Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life, By Ed Shaw
Same-Sex Attraction and the Church
  • Length: 172 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: November 09, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4451
  • ISBN: 9780830844517

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  • The Gospel Coalition Top Books of 2015 in Christian Living
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  • Leadership Journal's Best Ministry Books of the Year

When Christians have same-sex attraction, how should the church respond?

Pastor Ed Shaw experiences same-sex attraction, and yet he is committed to Scripture and the church's traditional position of fidelity in heterosexual marriage and celibacy in singleness. In this honest book, he shares his pain in dealing with these issues, but at the same time shows us that obedience to Jesus is ultimately the only way to experience life to the full.

He shows that the Bible's teaching seems unreasonable not because of its difficulties, but because of missteps that the church has often taken in its understanding of the Christian life. We have been shaped by the world around us and urgently need to re-examine the values that drive our discipleship. Only by doing this in the light of the Bible can we make sense of its call on the lives of those who are attracted to their own sex.

"Same-Sex Attraction and the Church is a must-read for all Christians. Pastor Shaw lives out what it means to apply faith to the facts of unwanted, unchosen and sometimes unshakable same-sex attraction. This powerful book meets readers at the heart level, manifesting a positive understanding of the sacrifices of the Christian life. And because it is so disarmingly positive about the Christian art of dying to self, it sings a clarion call shedding new light on this sacred truth: the real gospel imparts a will-influencing, heart-changing light into the souls of men and women and the community that we create together. . . . I love this book."

Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert

"Our culture places sex at the heart of identity and fulfillment. But Ed Shaw has discovered in the God of the gospel a pleasure that is greater and an identity that is richer than anything we can create for ourselves. Over against the false choice of embracing homosexuality or ignoring it, he gives us the category of 'same-sex-attracted-but-in-Christ.' In doing so, he shows the power of the gospel to direct us all away from both indulging our sins and denying the reality of our temptations. The fidelity to truth and loving wisdom in this book is exactly what we all need right now."

Michael Horton, professor of theology, Westminster Seminary California

"As a Christian who also knows same-sex desire firsthand, I would put a few things differently than how Ed Shaw does here. But that doesn't stop me from applauding this biblically thorough, evangelistically zealous, humbly self-disclosing and pastorally compassionate defense of traditional Christian sexual ethics. Ed Shaw's life and teaching are an inspiring variation on what the church throughout history has celebrated as consecrated, holy virginity. May his tribe increase!"

Wesley Hill, assistant professor of biblical studies, Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and author of Washed and Waiting

"The big idea of Ed Shaw's book is simple: the church must make the biblical commands on sexuality seem plausible again. He calls all of us to repentance and wisely shows us a better way to battle sin, to understand sufferers and to proclaim truth with grace. Even those who don't agree with every jot and tittle will find something to be challenged and encouraged by on nearly every page. I highly recommend this clear, courageous and compassionate book."

Justin Taylor, coauthor, The Final Days of Jesus, blogger, "Between Two Worlds"

"Read this book to learn about the faith and life of a devout celibate man. Readers will surely vary in their response to Shaw's theological views, but all will deepen their understanding and respect for celibacy as a spiritual practice and will come away challenged to build stronger supports for all people, married and single, in their local churches."

Jenell Paris, professor of anthropology, Messiah College, author of The End of Sexual Identity

"Ed Shaw identifies the primary obstacle to a Christian sexual ethic in today's culture. It is not that the culture weighs Christian arguments and finds them wanting, but rather that the culture cannot imagine any alternative to sexual autonomy. In this book, Shaw pastorally and wisely shows how to apply a Christian vision of marriage and sexuality to those with attraction to the same sex. The book is a welcome vehicle for discipleship for the whole church to help us to bear one another's burdens."

Russell D. Moore, president, Ethics Religious Liberty Commission

"Ed Shaw shares his story and perspective in this book with deep sincerity, conviction and honesty. He makes a profound contribution to the conversation about same-sex attraction. I am so glad I read this book and I wholeheartedly recommend it."

Amy Orr-Ewing, Director of Programmes for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) and UK Director for RZIM Zacharias Trust

"Ed Shaw has written winsomely and helpfully about what I consider to be the biggest discipleship issue facing the church: sexuality and identity in Christ. This is a book for the entire body of Christ, not just those who are same-sex attracted. Shaw accurately diagnoses nine false beliefs prevalent in our churches that have undermined a biblical view of sexuality and made it seem implausible. Yet the book left me hopeful and optimistic that the church can and must replace false beliefs with life-giving truth and love."

Betsy Childs Howard, The Gospel Coalition, "TGC Editors' Picks: Top Books of 2015," December 2015

"As a pastor, a counselor, and a church member I can think of no other book that is more important for the church to read today! It is sensitive, direct, practically-oriented, fresh, and thought-provoking."

Dave Dunham, Pastor Dave Online, July 24, 2015

"In Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life (IVP, 2015) British pastor Ed Shaw says giving "Just Say No" advice to those with same-sex attraction (which Shaw himself has) is insufficient. He rightly says evangelicals must show that the celibate life is plausible and reasonable and that those with SSA can attain satisfaction abiding within God's rules instead of by breaking them, or else young Christians especially will fall for emotional appeals from gay advocates. . . . He offers ways of gaining true intimacy apart from sex, and true godliness by overcoming suffering rather than avoiding it."

Marvin Olasky, WORLD, March 19, 2016

"Shaw unpacks nine missteps the church needs to correct to convey the plausibility of the faithful and celibate lifestyle. This is the best book available on helping the church minister more intentionally to those among us who struggle with same-sex attraction."

David Dunham, Leadership Journal, Winter 2016

"This book is an important one because of two reasons: a) (Ed) is a man who experiences same-sex attraction, though refraining from same-sex relationships. Thus, I believe he has much to offer in the conversation. b) In identifying nine missteps that surround this important modern-day discussion, Shaw lays out one very important misstep on both sides: believing our sexuality determines our identity. I agree wholeheartedly!"

Scott Lencke, The Prodigal Thought, December 29, 2015


Foreword by Vaughan Roberts
1 The Plausibility Problem
2 The Plausibility Problem and Me
Misstep #1: "Your identity is your sexuality."
Misstep #2: "A family is Mom, Dad and 2.4 children."
Misstep #3: "If you?re born gay, it can?t be wrong to be gay."
Misstep #4: "If it makes you happy, it must be right!"
Misstep #5: "Sex is where true intimacy is found."
Misstep #6: "Men and women are equal and interchangeable."
Misstep #7: "Godliness is heterosexuality."
Misstep #8: "Celibacy is bad for you."
Misstep #9: "Suffering is to be avoided."
Appendix 1: The Plausibility of the Traditional Interpretation of Scripture
Appendix 2: The Implausibility of the New Interpretations of Scripture
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Ed Shaw

Ed Shaw was educated at Durham University, the Cornhill Training Course and Oak Hill Theological College. He is the pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, England, and part of the editorial team at He has worked for churches in Durham and London and was the student minister at Christ Church Clifton for six years before joining Emmanuel in 2009. He loves his family and friends, church and city, music and books.