Tuesday, 11 August 2009

COUNTRYMAN & RITLEY: Gifted by Otherness

Countryman, L William & Ritley, L. R.
Gifted by Otherness
Gay & Lesbian Christians in the Church
(Church Publishing, Inc., 2002)

164 pages

from the opening chapter:
“The vocation of being caught in the middle.”

“From the perspective of Christian faith, this awkward business of living on the boundary looks very much like vocation – a call from God. When you answer such a call, you discover the meaning of your life. God has drawn us to this difficult place in order to reveal God’s grace to us and in us and trhough uis. The boundary where we’re living, however inconvenient, is a place rich in spiritual discovery – which means of course, that it is also largely uncharted territory. No ready mde tradition tells us how to be gay and lesbian Christian. This is a vocation God has created in our own time to bring about a new enrichment of the gospel.”
In the past two decades or so the issue of homosexuality has taken center stage at national and regional denominational meetings and in local church communities. The response of the majority of churches ranges from condemnation to toleration of the gay and lesbian community, neither of which offers much hope for homosexual Christians. In "Gifted by Otherness", L. William Countryman and M. R. Ritley conclude that being gay or lesbian is not actually a problem at all; rather it is a vocation, and, in fact, a gift to today's church.

As "outsiders" gay men and lesbians challenge the church to be inclusive of all God's children -- the central message of the gospel. "God has drawn us to this difficult place", they write, "in order to reveal God's grace to us and in us and through us". Basing their book on retreats they have presented to churches and seminaries, Countryman and Ritley explore what it means to affirm, not merely accept, being gay or lesbian, as well as Christian. Written primarily for the lesbigay community, and for their families and communities, they explore the ways in which the gay and lesbian community can appropriate and re-tell the biblical story, and find confidence in their unique spiritual journey and gifts. This pro-active and self-affirming book provides new hope for those who feel that it is impossible to be gay or lesbian, as well as Christian.


From Charles Allen, Anglican Theological Review:

"Again and again, the authors exhibit how, for them, coming to terms with their sexuality and coming to terms with God are inseparable (though not always recognized). And in so doing they repeatedly summon other gay and lesbian Christians to find grace-full moments in the often painful twists and turns of their own stories. Discovering such moments and celebrating them with the church is perhaps the most crucial ministry God's gay tribe can pursue. "

"Those who want to rehash old arguments will doubtless need to look elsewhere. The authors consistently refuse to engage them. But those who want to pause in wonder at the utter strangeness of God's summons will be delighted to find a book that finally speaks to and for them."

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