Bucking against conservative Christian tradition
advising against extra-marital sex, the Rev.
Bromleigh McCleneghan, a married mother of three
and associate pastor for ministry with families at
Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois, says single
Christians can have sex as long as it’s “mutually pleasurable and affirming.”
Citing 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, many Mainline
Protestant and evangelical churches like the Assemblies of God Church, advise against sexual relations among single Christians.
“Today within our society singles exist for one of
two reasons — by choice, or by circumstance. In
either case the Bible’s mandate is clear for all
unmarried individuals: they are to remain sexually
pure (1 Corinthians 6:18-20),” the Assemblies of
God church warned.
For McCleneghan, however, whose views are
comprehensively captured in her new book, Good
Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option —
And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex
, single Christians don’t need to abstain from sex to
remain pure since being chaste is about moderation.
“American Christians sometimes conflate celibacy
and chastity, too, which is a problem. Chastity is a
virtue, related to temperance — it’s about
moderating our indulgences and exercising
restraint. We’re all called to exercise chastity in a
variety of ways, though the details will vary given our individual situations,” McCleneghan said in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“In the official teaching of the Catholic Church and
some other churches, however, chastity requires
restraining oneself from indulging in sexual
relationships outside of the bounds (and bonds) of
marriage. That is, chastity for singles means celibacy
— no sex. … I’d argue that we can be chaste — faithful — in unmarried sexual relationships if we
exercise restraint: if we refrain from having sex that
isn’t mutually pleasurable and affirming, that
doesn’t respect the autonomy and sacred worth of
ourselves and our partners,” she explained.
McCleneghan believes it’s unfair to ask single
Christians who haven’t been called to a life of
celibacy to refrain from sexual intimacy when both
men and women need sex.
“There are those who feel that they are called to
seasons of celibacy, or even years of celibacy, and if
answering that call is life-giving and purposeful,
then they should take it up as a spiritual discipline.
But no call can be forced on an unwilling person,
especially not if they find themselves single only by virtue of circumstance,” she wrote.
“Plenty of women and men love sex, and need it —
we need bodily pleasure, remember — and the
abundant life for them will involve seeking out
relationships of mutual pleasure. Chastity, or just
sex, requires that whether we are married or
unmarried, our sex lives restrain our egos, restrain our desire for physical pleasure when pursuing it
would bring harm to self or other,” she added.
The Christian Post reached out to McCleneghan to
further discuss her book on Monday but she was
unavailable for comment at the time this story was
While some Christian scholars have offered praise for McCleneghan’s views, not everyone thinks her
advice is sound.
“We are to be Holy people, blameless and spotless
unto Jesus Christ. One man and one woman
married until death, not extra-marital affairs
(adulterous behavior) even fornication. That is sin
that will lead anyone to eternal Hell. Please show
me Scripture that backs up your belief,” wrote Trish Nastasi, a longtime married Christian woman on McCleneghan’s Facebook page.
McCleneghan, who began her ministry at Hinsdale
in July 2015, is responsible for worship, pastoral
care, ministry leadership, teaching at the church.
Her special focus is on helping people with children
at home better their ability and commitment to
raising those children in the Christian faith, according to the Church.