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Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches Paperback – July 1, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Walter Wink is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He received the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize, awarded by the Fellowship of Reconciliation for 2006.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Today the churches are undergoing fratricide over the issue of homosexuality, and the irony is that not just gays and lesbians, but the churches themselves, are likely to become the victims. The level of pure hatred, bitterness, closemindedness, and disrespect is staggering, going beyond any form of acrimony I have witnessed over any issue since the struggle against racial segregation.

This book aims to shine light into that darkness. Its authors have, in the past, led us through one difficult moral test after another: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, resistance to nuclear power and nuclear war, the struggled against apartheid, the exploitation of developing countries, the oppression of women, opposition to the religious right. Time after time they have been out in front and alone, sometimes assailed as traitors, pinkos, communists, law-breakers, harebrained idealists. And time after time their wisdom has been belatedly confirmed by the churches.

I believe they are right on this issue as well, and that we should listen to these guides. They have proven to be prophets before. They could be wrong this time, but I think it unlikely that all of them are wrong. All I ask of the reader is a fair reading. The writers are a mix of evangelicals, conservatives, and liberals, with a number who reject all such labeling in regard to themselves. I believe that they represent the church at its best, struggling for clarity on this tortured issue, and that what they say will be confirmed by the church of the future.

Several of the contributors speak personally about children, classmates, colleagues, and friends who are gay (Shriver, Shields, Egertson). Conscious of the human cost of same-sex orientation in our society, we then turn to face head-on the task of interpreting Scripture around this contentious issue (Wink, Sehested). But the very ambiguity of Scripture and the suffering of gays and lesbians requires that we look to the human sciences and Christian ethics for additional light on the issue (Kelsey, Myers, Harris and Moran, Smedes). This examination leads us to reassess our Christian tradition (Rohr, Cobb) and challenge the churches to recover their prophetic vocation (Campolo, Coffin, Boulding). We conclude with the practical questions of ordaining gays and lesbians, blessing their unions, and granting them not only full human rights, but whole-hearted acceptance in our churches (Castuera, Siler).

Despite the amount of heat the debate over homosexuality has produced in the churches, the discussion has been woefully slack as far as rigorous theological thinking is concerned. The sheer passion of the discussion betrays emotionalism on both sides, and the necessary exegetical and theological grounding is ignored.

It is my hope, and that of all the contributors, that this volume will help bring serious reflection and a loving approach to this controversy. We stand, blessed, before this stupendous gift---the mystery of human sexuality---awed, confused, and rendered delicate toward ourselves and others as we seek to listen closely to the new things the Spirit is saying to the churches. ---from the Preface

In the final analysis, Jesus is the model for Christians. Jesus' silence on homosexuality is not so significant; he was silent on many things. But he was not silent regarding compassion toward those who had been marginalized and rejected as a class, or group, or occupation. If we attempt to enter the mind of Jesus, we can scarcely conclude otherwise than that he would have sided with the humanity and dignity of those whose sexual orientation was same-sexed.

Wherever we come out on this issue, however, that same spirit of Jesus surely calls us to respect, honor, and be civil toward those with whom we differ. No moral matter should be regarded as so urgent as to permit dehumanizing and demonizing our opponents. Jesus did not speak out on homosexuality, but he did command us, openly and unequivocally, to love our enemies---even when they choose to behave unlovingly toward us. As John Cobb urges in his essay, we can act Christianly toward one another while still holding to our convictions.

There is no room for lovelessness, hatred, or intolerance. God is confronting both sides of this controversy with an opportunity to transcend our verbal violence and put-downs, and to learn how to love, cherish, and value those whose positions are different from our own. We can treat this controversy, not as a sign of the church's decadence or its disobedience, but as a marvelous opportunity to learn to love as Jesus commanded us to love. ---from the Afterword

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishers (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800631862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800631864
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When talking about a book, it is essential to keep in mind which sort of book it is. For instance, we cannot expect of a novel what we would find in an essay. Likewise, in religious literature it is not exact to speak badly of a book just because it's not another kind of book.

Some of the reviews have objected that this book lacks scholarship, but this is not a scholar book, but a collection of writings to stir up conscience (although some pieces could indeed appear in a scholar book, like the essay by Walter Wink). In this book there's more preaching than theology; this is not to say that theology is not necessary (far from there!), but simply that there are other ways of dealing a subject, and appealing from a firmly persuaded mind is one of them, which does not at all substitute theology, to which in fact is a complement.

Who wants to read a scholar book of theology on the topic(I have done, and I strongly recommend this), can find them in Amazon (I dare recommend, for example, Seeking the truth in love, by Bishop Michael Dole or Theology and Sexuality, by Eugene Rogers -compilator).

Others have said that all the essays are "on one side" of the debate. Once again, if this were a scholar book which tried to give an exact account of the debate, it should include both positions, even if the book was clearly "on one side" (at least, they should be mentioned in order to be refuted). However, this is not this sort of book, it is a document which is aimed at taking a clear stand, and speaks out from the persuasion that what they say is true. We can disagree with them (I do not), but they have their right to preache (yes, it's "written preaching") what they honestly and firmly believe it is God's Will.
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Format: Paperback
This little book (just a bit over 130 pages) is big in caring and wisdom and compassion; in other words, it is just like Jesus!

Most of us who were 'churched' from birth into easy dichotomies/polarities like: saint/sinner, good/evil, saved/damned will find these writings liberating and confirming of what we have always suspected, that "not everything biblical is Christlike." This quote--which I think is what this book is about at its core--is from one of the essays in the book, written by William Sloane Coffin.

This book can help many come out of their own closets, the closets of unexamined prejudices; in particular, the ones made up of religious walls.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Is it true that "Wink and the other essayists will do little more than reaffirm what a few already believe, and push farther away those with whom they disagree?" I think not. First, there are more than a few who believe as the authors do, and certainly there are many more who are sympathetic to this view, but who need the assurance that their sympathies are not misplaced. This book offers exactly that assurance.
It provides a well-argued basis for believing that Scripture is not opposed to same-sex loving relationships. It shows how much of what we assume Christians believe is based on tradition, and therefore human frailty. It demonstrates through moving personal stories that human experience would lead us towards a welcome and a sharing of our humanity with those who have suffered, and still suffer, exclusion.
Would those who disagree be pushed further away by reading the book? I doubt it. For the most part, there's nowhere further to go.
For those who are seeking a foundation for their belief in the unity of God's human creation, and an affirmation of the Church's gospel call to welcome all people into full communion, there is no better starting point than this book.
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Format: Paperback
The virtue of this book is the number of different voices that are found in it. I know this is one of the primary texts that my parents found helpful when I first came out and they were wrestling with understanding how Christians are to regard homosexuality. Unlike many other books on the Bible and homosexuality (including my own), Wink's book does not so much delve into biblical analysis of the "clobber passages," but rather it offers a more personal look at the struggle to understand to God's will as it relates to homosexuality. I find this unique approach quite refreshing, and highly recommend this book!

Justin R. Cannon
Editor, Sanctified: An Anthology of Poetry by LGBT Christians
Author, The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality
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I give this a 4-star rating because it openly allows varied points of view to illuminate the truth of the importance of an open mind about a subject that is seldom approached in that manner. I am positive about this volume because homosexuality is presented with the same integrity as personal faith. The variety of contributors is wholesomely inclusive thereby approaching the subject from varying points of view with the common conclusion of the importance of all human life rather than changing one's basic nature. The most positive thrust of the volume is that one need not come from any given opinion about the subject of homosexuality to explore dimensions that are sometimes contrary to one's common assumptions. The most affirming common thread of the volume as a whole is the repeated theme that none of the approaches to human sexuality can become as dominant as our spiritual relationship to our condition of community in Christ.
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