Saturday, 30 April 2011

New Books Explore Homosexuality and the Church

The first notable books on theology appeared something like forty years ago. Since then, the early thin trickle has become a steady stream, as Publishers Weekly has observed:
Religious movements often build on a variety of texts: key scriptures, treatises, tales of pioneers and heroes. For gay Christians, the time has come to fill in a few gaps, and publishers are eager to contribute.
Recent and forthcoming releases help develop what have been seen, at least in gay circles, as categories needing further exploration. The trend equips readers to wrestle anew with questions of scriptural interpretation, biblical authority, and what it means to love one’s neighbor.
The listing  covers work by people of a refreshing range of backgrounds: straight allies as well as gay, young and old, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant and Catholic. One disappointment? Only one woman is represented - but an important one, Carter Heyward.
These are the books discussed, together with some notes by the publishers:

Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist pastor in North Carolina, was visited one morning in 1984 by Adam, a longtime parishioner whom he liked and respected. Adam said that he was gay, and that he was leaving the The United Methodist Church, which had just pronounced that no “self-avowed practicing homosexual” could be ordained. He would not be part of a community that excluded him. Creech found himself instinctively supporting Adam, telling him that he was sure that God loved and accepted him as he was. Adam’s Gift is Creech’s inspiring first-person account of how that conversation transformed his life and ministry.
Adam’s visit prompted Creech to re-evaluate his belief that homosexuality was a sin, and to research the scriptural basis for the church’s position. He determined that the church was mistaken, that scriptural translations and interpretations had been botched and dangerously distorted. As a Christian, Creech came to believe that discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people was morally wrong. This understanding compelled him to perform same-gender commitment ceremonies, which conflicted with church directives. Creech was tried twice by The United Methodist Church, and, after the second trial, his ordination credentials were revoked. Adam’s Gift is a moving story and an important chapter in the unfinished struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil and human rights.

If anyone ever had a reason to leave the Christian faith, Jay Bakker did.
At the age of only 11 his parents' global PTL ministry was engulfed by scandal and undermined by Christian backbiting -all of which played out in the 24-hour news media.
Disillusioned, Bakker turned to drugs and alcohol and left his childhood beliefs behind. But along the way, an interesting thing happened: Bakker came to understand, through his personal challenges and suffering (as well as the help of some friends), what God's grace was really all about.
In this book Bakker explores the true nature of grace--what it means for everyday living and the hot-button issues of our day. With disarming humility, poignant observations, and spot-on theology, Bakker both challenges Christians to reassess their understanding of salvation and encourages non-believers to see Jesus with fresh eyes.
( Bakker, another straight ally, is the 35-year-old son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker)

In the view of many Christians, the teenage years are simultaneously the most dangerous and the most promising. At the very moment when teens are trying to establish a sense of identity and belonging, they are beset by temptation on all sides—from the pressure of their peers to the nihilism and materialism of popular culture. Add the specter of homosexuality to the mix, and you’ve got a situation ripe for worry, sermonizing, and exploitation.
In Recruiting Adolescence, Mark D. Jordan explores more than a half century of American church debate about homosexuality to show that even as the main lesson—homosexuality is bad, teens are vulnerable—has remained constant, the arguments and assumptions have changed remarkably. At the time of the first Kinsey Report, in 1948, homosexuality was simultaneously condemned and little discussed—a teen struggling with same-sex desire would have found little specific guidance. Sixty years later, church rhetoric has undergone a radical shift, as silence has given way to frequent, public, detailed discussion of homosexuality and its perceived dangers. Along the way, churches have quietly adopted much of the language and ideas of modern sexology, psychiatry, and social reformers—deploying it, for example, to buttress the credentials of anti-gay “deprogramming” centers and traditional gender roles.
Jordan tells this story through a wide variety of sources, including oral histories, interviews, memoirs, and even pulp novels; the result is a fascinating window onto the never-ending battle for the teenage soul.
(Jordan is a Catholic historian at Harvard, and also a notable writer on Catholicism and homosexuality, in history and in the modern world.  Other notable books for general readers are The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology,  The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism,  The Ethics of Sex, and  Blessing Same-Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage)

"Patrick Cheng's Radical Love is an excellent introduction to queer theology. It is readable and nuanced, a marvelous teaching resource." --Carter Heyward, author of Keep Your Courage: A Radical Christian Feminist Speaks and Professor Emerita of Theology, Episcopal Divinity School
"Patrick Cheng's Radical Love is not only an excellent introduction to LGBT theology but an important contribution to the discipline of theology and the life of the church. It is a must read for anyone who cares about the health of the church and theology today." --James H. Cone, Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
"Thoroughly Christian and thoroughly Queer, Cheng helps readers welcome a theology that leaves no one behind." --Chris Glaser, author of As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriageand Coming Out as Sacrament
"This book is a clear, accessible and exciting analysis of Queer Theology. Cheng perfectly captures both the challenge and the rootedness of Queer Theology." --Professor Elizabeth Stuart, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester, UK
"I would characterize Cheng's notion of 'radical love' as 'wild grace' with which mainstream theology has yet to wrestle. This is a good text for introducing queer theology to undergraduate and graduate students." --Rev. Dr. Bob Shore-Goss, Senior Pastor/Theologian, Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley, North Hollywood, CA

"Radical Love - a love so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries! What concept could be more liberating for a culture like ours, where lives are crucified on rigid binaries like male vs. female, us vs. them, straight vs. queer? Radical Love is an excellent introduction for beginners and an excellent synthesis for more advanced readers." --Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, author ofSensuous Spirituality and Omnigender, among many other books.
(Cheng, an openly gay professor at Episcopal Divinity School and ordained minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, describes this book as the first ever introductory text book on Queer Theology. His extended essay on Sin and Grace, exploring Christology from a gay perspective, was recently posted at Jesus in Love blog).

Carter Heyward is one of the most influential and controversial theologians of our time. Under headings "Speaking Truth to Power," Remembering Who We Are," and "Celebrating Our Friends," she reflects on how movements for gender and sexual justice reverberate globally. In this volume of occasional pieces, the lesbian feminist theologian bears witness to the sacred struggles to topple oppressive power. These pieces illustrate feminist theology's bold and transformative engagement of its cultural, political, social, and theological contexts.
"Now forty years later, while not as naïve and utopian in my politics, I am still enthusiastically committed, as a Christian, to struggles dedicated to building a world in which every person is entitled, by law, to basic human rights. I have come to realize, as I move along into my mid-sixties, that what justice-loving people most need in these times, and in all times, is courage to speak and act on behalf of this world. My desire in this book is to spark such courage and stir imagination." --from the Foreword.
( Heyward is a key figure in the development of the lesbian / feminist strand in gay and lesbian theology. Some of her earlier books are

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