Seminary-related journal airs sexually explicit doctrines

by Russell D. Moore, posted Thursday, December 06, 2001 (22 years ago)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article contains information intended for an adult audience.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Using raw sexual language and crudely expressed euphemisms, a pastoral counselor argues in the quarterly Baptist journal Review and Expositor that the feelings and functions of male and female sex organs are important sources of revelation about God.

The Review and Expositor is published by a consortium consisting predominantly of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) partner schools.

"Sexuality and the Church" is the theme of the journal's most recent edition, which was circulated this fall although it is dated Spring 2001.

The lead article, by pastoral counselor Leslie Kendrick Townsend of Louisville, Ky., initiates its discussion by agreeing with radical "sexual theologian" James Nelson that "the sexual feelings, functions, and meanings of our genitals" can be "important modes of revelation." Townsend's article is titled, "Embodiment Versus Dualism: A Theology of Sexuality from a Holistic Perspective."

"As women and men listen to what our bodies are saying, as we claim and proclaim our bodily experience, vast reservoirs of latent creativity are unleashed," Townsend asserts. "The secret of sexual power is released, and images of human and divine reality emerge that have the power to transform us all."

Townsend begins with the subject of "female embodiment" as divine revelation, arguing that God "lives" in women through menstruation. She cites a feminist poet who sums up her view of this mode of revelation: "I found god in myself/ and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely." Similarly, God is revealed in women through pregnancy and menopause, Townsend argues.

The article further argues that the classical doctrine of God as all-powerful and sovereign has emerged from the manner in which men project their "genital-sexual values" onto their understanding of God and the world. Because of the article's raw sexual content, Baptist Press has elected not to quote in detail from this section of the article. In summary, the article argues that the historic Christian view of God is informed by an emphasis on the male response to sexual stimuli. Because men are thus informed by their genital experiences, they tend to see God in terms of "domination" and "strength" rather than "softness" and "receptivity," Townsend writes.

The article concludes by suggesting that a source of revelation about God can be found in the male completion of the sexual act. Neither the content nor the wording of the argumentation in this section could appropriately be included in this report. In summary, Townsend's article states that man's sexual experience teaches the way in which God relates to creation.

A man at the final stage of sexual activity, the article claims, is able through his own sexual responsiveness to see how God both affects and is affected by others. In this way, men experience God, not as an all-powerful King, but as "both potent and impotent," Townsend writes.

"That is to say, he is both affected by his partner, and affects the other as a consequence of his own agency," Townsend writes. "He participates in a rhythmic dance of give and take, attachment and release, which yields a new creation. He experiences his own death and rebirth, just as he makes way, potentially, for the new life of another."

Townsend concludes the article by calling for a "more accurate model" of God, taking into account these varying sources of genital revelation, which she ties to both the biblical image of the church as "Body of Christ" and to Jesus' incarnation as both God and human.

Townsend sets forth her "accurate" model of God by quoting from a hymn to "Mother God" written by feminist Brian Wren, which pictures God as both a potent "strong Mother" and as an impotent "old aching God" who is hurt by the evil of creation. This hymn caused controversy when it was sung, along with other "Mother God" litanies, at the annual meeting of Baptist Women in Ministry at the 2001 General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta.

Review and Expositor is published by a consortium of theological schools, most notably its three "sponsor institutions," McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. The journal lists as "patron institutions" Campbell University Divinity School, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Gardner-Webb University's White School of Divinity, Hardin-Simmons University's Logsdon School of Theology and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.

With the exception of Northern Seminary, these seminaries and divinity schools partner with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which was formed in opposition to the conservative movement in the Southern Baptist Convention. Truett Seminary and Logsdon School of Theology also are institutions of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. In 2000, a BGCT study committee recommended that Texas Baptists direct Cooperative Program funds to schools such as Truett and Logsdon instead of the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC seminaries, they contended, had left behind "traditional Baptist beliefs" by expecting faculty members to teach within the boundaries of a confession of faith.

P. Daniel McGee, director of counseling and psychological services for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, wrote the editorial introduction to the journal. While conceding that not everyone would agree with all of the contents of the issue and that some might even find some articles "unsettling," McGee observes that the Review and Expositor editorial board "took a bold step when it determined to undertake this controversial task."

"As the articles arrived and I began to immerse myself in their messages, I could not help but become passionate about our opportunities as Christians in the 21st century," he concludes.

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