Friday, September 17, 2010

‘Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality’ by W. P. Campbell – Book Review

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One of the most divisive issues in Christendom and in society at large is homosexuality. In his new book, ‘Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality,’ W.P. Campbell provides a biblical perspective on the issue, and on how to deal with those who have same-sex attraction with Christlike love.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

While some churches debate the issue of homosexuality and others completely avoid it, struggling people fall through the cracks. This is a book for Christians and church leaders who want to risk above the debate and make a difference in the world by thinking, acting, and speaking in ways that express both redemptive truth and Christlike love.
Pastor Bill Campbell shares insights, tools, and practical guidelines for any congregation that wishes to see Christians positively influence how the larger culture frames the issue of same-sex attraction. He demonstrates how readers can converse in a truthful, loving, and insightful manner about such topics as the nature/nurture debate, law vs. grace, and Scripture’s call to holiness. Campbell suggests ways churches can build ministry in leadership training, preaching, support groups, mentoring/counseling, and outreach.
Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry provides the right blend of information, practical action steps, and guidelines for Christian renewal so that controversy about homosexuality can become the launching pad for vital ministry.

Here is the biography of this author:

W.P. Campbell (DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He began researching, debating, and writing about homosexuality and the church over twenty years ago. Bill serves on the advisory board of OneByOne, a ministry that equips churches to bring truth and grace to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Bill and his wife, Lin, live in western North Carolina and have three children.

And here is Pastor Campbell talking about this important new book:

In the Preface, Pastor Campbell explains the purpose of this book:

This book is written to equip Christians and their churches to provide a Christlike response to homosexuality and to people who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions. Such people are in almost every congregation, often suffering quietly. Some drift as visitors from church to church. They are jostled and torn between the conflicting values of society and of the church. What they need is a safe Christian environment where they can safely by honest about their struggles, feel welcome and loved, and receive grace and guidance to follow Jesus.
Very few pastors or church members understand how their congregations can foster such an environment. Yet the resources to make it happen are already within our grasp. It is time to recognize this part of our society before our churches become irrelevant to the world. Churches that wisely develop ministry in this one area of need will become healthier and more vibrant overall.
What follows is not a call to compromise but a call to deeper Christian commitment. We do not need a middle way, but a higher ground, which is Christ’s way. In the following pages, you will be asked not to abandon your convictions but to embrace truths that will deepen your resolve, strengthen your church, and allow the world to see that Jesus is alive and that he does have the answers. He is waiting to manifest his healing power and grace through Christians and congregations that choose to follow in his steps. (p. 7)

It is important that we have an equal mixture of truth and grace when speaking to those who struggle with same-sex attraction,; it isn’t always easy:

Truth and grace – have you ever tried putting those two together without minimizing either? Without God’s help, it is a daunting task. Grace without truth hampers, confuses, and even deceives. Truth without grace cuts, wounds, and destroys. Those who approach thorny matters such as sexual addiction, homosexuality, and adultery with only truth become experts at alienation. Those who bring love into such discussions but avoid the truth are unable to confront patterns of behavior that hurt self and society. Both are important; neither can function properly without the other. Salt is essential to the body, but separated into its two elements, sodium and chloride, it can be deadly. (p. 13)

It would appear that we need a lot of humility and reliance on the Holy Spirit in order to effectively minister to this segment of the population.

We really need to deal with the issue the way Jesus would:

When the church approached the homosexual dilemma in a Christlike manner, people on both sides of the issue can be unified around the clear teachings of Scripture and minister with the endless compassion of Christ. People who find themselves attracted to the same sex will no longer be subject to mixed messages but will hear one voice affirming their worth in the sight of God and their need to turn to the Savior who heals, forgives, helps, and enables them, along with every human being, to “sin no more.” We will no longer be a people with a formula and a quick fix, but humble followers of Christ who invite others to engage in the lifelong process of growth and change. (p. 15)

Pastor Campbell offers Ten Ministry Essentials:

1.   The best way to avoid extremes is to follow Christ’s example.
2.   Churches that blend uncompromised grace and truth are positioned for dynamic ministry.
3.   Ministry begins when we connect brokenness in our hearts with brokenness in others.
4.   Church leadership is about godly role models, not rights.
5.   We must embrace the whole of Scripture to keep our lives whole.
6.   Our genes bear the shadow of the fallen creation. They do not overshadow righteous  
      living, however, for those who are new creations in Christ.
7.   The law leads us to Christ, who enables us to fulfill it.
8.   The goal is not to move from homosexuality to heterosexuality, but from homosexuality to 
9.   Where sin abounds, God’s grace is greater still.
10.  With God, nothing is impossible and no one is unreachable. (p. 17)

Compassion is an absolutely essential ingredient when ministering to people with same-sex struggles:

The compassion of Christ begins to bloom when members begin to understand that homosexual attractions are usually not chosen by those who experience them but are the fallout of a multiplicity of factors such as prenatal dispositions, sexual abuse, parental detachment, and same-sex peer rejection. This helps us to move beyond the unknown and to connect with people’s pain, which should be familiar territory for everyone. (p. 38)

Pastor Campbell thinks he knows why there are extreme views on this issue in the Church:

Debate among Christians about homosexuality is but the fruit of differing perspectives. The way we view Scripture is the root problem. We must avoid the extremes of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Those who handle key biblical texts about homosexuality properly will find that controversy over this topic diminishes, as we will see in part 2. Based on this understanding, one can successfully build ministry, as described in part 3. (p. 56)

Part Two of the book looks at how we can overcome controversy over this topic. He looks at these topics: ‘Creation and Science: Did God Create Homosexuality?,’  ‘Standards and Psychology: Which Norms Are Still Relevant?’ and ‘Compassion and the Church: Does God Really Care?’

Many people argue that Jesus never talked about homosexuality and that the prohibitions against homosexuality in the Old Testament are no longer valid in the era after the New Testament. Pastor Campbell refutes that argument this way:

The point is clear: the same God who condemned homosexual practice through Moses before the time of Christ condemned homosexual practice through Paul after the time of Christ. The law was given to lead us to Christ, who helps us to obey it (Galatians 3:24). All this is in keeping with the teachings of Christ himself, who proclaimed the unchanging nature of the moral law of God.
A basic principle for the study of Scripture is to allow the Bible to interpret itself. Our opinions about the laws in the Old Testament are not as important as those of Christ, Paul, and the other apostles. As relating to the issue of homosexuality, assumptions that all of the laws in Leviticus are outdated must be weighed against Paul’s statements that show moral laws in the Old Testament to be timeless and relevant for today. (p. 99)

The book includes testimonies from many people who have left their homosexual lifestyles behind, and are now ministering to those who deal with the same sin. I was intrigued by this perspective from Mike Goeke, who is now on the pastoral staff of Stonegate Fellowship Church  in Midland, Texas and is the executive director of Cross Point Ministries:

Let me just say a hearty thank you to my wife and my parents, family, and friends who cared enough about me to offend me! I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider the ramifications of my life had the people in my world bought in to the lie that that to love me was to affirm my homosexuality. When I left my wife to pursue homosexuality, she boldly told me that she knew God would work in me and in our marriage and that she would not pursue divorce. She protected her interests but always professed her love for me and her desire to work through this together….
And each of them offended me. Each of them made me angry. I viewed them as bigoted, unenlightened, ignorant, prejudiced, and hateful. If they truly loved me, I told them, they would accept my homosexuality and affirm me in the lifestyle I was living… They did not coddle me, but they refused to give up on me. (pp. 103-104)

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association voted to reclassify homosexuality – to take it off the list of psychiatric illnesses. It was interesting to read the dynamics behind that decision:

We might expect such a dramatic alteration of historically held positions came about through the normal process of the study of documented research over time, through which reliable conclusions were reached. But this was not the case. The APA reached its conclusions, not based on a scientific consensus, but through political pressure. Ronald Bayer, then a fellow at the Hastings Institute in New York, reported how in 1970 the leadership of a homosexual faction within the American Psychiatric Association (APA) planned a “systematic effort to disrupt the annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association.” Bayer summarized the process: “The American Psychiatric Association had fallen victim to the disorder of a tumultuous era, when disruptive elements threatened to politicize every aspect of American social life. A furious egalitarianism…compelled psychiatric experts to negotiate the pathological status of homosexuality with homosexuals themselves.”  (p. 107)

The APA tipped to one extreme; the Church needs to learn from their example:

The American Psychiatric Association has embraced an oversimplified and unbalanced position on homosexuality; the church must not overreact by doing the same thing in the opposite direction. If the APA claims that none can change, we must not declare that all are guaranteed the ability to change completely. Christians are not simplistic and unrealistic about any other human vice, whether sexual, relational, or spiritual. We are given grace for repentance and a change of behavior, but the deeper work that influences our thought, longings, and desires is an ongoing process through the grace of God. One thing is clear: those who love Jesus are called to love in sexual fidelity. As is often stated by leaders in Exodus International, “the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, it’s holiness.” (p. 118)

In Part Three, entitled ‘Action: Building Ministry,’ Dr. Campbell provides a blueprint for how to set up a ministry to help those with same-sex attraction. He was inspired by the ministry of Nehemiah:

I was struck by the parallels between Nehemiah’s success and churches that have been effective in building ministries. Six themes in Nehemiah’s strategy were part of the unfolding work of God in each of these churches. Focusing on these six areas will enable you, not only to better support and help people who struggle with sexual brokenness, but to improve ministry and outreach in nearly every sector of your congregation’s life.
The six areas, summarized by people’s inner drives and their corresponding external focus are:

          Inner Reality                    Outer Focus
1.   Motivation                       Prayer
2.   Vision                             Leadership
3.   Healing                           Family values
4.   Growth                           Mentors/counselors
5.   Support                          Small group ministry
6.   Celebration                      Outreach   (pp. 152-153)

Each sphere is supported by ministry examples.

In the Conclusion, entitled ‘The Big Picture,’ Pastor Campbell makes the point that Christian maturity is a prerequisite to ministry to any group:

My search for churches that have established ministries for people with same-sex attractions has brought me to the doorstep of healthy and vital congregations that are keenly focused on Christ. We must measure our success not by the size of the programs but by the person of Jesus Christ. Christian maturity is the nonnegotiable essential for Christlike ministry.
An immature church may launch into certain ministries and look good on the outside while being spiritually anemic within. No church should attempt ministry to people with sexual brokenness, sexual abuse, and unwanted same-sex attractions without putting the spiritual growth of its membership first on the list of priorities. Love for another, transparency with each other, truth spoken with clarity, prayer for each ministry, and unity among leaders are essential foundations for this work. (p. 216)

Often, we find our ministry in areas in which we’ve struggled:

As I’ve stated and illustrated throughout this book, one of the best resources to help a church launch ministry to the sexually broken is someone who has experienced such brokenness and is now walking in holiness before the Lord. In many cases, such an individual will arise from within one’s own congregation. Likewise, many churches have created partnerships with leaders of posthomosexual ministries outside their fold. Either way, mature Christian leadership is needed to help our churches become mature in Christ. (p. 217)  

At the back of the book are Questions for Personal or Group Reflection, as well as Additional Ministry Resources. Both sections are valuable both to the pastor who wants to learn more about the subject, and the person who may be struggling with this particular sin issues.

I really appreciated the fact that Pastor Campbell wrote about this subject in a logical, reasoned manner, as opposed to the emotionally charged manner by which those on each side of the debate usually operate. He looks at the issues from a biblical and scientific perspective. I hope this book will be used by many to bring the love of Christ into the debate – a perspective that has been sadly lacking both from the Left and the Right. Personally, I plan to encourage pastors and other staff at the church we attend to read this important book, particularly as we launch the E.A.C.H. – Everyone A Chance to Hear – movement here in Metro Detroit in early 2011.

You can read a sample of the book here.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan Publishers and provided by them for review purposes.


Linda said...

What a terrific book. Gonna get this one. You have one great source for unique titles!

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

William said...


Thank you for your review!

Would you mind if I quote a couple of sentences from it (and give reference to you and to your blog) on a website I'm putting up in a few days (at, now just a splash page).

Thanks Again!
WP Campbell

Andrea Schultz said...

William -
It would be my honor if you did that.
Thanks for writing such an important and thoughtful book.
Blessings -

igsie said...

What an enlightening way to express the need for Truth and Grace to go together!

Vincent said...

What a bunch of ... Instead of actually asking how homosexuality actually got into the Diagnostic Manual, just provide the easy response - it should not have been taken out... But then again, fanatics lack imagination, curiosity, analytical thinking, etc.

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