Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Book Review: The Way Forward? Christian Voices on Homosexuality & the Church

This book is a response to the St Andrews Day Statement on homosexuality in the Church written by (amongst others) Oliver O'Donovan, David Wright, Timothy Bradshaw.

As a series of essays it's both helpful and instructive. I appreciated better the positions of the revisionists from essays by Jeffrey John, Michael Vasey and Elizabeth Stuart. John's and Vasey's were both better argued than those put forward by Dan Via. Although in essence seem to come down to the same argument. Namely that what the Bible describes as homosexuality is not what we understand it today, therefore the injunctions in the Bible don't apply.

There are good essays from the orthodox as well as pastoral perspectives. Even my old head of department Anthony Thiselton contributed with (as you might expect) a view from hermeneutics. Incredibly I both understood it and appreciated it which is more than I could say from my undergraduate years where I lacked comprehension. Other contributors include Gerald Bray, Martin Hallett, Simon Vibert and Rowan Williams.

Because of the variety and number of contributions (13), this is an immensely helpful volume. Carrying not just both sides of the argument but also differing views on each side and done in a thoughtful and respectful manner. It is also a strength of the book that some of its contributors are homosexual, which means this is more than 'straight pondering' of the 'gay question'. I would suggest that for anyone wanting to get to grips with the controversy of homosexuality and the church (especially the Church of England) then this should probably be required reading.

I remain unconvinced by the revisionists arguments but as a result of reading this book I feel I understand and have heard them better and that made it an important learning step.


Raycol said...

Here is another way of looking at the question of homosexuality and the church. While the Bible does prohibit sex between men (homosexuality), it can nevertheless be shown that the prohibition does not apply today because it applied only to the ancient Israelite and Roman cultures. Also the prohibition does not apply today when the sexual activity causes no harm. The Bible criticizes, but does not prohibit, sex between women. Full reasons for these conclusions are given on the Gay and Christian website (

Phil Whittall on 8 January 2010 at 23:58 said...

Hi Raycol
Thanks for the comment. I'm not sure that the Bible does simply criticize lesbian sex. I think from Romans 1 & 2 that Paul both criticizes and then prohibits such actions as inappropriate for Christians. Thanks for the link, I shall have a read.

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