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Holy Disunity

How What Separates Us Can Save Us

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Westminster John Knox Press
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These days, there’s no dirtier word than “divisive,” especially in religious and political circles. Claiming a controversial opinion, talking about our differences, even sharing our doubts can be seen as threatening to the goal of unity. But what if unity shouldn’t be our goal?

In Holy Disunity: How What Separates Us Can Save Us, Layton E. Williams proposes that our primary calling as humans is not to create unity but rather to seek authentic relationship with God, ourselves, one another, and the world around us. And that means actively engaging those with whom we disagree. Our religious, political, social, and cultural differences can create doubt and tension, but disunity also provides surprising gifts of perspective and grace. By analyzing conflict and rifts in both modern culture and Scripture, Williams explores how our disagreements and differences—our disunity—can ultimately redeem us.

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Layton E. Williams is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a writer. She previously served as Pastoral Resident at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago and then as Audience Engagement Editor at Sojourners. She earned a MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, and currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where she seeks to minister in ways that offer understanding, justice, and relationship in the midst of division.

Holy Disunity
How What Separates...
by Westminster John Knox Press
Layton E. Williams
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Holy Disunity is clear, cool water for those of us emotionally and spiritually dehydrated from navigating the discord around us. Layton E. Williams reminds us of the beauty of difference, and gives us a wealth of ideas and practices to help us lovingly embrace and engage the disparate people around us—in ways that are both time-tested and incredibly fresh.”
—John Pavlovitz, author of A Bigger Table and Hope and Other Superpowers

 “Layton Williams’s voice and experience are much-needed in our current political, theological, and cultural climate. Every day I have conversations with people who are longing to bridge deep divides but have few tools to draw from. Holy Disunity is exactly what the world needs right now! With practical wisdom, vulnerable insights, and excellent questions for reflection and discussion, Williams inspires and challenges us to live out a better way together.” 
—Kathy Escobar, author of Faith Shift and Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World

 “I figured out I was reading something powerful and deeply faithful when I began to mine it for sermons, writing down quotations and illustrations that would preach in my congregation. I heartily recommend it for all people who find themselves drawn into the complexity and messiness of our day, even when we don’t understand why.”
—Shannon Johnson Kershner, senior pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Illinois

 "Holy Disunity does crucial work in providing a scriptural and theological basis for challenging the unhealthy status quo regarding conflict in the world of spirituality, especially in church contexts. The careful attention to power dynamics this book provides is vital."
—D.S. Leiter, founder of 


"Throughout history, religious leaders have worked to create understanding and meaning within the events of the day; today’s ministers have similar paths to traverse. Here, writer and ordained minister Williams attempts to bring perspective and understanding within the cultural, political, and religious differences in contemporary society. Twelve chapters focus on a distinct challenge: difference, doubt, argument, tension, separation, vulnerability, trouble, protest, hunger, limitations, failure, and uncertainty. Williams explores not only how these particular challenges can divide people, but how we can capitalize on these differences and find God. The author investigates scripture and contemporary culture, along with her own experience as a bisexual female pastor in the American South in order to form an understanding of how society can unity amid our differences. Each chapter includes questions for reflection and discussion and could be used by individuals or in a group setting. Williams uses real-world experience to illustrate how people with different viewpoints can find common ground. Her work is highly recommended for general readers, seminarians, church groups, and local community organizers." —Library Journal 

Holy Disunity is about embracing our differences and still finding unity in Christ. When we acknowledge that God is in control (and we are not), we won’t feel threatened by disunity—perhaps we might find it holy…. Williams weaves her experiences and our common experiences together to prod the reader to action. Each chapter is truly a gift.” 
Presbyterian Outlook
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