For the past ten years, I have been reading, writing and researching on the issue of Christians, the Bible and homosexuality. I have become convinced that the traditional Christian approach to the topic of homosexuality and to same sex marriage is incorrect, and needs to be adjusted. This is not due to pressure from society or to recent legislation changes in some countries, but rather through an in-depth study of God’s Word.
I don’t believe that any twisting of God’s Word is required in order to see that we can accept homosexuality and approve same sex marriage, based on Scripture and what we understand of God. I don’t believe that we have to ignore certain parts of Scripture, writing them off as cultural or outdated in order to do this. I believe the Bible has been misread for two millennia on this issue. I realise that this can be a very difficult position for conservative Christians to accept and understand, but I believe that those who are truth seekers, and are open to seeing how God’s grace and love is extended to the LGBT community, will find an acceptance in God’s Word that will surprise them. I think we’ll discover that this issue is to our generation what previous generations of Christians have had to face when dealing with significant social change brought about by women’s suffrage, the end of segregation, the end of slavery, the changing of the system of divine rights of kings and of feudalism, mindsets around foreign missions, and many other similar shifts in both theology and society in our history.
There are some excellent books available to help you to investigate this issue for yourself, and familiarise yourself with new ways of looking at God’s Word. Here is a short list to help you get started. These are books that deal with affirming homosexuality and same sex marriage, or engage in looking at the topic through multiple lenses. I am not including books that are opposed to same sex marriage – I am sure a Google search will give you plenty of those if you want to read all sides of the debate.
My friend, Brian McLaren, has helpfully grouped these books into three categories. In each category, I have listed the books mainly in the order I’d recommend them:
1. Dealing with how to interpret the Bible
Michael Regele, Science, Scripture and Same Sex Love
David Gushee, Changing Our Mind: A call from America’s leading evangelical ethics scholar for full acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church (get the second edition)
John J. McNeill, The Church and the Homosexual
Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality – very fair to both sides, this book gives some of the best insight into the Graeco-Roman context and source material. Probably worth reading just for that, even though it is quite academic.
Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian – Matthew is a young, gay man himself, and I don’t necessarily endorse his approach to dealing with the cultural aspects of homosexuality in the New Testament
James V. Brownson, The Bible, Gender, and Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships – this is written by a Reformed, conservative theologian, presenting a “traditionalist” and “revisionist” view.
Stacy Johnson, A Time to Embrace: A Time to Embrace: Same-Sex Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics
Justin R Cannon, The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality
Martti Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective – a look at the historical and cultural context around the times of the writing of the Bible, and how this influenced what the Bible has to say.
John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century – this is a remarkable look at how the church has affirmed homosexuality in various ways over the centuries. This documents the fact that although a minority position, the church has not been as universally opposed to homosexuality as people might think. It was written in 1980. John Boswell was professor of history at Yale and the winner of the 1981 American Book Award For History among other things. Boswell’s 400 page book is renowned as being the most comprehensive study and is the result of ten years of research. Boswell’s extensive study cites from over 100 other scholars works.
Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley, The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships
Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church
Daniel Helminiask, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are – an interesting take by an anthropologist who argues that the current Christian debate uses 19th century binary views of heterosexuality and homosexuality (words only coined then as labels anyway), rather than seeing sexuality as fluid and changing. She argues for an identity rooted in Christ, rather than sexual labels.
Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation
2. Telling people’s stories
Justin Lee, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs -Christians Debate
Jeff Chu, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
Timothy Kurek, The Cross in the Closet – a remarkable story of a Christian man who pretended to be gay for a year, and what he learnt as he did so
David McGrinn, God, Why Was I Born Gay?: Biology, the Bible and the Homosexual Debate
James Ferry, In The Courts Of The Lord
Mel White, Stranger At The Gate – Mel While, one of the most respected evangelical writers coming out of the gay closet. Mel was ghost writer for many of the books and speeches of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham. This book details the authors attempts to hide from his natural homosexuality and his own journey as well as examine the religious rights agenda. White is now Dean of Dallas s Cathedral of Hope, the largest gay church in the world.
Sylvia Pennington, But Lord, They’re Gay – Author was a straight women who went to San Francisco as a missionary to save gay people and found God in The Metropolitan Community Church like she had never experienced God before.
3. Helping leaders to help churches navigate rethinking of theology and practice
Alicia Olivetto, Talking About Homosexuality
Beth Anne Gaede (editor), Congregations Talking About Homosexuality
Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community
Gene Robinson, God Believes in Love
Jennifer Knust, Unprotected Texts
Dale Martin, Sex and the Single Savior
Latha Dawson Scanzoni, Is The Homosexual My Neighbor? – This book calls for Christians to reexamine their beliefs and attitudes toward homosexuals, looking at the topic from biblical, scientific and psychological perspectives. An excellent resource.
Oliver O’Donovan, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion
Dave Tomlinson, How to be a Bad Christian … And a better human being
I will be posting my own theological study on this blog over the next few months. The first part of that series is now available here.
For now, I’d love you to add your thoughts on the books I have suggested above, and add to my list as well. Any books added to the comments below will be edited into the lists above.