Fortress Press

Why Churches Need to Talk about Sexuality: Lessons Learned from Hard Conversations about Sex, Gender, Identity, and the Bible

Why Churches Need to Talk about Sexuality

Lessons Learned from Hard Conversations about Sex, Gender, Identity, and the Bible

Mark Wingfield (Author), David P. Gushee (Foreword by)


Journalist and pastor Mark Wingfield describes how the congregation he serves undertook a detailed study of how the church should respond to the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members. The study was conducted by a nineteen-member blue-ribbon task force that included wide representation of the church's various constituencies. The author served as a staff liaison, recording secretary, and resource to the study group, keeping meticulous notes of the process and the aftermath of the study.

Why Churches Need to Talk about Sexuality is written for clergy and lay leaders in Protestant congregations of all kinds who need a helpful guide to conversations about human sexuality within congregations. The book also has in mind anyone who wants to understand the controversial debates about human sexuality and the Christian church today and who desire to follow a process to discuss the topic and make decisions about how congregations and individuals will respond to matters of ministry and sexuality.

This book not only details the process used at Wilshire but also tells the human story of why the study was undertaken and what happened to the lives and faith of real people inside and outside the church. The author's hope is to provide a resource to other clergy and church leaders to understand why this issue must be addressed, how difficult it is to address, and what to expect along the way. As the title indicates, even though this is a difficult conversation to have, churches must have the conversation anyway.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506458571
  • eBook ISBN 9781506458588
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 176
  • Publication Date December 3, 2019


Wingfield writes with both a reporter's curiosity with a preacher's clarity.

"The topic of LGBTQ inclusion is among the most debated, and sadly, the most divisive religious issues today. Why Churches Need to Talk About Sexuality is a helpful guide to understanding what's at stake, why it matters, and how churches' unwillingness to discuss this topic has harmed countless marginalized people. Mark Wingfield writes with both a reporter's curiosity with a preacher's clarity, and the result is a helpful roadmap for navigating a conversation that Christians can no longer avoid. Readers on both sides of this contentious issue will find space to wrestle in the pages of this book."

Jonathan Merritt | The Atlantic

The guidebook so many church leaders and congregations have been waiting for.

Why Churches Need to Talk about Sexuality is the guidebook so many church leaders and congregations have been waiting for. Navigating the conversation about LGBTQ inclusion can be daunting, especially in the face of significant disagreement. The hard-won wisdom Mark Wingfield shares here will be invaluable for all those seeking to help their churches become more inclusive and affirming of LGBTQ Christians.”

Matthew Vines | The Reformation Project

Wingfield inspires faith, hope, and love.

“Mark Wingfield is a Baptist pastor with a heart for everybody. As a person of faith serving as a senior pastor, a man who happens to be married to a man, I welcome this book as it seeks to inform, engage, and encourage all readers, but most especially persons of faith who sincerely want to learn more about the LGBTQ members of their communities, in an important conversation about the church and sexuality. In this book, Wingfield inspires faith, hope, and love. And, yes, as you will soon read, the greatest of these is love!”

Neil Cazares-Thomas | Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ

An essential book.

“How we welcome and love all of God’s children is the most vital issue facing the church today, and Mark Wingfield writes about it beautifully, passionately, and thoughtfully. Why Churches Need to Talk about Sexuality is an essential book for anyone hoping to move their church and their faith to what comes next.”

Greg Garrett | author of My Church Is Not Dying

I will be recommending often.

“This book is the beacon of light that churches all over America need to help them address the topic of LGBTQ inclusion in faith spaces. With transparency, practicality, deep wisdom, and without bias, Wingfield gently teaches how to navigate this inevitable conversation. This long-awaited resource is one I will be recommending often.”

Amber Cantorna | author and national speaker

This is our story.

“This is our story, our church’s journey toward full inclusion of all LGBTQ Christians in the life of our faith community. It’s a hard story, but good. Good things are often hard. But the way of Christ leads to a larger table where there is always room for more. Mark Wingfield’s book is a testimony and testament to the joy that comes to a people when whosoever will may come really means everybody.”

George A. Mason | Wilshire Baptist Church

An honest and compelling story.

Why Christians Need to Talk about Sexuality is the honest and compelling story of one church’s journey toward greater inclusion for LGBTQ individuals and families. Any mainline church thinking about moving through a process of discernment will be helped by reading about the work of Wilshire Baptist in Dallas, Texas. The church conversations illustrate the challenges and gifts of faithfully wrestling with sexuality, orientation, identity, and gender.”

Joretta L. Marshall | Brite Divinity School

Real-life guidance for churches, families, or individuals.

“In this book, Mark Wingfield walks us through the thorough, intense, and biblically serious process by which Wilshire Baptist made the decision whether or not to be inclusive of all who would come. A masterful storyteller, Wingfield sets the scene and provides a narrative that gets the reader as close to being there as nonmembers could be. In this book, there is real-life guidance for churches, families, or individuals struggling through these issues of the heart that have relevance to the greatest commandment: to love God and to love one another.”

Jackie Baugh Moore | Baugh Foundation

Read Wilshire’s story so that you may act with bold witness.

“Mark Wingfield is right: it’s past time for every faith community to have a conversation about sexuality and inclusion. We’ve been in that place for some time now, with faith communities falling shamefully behind the rest of society in welcoming all of God’s beloved children. In this book you’ll read the story of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, a church with leaders who felt the compelling call of the gospel to move ahead in a process of faithful learning and prophetic action. You’ll read about their process and understand the risks they took, be invited into the mistakes they made, the loss they suffered, and ultimately the risky witness they embraced—together. Read Wilshire’s story so that you may act with bold witness, and so that the church may show the world the radical witness of Jesus and lead us all in the way of love and justice. May it be so.

Amy Butler | pastor and author

Table of Contents

1. Our story 
2. Process and transparency 
3. Getting started 
4. The pain of silence 
5. Where we've come from 
6. Looking for resources 
7. "Dear God, I think I might be bi"
8. Study, dialogue and prayer 
9. What the Bible says 
10. Genetics and sexuality 
11. Adolescent sexuality 
12. What about the T in LGBT? 
13. Laura Beth 
14. What about marriage? 
15. The study group votes
16. Majority versus minority 
17. Reporting to the congregation 
18. We Love Wilshire 
19. Church conference 
20. The vote and the fallout 
21. Rebuilding 
22. For the joy set before you 
23. Appendix A: Common questions and objections 
24. Appendix B: Q and A about the study group 
25. Appendix C: What does the Bible say about marriage