By their fruitiness shall ye know them
Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith
Malcolm Boyd and Nancy Wilson, eds. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1991.
A collection of autobiographical writings by lesbian/gay Christians. This one stands out for several reasons. First, it is ecumenical, rather than denominational, in focus; second, there are fewer stories than the other autobiographical collections and the stories are longer. While all such collections are worth reading (and some more so, depending on your denomination), I think this is a particularly rich one, and I highly recommend it.
Come Home! Reclaiming Spirituality and Community as Gay Men and Lesbians
Chris Glaser. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.
Chris Glaser is a gay male Presbyterian with a great story, a powerful vision and serious writing skills. This is his “introductory” book (other resources by him are listed elsewhere here), and it covers welcoming God’s acceptance, receiving one’s Christian inheritance, discerning one’s call, making witness, and declaring one’s vision. The usual topics, such as Biblical passages, are discussed, but what’s best about this book is the overall way it hangs together. If you are l/g/b/t and Christian, this is a must-read.
Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends
Chris Glaser. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.
A beautiful collection of prayers, accessible to a wide audience, and covering many issues that Christian lesbians and gay men face. (It also shows off Glaser’s politically progressive streak, which I personally appreciate.)
Coming Out Within: Stages of Spiritual Awakening for Lesbians and Gay Men
Craig O’Neill and Kathleen Ritter. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Hallelujia – a book that assumes (rather than bothering to argue) that l/g/b/t folks are spiritual – and that then details the spiritual work we do! O’Neill and Ritter use stories to illuminate the transformative path traveled by some l/g/b/t people of faith (the book is not particularly Christian). A must-read for l/g/b/t spiritual seekers and those who pastor or counsel them.
Embracing the Exile: Healing Journeys of Gay Christians
John E. Fortunato. New York: HarperCollins, 1982.
One of the most powerful books on Christianity and homosexuality that I have ever read. It tries to do several things at once and does virtually all of them well, but its subtitle is misleading; it does not primarily consist of the stories of “gay Christians.” However, Fortunato tells his story beautifully, and shows clearly what Christian spiritual surrender is like, as well as indicating how traditional and spiritual psychotherapy differ. This book may well disturb you, in the sense of disturbing belief systems you weren’t even aware you had. I recommend it for everyone trying to live a spiritual life, Christian or not, l/g/b/t or not, in or out of therapy.
Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations
Kittredge Cherry and Sherwood Zalmon, eds. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995.
I think this is the best book of its type available. This very useful collection of liturgy, broadly defined, for l/g/b/t people of faith, includes rites to mark spiritual beginnings, rites of healing, funerals and memorial services, rites of blessing, seasonal and holiday rites, covenant rites for couples (but l/g/b/t folk who are planning to wed should be aware that this is a very small section of the book), rites of holy communion and rites of lesbian/gay pride and empowerment. The book also has a helpful introduction. I can’t say enough good things about it, so I’ll just stop and recommend it.
Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality
Marvin M. Ellison. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1996.
A powerful, unabashedly justice-centered re-envisioning of sexual ethics by a pro-feminist anti-racist gay man. By setting sexual ethics in a social justice context and drawing on the social sciences to think through the profound limits of sexual theology today, Ellison does us all a real service. As long as our culture organizes sexuality around fear and control, this book will be cutting-edge. A specialized read, and some background in anti-oppression theory and/or sexual ethics is very helpful – but Ellison writes well and his passion is invigorating. Highly recommended for those with interest and experience in thinking about these issues; others may enjoy it but may feel a bit overwhelmed.
Gay Theology Without Apology
Gary David Comstock. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1993.
Creative contemporary gay liberation theology, not so much focused on the traditional “texts of terror” as on new readings of other Biblical passages that suggest or inspire freedom. Comstock occupies a place at the same time within and on the margins of the church, and the last several chapters may disturb some Christians. Nonetheless, I recommend the book wholeheartedly to all l/g/b/t people of faith; it is very readable and very real.
The Grace of Coming Home: Spirituality, Sexuality and the Struggle for Justice
Melanie Morrison. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1995.
A very good collection of essays by a lesbian feminist United Church of Christ minister. Essays include Morrison’s personal experiences and thoughts on liturgy, theology, history and other areas. Different people will be moved by different essays; the ones that really got to me profoundly were “Humility Reconsidered,” “The Cross and the Triangle,” “Is it Okay to be Happy?,” and “Refraining from Explaining.” The essay “The Pearl of Great Price” is worth the cost of the book. Wholeheartedly recommended for all.
Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge
Patricia Beattie Jung and Ralph F. Smith. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993.
A tremendous, important and readable book that starts with heterosexism as the problem, defines, evaluates and analyzes it, and offers a way toward a non-heterosexist future. Part theology, part Biblical analysis, part politics, this is an excellent book and I recommend it for everyone who might be reading this list.
Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response
Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. Revised Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
First published in 1978, this book was – and remains – “a powerful wake-up call for Christians to reexamine their attitudes toward lesbian and gay people.” Scanzoni and Mollenkott present much of the same information as other such books – Scripture discussions, personal stories, ethics, the scientific perspective – but have much more information from a sociological perspective than comparable books, which I find very useful. They have added updated information on AIDS, the “gays in the military” debate and genetic research. The preface, where they tell the story of how the book came to be, really moved me. Even with all the other books out there, I’d put this up high on my collection list.
Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto
Robert Goss. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
Hang onto your hats! Goss is very angry, very pained, very strongly called to seek justice for lesbian/gay people, and very steeped in post-structuralist (including Foucaultian) writing and thinking. The result is a densely written and argued book in which about the clearest thing is Goss’ passion. There are wonderful moments in this book and I love Goss’ theology, but I must note the turgid writing style (why should a commitment to post-structuralism necessarily lead to such a lack of elegance?) I have an M.A. in sociology and I’ve spent years reading Foucault, and I still struggle with some of Goss’ book; I worry about its readability for others without the background. But if you’re up for the ride, you’ll find much wisdom and insight here.
Just as I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud and Christian
Robert Williams. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
I’d rank this up there with Glaser’s Come Home!; it is a basic must-read for l/g/b/t Christians. You may or may not resonate with Williams’ particular story, but this is an excellent book. The sections are entitled, “Who Says? Sources of the Truth,” “I Believe: Basic Christian Doctrines” (this section includes a discussion of Jesus as elder brother), “Finding God in Gay Experience: The Vocation of Queer Christians,” and “The Resurrection of the Body: Life, Death and Healing.” Williams died of AIDS not long after the book came out; what a loss for gay Christians!
Know My Name: A Gay Liberation Theology
Richard Cleaver. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995.
One of my favorite contemporary gay liberation theology books, with an interesting twist: Cleaver came out before he became a Christian, and has had essentially no struggle between these two facets of himself. It shows through in this creative, delightful, refreshing piece of work. I use parts of this book in my adult religious education work. Highly recommended.
The Lambda Directory of Religion and Spirituality: Sources of Spiritual Support for Gay Men and Lesbians
Brian Cranford. Dallas, TX: Pyramid Press, 1994. (Contact Brian/Pyramid Press at 13237 Montford, Suite 810, Dallas, TX 75240.)
An extensive list of queer religious resources, this guide includes sections on periodicals and newsletters, national organizations and support networks, curricula and study resources, dissertations, Jewish resources, AISD ministry resources, new age and alternative spirituality resources, books in print, books believed to be out of print, bibliographies and directories. A very helpful resources, though organizational contacts and addresses have changed over time, and many new resources are now available. Hopefully, Brian can still be reached at the address above to provide an updated edition. The front cover is particularly beautiful.
Open Hands: Resources for Ministries Affirming the Diversity of Human Sexuality
Published quarterly; call 773/736-5526 for information.
Self-description: a “resource for congregations and individuals seeking to be in ministry with lesbian, bisexual and gay persons. Each issue focuses on a specific area of concern within the church.” A terrific resource; I commend it to all people interested in homosexuality and Christianity at any level. Gentle, forward-looking, justice-focused, willing to challenge itself when any kind of inclusion issue arises, this journal will remind lots of people what’s good about Christianity for a change. Subscribe, and avail yourself of the many interesting back issues.
Religion & Spirituality: A Checklist of Resources for Gay Men, Lesbians and Bisexuals
Revised 1996. Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Task Force, American Library Association; contact the GLBTF Clearinghouse, c/o ALA Office for Outreach Services, 60 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
This extensive book list covers Christian traditions (general surveys, Roman Catholic traditions, Protestant traditions, Bible interpretation, devotional literature, pastoral care and counseling), Jewish traditions, Eastern religious traditions, alternative viewpoints and journeys, ceremonies and rituals and historical scholarship, as well as providing a list of gay/lesbian religious organizations, other resources, and sources cited (itself a helpful list). This checklist, which is updated regularly, is excellent and is a must-have for anyone who ever needs to act as an authority on issues of religion and sexuality.
Sensuous Spirituality: Out From Fundamentalism
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. New York: Crossroad, 1992.
A beautiful and very important resource for queer people of faith, Christian or otherwise. This one makes my top five list. Extremely creative Biblical and theological material, with such chapters as “Biblical support for honoring human diversity,” “Gender constructs and the human imaging of God,” “Eros as a spiritual urge,” “The sex-love-justice connection in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures,” and “Some Beatitudes for today’s church: Toward becoming more functional church ‘families’.” Even the appendices are creative: “Milton’s use of the Bible to defend divorce for incompatibility” and “Diverse forms of family mentioned or implied in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.” Enjoy!
What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality
Daniel Helminiak. San Francisco: Alamo Square Press, 1994.
Helminiak has done the world a favor by synthesizing information in many of the other available Biblical resources and presenting it in a simple but not simplistic format. If you need to recommend only one book on the Bible and homosexuality, this is a pretty good bet.
The Word is Out: The Bible Reclaimed for Lesbians and Gay Men
Chris Glaser. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994.
A daily meditation book of Biblical passages, reflections and prayers; this is a terrific resource for those trying to integrate their Christianity and homosexuality in daily reflection, meditation and prayer (including pastors, priests and ministers). Glaser’s passion and wisdom shines in this collection, as in all his others.
A hymnwriter, songwriter, composer, and writer who specializes in music and lyrics for liberal/progressive religious people and communities — including inclusive, social justice-minded Christians, Unitarian Universalists, and other open-hearted religious traditions — Amanda Udis-Kessler maintains the website Queer Sacred Music.