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

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Walter Wink (Editor) is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, and previously a parish minister and teacher at Union Theological Seminary. Contributors: Elise Boulding is Professor Emerita of Sociology of Dartmouth College and former secretary-general of the International Peace Research Association. Born in Oslo, Norway, she is the widow of Kenneth Boulding, mother of five children, grandmother of sixteen, and a member of the Society of Friends. She has worked internationally as a scholar and an activist on problems of peace and world order and is one of the outstanding sociologists of our time. She has been international chair of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and has served on the board of the United Nations University and the International Jury of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education. A futurist, Dr. Boulding has conducted workshops on Imaging a World without Weapons. Among her titles are The Future: Images and Processes with Kenneth Boulding (1995), her monumental The Underside of History: A View of Women through Time (1992), and Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World (1990).

Ignacio Castuera is currently pastor of North Glendale United Methodist Church in Glendale, California. He received his Ph.D. in religion from the Claremont School of Theology. Dr. Castuera served pastorates in Mexico, Hawaii, and California and has traveled extensively lecturing and preaching in Latin America, Europe, Japan, and most of the states in the United States. In 1992 he edited Dreams on Fire, Embers of Hope, a book of sermons preached on the weekend following the Los Angeles riots. The book was one of the top ten on religion that year and has been used extensively in sociology classes in several universities.

John B. Cobb Jr. is a son of the American South but was born in southern Japan. He earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he studies process philosophy with Charles Hartshorne. From Chicago he went to the Hiawasee Circuit in north Georgia, where the largest of his seven congregations was known as Hog Creek. He also taught at Young Harris College before moving to Emory University for five years and then to Claremont School of Theology, from which he retired in 1990. He is widely regarded as the leading process theologian in the world and is greatly admired by students and colleagues alike. He is as famous for his incisive logic as for his gentleness and humility. He has written more than thirty-five books, among them The Earthist Challenge to Economism: A Theological Critique of the World Bank (1999), Grace and Responsibility: A Wesleyan Theology for Today (1995), and For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future with Herman E. Daly (1994).

William Sloane Coffin abandoned a career as a concert pianist to enter World War II. He followed with a stint with the CIA and a role in setting up the Peace Corps. For eighteen years he was chaplain of Yale University, then from 1977 to 1987 senior minister of Riverside Church in New York City. Until his retirement he headed Sane/Freeze, now renamed Peace action, the largest peace and human rights organization in the U.S. With Benjamin Spock he was indicted for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Over an illustrious career he has been in the forefront of virtually every struggle for justice and peace. His books include A Passion for the Possible (1993), Living the Truth in a World of Illusions (1985), and The Courage to Love (1983). He continues to be an itinerant preacher and professor, including visiting professorships at Vanderbilt and Lawrence Universities and the Pacific School of Religion. He lives in Strafford, Vermont, where he is once again enjoying being a concert pianist.

Peggy Campolo is a writer and editor. She is a graduate of Eastern College and taught first grade prior to spending a number of years as a full-time wife and mother. She has also worked in real estate and public relations. She is a member of Evangelicals Concerned and serves on the Council of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Mrs. Campolo is a member of Central Baptist Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. She is committed to working for justice for lesbian and gay people, especially within the church, and has spoken at colleges, conferences, and churches throughout the United States. Mrs. Campolo and her husband live in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. They are the parents of a son and a daughter and have four grandchildren.

Bishop Paul Wennes Egertson attended Pepperdine College and Luther Seminary and earned a Ph.D. in theology and culture at the Claremont School of Theology in California. He served as director of the Center for Theological Study in Thousand Oaks, California, from 1979 to 1992. While an assistant professor of religion at California Lutheran University, he shared time as pastor of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in North Hollywood. From 1995 to the present he has been bishop of the ELCA, Southern California West Synod. He and his wife, Shirley, have been married for more than forty years. They have six sons and five grandchildren. His sermons have been published in Open Hands (1996), Augsburg Sermons: Series A Gospels (1983), and Augsburg Sermons: Minor Festivals (1977). He has received several awards of distinction, including one for excellence in teaching in the adult degree evening program at California Lutheran University, and one as World's Greatest Dad on Father's Day 1986, from six boy with short memories.

James A. Forbes Jr. has been, since 1989, the senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City, the first African American to serve as senior minister at one of the largest multicultural congregations in the nation. An ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches and the Original United Holy Church of America, he has served several pastorates and taught homiletics at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. At Union he is the first Harry Emerson Fosdick Adjunct Professor of Preaching while serving on the core teaching staff at Auburn Theological Seminary. In 1986 he delivered the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale University, published as The Holy Spirit and Preaching (1989). Newsweek named him one of the twelve "most effective preachers" in the English-speaking world in 1996. Ebony magazine designated him as one of America's greatest black preachers in 1984 and 1993.

Maria Harris is an internationally known and traveled theologian and Christian educator. She has taught at New York, Fordham, and John Carroll Universities, as well as Andover Newton and Auburn Theological Seminaries. She has served as an editor for PACE (Professional Approaches for Christian Educators), book review editor for the journal Religious Education, and president of the Association of Professors and Researchers of Religious Education (APRRE). Among her eighty-five articles and twelve books are Proclaim Jubilee (1996), Jubilee Time (1995), and Dance of the Spirit (1991). As a couple, Maria Harris and Gabriel Moran, have had a major impact in reshaping the field of religious education.

Barbara Kelsey is a counselor and teacher of the Myer's Briggs personality inventory.

Morton Kelsey is an Episcopal priest, marriage and family counselor, and professor emeritus of Notre Dame University. One of today's most important religious writers and a popular lecturer and retreat leader, Kelsey has consistently been in the forefront, defining issues long before they emerged as critical for the life of the churches. His book Tongue Speaking: The History and Meaning of Charismatic Experience was one of the first published discussions of what was to become a contentious theme among Christians. He was one of the first to make the spiritual contribution of Jung's psychology available to American Christians. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the best-selling Dreams: A Way to Listen to God, the Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation, and Christo-Psychology.

Gabriel Moran is an internationally known and traveled theologian and Christian educator. She teaches in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University and directs the doctoral program in religious education there. He has also taught at Manhattan college, New York Theological Seminary, Boston College, and elsewhere. He has served as president of the Association of Professors and Researchers of Religious Education (APRRE). In his career he has published more than two hundred articles and seventeen books, including Showing How: The Act of Teaching (1997), Uniqueness (1992), and No Ladder to the Sky (1987). As a couple, Maria Harris and Gabriel Moran, have had a major impact in reshaping the field of religious education.

David G. Myers, Hope College (Michigan) social psychologist, is an award-winner researcher and teacher and the author of psychology'' most widely studies text, Psychology. His scientific research, supported by National Science Foundation grants and fellowships, has appeared in two dozen periodicals, including Science and American Scientist. Myers also has digested psychological research for the lay public in ten books and through articles in more than two dozen magazines, from Scientific American to Christian Century. In The Pursuit of Happiness: Who Is Happy---and Why (1993), he challenged America's individualism and materialism and affirmed the significance of positive traits, committed relationships, and religious faith. He has written five books that relate psychological research to Christian faith (most recently, Psychology through the Eyes of Faith). Myers has served as an elder in both the Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church in America. He and his wife, Carol, are parents of three grown children.

Richard Rohr, O.F.M., is a Franciscan of the New Mexico Province. He was the founder and for thirteen years the pastor of the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, Ohio, followed by eight years as animator of the Center for action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Richard now lives in a Franciscan community and divided his public time between local work and preaching and teaching around the world. He is probably best known for his audio- and videotapes. Among his publications are Jesus' Plan for a New World (1996) and Job and the Mystery of Suffering (1996). He is internationally known for Discovering the Enneagram with Andreas Ebert (1990), and Enneagram II: Advancing Spiritual Discernment (1995). He lectures frequently on men's spirituality, community building, and, above all, the integration of action and contemplation, which he perceives to be the most critical theological issue facing practicing Christians today.

Ken Sehested, executive director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA) and editor of its quarterly journal, Baptist Peacemaker, was among the twenty-five American and Southern Baptists who founded the BPFNA in March 1984. Originally from West Texas and south Louisiana, Ken is a graduate of New York University and Union Theological Seminary, New York City. In 1995 the American Baptist Churches USA awarded him its highest honor, the Dahlberg Peace Award. That same year the Associated Church Press presented Ken its top magazine feature story award for his "Why I Am (Still) a Baptist," printed in the October 1994 issue of The Witness, an Episcopal magazine. Ken currently lives with his wife, Nancy Hastings Sehested, and two daughters, in the mountains of western North Carolina. In 1995 the board of National Ministries of the American Baptist Churches USA, along with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (an alternative missions organization of Southern Baptist "moderates"), cut with the BPFNA following the organization's board statement on sexual orientation; later they reversed that decision.

Carole Shields is president of People for the American Way, a 3000,000-member organization that supports freedom of conscience and expression, civic participation, equality, justice, tolerance, and diversity. While vice president of Hospice Care, Inc., she developed the nation's largest hospice program for persons living with AIDS.

Donald W. Shriver Jr. is president of the faculty and William E. Dodge Professor of Practical Christianity, emeritus, of Union Theological Seminary, New York City. From 1972 to 1975 he served as Professor of Ethics and Society at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He was elected the thirteenth president of Union in 1975, holding that position until 1991, when he returned to teaching. He has engaged in extensive interdisciplinary dialogue, teaching, and writing, dealing with such issues as Jewish and Christian dialogue, business and leadership ethics, urban ministry, and religion and the media. He holds six honorary doctoral degrees, is a past president of the Society for Christian Ethics, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His most recent books are The Business Corporation and Productive Justice (1997) with David A. Krueger and Laura L. Nash, An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics (1995), and Beyond Success: Corporations and Their Critics in the Nineties (1991) with James Kohn. He and his wife, Peggy, have three children and three grandchildren.

M. Mahan Siler Jr. is originally from Tennessee and is an American Baptist minister. After a variety of pastorates, he served for ten years as a staff member and then director of the School for Pastoral Care at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. Since 1983 he has been pastor of the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has been a visiting professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Seminary, and the Divinity school at Duke University. With his wife, Janice, a marriage and family counselor, he has four children. In late February 1993, Pullen's congregation voted to conduct a worship ceremony to bless the commitment between a gay church member and his partner. The controversy over Pullen Church's decision led to its expulsion from the Southern Baptist Convention and the loss of about a tenth of its members. The event was described in detail in Enlarging the Circle: Pullen's Holy Union Process, by Patricia V. Long, and Celebration of Same-Gender Covenants.

Lewis B. Smedes taught theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena for twenty-eight years until his retirement four years ago. He has been married for almost fifty years---quite an accomplishment, he quips, for his wife. In addition to his stint at Fuller, he has taught at Calvin College and the Free University of Amsterdam. Among his many published titles are Shame and Grace (1993), A Pretty Good Person (1990), Caring and Commitment (1988), and Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People (1983).

Walter Wink (Editor) is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary. He has taught at Union Theological Seminary, Hartford Seminary, and Columbia and Drew Universities. In 1989--90 he was a Peace Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. His published works include a trilogy on the Powers: Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986), and Engaging the Powers (1992). Engaging the Powers received three Religious Book of the Year awards in 1993. A condensed version of the Powers trilogy was published in 1998 as The Powers That Be. He is also the author of almost 200 articles. He has led workshops all over North America, as well as in South Africa, Northern Ireland, East Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and South and Central America. He is a United Methodist minister, works for a Presbyterian seminary, and attends Quaker meeting.

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: #408,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ben Gabirol on October 24, 2005
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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61 of 76 people found the following review helpful By L. Norman on January 21, 2002
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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Hector Lasala on March 12, 2006
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Justin R. Cannon on July 24, 2008
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jack Barnes on June 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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