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Congregations in Conflict: The Battle over Homosexuality
     

Congregations in Conflict: The Battle over Homosexuality

by Keith Hartman
 

A Methodist church puts its minister on trial after he marches in a gay rights parade. A Quaker meeting struggles to decide whether to marry a lesbian couple. An entire congregation is thrown out of the Southern Baptist Convention for deciding that a gay divinity student had a sincere calling to the ministry, and an order of celibate monks comes out of the closet.

Overview

A Methodist church puts its minister on trial after he marches in a gay rights parade. A Quaker meeting struggles to decide whether to marry a lesbian couple. An entire congregation is thrown out of the Southern Baptist Convention for deciding that a gay divinity student had a sincere calling to the ministry, and an order of celibate monks comes out of the closet. An Episcopal priest blesses two same-sex relationships—then a closeted gay lawyer leads the charge to have him fired.

Homosexuality is the most divisive issue facing churches today. Like the issue of slavery 150 years ago, it is a matter that ignites passionate convictions on both sides, a matter that threatens to turn members of the same faith against each other, to divide congregations, and possibly even to fragment several denominations. Like slavery, it is an issue that calls up basic questions about what it means to be a Christian. How does one know right from wrong? Is the Bible fallible? Do good Christians always follow their church's teachings, or are they allowed to think for themselves on moral issues? And to what source does one finally look to determine what God really wants?

While many books have been written analyzing the scriptural and theological dimensions of the conflict, none has yet shown how it is being played out in the pews. Congregations in Conflict examines nine churches that were split by disagreements over gay and lesbian issues, and how the congregations resolved them.

Hartman explores in very readable prose how different denominations have handled their conflicts and what it says about the nature of their faith. He shows some churches coming through their struggles stronger and more unified, while others irrevocably split. Most importantly, he illuminates how people with a passionate clash of beliefs can still function together as a community of faith.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
As numerous denominations grapple with the question of how to respond to the presence of gay and lesbian believers, Hartman's evenhanded analysis of how nine communities of faith in North Carolina's Research Triangle have dealt with the issue is an excellent guide. His book should help congregants negotiate the pitfalls of biblical interpretation and culturally entrenched homophobia. Many of the faith communities Hartman portrays have great difficulty accepting homosexuality: a Methodist congregation is alarmed by its pastor's outreach to the local gay community; congregations are expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention for seeking accommodation with homosexual members; Quakers struggle to find accord with same-sex marriages; and a straight minister of the gay Metropolitan Community Church is forced from her pulpit for becoming preoccupied with caring for congregants dying of AIDS. But also among Hartman's cast of searching Christians are lay conservatives whose commitment to reconciling differences within the church triumphed over prejudice. Hartman's book is an invaluable beginning to the healing of misunderstanding on all sides.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As numerous denominations grapple with the question of how to respond to the presence of gay and lesbian believers, Hartman's evenhanded analysis of how nine communities of faith in North Carolina's Research Triangle have dealt with the issue is an excellent guide. His book should help congregants negotiate the pitfalls of biblical interpretation and culturally entrenched homophobia. Many of the faith communities Hartman portrays have great difficulty accepting homosexuality: a Methodist congregation is alarmed by its pastor's outreach to the local gay community; congregations are expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention for seeking accommodation with homosexual members; Quakers struggle to find accord with same-sex marriages; and a straight minister of the gay Metropolitan Community Church is forced from her pulpit for becoming preoccupied with caring for congregants dying of AIDS. But also among Hartman's cast of searching Christians are lay conservatives whose commitment to reconciling differences within the church triumphed over prejudice. Hartman's book is an invaluable beginning to the healing of misunderstanding on all sides. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Picture two North Carolina Southern Baptist congregations-one performing a same-sex marriage, the other considering asking a gay to become their preacher. No, this is not fiction; these and seven other churches in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park area are dealing with accepting gay and lesbian members into their congregations, sacraments, and leadership roles. Journalist Hartman also reports on two Quaker meetings wrestling with the issue of same-sex marriages, United Methodists and their conflict with their pastor's gay outreach services, the Metropolitan Community Church's North Carolina parishes, an Episcopal priest blessing same-sex marriages, and Holy Cross Catholic's expulsion of its gay group. Readers will learn that all participants paid a price for being Christian and thereby offer us a lesson. Recommended for all libraries.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Ray Olson
"Homosexuality is the most divisive element facing the Church today," Hartman says in the preface to his reports on how nine Christian congregations in western North Carolina handled issues including supporting gay civil rights, ordaining a gay man, hosting a specifically gay congregation, and solemnizing gay marriages. Each congregation dealt with its particular issue according to distinctive denominational practices, to the makeup of its members, and to the peculiarities of the challenge it faced. A Methodist church split into generational factions when its new pastor participated in a gay rights march. A Catholic congregation vetoed a gay Catholic group's mass and Spanish-only masses simultaneously, specifically in response to Vatican "orders" about tolerating gays but ultimately because members feared diluting the church's predominantly black membership. Two Quaker meetings labored long and finally approved gay marriage, one because an actual request for marriage was made, the other because a single member pressed the issue. Hartman concludes his readable, useful book with some rules of thumb for other congregations when they face--as he thinks they surely will--gay issues, too.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813522296
Publisher:
Rutgers University Press
Publication date:
01/28/1996
Pages:
212
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.33(h) x 0.93(d)

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