Timothy Bradshaw, editor, The Way Forward? Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, 2003), 242pp.
In 1995 the Church of England Evangelical Council requested a document to help Anglicans discover common ground on the complex and divisive issue of homosexuality and the church. The result was their St. Andrew's Day Statement released in November 1995, and later reproduced in a number of other publications. This book contains the short SADS (6 pages), which many read as a very conservative document, and then thirteen chapters by different authors, all British, who respond to it. Since this book is by and for British Anglicans, American readers might not connect as easily with the ecclesiastical and political issues raised, but the matters of theology and Biblical interpretation remain the same wherever you live. These chapters range across many of the most important questions and do so in an irenic way, although as with any collection of authors their style and quality vary. About a third of the authors are traditionalists, about a third are openly gay, and another third appear undecided. They include professional theologians, pastors and lay people. To be gay and Christian might sound oxymoronic, but the fact is that there are many gay people in our churches, perhaps silent and unacknowledged, and this despite the fact that much of the stigmatizing of gays has come from Christians (recall how two days after the September 11 attacks Jerry Falwell appeared on Pat Robertson's television show and blamed gays (along with others) for "helping this to happen."). In her book Coming Out in Christianity, Melissa Wilcox observes that if it is difficult for a gay to come out in the church, think about what it is like to come out as Christian within the gay community. Many gay believers, of course, have moved to the Metropolitan Community Churches where they are openly embraced and even celebrated, but many more remain in our evangelical circles. Pretending they don't exist does not help anyone, so decidedly Christian books like this that help us parse the issues are welcome.