I am working with some friends to launch a nine-month book club here in Silverton. The theme is “The Church, the Bible, and the LGBTQ Community.”
The book club has three primary goals.
The first is to expose all the participants – including me – to a wide range of books on our theme. The books are all written by people who are passionate about following Jesus and who take Scripture seriously, though they often arrive at different conclusions.
The second goal is to conduct a kind of “social experiment.” I want to see if a group of Christians can find a way to talk to each other well, and to listen to each other well, across our differences, in unity and love.
The third goal is that, as a result of our time together, we will be better able to live into Jesus’s great commands: to love God and love our neighbors.
I’ve already received requests to participate in the book club from friends in Portland and Salem. These are people of wisdom and learning. They would have much to contribute. But I think I want this to be a conversation among neighbors. There is a kind of accountability to civility that comes from knowing we might run into each other at the grocery store. Geographic proximity also provides opportunities for reconciliation, when necessary. All that is to say we are limiting the group to folks who live in the Silverton-Mt. Angel-Scotts Mills area…or who attend churches there.
The book club will usually meet on the first Sunday evening of the month, from 6:30-8:00. The dates for the first three meetings have been set. Please email me for location information or if you have any questions. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Many will come to the group with their minds already made up. Some will come without a position. Still others will be in flux. All these are welcome. But the object of our time together is not to debate, defend, bludgeon, convince, or mock; it is to create a safe space where we can thoughtfully engage with the texts and with each other with curiosity, compassion, and grace.
Below you will find our reading schedule. I have done my best to curate a list that is diverse yet accessible. (If we get to June and decide we want to keep reading and meeting together – all the better.) I’ve read three of the books. The ones I haven’t read come highly recommended by friends and mentors. We’re asking that people try to attend all the discussions, not just those about books they agree with – or disagree with.
In addition to the books on our schedule, I am personally going to read at least seven others, in no particular order. These books also come highly recommended but there simply wasn’t room for them on the final list; they were either too long, too academic, or redundant. You’ll find those books listed below as well.
One final note: We all know how potentially explosive this topic is. It involves people we love. It also works at the level of some of our deepest held convictions, including what we believe about the Bible, tradition, revelation, science, justice, society, marriage, politics, relationships, and the human body. It will be risky to talk about, especially with folks who may be strangers at the start of the book club. Friends and family, on both “sides” of the issue, have told me there is nothing left to discuss. I’ve been told that a desire to talk with others about our journeys around this topic proves that my own journey has reached its destination – that I have a settled (heretical) position and now I’m trying to bring others there too.
Truth is, I am operating from a strong bias, though not the one some assume. My working bias – we include a whole chapter about it in the Slow Church book – is that peaceable conversation across differences is a way of being the Church. The New Testament describes the Church as a radically new kind of family, and we have to find a way of talking to each other about hard questions while still assuming the best about one another and remaining in communion.
OCTOBER 4, 2015: Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, by Andrew Marin
NOVEMBER 1, 2015: A Letter to My Congregation, by Ken Wilson
DECEMBER 6, 2015: Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships, by Tim Otto
JANUARY 2016: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill
FEBRUARY: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, by Matthew Vines
MARCH: Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations about Sexuality and Spirituality, by Debra Hirsch
APRIL: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
MAY: Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate, by Justin Lee
JUNE: Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church, by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter
[PDF Download: Book Club Reading List]
My Extra Credit Books (not really):
- Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian, by Wesley Hill
- Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, edited by Walter Wink
- Congregations in Conflict: The Battle Over Homosexuality, by Keith Hartman
- Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture, by Mark Yarhouse
- Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, by James V. Browns
- Changing Our Mind, by David Gushee
- Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith, by Eve Tushnet