The Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan, the married mother of three and associate pastor for ministry with families at Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois, who argues that single Christians can have sex as long as it's "mutually pleasurable and affirming," says she doesn't interpret the Bible as God's infallible Word.
"I profess Jesus as the Word of God, and the Bible as a witness to His life, ministry, death and resurrection. Which is to say that I take it seriously as a living witness, but also as a historic document written in a particular time and place," McCleneghan said in a Q&A via email with The Christian Post on Tuesday.
McCleneghan, who is advocating that single Christians can have sex in moderation in her new book, Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't the Only Option — And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex, also responded to criticism from CP readers about the subject of her book.
The following is an edited transcript of CP's Q&A with McCleneghan:
CP: Readers are concerned that you might not believe in the Bible as the infallible Word of God. What in a nutshell is your understanding of the Bible in this context? Do you think the Bible is the infallible Word of God?
McCleneghan: Different Christian churches read and interpret the Bible differently. I profess Jesus as the Word of God, and the Bible as a witness to His life, ministry, death and resurrection. Which is to say that I take it seriously as a living witness, but also as a historic document written in a particular time and place.
CP: The Bible advises against fornication in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4. What is your interpretation of this Scripture? Isn't what your book is recommending to unmarried Christians fornication?
McCleneghan: I think that there have to be additional norms for what makes sex moral or immoral, just or unjust; the question of marriage is insufficient.
Because, of course, there can be harmful or non-consensual (abusive) sex in marriage. So we need to reflect on, with the biblical authors and other theologians, what sex is about: what makes it moral or immoral? What makes something loving, holy, and good? On page 144 of my book, I reflect a bit on the word "fornication:"
If sex is for the appropriate practice and experience of vulnerability, then repeated behaviors that mask that purpose are unethical. I've always wondered what to do with the Apostle Paul's condemnation of "fornication" in that letter to the church at Corinth (6:18 in particular). In the Greek, it's "porneia." In the new Common English Bible, it's "sexual immorality." Fornication is traditionally seen as extramarital sex. But that seems both overly broad and overly narrow. Porneia includes just about every naughty thing you can think of, including sex with relatives and animals, but also some that seem categorically "not like the others" to our modern ears (i.e., sex with someone who has been divorced). "Sexual immorality" is similarly all-inclusive, and unhelpfully vague. What makes something immoral?
My book is really an invitation for people to reflect on Scripture and their experiences in the light of their faith. It is not an "anything goes" approach to sexuality, but it does ask readers to consider what is at stake in the ways they order their sexual relationships.