Holiness and Sexuality
This book should interest British Methodists for two reasons: firstly because it has been written in the wake of ‘denominational moves to authorise the blessing of same-sex unions’ – a move which may well be made at this year’s Methodist Conference; and secondly because it treats the question of homosexuality from the point of view of scriptural holiness - the very cause for which John Wesley
Originating in papers delivered at the Seventh Oak Hill College Annual School of Theology, the book is a symposium which looks at the phenomenon of homosexuality from four different perspectives: David Peterson, the Principal of Oak Hill, deals with the biblical material, devoting special attention to a critique of the views of Rowan Williams and Jeffrey John on this subject; David Field, who teaches doctrine and ethics at Oak Hill, views homosexuality from a theological perspective, as an expression of our fallen humanity; Martin Hallett, an evangelical homosexual and Director of the True Freedom Trust, looks at the subject at a more personal and pastoral level; while Peter Saunders, a doctor and general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, examines recent research into the possible origins of the homosexual orientation: biological, psycho-social and volitional. Some readers may find David Field’s contribution overly complex and Martin Hallett’s poorly organised, but David Peterson and Peter Saunders are models of lucidity.
The book closes with a bibliography and endnotes that reveal an extensive interaction with recent scholarship in this whole area.
The authors are agreed that homosexual practices should be seen as sinful, and the homosexual condition from which they mostly arise as a radical departure from God’s original intention. Attempted evasions of the clear, consistent and unambiguous biblical material on this subject are firmly resisted. The biblical teaching does not condemn merely exploitative, casual, or demeaning forms of homosexual behaviour, but homosexual behaviour itself, and any church which approves or condones such behaviour as morally no different from heterosexual behaviour is not only failing to uphold scriptural holiness, but is even forfeiting its place within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.
Alongside this strong stand on the morality of homosexual behaviour, however, the book comes down equally strongly against any kind of self-righteous judgementalism. All of us are fallen creatures, living in a fallen world, a fact that affects us in every aspect of our beings, including our sexuality. The only hope for all of us lies in the grace of God revealed in the cross of Christ, the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of total healing in the new heaven and new earth. Meanwhile we are called to treat one another with understanding and compassion, and encourage one another along the path of true holiness and true freedom. In this context, an unhealed homosexual orientation is seen in the book as a ‘handicap’ or an ‘affliction’ which, like the thorn in Paul’s flesh, may yet be turned around for good and become a springboard for fruitful Christian service.