Incompatible – a graphic novel

In his second significant book based on the Wesley Bros comic series, Charlie Baber writes a poignant and timely graphic novel on a very difficult topic: homosexuality and the church. Incompatible: How the Church Cast Out LGBTQ Christians & Where They Go Next aims to inform and educate, heal, and open a safe space for discussions around sexuality and the church – at a time when churches publicly struggle with the issue.

LGBTQ Christians exist. They worship beside you, preach from your pulpits, direct your choirs, and love God and neighbor, just like you. Yet denominations continue to split over issues around inclusion, and LGBTQ Christians are told their faith and sexuality are incompatible.

Incompatible: two things so opposed in character as to be incapable of existing together.

When two young congregants approach their pastor on the subject of LGBTQ inclusion in the church, they embark on a journey through the history of Christian belief and practices around human sexuality. Centered around the events leading to the current split within The United Methodist denomination, this funny and informative graphic novel explores how the full inclusion of LGBTQ Christians is a faithful witness to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The graphic novel features three parts:

Part One: The Incompatibility Clause. A pastor reflects on the circumstances around the 1972 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.  Debates and decisions around homosexuality are made quickly, based more on misinformation and bad experiences than on meaningful theological discourse or biblical study.  This portion of the story is told directly from the journal notes of the 1972 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, as well as research into the Rev. Gene Leggett and delegate Don Hand who were at the center of the Incompatibility Clause that was introduced into the Book of Discipline.

Part Two: The Force of History. This second act places the particularities of the 1972 General Conference of The United Methodist Church within a much larger historical and cultural context, and attempts to reveal why LGBTQ people might find religious institutions to be traumatic or unsafe places.  In this act, the affirming pastor begins introducing his parishioners to a devout Christian youth who has been kicked out of her church and home because she identifies as gay.  Her introduction adds a personal touch to the larger historical forces at work in this story.

Part Three: An Open Table. The concluding act explores the theological possibility for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church.  Rather than refuting the so-called “clobber passages,” this section is inspired by John Wesley’s arguments in Thoughts Upon Slavery pamphlet and Free Grace sermon, where the whole tenor and scope of scripture outweighs the interpretation of a few verses.  The third act is set in the waters of baptism, where the affirming pastor and inquiring parishioners ride on the wings of a seraphim to find LGBTQ Christians already enfolded and embraced in the love of Christ.  The key scripture guiding Part Three is the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, where the early Jewish Christians counted the witness of the Holy Spirit as evidence enough to include Gentile Christians as they were, as we are.   The theological third act concludes at the Eucharist table, with LGBTQ Christians standing beside, even serving the elements to the questioning parishioners.

Videos Featuring Incompatible

Editorial Reviews on Incompatible

Incompatible is a stunning work of art, a potent mix of graphics and story that offers not only a glimpse of how we got to where we are but shines a hopeful light on the path forward.”

Matthew Paul Turner, New York Times bestselling author of What Is God Like?

“This hugely creative graphic novel helps readers visualize the suffering visited upon LGBTQ+ people in the name of Christ.”

David P. Gushee, distinguished professor of Christian ethics, Mercer University

“This book offers freedom to people who’ve been shamed for who they are. You can read it in half an hour. Don’t miss this unique and powerful resource!”

Susan Cottrell, co-founder, FreedHearts

“To all those who are feeling exhausted by debates and contention over the issue that’s become the single most important issue of our church, Charlie Baber’s book is a welcomed contribution.”

Will Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry, Duke Divinity School

“Charlie Baber succeeds admirably in bringing context to the debate over LGBT rights and inclusion–both biblical context and historical context.”

Randall Balmer, professor of religion, Dartmouth College

“Incompatible provides a vibrant, convicting narrative for a church at a crossroads.”

Keegan Osinski, author of Queering Wesley, Queering the Church

What People are Saying about Incompatible

“I have followed Charlie Baber for several years through his weekly webcomic about theology and the church. I enthusiastically purchased this book to find the “incompatible” thread all in one volume. It was worth it. The book starts with an overview of the Methodist Church history that resulted in LGBTQ Christians being labeled incompatible. This section may not hold the same interest for other denominations, but I think it is a fascinating look into how many churches lean into positions of judgement instead of welcome.

The very best part of the book, in my opinion, is the last section in which Rev. Baber uses powerful illustrations and powerful theology to declare that ALL are equally loved by God and equally invited to continue on their journey to live as Jesus lived, worship freely, and live rich authentic lives.

Not any of us are either perfect or incompatible.

The reality is there are over 45,000 Christian denominations, proving how willing we Christians are to find reasons to separate and divide over issues big and small. Charlie Baber encourages us to unite in the miraculous and healing love of Christ.

Highly recommended.”

BookLady, amazon.com

Verified Purchaser on Wesley Bros Etsy Shop

“I’ve been a fan of Wesley Bros, but this new work is even more fabulous. What a gift to the church, to help us understand where we are, how we got here, and how we can imagine a faithful way forward toward full inclusion. Thank you!”

Molly Vetter, etsy.com

“I am so grateful for Baber and the work he has done to create such a wonderful resource. He offers a history of the struggle for LGBTQ inclusion in the UMC and paints a hopeful picture of a future church in which all are welcome as beloved children of God. The art is beautiful and makes this resource accessible for youth and adults. It is a wonderful addition to my pastoral library!”

Gevevieve Bowles, amazon.com

Verified Purchaser on Wesley Bros Etsy Shop

“Very impressed with the quality of the book, both the illustrations and the narratives. I’m looking forward to exploring different ways in which to use this as we continue to wrestle with how the UMC will move past the discord and regain a focus on The Great Commission without prejudice or exclusivity. Rev. Baber provides insights through his gift and talent that challenges readers to step back and truly think about the twists and turns of history that have led us to this critical juncture.”

Kraig, etsy.com

“Charlie Baber turned an INCREDIBLE series from his INCREDIBLE webcomic into an INCREDIBLE graphic novel. If you want to explore the history of the church’s practices related to human sexuality and read a strong (and beautiful) argument for why the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ folks is a faithful Christian response to what God is doing, buy this book, read this book, and share this book. Study this book in groups. (Spoiler alert: Charlie’s a LEGIT theologian and his arguments are just better and more beautiful than the half-baked, simplistic arguments made by the fundamentalists – do your self a favor and discover the real beauty of the gospel in these pages!) Don’t let fundamentalists with toxic theology define the conversation around LGBTQIA+ inclusion – Charlie’s book is a witness to the beauty and power of God’s love and to the all-inclusive, world-transforming, reconciling work of Jesus Christ. This book is legit!”

Brian Johnson, amazon.com

Verified Purchaser on Wesley Bros Etsy Shop

“Well written, and this book is an excellent text. Should be read by any United Methodist seeking to understand what’s going on, how we got there, and where we go from here. The most striking thing to me about the story line is the honesty from the author that comes through in explanation and exploration of how we are still on the move toward perfection as an institution and a people.”

Thomas McKoon, etsy.com

“This book was immediately absconded by our 16 year old non binary grandchild who, once their nose was raised from the pages, declared “this is an amazing book, Nana.” As a retired mental health therapist who had many clients who were raised in fundamental homes and who hid their struggles with gender identity, I just wish I had been able to give them all a copy of this book back then. It’s easy to read, has glorious illustrations and the story will grip your heart. Please buy copies of this book for your friends who are struggling, for your youth group members and for your pastor, among others. It’s a treasure!”

Morven Baker, amazon.com