Sex and the Seminary
Did you know that there is a Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing? On January 8, the Religious Institute, together with Union Theological Seminary in New York City, issued a 52-page report that is a call for North American theological seminaries to offer more courses and programs that would help prepare ministers, rabbis, priests, and other religious professionals to address issues of sexuality more appropriately than they now do.
The group makes a good case. Their two-year study found that more than 90 percent of the 36 leading seminaries surveyed do not require full-semester, sexuality-based courses for graduation, and two-thirds do not offer any course in sexuality issues for religious professionals. It’s a generational issue — mention, for example, the controversy over same-sex marriage, and in most religious denominations, seniors will observe that it’s not much of an concern for the younger generation, who, in general, approved it and now want to move on to matters they consider more urgent. But for the next 30 years, ministers will be dealing with church and synagogue topics in which sexuality is still a hot-button issue — in fact, the hottest button — and they need to understand the pros and cons.
It is hard to get around the observation that sexual issues, overall, whether biological, theological, or moral, are the most controversial subjects in religion today. If you wanted to get together a discussion group on the Trinity, for example, or Pelagianism, you would rent a classroom. For sex and gender debates, you would crowd the field house, because everyone knows that the subject will quicken passions, lead to walk-outs, and give the press much to disseminate. The Institute’s report may not please everyone, but it is an important wake-up call. For a copy of the report go to religiousinstitute.org.