Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches

  1. Review

    Walter Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, has gathered a collection of eighteen essays by some of the nation’s preeminent church leaders, men and women, Protestant and Catholic, mainline and evangelical, liberal and conservative, who address "Questions of Conscience for the Churches" on the issue of homosexuality. It is Wink’s conviction that the discussion of the issue in the churches has been lacking in "rigorous theological thinking" and it is his hope and that of all the contributors of this book that they can help bring "serious reflection and a loving approach to this controversy ." He writes, "God is con fronting both sides of this controversy with an opportunity to transcend our verbal violence and put-downs, with an opportunity to love, cherish, and value those whose positions are different from our own."

    James A. Forbes, Jr., senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City, provides an introductory sermon which places the discussion of the issue of human sexuality in the context of a Christian community. The first three essays are by people who speak personally about gay people they know and cherish as children, classmates, colleagues, and friends. Following are two brilliant essays by Walter Wink and Ken Sehested, an American Baptist, on the interpretation of the Scripture on homosexuality. The authors agree that whatever the four Hebrew Testament and three Christian Testament texts say about homosexual practices, "the revelation in Jesus" is the judge of Scripture.

    Four essays are devoted to the illumination that human sciences and Christian ethics can shed on what we need to know about homosexuality but which the Bible does not tell us. I found most illuminating, "Exploring the Morality of Homosexuality" by Lewis B. Smedes, Professor of Theology and Ethics of Fuller Theological Seminary, who writes about "aspects of homosexuality that the Bible does not say anything about". Following this section, there are two essays assessing our Christian tradition in relation to homosexuality, one by a Roman Catholic Franciscan and the other by a leading Protestant "process" theologian. Then there are three essays challenging the church to a recovery of its prophetic vocation in relation to the issue. The concluding two essays deal with practical questions such as ordaining gays and lesbians, blessing same sex covenants and in every way including all people in the body of Christ .

    In his Afterword, Wink writes, "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."

    This book would serve as a resource for individuals and groups who want to be informed about the issue of homosexuality and Christian faith and are open to what the Spirit may be saying to the churches today.

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