feel particularly called to do that within the conservative church.

“I also feel called to speak to the conservative church about some of the ways I believe we have been distracted from the primary calling to support and encourage deeply devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

“1. We have been distracted by the politics around homosexuality. I do think there is a place for Christians to engage in the public arena. God calls His followers to be a blessing to all nations and to represent Him by being the presence of shalom on the earth. Unfortunately, in many of the Christian political efforts regarding homosexuality there is little evidence of shalom. The result is that many who need to hear a gospel of good news perceive God’s people to be hypocritical and unloving. This has perpetuated a sense of alienation that I believe grieves the heart of God.

“2. We have been distracted by a focus on orientation change. The heart of Christian ministry was summed up by Jesus when he said, ‘Go, make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you.’ The point of ministry like the one I lead is to support and encourage disciples of Jesus in their journey to live out their sexuality in a manner that they believe is God- honoring. If in that process they experience a deeper ability to love their opposite gender spouse or a great capacity to engage an authentic romantic, sexual, or marital relationship with someone of the opposite gender, that is a gift that can be gratefully received. But such gifts can’t be predicted, they can’t be guaranteed, they don’t follow a set of instructions, or come after just the right combination of root identification and eradication. There is a sense of mystery that necessitates an attitude of humility, discussion of realistic expectations, and serenity. So at the end of the day, ‘change is possible’ is not really the main point. Life in Christ is.

“3. We have been distracted by the question of causation. While there is clearly a place for research on this topic, and those involved in ministry should have the integrity to stay abreast of current research, by and large the conclusions on this matter are peripheral to the call of Christian ministry. Because there is currently such inconclusiveness on this question, conservative Christians would do well to humbly acknowledge this fact rather than being perceived as ill-informed, blinder-wearing, or agenda-promoting.

“In light of some of these distractions, New Direction Ministries, under our current leadership, has laid out some distinctives for ministry: 1)We are pastorally-focused, not politically driven. 2) We are relationally-focused, not program driven. 3) We are discipleship-focused, not change driven. 4) We are partnership-focused, not empire driven….

“I acknowledge that there have been people who have connected with our ministry who have left feeling hurt, confused and uncertain about how to go on with their lives having not experienced change. I wish I could pass the buck and say all of that happened before my time. Sexuality is incredibly complex. People are complex. Their stories, their experiences, and their journeys are unique. In the midst of this complex uniqueness, as ministers of the gospel we don’t always get it right, we don’t always discern appropriately. I hope that as a ministry, we are learning and growing and improving. I hope that we have created an environment that is open and safe regardless of what happens with someone’s attractions. I know our staff are open to engage people where they’re at. If people disengage from the ministry, which could happen for a multitude of different reasons, we hope that they would always feel they could return for a hot cup of coffee and be received with warmth, caring, and respect, regardless of where they might land on the ex-gay to ex-ex-gay continuum. When we can, we try to follow up with those who have left while respecting their privacy and right to be left alone as well. We believe God loves unconditionally and, though regularly faced with our own limitations, we seek to imitate Him.

“I see a lot of triumphalistic ‘name it, claim it’ kind of stuff in the church, and it always makes me nervous. I don’t particularly see evidence that the Christian journey should be about getting all the things we want, or even about our individual happiness. We see in Jesus Christ someone who poured Himself out for the world, and He calls His followers to imitate Him. Frankly, Christians aren’t very good at pouring ourselves out for others, especially for those who disagree with us. The world sees this, and it compromises our ability to share the love and life of God with our neighbors. At the risk of being misunderstood or called heretics, we want to engage, listen, and be the presence of Christ with those who hold different perspectives. We want to hang out with all the folks that make church leaders nervous (and frankly want to be the kind of people who make church leaders nervous) because we know that is who Jesus was and what Jesus did. We do this, in part, because there is more common ground than might be initially apparent. And I think there could be more understanding and respect….

“I am deeply passionate about contributing to a climate where anyone questioning, struggling, or embracing an alternative sexual identity can encounter the presence of Jesus Christ. My focus in this area of engagement is unapologetically Christ-centered. Some might say that by the very nature of holding a traditional sexual ethic, I contribute to the inaccessibility of the gospel for gay and lesbian people. I believe the power of the gospel is not thwarted by a call to radical discipleship. And my prayer is that we, at New Direction, commit ourselves to loving, serving, and building bridges with same-gender attracted people, Jesus will be seen in and through us.”

Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian. New York, NY: Convergent Books, 2014.
The promotional material for this 224 page book is what caught my attention and caused me to read it as quickly as I could.

“More than any other issue of our times, the church’s response to the gay debate has alienated young people from God, church, the Bible, and their own families. Conservative believers, gay and straight, are increasingly facing a painful dilemma: affirm what they have traditionally understood Scripture to say, or affirm what they increasingly see to be true about their gay friends and loved ones.

“God and the Gay Christian shows a third way, one that honors those who are different and the authority of Scripture. In this carefully researched and important book, Matthew Vines makes a compelling case for biblically-grounded responses to such questions as: How could traditional beliefs have been wrong for thousands of years on such an important topic? What is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah really saying about human relationships? Can celibacy be ca calling when it is mandated, not chosen? What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same- sex relations? Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not?

“Remarkable in its affirmation of both orthodox theology and full equality for sexual minorities, God and the Gay Christian has the potential to radically change the conversation about being gay in the church. Not only is it a convincing interpretation of key Bible texts, it is also the story of a young man navigating relationships with his family, his hometown church, and the church at large as he expresses what it means to be a faithful, gay Christian.”

After reading the book I would say that the promo is partially accurate. He is thorough in his analysis of Scripture, and is not inaccurate in his use of historical data. But the very reason so many persons disagree about the LGBT question, even within the bounds of Christendom, is because though we like to say Scripture is clear the reality is about the only thing that is clear is our variance in how we interpret the Scripture.

I am not the Scripture scholar some of you are, so I cannot weigh with any degree of authority the veracity of his arguments. They are commonly found in affirming LGBT positions, though. And this book can have great value to the FMC-USA if only to raise awareness of how many persons will argue for the justification of an LGBT orientation.

Did I find him convincing? No. I believe what I believe for a reason. But he helped me better understand the other perspective, and he does help us recognize the need for a better way forward in conversation.

Webb, William J. Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.

The title of this 300 page book says it all… for the person interested in a biblically solid hermeneutic of LGBT concerns, evaluated in light of biblical prescriptions regarding slaves and women as well, this is the text to read. It is clearly written to help the reader more thoughtfully consider why they apply certain Scriptures the way they do, regardless if, in the case of LGBT concerns, one is affirming or traditional in posture. Will this help the reader think through the biblical debate more clearly? Absolutely.

Webb admits that the task of applying an ancient text to current context is the challenge of biblical application. And yet he maneuvers through the web of interpretation and translation to speak across cultures into a place of understanding and fairness.

To those who want to draw straight distinctions between how we engage the LGBT community and the way current approaches to women and slaves varies from apparent biblical injunctions, Webb clearly points out that the homosexual texts are in a different category than the women and slavery texts. But in the end, he says, we all must learn to embrace a redemptive- movement hermeneutic. How is God moving and healing toward wholeness and holiness?

Excellent book. It’s a little scholarly, but is the best book I’ve read in tackling the LGBT question from a comprehensively Scriptural view.

Winner, Lauren F. Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005.

I really enjoyed this book because Lauren Winner is a really good writer. She also speaks clearly about the call to chastity, a call for all of us, married or not. In 175 pages she tackles many topics of sexuality, including pornography, masturbation, and the perennial question of “how far is too far?” Though not specifically written to address the LGBT question, she nonetheless writes with the goal of better articulating how we love our neighbor when it comes to sexual behavior, habits, and patterns.

As I said, it’s an easy read that anybody could pick up and understand. It is beneficial for the one struggling with their sexuality, be they married or single. As a work to assist the LGBT discussion it does not contribute much directly. But it is not a wasted read when it comes to better understanding of a healthy sexuality.

Yarhouse, Mark A., PsyD. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010.

In the same way that Janell Williams Paris wrote about the LGBT discussion from an anthropological/sociological point of view, Dr. Mark Yarhouse approaches the debate from the psychological angle. As one who professionally counsels persons struggling with their sexuality, he writes with understanding and compassion.

The chapter titles give an indication of the work he tries to do in helping the pastor or person in the pew wrestle with this difficult topic:

  •   What does God think about homosexuality?
  •   Why is sexual identity the heart of the matter?     

What causes homosexuality?
Can someone change sexual orientation?
What if my child or teen announces a gay identity? My adult child announced a gay identity: what now? What if my spouse announces a gay identity?
Whose people are we talking about?
What is the church’s response to enduring conditions?

I met again authentic, and find his work in this book similarly so.

Mark first in Grand Rapids earlier this fall at a gathering to discuss LGBT concerns and then at the NAE talk in Minnesota in November. I found him thoroughly approachable and

Not always the easiest read, he does bring in many statistics and case examples to help the reader process his points. At 239 pages it does not take long to read, and is worth it for the person wanting to get a better understanding of some of the clinical aspects of LGBT engagement.