Yesterday I took some time to read Living it Out by Rachel and Sarah Hagger-Holt and finished reading the Reflective Disciple by Roger Walton. I’ve mentioned them both on the blog before, but only just finished reading them. For reasons which will be come clear I have a bit of a soft spot for both books. So expect a couple of reviews today that are aiming to be quite objective but may end up being a little subjective.
As regular readers will be aware I was one of the contributors to “Living it Out”. My contributions were related to giving my insight into coming out to your child and related to the whole coming out, but staying in saga of my resigning membership but staying an active part of my old church. It’s a book which has been compiled via networking, largely. Also wonderfully, and this is something I didn’t realise until I started reading it contains a series of ASBO Jesus cartoons.
The book is subtitled, “A survival guide for lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians, and their friends, families and churches”. It is different to practically every other book I’ve come across on the subject for several reasons:
1) Whilst the age of the contributors is very mixed the majority of LGB people quoted are in their 20’s and 30’s.
2) The large spectrum of denominational and theological backgrounds the contributors came from. It covered experience from High Anglican to Charismatic Evangelical; Brethren; Baptist; CofE; Roman Catholic; Methodist; Salvation Army and United Reformed that I noted.
3) This is a book which really does do what it says on the cover. It is a practical handbook of other peoples experience which also lays out the range of choices to be made and possible consequences. It is neither a rehashing of the debates on the biblical text or a civil rights discourse. It really is a book about what real life is like for LGB Christians, their families and their straight allies.
The main topics covered include: self acceptance; coming out to parents/ children/ pastors/ churches; the challenges of a career in a church and civil partnershp planning issues. As such it’s a book I would urge chaplains, pastors, LGB Christians and there friends and family to have on their bookshelves ready to lend out as required.
In many ways “Living it Out” can be seen as an aid in supporting reflective discipleship amongst LGB Christians and their friends, families and churches. To adequately cover what Walton is doing with The Reflective Disciple is difficult. It is a book which jumps about alot, weaving a tapestry to give a picture of what contemporary discispleship may look like. The book is partly a critique of the (post)modern church in all it’s mixed economy forms. This critique is thougtful and contains acknowledgement of the good and bad aspects. It’s partly a call to engage in theological reflection and education based upon waking up and smelling the coffee about the real world outside the church. In terms of theological reflection Walton doesn’t actually use the “t” word, and explains why he doesn’t, even if this is what he is talking about. It’s also partly a vision of hope. Finally it is a call for a faithful but inclusive church which is involved in dialogue, learning from others both inside and outside the church for the long haul. When I say he talks of the church he focuses upon “individuals” and “the local church”; the growth of discipleship has to be on a micro level.
From a personal perspective I was really stuck by the description of the birth and development MANNAs and the church it grew out of on page 169/ 170. I know and love this ministry and church it is part of. Walton describes the church in the following way:
“This is not a traditional evangelical church but it is a growing, lively missionary community whose worship aswell as its lunch club is infused with energy. By taking some action to connect with the people of its natural sphere of life, the Christians of this church began to refelct on what mission means and found that it grew and developed.” – Not a bad place to call home these days 😀
Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Basically, this is not a read once book. To get a real grasp on this stuff and use it to reorientate your thought and practice will require multiple readings and discussion with others. As an “academic” book, aswell as a popular one – it’s applied theology at it’s best – it is a bit pricey. But if you have some spare Amazon vouchers or whatever that you’re wondering what to do with after Christmas I would say it’s well getting hold of.
I know I’ve been a tad biased on both of these, but in their own way each makes refreshing, intelligent and in places challenging reading.