According to Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan, single Christians needn't wait until marriage to have sex. And she just wrote a book to share that revelation, "Good Christian Sex." However, how does she arrive at that conclusion, when the Bible speaks directly against fornication? Well, for one, McCleneghan doesn't see the Bible as being the authoritative word of God. "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," she says.
Here, in an interview with the Christian Post, the married mother of 3 who is an associate pastor for ministry with families at Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois, answers some tough questions from the Post and its readers. You be the judge on if she's right.
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.
CP: One of our readers had this response to your views on single Christians having sex: "2 Timothy 4:3, for a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear." How do you respond?
McCleneghan: There is always a danger that people will hear what they want to hear, and will believe things that are convenient for them to believe. Witness all sorts of lies from political leaders about how the problem of our economy is "lazy poor people." There's a false, unbiblical, teaching for you.
CP: How do you respond to 1 Corinthians 7 and Christians who think you should step down from your position as pastor for writing your book?
McCleneghan: There is a process for removing clergy from their positions in both the denomination in which I was ordained and the one in which I serve. But my book, which has been widely praised by lay and clergy leaders as wise and faithful, doesn¹t meet the criteria for being removed or otherwise censured.
What do you think of McCleneghan's proposal of guilt-free sex to Christian singles? Do you think it's right? And do you think many will be swayed by it? Let us hear your thoughts in the Comments!