Is It Time? Helping Laity and Clergy Discuss Homosexuality

May 1st, 2018

Faultlines is a collection of resources intended to inform conversations around human sexuality within the United Methodist Church as the denomination prepares for the 2019 General Conference. The collection represents diverse perspectives and attempts to fill knowledge gaps around the debate, biblical foundations, theological arguments and the impact on The United Methodist Church and her people. Visit for more information. The following is an excerpt from Is It Time?: Helping Laity and Clergy Discuss Homosexuality One Question at a Time.

Many books have been written on the subject of homosexuality. So, it’s natural to ask: Do we need another?

Most of those books either defend or attack a certain point of view. A limited number of them attempt to bring differing perspectives together. But none that I have located use a Socratic approach—asking questions rather than formulating answers—in dealing with the central issues involved in a discussion of homosexuality.

Articles, blogs, and social media postings on the subject have been far more prolific than books in recent years but have employed the same overall approach. This has led readers to draw conclusions that agree or disagree with what they have read, sometimes without much reflection and deliberation.

"Is It Time? Helping Laity and Clergy Discuss Homosexuality One Question at a Time" (Abingdon Press, 2017). Order here:

The question that sets forth the title of this book—“Is it time?”—is used in two distinct ways. The first is an extension of the title: “Is it time to stop?” It is repeated at the beginning of each of the first twelve chapters and introduces a verb that initiates the subject matter of a given chapter. The second way is a different extension of the title: “Is it time to start?” It is used only one time as an introduction to the postscript.

On the opening page for each of the twelve chapters, the words Maybe yes . . . maybe no follow the chapter title as an indication of openness to the response of the reader. An additional question comes after these titles: “What do you think?”

My hope is that persons who read this book will become aware of the wide variety of issues related to the subject of homosexuality, will be encouraged to reflect on each of them, will think through the meaning of whatever answers they give to the questions this book raises, will grapple with the implications of the stances they take, and will engage in conversations with others—both in a one-on-one setting and in a group.

This book is not an attempt to convert readers to my point of view. Rather, it is an effort to assist readers in understanding the issues that I and others have examined and critiqued many times. It has grown out of an intentional process, one that remains open to further development:

I study and learn.
I interact with others, especially those who have a view different from mine.
I reexamine what I think.
I follow the evidence wherever it leads.
I affirm an openness to change.

I write from a heterosexual perspective, since that is who I am. I address issues facing the heterosexual community more fully than those facing other communities, since that is the primary context for my understanding. However, I try my best to be as sensitive as I can to represent other perspectives in as fair a manner as I know how.

The time has now come for me, an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church for more than fifty years, to attempt to contribute to the conversations taking place throughout our denomination—in this country and around the world. The time is ripe to encourage open conversation by asking questions that have sometimes been unexamined, neglected, and/or cast aside as unimportant—before official actions are taken in the coming years that might lead to irreversible consequences.

This book is structured in three parts. The first—chapters 1 through 5—considers physical and psychological issues, using terms and concepts consistent with the perspectives of the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The second—chapters 6 through 10—examines biblical and theological issues. The third—chapters 11 and 12—identifies relational and practical issues, connecting preceding chapters to everyday situations facing readers.

The “call” of this book is: (1) to understand more fully our own views, (2) to grasp more accurately views different from our own, (3) to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and (4) to share our thoughts and feelings with others with whom we agree and disagree—all in a spirit of mutual openness. The outcome of following that “call”—hopefully—will be a time to start expending our full energy on the mission of The United Methodist Church: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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