Turning Controversy into Church Ministry
Author: W. P. Campbell
Hardcover: 240 pages
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.”