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Book Review

Facing up to homosexuality

Most books on homosexuality reflect the polarised positions held by Christians. Some, elevating the topic to the No.1 spot in the list of serious sins, shrink Pharisee-like from any contact with persons suspected of homosexual inclinations or practice. Others climb onto our liberal society’s bandwagon and say, ‘Homosexuality’s fine,’ probably adding, ‘as long as Christians confine their sexual activity to a committed long-term relationship.’

This book—the very best I have come across on the subject—is right in the middle, and in my view that’s a good place to be. The author is a woman with lesbian inclinations but who, as an evangelical Christian, believes it is right to deny herself physical expression of those inclinations. It is Walking With Gay Friends: Showing informed compassion by Alex Tylee (IVP, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-844-74847-1).

Beginning with her own story to set the context, she is graciously frank about the problems she has faced ever since she discovered her gay leanings when in her teens. She got into several physical relationships but, as she got serious about her Christian faith, she came to realise that God required her to be ‘a celibate gay Christian’.

She then examines what the Bible says on the issue. Her examination of the biblical texts, both Old Testament and New, is scholarly, detailed and honest. She concludes that a homosexual lifestyle is simply not a valid option for Christians.

Then she looks at where homosexual leanings come from. She has clearly read and studied widely on this subject and reaches some balanced conclusions. A homosexual orientation, she concludes, is rarely a conscious choice. But is it the result of nature or nurture? Again, she avoids reductionist answers and looks at the evidence, bringing it to life by quoting from real-life individuals who have tried to explain their own condition.

But can the condition be healed? Rarely, she concludes, and never by a quick prayer and the laying on of hands. But she does hold out hope for at least a degree of healing, provided Christian friends remain loyal and supportive.

This leads to an important section on how heterosexual Christians—including especially church leaders—should relate to those with homosexual leanings. This is wonderfully informative and should be required reading for all who lead a local church. She goes on to suggest practical ways in which the church can reach out in evangelism to homosexuals, and how to treat them once they make a commitment to Christ. This requires patience and great sensitivity, since the necessary change of thinking and practice will be radical.

What should our attitude be to a Christian who gets drawn into an active homosexual relationship? Again, the danger is that we become too simplistic, too judgmental and Pharisaical, rushing into church disciplinary action as the first step rather than the last. Her suggestions are both practical and sensible.

The author’s aim in writing this book is—as the subtitle indicates—to help readers find an ‘informed compassion’ towards gay people. She has done a sterling job, succeeding far better than any other writer I have read on this sensitive topic. And for those who want to dig deeper she appends a helpful list for further reading.

The nature of this book hasn’t lent itself to a selection of quotations, so I content myself with giving the book a hearty endorsement. Every church leader should certainly read it, as should every Christian who is in touch with gay people inside or outside Christian circles.

[The book is widely available as a hard copy, but the ebook edition is available only by download from IVP.]

On this subject see also Holiness And Sexuality by Peterson (ed.): here.

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