Over Coffee: A Conversation for Gay Partnership and Conservative Faith by Dave Thompson is a concise and practical book tackling one of the critical conversations confronting the church today; same sex unions and the church’s response. The church at large, for the most part, has ‘agreed to disagree’ on this pertinent issue that has been a subject of heated debate and controversy. While the stance may have put us in the ‘righteous minority’, the world at large perceives us as the radical rebels against a postmodern culture that seeks to harmonize all beliefs, and practices through a relativistic reality. So where do we bridge the gap? I believe there are two takeaways for me that will help bridge this gap. Firstly, the methodology and approach to the issue and secondly an understanding of the concept of grace and the exercise of it.
The book offers not so much a solution to the issue, but an approach that might invite soul searching conversations; a conversation over coffee that sets the tone for a non-invasive and affirming environment in which constructive dialogue is possible as opposed to the debates that have ruled the stage The approach is both culturally conducive to a postmodern setting and personal, a much called for departure from the pulpit-pounding, finger-pointing, method that hasn’t been well received. Old wineskins can no longer hold new wine. It is, therefore, time to reconsider our ‘Christian’ methods and approaches suitable with the times where the message is not compromised but powerfully communicated.
Turning to the content of the book, the author emphasizes on aspects central to the Christian faith that are preached often but perhaps practiced with reservations; the concepts of love and grace. Trying to understand grace from a paradigm of power, it would be sound to interpret that a Biblical model portrayed is a ‘power – to’ and ‘power – with’ relation. This model of grace is exemplified in the very expression of Christ’s sacrifice that ‘empowers’ us to be citizens of heaven. In extending this kind of empowering grace, God was compassionate and yet uncompromisingly holy.
In an era when power relations are skewed, whether between the rich and the poor, the literate and the illiterate, between the genders, it isn’t too far fetched to rationalize that heterosexuals have exercised a ‘dominion’ over the homosexuals, ratifying their ‘power-over’ status as the natural way or the even the ‘righteous way’ of living. This unequal power relation has only escalated tensions on both sides and widened the gaps allowing neither the space for dialogue nor capacity to ‘witness’ about the good news of gospel of grace.
This message of empowering grace, which is the crux of much of Paul’s writings, too, is perhaps what the church needs to communicate in this era more than it has done so in the past in ways that are non-threatening evoking honest conversations on both sides. By doing so, would be our best attempt to diffuse power struggles and distribute power equally, be compassionate, and become conscientious in sharing the Gospel. “There really is nothing comfortable about (such grace and) compassion” and “there certainly is nothing comfortable about change either” (Thompson 2010, location 691 – 692) but try we must for the responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission squarely rests on our shoulders.
Thompson, Dave . Over Coffee: A Conversation for Gay Partnership and Conservative Faith. United States: Bluehead Publishing, 2010.