Review: Turning Controversy into Church Ministry

Turning Controversy into Church Ministry

Author: W. P. Campbell

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Zondervan

ISBN: 978-0-310-32132-3



Coming from a tradition that is in the midst of turmoil because of their decisions regarding homosexuality and same-gendered relationships, when I saw this book come up for a blog tour, I immediately signed up.

The church, according to Campbell, has failed in ministering to homosexuals and those with same-sex attraction:

The Christian church often reaches out to those wounded by divorce but alienates or avoids those who struggle with same-sex attraction.  Congregations that support recovery ministry for alcoholism are numerous, but when people surface who want help with homosexuality in their lives or families, we either turn a cold shoulder or whisk them away to specialized groups outside the church.  We form support groups for fellowship, weight loss, marriage recovery, and financial stress but have little interest in and insight about how to minister to sexual brokenness in all of its forms. (14)

Campbell’s approach to ministering to those with same-sex attraction calls not for a middle way for a Christian response, but rather, he calls for a response that is “a higher ground, which is Christ’s way.” (7)  Using Christ’s example in John 8:1-8, Campbell notes that this response combines both truth and grace.  Campbell notes that grace without truth is a “perversion of God’s person and plan for humanity” (25) and truth without grace “speaks words that wound and promotes acts that kill spirit and hope.” (26)  Grace and truth, according to Campbell “were never meant to be separated” (25) and a Christlike is one where truth is spoken with grace.

Part one of the book lays the groundwork for the rest of the book.  In it, Campbell addresses where the church is and what is needed in the church by looking through three different lenses.  In part two, Campbell looks at each side of the controversy (truth without grace and grace without truth), often picking apart both sides of the argument in his assessment of the controversy.  Campbell concludes with practical ministry applications in part three.  Throughout all three parts, Campbell reiterates his main point, “it is not enough to find the truth; we must learn to present it to others in love, as did Jesus.” (66)

In Campbell’s dealing of homosexuality and creation, my mind kept wondering to homosexual behavior in other animals.  I wish he would have addressed that at some point in his book.  Are the reports of homosexual behavior in animals also a result of living in a fallen world or does it say something else about creation and homosexuals?  Thoughts on this would have been helpful for the overall discussion.

I found this book to be extremely informative even though I didn’t necessarily agree with everything Campbell said in his book.  The book made me think about my responses regarding the homosexuality debate in the church and where I fell into the conversation.  Overall, I found Campbell’s tone and demeanor to be gracious, even when he hit you hard and challenges your beliefs regarding this debate.  Campbell is consistent in his call for the church to be Christlike in its response to homosexuality, to present the truth with grace.

I fall on the liberal side of this debate, but I think it’s important to point out, that despite that, I did not feel attacked by Campbell in reading this book.  I feel that this book exemplifies what it means to speak the truth with grace.  This book is desperately needed in the church today.  I strongly recommend that everyone in some position of church leadership, be it pastoral or lay, read this book.  I wish this book was available prior to the ELCA’s CWA09.  I don’t think things would have happened differently, but maybe the demeanor of the conversation would have been shaped differently (maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part).


I received this book free from Zondervan as a part of the Turning Controversy into Church Ministry Blog Tour. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


7 thoughts on “Review: Turning Controversy into Church Ministry

  1. Pingback: Blog Tour This Week: “Turning Controversy into Church Ministry” « EngagingChurch

  2. I’m so grateful for your thoughtful review here. I’m glad to read that you didn’t “feel attacked” by the author. I hope this books brings a lot of light and not a lot of heat to this topic, regardless of denomination, etc.

    Also, what you mentioned about other animals – that’s an interesting train of thought. Have you read about that anywhere else?


    • I haven’t heard homosexual behavior in animals advanced as an argument per se, but I have heard reference to it. There is a Wikipedia page on the topic, but at the same time, it’s Wikipedia (it is well documented though). As I writing the reviewed, it just kind of popped into my mind, so thought it was worth mentioning. I would love to hear Pr. Campbell’s thoughts on the matter.

  3. Thank you for this thoughtful critique of the book!

    Regarding homosexuality and the animal kingdom, I would suggest that we need not attribute all animal sexual behavior to the fall. Nor, however, do we find any great philosopher or religious leader encouraging us to act like animals. We do that well enough without any encouragement! (-:

    I didn’t dive into this topic in the book because I find it to be ridiculous. We can make a list of a thousand behaviors in the animal kingdom that we would not encourage for our own children. Regarding genetics, however (the main reason the behavior of animals is brought up in the first place), the book makes rather clear that scientists don’t human sexual attribute behavior directly to genetic cause. It is at most an influencing factor that does not dictate behavior.

    Please watch my website at for a blogsite on 9/23 and an article on this topic soon.

    WP Campbell

    • Pr. Campbell,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond and sharing your thoughts regarding homosexual behaviors in animals. I look forward to the article you mentioned.

  4. Pingback: My First Endorsement « Simul Iustus et Peccator

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