In the recent past, gaysm and lesbianism has been in the center stage at all religious meetings. Most religious groups and churches have condemned homosexuality while a few have tolerated them. William Countryman in his book Gifted by Otherness argues that homosexuality is not evil rather a vocation and a gift in the contemporary church.
Countryman argues that homosexuality should be accommodated in church as it is the central scriptural message: including all Children of God in the Church. Ritley and Countryman urge the church to not only accept but also affirm and tolerate the homosexuals in their flock. They observe that, the church cannot be blind on the presence of gays and lesbians in their congregation and urges the church to be reactive and struggle with homosexuality. To justify this, they further note that the Church is not monolithic institution of all likeminded individuals rather a community with many diverse and contradicting people.
Countryman and Ritley articulate that as a gift to the Church, gay Christians can serve as “icons” in the priesthood of believers. This is what they call “windows that show the facet of God.”Particularly, the gay Christians who have gone through the turbulent times (what they call wilderness times) in coming to the public and declaring their homosexuality can preach to others on the sustaining Grace of God.
As the Church stagger in the fear of death, the HIV/AIDS scourge has taught the gay Christians on how to deal with the epidemic as part of their normal life. Countryman and Ritley write this book to remind Christians that humor is a gift from God and this is what Gays potent.
The Church’s condemnation of homosexuality is based on the bible. Frequently, the Church refers to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorra’s destruction n Genesis 19: 1-25. They believe that the destruction was due to Homosexuality prevalence in the two cities. Leviticus 20:13, states that “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death their blood will be on their own heads.” The opposition to Homosexuality is unquestionable according to this verse. As such, capital punishment should be given to those who contravene this law hence giving no space to lesbians and gays.
Biblical defense on homosexuality is complex and more often delving into the biblical Hebrew and Greek. In the book Gifted by Otherness Countryman does not give a biblical justification as defense is naturally negative. The book is positive in that it focuses on how homosexual Christians can live as Christians and keep their faith in God.
They present the Gay community as chosen one by God, just the same way the ancient Israel tribes were chosen by God. As such, as God calls people, the gay Christians have been called and need not defend themselves in the pulpits. They argue that, Gay community in the church should define itself rather than sit and wait the straight Christians to make a decision on their fate.
God’s grace in the book is a surprise. It is an interesting way in which we see the grace of God to human kind. As such, the extension of grace to the gay Christians is a pleasant surprise to the gay community and an outrageous surprise to the straight Christians.
By giving a blind eye on this issue, the church has met much criticism on the basis of Hypocrisy. This has gone along way to some extending an olive branch to the gay and lesbian community in their flock. Countryman in this book demands Christians to have the courage to present ones true version. This is what the gay Christians have done by proclaiming their stand on sexuality. This has led to churches softening their hard line stand on this issue on basis of hypocrisy.
Vulnerability is both a spiritual freedom and strength. This is a major problem affecting the church today is admitting this. Countryman states that, by admitting their sexuality, the gay Christians have got a spiritual freedom as well as strength. For Christians and the church to grow spiritually in Christ, they have to admit that they are vulnerable to contemporary issues affecting the church. This is what many church leaders today have come to realize and as such softened their rigid stand on homosexuality.
The church doctrine has neglected sexuality as part of Christian spiritual wholeness. Countryman states that by accepting their sexuality the gays and lesbian Christians complemented their wholesomeness: spirituality and sexuality. This argument by Countryman has bought the light to churches on the overlooked aspect of wholeness: sexuality.
Finally, by proclaiming their inherent sexuality, homosexuals have demonstrated their courage and willingness to love regardless of the perception and action of the church. Thus, Countryman has shown to the church that homosexuals in the church are not afraid of being denounced as such it is upon the church to accept them as they are or reject them rather than pleasing the church. This is what has led to the church rethinking about their decision on homosexuality as they have found that it is their duty to show the way to all in the society.
Countryman Louis William, Ritley M. R. Gifted by otherness: gay and lesbian Christians in the church. New York: Church Publishing, Inc., 2001.