An Ethical Challenge

By Patricia Beattie Jung & Ralph F. Smith

Subjects: Family Studies
Paperback : 9780791416969, 248 pages, December 1993
Hardcover : 9780791416952, 248 pages, December 1993

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



1. Defing Heterosexism


A Reasoned System of Prejudice
Orientation and Behavior
Five Moral Positions Regarding Homosexuality


2. Evaluating Heterosexism


An Egalitarian Starting Point
Heterosexism: A Noncredible Tradition
A Faithful Reformation


3. The Bible and Heterosexism


Reevaluating Traditional Interpretations
Traditional Texts "Against Homosexuality"
Traditional Texts "For Heterocentrism"


4. The Costs of Heterosexism


Discerning True and False Threats
Challenging Christian Preoccupations


5. Confronting Heterosexism


Foundations for Reforms
The Church as an Inclusive-Exclusive Community
Christian Life and Christian Teaching
A Paradigm Shift in Sexual Ethics
The Focus of Reform
A Symbolic Case Study: Ordination
The Boundaries of Dissent


6. Dismantling Heterosexism


Toward a Theology of Sexuality
Marriage: A Ritual Test Case
Reassessing Marriage


7. Moving Beyond Heterosexism


Sexual Authenticity
Sexual Fidelity






A ground-breaking book that shows that the prevailing sexual ethic is no longer useful.


In this ground-breaking book the authors show that the prevailing sexual ethic is no longer useful. It presumes as ideal, a uniform morality based on a limited understanding of human sexuality. Heterosexism is revealed to be a system of prejudice that both grows out of and supports this ethic. It produces various forms of discrimination, particularly those against gay and lesbian people, that cannot be justified.

The authors investigate scripture and tradition and explore emerging social scientific data regarding sexual identity, taking seriously the experiences of gay and lesbian Christians. Their investigation supports the view that reformation of Christian sexual ethics is both necessary and possible. They suggest that offering a pluriform rather than a uniform sexual ethic will result in a more responsible and viable dialogue on the ethical questions that emerge when we move beyond heterosexism.

Patricia Beattie Jung is Associate Professor of Theological Ethics at Wartburg Theological Seminary. She is a Roman Catholic laywoman. She has published many scholarly articles and co-edited with Thomas A. Shannon an anthology on Abortion and Catholicism: The American Debate. Ralph F. Smith is Associate Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel at Wartburg Theological Seminary. He is an ordained Lutheran pastor. His published works include scholarly articles for Worship, Interpretation, and Currents in Theology and Mission, as well as sermons and lectures.


"Its basic points are strong and clear: That heterosexism is a sin, and its arguments arise from that clear statement. That, rather than focusing on 'accepting' homosexuality, it considers homosexuality a given and focuses on the problem of heterosexism. It is closely argued and holds up well. " — Anne Barstow, SUNY at Old Westbury

"This book is a critical contribution in both theological-ethical analysis and moral advocacy on an issue that is of enormous importance today. It is currently the most difficult and divisive issue for Christian churches, and literature such as this is desperately needed to bring more clarity, consistency, and adequacy to our dealing with it. " — James B. Nelson, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

"This book is unique in presenting a substantial, well thought-out position that not only critiques the 'heterosexist' bias of 'Western cultures,' but goes on to offer a positive alternative for Christians seeking to assess their traditions. It addresses a culturally pluralistic situation with a powerful hermeneutic that both explores normative issues and allows for a genuine pluralism. " — Robert M. Garvin, State University of New York at Albany