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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

Why All the Fuss?

The Moravian Discussion of Homosexuality in Historical Context by The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood Individual Conscience in the Moravian Church by the Rev. John P. Jackman Position Paper of the Theological Commission of the European-Continental Province Reaching a Theological Position on Human Sexuality Through Heart Theology the Rev. Dr. Peter M. Gubi

Vol. 23, No. 2: Spring 2018


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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

Volume 23, Number 2: Spring 2018 The Hinge is a forum for theological discussion in the Moravian Church. Views and opinions expressed in the articles published in The Hinge are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or the official positions of the Moravian Church and its agencies. You are welcome to submit letters and articles for consideration and publication. One of the early offices of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was that of the Hinge: The office of the Hinge requires that the brother who holds it look after everything and bring troublesome factors within the congregation into mutual accord without their first having to be taken up publicly in the congregational council. —September 1742, The Bethlehem Diary, vol. 1, tr. by Kenneth Hamilton, p. 80. The Hinge journal is intended also to be a mainspring in the life of the contemporary Moravian Church, causing us to move, think and grow. Above all, it is to open doors in our church.


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Notes from the editor This issue of The Hinge is different from the norm. It is exceptionally long and annotated, and it follows a different format. Rather than the usual practice of publishing a lead article followed by several responses, we have one long article by a Moravian historian, two shorter essays by Moravian pastors (one British and one American), and an official theological statement from the Continental European Province. In different ways, each piece addresses how the Moravian Church is dealing with (or could deal with) the issue of LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, plus) people in our church. It is tempting to ignore this issue and pretend it will not affect us as a church, but that is no longer possible. I am grateful to the members of The Hinge editorial board for sharing their wisdom and knowldge in producing this issue.

This issue is also unusual in that the longest article was written by me, the editor. I try to avoid using The Hinge as a forum for my ideas, but this issue required special treatment because of its subject. Homosexuality has proven to be a divisive issue in many denominations, and the Moravian church is no exception. It would have been easy to ignore the topic, but The Hinge’s founding mission is to provide a forum for Moravians to discuss contemporary controversies. I have had the privilege of being the main editor of The Hinge for 18 years, and I am proud to say that we have never found an issue that is too controversial to address in a loving, open manner. The Hinge has discussed such wide-ranging emotional issues as sexism, racism, pacifism, euthanasia, separation of church and state, mental illness, religious violence, and salvation itself.

The board of editors felt that an issue on sexuality needed to be published prior to the synods that will be held in 2018 in order to provide [Continued]

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Notes from the Editor [Continued from previous page] a resource for pastors and synod delegates. We asked the PECs of the Northern and Southern Provinces (North America) to participate in this issue, but they declined. While we considered their concerns seriously, we feel bound by our mission and we should not shy away from difficult topics because they may make people uncomfortable. We should note that The Hinge remains an independent journal and is not an official publication of the Moravian Church.

Even so, the board recognizes that some topics may be too controversial for pastors and church officials to risk putting their views in print during these polarized times. It seemed prudent that I take this task on myself rather than asking someone else to risk their standing in the church. Not only am I protected as a tenured professor, I have published several academic pieces on the history of sexuality in the Moravian Church. I am happy that we are able to include additional pieces by Moravian pastors to offer pastoral insight into how Moravians in England and America at least may deal with homosexuality. And we have also included an important theological discussion from the Continental European Province. In the interest of transparency, I feel obligated to report that I do have a personal interest in the decisions being made in the Moravian Church regarding LGBT+ people since I have an openly gay daughter. My own understanding of homosexuality and Christian morality were established long before she was even born, and so it was not difficult for her to come out to her mother and me. I do not want the Moravian Church to change its policies for the sake of my family, but I do hope that the Moravian Church, especially its pastors, will think carefully through our doctrines and policies and make wise decisions. As always, The Hinge welcomes your letters and feedback. We aim to stimulate intelligent and informed discussion in the church.

— Craig Atwood, Editor

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3 Why All the Fuss? The Moravian Discussion of Homosexuality in Historical Context The Rev. Dr. Craig D. Atwood is the Charles D. Couch Chair of Moravian Theology at Moravian Theological Seminary and the director of the Center for Moravian Studies.

Introduction It appears that the most divisive issues in Christian churches today relate to sexuality rather than dogmas, sacraments, or polity. This is quite different from some eras of Christian history, like the Reformation, when churches divided primarily over creeds and rituals. So what has changed? The short answer is that society in general no longer cares about baptismal rites or the role of bishops, but people do care deeply about their own sexuality. The issue of how the church should deal with homosexuality is not as simple as it may seem because it touches on many other issues in the church: civil laws, sexual morality, creation and human biology, human rights, personal freedom, Biblical interpretation, spirituality, self understanding, trauma and abuse, and God’s relationship to humanity.

It is difficult enough to talk about sexuality in one culture or nation, but the difficulties are compounded when we are trying to have these conversations on a global scale with people from radically different cultures. The first country to legalize same-sex (or same gender) marriage was the Netherlands in 2000, and as of January 2018 nearly thirty countries have followed suit. In 2006 South Africa became the first country in Africa to legalize same-sex marriage; some Pacific nations have done so as well. Thousands of Moravians live in countries like Suriname and Cuba that decriminalized homosexual relations decades ago but have not legalized gay marriage. Among the list of countries that allow gay and lesbian marriage and where there are Moravian congregations are Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, and the United States. THE

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In short, the legal and social settings of Moravian congregations vary greatly from region to region. Therefore the pastoral and theological issues related to sexuality vary from region to region. Moravians around the world may be united in our love for the Lamb Once Slain, but not by our views on sexuality, especially our views on homosexuality. Some of the differences in the Moravian Unity reflect different attitudes and laws in our different countries and cultures. This essay will try to address the current controversy over same-sex marriage in the broader context of the history of how Christians have dealt with sexuality in general. Part 1 will look at sexuality in the history of Christianity and Western culture. It will end with a chart outlining different perspectives on sexuality ranging from “sex negative” to “sex positive” understandings of human sexuality. Part 2 will focus on Moravian history, including the history behind the Northern Province’s 2014 decision to endorse same-sex marriage, which was criticized by the 2016 Unity Synod.

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In contrast, there are about 70 countries that currently outlaw all homosexual relations. Predominantly Muslim countries (like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) tend to have the most severe penalties against homosexual activity, but it is not just traditional Islamic law that forbids homosexual relations. Most predominantly Catholic and Orthodox countries also ban homosexual activity. Many of the predominantly Protestant countries that outlaw homosexual activity, like Jamaica, were once British colonies. (The British Empire introduced many of the anti-homosexual laws in the 19th century.) Here is a partial list of those countries with Moravian congregations that outlaw homosexual relations: Antigua and Barbuda, Burundi, Congo, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago.


Part 1 – Sexuality in Christian History Early Christianity Most early Christian leaders viewed the Hebrew Scriptures (later called the Old Testament) as divine revelation, but it has often been hard to interpret the Old Testament. For instance, one of the Ten Commandments forbids adultery (Exodus 20:14), but it does not define adultery. Based on other evidence in the Old Testament, it appears that adultery in ancient Israel was understood as sleeping with another man’s wife. It was a crime against a husband. “Adultery was not so much evidence of moral depravity as the violation of a husband’s right to have sole sexual possession of his wife and to have the assurance that his children were his own.” 1 A married man who had sex with an unmarried woman was not committing adultery.

It is hard to argue that the Old Testament consistently forbids sex outside of monogamous marriage when we look at the patriarchs and kings. Abraham had children by two women, Sarah and Hagar; Jacob had children by four women; Moses had two wives; King David had sixteen wives and even more concubines; and Solomon (reputed to be the wisest of men) had hundreds of sexual partners. Their extra-marital and polygamous relations were not considered adulterous. Polygamy is not condemned anywhere in the Scriptures or in the Jewish Talmud. Even though polygamy had apparently died out in Judaism before the time of Jesus, it was not until circa 1000 CE that Rabbi Gershom officially banned polygamy for all Jews.2 The New Testament does not address polygamy except for an ambiguous statement in 1 Timothy 3:2 that a bishop should be husband of just one wife. Does this forbid polygamy for bishops or is it referring to remarriage after death of a wife? Is this rule only for bishops or for all baptized people? Or does it mean that celibate men should not be bishops, which would contradict later Catholic and Orthodox teaching? There are also a few stories of respected women in the Old Testament who had sex outside of marriage (some of them prostitutes). Song of Songs (also known as Song of Solomon or Canticles) appears to be an erotic love poem in which the lovers are not married. For nearly 2,000 years Christian commentators interpreted the poem as an allegory of the soul’s relationship to Christ rather than reading it literally.3 Ruth slept with Boaz before marriage (Ruth 3:7)4; Tamar dressed as a prostitute in order to be impregnated by her father-in-law Judah (Gen. 38); a prostitute named Rahab assisted Joshua’s spies in Jericho ( Joshua 2). According to Matthew 1, Ruth, Tamar, and Rahab were ancestors of Jesus, and all are praised in the Bible. Incidentally, none of the Old Testament laws explicitly condemn prostitution. Chapters 4-7 of Proverbs includes advice against squandering THE

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The New Testament view of prostitution is more ambiguous than one might assume. Paul tells men in his congregations that they should not have intercourse with prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:16) because that would defile their bodies, but Jesus claimed that prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of God before the Pharisees (Matt. 21:31).

The Bible does not consistently teach that marriage and family are good. In the book of Genesis, God does instruct Adam and Eve, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Later the rabbis considered this the first commandment in the Torah: Jewish men and women were expected to get married and have children. Even the most ascetic Jewish sects around the time of Jesus rejected celibacy. But the situation is different in the New Testament. Jesus, for example, was single. Novelists like Dan Brown may speculate that Jesus secretly had a wife, but the four gospels imply that he remained a virgin. Jesus is also quoted as saying: “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the death will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Luke 20:34-35).5 It appears that most of Jesus’s male and female disciples were unmarried (Peter did have a mother-in-law) and thus were free to travel with him. Jesus is quoted as saying that his followers must love him more than their spouses or children (Luke 14:26). His only explicit instruction about marriage is the proclamation that it is sinful to divorce one’s spouse and marry another. The disciples considered this rule to be so harsh that they said, “it is better not to marry” than be bound to one person without possibility of divorce (Matthew 19:10). Jesus also praised those who become eunuchs for sake of the kingdom of heaven, a statement that the Egyptian theologian Origen was reputed to have taken literally.

Thus we may conclude that Jesus viewed sexuality only in negative terms, but that may not be true. His first miracle reported in the Gospel of John (ch. 2) was performed at a wedding, and he often used marriage imagery to explain his teachings. In addition, he was remarkably kind to women who had more than one sexual partner, some outside of marriage. According to the Gospel of John (ch. 4), one of his first and most important converts was a Samaritan woman who was living with a man who was not her husband. Jesus did not condemn her for this. Neither did he condemn the woman who washed his feet with her tears, which scandalized Pharisees who regarded her as wanton (Luke 7:36-50). And, of course,

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one’s wealth on prostitutes and adulterous women, but it does not say that prostitution itself should be abolished. Hosea the prophet was married to a wanton woman who may have been a prostitute. Samson was considered foolish for consorting with prostitutes, but he was not condemned as immoral.


there is the famous story about the woman caught in the act of adultery ( John 8:11).6 Jesus showed that none of her accusers was without sin, but she was the only one whom he forgave. Perhaps Jesus was not as concerned about sex as later Christians were?

The apostle Paul exerted more influence on early Christian teaching related to marriage and sexuality than Jesus. Like Jesus and most of the original disciples, Paul remained single even though he was a devout Jew. In one of his letters to the Corinthians Paul urged his followers to be celibate like him rather than to be bound in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:78). He accepted the fact that most people do not have the gift of celibacy, and so he suggested that weak people should marry “rather than burn” with unrequited sexual desire. There is little doubt that Paul was opposed to sex between men, but the truth is that he was not very happy with the idea of sex between men and women either. He believed that sexual intercourse binds one person to another rather than binding them to Christ. Paul told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:14) that they should not be yoked with unbelievers and implied that they should divorce a spouse who rejected the gospel. To my knowledge, the church never adopted that policy.

The letter to the Ephesians was written later than the letters to the Corinthians. By this time Paul (or perhaps a disciple of his) accepted the fact that most Christians are going to get married and have children. Ephesians 5:32 describes marriage as a great “mystery” that expresses something unique about the love of Christ for the church. The letter also gives advice for married people that were probably taken over from Roman philosophy (the “household codes” of Stoicism). Thus ,“wives should be subject to their husbands.” The author warned men that they should not ignore their wives’ sexual needs; rather a husband should please his wife. Porneia (often translated as fornication) is repeatedly condemned in the New Testament, but translators disagree over whether the term referred specifically to prostitution or any form of extra-marital sex.7 (In the Septuagint porneia was used for idolatry.) In condemning porneia, were the apostles saying that any sex outside of marriage is fornication or were they specifically urging Christians not to engage in prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation? In Romans 1:26-27, Paul lists several “dishonorable” passions that are a result of idolatry. Among them is unnatural sex between men. Biblical scholars debate the proper translation of the terms that Paul uses in the context of Hellenistic society, which included sexual exploitation of boys and slaves. A particularly troubling aspect of the culture of the Roman Empire was that masters had the right to use their slaves sexually. Paul instructs slaves to obey their masters, but did he mean that slaves should submit to sexual domination by their masters? Many Moravians in 18th and 19th century in the Caribbean were enslaved Africans who confronted this

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Interestingly, Paul in Galatians 3:28 stated that in Christ there is “neither male nor female,” which implies that sexual identity is not as important as one’s relationship to Christ. Perhaps the soul is androgynous or non-binary? Zinzendorf believed that all souls are feminine, which would mean that males at least are transgender.9

When we expand our investigation of early Christian attitudes toward sex beyond the canonical texts of the Bible we see even greater disagreement over sexuality. The Gnostic Christian movement promoted the notion that sexual intercourse of any kind is corrupting. This Gnostic rejection of sexual activity was connected to a deeper rejection of the physical world, especially the flesh, as the realm of disease, death, decay, and sin. All physical desires and pleasures were suspicious, especially those identified as animalistic, including consumption of meat. Gnostics generally saw procreation as a perpetuation of suffering and sin because it trapped spirits in carnal bodies. In the Gnostic reading of Genesis 3, the sin of Adam and Eve was sexual intercourse and the punishment was being clothed in human skin and flesh.10 Gnosticism was declared heretical by the Catholic Church because of its rejection of the goodness of creation, but the Gnostic suspicion of carnality had a lasting impact on Christian attitudes toward sexual pleasure and desire.

Catholicism It was Catholic bishops and teachers (the Church Fathers) in the first four centuries who codified the Church’s teachings on sex, marriage, adultery, and fornication. They used the Bible and Greek philosophy, especially Stoicism, in determining what sexual acts were immoral. Most of the Church Fathers agreed that polygamy (which was illegal in the Roman Empire) and prostitution are immoral, but they were unwilling to declare that Biblical patriarchs like Jacob and Judah were sinful. Instead they argued that sexual morality may vary from culture to culture and from era to era. Some things are a matter of custom rather than unchanging moral law. What God had permitted in ancient times when the population was small could legitimately be forbidden in later times. Augustine of Hippo provided what became the standard defense of polygamy in the Old Testament in his letter to Faustus: But here there is no ground for a criminal accusation: for a plurality of wives was no crime when it was the custom; and it is a crime now, because it is no longer the custom. There are sins against nature, and sins against custom, and sins against the laws.

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question directly. Since same-sex marriage was illegal in the Roman Empire, it is unlikely that Paul even considered the possibility of homosexual monogamous marriage such as practiced in some countries today.8


As regards nature, [ Jacob] used the women not for sensual gratification, but for the procreation of children. For custom, this was the common practice at that time in those countries. And for the laws, no prohibition existed. The only reason of its being a crime now to do this, is because custom and the laws forbid it.11 Although the early church allowed marriage, thousands of Christians in the 4th century renounced sex entirely and moved into single gender communities. As historian Peter Brown notes, this Christian asceticism was part of a broader Christian rejection of Roman society, which was built on the family.12 Asceticism in the 4th century was countercultural and rebellious; sometimes parents tried to force their Christian children to marry. Many of the martyr stories of early Christianity include family violence against a rebellious child who rejected his or her sexual identity by embracing asceticism. The Christian novella The Acts of Paul and Thecla was a popular dramatization of violence against celibate men and women.13

Augustine of Hippo was one of the most important converts to Christianity in the 4th century, and he chronicled his struggles over sexuality in Confessions. As a young man, Augustine had been attracted to the Manichean sect that (like the Gnostics) rejected all sex as sinful, but while he was a Manichean, Augustine kept a concubine with whom he had a son. His mother, Monica, who was a devout Christian, eventually forced him to abandon the woman in the hope that he would marry someone of higher social status. Augustine decided instead to convert to Christianity and adopt a celibate lifestyle with a community of male friends. He interpreted his newfound ability to abstain from sex as the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.14

Like many early Christian theologians and biblical interpreters, Augustine believed that the fall of Adam and Eve was associated with sexuality since after eating the forbidden fruit, they were ashamed and covered their genitals. Moreover, there are no children mentioned in the Bible until the first parents ate the forbidden fruit and were expelled from paradise. Many early Christian theologians interpreted this as evidence that there was no sex in the garden (some paradise!), but Augustine argued that Adam and Eve had sinless sex in Eden. Once they ate the forbidden fruit, though, sex became sinful because they were awakened to concupiscence or disordered lust and began to desire sex for selfish reasons rather than the rational purpose of producing offspring. According to Augustine, the Fall in Eden corrupted all humans, and sexuality remains tainted by the sin of lust. Since the Fall, all children are conceived through lust or sexual passion, and thus sin is passed on from parents to children in the act of conception. In effect, Augustine defined Original Sin as a sexually transmitted disease that can only be cured by the waters of baptism.15 Popular culture in the

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West still views the story of Adam and Eve in terms of sex. The term “forbidden fruit” is often a euphemism for illicit sexual activities.

Even vaginal intercourse in the “missionary position” within the bonds of holy marriage had a taint of sin about it, because it was associated with lust. Married couples were forbidden to have sex during Lent, on holy days, or before receiving Holy Communion. Catholic women in the Middle Ages were taught that it was sinful to desire sex or enjoy sex. According to James Brundage, the medieval Catholic Church taught that “Consummated marriage fell short of the ideal of virginity; married folk could only try to reduce their sexual activity to the minimum. That marriage was best in which the sexual element was least.”17

Although the Catholic Church allowed couples to marry in order to have children, the church taught that celibacy is holier marriage. The word “religious” in the Middle Ages was used only for people who had taken vows to be celibate (monks and nuns). Gradually the church insisted that priests should also remain celibate or chaste. This was based in part on Old Testament rules for the priests of Israel. A discharge of semen made a priest unclean, which meant he could not serve at the altar (Ex. 19:15, Lev. 15:16-18, 22:4). At least by the 5th century this rule of continence in sex was being applied to Christian priests. Sexual abstinence was closely connected to the notion of holiness.18 Married priests were required to refrain from sex with their wives (or anyone else) before presiding at the Eucharist. Eventually the Catholic Church required priests to always refrain from sex and be as holy as monks. The Orthodox churches in the East continued to allow priests to marry, but in the West the idea that clergy should not have sex was fully ingrained in church law and popular understandings of the priesthood by the year 1000. The Catholic Church also had political reasons for not allowing priests to marry, but the fundamental reason for sexual abstinence was that sex makes one unclean or less holy.

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By the early Middle Ages the Catholic Church condemned as sinful any sexual act except for vaginal intercourse between a husband and wife with the intention of conceiving children. This was “natural” sex according to medieval scholars. Their concept of natural relied on the logic that the genitals are the organs of reproduction, just as the stomach is the organ of digestion. To use the genitals for any purpose other than reproduction would be as unnatural as consuming things that cannot be digested or breathing things that are not air. Any form of sexual activity that could not produce children, including masturbation and non-coital heterosexual intercourse, was unnatural.16 Masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, birth control, withdrawal, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, sex after menopause, and even sex with an infertile spouse was sinful.


Even though the early church condemned Gnosticism as heresy, it adopted some of the Gnostics’ attitudes toward the flesh and bodily desires. The most important figure in Catholic devotion other than Jesus himself is Mary, the mother of God (theotokos), who was pure and undefiled by sex. The doctrine that Jesus had been conceived miraculously without sex (Matthew 1:22) was expanded in the early church to include the idea that Mary’s hymen remained unbroken when Jesus was born. (There is a difference between the virginal conception of Jesus and the Virgin Birth.) Since the 4th century, Catholic and Orthodox churches have proclaimed that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus; she is “blessed and ever Virgin.”19

Sex between people of the same gender was considered unnatural because it could not lead to procreation and appeared to be an expression of unholy lust. This did not mean that most Christians dutifully obeyed the church’s teaching. There is plenty of historical evidence that lay people, married and unmarried, enjoyed the full range of sexual activities as people do today even though it was considered sinful. Even monks, priests, and nuns had difficulty observing their vows of celibacy, and some engaged in homosexual acts for which penance was required.

There were Christian groups in the Middle Ages that were declared heretical because of their views about sex. Some, like the Cathars and Bogomils, revived ancient Gnosticism and taught people to eschew all contact with the flesh. People should never eat animal flesh, nor should they procreate. The Cathars’ asceticism was more extreme than that practiced in Catholic monasteries and convents, and some people starved themselves in an effort to rid themselves of carnality.20 At the opposite end of the scale were various sex-positive sects like the Free Spirits in France and Adamites in Bohemia who proclaimed that Christ had removed all shame associated with sex. They were reputed to worship in the nude, and they probably rejected monogamy as inferior to spiritual (and sexual) freedom. Even though the Catholic Church taught that virginity was more holy than marriage, most Christians in the Middle Ages did get married. In 1215, the IV Lateran Council officially proclaimed that marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the church. Theologians at the time were, of course, aware that marriage existed outside of the Catholic Church and predated Christianity. What made Christian marriage a sacrament was not simply that a man and woman were legally bound in a sexual relationship; it was that their union was blessed by the Church in a solemn ritual and governed by the church’s laws. The most important of those church laws was the prohibition of divorce. It remains Catholic teaching that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:31 forbidding divorce are binding on Christians. Christian marriage is an “indissoluble union” between a man and woman. (This is also stated in the Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum.) Catho-

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lics may get a marriage annulled (declared invalid) but they cannot get a divorce and still receive Holy Communion.

Protestants The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century was a revolt against abuses and scandals in the Catholic Church (such as church-owned brothels), but it was also a serious theological movement that rejected many aspects of Catholic doctrine including the idea that virginity is more holy than marriage. Martin Luther, Katherina von Bora, Marie Dentiere, Ulrich Zwingli, and Martin Bucer had all taken vows of celibacy as religious men and women, but they all broke those vows when they left the Catholic Church and got married. The Reformers argued that it is unethical of the church to hold people to vows of celibacy because people underestimate the power of the sex drive. Celibacy is unnatural because it is contrary to God’s intention in creation. A few individuals may have a gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7) and other people are sexually impaired or impotent, but for the vast majority of people sex is natural and healthy. Wherever the Reformation took hold in Europe, monasteries and convents were closed. Pastors were encouraged to marry and find pleasure in their home life.22 Many historians claim that the modern understanding of the family in Europe and North America can be traced to the reforming efforts of Martin Luther who believed that sex in marriage is a gift from God that should be enjoyed with gusto.

Luther insisted that Christ instituted only two sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion); therefore, the church should not create new sacraments like marriage.23 Since Muslims, Jews, and “pagans” get married, it is wrong to declare that marriage is somehow a uniquely Christian sacrament. Christians should respect the marriages of people outside of the church just as they respect marriage between two Christians. Marriage, like ordination, remained a rite in the new Protestant churches, but it was not a “means of grace.” Protestant ministers blessed couples at their marriage and couples swore vows of fidelity, but marriage was secularized in Protestant countries. Since Protestants continued to believe that the family is central the social order, they taught that people should marry and have children.

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The church still forbids “unnatural” sexual acts, such as oral sex and anal sex. Homosexual sex is “unnatural” and therefore forbidden. The Catholic Church is somewhat ambivalent about whether married couples may use medical assistance in getting pregnant rather than relying on nature alone. It seems ironic that some Catholic bishops and ethicists do not regard as problematic the removal of an egg from a woman and surgically inserting a sperm that was collected in a condom during sex, even though most people would see that as “unnatural.”21


Parents should raise their children to be good, moral citizens; husbands should manage all of the property for their wives; and everyone should respect social hierarchies and authority. Protestant churches continued to play a role in the regulation of marriage, but it became the task of the state to police marriage. Increasingly, in the years following the Reformation, secular authorities determined who could and could not be legally married by issuing licenses. The state also determined if a couple could divorce. By the 20th century, marriage in most Protestant countries was a secular affair even though churches continued to host weddings and ordained clergy presided over vows of fidelity made by couples.

Though marriage in most Protestant countries became a social institution governed by the state, Protestant theologians continued to ponder the meaning of Christian marriage. 24 How does marriage contribute to people’s religious and spiritual lives? Is marriage more than just an economic or social contract for managing property and raising children? Some theologians, especially in the Reformed churches, rejected the Catholic teaching that marriage is only for procreation. People marry for companionship and love, too. Marriage provides mutual support—sexual, economic, and emotional. Puritan theologians asserted that the purpose of marriage is to edify men and women so they can learn to be better Christians; therefore, marriages that were abusive or destructive could be dissolved. The Puritan colonies in New England established the most liberal divorce laws in the British Empire in the 18th century. Women in New England could divorce their husbands for emotional or physical cruelty, not just for infidelity or abandonment.25

As Europeans colonized the Americas, Africa, and Asia, they discovered that there is not a universally agreed-upon sexual morality. Humans profoundly disagree on what was natural in terms of sex.26 Some cultures tolerated homosexuality and transgender identity, such as the Berdache in some Native American tribes.27 For the most part, Protestant and Catholic missionaries, though, agreed that all forms of sexuality that deviated from European cultural norms were “heathenish” and should be abolished when people converted to Christianity. Rather than considering the possibility that other sexual practices may be normal and natural or that sexual taboos are expressions of customs or cultural norms rather than natural moral law, Christian missionaries and their supporters believed that the mandate to “make disciples of all nations” included the obligation to teach all peoples to make love like Christians in Europe. They assumed that conversion to Christianity would include adoption of life-long monogamy with only coital sex, but church leaders were frequently frustrated by the persistence of traditional sexual mores among their converts. Few were willing to adopt Augustine’s idea that Christians could accept some sexual practices, like polygamy, as governed by custom rather than divine law. THE

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Modern Western Governments

Prior to World War I, laws regarding homosexuality varied greatly from country to country. The legal system of the 19th century was in many ways more harsh to people who violated the approved sexual norms than the medieval Catholic Church had been. Sins could be forgiven, but perversion was a dangerous form of mental illness that must be stopped before it undermined the whole fabric of society. France legalized non-coital sex during the Revolution, but then made it illegal again after the kings returned. The Netherlands legalized homosexual acts in 1811, but Germany and England actually made their sexual laws stricter in the 19th century and for the first time, outlawed lesbianism.29 Homosexuals and others defined as perverts were imprisoned and subjected to harsh treatments intended to force them to conform. Persistent misbehavior could result in capital punishment. Even someone as famous as Oscar Wilde was subject to legal penalties for his proclivities, which were legally defined as “gross indecency.” In the 20th century Nazi Germany went a step further in trying to eliminate sexual impurity by sending sodomites and other “defective” individuals to the death camps wearing pink triangles. Not everyone in Western culture agreed with the trend toward enforcing monogamous heterosexuality through the law. Some of the new philosophies like Romanticism and Marxism in the 19th century challenged the dominant view that monogamous marriage was natural or even beneficial for the human spirit.30 There were also a few Protestant movements in the 19th century that challenged the normative nature of monogamy. 31 John Humphrey Noyes established a Christian utopian community in Oneida, N.Y., that abolished monogamy on the grounds that sexual exclusivity was spiritually unhealthy. His followers engaged in “complex marriage” in which multiple partners were encouraged. In contrast, the followers of Ann Lee rejected all sex as evil and built communes where men and women could dance in the same room but never touch each other.

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As marriage became secularized in Protestant countries, governments used the power of the law to regulate sexuality. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, many Western countries outlawed various kinds of birth control including abortion, artificial sexual stimulators, and aphrodisiacs. Homosexuality and non-coital sex were also outlawed in many countries. The new science of psychiatry in the 19th century promoted the notion that sexual deviance or perversion was a symptom (or even a cause) of mental derangement. Medical texts warned parents that if their children stimulated their genitals (“self-abuse”), they would become retarded or criminal. 28 Homosexual activity would make men effeminate and weak; lesbians were unnaturally masculine.


The Shakers have virtually died out since they banned procreation. Most famously, in the mid-19th century, Brigham Young shocked the Christian world by publicly endorsing polygamy in the style of the Biblical patriarchs. The Supreme Court in 1878 ruled that the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom could not be used to promote “immoral” sexual practices, and the Mormons were forced to renounce polygamy when Utah was accepted as one of the United States. During the Victorian era, sex became a taboo subject in public discourse in Western Europe and North America. Even medical textbooks were reluctant to speak too frankly about the genitals and sexual pleasure, but attitudes toward sex changed significantly in Western culture over the course of the 20th century. Sigmund Freud’s writings turned psychiatry upside down. He argued that it was the attempt to suppress natural sexual desires that was the cause of most forms of mental illness, especially neurosis. It is not masturbation that causes mental illness; repression does.32 Although Freud’s works were frequently condemned as immoral when they were first published, medical professionals and the educated public read him avidly. Doctors began to see sex as part of a healthy lifestyle. Feminists and some Marxists argued that sexual rules and marriage laws were used to oppress women and the poor. Margaret Sanger led a movement to legalize birth control and abortion. She pointed out that it is women who suffer most from pregnancy and child rearing, and only women should decide whether to have a child.

Anthropologists, like Margaret Meade, started studying so-called primitive cultures, including their sexual practices, without the prejudice of Christian ethics.33 Magazines like National Geographic showed the general public just how differently other cultures displayed the body and regulated sexual relations. Historians and classicists examined ancient texts that previous generations had hidden away as immoral. They rediscovered the fact that the ancient world did not view sex the same way Christian bishops did. Same-sex relations were quite common among men in the ancient world even among philosophers like Plato. The rediscovered poetry of Sappho from the island of Lesbos spoke so passionately of love between women that the term lesbian was coined for modern women who love women.

As the 20th century dawned, Westerners learned to deal with rapid change. Innovations in communication and transportation meant that news spread rapidly. Gender roles were changing as women gained the right to vote in some nations and began to work alongside of men. Many people predicted a gradual evolution of humankind that included less restrictive attitudes toward sex. Some people, especially in Germany, adopted nudism or naturalism to demonstrate that the body is nothing to be ashamed of. Others, of course, saw this new openness toward sexual expression as a sign of degenTHE

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The early 20th century was a peaceful, prosperous time for Europeans and Americans, and most Christians looked hopefully toward the future. They expected the 20th century to be the Christian Century, but then the war came. World War I was an apocalyptic war that shattered Europe. Millions of men were sent to their deaths in the trenches fighting for “king and country.” Millions of women and children died from malnutrition and influenza after the war. In the wake of the horrors of 1914-1918 old certainties about sexual morality seemed pointless. During the war people found comfort in each other’s arms, often without benefit of the church’s blessing. So many women had to raise their children without a father that people stopped asking whether women had actually been married to a father who had died in the war.

The prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. after the war did not succeed in curbing consumption of spirits or reintroducing traditional Christian morality. Paradoxically, Prohibition inspired a new youth culture centered on drinking, jazz, and sexual experimentation (the Roaring Twenties). For many people the word “freedom” meant more than political freedom; it meant sexual liberation, too. During the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1920s homosexuals came out of the closet and transvestites performed in cabarets. But then Hitler came to power and the Nazis tried to eliminate “degenerate” art, music, literature, and people (including homosexuals).34 Once the Allies defeated the Nazis, most Western nations eliminated the laws that were used to repress individual rights and freedoms, including some of the laws regulating sexuality, marriage, and divorce. After World War II a zoologist at the University of Indiana named Alfred Kinsey established an institute to study human sexuality. His book on human male sexuality published in 1948 and the companion volume on females five years later were provocative.35 He determined that many ordinary middle class men and women in the United States were regularly engaging in sexual practices that deviated from what was considered normal and moral. For instance, at least half of the married men and more than a quarter of married women reported they had at least one extramarital affair; nearly a third of men reported some type of homosexual experience; few people were virgins when they got married; most married couples practiced some type of sodomy; and the list goes on. Such research indicated that most people’s private sex lives contrasted markedly with publicly expressed attitudes about sex. In other words, millions of people were merely pretending to be strictly heterosexual and monogamous.

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eration rather than evolution. For the most part, monogamy remained the norm in the early 20th century. Protestant and Catholic churches still exerted a strong influence on the public’s view of sex.


In the 1960s William Masters and Virginia Johnson published bestselling books on the science of sex, including non-coital and same gender sex.36 Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was talking about how to have orgasms. By the end of the 1960s there was a consensus in the medical community that non-coital sex is not only natural, it is fairly normal and not harmful. The so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960s was assisted by science. In 1968 the first effective birth control pill was mass-produced. For the first time in human history, men and women could engage in coitus without fear of pregnancy. This was a boon to young adults who did not want to get married before finishing their education or starting a career. Churches struggled with the issue of whether couples living together in a sexual relationship without taking marriage vows were “living in sin.” (For some reason, that phrase applied only to sex and not to other things the New Testament described as sinful, such as greed, gossiping, and envy.)

There was also a growing consensus in the 1960s that people may have different sexual orientations that are normal rather than pathological. Sexual orientation may be like right-handedness and left-handedness; it is something you are born with, not something you choose. (But unlike handedness, which is binary, sexual orientation is usually characterized as a continuum from absolute heterosexuality on one end to absolute homosexuality at the other. Most people are somewhat bisexual.) Most psychiatrists after World War II agreed that the mental problems experienced by homosexuals, such as depression, were caused by the abuse they experienced rather than being a result of sexual activity. In 1973, the revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Mental Disorders (DSM-II) did not include homosexuality as a mental disorder.37

The move away from considering non-monogamous, non-coital sex as pathology or perversion coincided with liberalization of laws related to sexuality. Most Western nations after the war were committed to the liberal values of individual rights, self-determination, and the pursuit of happiness. The general opinion in most industrialized nations was that the government should remain neutral about sex in private between consenting adults (regardless of orientation). This is generally seen as an extension of the right to privacy in modern democracies. Although marriage was still a legal union, governments gradually decriminalized sex outside of marriage. Laws dealing with birth control, divorce, cohabitation without marriage, pornography, and what were euphemistically called “marital aids” were liberalized. Some parts of Europe, most notably Germany and Denmark, are also tolerant of public nudity in specified areas. Canada decriminalized consensual sex between adults of the same gender in 1969. England had done the same two years earlier. Many Western countries changed their censorship laws, which allowed for more public discussion of sexual matters and even

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Churches and Social Change Churches were divided by these changes in laws and sexual norms after World War II. The Catholic Church in the 1960s and 70s reasserted its traditional ban on birth control, non-coital intercourse, homosexuality, divorce, and abortion. The Vatican also reaffirmed the requirement that priests be celibate and that women cannot be ordained. In contrast, the socalled Mainline Protestants (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Reformed) adapted to the times and adopted more liberal attitudes toward sexuality and gender roles. Mainline theologians and pastors were much more concerned about the issues of social justice, especially justice for racial minorities and women, than they were about sexual misbehavior. Troy Perry founded the Universal Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles in 1968 specifically to minister to homosexuals. Conservative Protestants, not surprisingly, viewed the Sexual Revolution as evidence that Western society was turning its back on God and God’s laws. By 1970 the biggest differences between liberals and conservatives in the church were over sexuality. In 1979, a fundamentalist preacher named Jerry Falwell established the Moral Majority, a coalition of conservative religious groups that were opposed to abortion and gay rights.38

The AIDS crisis of the mid-1980s transformed the discussion about homosexuality in the United States and Canada and increased polarization in the churches. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which leads to AIDS, is transmitted through bodily fluids, especially blood and semen. The disease is most frequently transmitted through sexual activity, especially anal sex, but can also be transmitted through infected needles and blood transfusions. In the U.S. in the 1980s, AIDS was an epidemic that primarily affected gay men, many of whom were “in the closet.” Countless families were affected by the epidemic and the realization that people they loved had been living secret lives. Some conservative Christians declared that AIDS was God’s punishment on perverts. To them AIDS was a modern version of God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Some Christians, though, responded to the epidemic with compassion and support for those who were suffering from the disease or who had lost loved ones. They drew on stories of Jesus touching lepers and outcasts as a Biblical mandate to

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showing sexually themed movies at public cinema. A few countries, like the Netherlands and Germany, decriminalized prostitution in the last quarter of the 20th century. “Alternative lifestyles” were discussed on countless television and radio shows in the 1970s and 80s. And then the Internet was invented, which made the variety of human sexuality easily accessible from the privacy of one’s home. Asian religions and neo-pagan sects that promoted a sex-positive understanding of spirituality grew in popularity.


care both for those infected and affected by the virus. Some pastors and congregations established special ministries to help gay and lesbian people come to terms with their sexual orientation and “come out of the closet.” Even some Catholic bishops urged priests to deal with homosexual persons and their families with compassion rather than condemnation.39 The movement to guarantee spousal benefits for same-sex couples was part of the response to the AIDS crisis as gay people sought to establish safe, monogamous partnerships. The push to legalize gay marriage was a logical extension of that activism. For many people, it was also an issue of justice and equity for all people.

Sex-Negative To Sex-Positive Continuum I hope that this brief overview of 2,000 years of Christian history has demonstrated that sexuality is a complicated topic and that Christians have often disagreed about sex and marriage. The following chart shows the diversity of religious perspectives on sexuality on a continuum from sex negative (sex is polluting) to sex positive (sex is a form of spirituality). It includes a few non-Christian groups to help illustrate how much religious people disagree on these issues. Be aware that there have always been individuals who disagreed with or simply violated the rules. Sex is a very personal matter, and people often feel free to diverge from their religion’s policies and doctrines. Please also be aware that I do not profess to be an expert in these matters and this chart is based just on my own research and knowledge.

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Attitudes Toward Sexuality And Spirituality Sex-negative Celibacy is required for spiritual perfection Gnostics; Manicheans; Cathars; Shakers •• Opposition to sexual activity connected to idea that the physical world is evil •• Need to free humans from burdens of gender and sex •• Opposed to procreation because it is wrong to trap souls in bodies

Abstinence is more righteous than marriage or other sexual unions Apostle Paul; other NT writers; medieval Catholicism; Moravians in the 15th century •• Better “to marry than burn.” •• Priests, monks, and nuns take vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience •• Sex pollutes people and keeps them from administering sacraments

Sex is permitted in marriage only for procreation Pre-Vatican II Catholic teaching; Moravians in the 16th and 17th centuries •• Sexual desire and pleasure are sinful, even in marriage •• Any form of sex that does not lead to conception is forbidden •• Couples may adopt children but should try to have their own children •• Discouraged from remarriage after spouse dies unless there is a clear need

Sex Ambivalent Monogamous marriage only (heterosexual only) Orthodox Judaism; conservative Protestantism; Orthodox; Moravians 1760-1960 •• Sexual intercourse is fine within the confines of marriage •• Non-coital sex (sodomy) is sinful even within marriage •• Birth control may be permitted within marriage •• Sex before marriage is forbidden •• Divorce is sinful, but may be permitted

Polygamy (heterosexual only) Old Testament; traditional Islam; 19th century Mormonism, some Moravians •• Sexual intercourse only within marriage, but multiple wives okay •• Non-coital sex (sodomy) is sinful •• Birth control may be permitted •• Sex before marriage is forbidden •• Divorce is forbidden

Serial monogamy (heterosexual only) Protestantism; Reformed Judaism; modern Islam; liberal Catholicism •• Sexual intercourse only within marriage, but divorce is allowed •• Any position is fine, including sodomy if both parties consent •• Birth control may be permitted •• Masturbation is probably okay, but pornography is not •• Sex before marriage is discouraged •• Adultery is condemned

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Monogamy (including same-sex marriage) Mainline Protestantism; Some Moravians; Reformed Judaism •• Most of the features of monogamy listed above •• Marital fidelity expected •• Couples may adopt children if they cannot bear children •• Divorce is discouraged but is allowed

Sex Neutral Monogamous marriage is strongly encouraged, but not required Liberal Protestantism; Liberal Judaism; some Moravians today •• Sex is a private, personal matter •• Birth control is moral and a mutual obligation; children are a choice •• Infidelity in marriage is a betrayal of vows •• Love, not procreation, is the primary purpose of marriage •• There are a variety of sexual identities and orientations (LGBTI+); all okay •• Having children outside of marriage is not encouraged but is not condemned

Marriage is unnecessary Humanism; Modern Western society in general; Secularism •• Sex is a normal, biological matter, not a spiritual matter •• Sex is morally neutral as long as people are protected from disease and abuse •• Rape, exploitation, and other forms of abuse are violence, not sex •• As long as it is between consenting adults, multiple partners is okay •• Premarital sex is not only okay; it is generally a good idea •• People are free to be celibate if they choose or promiscuous if they choose

Sex Positive Sex-positive marriage (heterosexual) Hasidic Judaism; Zinzendorfianism •• Spirituality includes sexuality •• Sex involves more than coitus; it is a stimulation of the whole body and soul •• Sex may lead to mystical union with the divine

Sex-positive without marriage Free Spirits; New Age; Tantric Buddhism; Wicca •• God created us as sexual beings with a variety of genders (LGBTI+) •• Spirituality includes sexuality •• Sex may lead to mystical union with the divine (including the Goddess) •• Multiple partners is okay; fidelity to oneself is most important

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Part 2 - Moravians And Sexuality

The Unitas Fratrum fits into this general history of sexuality in some interesting and even unique ways. The church began in the mid-15th century primarily as a moral reform movement. Gregory the Patriarch and his companions did not reject Catholic moral teaching on sex; they objected to the fact that so many priests failed to live up to their vows of poverty and chastity. Rather than abolishing celibacy, as Martin Luther did later, the early Brethren believed that the spiritually perfect should live like the apostles: poor and celibate. All physical pleasures, especially sex, dancing, and alcohol, were suspect. They also insisted that true Christians must strive to live according to the Sermon on the Mount, which forbade violence and divorce.40

Within a few years of the founding of the church, the younger generation of Brethren began questioning the asceticism of their fathers and mothers. In the New Testament, they saw that Jesus’ first miracle was transforming water into wine at a wedding. There is nothing ascetic about that! They also pondered Paul’s teachings on grace in Romans and Galatians and the failure of the law to save. Some pastors, led by Luke of Prague, were afraid that the church’s legalism and asceticism was preventing people from experiencing grace in Christ. They claimed that some Brethren had fallen into self-righteousness and were Pharisaical while other Brethren were leaving the church in despair because they could not meet its high moral standards. At several synods in the 1490s the church decided to moderate its social teachings and asceticism.41

Luke refined the Unity’s teaching on the essentials, arguing that only six things are essential for salvation: God’s work in creation, redemption, and sanctification; and the human response in faith, love, and hope. “Love” was not romantic love or eros; it was personal and social ethics.42 Love does good in the world rather than harm. Other things in the church contribute to the human response to God’s work but are not essential. These were called “ministerial things.” The Bible, sacraments (including marriage and ordination), priesthood, church discipline, and creeds are ministerial things that lead people to the essentials. Luke’s schema allowed the Moravians to reformulate many of their doctrines and practices as the church grew and developed. Love was essential, but the church’s rules regulating ethics were ministerial. However, even though their social teachings were less legalistic and more humanistic in the early 1500s, the Brethren still considered celibacy holier than marriage. That gradually changed under the influence of Martin Luther. But, it

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The Ancient Unity


was not until the late 1500s that the Brethren finally allowed their priests to be married.43 Comenius, who had three wives over the course of his life, extended the church’s thinking on marriage as a blissful companionship that reveals something vital about the love of Christ for the church.

The early settlers of Herrnhut brought with them some of the asceticism of the Catholic Church and the old Unitas Fratrum in their attitudes toward sex. It could be permitted within the bounds of marriage, but sex always had a taint of sin even in marriage. The church adopted new understandings during the time of Zinzendorf.

Zinzendorf’s Sex-Positive Spirituality Nikolaus von Zinzendorf was a Lutheran Pietist strongly influenced by the radical spirituality of Jakob Boehme and Jane Leade, but he was moving in a quite different direction in his understanding of sexuality than other Pietists. Zinzendorf believed that both Protestants and Catholics had forgotten some of the most important insights of the early Christian councils, especially the Council of Chalcedon that declared that Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully divine. Redemption was not simply Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross; it was the whole process of his incarnation, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection. The fact that the Creator chose to be born of a woman was central to Zinzendorf ’s theology: God had blessed a woman’s body and removed all shame associated with female reproductive organs. Every woman’s body has been blessed through the blessing of Mary. And since Jesus was fully human, as evidenced by his circumcision, all shame has been removed from the male body. The penis is not a pudendum (thing of shame) but is the “covenant member” that all men share with God the Son.44 Zinzendorf went even farther toward a sex-positive spirituality in his meditation on the Bridegroom and marriage imagery of the New Testament. Christ is the divine husband of all those human souls who embrace redemption. A believer should feel the kind of bliss that a woman experiences on her wedding night. Under Zinzendorf ’s guidance, Moravians in the mid-18th century adopted the idea that marital intercourse should be conducted as an act of prayer or worship. It was not the wedding ceremony that was sacramental for Zinzendorf; it was sexual congress that is an image of Christ and his church.45 Sex should be a sacramental liturgical act of devotion to Christ the Bridegroom. Moravian choir leaders in the 18th century taught married couples that they should sometimes have sex in sitting position because it increases the intimacy experienced. Zinzendorf rejected the long Christian tradition that said women should not have orgasms. In fact, he came closer to a Tantric understanding of sexual pleasure as part of spirituality than any major Protestant theologian, but he

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hoped to remove “lust” from marital sex. Physical pleasure was not the point; spiritual bliss was.

Moravian missionaries grudgingly accepted the social reality that a woman whose husband had been sold away should have the right to take a new partner. Even after emancipation, Afro-Moravian people in the Caribbean often resisted the church’s effort to impose monogamy.46 The Moravians in Suriname rebelled against the church’s rules on monogamy in the 1860s since many women objected to the constraints marriage imposed on them according to Dutch law.47 Put simply, in many regions the Unitas Fratrum had to tolerate de facto polygamy (or least serial monogamy) and premarital sex. Well into the 20th century, though, the church disciplined women who got pregnant outside of marriage. The 2016 Unity Synod criticized the disproportionate disciplining of women for sexual transgressions in many provinces. After the death of Zinzendorf, Moravians gradually dropped his more unorthodox and provocative ideas because they caused so much controversy outside the church. Among the things dropped in the 1770s and 1780s were ordination of women, praying to the Holy Spirit as Mother, and Zinzendorf ’s sex-positive spirituality.48 In the 19th century the church dropped the Choir System with its communal living for single people and the use of the lot to arrange marriages. The “household codes” of the New Testament were taken as guidelines for gender norms and ethics. Throughout the world, Moravians grew much more conservative socially, theologically, and politically. The American Brotherly Agreement and Book of Order included sections on the Christian family. Remarriage after divorce was forbidden; sex before marriage was forbidden; polygamy was forbidden. Nothing explicit was said about homosexuality, but samesex marriage was illegal at the time. Nothing explicit was said about masturbation or non-coital sex, either, because such topics were taboo and

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Zinzendorf inspired the Moravians to begin their remarkable mission program soon after the renewal experience of August 13, 1727. He urged missionaries to bring the gospel in ways that were respectful of other cultures rather than forcing people around the world to become Europeans; however, it was hard for Moravian missionaries to view non-European sexual practices as cultural rather than as immoral. They tried (and often failed) to teach their converts to follow the sexual disciple practiced by Moravians elsewhere, which included monogamy. This was a dilemma in the Caribbean where most of the Moravian brothers and sisters were enslaved Africans. Not only did many African cultures practice polygamy and pre-marital sex, marriages among slaves had no legal status. In most of the slave colonies, ministers were forbidden to perform weddings for slaves because masters could sell individuals without regard to their family ties.


not fit for discussion. Like other churches at the time, morality was closely associated with “sexual purity” for men as well as women.

Modern Debates On Sexuality After World War II, Moravians in Europe and North America had to confront the social changes discussed in Part 1 of this essay. As divorce laws were changed, there was also a significant increase in the percentage of marriages that ended in divorce. Gradually, in the 1960s and 70s pastors in North America and Europe came to view divorce as a tragedy rather than a sin. Remarriage could then be seen as a form of healing rather than adultery.We can chart the changing attitudes toward divorce in the Northern Province’s Brotherly Agreement. The Brotherly Agreement of 1951 stated: A minister is therefore not permitted to officiate at the marriage of a divorced person, knowing him or her to be such, unless the minister is assured that such was the innocent party in a marriage relationship already broken on Biblical grounds, even though this was not the ground on which the actual decree of the court was granted. In no case shall a minister officiate at the remarriage of a divorced person until at least one year has elapsed from the date of the final decree granting the divorce. (para 24)

In other words, in the 1950s pastors were expected to determine that a marriage had been dissolved because of adultery and that the person getting remarried was the innocent party or had repented of his or her sin. That would change in the 1960s.

The Northern Province (NP) synod of 1961 established a task force to revise the Brotherly Agreement, and in 1966 synod approved a new paragraph on divorce: “we recognize that persons of sincere faith and with good counsel may still decide or be forced to divorce. We believe it our Christian responsibility to pray for, support, and encourage those who have divorced, the children of the divorced, and all who are wounded by divorce.” The Southern Province (SP) adopted the NP version of the Brotherly Agreement in 1969 with very little discussion or debate. Despite the more liberal attitude expressed in the Brotherly Agreement, pastors in both provinces were still discouraged from doing weddings for divorced persons. The Book of Order for both the NP and SP instructed pastors to make sure that divorced persons show repentance for the sins that had led to the divorce. Pastors had to get permission from their Board of Elders before officiating at a wedding involving a divorced person. That requirement was dropped in 1994 because “this constitutes unequal treatment of couples coming to the Church for marriage.” THE

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The church acknowledges the painful reality of divorce, and desires both to respond with grace to divorced persons and to affirm our commitment to the ideal of Christian marriage as a permanent lifelong union between husband and wife. Following the example and teaching of our Lord, we acknowledge the responsibility to deal compassionately and redemptively with human frailty and sin in every area of life including failure in the marriage state. Where divorce occurs, it is the responsibility of the church, recognizing its own involvement, to lead all persons concerned to repentance and forgiveness. It is the responsibility of the church to continue to minister to each member of the broken family.

There is no indication that the Unity Synod or Unity Board was consulted before the NP made this change in its teaching on divorce even though this statement differs markedly from the Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum’s statement on marriage, which describes Christian marriage an “indissoluble union.” In 1998 the NP and the SP synods approved a document titled “Standards of Responsible Behavior for Ordained Ministers in the Moravian Church.” It reaffirmed the church’s belief that sexual relationships (for pastors) are permissible only within marriage. “Ordained ministers, while single, are called to a life of celibacy (sexual abstinence); those who are legally married are called to a life of sexual fidelity to their spouse.” The implication of this statement is that clergy should embody the ideal of virginity before marriage and fidelity after marriage that used to be the norm for all members of the church. In 2014 the NP added the following statement: “those who cannot be legally married and who desire to make a lifelong commitment must be in a covenanted relationship before God which requires continuous loyalty of the individuals toward each other and calls them to a life of sexual fidelity to their partner.” Many of the NP’s statements on social issues are available online.49 The NP Synod first addressed the issue of homosexuality in 1974, just a few years after events in the United States (such as the Stonewall riots) that catapulted the Gay Rights movement into public consciousness. The synod acknowledged that “the American Psychiatric Association has stated that it is now known that the homosexual is not responsible for his/ her particular sexual orientation” and that homosexuality is not a mental

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Responding to the concern that the church’s teaching on divorce was unnecessarily hurtful to people who were already suffering from the failure of their marriage, the NP adopted new language to describe the church’s response to divorce in 1998:


disorder. Rather than addressing the morality of same gender sexual relations, that synod viewed homosexuals as victims of discrimination and persecution. Synod applied the Ground of the Unity’s statement that “the Moravian Church will oppose discrimination based on race, culture or any other barrier” to condemn homophobia and exclusion of homosexuals from the church. The province voted to “reaffirm its open welcome to all people by specifically recognizing that the homosexual is also under God’s care.” Synod pointed to the common sinfulness of all humanity and the universal need for grace, leaving ambiguous whether homosexual acts themselves were to be regarded as more sinful than various kinds of heterosexual relations. Twenty years later, the NP synod reaffirmed the 1974 statement and called for recognition of the human rights of homosexuals.

The NP was not the only denomination that changed its teaching on homosexuality in the 1970s. Many “mainline” Protestant denominations issued statements that to varying degrees welcomed open homosexuals in their churches. In 1975, the Roman Catholic Church issued Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, which asserted “intrinsic dignity of each person” and that “the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin.” Further: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society.”50 In other words, the NP was moving in a similar direction as many other churches toward greater acceptance of gay and lesbian Christians in the church. The 1994 the NP Synod acknowledged that it is difficult for homosexuals to be open about their sexual identity, and families often have difficulty accepting that a member of the family is homosexual. Synod acknowledged that “the Moravian Church is not agreed on the question of the acceptability of homosexual practice,” but it urged congregations “to make available support systems for people whose lives are affected by homosexual issues.” The wording of this statement is ambiguous since it does not specify whether this support is intended to help people accept their sexual identity or whether congregations should support the effort to convert people to a straight lifestyle (gay conversion therapy).

The Southern Province synod met in 1995 and gave consideration to the issue of homosexuals in the church. Synod acknowledged that there was strong disagreement among Moravians over whether homosexual acts are immoral. While not affirming homosexual sex, the synod did pass a resolution that called on the province to “oppose all acts of violence, coercion, and intimidation against persons who are homosexual.” There was no effort to define the meaning of coercion or intimidation, but it seems THE

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The NP’s Human Sexuality Task Force and the Interprovincial Faith and Order Commission continued studying homosexuality after 1994 and presented their findings to the PEC. At the 2002 synod there was a vigorous and at times contentious debate over homosexuality. Eventually Resolution 6 passed. Rather than accepting homosexuals in the church as sinners in a community of forgiven sinners, Resolution 6 stated that the church should support and affirm homosexuals as equal with heterosexual members. They should be allowed to “celebrate” their lives as individuals and as couples. This was before gay marriage was legal in the United States and Canada, but Resolution 6 implied that gay unions could and should be blessed in the church in public ceremony, just like heterosexual unions. The resolution also called upon the church to continue discussions with homosexual persons to learn about their journey of faith. The controversy over this resolution continued long after synod, and in 2004 The Hinge 11:2 was dedicated to the topic of how to interpret Resolution 6.51

Unity Synod met in 2002 after the NP Synod. Representatives from several provinces were sharply critical of Resolution 6, but Unity Synod was reluctant to interfere in the internal, pastoral issues of a province. It was agreed that the Ground of the Unity and the classical creeds of Christendom do not address sexuality; thus homosexuality does not rise to the level of doctrine. It is a moral issue, and Moravian provinces may address moral issues in ways that are appropriate in their cultural context. In other words, the 2002 Unity Synod treated homosexuality in a way similar to divorce and remarriage. What is permitted in one province may be forbidden in another. However, there was concern that homosexuality is such an emotional and divisive topic that the NP’s policies could cause irrevocable divisions in the Unity. In order to prevent that, Unity Synod issued a moratorium on further changes in provincial policies related to same gender relations. Synod specifically instructed the provinces to study this matter, but most provinces (including the British Province and the Southern Province) interpreted the moratorium to mean that pastors and church officers should remain silent on the question of homosexuality. The NP and Continental European Province continued to discuss the issue of gay marriage and ordination of open homosexuals.

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clear that this resolution condemned the use psychological manipulation and punishment to force gay people to act straight. It is possible that the current SP policy of forbidding homosexual pastors to marry violates the 1995 resolution since it treats homosexuals differently than heterosexuals. The SP in 1995 also adopted the NP statement that all people deserve “certain human rights and civil liberties” without specifying what these rights and liberties include. For instance, marriage is normally considered a human right. In other words, there is no evidence that the Southern Province followed up on the 1995 resolution.


Prior to the 2014 NP Synod, the Task Force on Human Sexuality sponsored more than three dozen “holy conversations” around the province so that lay persons and pastors could freely discuss their views on same gender relations. There were also meetings of bishops and church officials. These conversations were generally cordial and respectful as different perspectives were aired. Several participants noted that this was the first time they had ever spoken about issues of faith and morality with someone whose sexual orientation was different from theirs. After a long, prayerful and emotional discussion on the floor of synod in 2014 the NP approved ordination of openly gay pastors in committed monogamous relationships and recognized gay marriage. Coincidentally with the passage of the legislation at synod, gay marriage became legal in Pennsylvania where synod was being held. One year later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws in every state that forbid gay marriage on the grounds that such laws discriminated against homosexuals. The court asserted that the language of “man” and “woman” in marriage laws was traditional and descriptive of common practice rather than prescriptive. In other words, the wording of those laws reflected the heterosexual social norm but it should not be used to deny the rights of same gender couples. Meanwhile, in Canada, the definition of marriage contained in the Marriage Act was under challenge. In 2002, the high courts in both Ontario and Quebec ruled that the “one man and one woman” definition of marriage was unconstitutional. By late 2004, the provincial and territorial courts had made same-sex marriage legal in six provinces and one territory. The federal government introduced legislation to amend the Marriage Act, and that became law July 20, 2005.52

In contrast to the Northern Province, the Southern Province did not follow up on the 1995 resolution that called for the church to support the rights of homosexuals. In 2010 the SP Synod called on upon the PEC to establish a task force to guide the church through a discussion of the issue of homosexuals in the church. The task force began its work in 2014, sponsoring several events to discuss different aspects of the issue. Participants in the discussions were asked to identify themselves with one of five positions within the Moravian Church: 1. 2. 3.

people who struggle “with questions of self-worth and acceptance” because of their sexual orientation;

people who believe that they are naturally oriented to people of the same gender and who “wish to have committed same-sex unions recognized and honored by our church;”

people who “are motivated to advocate full acceptance of homosexuality” because they have family members or friends who are gay;

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4. 5.

people who believe that homosexuality is “contrary to God’s will.”

These positions are spelled out more fully in the Task Force’s 52-page report to the 2018 synod.

In 2016 and 2017 the Southern Proivnce PEC issued statements that tried to clarify the province’s policies related to marriage and ordination in light of the legalization of gay marriage. The PEC asserted that since the Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum (COUF) and the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living (MCCL) define Christian marriage as a monogamous union of a man and woman, the Moravian Church does not recognize same-sex marriages as Christian marriages. Pastors in the SP are forbidden to officiate at gay weddings or even to pray for gay couples. Gay weddings cannot be held in Moravian sanctuaries or other buildings. Gay people cannot be ordained or serve as pastors unless they remain celibate. However, the PEC also asserted that gay and lesbian persons may be welcomed as full members of the church and may serve in leadership roles. “There are no specific guidelines about the sexual orientation of persons becoming members of the Moravian Church.”53 So far the Southern Province has not produced a theological statement that addresses the various biblical and moral issues related to sexuality in general and homosexuality in specific nor has it approved the reports of the Interprovincial Faith and Order Commission or the Unity Standing Committee on Theology related to sexuality.

Outside North America Several provinces in the Unity, primarily in Africa, are forbidden by national law to discuss homosexuality at all. Some other provinces, such as the East West Indies, have officially reaffirmed the traditional understanding that any sex outside of heterosexual marriage is immoral and forbidden. The Czech Province strongly condemns homosexuality as a sin. Not only does the Czech Province refuse to ordain openly gay persons as pastors, it does not allow blessing of gay unions. Delegates from the Czech Province at Unity Synod proposed several resolutions that condemned homosexuality. As various European countries moved toward recognition of gay unions and legalization of gay marriage in the first decade of the 21st century, the Theological Commission of the Continental European Province researched and discussed same gender relationships from a biblical, theological, and pastoral perspective. They issued a position paper in 2013, which is included in this issue of The Hinge. Although the province does

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people who “struggle to come to grips with this issue, wrestling with their interpretation of scripture and their desire to include all persons within the embrace of Christ’s church; “and


not ordain openly homosexual persons as pastors, pastors are permitted to bless the unions of gay couples in the congregation just as they do for heterosexual marriages.

The British Province (BP) took up the issue of homosexuality for the first time at its 1988 synod. That synod asserted that since sexual intercourse should only be in the context of monogamous marriage, “homosexual genital acts” are forbidden.54 Ten years later, though, the Social Responsibility Committee suggested to synod that “the Church should be willing to consider homosexuals for membership in the way it would consider others and should not allow a person’s sexual orientation to debar him or her from the Christian fellowship.” No further action was taken at subsequent synods because the BP tried to observe the moratorium imposed by the 2002 Unity Synod. However, after the UK Parliament approved civil unions for gay couples (2004) and same-sex marriage (2014) every British denomination has had to face the question of whether to perform same-sex weddings. In 2015 the Minsters and Lay Workers In-Service Training Conference in the British Province included a session on the subject of human sexuality. A request to celebrate a same-sex wedding early in 2016 was denied by the PEC on the grounds that the 2016 Unity Synod had not yet met to discuss the issue. They asked pastors to wait until the Unity Standing Committee on Theology reported back to Unity Synod. After the 2016 Unity Synod sent “a Message to the North American Province” that was critical of same-sex marriage, the PEC of the British Province informed the Unity Board that the province would continue to examine and discuss this issue. The 2016 BP Synod instructed congregations and districts to “discuss the issues around human sexuality and the Faith and Order and Ecumenical Relations Committee provide discussion materials for this purpose, and that a special session at Synod 2018 be set aside for feedback and discussion.” The PEC wrote to the Unity Board to inform them: “With regard to our own ministry we do not ask candidates for the ministry about their sexuality nor do we refuse to ordain homosexual people. We do however expect our ministers and students in training to live to the highest moral standards and our ‘Code of Conduct for Ministers’.” The provincial synod in 2018 will take up this issue.

Unity Synod met in August 2016 in Jamaica, a country where homosexual relations are illegal. Several resolutions related to sexuality were proposed prior to the synod, but most of them did not get to the floor of synod. The delegation from Tanzania received permission from their government to discuss the issue of homosexuality publicly, which is normally forbidden under Tanzanian law. Eventually a resolution came out of committee to be discussed in the final plenary session.

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Conclusion What is considered acceptable sexual behavior in industrialized and democratic countries in the Northern hemisphere has changed dramatically over the past century. Gay marriage, which was once inconceivable, is now legal in about thirty countries. Is it necessary for every Moravian province to follow the same rules on sex and marriage or can we tolerate cultural differences? These are difficult issues. By its very nature, sexuality is an intimate and personal matter. Our sense of self is deeply connected to our sexual identity and our expressions of sexuality. We are at our most vulnerable when we open ourselves up sexually to another people, and we rely on laws, rules, customs, and morals to protect us from sexual abuse and degradation. Many people have experienced sexual trauma or are afraid of their sexuality for other reasons. It is thus not surprising that there is so much emotion surrounding discussions of sexuality, especially in the church where heterosexual monogamy for the purpose of procreation has been held up as the norm for so many centuries. Perhaps the most important question is whether we Moravians can openly discuss our own views on sexuality in the context of our faith.

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Rather than censuring the Northern Province for its 2014 decision to recognize same-sex marriage for pastors and lay persons, Unity Synod stated that the NP’s policy “concerning the marriage of same gender couples and the ordination of homosexual people is not in accordance with the 2016 Unity Synod’s understanding of marriage based on Unity Synod 2016’s understanding of COUF, the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living, and Scripture.” The 2016 Unity Synod did not address the policies of any other provinces related to sexuality, including policies on divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, or polygamy, that may be not be consistent with COUF. Clearly the worldwide Unitas Fratrum will continue to discuss and debate sexuality, and this discussion will be emotional and perhaps divisive. There are deep divisions within the Unity and even within provinces, but the Unitas Fratrum cannot simply ignore the myriad of moral, religious, and social issues related to human sexuality and sexual identity.


Endnotes 1 O. J. Baab, “Adultery,” in George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1962), 51. 2 “Polygamy,” Jewish Encyclopedia, http:// www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12260polygamy, accessed 2/22/2018.

3 Renita Weems, “The Song of Songs,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 5 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1997), 371.

4 Many commentators deny that Ruth and Boaz had sex on the threshing floor, but “feet” is typically a euphemism for male genitals in Hebrew and the implication of the story is that Ruth had sex with Boaz. Edward Campbell, Ruth, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 131. The rather forced interpretation that she did not is a reflection of later Jewish and Christian condemnation of pre-marital intercourse. 5 I am grateful to Tim Luckritz Marquis of Moravian Theological Seminary for this reference.

15 Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1967), 388-390.

16 James Brundage, “Sex and Canon Law,” in Bullough and Brundage, ed., Handbook of Medieval Sexuality (Abingdon: Routledge Taylor &Francis Group, 1996), 43.

17 James Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 140. 18 Roman Cholij, “Priestly celibacy in patristics and inthe history of the Church,” http://www. vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/ documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_chisto_en.html. Accessed 2/21/2018. 19 Raymond Brown, et. al., ed., Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 273; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_virginity_of_Mary.

20 Gordon Leff, Heresy in the Middle Ages The Relation of Heterodoxy to Dissent, c. 1250 – c. 1450, 2 vols. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967).

6 This passage appears in Luke in some ancient manuscripts and many scholars think it was not originally in John. Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII), Anchor Bible 29 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), 335-336. The complex textual history of the passage probably points to the difficulty the early church had with its message.

21 Keith Stanley, Christian Spirituality and Same-Gender Relationship: A Moravian Perspective (Bethlehem, PA: Sanctuary, 2000).

8 Robin Scroggs, Homosexuality in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983).

24 A. G. Roeber, Hopes for Better Spouses: Protestant Marriage and Church Renewal in Early Modern Europe, India, and North America (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013).

7 Dale Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2006), 231 and elsewhere.

9 Zinzendorf, Zeister Reden, 208. The idea that the soul is feminine was common in medieval mystical literature. Caroline Walker Bynum Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1982), 138. 10 Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity (New York: Vintage Books, 2011).

11 Augustine, “Reply to Fautus the Manichean,” in Philip Schaff, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of The Christian Church, vol. 5:289). 12 Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1988). 13 “The Acts of Paul and Thecla,” in J. K. Elliott, tr. and ed., The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993). 14 Augustine, Confessions, tr. Garry Willis (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 180-182.

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22 Steven Ozment, Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution (Image, 1993), 151-168.

23 Martin Luther, “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520),” in Three Treatises (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), tr. Charles Jacobs, 220-237. “Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the warrant of Scripture, but the very ordinances which extol it as a sacrament have turned it into a farce” (p. 220).

25 Ann Taves, Religion and Domestic Violence: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey (Indiana University Press, 1989).

26 For a description of the different sexual norms in 191 cultures, see Clellan S. Ford, and Frank A. Beach, Patterns of Sexual Behavior (New York: Harper, 1951).

27 Walter L. Williams, Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992); Sue-Ellen Jacobs, Wesley Thomas, and Sabine Lang, ed., Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997). 28 Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality (New York: Vintage Books, 1990 reprint), tr. Robert Hurley, 1:36-73.

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29 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_law accessed 2/26/2018.

31 Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (Urbana and Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1984). 32 Sigmund Freud, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sexuality ( James Putnam, 1910), tr. A. A. Brill. https://www.sigmundfreud.net/threeessays-on-the-theory-of-sexuality-pdf-ebook.jsp accessed 2/26/2018. 33 Margaret Meade, Coming of Age in Samoa (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1928).

34 Laurie Marhoeffer, Sex and the Weimar Republic (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 2015). 35 Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana Univ. Press, 1948); Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana Univ. Press, 1953).

36 William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Human Sexual Response (New York: Ishi Press, 2010; original 1966). 37 Elizabeth Cantor, “The Evolution of Understanding of Homosexuality within the Fields of Psychology and Psychiatry,” in Donald Cantor, ed., Same-Sex Marriage: The Legal and Psychological Evolution in America (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2006), 23-46.

38 Robert Wuthnow, Restructuring of American Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 173-210. 39 Albert R. Jonsen and Jeff Stryker, ed. The Social Impact of AIDS in the United States (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1993), ch. 5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/ NBK234566/ accessed 2/26/2018.

46 Jon F. Sensbach Rebecca’s Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2005), 90-91; Natasha Lightfoot, Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2015), 142-166. .

47 Harold Jap-A-Joe, “The ‘Marriage Rebellion’ Within The Moravian Church in Suriname,” Academic Journal of Suriname 6 (2015), 520-530 48 Atwood, “Apologizing for the Moravians: Spangenberg’s Idea Fidei Fratrum,” Journal of Moravian History 8 (2010):53-88.

49 http://moravian.org/wpcontent/uploads/2013/01/Resolutions%20on%20Social%20 Issues%202008%20edition.pdf 50 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/ congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_ doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html accessed 2/27/2018. 51 https://issuu.com/moravianseminary/docs/ hinge11.2 52 I am grateful to Neil Thomlinson for this information.

53 “Questions and Answers” 2017.9.27. Unpublished document sent by PEC to synod delegates and pastors 9 Oct. 2017.

54 I am grateful to Sarah Groves for providing a timeline of how the British Province dealt with this issue.

40 Craig Atwood, Theology of the Czech Brethren from Hus to Comenius (State College, PA: Penn State Univ. Press, 2009), 181-183.

41 C. Daniel Crews, Faith, Love, Hope A History of the Unitas Fratrum (Winston-Salem, NC: Moravian Archives, 2008), 133-146. 42 Atwood, Theology, 215-242. 43 Crews, Faith, 287.

44 Atwood, “’He Has Carried You My Members.’ The Full Humanity of Christ and the Blessing of the Physical Body in Zinzendorfian Piety,” in Alter Adam und Neue Kreatur: Pietismus und Anthropologie, ed. Udo Straeter (Halle: Franckeschen Stiftungen, 2009).

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30 For example, Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884) https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/ works/1884/origin-family/index.htm accessed 2/26/2018.

45 Paul Peucker, “In the Blue Cabinet: Moravians, Marriage and Sex,” Journal of Moravian History 10 (2011), 7-37; Peter Vogt, “Zinzendorf ’s, ‘Seventeen Points of Matrimony’: A Foundational Document on the Moravian Understanding of Marriage and Sexuality,” Journal of Moravian History 10 (2011), 39-67; Katherine Faull, “The Married Choir Instructions (1785),” Journal of Moravian History 10 (2011), 69-110.


35 Individual Conscience in the Moravian Church The Rev. John P. Jackman is pastor of Trinity Moravian Church in WinstonSalem, North Carolina and is an award winning documentary filmmaker. Certain actions of the 2016 Unity Synod, particularly regarding marriage and homosexuality in the church, focus the attention of local provinces and individual Moravians on a topic we have not always been very systematic about: the respect of individual conscience.

In our modern and diverse age, where cultural gaps are huge and growing, it is essential (no pun intended) that the Unitas Fratrum think clearly about the role of individual conscience and how each individual— and the organization as a whole—can respect the individual consciences of our members. Any attempt to impose beliefs on others, particularly Biblical interpretations where there is widespread disagreement, is a serious mistake and departs from a core value of who we are. Worse, while an authoritarian approach may be appealing and even beneficial in some cultures, in others it destroys the very essence of what makes us Moravian.

Individual Conscience in Other Groups The Society of Friends (better known as Quakers) have incorporated respect for the individual conscience as a core part of their thought. Indeed, nonQuakers often do not understand the central role of individual conscience in Quaker thinking. Most people who know anything at all about Quakers know, for instance, that Quakers are non-violent and are conscientious objectors in regard to military service. But this is in fact not exactly true: though the vast majority of Quakers are conscientious objectors, it is left to the individual to decide. As a result, though their numbers are quite small, there are faithful Quakers who have served in the military. Ideally, other Quakers respect this decision even when it is at odds with their own decision. This is true in every area of serious concern for Quakers.

The Unitas Fratrum, while historically and theologically distinct from the Society of Friends, has always also incorporated a significant respect for individual conscience (“In non-essentials, Liberty”), though we have also THE

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Our recent renewal of focus on the earlier distinctive of Luke of Prague, recognizing “essentials,” “ ministerials,” and “accidentals”1 (or “incidentals”) actually places a different but more demanding rigor on our understanding of individual conscience, since the clear definition of the “essentials” is quite narrow: the actions of God that lead to salvation.

Remove the “Hot Button” I find it helpful with these “hot-button” issues to find another topic of disagreement, one that is less emotionally charged, to use for a discussion of principles. We can then return to the hot-button issue a little calmer, principles clearly in mind, to see how they apply to the more emotional issue.

An example might be differing views of the sacrament of baptism. The Moravian Church is the only mainline denomination that I am aware of that accepts all forms of baptism: infant or adult, anointing, sprinkling, or dunking, all are acceptable – though there are rules for each, and for the practices involved. Particularly here in the Southern Province of the United States, where many people grew up in a largely Baptist culture, many Moravians lean toward the idea of “believer’s baptism,” where a young person must, at an age of accountability, make their own decision to be baptized or not. We allow these parents to follow their hearts in this decision, and do not pressure them to baptize an infant when they have doubts about infant baptism. We also do not belittle or excoriate them for their beliefs. But at the same time, parents who do accept infant baptism are encouraged to have the infant baptized in a timely manner in the presence of the congregation. In this area, we have some expectations. There are rules, which are mostly intended to preserve and protect the rights and individual conscience of each believer. It is expected that the family that does not believe in infant baptism for their own child will attend worship and participate fully in the liturgy, accepting with others their responsibility to help raise the infant in the faith. If they were to sit there with sour expressions, rolling their eyes and whispering to one another about how infant baptism is wrong, that would be a violation of our Moravian way. By the same token, the family that believes in infant baptism is expected to attend the baptism of the young adult in the other family, when that youth reaches the age of twelve or thirteen, and join in witnessing the baptism with rejoicing and

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placed a higher emphasis on collective decision making and unity (“in essentials, Unity”). A central and recurring struggle in the Moravian Church through many eras has been the definition of the “Essentials.” There is always someone who wants to go to Synod and add their “essential” onto the list, in most cases a clear indicator that they don’t really get what I call “the Moravian thing:” that ability to respect differences while celebrating the central faith we hold in common.


enthusiasm, welcoming the young person into the communicant membership of the church. They should not sit in their pew dourly whispering to one another that believers’ baptism is silly and “too Baptist.”

There are more rules. In the Southern Province, for example, baptism by immersion is permitted—provided it is not presented or seen as being a criticism of other forms of baptism. This respects both the individual conscience of the “pro-immersion” person and the “sprinkling” people. Rebaptism is not allowed for the same reason: it is most often perceived as a denigration of infant baptism.2

So, it can be seen that in this divisive issue (remember that wars have been fought, people have died, and denominations have split over the details of baptism), we have found a way to respect individual conscience on the issue by developing a structure and attitude that permits individuals to pursue the sacrament in the manner that fits their individual viewpoint; but which at the same time actively discourages each person from condemning, criticizing, or trying to prevent the form that another believes in. Can we not find just such an approach to the issue of homosexuality in the church?

As you can see from the example above, allowing liberty in nonessentials requires each believer to sacrifice one thing­—the spiritually corrosive luxury of imposing their views on others. It requires a basic dose of humility to realize that our beliefs do not constitute eternal truth. In fact, this humility is essential to living together in community, whether that community is a family, a congregation, or a denomination.

The “Cause Group Trap” A number of years ago, I was asked to consult with a peace group that wanted to improve their communications strategy. It was an interesting experience at several levels – in part because my work for them helped to clarify some of my own thinking.

The board of directors of this group wanted to see how their communication could become more effective – by which they meant that they would successfully help Christians in non-peace churches come to a position that supported peace. I reviewed the publications of the group and quickly realized that they had fallen into the classic “cause group” trap: their publications were filled with their beliefs (conclusions that they had arrived at after much life experience and study) and essentially demanded that people should suddenly and completely agree with their conclusions. I interviewed the members of the board, asking how long it had taken them to arrive at their current point of view. Most of them said years, and several related a long struggle with their own beliefs, wrestling with the THE

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The bottom line is that most people are so thoroughly steeped in the prevailing culture that coming to a countercultural position requires study, contemplation, and spiritual growth. Simply demanding that another person change their belief is a completely fruitless exercise – on any issue! To do so with an issue that is fraught with emotion and “gut level” instincts is to invite disastrous failure.

We cannot simply demand that faithful brothers and sisters who believe that homosexuality is a sin, an “abomination,” simply switch out their beliefs because “we said so.” Or because PEC—or Synod, or even Unity Synod “said so” because they had sufficient votes. That approach is itself is an abomination, betraying a total lack of respect for the conscience of the individual. What we can do is challenge the individual believer to love the gay person, respect the individual conscience of other people, and engage them in an ongoing and honest conversation. Whether they will engage to the point of changing their beliefs is up to them— and the leading of the Holy Spirit. They may never change their core beliefs. But if they can learn to respect the rights of other brothers and sisters, not seek to impose their opinions on them an a way that violates their rights, their moral space, and in the process recognize that others may have a legitimate position even though they do not share it—that may be enough! The cultural diversity among Moravians is probably as broad as it is in any worldwide denomination. We have vast differences in terms of social norms, language and customs, food and religious practice. There are enormous differences in Biblical interpretation, differences which in a previous generation were acceptable. Many of our older pastors in the Southern Province talk wistfully about years past, when clergy would gather at Laurel Ridge, argue vehemently over different understandings of Scripture, and then happily go off to play golf or canoe together. Sometimes the pastors with the biggest theological differences were the closest friends. Somehow,

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pro-military stance of many American churches, reading many articles and books, praying, and talking to others. In short, other than those that had been born into an historic “peace church” denomination, each of the directors had struggled, wrestled, studied, prayed, and had grown into their current position. I pointed out that their communication strategy was to present their hard-won conclusions to a newcomer – and insist that the newcomer instantly agree with them – without any growth process. We then began to think through strategies that would build a process, respectful of the newcomer’s beliefs, which would encourage the newcomer to work through the issues of peace and faith. We came up with a series of Sunday School lessons, challenging the individual to discuss and consider numerous Scriptures and issues—which could (or could not!) lead the individual through the same journey that all the board of directors had followed, each over a period of years.


in our increasingly divided society, the “culture wars” invaded our thinking and we have encountered times when pastors could barely speak to one another – all due to differences in theology and Biblical interpretation.

Perhaps we are exaggerating the tolerance of the past, mythologizing remembered camaraderie. But the dividedness of the past twenty years is not exaggerated or mythologized; it is real. The hyper-politicized “culture wars” have affected us just as they have the rest of our society. If the Moravian Church has a gift to offer the world, it is our ability to live together in love in spite of differences. If we cannot find a path to do this, if even the Moravians cannot deal with this divide, then what hope is there for Methodists or other groups? And in fact, what is the purpose for our continued existence, if we, the Unity of Brother and Sisters, fall into disunity and splinter groups?

Homosexuals Called to Marriage and Ministry On the one hand, we have in the Moravian Church numerous gay people of faith whose testimony is that their sexual orientation seems fixed and that they do not recall ever being sexually attracted to the opposite sex. In fact, most of the gay people I have counseled over the last 35 years say they have always been gay. They were born that way. Most of the scientific research today supports this. However, we are in a situation where in most provinces, these people are told that they cannot marry, and that they cannot serve as pastors unless they are willing to be celibate – and even then it is a long shot that they will be able to find a call unless they conceal their sexual orientation. In practice, we tell them that they must lie about themselves.

For many of these folks, their individual conscience and faith is clearly calling them to enter a faithful, monogamous, committed relationship blessed by God. They do not wish to engage in profligate bathhouse sexual promiscuity; they want to be bound in a holy covenant relationship of mutual responsibility and accountability, just as heterosexual couples are. They hear the words of Paul, usually the great proponent of celibacy: “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Though it is non-Scriptural, as a pastor I remember often in premarital counseling the words of the Russian Orthodox priest in Doctor Zhivago: “The flesh is not weak. The flesh is strong. Only the sacrament of marriage can contain it.” For a smaller number, their individual conscience is calling them to ordination and service in the pastorate. It is a fact that we have had numerous excellent pastors who were (and are) gay, but kept their orientation hidden because of these rules and attitudes. By the same token, we have over the years lost a number of truly fine pastors when they reached a point THE

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This in fact violates not only the individual consciences of those who desire to enter into a marital relationship, or those who seek ordination, but also the conscience of the pastor who feels genuinely called to perform the (now legal) ceremony. Provincial Elders, Bishops, supervising Presbyters, and seminary professors have their hands bound and cannot ordain or recommend for ordination even the most qualified candidate who is clearly called and gifted for ministry.

Moravians Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage On the other hand, we have many members who feel honestly that acting on same-sex attraction is a sin. There are usually multiple reasons for their attitude. This is how they were raised, this is what they were taught. They subscribe to an approach to the Bible that seems to them to be very clear: there are six passages in the Old and New Testaments that appear to clearly condemn same-gender sexual relationships. In many cases, they have genuinely and honestly reviewed those Scriptures and (at least in some cases) have listened to alternative explanations, and found them insufficiently convincing to change their original view. And, it must be added, it is for many a gut-level reaction at the thought of same-gender sexual activity. They cannot get past their disgust in dealing with the issue.3 These folks believe deeply that same-gender sexual relations are an affront to God, and this belief is organically intertwined with their whole worldview and faith. For many, this is somehow foundational, and changing our rules about this issue calls everything else into question. I personally do not understand or agree with this viewpoint, which I feel is emotional and not rational, but there is no doubt that many brothers and sisters genuinely feel this way. Crossing this line is for them a terribly frightening and appalling event that many say would cause them to leave the Moravian Church.

This is, of course, the prevailing attitude in many provinces outside of the US and Europe; not only is the feeling strong in those provinces on this issue, but the cultural, tribal, and regional mores are sometimes complicated by extreme government actions that condemn and imprison homosexuals. There is no question that these provinces are not ready to deal with this issue in their own area; the real question is whether they have the right

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in their lives when they needed to be honest about their orientation and/or desired to be in an active relationship. I believe firmly that God had called these people to the ministry – and in fact our discernment process and seminary training affirmed that call – but they were excluded from serving a church due to our man-made rules. This is true no matter how many other pastors, church boards, Bishops, or Provincial Elders are convinced that such a person is called by God and equipped by God to be fine pastors.


to interfere with the decisions and practices of other provinces that have different cultures and understandings of the matter—and whether those provinces should be allowed to violate the individual consciences of faithful Moravians a half a world away based on an unshared interpretation of a few Scripture verses.

So how would this approach play out in the Moravian Church and the issue of homosexuality? First, it requires all of us to carefully think through the concept of individual conscience – and carefully define where our rights end and the other person’s rights begin. The problem in the conflict arises from two areas: • the denial of personal rights for some on one side (e.g., the right to get married and the right to serve as a pastor if called and qualified); and • each side seeking to impose a specific belief on someone else, or require that someone else accept one particular and not universallyaccepted Biblical interpretation as the only “correct” understanding.

In fact, I would maintain currently that it is the “anti-homosexual” side that is committing the first area, but that both sides are violating boundaries in the second area. If we are to apply the model of the “baptism approach,” then those who believe that gay folks should be allowed to marry and be ordained must find a way to gracefully permit those who take a more literal/particular interpretation of the Scriptures to continue to hold those beliefs, even if we think they are wrong, as long as they are respectful. Calling them names, casually labeling them as “haters” or “homophobes” must be out of bounds.

But now the hard part for the flip side: those who believe homosexuality to be a sin must admit and own their own sinfulness, and in humility sit with the other sinners in grace. They must clearly think through where their right to impose their beliefs on other brothers and sisters ends – and graciously allow others the right to follow their personal conscience.

Ultimately, we must adhere to the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living, and show courtesy, respect, and love to our fellow Moravians. If we can find a way to do this, as we have on other issues, we will “thread the needle” in a manner that almost no other denomination really has on this divisive issue. To accomplish this, however, we must ask for respect from other provinces rather than heavy-handed authoritarian proclamations. Other provinces which have not undertaken the dialog called for by the 2002 Unity Synod resolution must refrain from attempting to impose their cultural views and interpretations on provinces which have undertaken those conversations faithfully.

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I would close with the recent words of Pope Francis: “Doctrine cannot be preserved without allowing it to develop, nor can it be tied to an interpretation that is rigid and immutable without demeaning the working of the Holy Spirit.” Let us not demean the active and fruitful work of the Holy Spirit among us as we move forward in faith, hope, and love. _________________________________

1 Luke of Prague’s concept of “accidentals” derives from Aristotelian philosophy, and the distinction between “essential” and “accidental” (συμβεβηκος) properties of an object (Metaphysics Book IV, 1089 b 23–1090 a 4). While the philosophical concept of “accidentals” is still the proper term, in popular usage the word has grown to mean something different; so the best modern equivalent for the average speaker would be “incidentals.” 2 There are those who would argue that the prohibition of rebaptism violates their individual conscience when they wish to have an expression of renewed dedication of faith. 3 It should be clearly understood that a personal reaction of disgust or revulsion, while deeply felt and powerful, is not a legitimate argument at any level. Doctors, police, and pastors must all work in their training to overcome natural feelings of revulsion to do their jobs. The people of Jesus’ day were revolted and disgusted by lepers, yet Jesus reached out to them in love. Sometimes the greatest ministries happen when people of faith overcome these “fleshly” feelings.

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Finally, the Southern Province Synod of 2018 must carefully and prayerfully consider the path forward with courage, compassion, and love. We must answer important questions about the relationship between Unity Synod and the Southern Province as we face a new era—both together as a unity and individually in very different contexts and situations. The Synod must thoughtfully make such wording changes in our Moravian Covenant for Christian Living and Book of Order as are necessary to overcome unintended consequences from language which did not foresee or consider our current situation. And we must do so in keeping with the overall spirit and higher purpose of that document, and the words and teachings of Jesus Christ our Chief Elder.


43 Position Paper of the Theological Commission of the European-Continental Province of the Moravian Church Regarding the Blessing of Same-Gender Relationships

Introduction The 2012 Synod meeting in Königsfeld (Germany) assigned the Theological Commission to continue dealing with the issue of the blessing of same-gender relationships and to provide discussion material to the congregations (Resolutions 7/2012). Whereas the last report from the Theological Commission dealt predominantly with juridical matters, this time we would like to address theological questions to a greater extent. We would also like to state more clearly than previously that we consider the possibility of blessing same-gender relationships as theologically legitimate and desirable. We realize that not everyone will share our assessment and that many questions will remain unanswered. This statement should therefore be understood as an invitation for discussion. We hope that our common desire to model the life of our church in the spirit of Jesus according to the witness of Holy Scripture will guide the way.

What is This About? The discussion on same-gender relationships runs the risk of focusing on a particular form of sexuality. But relationships are more than sexuality. We think it is important to place people and their relationships with one another at the center of the discussion. The issue of blessings is about:

• people who are our brothers and sisters as Christians and as members or friends of the Moravian Church • committed relationships, characterized by mutual love and responsibility for each other • the mission of the church to offer pastoral care to people in their respective situations of life

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Why is This Issue Important?

• The biological cause for homosexual inclinations has not been completely determined scientifically. However, there is increasing evidence that it is an innate condition manifested in early childhood. Consequently, homosexual orientation should not be considered as a pathological behavioral disorder or as morally inappropriate behavior. • There are many homosexual Christians who have learned (sometimes during a long and painful process) to accept themselves the way they are and who are waiting to be accepted within the church as creatures who are loved and supported by God. • In many European countries there is a legal basis to register samegender unions and members of the Moravian Church increasingly take advantage of these possibilities.

What Do We Support? Within our church there is a distinct sentiment to accompany one another as brothers and sisters on our individual paths of life and to support one another prayerfully because we know that we need God’s blessing at important turning points of our lives (birth and death, education and profession, partnership and family).

Blessing is founded on the assurance that God grants life of wholeness and fulfillment in face of manifold threats. We believe it should be possible within the Moravian Church to offer this act of blessing by the church in a suitable form, including the possibility of a public church event, to two members of the same gender who enter into a committed life union within the context of the existing legal possibilities and who desire to live this partnership in love, faithfulness, and responsibility for one another.

What Does the Bible Say? In the discussion about the blessing of same-gender partnerships we are encouraged to listen to the testimony of the Bible in order to determine God’s will for the direction of our church. It is clear to us that very different opinions exist that are often based on a different approach to Biblical interpretation.

The following two concepts are, in our view, essential as a basis for an appropriate understanding of the Holy Scriptures:

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There are people in our churches with a homosexual orientation. They participate in church life and, like other members, they wish to experience guidance and care for their lives. Regarding how this can be accomplished in an appropriate manner we would like to point out the following:


a. Individual statements need to be considered within the context of the entire message of the Bible.

b. The center of the biblical message is the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ, that is revealed both in the “preaching of the cross” as a sign of God’s unconditional mercy of God and in the double commandment of love.

Regarding the discussion about the issue of blessings, we find it therefore important to not only consider those Bible verses that directly refer to certain homosexual practices but to also be aware of the biblical message of life finding wholeness and fulfillment in community with others, made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is no question that some Bible verses condemn certain homosexual practices (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9, and 1 Tim. 1:9-10). The question remains how binding these passages can be for the life of Christians today. We hesitate to deduce a categorical rejection of same- gender relationships from these passages for the following reasons:

• “Homosexuality” is only a side topic in the Bible. Jesus himself does not say anything on this subject. It does not have any apparent connection with the Ten Commandments or the double commandment of love.

• The verses mentioned above do not refer to the issue of same-gender relationships of love and faithfulness but only to a certain form of sexual intercourse.

• The original meaning of these verses was possibly related to a rejection of certain forms of sexual abuse, such as the violation of enemies by rape, temple prostitution, and pederasty which was widespread in Greek culture. This makes it especially important to distinguish between mere sexual intercourse involving abuse, and a partnership based on love and mutuality. • The rejection of homosexual contact is found in the context of many biblical bans and commandments that are expressions of time- and culture-related ideas of the ancient Middle East, such as dress regulations, food restrictions, Levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-6), circumcision, etc. Only a few of these are still considered to be binding for the life of the church today.

• There are important examples of topics where the church has changed its view over time, including slavery, divorce, the death penalty, and the ordination of women. Such changes, that can already be found within the Bible (see Acts 15:1-29), require a willingness to recognize God’s will and guidance against the literal sense of individual Biblical texts. THE

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• The Bible considers humans as social beings and highly rates values that sustain coexistence. Among those values are justice, faithfulness, love, and mutuality. The Old Testament concept of covenant faithfulness (Hebr.: hesed) implies the integrity of a relationship on a partnership basis that can also be expressed in a relationship between two men (for example, David and Jonathan, 1 Sam. 18:1-44) or two women (for example, Ruth and Naomi, Ruth 1:16-17). In the New Testament, the ideal of a relationship based on partnership is expressed with the concept of “koinonia.” The criterion to decide if a relationship meets with the will of God is the call to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).

• Jesus Christ gave us the example that God’s intention of salvation breaks down boundaries, especially for those at the margins of the established religious order. Time and again Jesus turned to the outcasts and brought them God’s mercy with healing gestures and words of blessing. He also cured and blessed those who, according to the law, were considered unclean and untouchable (see Mark 5:25-34 and 7:24-30). For him, the trusting plea for help counts more than any moral reservations: “anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” ( John 6:37). • The New Testament considers unity in diversity as the essence of Christian community. In Christ different people come together as members of one body (see 1 Cor. 12:12-26). They all come with their own special gifts and experiences and are encouraged to accept one another in their diversity. They may experience how diversity can bring enhancement. This is also true for different ways of life. Marriage is not the only way. When asked whether Christians should marry, Paul (who was single) said: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind” (1 Cor. 7:7). Accordingly, we may also consider same-gender relationships as a legitimate way of life, not to diminish the value of marriage or to compete with marriage but to open a possibility for people who are differently inclined that corresponds to their gift (see 1 Peter 4:10).

Regarding the issue of blessing we find it important to go not by the letter but by the spirit of the Biblical message (see 2 Cor. 3:6). The main criterion is love: God’s promise that he has accepted us as his children, and the commandment to live our lives as Christians in loving relationships (see Eph.

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In addition we would like to state some reasons why we believe the biblical message also allows a positive, respectful assessment of same-gender partnerships of love and faithfulness:


5:1-2). Therefore we come to the conclusion that, if the intention is to strengthen two human beings on their common journey in love and faithfulness, the blessing of same-gender relationships is compatible with the message of the Bible. At the same time we would like to stress that we respect the opinion of those who, from their perspective arrive, at a different conclusion.

What Comes Next? Our search for a common course regarding the issue of blessings is challenging. The discussion on this topic is causing tensions, not only within our congregation but also within our Province and especially within the world-wide Unity. Therefore, the more important it is to point out three perspectives that may be helpful for the future discussion:

• The issue of blessing same-gender relationships touches the personal faith and way of life of many members in a particular way. Therefore we should see to it that in all conversations, discussions and decisions, the freedom of conscience of each participant is respected and guaranteed. Similarly, we want to ensure that a respectful tone and behavior towards one another should prevail during our conversations. • We assert that the different opinions regarding this issue do not separate the church. When it comes to controversial issues it is good to keep in mind the theological motto of the Moravian Church: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.” This distinction may help to preserve the freedom for our conversations. • We believe that the individual responsibility of each congregation should be taken into more consideration. Considering the possibility of blessing same-gender relationships touches upon the lives of brothers and sisters within the context of specific congregational situations.

• Therefore, in our opinion, the exploration of suitable forms of pastoral care should occur on the congregational level.

We hope that this position paper will contribute to meaningful and constructive discussions within the congregations and to the clarification of controversial questions. On behalf of the Theological Commission, Volker Schulz; translation: Paul Peucker, Bethlehem, Pa., April 2014

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Reaching a theological position on human sexuality through Heart Theology Br Peter M. Gubi, PhD, ThD, Minister of Dukinfield Moravian Church, UK and Professor of Counselling and Spiritual Accompaniment at the University of Chester, UK. This article was first published in the Moravian Messenger (March 2018) and is reprinted with permission. As a British Province, we have been asked by Synod, and by the Faith & Order Committee, to discuss the issues around human sexuality. Indeed, the Faith & Order Committee have produced a series of excellent papers to help us think about these issues as individuals, and to discuss them as congregations, in order to inform the British Province of the wider thinking within the Province. What is reported back to Synod from each congregation may influence the position that the British Province takes in future discussions at Unity level and may enable the British Province to establish a clearer theological position on such matters, when asked for it by others. But how do we reach a personal theological position about such matters, let alone as a congregation or as a Province? There are many models of “doing theology.” Since Old Testament times, scholars have been using different methods to interpret, or discern, what God is saying in the meaning of words and in the wisdom of the sacred texts that they have inherited (what is officially called “exegesis”). Some people take a position of literalism (taking texts of the Bible in a very literal way). However, theology involves interpretation (what is officially called “hermeneutics”). In the Moravian Church, we have a way of “doing” theology called “Heart Theology.” There isn’t one way of arriving at a theological position through Heart Theology, but the following may be helpful in ordering your thoughts in order to arrive at a theological position on human sexuality:

Situation In this context, we have been asked to consider what we think and believe about issues of human sexuality. Knowing what we think and believe is our starting point in thinking theologically about these matters, even if it is simply knowing that we are confused, or that we have a firm view on these issues already. However, in Heart Theology, the position that we hold is only ever a starting point. We are then required to hold our established

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positions (bracket them) and enter the process with an open mind, a loving heart, and an authentic desire to know God’s will.

Personal Process We are then required to be honest with ourselves. Gaining an awareness of what these issues are triggering within me is then brought to mind. I could ask myself questions like: “What is it of my past wounds and experience that I am bringing to this situation? How (and why) is it disturbing me, or causing me to take note? How does my experience match my understanding of God (Christ) in this matter?”

Scripture Knowing the situation and how it is affecting me, I then turn to the Bible. Use discussion papers to look up passages in the Bible that “speak” into the situation from a number of different angles. How do they give insight into, or challenge, my thinking on this situation? Remember that as well as being a discerned expression of the Word of God, scripture is also influenced by the culture and politics of the time in which passages were written—but knowing that doesn’t negate their wisdom for our times. The texts are an expression of discernment, so how does the culture and politics of the time that the passages of the Bible were written, influence the meaning and expression of the texts?

Tradition I then give consideration to the wider wisdom that has been received from Christian tradition - even that which may no longer seem to be relevant. What has that said in previous thinking about these things over generations, and why has it become what we have inherited?

Current research I then consider the influences on, and knowledge gained from, my own culture, i.e. what science and social science (e.g. psychology, sociology) research have to say that can inform us in our thinking. Might our culture now be more closely expressing the love and will of God rather than the Church, or does what we have inherited through scripture and tradition more closely express the love of God? Are they at opposite ends in what they are saying, or is there commonality in some things?

Tacit knowing Holding these insights from scripture, tradition and current research in mind, I then listen to a deeper place within myself, where I feel that I am most connected with God in me—a place of prayerful listening and

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Decision Having taken time to allow that process to wash through me prayerfully, I then find myself more in touch with what I believe Christ is saying to me, or wanting of me, whilst holding a tension of both “knowing,” and of potentially being wrong—because what I want may be getting in the way. I also need to be open and prepared for the emergence of further revelation. This will hopefully then lead to a theological position being formed which will then affect the way I think and act on the matters of human sexuality —until I am challenged again.

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connection with Christ. This can be achieved through praying about the situation, and listening through prayer, rather than asking God for something, or for some specific outcome to my thinking (except for the gaining of insight and for His will to be done).


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The Hinge is published with the assistance of the Center for Moravian Studies of Moravian Theological Seminary and the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church in America. ©2018 Center for Moravian Studies. All rights are reserved. Editor: Craig Atwood Send letters to the editor, articles, book reviews, and other contributions to Craig at atwoodc@moravian.edu The Hinge Editorial Board: Zachary Dease, Sam Gray, Sarah Groves, Hans-Beat Motel, Joe Nicholas, Janel Rice, Justin Rabbach, Neil Thomlinson, Livingstone Thompson, Volker Schulz, Peter Vogt, Jane Weber Hinge illustration by Todd Tyson of Kernersville, N.C. Wood cover design by Colleen Marsh, Bethlehem, Pa. Layout/Design by Mike Riess. The cost for subscribing to The Hinge is $30. Send checks payable to: The Hinge c/o Jane Weber Moravian Theological Seminary 1200 Main Street Bethlehem, PA 18018 Contact Jane (jweber@moravian.edu) to change your subscription information or to request additional copies of The Hinge. Single issue rate: $7 The Hinge is provided free of charge to Moravian clergy, thanks to the generosity of the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Theological Seminary. Recent issues of The Hinge are available online at www.moravianseminary.edu/center/ hinge.htm. Articles in The Hinge may not be republished or posted on the Internet without the express permission of the author and the editor of The Hinge. Articles may be duplicated according to “Fair Use” rules, which allow for discussion in church classes and similar forums.


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The Moravian Discussion of Homosexuality in Historical Context by The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood Individual Conscience in the Moravian Church by...

Hinge 23:2_Why All the Fuss?  

The Moravian Discussion of Homosexuality in Historical Context by The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood Individual Conscience in the Moravian Church by...

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