Christian Sexuality: Normative and Pastoral Principles

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9781886513563: Christian Sexuality: Normative and Pastoral Principles

This book is a collection of nine essays mostly by Lutheran scholars and church leaders who, from various perspectives (scriptural, theological, pastoral, socio-scientific), defend the church's traditional advocacy of an other-sex prerequisite for sexual unions. The essays are revised versions of presentations made at the Conference on Christian Sexuality held in Kansas City in October 2002, sponsored by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau and attended by some 300 Lutheran (ELCA) pastors and lay persons from around the country. Although all the authors have in view the sexuality discussion going on in the Lutheran Church (ELCA) and all but two are members of that denomination, the aim of most of the essays is to provide a broad Christian perspective on sexuality and homosexuality. One of the two non-Lutheran contributors is Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of two influential books on the Bible and homosexual practice. Gagnon provides a 50-page essay entitled "Does the Bible Regard Same-Sex Intercourse as Intrinsically Sinful?" offering the fullest discussion to date of both the relevance of the creation texts for an other-sex prerequisite and the weakness of claims that Paul and the ancient world generally had no concept of exclusive and innate homosexual desire. Gagnon also mounts a cumulative case against the contention recently put forward by Lutheran New Testament scholar Mark Allan Powell, in the book Faithful Conversations edited by James Childs for the ELCA sexuality discussion; namely, the contention that the Bible permits exceptions to a general prohibition of homosexual behavior. Gagnon's essay can be viewed as a companion piece to his essay in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (co-authored with Dan Via). Robert Benne, professor of religion and ethics at Roanoke College and author of Ordinary Saints and other books, provides a 10-page essay on the subject of "The Limits of Tolerance: Homosexuality and the ELCA's LPD (Liberal Protestant Drift)." Benne advocates a strategy of "gracious tolerance" that nurtures persons in homosexual relationships without blessing homosexual unions or ordaining persons in such unions. In a 20-page essay, James A. Nestingen, professor of church history at Luther Seminary, explores the subject: "Is There a Law? The Lutheran Reformation and Homosexual Practice." Nestingen examines homosexual practice in light of the law/gospel conversation in which Lutherans must engage. Merton P. Strommen, a research psychologist and specialist in youth and family ministry who has authored a number of books (including The Church and Homosexuality) describes in his 15-page essay the forces at work in our culture to normalize homosexuality, and the impact this is having on youth ("Homosexuality: A Youth Issue"). Russell E. Saltzman, pastor of Ruskin Heights Lutheran Church in Kansas City, commentator, and editor both of this volume and of the Lutheran publication Forum Letter, discusses—as a divorced pastor—the accommodation granted to divorced pastors and why it is not analogous to non-celibate homosexual pastors ("Clergy and Divorce," 12 pages). In a 14-page essay Amy C. Schifrin, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (St. Cloud, Minn.) and former seminary pastor at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, draws on her personal experiences to address the conundrum of ritualizing homoerotic relationships ("Ritualizing Life or Ritualizing Death"). The book also contains essays by: Thomas A. Skrenes, "Some Thoughts from a Pastor Who Serves as a Bishop" (9 pages); Phillip Max Johnson, "The Spiritual Nature and Destiny of the Human Body: A Pastoral Perspective on Human Sexuality" (16 pages); and Father Jay Scott Newman, "Homosexuality in Ecumenical Perspective" (8 pages).

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Review:

Russell Salzman has gathered together a distinguished company of academic and pastoral leaders who seek to defend the continuity of witness, both in Bible and tradition, which has guided Christians across the centuries, and now faces a most critical challenge by the proponents of sexual liberation. --Walter Sundberg, Professor of Church History

Here are nine brilliant essays dealing primarily with the questions of homosexual ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions. --n Paul L. Maier, Professor of History, Author

A vital read. Scientifically responsible and theologically faithful, this compendium illuminates the issue of God's intention for human sexuality. --Lee Griffin, M.D.

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