This is the eighth session of our fall 2015 Wednesday night Adult series. Our topic this week is “Sex and Marriage.” We’re making this podcast available if you were unable to join us this past Wednesday night in the fellowship hall. You will find the case studies and guidelines for discussion mentioned in the podcast available below. Conversation around tables was a major component of this week’s session. You are also invited to join us this coming Sunday morning from 9:30 to 10:15am in the parlor to discuss this topic and these case studies. This session will be led by Rev. Kristen Koger.
Directions for Case Studies:
FIRST: Read through all the case studies briefly. Then, with your table group, dig deeper into the one that is starred. Choose at least two of the four ways to read the Bible below and talk about the case from that perspective. (Try to view the case from each perspective—even if you do not agree with one or more of them.)
4 ways to read the Bible (adapted from God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality by Jensen)
- As a guidebook or rulebook
- As an artifact/relic that is now irrelevant
- As a foundational text that needs interpreted in light of ancient and modern cultural contexts (like the U.S. Constitution)
- As a narrative of desire (God’s desire to be in relationship with us becomes paradigmatic for our own desire for relationship with others).
THEN: Review Jensen’s five markers below. Do you believe that they are valid markers for determining whether relationships are ethical? Why or why not? Apply the markers to your case and see if/how it informs your thinking about the case. If there are other markers that you prefer, apply those and see if you come to a different conclusion.
5 markers for how sex fulfills its purposes for life (from God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality by Jensen)
- Covenant and Trust
THIRD: If you have time, choose one of the questions below to discuss
Do these ways of reading Scripture and the five markers provide helpful tools for you to use in talking to your children and/or grandchildren about sex? Why or why not?
Do these ways of reading Scripture and the five markers provide helpful tools for having conversation about complex contemporary relationships? Why or why not?
FINALLY: Appoint a spokesperson for your group. Report briefly on any conclusions that you reached about the ethics of your particular case. Then report on how your table handled disagreements that arose. What can you learn from your conversation that might apply to larger conversations?
- The case of financial considerations. Jason and Nancy are both widows who began dating over a year ago. They have come realize that they would like to spend their remaining years together. However, both depend in part on their social security benefits each month, and they stand to lose a large chunk of this income of they are legally married. They decide to forgo a marriage license, yet enter into a covenant relationship with one another before God.
- Frank was raised in the church and became a Christian as a pre-teen. As he grew, he began to struggle with his sexual orientation. After trying several “recovery” programs without success, he grew to understand that his sexual orientation was not a choice. He followed the teaching of his church and remained celibate for several years, but found himself lonely. Two years ago he met Steve and they hit it off immediately. Soon they realized that they were soul mates and wanted to formalize their relationship. Even though gay marriage is now legal, Frank still struggles with his church’s teachings about homosexuality.
- David’s wife, Pam, has dementia and lives in a residential care facility. He visits her every day and lovingly assists with her care, even though she has not recognized him or had a coherent conversation with him in over two years. A year ago, his long-time neighbor and friend, Stephanie lost her husband to cancer. Since they shared similar stories, David and Stephanie would chat over the back fence – exchanging updates and encouraging each other in their care-giving roles. Recently the two have realized that their feelings have progressed beyond friendship. Barring a miracle, Pam will never improve, yet she might live for 5-10 more years as she is. Is it ethical for David to enter into a committed relationship with Stephanie in this case?
- Nancy was the victim of sexual violence as teen. As a young adult, she is so terrified at the thought of physical intimacy that she has dated very little. Six months ago she met Eric and they began to spend time together. The relationship is going well. Nancy trusts Eric and he is aware of and accepting of her past. Nancy’s therapist suggests that they begin to slowly explore sexual intimacy and deal with the issues that will arise for Nancy before they consider marriage.
- Christopher went to seminary in the northeast as a second career student. He and his wife and their two children moved into married student housing. Chris knew that seminary would be a time of personal growth and questioning, but he was unprepared when issues emerged about his sexual orientation. With the help of a pastoral counselor, he finally shared his struggles with his wife. Although the news was devastating to her, she encouraged Chris in his searching, suggesting that he explore sexual activity with another man before they made a permanent decision about their own marriage.
Tentative Schedule for the Series
Introductions and Context
Week 1 – Introduction, Ground Rules, and Big Questions
Week 2 – Sexuality and Objectification in Contemporary Culture
Sex and Sexuality in the Bible
Week 3 – Sex and Sexuality in the Old Testament, part 1
Week 4 – Sex and Sexuality in the Old Testament, part 2
Week 5 – Sex and Sexuality in the New Testament, part 1
Week 6 – Sex and Sexuality in the New Testament, part 2
Healthy Sexual Relationships Today
Week 7 – The Biology of Sexuality
Week 8 – Sex and Marriage
Week 9 – How to Talk to your Young Children about Sex and Sexuality
Week 10 – How to Talk to your Teenagers about Sex and Sexuality
Week 11 – How to have Difficult Conversations
Week 12 – Dealing with Shame and Guilt
Week 13 – Toward a New Theology of Sexuality (Closing session)