The Evangelical Unicorn: A Third Way on Gay Marriage

I reviewed two books by evangelicals on gay marriage for The Christian Century — God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines and A Letter to my Congregation by Ken Wilson — and the review is now available online. Here’s the core of what differentiates their books:

Ken Wilson is a lifelong pastor in the Vineyard movement, which grew out of the Jesus movement of the 1970s. Wilson started Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1975 and has pastored that church ever since. Wilson’s book A Letter to My Congregation came after his own two-year journey.

Vines’s book is oddly lacking in autobiography. He briefly recounts the day that he came out to his parents—“my dad’s worst day”—but then gets right to his argument that long-term, monogamous, same-sex relationships are not contrary to the Bible because they’re never mentioned in the Bible.

Vines’s father plays a large role in the book. Vines the younger repeatedly tells how his father changed his mind on this verse or that view based on the study that the two undertook together. Although it’s clear that Matthew’s orientation was the impetus for the project, he never suggests that his own attempt to live as a holistic person or his father’s love for his son had any effect on changing either of their minds. They cast their stance as a totally intellectual decision: they studied the Bible and changed their minds. This book, Matthew hopes, will do the same for many others.

Wilson takes a very different tack, talking openly about his heart being changed. As a charismatic Christian, Wilson has no trouble attributing his change of heart and mind to the provocation of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t just about the intellect for Wilson but also about being open to the active movement of God in the world and in the heart of the believer. So ultimately the issue is not just about what the Bible says but about what the Spirit whispers.

Wilson frequently cites Bible scholars N. T. Wright and Richard Hays, both of whom are on record as opposing the normalization of gay relationships in church or society. Wilson defers to their scholarship, but not to their conclusions. As he sees it, his pastoral office trumps their scholarship.

But I am a pastor. When I am expected (or urged) to exclude those who otherwise bear the marks of the Spirit in their lives on the basis of these texts, I have to face the problems associated with applying the prohibitions to people in modern-day monogamous gay relationships.

Read the rest of the review HERE.

Here’s a Patheos livechat about Vines’s book with Vines, Rachel Held Evans, Jay Bakker, Deb Arca, and YFB.


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