Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Church - The Sex Talk Continues!!!! Part #1

Hey Covenant Groupies,

Keeping in line with the sex discussion started yesterday, I found this interesting coonversation on NPR, hosted by Michel Martin. It's quite long, so we'll break it up into 2 parts. Part 2 will go up on Thursday.

Today, we're talking about sex and the church. Now, talking about sexuality can be uncomfortable in just about any form, but in a place of worship? But the topic of sexuality is being raised in some churches to try to help members grapple with how sexuality and intimacy affect their lives. Joining me to talk about this are two ministers who've been dealing with this issue in their respective churches. The Reverend Charlie Arehart is interim pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Washington, D.C. The church ministers primarily to the gay and lesbian community. Also with us, the Reverend Stacy Spencer, who is pastor of the New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. It has a predominantly African-American congregation. I welcome you both to the program. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

The Reverend CHARLIE AREHART (Interim Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church, Washington, D.C.): Thank you, Michel.

The Reverend STACY SPENCER (New Direction Christian Church, Memphis, Tennessee): It's great to be with you.

MARTIN: Now Reverend - both of you, I should mention that in a way, it shouldn't be surprising that the clergy, that the churches, want to deal with such an important issue in people's lives. But I think that a lot of people are used to thinking about the church's role in talking about sex as mainly, stop, don't, no. So, Rev. Spencer, I wanted to talk to you because you initiated a five-week program at your church last year called 40 Nights of Great Sex, where the emphasis was on helping married couples revive and maintain the spark in their marriages. What persuaded you to start this program?

Rev. SPENCER: Well, Michel, we noticed that the divorce rate for Christian married people was equivalent to that of non-Christian people, and that alarmed me to see so many people in the church getting divorced, and so many sexual issues plaguing the congregation and congregation universal. I thought it was time to speak up about it and to take back the sanctity of marriage, and to help infuse a healthy dose of sexuality to our married folk to let them know that just because you're married, you don't have to stop having fun, and the world has perverted our sexuality, and we wanted to take it back and help them to celebrate it and embrace it.

MARTIN: What's that like, though? I can imagine where it might be awkward for couples to, in a context of a church community - I can see where they might persuade themselves to talk one on one or as a couple with a clergy person who's a trusted part of their lives, but to sort of - to have these conversations as part of a congregational group?

Rev. SPENCER: Yeah, you know...

MARTIN: People were feeling that?

Rev. SPENCER: Yeah. It was kind of awkward at first, but you know, the whole point of that session that we had was to take them back to Genesis, where the Bible says, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. And there has been a lot of shame associated with sexuality because we have not talked about it in church. So initially, there was some awkwardness, but once we begin to break down the theology of sex and that God created sex for a man and a woman to enjoy together in the sanctity of marriage, it broke down a lot of defenses and a lot of miseducation that people have received through the years.

MARTIN: And Reverend Arehart, as we mentioned, you minister to a congregation that has a significant number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual members. How do you talk about matters of sex and intimacy in your church?

Rev. AREHART: In a very similar way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rev. AREHART: By that, I mean human beings are human beings, whether we're heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered. And love is love, and all of us are created sexual beings. God created, and it is good, very good.

MARTIN: Do you have any formal discussion groups around this issue? And one of the reasons I was curious about this, to be honest with you, is that I feel that, sort of, gays and lesbians sometimes feel that society defines them by their sexuality, and part of the challenge is to be seen as whole persons. So, I wonder whether there's some resistance to saying, gee, the whole reason - part of the reason I'm here is to be seen as a person, not just as a function of my sexuality. So, is it then to get people to then engage on that question? How is that?

Rev. AREHART: You are exactly right. It's difficult in MCC sometimes to get the subject on the table for discussion, because we are more than just sexual beings, and society views us as single-issue people. You're absolutely right.

MARTIN: How do you overcome that resistance?

Rev. AREHART: By putting it out there anyway and saying, OK, come on, we've got to discuss this.

MARTIN: Reverend Spencer, same question to you, in that I think that African-Americans have also been stereotyped in terms of their sexuality. They've been seen as sort of hypersexual, both genders, and I think that there's some pushback against that, particularly in the churches, and so that, I think, causes some folks to not want to talk about sex, not want to be seen as sexual, because they want to be seen as the stereotype. Have you encountered that, and how do you deal with that?

Rev. SPENCER: Yeah, there is a sense of sexuality being blown out of proportion through the media, with the rap videos and the sexism that you see in a lot of rap music, but we are trying to take back the whole idea of holistic sexuality. You know, Hebrews 13:4 says that the marriage bed is undefiled when you're married and so, it's all good in the marriage bed. But to stick our heads in the proverbial sand and to think that, you know, we're going to survive by just ignoring the sexual plight of our young people is ludicrous. So, we have to begin to have honest and open discussion about sexuality as God meant it to be, you know, in the marriage bed. And so, that's what we're trying to do, you know, through our program. I even have a book coming out called "Naked and Unashamed," where I talk - rediscover the blissfulness of sexuality and bring it back to the marriage bed.

MARTIN: In fact, I noticed that you require proof of marriage to participate in your seminars, is that right?

Rev. SPENCER: Oh, yeah, because we get very detailed in our Bible study and our classes about the human anatomy and how to please your partner and so, I have to have proof before they come in there because we don't want anybody peeping that ain't supposed to be in there peeping. And so - yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Is that so? Because you figured they wouldn't figure it out without - I'm sorry, I'm just...

Rev. SPENCER: No, because there's a standard. You know, we don't believe that sex outside of marriage is God's will and so, I don't want to teach any singles or anybody that's not married about the details of how to please your partner or the theology of sex, because we believe that that is between two people in a marriage covenant.

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