One Episcopal Church's Adult Sunday School Offering in 2005

This says a great deal.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

45 comments on “One Episcopal Church's Adult Sunday School Offering in 2005

  1. VaAnglican says:

    Challenge: try to find the words “Jesus” or “Christ” anywhere on the page. (To be fair, there is a “God” in there, as an obligatory afterthought in the paragraph on goals of the class.) Note how much of the course is obsessed with homosexuality–not Christian sexuality, or the sexuality of marriage even. This truly does say a great deal. How does one take one’s children to such a place as this?

  2. Timothy Fountain says:

    One of my parishioners left to Rome. He loved our parish and departed gracefully, but the “education” series on this thread points to why TEC lost him.
    His wife is in a state medical institution. He is faithful and kind to her, despite the loss of most normal aspects of married life (including, of course, sexual intimacy).
    This disgusting “adult ed” offering, typical of TEC, is an insult to people like him. He has (heterosexual) “friends” telling him, “Get on with your life. Be happy. She’ll never know anyway.” Instead, he sits with her, reads to her, prays with her.
    In Luke, the Beatitudes are paired with a series of “woes”. Those who are rolling in it now will face judgement for their selfishness and and their contempt for others. I can’t imagine a just God overlooking the narcissism and indolence of ostensibly religious people who roll around in “studies” like this.
    And it is significant that James talks about “true religion” as comforting widows “in their affliction” and being “unstained” by the world. Again, the unfeeling cruelty of those who would talk up their erotica in a world where many go without companionship is worthy of divine wrath.

  3. Drew says:

    From the “Goals of the Class” section:

    It is not a goal to push any particular view or agenda, but rather to look carefully and prayerfully at some intimate aspects of human behavior and relationality.

    Obviously! That’s why they’re having Integrity of Arkansas present for not one but two weeks but have no opposing viewpoint presented at all — sounds like the Fairness Doctrine!
    I think the subjects for 8 and 29 June say it all!

  4. DonGander says:

    “We want to muck around these topics,,,,, ”

    They are not entirely wrong in what they say.


  5. johnd says:

    To follow up on #3 – 3/4 of the literature (?) in the bibliography must be dealing with homosexuality. Not push(ing) any particular view or agenda – right!

  6. Paula Loughlin says:

    Click on the link for Bill Stoop’s other Sunday school classes. You should find it very telling.
    I am impressed with the work he is doing in virology and for that I say God bless.

  7. David Wilson says:

    One plus, I did notice a reference to Robert Gagnon’s seminal work “Homeosexuality and the Bible”.

  8. samh says:

    Funny. Can’t seem to find sex in the list of sacraments. Hm. Wonder which list it is they’re working off of.

  9. Rick in Louisiana says:

    And of course you can click on links for classes and get an eyeful of the notes, outline, major points, general thrust, and so on.

    1) On the one hand one finds tiresome the painfully obvious agenda that Rev. Dr. Stroop has/had for that class. (It was 2003. Old news.) Look especially at his survey of biblical references to homosexuality and same-sex relations. (Part of purity rules not really about morality, prohibitions really concerned with other than “committed same sex relationships”, yadda yadda yadda.) Relies heavily on the usual scholarly suspects. Yuck.

    2) On the other hand reasserters must recognize and concede (a) the breadth and depth of the classes this particular rector offers, (b) the large amount of research/preparation (whether we care for his sources or not) involved. In other words, he sets a pretty high standard – even if we might not care for the points of view expressed. If reasserters wish to offer the “other view”, they will need to do their homework and burn some midnight oil.

  10. Bryan says:

    St Paul’s was one of the parishes that pushed for +Maze to allow same sex blessings last year.

  11. alfonsoq says:

    Rick, he sets a high standard for preparedness, that I agree, but it is not so difficult to counter. He bases a ton of heresy on the straw man of sexual intimacy being more than procreation. If that “more than” is OK for heterosexual practioners, then it’s OK for the rest, right? Wrong.

    I looked over some of the class notes and see the curriculum has several conservative works included (and criticized), yet when it comes to the conclusion, there is this:

    The church’s traditional ethic – well represented by the phrase ‘celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage’ – is woefully inadequate. It denies the rich diversity of sexual experiences and relationships that bear moral substance, and it establishes uncritically the exclusive claim of heterosexual marriage to moral propriety and sexual maturity….The church has promoted sexism, and actively or passively oppressed and punished sexual nonconformers.

    The conclusion ends with two egregious points. First, using citations he says it is a matter of justice that norms of “sex in marriage only” must be changed and not people change to fit that norm; with the claim that this, in italics, is the ethic of common decency. Second, the misplaced assertion that “sexual desire and passion” connects us not only with each other, but with God, and “can be ennobling,” with the clear subtext, in line or out of line with certain Scripture texts, and thus inside or out of heterosexual relationships, and in or out of marriage.

  12. Sarah1 says:

    Actually, the website says this is a class that was taught at St. Paul’s in 2004.

    Sadly, this man has moved on to offer his unfortunate theology to Trinity Hattiesburg, in the Diocese of Mississippi. What a tragedy for that parish.

  13. Deja Vu says:

    No agenda??? From the teaching for Class 3

    Countryman’s argument makes good sense especially in view of the Greek words Paul used. The word Paul used was parallel the similarly used word in Leviticus; both words carry the connotation of “dishonorable” or “abomination.” Neither the author(s) of Leviticus nor Paul used words that meant “ethically wrong.” Indeed, Paul did use such a Greek word in the Letter to the Romans – but not in reference to homogenital relations. Again, Paul seems to have regarded homogenital acts as unclean, but, being unclean did not make them sinful.

  14. alfonsoq says:

    My post was cut off, I guess due to an html error. Anyways:

    Very nice. Very clear. When I take that class I’ll end up knowing that my sense of justice is better than God’s, or at least what got written in the Bible, and so it simply is a matter of common decency to exalt my desires for sexual gratification above the text of Scripture and Tradition. We’d be so much better off if only those evil global south primates could drop their stupid ignorant beliefs and get in line with modern enlightened thinking such as mine.

  15. drjoan says:

    Some practical observations:
    First, this is a SUMMER session course. In my experience, Episcopal Adult Learners (EALs) don’t usually attend summer courses with any regularity. However, since this is on sexuality, there might be more willing to forego weekend camping trips for Sunday School.
    Second, this course requires homework in the form of reading from the bibliography. I would expect the books would be available from the church library (or perhaps on sale) for the use of the EALs. And again, since this is about sexuality, they might be more willing to do the reading–I wonder about the readability of Countryman or Kelsey, though.
    Third, each session must be quite long considering the amount of content covered. In my church, the interim has effectively cut the Adult Education class time to less than 1/2 hour.

  16. Cousin Vinnie says:

    Rick in La, the problem is not that reasserters may be challenged to prepare a course comparable in scope and breadth as that offered by the guy who gets paid to spend all day doing this kind of thing. The problem is that they will never have that chance. The establishment in TEC carefully controls and scripts its “education” classes to avoid any real opportunity for expression of dissenting views — I mean, views that are in line with 2000 years of orthodox Christian thinking.

    I also note that the course seems to have little time for direct Bible study, preferring to rely on what selected authors say the Bible says.

  17. The_Elves says:

    <i>The establishment in TEC carefully controls and scripts its “education” classes to avoid any real opportunity for expression of dissenting views

  18. The_Elves says:

    Hmmm. Not sure why my HTML didn’t work above. The tags look correct. Forgive me for a little test.



    Testing the Alabama link above.

    Blockquote test:

    Cousin Vinnie Wrote:
    <blockquote>The establishment in TEC carefully controls and scripts its “education” classes to avoid any real opportunity for expression of dissenting views—I mean, views that are in line with 2000 years of orthodox Christian thinking.

  19. libraryjim says:

    being unclean did not make them sinful.
    unclean does not equal sinful.

    ‘still trying to process that one.

    In Judaic society, if something was unclean, and you even touched it, you had to undergo ritual purification. If you ate something unclean, you had a more rigorous process. If you participated in an unclean ACT, you could be exiled or even be stoned to death!

  20. Deja Vu says:

    #19 libraryjim
    Yes, the distinguished Rev. Dr. Countryman, the New Testament Professor at the Episcopal Seminary for the West Coast of the USA, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, has a method of exegesis that results in the conclusion the Good News of Jesus Christ requires that bestiality is not a sin either. To suggest that either same sex erotic behavior or bestiality is a sin is not allowed by the Gospel. (Also pornography and anal sex in marriage)

  21. Larry Morse says:

    Shucks, the elves cut out my little piece of doggerel.

    In any case, the example above tells us clearly with what thoroughness TEC is crafting a new moral and theological world into which their new agenda will fit. Yes, there is a lot of work in the curriculum, and that is a telling point, that TEC’s agenda is now getting footnotes and a quasi-scholarly appearance.

    This is more than a little frightening, for the training being undertaken here is for the sake of creating new billboards through which the TEC agenda can be proclaimed. In this manner, a real minority can create a force that will suborn a majority, for the curriculum LOOKS good. It is utterly one-sided and theologically meretricious, but that’s not the point. It LOOKS good, and for America, this is all that’s needed to be persuasive.

  22. John Wilkins says:

    I’ts not a bad curriculum. I think he’s helping people think for themselves.

    The church’s sexual ethic may be adequate. However, if we insist that it doesn’t change it will simply become irrelevant.

  23. MJD_NV says:

    The church’s sexual ethic may be adequate. However, if we insist that it doesn’t change it will simply become irrelevant.


    IMHO, the Church’s teachings on sexuality – which ultimately remind us that even our bodies and our bedrooms are the Lord’s and we use them for Him – are more relevant today than ever. It is the above referenced brain-washing session that contradicts the gifts that He’s given us that will become irrelevant.

  24. Deja Vu says:

    #22 John Wilkins,
    No. This is propaganda claiming to help people think for themselves.
    While claiming to have no agenda, it is constructed to indoctrinate people into a way of thinking that subverts Christianity.
    Therefore, it is a very bad curriculum. (Unless you agree with the goal of subverting Christianity.)

  25. DonGander says:

    I read with great consternation the defense of the adult sex-ed class. Today, sex-ed starts in 3rd grade or even sooner. It is taught year after year through college in some form or another. Yet, in spite of all that, we need more sex-ed for adults! Add to that larceny the fact that people seem to not know enough about sex to marry or to keep a spouse. We are in dreadful straights.

    My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, all had life-long marriages and their sex-ed took about five minutes. Are we,today, in an erra of ineffectiveness, or what?? We sure don’t get our money’s worth out of all the education we put our children through


  26. Deja Vu says:

    #25 One of the rhetorical tricks of the “progressives” is to use the word “education” for the activities of propaganda and indoctrination.

  27. Scotsreb says:

    #22, “The church’s sexual ethic may be adequate. However, if we insist that it doesn’t change it will simply become irrelevant.”

    Sorry, too late. The irrelevancy came in with the forced changes that denied scripture.

    The rubbish in this course, is merely homosexualist propaganda, which dots the eyes and crosses the tees, of TEC’s irrelevance.

  28. DonGander says:

    Deja Vu:

    “Education” vs. “indoctrination”

    Yes, I know. But we need to meet them on their terms or they won’t even listen. My duty is to get them to question their cloud-like foundational non-principles. All good ideas are to be found in history. All current inventions are historical evidence. They (“Progressives”) continually say that “we can’t go back.” I would suggest that there is no other place to go to find the best and most valuable and practical ideas.


  29. Larry Morse says:

    Moreover, this is one more piece of evidence of a very serious sort that the homosexuals are moving into TEC in large enough numbers so that they now are reaching out to control what the church can and will teach. We saw the same thing happen with Roman Catholic seminaries – and this control may still be in place for all I know.This doesn’t seem to frighten TEC but it should frighten us, for it puts enormous power in the hands of a minority that is as corrupt as it is corrupting. The RC church is paying now (in every sense of the word) for its bad judgment and its refusal to see homosexuality as something worse than mere sin. It is an active force and its goal is the conversion of public and private morals, not merely the conversion of its sexual practices. And now this goal can be funded by a very rich church. Can this tail wag the dog? We are watching it do so and this blog shows us there is even a school for teaching dog-wagging.

    Is this homophobia? Bigotry? To make such a claim in the face of the evidence is like claiming that American Moslems would never favor beheading, and charging those who see the evidence with Islamophobia. LM

  30. John Wilkins says:

    “forced changes that denied scripture.” What does this mean? You mean, admitting that Adam and Eve were mythical rather than real human beings? Most of Christiandom consider them absolutely real until recently. We could begin denying scripture there. We maintain scripture’s relevancy, however, by allegorizing them.

    Look, as long as women feel the positive consequences of sex before marriage outweigh the negatives, church teaching simply won’t make a difference. Who cares what the church thinks? A hardline stance simply reveals that we aren’t getting their attention, except as a quirky cult. How have those abstinence until marriage covenants worked anyway? They’ve made kids into hypocrites, mainly.

    Some women have decided that, because they have birth control, the pleasure of sex – outside of marriage – is better than the consequences of getting married (which might mean less sex for some).

    The issue is not merely about sex. It is how you think religion changes or is changed by the culture.

  31. Scotsreb says:

    #30, I would not need to go to the Old Testament in order to seek out *forced* changes in Holy Scripture by TEC.

    I merely need to look at what are the named requirements set forth in the NT, for the office of bishop. In order to advance the homosexualist agenda, TEC is quite happy to ignore, excise and/or teach (allegorize) against, those nagging bits of scripture which speak against the current homosexualist agenda and wishes of TEC.

  32. Billy says:

    #30, JW, the point is that there is not a hardline stance, nor has there been in the last 40 years, as TEC has steadily begun to “interpret away” all the “hardline” standards with which we were all raised in the past, which came from the Bible (NT). TEC is being ignored now because it isn’t demanding anything. Women can have sex outside of marriage because no one is telling them it’s wrong … not Hollywood and certainly not TEC. Abstinence programs are scoffed at by TEC and the secular culture, so why should anyone pay attention to them. If they were upheld as the right things to do (or not do), then they would be a lot more likely to work. In the 50s and early 60s, it was the right thing to save oneself for marriage. Often both male and female didn’t (especially male), but it was still held to be the right thing. Now it is held to be the wrong thing and people are laughed at and derided for trying to save themselves for marriage. And here in Atlanta, we have our own TEC diocese participating and encouraging all members to march in and support Gay Pride week and the Gay Pride parade … saying sexual activity outside of marriage is something to be upheld as good and right. And JW, if that is what you want, then you are in the right church. But that ain’t what my Bible says is the right thing … and it ain’t what your Bible says either, no matter how much you want to “interpret” it differently for your own convenience and the convenience of the present-day culture.

  33. John Wilkins says:

    billy, you raise some interesting points, but the reason why we scoff at abstinence programs is because… they don’t work. People who actually don’t take them seriously don’t abide by them. You might want to consider why. In the end you just get a bunch of people who think of themselves as individuals who can’t express any sort of control, rather than giving people useful, realistic and positive aspects of sexuality.

    Even people who love the Roman Catholic church just ignore what the church says about sex.

    I’d also be careful about talking so glibly about “biblical sexuality.” We’d have to discuss, for example, Lot’s daughters. Or even that he offered his daughters up for rape in order to protect his guests; or even what Paul said about celibacy.

  34. John Wilkins says:

    MJD_NV writes “even our bodies and our bedrooms are the Lord’s and we use them for Him.” What does this mean? That he’s watching us have sex? Or do you mean we only have sex for the sake of children? Missionary position, of course.
    What is the homosexualist agenda everyone is talking about?
    Are they forcing me to become gay? You? Well, I defend your right to be straight, as God made you.

  35. DonGander says:

    From an earlier poster: “..but the reason why we scoff at abstinence programs is because… they don’t work.”

    This is absolutely wrong. I and my wife, father and mother, grandparents, greatgrandparents, all believed that it worked and it did. We all had lifetime marriages, children, and we are living evidence that biblical abstinence works. We humans are not rutting beasts.

    I thank God daily that I have the lineage of family that I have. I once worked with a boy who didn’t even know who his mother was. The alternative to biblical abstinence is bitterness, disease, loss, defeat, and desperation.


  36. Scotsreb says:

    #34, Now don’t be coy.

    The homosexualist agenda does not force you or anyone to become a homosexual. You just have to support the idea that homoerotic s*x is fine by TEC and therefore according to TEC, fine by God.

    As you very well know, the homosexualist agenda is foisted by both homosexuals and their heterosexual allies, in producing the limp and luke-warm gospel that all sex is OK, because after all it’s ALL ABOUT LOOOOOOVE and as we all know, all God is, is Love.

  37. John Wilkins says:

    #35 I’m sure abstinence works for some people. good for them. It doesn’t work for everybody. You say, “The alternative to biblical abstinence is bitterness, disease, loss, defeat, and desperation,” as if these don’t happen within a marriage. Further, not everyone experiences premarital sex as how you describe it. In fact, if people did, then they would get married in droves.

    “homoerotic sex” – that’s quite a word you are using. I don’t know what it means, in practice. The issue is not any man with any man, but with particular individuals. It is not right for me, a straight man, to sleep with any woman. It is right for me to sleep with the person I have made a promise to. Conservatives, alas, genitalize sex. Personally, I experience good sex as something a bit different – that includes a relationship in its entirety. This is why we need to discuss a more comprehensive understanding of sex that doesn’t reduce it to procreation.

    Further, to say “TEC says all sex is OK” is simply slander and requires some empirical defense, because not all sex is about love. It can be about status, conquest, rivalry and property. Conservatives, however, don’t seem to have a language for sex and property, as this falls into the liberal argument that somewhere they got divorced in the modern mind, thanks to the romantics, in part.

  38. Billy says:

    #37, John, abstinence will work for all people who choose to follow the Biblical commandments of the OT and NT. The story of Lot and his “hospitality,” is not authoritative on this point (who said Lot was perfect? who has said his offering of his daughters was the right thing to do … it is what he did to protect the “young men,” “angels,” or whomever they were … messengers of God). As sinners, we all fail to live up to God’s commandments, even though Jesus said in last Sunday’s Gospel, that if we love Him, we shall keep His commandments. The point is that if we do not hold to the idea of abstinence outside of marriage, what hope is there that anyone will even attempt it. When I was an adolescent, we all attempted it, even though many (or even most) failed. But today, the percentages of pre-marital sex and frequent sex without commitment is overwhelming our society. Sex is no longer anything to hold as precious, reserved for intimate love and caring for a lifetime. Sex in our culture is not what you describe that “includes a relationship in its entirety.” That is what a marital relationship is supposed to be, “a relationship in its entirety.” If our church and all church’s went back to that theology, of sex being only for a marital relationship, as part of a “relationship in its entirety,” and preached it to our young people, think of the change in our society. Yes, some would laugh and reject it. So what! The church is laughed at and rejected today … but even worse than that, it is ignored today! I’m not being glib when I say abstinence outside of marriage is Biblical teaching. Jesus says it, and you know He says it. There is simply no way around it, no matter how much we want to try to interpret it away. He loosened the Jewish ceremonial restrictions, but, if anything, he tighten the moral restrictions of the OT, according to Matthew and Mark. I think we ignore these statements of His at our peril … and I think we can see the fruits of our ignoring them in our world today.

  39. John Wilkins says:

    Billy, the Lord saved Lot, and seemed to approve of his relationship with his daughters. If you don’t want to face the biblical witness squarely and admit that it is uncomfortable, then that is your perogative.
    Why is it that pre-marital sex and frequent sex is opposite to its preciosity? If anything it soulds like it is you are the one making sex into an idol – something so sacred, it can’t be messed with. It is the same as those who think it will solve all our problems.
    Most youth and youngadults prefer sex with committment – it is simply without marriage. Noone likes to be used or given false promises.
    Look – sex outside of marriage is bad not for its own sake, but because there are consquences. Scripture reminds us of the consequences. What we have done, technologically, is remove the consequences in many real ways. Those who are responsible (they use condoms, are serially monogamous, use birth control, and communicate with their partners) and forgiving live without the emotional consequences you describe. For many women, these techological changes have been liberating. They don’t need to rely on men; they can enjoy sex without worrying about childbirth or death. It is a frightening change, one that is really not available in the scriptural world, where men killed each other over women; women died in childbirth, and lineage is how property was divided.

    We could probably agree on the dangers of the pornification of our society. To me it is because capitalism knows that sex sells, and we are loathe to circumscribe capitalism.

    Yes Jesus says it. You don’t ask why he says it though, and that is unfortunate. It’s clear to me why he says it: sex creates victims. The question I ask is who are the victims now? For some of us, Christianity seems to be sex hating, making it a secret, dirty, and unavailable thing. Eventually you’ll have to come to grips with darwin: human beings have sex to create peace, to procreate, to survive. Sex is not the same as theft or murder. It is more like… eating. And there are plenty of good reasons to watch what we eat. But we don’t stop eating.

  40. Billy says:

    John, thank you for your response. I believe you said some really important things there and I don’t disagree with all of them, at all. First, let me say I accept the Biblical witness of Lot. He was a faithful man and loved God. That is why he and his family were saved, but for his salty wife. He was not saved by God for his deeds, and where you got that God approved of his relationship with his daughters and approved of his offering them up for rape and to be used by the mob is beyond me. As I read it, God is silent on that offering.

    Sex is precious, not something to be idolized. In today’s world it is an idol. I believe that God intended it to be a part of a life-long committed relationship. I emphasize life-long … as in covenanted for life before God and his church. It is not like “eating.” On an individual level, eating is necessary for survival; having sex is not (as opposed to sex being necessary for survival of the species). We can control our sex urge, even though we don’t want to.

    Thanks for admitting that “Jesus said it.” Why he said it, I disagree. It was not just because “sex creates victims.” That is your and our new age theology’s interpretation. Every sin creates victims; always has, always will. He said it because God wants to be a part of this precious gift he gave to mankind. In order for God to be a part of it, the relationship of the two people involved has to be a life-long committment before God … not just a committment that the other person is the only person for now, until something better comes along. The technological advances you speak of only take care of the consequences of conception of unwanted children. They do not help with the consequences of broken relationships, after a woman has given all she has to a man, and he then departs for another who takes his fancy. Capitalism does take advantage of what sells, and sex sells. But would it if society said it should not … if all churches and ministers, including you, stood up and said that capitalism was fine but using sex within it for advertising purposes is not to be a part of it? I suggest it would not. I suggest further that your alliance with our secular society is what has allowed capitalism to use sex to sell. You and similar reappraisers are standing on the sidelines of secular society and saying, “Look at us; look at our church! Don’t lose interest in us. We’re just like you secular people; we don’t require you to follow the 10 commandments or the Jesus Creed. Adultery is ok; fornication is ok. Sex is just like eating. We all have to eat and we all have sex urges that MUST BE MET. If you conceive a baby, and want to get rid of it for your own convenience (after all it is your body), that’s ok, too. We’ll even march in a parade and support you. We are not actually sure if life and a soul begins at conception, but our Supreme Court says it doesn’t until the fetus would be viable outside the womb, so we’re going with that. And we’ll march in a parade to support Gay Pride, to support sexual activity outside of marriage or outside of any support from any part of the Bible … and all those parts in the Bible that seem to condemn homosexual activity or sexual activity outside of marriage, we are going to interpret our way around those. Come join us; we’re just like you out there in secular land.”

  41. Deja Vu says:

    39. John Wilkins wrote:

    Yes Jesus says it. You don’t ask why he says it though, and that is unfortunate. It’s clear to me why he says it: sex creates victims. The question I ask is who are the victims now?

    The answer is in the Economist article posted on this blog above. The answer is the children born out of wedlock. When the cultural understanding of sex is decoupled from procreation, it doesn’t stop procreation. It does undermine the cultural institution created to nurture and protect the children. Read the article. Wilkins assumption of “responsible” behavior is belied by the facts. And those who are not behaving responsibly need cultural institutions to protect and enforce what is in the best interests of the next generation.

    39. John Wilkins wrote:

    Sex is not the same as theft or murder. It is more like… eating. And there are plenty of good reasons to watch what we eat. But we don’t stop eating.

    There are similarities between unhealthy eating habits and unhealthy sexual behavior. But it is narcissistic to view healthy eating habits as analogous to healthy sexual habits. It ignores the procreative aspect of sex. Responsible adults understand the social intergenerational aspects of their sexuality and the social role modeling aspects their own behavior.

  42. John Wilkins says:

    Billy, you say “They do not help with the consequences of broken relationships, after a woman has given all she has to a man, and he then departs for another who takes his fancy. ” This is interesting. I do think that there is a growing callousness in relationships, but I think identifying it simply with sexual pleasure needs a better empirical defense. I think there is callousness all around us.

    I think you assume I think all sex is OK. I simply think people are experiencing sex in a way that is more diffuse given that the procreative aspect is a choice, rather than assured. I want to admit that our interpretation of what Jesus meant (a conscription of sex for its own sake vs a conscription of sex because there are consequences) reflects our own personal biases. My own view is probably closer to neutral. It happens. Sometimes it is a sin, sometimes it is blessed, sometimes its just sex. That third category, I suspect, upsets you.

    I don’t think the church should be in the business of blessing sex outside of marriage. Nor do I think sex outside of marriage is intrinsically a sin – it seems to depend on the intention. Surely there is sex that is based on honesty and mutual affection, and this is good. Surely some sex in a marriage is based on coercion, and this is bad.

    The second point – and the last I will make for the discussion – is the rigid boundary between secular and religious communities. I don’t think there is really such a distinction, upon a closer view. Surely one who needs God to know murder is wrong isn’t any more ethical who finds this out on his own. Second, if God is a God of power, surely he works in all different spheres of the world, and not always in such a way he is announced. That would be quite a narcissistic God. I see lots of religion in secular culture; both good and bad.

    Note, also, how quickly the debate shifted to what God wants to what is useful. That is a more interesting discussion. To get back to the article, what is true is that we dont have an accurate understanding of sexuality. What we have are rules. Practically speaking, in a country full of choices, people will simply ignore them, unless they are proven to be useful. As it is, abstinence programs, in practice, have been an utter failure. Perhaps we should begin asking why. Why is it that in Holland, a much more liberal country, teenage girls make much more conservative choices? Perhaps because they are given all the information, and allowed to decide for themselves rather than be given scare tactics.

  43. Billy says:

    Thanks, John. I enjoy reading what you write. We’ve probably beat this horse enough. I do want to respond briefly. You are correct – “just sex” is not appropriate to me. Sex is not like shaking hands. I believe God meant sex for ultimate communication of a permanent and unique relationship … only one that contains God within it. That is a big difference in your and my belief and apparently where I differ from the belief of the leaders of my church. I am not a prude, nor do I want rules for rules sake. But I do want attention given by God’s church to the standards he seems to have set down for us to live by. I just don’t see anywhere in which God approves of sex for sex sake or sex outside of marriage, at least after life of Jesus here with us.

    On the debate between secular vs religious influences, we are both speculating, I admit. In looking at what God wants, all we have is His word to love one another as He loved us, which is to give our life for another. That obviously does not mean coercion or manipulation in marriage, or, to my belief, sex outside of marriage, since outside of marriage, there would appear to be no covenant with God as to what the two people are doing. If such covenants can be set up outside the church’s marriage vows, then let the church do that first, before approving sex outside of marriage. Otherwise, the church is being intellectually dishonest within itself. As far as Holland is concerned, it may be more that young people (male and female) have figured out the consequences of unbridled sex and are no longer willing to risk them. If that is what you mean by being given all the information, then I agree. But that still does not provide the information that is a part of the first and great commandment … which makes the love of God a part of all of our relationships, including our sexual ones. That is an ideal that God asks of us, yes, but it is one we all should strive to attain and should strive to spread, to my belief, and our church should certainly preach that ideal, not ignore or make fun of it. God bless.

  44. Larry Morse says:

    Is abstinence a failure, John W, as you suggest?
    Failure here seems to mean that the concept never had any effect on the lives of those who have espoused it (if I may put it tht way). But this is precisely what you do not know. Abstinence – let’s call it self-restraint, a much more inclusive term for the avoidance of excess – is what used to be called a standard, a word America has very little use for. Parents used to establish standards for their children, even though they knew beforehand tht the children would violate these standards one way or another. Were these standards therefore useless? Of course not, since it is by these alone the young were able to know right from wrong and to know, therefore, when they had done wrong. First, the parents established the standards; then the young, knowing them,acted upon them as directed, and by so doing internalized them until they were their own. Then of course, they violated these standards, but having internalized them, had become capable of punishing themselves. And this is the source of all self-restraint, that the punishing is effective and will eventually change behavior. So too with abstinence.
    But first you have to have a standard. And if I may point a moral: Without standards, life is meaningless, for inviduals and cultures alike.Yes, yes, all very trite, but TEC has forgotten this, as this curriculum shows, for the curriculum in fact is about the destruction of standards, isn’t it.Larry

  45. Deja Vu says:

    Just to be very clear, the final class, Class 10, uses pages 240-267 of William L. Countryman’s book Dirt Greed & Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today. Here is a key sentence that sums up the thinking from that chapter:

    To be specific, the gospel allows no rule against the following, in and of themselves: masturbation, non-vaginal heterosexual intercourse, bestiality, polygamy, homosexual acts, or erotic art and literature. (p. 243)

    New Testament Professor Countryman sits behind closed doors in his office with select other faculty at Church Divinity School of the Pacific and laughs with glee over the letters he receives objecting to his scholarly research methods and conclusions.
    (Don’t Feed the Trolls)