Bishop Deborah Kiesey, GBCS board of directors president, and Jim Winkler, the social justice agency's chief executive, issued a joint statement announcing the monthly series.
“We see it almost every day in the news in one way or another: HIV & AIDS; rising divorce rates brought on by marital infidelity; teen pregnancy; homosexuality and homophobia. The topic is sexuality,” they say in their statement. “It is important for us and the Church to address this issue and its impact on all of us.”
They said “Sex and the Church” will provide theological, educational, scientific and sociological sustenance along with specific questions for dialogue and discernment.
Kiesey and Winkler point out that the United Methodist Social Principles describe human sexuality as “God’s good gift to all persons.” “Yet we also know that on this the Church has often remained silent or been too polarized,” they declare. “So GBCS has recruited some outstanding resource people to share their expertise on a number of key topics within the framework of human sexuality.”
Dr. Traci West, professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University Theological School, Madison, N.J., wrote the series lead-off article, “The Theology of Sexuality.” West leads sexual ethics seminars and participated in a sexuality study that found seminaries in the United States are not adequately preparing future clergy to deal with sexuality issues despite ongoing debates within their denominations about issues such as homosexuality.
“Sexuality has to do with the way in which our bodies, our spirit and our mind respond to other people and to the way we understand our bodies as sensual,” West said.
Some of the other scheduled articles in the series include “Teaching Abstinence in a World Awash with Sex,” “The Myths of Sex: Sex, HIV and Gender,” “Cheaters Think They Prosper: Myths about Marital Infidelity,” “Politics of Sex,” “What Every 21st Century Parent Needs to Know,” “Surviving Rape,” “A Black Woman's Guide to Sex and Spirituality,” “Clergy Living with AIDS and the Role of the Church,” and “Young People Speak out About Sex!”
From the first installment, written by Traci West, a professor at Drew University:
God’s wondrous creation of human sexuality should never be reduced simply to a sex act or a particular sexual practice. To suggest that you can practice sexuality or not like flipping a light switch on or off is a blasphemous negation of God’s creativity, of how sexuality is woven into the fabric of the human mind, body and spirit.
God’s gift of sexuality is experienced through:
# our sensory perceptions — taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing;
# our emotional life — wants, needs, fears, shame, joys, wonder;
# our spirituality — prayers of thanksgiving, mind/body/spirit meditation, acknowledgement of being God’s precious creation;
# our affect — sensual/emotional presence impacts others when we enter the room;
# our minds — ability to imagine, fantasize, delay and interrupt sensory responses; and
# our physicality — our body's shape, texture, hairiness, stamina, flexibility, capacities, movement.
Furthermore, sexuality should not be understood as merely an individualistic quality. It includes the inherent social dimensions of vulnerability and accountability to others. A person may be in an intimate, covenantal relationship with another person, or single and celibate. You may be taking a solitary, luxurious, sensual bath, or talking to your doctor about a sexual reproduction issue. In both our being and our doing, sexuality is a continuing part of our emotional, spiritual, social and bodily “practice.” It is an inherent part of our God-created, shared humanity.
Exploring theology about the trinitarian nature of God can be a creative way to remind ourselves of the meaning of human sexuality and its ethical dimensions. As Christians we believe that God created the incredibly diverse beings we are. This, of course, includes human sexuality. It reminds us to humbly marvel at God’s handiwork in the diversity of human creation and to treat each other with respect and equal regard.
The incarnation of Jesus, at once fully divine and fully human flesh and blood, reminds us of the preciousness of our own bodies to God. It should also remind us to always treat our own bodies and other people’s as equally endowed with precious, sacred worth.
The Holy Spirit is God with us at all times. It reminds us that God’s loving presence never abandons us, always supports our wholeness, no matter whether in joyful sexual pleasure or cruel sexual victimization. This loving witness of the Holy Spirit models solidarity for us to emulate by supporting one another.
Read the whole thing, and tell me what you think. It's a good start.