In light of the ongoing discussion at Faith and Theology over the issue of homosexuality and the church, allow me to plug a book we’ve just published at Wipf and Stock by Oliver O’Donovan, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion. This book is perhaps the most erudite treatment of the current controversy in the Anglican church that I have yet read. What is most helpful about it is the way that O’Donovan lingers over the questions, taking the time to explore them with the care and patience needed for true theological inquiry. There is just the right sort of patience in his work, that neither descends into timidity, nor boils over into belligerence. In and of itself, O’Donovan’s methodological patience serves as a significant corrective to the haste and feverish zeal that characterizes nearly all sides in the debates over homosexuality and the church.
Doubtless the book will not be well-received by everyone — what could be so received in a controversy like this? — but, it is definitely a landmark study one theological ethical methodology in dealing with questions as serious and as fraught with ideology and emotion as that of homosexuality and it deserves a wide reading. Here’s what Rowan Williams has to say about the book:
“Oliver O’Donovan’s reflections on the current troubles of the Anglican Church are quite simply of unique significance. He consistently takes us to the questions others are not asking and refuses the ready-made questions and answers that paralyze our thinking about the sexuality debates. Anyone wanting to understand what is most deeply at stake theologically ought to read and meditate on this invaluable book.”
And here is what John Milbank said of the book:
“In tones of characteristically elusive profundity, Oliver O’Donovan forces the reader of his new book to realize that contemporary “gayness” represents an enigma which demands a long period of sustained cultural, ethical, and theological reflection before the Church can hope to reach any well-grounded consensus on this issue. He hints that the latter might well be at once more conservative and yet more radical than the political moralizing and prudishness theological liberals might desire. Yet if campaigning for “gay rights” is dismissed as both inappropriate and premature, the schismatic reaction of certain evangelicals is roundly condemned. Indeed, O’Donovan has here achieved nothing less than an indication of just how Anglicanism can in the future reconstruct itself through a recovery of a Hooker-like sense of Episcopalian Catholicity, and the Patristic integration of Platonic wisdom with Biblical revelation, on the part of more discerning evangelicals like himself.”