On Listening…

Listening to Sexual Minorities Cover smOur latest book, Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Sexual Identity and Faith on Christian College Campuses, was released just this week. We have been pleased by many gracious endorsements from a range of perspectives. For example, Pat Griffin offered the following endorsement:

This groundbreaking book is a must-read for all who care about faith-based schools and the LGBTQ students who are a part of these communities. – Pat Griffin, Professor Emerita at University of Massachusetts Amherst and member of the NCAA Seeking Common Ground Leadership Team

From another perspective, consider the endorsement from Shirley Mullen at Houghton College:

This is exactly the kind of book to serve as a catalyst for discussion in the Christian community, especially on college campuses. Its power comes in large part from its concreteness and its foundation in empirical experience, and it brings to life a category that many in the Christian community (and perhaps even in the LGB+ community) are not fully aware of: individuals who fully own their identity as Christians and their identity as sexual minorities. The students’ own stories draw attention to ways in which our policies and our theology—as currently articulated—are not rich enough to encompass reality. So, by beginning with lived experience rather than theology or policy, the book humanizes the issues and requires something of us that an abstract discussion does not. It is also a book that focuses on ministering to the needs of these students. By seriously reckoning with the pastoral dimension of these issues, readers may take greater courage to move beyond and enter into other dimensions of the situation. Finally, this book is an implicit call for more work to be done. From those who believe there is something of deep importance in the traditional Christian understanding of sexual ethics, more work needs to be done to explain that importance in terms that make sense within a broader conversation. I believe we owe this to those who are the subject of this book—and who are currently left alone to work out the painful tension they feel between two identities they truly own. I believe we owe this to those in the LGB+ community who want to understand why many conservative Christians seem willing to risk relationships and community for what appears to be an abstract doctrine. I believe we owe this as a matter of faithful witness to the gospel—in a culture that increasingly sees religious freedom as simply code or cover for bigotry.  – Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College

I am encouraged when I read both of these quotes. When I read Pat Griffith’s quote, I think of the multiple stakeholders in these discussions and what we can potentially gain in those rare moments when we can identify and work toward superordinate goals.

When I read this quote from Shirley, I was particularly drawn to the idea of “an implicit call for more work to be done.” For all of us invested in these institutions and these students, the questions that comes up for us are, What is that work? What the best ways to go about the task at hand?

In my experience in this space–that is, the cultural and ecclesiastical discussions surrounding norms regarding sex and gender–is that the tendency to talk past one another is rather remarkable. The current political climate seems to be only taking us further away from an ability to listen and take ‘next steps.’ So as you read through the book, let’s begin to think together about the work that needs to be done and the best approaches to the task at hand.

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