Check out the top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2017 — including queer theology, Bible, history, memoir, and church life by diverse authors. The list was announced today by lesbian Christian author Kittredge Cherry on the Jesus in Love Blog at Qspirit.net.
“This year’s hot topics include transgender issues and youth ministry,” she said. “Readers welcomed the many new collections of LGBTQ Christians sharing their own first-person faith journeys.”be
Books ranged from user-friendly inspirational works to serious academic studies. The 2017 books were authored not only by LGBTQ people, but also by allies such as the wife of a gay man and the mother of a transgender child. Books came from mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox writers from the United States, Canada and Europe.
The latest linguistic trends show up in the booklist. As LGBTQ people integrate into society instead of remaining so separate, so too do LGBTQ book titles. Progressive LGBTQ content has gone more mainstream and is now harder to locate because some of them have generic book titles. Meanwhile conservatives, whose books used to be reliably identified by the word “homosexual” in the title, have caught on and started using newer terms such as “gay” and “LGBT.”
Every identity in LGBTQ alphabet appeared in a book title, except one. There were gay, bisexual, transgender and queer books, but none with “lesbian” in the title. The loss of lesbian spaces and culture documented in the book “The Disappearing L” is also evident in this year’s crop of books. Searches for lesbian books yielded much more porn than in the past, while some authors on this list shifted to terms like “queer women.”
Prices kept on rising. It’s no longer unusual for academic publishers to charge more than $100 for a book. Due to complaints from readers, no books with $100 price-tags were allowed on this year’s top-books list.
Books that claim homosexuality is a sin are also omitted, although publishers keep on churning those out too. Only English-language books are on the list.
“The 2017 list has something for everyone who cares about LGBTQ Christian lives,” Cherry said. “Happy reading!”
LGBTQ Christian Bestsellers
(Ranked by sales on Q Spirit and related sites as of Dec. 10, 2017)
BESTSELLER AT JESUS IN LOVE / Q SPIRIT
1. “‘For I Am Wonderfully Made’: Texts on Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT Inclusion,” edited by Misha Cherniak, Olga Gerassimenko and Michael Brinkschroeder.
Many LGBT Orthodox Christians face exclusion from church life and even violence, but this collection affirms them with articles by a variety of Orthodox theologians, clergy, scholars and activists. Five sections examine sexuality, theology, church, pastoral approaches, and hope for the future. The texts include academic papers, essays, transcripts of roundtable discussions and testimonies. Cherniak is a Russian living in Poland, an Orthodox Christian, and a translator and musician who works for the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups. Gerassimenko is an Estonian scholar, teacher and community worker. Brinkschroeder is a gay Catholic theologian and sociologist, project manager of “Homosexuelle und Kirche,” and co-chair of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Published by Esuberanza ( European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups.)
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2. “Where True Love Is: An Affirming Devotional for LGBTQ+ Christians and Their Allies” by Suzanne DeWitt Hall.
Biblical support for LGBTQ+ Christians is revealed in 90 daily reflections. The book begins with “Who is God?” and goes on to address the Bible, Jesus and the law, sin, gender, sexuality and “What does it take to get to heaven?” Reflections are written in a friendly, easy-to-read style. Each day concludes with a quote from a variety of thinkers ranging from Saint John of the Cross and Mahatma Gandhi to contemporary figures such as Gene Robinson, Anne Lamott and John Hagee. The author is a freelance writer and HuffPost blogger who lives in Massachusetts with her wife. Foreword by Susan Cottrell, author of “Mom I’m Gay” and “True Colors.” Published by DH Strategies.
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3. “Tantric Jesus: The Erotic Heart of Early Christianity” by James Hughes Reho.
An erotic Christ emerges from this guide to the history and practice of transformative or “tantric” Christianity. It includes step-by-step instructions for prayer mantras, breath exercises, using icons, eye gazing, foot washing and tantric sex with a partner of the same or opposite sex in the “sacrament of the bridal chamber.” The wisdom of Jesus and the early church is connected with ancient traditions from India and Tibet. The author is an Episcopal priest and certified yoga instructor who pastors a Lutheran-Episcopal church in Fort Myers, Florida. Foreword by Matthew Fox, creation spirituality theologian and former Catholic priest. Published by Destiny Books, an imprint of Inner Traditions.
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4. “A Brief Guide to Ministry with LGBTQIA Youth” by Cody J. Sanders.
How can a church’s youth ministry have a positive impact on adolescents who struggle to live out their faith and their LGBTQIA orientation/identity? This guide for affirming congregations includes practical advice and a glossary. The author is pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square. Published by Westminster John Knox Press.
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5. “Rainbow in the Word: LGBTQ Christians’ Biblical Memoirs” edited by Ellin Sterne Jimmerson.
Diverse LGBTQ people reveal a Bible that affirms them in this anthology of essays, poems and reflections. Coming from places of exile and oppression, they uncover a God who cherishes them just as they are. They offer welcome new ways to think about Biblical stories, characters and theological categories. The book is arranged in chronological order based on the scriptures addressed by each contributor. Three sections cover Old Testament, memories of experiences influenced by the Bible, and New Testament. Contributors include U.S. and Canadian writers from evangelical, mainstream Protestant, Adventist and other backgrounds, including such well-known authors as Brite Divinity School theology professor Stephen Sprinkle, queer Baptist pastor Jeff Hood and queer Quaker Peterson Toscano. Jimmerson is a scholar and the first Southern Baptist minister to perform a same-sex wedding in Alabama (2015). Foreword by Viki Matson, director of field education at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN. Published by Wipf and Stock.
LGBTQ Christian Theology Books
“The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Sexuality and Gender” by Donald Boisvert and Carly Daniel-Hughes (editors).
Key texts on religion, sexuality and gender come together in a thought-provoking book designed as a textbook for college courses. Many of the 24 chapters cover LGBTQ themes, including sodomy in Christian theology, transsexual embodiment, memoirs of a Pentecostal boyhood, queering the Beguines, hermaphrodites in medieval Islamic law and male love in Japanese Buddhism. The introduction begins with Saint Wilgefortis, whose image adorns the cover. The book is organized into three sections: Bodies, Desires and Performances. Each section ends with discussion questions. Contributors include major figures Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, plus Mark Jordan, Jakob Hero, Lynne Gerber and many others. Co-editors Boisvert and Daniel-Hughes are both religion professors at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Published by Bloomsbury.
“Sexual Disorientations: Queer Temporalities, Affects, Theologies” by Kent L. Brintnall, Joseph A. Marchal and Stephen D. Moore (editors). Afterword by Elizabeth Freeman.
Sex and time in Christian texts and theologies are examined by queer religious scholars in this collection. Chapters include Mark Jordan’s “In Search of Queer Theology Lost” and Brintnall’s “Who Weeps for the Sodomite?” The pressure of the past and the lure of the future make an impact on Biblical, theological and religious thought. Other contributors include James Hoke, Eric Thomas, Jacqueline Hidalgo, Brock Perry, Brandy Daniels, Karen Bray, Linn Tonstad, Ann Pellegrini, Laurel Schneider, Karmen MacKendrick, Mary-Jane Rubenstein and Catherine Keller. Afterword by Elizabeth Freeman. Published by Fordham University Press.
“Carnal Knowledge of God: Embodied Love and the Movement for Justice” by Rebecca Voelkel.
A theological vision of embodied love emerges from the author’s experience as an LGBTQ activist, pastor and theologian. Her approach covers four paths: the Via Positiva or Positive Way that claims the gift of sexuality and celebrates God in creation and incarnation, the Via Negativa or Negative Way that honors the suffering of colonized bodies, the Via Creativa or Creative Way that finds resurrection and resistance through artistic expression, and the Via Transformativa or Transformative Way with eschatological strategies for building a movement to transform the future. The author is an ordained United Church of Christ minister and director of the Center for Sustainable Justice. She came out as a lesbian in 1990 and served as interim national coordinator for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Published by Fortress Press.
“Jonathan’s Loves, David’s Laments: Gay Theology, Musical Desires, and Historical Difference” by Dirk von der Horst.
Music based on the same-sex love between Biblical heroes David and Jonathan is explored in this interdisciplinary book. The author connects the writings of LGBTQ theologians and Bible scholars with early modern musical interpretations by composers such as Handel and Weelkes. Queer possibilities are reinforced when he listens closely to the music with scholarly exegesis and historical analysis of whether the love between Jonathan and David was homoerotic. Foreword by pioneering feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether. The author teaches religions at Mount St. Mary’s University, Los Angeles. Published by Pickwick, and imprint of Wipf and Stock.
Bible and LGBTQ Christians
“What Does God Think?: Transgender People and The Bible” by Cheryl B. Evans.
After being told that her transgender child was “not of God,” the author/publisher examined scriptures in light of social, cultural and scientific facts. Here she shows how Christians can affirm transgender people. The book has an accessible, non-judgmental tone and is especially recommended for people struggling to accept a transgender loved one. Foreword by Colby Martin, author of “Unclobber.” Evans is a transgender ally who was born and raised in Ontario, Canada.
“The Straight Mind in Corinth: Queer Readings across 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16” by Gillian Townsley.
Traditional models of gender and sexuality are challenged by a queer examination of a Biblical passage about hair coverings in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Hierarchical Christian understanding of gender and sexuality is often based on these scriptures. The scholarly book questions these androcentric, patriarchal interpretations based on first-century Greco-Roman history, lesbian theorist Monique Wittig, and other sources. The author is teaching fellow at The University of Otago in New Zealand. Published by SBL Press.
LGBTQ Christian Memoir and Biography
“Trust Truth: A Spiritual and Erotic Pilgrimage with My Gay Spouse” by Trudie Schuyler Barreras.
This honest and deeply personal memoir shows how the author found a Christian basis to maintain her marriage after her husband acknowledged his homosexuality in 1973. They are still together 44 years later. She rejects the rigid sexual ethics of major denominations, learns the true meaning of eros and finds love as taught by Jesus. The book provides firsthand accounts of the development of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) since the 1970s, outreach experiences in the Dominican Republic, and the interplay of spiritual retreats, meditation and other factors. The author is a New Mexico writer, artist, retired chemistry teacher and long-time MCC member. Published by Mercury HeartLink.
In this memoir, a lesbian Christian reveals what it was like to grow up as the homeschooled daughter of a longtime executive at Focus on the Family, one of the most well-funded anti-LGBT organizations in America. She describes the religious and family rejection she faced when she came out six years ago at age 27. The author was so devastated that she that nearly took her own life, but she has found joy by stretching her understanding of God. She married a woman and founded Beyond, a nonprofit organization that helps LGBTQ+ people with the coming-out process. Published by Fortress Press.
“Queer and Catholic: A Life of Contradiction” by Mark Dowd.
A funny and moving memoir is written by a gay British journalist who used to be a Dominican friar. He tells how he reconciled his faith and sexuality over a lifetime from a working-class childhood in the 1960s to the present. It is packed with witty stories such as coming out to his parents by talking in his sleep and training to become a priest before eloping from a religious order with an ex-friar. His ongoing commitment to Catholicism adds depth to his experiences. Dowd is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist specializing in religion who has worked for the BBC and made documentaries. Published by Darton, Longman and Todd.
“Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray” by Rosalind Rosenberg.
The queer side of Pauli Murray is explored in this definitive biography, along with her accomplishments as lawyer, advocate for racial and gender equality, and the first black woman to become an Episcopal priest. Murray believed from childhood that she was male, admitted to “homosexual tendencies” and tried to convince doctors to treat her with testosterone. While serving on a presidential commission on women, she used the idea of “Jane Crow” to show similarities between racial and gender discrimination. The author is professor emerita of history at Barnard College, Columbia University. Published by Oxford University Press.
“119: My Life as a Bisexual Christian” by Jaime Sommers.
This memoir is one of the only books on bisexuality and Christianity. The author writes about her childhood in Wales, her adolescent attractions to girls and boys, and her life as a bisexual Christian preacher and mother of three, married to a man for 20 years. After a brief, isolated incident when she kissed another woman, the church subjects her to a disciplinary process leading to depression, anxiety and isolation. Despite being wounded by the experience, she still maintains love for God and the church. The title “119” is the number of words used to sum up bisexuality in the Church of England’s 2003 report on human sexuality. Foreword by gay Anglican priest Jeremy Pemberton. Jaime Sommers is the author’s pseudonym. Published by Darton Longman and Todd.
LGBTQ Christian History
This scholarly book examines how the Biblical story of Sodom shaped British understandings of homoerotic desire and behavior in the 300 years after the Reformation. It also looks at the ancient roots of the story of Sodom’s destruction for sin and its influence on today’s Christian fundamentalism. The author is associate professor of history at Nottingham University in England. Published by University of Chicago Press.
“Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World” by Sarah Prager (author), Zoe More O’Ferrall (artist).
Devout LGBTQ Christians are among the diverse people profiled in this hip history book for teens, including cross-dressing saint Joan of Arc, 9/11 hero and gay priest Mychal Judge, and Sor Juana de la Cruz, a 17th-century Mexican nun who wrote love poems to a queen. Gay Quaker civil rights leader Bayard Rustin is covered, along with more famous figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt. The breezy tone and illustrations make history fun. The author is an activist and founder of Quist, a free mobile app about queer history. Published by HarperCollins.
“Queering Richard Rolle: Mystical Theology and the Hermit in 14th-Century England” by Christopher M. Roman.
Queer ways of understanding and connecting with God are found in this scholarly book about the mysterious medieval English hermit Richard Rolle. His religious writings were widely read in the Middle Ages. Rolle began a queer journey when he became a hermit, defining himself in opposition to normal society. The book explores his ontology, phenomenology, and his queer use of sound and music as a means of opening the body to experience the divine. The author is associate professor of English at Kent State University in Ohio. Published by Palgrave Macmillan.
LGBTQ Christian life in church and society
Being black and gay in the African American church is one of the themes in this accessible collection of essays. Five sections address sexuality, love, race, God, and intersections. The author is a journalist and director of the documentary “Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church.” Published by Cleis Press.
Reflections in this inspirational book come from the Jesuit priest who recently sparked controversy by saying that some saints were probably gay. Martin is a bestselling author who is newly appointed as communications consultant to the Vatican by Pope Francis. Using the Orlando shooting as a starting point, his latest book weaves together church tradition, Bible passages and contemporary experience in an effort to unite LGBT people and the church. It is adapted from an address that Martin gave to New Ways Ministry, an LGBT Catholic ministry and advocacy group. Published by HarperOne.
“Our Witness: The unheard stories of LGBT+ Christians,” edited by Brandan Robertson.
A variety of LGBT+ Christians tell their diverse experiences in this collection. Contributors include young and old, clergy and lay, British and American, and people who came out recently or long ago. Some were rejected by the church while others found inclusion. The editor is a bisexual pastor in San Diego, California, and LGBTQ activist in the progressive evangelical movement. British edition published by Darton Longman & Todd Ltd. U.S. edition expected in 2018 from Wipf and Stock.
“A House of Prayer for All People: Contesting Citizenship in a Queer Church” by David K. Seitz.
Life in a large LGBT church is examined by an urban cultural geographer who spent three years at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. He focuses on four struggles in the community: debates on race and gender in religious leadership, activism around police-minority relations, international outreach to LGBT Christians, and advocacy for asylum seekers. Building on queer theory, he calls for an “improper” queer citizenship beyond nationality or identity politics. The author is assistant professor of cultural geography at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA. Published by University of Minnesota Press.
“Making Space for Queer-Identifying Religious Youth” by Yvette Taylor.
A scholar charts the experiences, choices and identities of LGBTQ youth in inclusive churches. Sexuality and religion are seen as mutual paths that can help youth manage marginalization, discrimination and other issues. The author is education professor at the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom and has held posts at universities in Australia, Canada and the United States. Published by Palgrave.
“Retreating Forward: A Spiritual Practice with Transgender Persons” by David Elias Weekley.
A model for transformational retreats is presented in this educational resource for individuals, spiritual leaders, and faith communities that support transgender people. A queer theology of radical love is explained and put into practice. The author is a United Methodist pastor, transgender advocate and member of the transgender community. Foreword by British equality activist David Watters. Published by Wipf and Stock.
LGBTQ Christian Film
“Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible” by Peterson Toscano.
Genderbending Bible interpretations are presented in an enthralling one-person performance by a Bible scholar/actor. Toscano metamorphoses into an impressive array of gender-nonconforming Biblical figures. The living first-person portraits shed fresh light on characters ranging from warrior women to “girly boys,” from major heroes to little-known eunuchs. Toscano backs up each monologue with an enjoyable mini-lecture on the Biblical scholarship behind it. The show received high praise when it toured seminaries and LGBTQ events across the United States and Europe. Toscano identifies as a “quirky, queer Quaker.” Available for streaming at Amazon.com and on DVD from Barclay Press.
How did I miss this last year?!
“Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit” by Jaye Robin Brown.
LGBTQ Christians and allies play big roles in this young-adult coming-of-age novel. Out and proud lesbian high-school senior Jo Gordon is uprooted from her home in Atlanta when her father moves his radio ministry to rural Georgia. He accepts her sexual orientation, but remarries the daughter of a homophobic fundamentalist, so he asks Jo to keep her sexuality hidden in their new community. Challenges arise when Jo falls in love with another girl. “I wanted this novel to be something a young queer person of faith could hold on to as a bright spot while they navigate the waters of finding themselves,” Brown says in the Author’s Note. She is a full-time writer based in Alabama. The novel won several “best book of the year” awards from Kirkus and others in 2016. Published by Harper Teen.
Coming in 2018 and available for pre-order
“Our Strangely Warmed Hearts: Coming Out into God’s Call” by Karen P. Oliveto. Published by Abingdon Press.
ALREADY A BESTSELLER AT JESUS IN LOVE / Q SPIRIT
“Transfaith: A Transgender Pastoral Care Handbook” by Chris Dowd and Christina Beardsley. Published by Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd.
“Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth-Century United States,” edited by by Gillian Frank, Bethany Moreton, and Heather R. White. Published by University of North Carolina Press.
“Filled with the Spirit: Sexuality, Gender, and Radical Inclusivity in a Black Pentecostal Church Coalition” by Ellen Lewin. Published by University of Chicago Press.
Top 35 LGBTQ Christian books of 2016 named
Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)
Image credit: LGBTQ Christian books with rainbow flag logo by Andrew Craig William
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