The late Richard Neuhaus once recalled that in the 1970s it was widely expected among religious cognoscenti that United Methodism would be the first of America’s historically liberal Mainline Protestant denominations to abandon traditional Christian sexual ethics. After all, it was the largest and most Americanized of mainline churches, and it wasn’t protected by strong traditions of liturgy or ecclesiology. Its experiential theology often seemed muddled.
When Neuhaus shared that recollection in 2005, the Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ had already surrendered. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) were on their way. Besides the American Baptist Church (liberal northern counterpart to Southern Baptists), only United Methodism among the “seven sisters” of mainline Protestantism has officially retained Christian teaching that sex is exclusively for husband and wife.
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