UMC to Launch 'Sex and the Church' Series

The United Methodist Church will begin a series titled "Sex and the Church" next week to address hot topics such as teen pregnancy, homosexuality and divorce, the church announced Monday.

"Sex and the Church" articles will be presented through the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society's (GBCS) electronic newsletter, Faith in Action. The first article, "The Theology of Sexuality," will kick off the series on March 2.

"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," said GBCS board of directors president Bishop Deborah Kiesey, and Jim Winkler, the social justice agency's chief, in a joint statement. "It is important for us and the Church to address this issue and its impact on all of us."

The series will examine the former taboo topics for the church through theological, educational, scientific and sociological lens.

Kiesey and Winkler noted that the United Methodist Social Principles describe human sexuality as "God's good gift to all people," but too often the Church has "remained silent or been too polarized" on the topic, according to Monday's Faith in Action newsletter.

"So GBCS has recruited some outstanding resource people to share their expertise on a number of key topics within the framework of human sexuality," the GBCS leaders said.

Among those recruited to write articles for the "Sex and Church" series is Dr. Traci West, professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University Theological School, Madison, N.J., who wrote the series' first article, "The Theology of Sexuality."

West was involved in a study that found that U.S. seminaries are failing to adequately prepare future members of the clergy to deal with sexuality issues despite critical and ongoing debates within denominations about topics such as homosexuality.

Other scheduled articles for the "Sex and Church" 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!"

Contributors will include diverse leaders from around the world such as: Kay Warren of Saddleback Church; U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.); Dr. Pauline Muchina of UNAIDS; and the Rev. Gideon Byamugisha of Uganda, the first African clergy to publicly state that he is HIV-positive.

"It (sexuality) is an intrinsic part of our personhood and should be treated as sacred," Kiesey and Winkler stated. "We are excited about this series because it will help provide needed education to our children and ourselves. We anticipate it may restore relationships, create new healthy ones and perhaps move people to act."