I can safely say that this book makes an honest effort to approach the subject kindly and treat homosexuals in a loving way. I do not agree that homosexuality is just another lifestyle. I have watched my own mother go from lover to lover, never satisfied. She has had at least 13 lesbian partners in the past 14 years. She has finally found a woman that she is content to stay with but she is just that, "content," not necessarily happy. She left the church years ago and has no use for religion, but she and I get along beautifully. We have learned to love in spite of our opposing views on her sexuality. I love my Mom and I know that the environment she was raised in was one of maternal loss (her mother died when she was 18 months old), profound loneliness, and verbal abuse from an unaccepting, often cruel grandmother. Jesus encouraged compassion for every mortal, lesbian or straight, conservative or liberal. I leave the judging part to Him.
The virtue of this book is the continuing stress each essayist places on the importance of conversation in the church about issues related to sexual orientation. The vice of this book is the degree to which its entrance into this conversation will do little more than polarize sides. James Forbes' introductory sermon, preached at Riverside Churche, embodies the failings of the book. Forbes calls for the church to become a community that embraces all peoples and enters into dialogue about touchy topics like sexuality. The sermon, however, actually seems to work against this conversation, as traditionalists are dismissed with a few waves of Forbes' powerful rhetorical wand. What follows in the book is essay after essay of church leaders pleading that the church abandon its traditional stance toward homosexuality and accept gay/lesbian lifestyles without judgment. Where did the conversation go? The least Dr. Wink could have done is made the book a living example of the sort of dialogue he believes the church needs. To the extent that one side of the conversation is absent, this book is little more than a rallying cry for a body of Christians that many will quickly write off as hopelessly liberal. This is unfortunate since these writers have much to contribute to the church's conversation. For now, 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 found the essays on biblical interpretation and homosexuality in this collection to be lacking much rigor and full of special pleading. The best essays in the collection were those where essayists shared their own journeys with gay/lesbian family and friends. Peggy Campolo's essay was especially touching.
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.
This book, edited by Walter Wink of Auburn Theological Seminary is an example of agenda scholarship so often found in religion departments, both liberal and conservative. In trying to add force to the argument for pro-homosexual relationship within the Church, many authors write short essays explaining their reason for accepting the homosexual lifestyle. Some of these examples are of a personal nature like one religious leader's son becoming homosexual and the diferent stages they went through until finally "celebrating" their son's sexual orientation. Other essays, like Wink's and Ken Shested's pieces, try and demonstrate that the Biblical condemations about homosexual behavior is not really directed towards "natural homosexals." It is a tierd ploy, as they torture scripture and reason to give an explanation for such behaivor. There are good responses to their positions found in many books about the subject. It is sad that these authors have taken this position. Though the Christians Church can do a lot more in reaching out to homsexuals in love and justice, the "Church" can never condone behavior that is expressively forbidden by God. Further, when one accepts this lifestyle, they run the risk of hurting the one's they are trying to help. The homosexual lifestyle is medically harmful. Further, when one engages in this behavior, they fail to realize the purpose God has for them. They cannot have the fullness of a realtionship with Christ on earth because of a continual rebellion that is focused on "non-designed" pleasure than growing in Christ. All Christians should speak out to defend justice where ever injustice is discovered, and that includes doing it for the homosexual community, but we must not torture scripture or compromise God's commands to make others "feel good" about themselves. I would rather be honest and loving by expressing the truth.
For so long I was doubtful and had a negative view on gay christians. Church members always gave the typical texts that have been used to 'prove' that homosexuality was a sin. Those texts always seemed to miss something to me, and never were they something that came from God's mouth. They were always in the same chapters that forbade many thing that today we would think was silly (i.e. the combining of two different textiles in clothing....ooooooh....we are all guilty of that!) This book is definitely a must read true christians! Remember: 'What Would Jesus Do' in this situation?