Bucking against conservative Christian tradition advising against extra-marital sex, the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan, a married mother of three and associate pastor for ministry with families at Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois, says single Christians can have sex as long as it's "mutually pleasurable and affirming."
Citing 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, many Mainline Protestant and evangelical churches like the Assemblies of God Church, advise against sexual relations among single Christians.
"Today within our society singles exist for one of two reasons — by choice, or by circumstance. In either case the Bible's mandate is clear for all unmarried individuals: they are to remain sexually pure (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)," the Assemblies of God church warned.
For McCleneghan, however, whose views are comprehensively captured in her new book, Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't the Only Option — And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex, single Christians don't need to abstain from sex to remain pure since being chaste is about moderation.
"American Christians sometimes conflate celibacy and chastity, too, which is a problem. Chastity is a virtue, related to temperance — it's about moderating our indulgences and exercising restraint. We're all called to exercise chastity in a variety of ways, though the details will vary given our individual situations," McCleneghan said in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
"In the official teaching of the Catholic Church and some other churches, however, chastity requires restraining oneself from indulging in sexual relationships outside of the bounds (and bonds) of marriage. That is, chastity for singles means celibacy — no sex. … I'd argue that we can be chaste — faithful — in unmarried sexual relationships if we exercise restraint: if we refrain from having sex that isn't mutually pleasurable and affirming, that doesn't respect the autonomy and sacred worth of ourselves and our partners," she explained.
McCleneghan believes it's unfair to ask single Christians who haven't been called to a life of celibacy to refrain from sexual intimacy when both men and women need sex.
"There are those who feel that they are called to seasons of celibacy, or even years of celibacy, and if answering that call is life-giving and purposeful, then they should take it up as a spiritual discipline. But no call can be forced on an unwilling person, especially not if they find themselves single only by virtue of circumstance," she wrote.
"Plenty of women and men love sex, and need it — we need bodily pleasure, remember — and the abundant life for them will involve seeking out relationships of mutual pleasure. Chastity, or just sex, requires that whether we are married or unmarried, our sex lives restrain our egos, restrain our desire for physical pleasure when pursuing it would bring harm to self or other," she added.
The Christian Post reached out to McCleneghan to further discuss her book on Monday but she was unavailable for comment at the time this story was published.
While some Christian scholars have offered praise for McCleneghan's views, not everyone thinks her advice is sound.
"We are to be Holy people, blameless and spotless unto Jesus Christ. One man and one woman married until death, not extra-marital affairs (adulterous behavior) even fornication. That is sin that will lead anyone to eternal Hell. Please show me Scripture that backs up your belief," wrote Trish Nastasi, a longtime married Christian woman on McCleneghan's Facebook page.
McCleneghan, who began her ministry at Hinsdale in July 2015, is responsible for worship, pastoral care, ministry leadership, teaching at the church. Her special focus is on helping people with children at home better their ability and commitment to raising those children in the Christian faith, according to the Church.
You can read an excerpt from her book by clicking here.