My new book: Love means Love – same-sex relationships and the Bible (SPCK) is now published. And given the sensitivities around this subject I share here why I have written it and who it is written for.
I have written it because I have come to believe that committed same-sex expressions of love may be found blessed and good in God’s eyes. The book lays out the basis on which I find this belief is supported by scripture – and not by avoiding or distorting it.
The case from the Bible for the affirmation and inclusion of homosexuality and committed relationships is a cumulative one. It is not based on one text only. So this book is perhaps more like an map. It traces the biblical pathways that can lead, I believe, to new understanding through fresh approaches to interpretation.
It is written for those for whom the Bible is central to faith and understanding but who are struggling with the traditional teaching on same-sex relationships. The reasons vary. They may have family, friends or work colleagues who are gay and they are unable to match the people they know and love with the Bible texts that only seem to condemn, or with familiar traditional Christian teaching. They can feel guilty for questioning the familiar texts. This can and does result in a steady loss of confidence in the Bible as a source of truth, guidance and wisdom.
It is written for those who may disagree with me. These include close friends. To them I write in love as a critical friend. And even if we continue to disagree (as Christians do on a variety of other issues) I hope this book clarifies how people like me have come to these convictions. I hope they can recognise the integrity of a fellow believer who takes his Bible very seriously – as I recognise they do.
I have written it because, in my experience the case from scripture for welcome and inclusion is often not clearly understood. There are still too few open, exploratory places where Bibles can be studied, difficult questions asked, understanding tested out, wounds healed and differences faced respectfully. So I hope it will be a resource for individuals, groups and Christian preachers/teachers who are seeking to work out their own understanding of same-sex relationships from the scriptures.
It is written to encourage those who need persuading that the Bible can speak faith into contemporary society and relationships. I believe it can. But there is no doubt the church’s continued inability to move forward on this subject is doing great damage to Christian witness and to the place of the Bible itself. It is being published as the Church of England is about to engage with the Living in Love and Faith project. I hope the book will help us all to open up this discussion without anxiety. We need to learn how to love without fear as we explore new patterns of relating and belonging. We have not been here before. We need to talk.
Finally, it is written in deep gratitude for those I count as friends who are LGBTi+. It is no exaggeration to say I owe the sustaining of my faith to some of them. And although I fear they may find my words clumsy and my imagining of the Kingdom still stunted I write to honour them and shared longing for our wider, joyful partnership in the new community of divine love.