Review: John Stott, Same-Sex Partnerships? A Christian Perspective

Published 2000 by Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN 0-8007-5764-6

The little 93-page paperback was scheduled for review long before the events in June and July of 2003 rolled over us like a tidal wave. By now, the time of writing, we have the Supreme Court of Ontario legalizing same sex marriages, and the Federal Government accepting that Court's decision. Moreover, the General Assembly of our denomination has received a report from the Special Committee on Same-Sex Orientation, the tenor of which is such that one Presbyterian congregation, St. Andrew's, Moncton, felt constrained to point out to the rest of us the definite slant of the report towards accepting same-sex unions. While this report ("Listening") failed to carry, General Assembly adopted the report to be referred to the Life and Mission Agency, the Committee on Theological Education, and the Colleges for study and use in the educational resources of the church. So things are not quite as they were a few months ago.

Church history from its very beginnings up to the present has been full of situations where governments collided with the convictions and practices of consistent Christians, and always it became the task of well-taught, biblically grounded believers to weather the storm. The little publication under review thus is a timely help in providing its readers with the well-laid-out arguments and biblical perspective that form the basis of the position taken by the evangelical community, amongst others, in our country. Same-Sex Partnerships comes from the pen of a man whose whole life as an Anglican scholar and priest has demonstrated resolute faithfulness to the cause of Christ, coupled with outstanding compassion and action in view of human suffering in our world (see Ian Rennie's Review Article in Channels, Spring 2003).

Stott makes it clear at the outset that he is not dealing with "casual" partnerships, which he claims that no responsible homosexual person would advocate, but only with the question of the legitimacy of loving, lifelong same-sex unions. The four main biblical passages on homosexuality are analyzed with reference to the various interpretations given in different quarters. The pivotal chapter (3) then describes how for Christians the whole question can only be discussed against the background of the biblical concept of marriage set forth in Genesis 1 and 2 and endorsed by Jesus in Matthew 19. Accordingly, marriage between a man and a woman must be seen as part of God's created order which is permanent and universal.

A whole chapter is devoted to the AIDS epidemic and a Christian response, and the book concludes with a chapter on Faith, Hope and Love. I find the section "The Christian's call to Hope" very remarkable and illuminating. Illuminating because of the broad spectrum of references to research on the question of "healing" for homosexual people; and remarkable in charity, as Stott places all of us, with our various deficits and struggles, in solidarity with the homosexual whose ultimate hope is for the day when we all "shall be finally liberated from everything which defiles or distorts our personality" (Romans 8:22-23).