By Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan
Westbow Press (A division of Thomas Nelson)
219 pp., $17.95

Reviewed by David W. Virtue DD

By her own confession, Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan was a woman who worshipped the god of science for most of her life.

It was only as her life was threatened for a second time that she encountered the risen Christ. Her life was radically transformed.

“At the age of 38 – after many years of resenting organized religion – I went back to the church and took my two children with me. Although I did not believe in God, I had known for at least 18 years that people of faith were better off than I was.”

As a veterinarian, she needed solid proof that God existed. She spent 12 years in a Unitarian church, “where it seemed we believed in everything and nothing.” Then she moved on to a Christian church where, she writes, “My journey from agnosticism to faith began. I realized using quantum chemistry, probability, biochemistry and thermodynamics that it takes more faith to believe that life happened by accident than that it was created. A sermon by the pastor helped.”

Two months later, the church was embroiled in a crisis over whether to affirm homosexuality. Over time, 75% of the church’s members walked away. Keenan was among them.

A friend led her to attend Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Northern Virginia, a mission outreach from Truro Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia in The Episcopal Church in the worldwide Anglican Communion. She also began taking classes in theology at Virginia Theological Seminary. “I wanted to grow in my faith, and while I was attending an orthodox Episcopal parish, I attended VTS, a liberal Episcopal seminary, at least on sexuality issues.”

With the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, “a clear act of defiance of the Scriptures and the historic teachings of the church,” Keenan was tempted to walk away. “I debated whether I could stay. I really did not want to be in any church that spent time fighting over homosexuality.” She stayed.

However, her rector and Virginia Bishop Peter Lee, who voted for Robinson to be consecrated, assured her he would not ordain homosexuals in his diocese.

Thus began a long letter writing campaign and meetings with mixed results with Bishop Lee and Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. She came up against opposition to her views from a woman professor at Virginia Theological Seminary. For a while things looked very bleak.

It was then that she encountered the “scientific” arguments for homosexual sex attractions. “These studies did not support genetics as a cause, found great mutability of attractions in women, and indicated that the APA voted for something that most of their members did not actually believe.”

Keenan even communicated with Archbishop Rowan Williams on points of science. The Archbishop of Canterbury, by sending answers supportive of the importance of the points she made, caused Frank Griswold to answer her when he would have otherwise blown her off. Griswold wanted to find out what she had sent to Lambeth Palace, and that caused him to respond again in a non-form letter to what she was saying. Griswold admitted that science was important to the issues of homosexuality. “Once I replied and sent Griswold the same info that the Archbishop had, he then had his assistant point out that he did not write ‘To Set Our Hope on Christ.’ Rowan Williams was helpful, even before he sent me a personal letter encouraging me to publish my article. He obviously hoped it would make a difference, or he would not have written a personal letter to me.”

Keenan went to work on a book put out by the communion — To Set Our Hope on Christ, – a response to the Windsor Report. The report stated that churches of the Communion are not given unqualified freedom by any bishop or diocese to authorize liturgical texts if they are likely to be inconsistent with the norms of liturgical and doctrinal usage extant in the province’s Book of Common Prayer or other provincially authorized texts.

The Windsor Report was a fudge document that got blown off almost immediately by Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster who proceeded to allow same sex blessings.

However, the Anglican Theological Review did not publish her article noting problems with “To Set Our Hope on Christ., The Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) did publish her articles in a form that discussed politics and science, as did Virtueonline. The articles both eventually got to the primates of the Communion, many of whom appreciated knowing the issues with the “science” in TEC’s document.

Keenan continued her dialogue with Bishop Lee and suffered a life-threatening illness when she contracted Lyme’s Disease that went untreated for a period of time. She still kept up the pressure on church leaders demanding explanations for acts and positions that were certain to break relations with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Her parish subsequently voted to leave TEC. The fallout was costly.

Christ the Redeemer (CtR) Church, Inc. was created as a separate church before the CtR mission of Truro closed down and gave all its property to its mother church, Truro. The new church never owned anything that belonged to TEC or its CtR mission, but TEC chose to sue the new church for over a million dollars worth of property, which it never owned. Eighteen months later, TEC decided to settle with the new church. It was going to court to try to get the property from Truro, who actually owned it. Since it would have come to light that the property was deeded to Truro and never to the new CtR Church, Inc., it was best for them to settle and get CtR Church, Inc. out of the way. Despite the expensive lawsuit, the new Anglican CtR survived.

Keenan’s basic premise is that theology precedes change and change cannot be made or accepted without doing due diligence first to Scripture and history and reason. Keenan mainly concerned herself with reason because that is what TEC thought was on its side. It wasn’t. When medical associations, media, and even schools get together to claim a false stereotype, it is a mistake to ignore what people are concerned about. “My gift is being able to explain clearly to lay people what reason has to say about homosexuality. The Lord positioned me and gave me a voice that was helpful for the Global South, who was being called backward. They were not the ones who were ignorant. They appreciated my efforts.”

Just before her book went to the publishers, the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee released its study on homosexuality, which it had kept secret from the people of the church for almost two years. By the time it was released, the Episcopal Church had confirmed the election of another partnered gay bishop, so theology again failed to precede change.

Keenan’s book raises a number of profound issues.

Can the Episcopal Church ever be honest in talking about homosexuality except to listen to the whine of a very small percentage of its people?

Does TEC really care what Global South Anglicans, the vast majority of the Anglican Communion, really think and believe about homosexuality?

Will TEC continue believing in what masquerades as science as its dominant political outlook?

Will TEC ever cease its underhanded politics of containment on homosexuality, then demand its full acceptance, and then finally come down hard and ultimately drive out those who disagree with it?

None of the options look good. Keenan’s book is a courageous account of one woman’s attempt to come up against the principalities and powers in The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. While she was not aware that most of the players and bishops are either homosexuals or bi-sexual masquerading as heterosexuals, she is to be commended for taking on the establishment.

When the final chapters of TEC are written, hers will be an important contribution to a church that is fast going out of business, destroyed by bad theology and even worse morals.

You can purchase the book here:

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