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August 28, 2004



I really admire the kind of space you're trying to create at All Saint's. I can scarcely imagine a youth group where it would have been ok to admit a sexual history apart from the touted norm.

It sounds like a more genuine way to make disciples, rather than the reverse peer pressure that conservative youth groups can sometimes (with good intentions) become.


Well, my Youth group is very Conservative, but we had both leaders who had saved themselves for marriage, and ones who had fallen beforehand. In a homogenous (ie: Single sex, as our groups are run)environment, both shared what it was like for them, how they felt, and what they regretted, and had repented of. It was all part of a Chastity-in-singleness, faithfulness-in-marriage message which was hard-hitting, Biblical, desperately needed and received with nothing but hunger. All 250 of our Youth appreciated it, and all of us grew closer together as a result.


We also place an emphasis on Courting, rather than dating. We say that the former is considerate of the other person, made with God's will in mind, and with an expectation that you could see yourself marrying the other. Blessing of Parents and authority is also important here. Dating is self-centred, based on fulfilling one's own emotional needs, does not consider God, and can often be a sort of serial holding pattern until the "right one" comes along, which means you are emotionally tied to sometimes dozens of different people you have dated, none of whom you are married to.


John, your second comment is indeed right on the money. In my women's history class, we spend a fair amount of time exploring the transition from a "courtship" culture to a "dating" culture (the automobilie played a huge part, naturally); most of my students acknowledge a sense of wistfulness for an earlier era, even if few would welcome its restrictions and limitations.


"we want to equip our young people to make thoughtful, loving, life-affirming decisions; we want them to treat themselves and each other with reverence and respect as children of God. Sex that is abusive, manipulative and coercive is out for us; sex that does not take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect and responsibility is also something that we can all agree falls short of the mark. Knowing teenagers, it is very hard to see any high school student being sufficiently mature to handle every possible ramification of genital expression with another human being."

Given the criteria outlined in the first part of this passage, it'd be very difficult to discourage teenagers to abstain -- "Thoughtful, loving and life-affirming" are moving targets. Why is it so hard to simply say "Sex outside of marriage is wrong because God says it's wrong?" It provides a firm foundation from which to begin.

But, I doubt it'd fly in many churches these days and I'm mightily interested in why. I know I react to it with an immediate peevishness and a recourse to the gray -- "Well, ok, but does it really say that and can you really say it's ALWAYS wrong?" Is this wisdom or weakness?

For those of us who have had more than one sexual partner, I still maintain we don't know what we've missed in having had only one . . . and we do a dis-service to discount its value.


No question, Stephen -- your last point is a powerful one. But I think there's a difference between a "moving target" and a slippery slope of permissiveness. We can say (as liberal Protestants do) that many biblical strictures about sexuality are time and culture-bound without saying that all things ought to be permissable. We also have to acknowledge that while "thoughtful" and "life-affirming" are "fuzzy, they are not without substance altogether. It's in dialogue with the kids that we can help them work towards good decisions that honor God, their sexual partners, and themselves. And I am convinced that in seeking to honor those three, young people can make a variety of intelligent sexual decisions. I want to help equip them for that.

Mark (WannabeAnglican)

"Of course, not a single youth leader with whom I've worked has been a virgin. No one waited until marriage. On a purely practical level, that makes it utterly impossible for us to advocate pre-marital abstinence (even if we wanted to) and still retain any legitimacy at all."

Of course?
And I don't think it makes it impossible to advocate abstinence if they can say, "I was stupid. I should have waited."
But I agree with you that a lack of chaste youth leaders is not good.

I would also suggest that teens need firm standards about sex like small children need firm standards about playing with matches.

(Knowing some teen guys, they STILL need firm standards about playing with matches.)


The "of course" was perhaps unnecessary. I meant that it shouldn't be surprising that at such a liberal parish, those who work with youth have had "liberal" sexual histories!

I never like comparing sex to matches, or other dangerous activities. I think we do kids a tremendous disservice when we present sex as something fraught with so much danger. Of course, sex has its consequences (which can resemble a conflagration), but we must always remember the fundamental holiness and goodness of our sexuality -- and that doesn't fit well with fear.


I'm also hesitant to portray sex as a "bad" thing. Sex is a gift of God. But the thing is, with all the STDs going around, non-monogamous sex IS dangerous.

There's unhealthy fear. Then there's healthy, realistic fear.

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