The UMW spiritual life teaching: The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift.
August 3, 2016
Dear Renew Network,
By now, you most likely have heard that the Western Jurisdiction elected Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian to the episcopacy. I want to thank the Renew Network for your response to the Good News statement concerning the crisis this action has escalated. If you have not already, please read and sign the statement at http://methodistcrossroads.org. This action is a serious breach of the covenant that holds the United Methodist Church together.
I think a word needs to be said about how we as a church got to this place. We have been at a crossroads for some time. Our official UMC sexual ethic has remained unchanged and rooted in an understanding of scripture that has been clear for thousands of years. But for 44 years, our sexual ethic has been challenged by those who would have our church capitulate to the culture’s demand for an acceptance of sexual freedom that is completely untied from any historical or theological understanding of morality much less holiness. Let me give you an example…
The day after Karen Oliveto was elected bishop, I attended a United Methodist Women’s Mission U event. The UMW’s 2016 spiritual life study is a book by Helen Brubaker, The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift. Brubaker goes back to the creation account before the fall stressing God’s intention for sexual intimacy before sin entered into His creation. So far so good.
Brubaker wants us to know interpretations of Scripture have affected the church and views of faith and sexuality. By stressing interpretation of the Word, she opens the door for reinterpreting the Bible. This study leans heavily on a revisionist interpretation of God’s Word. The study is designed to help the church accept not only the practice of homosexuality, but also a sexual ethic that would eliminate any scriptural boundaries on sexual practice other than consent and safety.
At UMW Mission U we were reminded over and over that the scriptures were written by only men during a time of cultural patriarchy when women were considered property and had no rights. Laws were not represented as God’s revealed will and standard to help us distinguish righteousness from unrighteousness, but instead they were presented as written from the will of the male perspective.
Brubaker misrepresents Genesis 20 and 26 where Abraham and Isaac claim their wives are their sisters. She states, “Adultery took place and Sarah was powerless in the situation. The same is true of Rebecca.” This is simply untrue; the scripture is rather clear that God himself intervened through a dream and circumstance that protected both Sarah and Rebecca from committing adultery or being raped.
Brubaker reinterprets the story of Sodom and Gomorrah saying, “it makes more sense that this is an episode of violence on the part of men who are out of control and ready to rape whomever they can.” A film clip shown during Mission U introduced the idea that God judged these cities for their lack of hospitality.
A thorough examination of all the misinterpretation of scriptures that pertain to sexual holiness is not possible in this letter. But not only does this study call into question our traditional understanding of morality and God’s plan for sexual intimacy, it also tells us we should take authority and decide a sexual ethic for ourselves. Brubaker quotes Barbara Lee to give us the foundation for making this judgment.
To relate to each other as whole human beings, we need to develop and live by a Sexual Ethic that celebrates sex while treating it with moral integrity. An ethic that begins by recognizing that people of all sexual orientation and gender identities, of all marital status, and of all physical capacities, have the right to experience sex as a healthy and life giving part of their existence.
God’s intention for human sexuality is clearly stated in Genesis 2 and re-affirmed in Matthew 19 by Jesus himself. But at Mission U we were told that we must go beyond our church’s marriage ethic because it says nothing to widows, singles or gays: and it condones harmful behaviors as long as they are in marriage. We are left with a sexual ethic that can be individualized; I decide what is right for me as long as I accept the universal principle of mutual consent and agreement where yes means yes, no means no, and take responsibility for sex being safe.
Toward the end of Mission U our leader played a video of a young teenage girl who told her tragic story of divorce, sexual abuse and early sexual involvement through a series of index cards. Her story was the perfect example of the family and societal breakdown that results when the marriage ethic is discarded for a sexual ethic built on no more than consent and safety.
I was disappointed that, on the surface, none of the women in the class voiced any concern about what was taught. Do we really believe that God cannot transcend the effects of the Fall and make His will known even if His Word was only written by males? Does the church being salt and light, standing in stark contrast to the world no longer matter?
I cannot recommend The Bible and Human Sexuality to the women of the church. This study is a prime example why the church is in the crisis it is in today. And it is a prime example why Renew has worked for over 25 years to expose the political agendas and dare I say false teaching that guide and inform the women through the UMW mission and spiritual studies like the Brubaker book. Our church needs prayer and a mighty move of God – not a new sexual ethic. I hope the Renew Network will alert the women in their churches to the problems of this study.