Published by Cascade Books on July 7, 2021
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Fifty years after Stonewall, the experiences of LGBTQ+ Christians are--rightfully--beginning to be received with interest by their churches. Queering Wesley, Queering the Church presents a prototype for thinking about Wesleyan holiness as an expansive openness to the love and grace of God in queer Christian lives rather than the limiting and restrictive legalism that is sometimes found in Wesleyan theology and praxis. This inventive project consists of queer readings of ten John Wesley sermons. Reading these sermons from a queer perspective offers the church a fresh paradigm for theological innovation, while remaining in line with the tradition and legacy of Wesley that is so central and generative to Wesleyan churches. Arguing that a coherent line of thought can be drawn from Wesley's conception of holiness to the queer, holy lives of LGBTQ+ Christians, Queering Wesley, Queering the Church playfully utilizes queer theory in a way that is fully compatible with Wesleyan teaching. This book aims to be a first step in seriously considering the theological voices of LGBTQ+ Christians in the Wesleyan tradition as a valuable asset to a vital church.
It is no longer a secret that the face of Christianity is changing. It is getting browner, gayer, and more feminine. In light of this long overdue development, one must ask, what is the value in revisiting—let alone queering—the writings of one of the most prominent dead white men that the Western church knows? How is John Wesley important to trans folks, or two married women, or the bi boy who’s dating their non-binary best friend?
Keegan Osinski, librarian for theology and ethics at Vanderbilt University, not only brings a new relevance to Wesley’s popular teachings but illustrates how much of what he wrote actually lays the theological groundwork for the inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ people in denominations of Wesleyan descent. Wesley’s impact on the Church is undeniable, and his approach to love, perfection, grace, charity, and inclusion of the marginalized speak very loudly in ways that the man himself likely could never imagined.
Osinski draws a straight line from the Bible, through Wesley, to the Church of today. Carefully selecting ten of Wesley’s most influential writings, she illustrates how Wesley touched on the strangeness of Jesus’ mission and commands, cracking the lid on an absolute treasure for the LGBTQ+ community. From the queerness of Nicodemus’ clandestine meeting with Jesus for the purpose of theological inquiry, to unique ability of hurt people to heal other hurt people, to the ability of queer Christians to see that the emperor of evangelicalism has no clothes, Osinski not only illuminates queerness’s place in the Christian world, but also Wesley’s place in our modern times.
The key ingredient to understanding Wesley is love, and Osinski brings this collection of thoughts on Wesley together by making love the centerpiece, not just of Wesley’s theology, but of Jesus’ mission—not in a way that nothing else matters, but in a way that makes everything matter all the more.
Osinski writes with an insider’s sense of relevance and a theological precision of language, all without being inaccessibly stilted or overly academic. Her words are clever, insightful, and just a little bit irreverent. For the most part, Wesleyan denominations have not done the heavy lifting with regards to LGBTQ+ inclusion, but Osinski’s book is an excellent start, especially for those in ministry who sense that something about their church or denomination is missing the mark with regards to our gay, trans, and otherwise queer siblings in Christ.