Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Heather R. White
The University of North Carolina Press  Chapel Hill

From sin to sickness to compassion to full acceptance is the journey Heather White takes us on in her well-written book. Protestant liberal clergy led their denominations through the wringer of significant change toward LGBT rights and justice. Lay people often reluctantly followed.

Ms White is a visiting assistant professor in religion and queer Studies at the University of the Puget Sound. The book is well researched and has extensive bibliography and notes. All of the major psychologists, psychiatrists, scholars and researchers in homosexual studies were studied.

Her chapter on the Bible and homosexuality reveals that the word homosexual did not appeared until the Revised Standard Version of the Bible published in 1956. The King James Version of 1611 never used the word homosexuality, which word was not coined until the 19th century. She shows the futility of attempting to use the Bible against gays. White handles the complexity of the Biblical literature with accuracy and insight.

Liberal clergy by the 1950s were uneasy with the rampant condemnation of gays and lesbians. They thought they homosexuals were sick and needed compassion, not punishment. A movement also developed to get gay men to accept their sexuality but behave and pass as straight. As the 60s rolled into the 70s, many clergy came to know homosexuals as friends, colleagues and human beings. Many clergy saw that some people truly simply were drawn to people of their own sex. It was a natural normal part of the creation.

Of interest to San Franciscans is her description of the New Year’s Day invasion by the police of a charity costume ball given by various gay groups. Seven Protestant clergy held a press conference caustically criticizing the police. (Yours truly was among them) The outrage that followed caused widespread police changes to policies of invading gay bars and harassing gays and lesbians.

White points out that invasion of the New Year’s Day Ball is not considered as the kick-off to the gay right’s movement is because it did not become national news.

Four years later in 1969 the Stonewall riots happened and that was national and international news. Thus Stonewall is heralded as the foundation of the gay right’s movement.

 The book carefully traces the long painful struggle in the Presbyterian Church to bring church justice to its lesbian and gay members. All the denominations went through similar fights and struggles to affirm full right for all its members.

Since much of the anti-gay rhetoric worries about the affect of homosexuality on marriage and the family, Whited deals extensively with heterosexual marriage.

She quotes Britain’s Wolfenden Report of 1955 that says sexual activity between consenting adults, in private, should not be a matter of law. This is an excellent summary of the thrust of her book.

Heather White has written a book worthy of the attention of all interested in the Biblical background and historical rise and the struggle for full justice and freedom for all LBGT people.


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