Sexuality & Scripture

U. S. Episcopalians and African Anglicans Explore What the Bible Says About Sexuality

November 2017:

“On Sexuality and Scripture” includes scholarly essays, Bible studies and personal reflections

In 2011, at the height of divisions in the Anglican Communion over same-sex relationships, a group of Anglicans from Africa and Episcopalians from the United States gathered in Durban, South Africa to read and discuss the Bible together.

Called together by the Chicago Consultation and the Ujamaa Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, most shared a conviction that the sacred Scriptures of the Christian faith were being misused as cudgels by church leaders and politicians who sought to criminalize same-sex relationships and exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from fully participating in the life of the church.

From that meeting, and subsequent gatherings in Limuru, Kenya in 2013 and Elmina, Ghana in 2015 comes “On Sexuality and Scripture,” a book from Church Publishing Incorporated that challenges narrow, punitive readings of Scripture and makes the case that LGBTI people are beloved children of God who desire they be loved, honored and respected.

The book was edited by Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, the Zimbabwean Old Testament scholar whose lecture “Is It in The Bible” captivated the Durban gathering, and Jim Naughton, founder of Episcopal Café. It includes six scholarly essays and lectures; 18 Bible studies that can be used in congregational settings and five personal reflections.

“‘On Sexuality and Scripture’ is not a chronicle of our gatherings,” said Gunda, “yet I think it captures the excitement of coming together with people from vastly different cultures and backgrounds to explore the Bible and understand that the Good News is good news from women, for LGBTI people and for all of those who are marginalized or oppressed by patriarchal power structures.”

The book’s 19 contributors come from Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States and Zimbabwe. They include Bishop Jeffrey D. Lee of Chicago, African academics Gunda, Esther Mombo of Kenya, Gerald West of South Africa and Robert Kuloba of Uganda; U.S.-based scholars Deirdre Good, Dora Mbuwayesango, Ruth Meyers and Fredrica Harris Thompsett, and leading LGBTI advocates such as Tobias S. Haller and Cameron Partridge.

“’On Sexuality and Scripture’ is a faithful, God-honoring, rigorous exploration of Scripture in light of diverse expressions of human sexuality and difficult conversations in and out of the church grappling with human experience, science, religion and shifting cultural norms,” says the Rev. Wil Gafney, associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School.

In the book’s concluding section, Mote Paulo Magomba of Tanzania reflects on his change of mind of LGBTI issues in “Paying the Price for Seeking and Serving Christ”; Lowell Grisham, a straight, white son of the American South compares his experiences of the civil rights and LGBTI movements; Meyers describes the founding of the Chicago Consultation and West, who organized the Bible study program at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, asks, “What would Jesus do?” in an essay subtitled “Toward an Inclusive Ethic.”

“Probing and elucidating a rich and wide range of biblical texts in dialogue with the lives of LGBTI people within and outside the church, the essays, meditations and questions invite readers into faithful and life-giving conversations,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest.

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contact: Rebecca Wilson
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