MOPs, Methodists, and Kids Who Ask About Sexuality

April 17, 2019

MOPs, Methodists, and Kids Who Ask about Sexuality

A local United Methodist Church (UMC) kindly hosts a MOPs (“Mothers of Preschoolers”) small group. With a spirited toddler and new baby due in May, this Bible study/support group is a perfect fit for me. As I am learning, there are loads more lessons to parenthood than teaching ABCs and potty training.

My daughter is only a toddler and already my husband and I are navigating how to equip her with historic Christian teaching in a broken society aiming to reframe one of her most basic foundations—the family unit. Goodness knows we aren’t the only parents facing this tall challenge.

MOPs groups try to help prepare moms for parenting hurdles. I along with about eight or so other young moms from various church backgrounds gather bi-weekly to enjoy fellowship and snacks, pray for one another, and examine Scripture to better equip us for the highs and lows of motherhood. But at my last meeting, the conversation took a more provocative turn than usual as one mom asked for advice in approaching the subject of homosexuality with her preschool-aged son.

This mom’s young son began asking her tough questions after seeing his uncle kiss his boyfriend. The other moms quickly sympathized with our friend, but this was a tough question to answer over snacks and small talk. As the other moms talked, I couldn’t help but think about how we were sitting in a UMC church building, a denomination that just convened a historic, specially called session of General Conference to debate sexual morality.

Thankfully, the UMC upheld traditional Christian sexual ethics as its church law at General Conference 2019. But if there are adults in (and leading) the Church that are misguided or hesitant when debating biblical sexual morality with one another, then how are we to approach the topic with preschoolers? Or where do we draw boundaries when in fellowship with loved ones in same-sex relationships? How do we teach our very young children what it looks like to speak the truth in love per Ephesians 4:15?

Some readers might think there is no need to discuss sexuality with such young kids. However, the reality for parents today is that we live in a society—and some church communities—that aim to reframe children’s understanding of the marriage covenant and family starting young and younger. To give you an idea, I have to be careful when picking out children’s books at the local library. More than one book that I’ve started reading to my daughter has featured families with two dads or two moms.

All this to say, the young mom in my MOPs group brought up a very relevant question that we cannot shy away from. Nor can we simply tell our kids that homosexuality is wrong, and end the conversation there. It’s not a helpful or loving approach when the likelihood is someone in our child’s lives—a dearly loved uncle, aunt, or family friend—is in a same-sex relationship.

I was happily surprised by the wisdom offered by the other moms in my MOPs group and would like to relay some of their advice here. Keep in mind these are twenty and thirty-something-year-old women from a variety of geographical and evangelical backgrounds, including Methodists, Baptists, and non-denominational congregants.

A caring piece of advice encouraged the mom to avoid unintentionally making her young son feel awkward when asking questions and to foster open discussion by boldly discussing words like “gay.”  Another recommended using children’s books that demonstrate traditional families to affirm God’s creation of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman.

One mom suggested her friend be upfront with her uncle about her faith and ask that he kindly avoid displays of affection when her young son is around. She admitted that this could be a touchier approach because of how much of a hot button topic the LGBTQ issue has become.

What I’ve come to notice is that my daughter learns best from the example of my husband and me. Consistent demonstration of the verbal lessons we teach has the most significant effect on her behavior. Teaching my daughter to speak the truth about sexuality while being loving to others starts with me. If my daughter hears me instruct her to love others while speaking Christian truths, but never sees me loving my neighbors or I fail to publically make a defense for traditional Christian teaching, then it’s likely she will follow my example and fail to do either. (1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind, which says, “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”)

Indeed, there is so much societal pressure around the LGBTQ issue, that even Christian grownups are compromising Christian teaching in an effort to appease the world around us. So the best advice at MOPs group came from a young twenty-something mom who encouraged her friend to just “be brave and teach what God’s word says.” It might sound simple, but even adults need reminding that following Jesus Christ takes courage.

Thoughts or comments? What advice do you have for discussing such a hot topic with young children? Do you have resources that would aid parents struggling to discuss the LGBTQ issue with their kids? 


15 Responses to MOPs, Methodists, and Kids Who Ask about Sexuality

  1. Diane says:

    Gosh, keep your kid in a cave because life is going to introduce them to people of the same sex kissing, hugging, shaking hands, etc. They don’t even have to be gay. And Jesus laid his head upon the breast of his beloved disciple – wow, how do explain that to a kid?!!

    The answer is quite simple. Children are not asking about physical intimacy that loving adults have alone and in private. Kissing another person (with their consent…and not with a power-over motivation) is about the human emotion of affection. If John and Joe share a kiss or a hug, you don’t get carried away about having a conversation about sexual intimacy. You simply say, “they’re showing affection for one another”. Your child will grow up in a society where people show affection for those of the opposite sex and those of the same sex. If that reality truly scares you, don’t have kids. Seriously.

    • Jose Leosala says:

      This will not apply in Philippine culture. Kissing in between same sex is inappropriate and unacceptable. There are other ways for Filipinos to show their affection that will not trigger same sex relationship. The best way is to tell the truth of scriptures to children that same sex marriage was not God’s original plan for mankind and it will never change up to the coming generations.

  2. Diane says:

    BTW, lgbtq folks are just plain people – some others belittle them by defining them “an issue”. It’s like asking, “how do I deal with the issue of straight people”? Who does that? Treat others as you’d have them treat you. It’s biblical, you know.

  3. Diane says:

    There’s also the danger of teaching children that heterosexuality is good, gay is bad. I can guarantee you that’s a set up for alienating your kid if they discover themselves other than straight (and some children realize they’re attracted – with affection – to others of the same sex at a very young age. They can’t often articulate what they know is different about them. If you want a loving, trusting relationship with your young child through adulthood, educate yourselves about human sexuality. We are not Puritans – we’ve discarded notions about witchcraft because we have better secular knowledge about medicine. When one’s dog dies, we simply don’t blame it on a curse directed to us by a neighboring witch. Yet that’s exactly what born again Christians did years ago. If you love your kids, you’ll take time to move beyond the primitive biblical understandings of witchcraft and sexuality. Most young lgbtq homeless runaways are from judgmental, condemning religious families. Many who attempt or actually carry through with suicide are from religious families who reject them.

    I have been to several funerals of lgbtq young people and watched their condemning parents weep. If only they’d moved from their narrow, biblical understanding of sexuality and embraced their child, they’d not be mourning.

    Why not ask moms and dad’s from PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of LGBTQ) come speak to your parent group? Most PFLAG parents come from religious traditions such as United Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. They’re a great resource – and have a nice website with information.

    While you’re at it, read the testimonies on the website for the Straight Spouse Network (leadership is UMC) – heartbreaking stories of broken marriages, families when a straight spouse discovers their life partner was trying to be straight to please the church, society, their family, God, themselves. If you’re not informed about human sexuality, you can really hurt your kids while they’re young and as adults. Ignorance has a price.

  4. Gary Bebop says:

    Thank you, Chelsen Vicari, for continuing to address contemporary hot topics. Maybe even dissenters are learning something from the offering. We live in a moment of terror and suppression of the truth. But your voice gives many people hope.

  5. Diane says:

    Thanks, Gary. Let us love the Lord our God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The study of gender and sexuality has revealed so much in just the past few decades. Opening our minds to the new discoveries and discerning what this new information means to our greater understanding is one way to express our devotion to God.

    When the Cummings family suffered the loss of their cow, a horse, and then their dog, they immediately believed their neighbor had put a curse on them. They accused her of witchcraft – their neighbor was convicted and executed, under the biblically-based laws of that time (think Puritans, born-again-Christians). The Cummings were among my New England ancestors and their understanding of the Bible was based on the limited knowledge they had. There was no new knowledge, no new discoveries for them to discern in re to witchcraft. The death of their dog and livestock were not understood to be caused by germs and infection, or disease. Those discoveries and the medical advances we now have were not known at the time.
    So, today, how do we understand those biblical passages re the practice of witchcraft? Has our understanding changed with time and new discoveries, new knowledge?

    Many Christians today – you may call them dissenters – have assimilated new understandings of sexuality and gender. They can no longer abide or even make sense of the old biblical understandings. Knowledge and discernment are not bad things. Are dissenters heretics? Led by the devil?

    My ancestor, Puritan John Tarbell, was a dissenter in re to the popular notions of witchcraft in Salem. He had knowledge and perception that allowed him to discern and come to a very different conclusion than many of his fellow parishioners and townspeople (primarily, he was for many years prior to the trials a son-in-law of accused, convicted and executed Rebecca Nurse, ie, he had pretty intimate (not sexual) knowledge of her). He was, however, regarded as a heretic for his opposition to the trials and accusations. He was banished from the Salem church…though today, Christians know he was on the right side of history. Would that the Salem church had had many more dissenters of what was being preached to them!

    So, yes, I’m a dissenter. I have worked for decades with young people and have come to understand that when parents are open and well educated with current information re sexuality and gender, they are likely to have a healthier relationship with their kids and their children will be healthier for it, too. Building trusting relationships with kids is important. I have been “mom” to young people and young adults who feared being honest and open with their own parents. They believed their parents would reject them, based on their very condemning and judgmental language about lgbtq people. There is so much heartache! The timeless messages of the Bible in terms of sacred, loving relationships that reflect our understanding of God’s sacred love are so important to teach our children, whether gay or straight: love is giving and forgiving, it does not boast, etc (1st Corinthians, love chapter). Sexuality and gender don’t change that sacred love.

    • Mike says:

      Diane, you come on here, a Christian site, with your liberal ideas, most of which are for all purposes pagan and antiChristian. What do you hope to accomplish? You are on the wrong side of all these issues. You quote the Bible passages that suit you, and ignore those that work against your beliefs.
      You need to understand that the Bible is not simply a reference book, in which you can pick and choose what you want, and ignore the rest. All of it is given by God-the theological term is “God-breathed”-and all of it must be believed and accepted.
      You go outside of Christian circles to get support for your arguments, and have admitted that you really don’t believe in God. For instance, you think that God can be referred to as “she”. That is not how God Himself is referred to in the Bible. Remember, He makes the rules. We disobey them at our own peril.
      You are not a United Methodist, and have no “skin in the game”. Even if this is a free site as far as commenting, your comments are so far out of line as to have no value.

      • Diane says:

        You’re wrong, Mike. I do have skin in the game. The Bible is a narrative text and if you know anything about reading comprehension, literal interpretation of a narrative text is developmentally expected only of beginning readers. As we grow in our life experiences, our critical thinking skills, etc. can lead us to many interpretations and understandings of a narrative text that disagree with what someone else’s understanding might be. Jesus did not literally interpret scripture and clearly, he was in disagreement with traditional interpretations of scripture within his own faith community (which made him a progressive, which really disturbed the leaders of his faith community). If you remain in a community where everyone demands the same interpretation, you become stagnant and antiquated. The disciples loved being challenged to new ways of thinking and believing. Think about it.

        • Mike says:

          Diane, there are so many holes in your way of arguing that I frankly do not quite know where to start.
          Jesus was hardly a “progressive”. Being God in the flesh, He is the standard. He came to set the record straight, to correct those ways of thinking that were off the track, and , foremost, to die for our sins. Jesus did not literally interpret Scripture? He literally fulfilled it!
          “The disciples loved being challenged to new ways of thinking and believing. “? Where did that come from? I don’t find that in the gospels, especially at this time of the year, when we remember that the disciples did not understand and accept the meaning of the crucifixion until after the resurrection, and even then Thomas was slow to accept it, until faced by the risen Lord.
          “(L)iteral interpretation of a narrative text is developmentally expected only of beginning readers”? If you cannot accept a narrative text as literal, where do you go to learn history? How can you learn anything, if nothing you read is authoritative? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness…”. The Bible was not given to us as one of many books, to be used as we see fit, and to pick and choose what we believe. We reject it at our own peril eternally.
          Face it. Diane. You are an infidel, and not one of God’s children. You argue from the position of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

        • Joan Wesley says:

          Diane, I truly believe in the sincerity of your beliefs and you have come to them after much thought and reasoning. However, I suspect that we have completely understandings of God and the church:

          If you are referring to the original 12 apostles who were constantly being challenged to new ways of thinking, the person doing the challenging was Jesus Christ, who was both and all at the same time the Son of God and the Son of Man; the creator triune God choosing to become the created. Who, through his birth, life, death, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension paid the price He Himself required for our human failings. And after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension it was the Holy Spirit, also the creator triune God, who challenged the 12 apostles and then Saul to new levels of thinking.

          As a flawed human being, I believe we should be very careful in what we view as new enlightenment. As one of the Jewish leaders said about the rise of Christ followers, it is wise to allow time to see if this movement is really of God. No one should be in a rush to overturn 2000+ years of Christian understanding; especially when the new thinking did not originate in the church but rather in the culture at large. Meanwhile, let us agree to respect the right we each have to believe differently from each other. Let us also agree that we will treat everybody we meet as we go about our daily lives with care and respect regardless of who they are and what they believe. But, for me, that does not require me to share a church with you.

          • Diane says:

            Well spoken. Thank-you. This particular discussion is, from personal experience, about not just the welfare of children, but their very lives. I have been to too many funerals and counseled suicidal lgbtq young people and young adults who were told by their families that being gay is a choice for which they will receive eternal damnation. In an effort to show “tough love”, these Christian parents disinherited their kids and threw them out on the streets. One young man decided he may as well be dead if he wasn’t loved of God or his family – and deliberately set out to become infected with HIV. I was his care partner when most Christians who went to church every Sunday and took comfort in reciting ancient creeds treated people living with HIV/AIDS as lepers.

            I have had to convince gay young people to put down the gun and butcher knife – so desperate were they to escape the pain of being rejected by their Christian families.

            Then there was the young man who hooked a hose to his car’s tailpipe and fed it through his car window. Parked and sitting alone in his garaged car, he turned on the engine and died. His parents and minister told him God doesn’t love gay people.

            There was the minor-age kid who came out to his parents as gay – only to have his Christian parents force him to live in the family car in sweltering one hundred degree heat, telling him he could return to the family home when he “changed”. He walked the mall during the day and spent nights with friends until he found a homeless shelter in a nearby city.

            I could write a book on the horrors of what conservative Christian parents do when their kids come out as gay.

            I am an angry person who’s seen the violent, murderous side of what “loving, conservative, Christians” do to their gay kids.

            Interesting how many conservative Christians dismiss me because I’m not Christian enough for them. Where were they with the love and affirmation their children needed?

            Please take comfort in your sanctuaries with lovely music and stained glass windows while I remain on the outside comforting your gay children.

      • Richard S Bell says:

        Scripture reveals that God’s moral law, and specifically God’s moral law for sexual conduct, is just the same for males and females, homosexuals and heterosexuals, Jews and Greeks. (Also, Scripture reveals God’s will that the Church marry homosexuals just as it marries heterosexuals.) In an essay that has been criticized by eminent Christian scholars but not impugned in any important respect, I prove, by traditional methods of interpretation, what I just asserted. You may get a copy of my essay by email request to rsbell@ameritech.net

  6. John N says:

    Sorry about the need to a long post…

    Every written word involves two people – the author and the reader. As Methodists confront the issues surrounding the expression of LGBT lifestyles, this very fact of author vs reader is a part of our division. We seem to be reading two different versions of Scripture. For example, I simply cannot read the Bible and walk away believing I have just discovered any form of sanctification of homosexual marriage or homosexual expression. I try to read to understand what the Author inspired. Yes, the various Biblical texts were written by men, best understood in their times, but I believe they wrote under the inspiration of God. In a related way, for example, I know that the Handel’s “Messiah” was written by a man, but I believe it was written while under the inspiration of God.

    So how can two groups seem to read the scriptures so differently? I think the differences in thought processes between the progressives and traditional Methodists are the direct result of modern academic literary deconstruction and postmodern thought. These two attempts to approach reality share one thing in common: they are both grounded in Nietzche’s assertion that God is dead. Nietzche, also saw a direct corollary to “God is dead” – there are no eternal facts and there are no eternal truths.
    So, how does one read the scripture from the unspoken perspective that there is no God and there are no eternal truths to be found? Hard as it is to conceive of reading the Bible this way, literary deconstruction provides a guide. Deconstruction theory – an academic approach taught to nearly all undergraduates these days – tells us that the meaning of a text is not at all what the author wanted or intended to say with his choice of words, images, or concepts. What matters is what the reader grasps from the material, what images he forms, what inspires him and what he chooses to take away to shape his life. Truth is thus defined as only what the reader gets from his reading, a reading shaped by personal beliefs and experiences. It is from this construction that we hear about “her truth”, the expression famously tossed out by progressives during the 2018 hearings for Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. Since there isn’t any real truth, the truth was what she chose to believe in – “her truth”. Her truth was held just as valid as any other truth. Truth is only what you or your group agree is true. Nothing more. This is how progressives can find sanctification in homosexuality in the scripture – because they choose to see it there and they agree on it. There is no certain message from God, and the truth is “their truth”.
    The second modern academic philosophy that gives progressives such certainty of their position is postmodernism. In postmodern philosophy there is no God, and the material world is all there is or will ever be. All metanarratives are suspect or false. A metanarrative is essentially a worldview, for example, the metanarrative that Western Civilization owes it morality and justice system to Christianity. Unreliable. The metanarrative that the United States is a force for good. Untrustworthy. The metanarrative that we are created in the image of God and human life has a purpose. Unreliable. All metanarratives are not to be believed (except “this metanarrative” – a contradiction to be sure). History is unreliable, it’s nothing but one event after another, some connected in some way by cause and effect, but with no plan or purpose and going nowhere at the end. Progressives seem to believe that the historic Bible is untrustworthy, the Christian metanarrative is erroneous, and their calling is to impose their truth in order to steer traditional Christianity from error.
    I wonder if progressives would ever admit that the thought process behind deconstruction is, at its very center, atheistic… Until they acknowledge that God lives today, that absolute truth exists, and that scripture is inspired and has a message that God is sending to us – then agreement will not be reached on disputes derived from very different worldviews.

  7. Abbigail Drake says:

    What is Mop’s official policies on homosexuality? Or does the Mops Organization believe that believe in Jesus Christ takes away their homosexuality. The faith state give is vague. I would like some transparency regarding their stance on homosexuality. Faith Statement: The spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, with equality across racial, gender and class differences (John 17:20-23; Revelation 5:9).

    Based on the conversations I see above it does not appear that equality in relation to gender is acceptable in MOPs. Does gender refer only to male and female. That seems to make more sense. However? What are Mops teachings regarding relationships between men and women, and women leaders with in churches i.e. Pastors. I’m also really curious about why some christian’s appear to be referred to as less then adults or mistaken adults who have been lead astray. Is there truly equality for all within this organization? It seems like some Christian’s are seen as better Christian’s based on their stance regarding homosexuality. That doesn’t seem very christian, ultimately or very equal. It seems like some Christian’s are the right questions and some are the wrong Christian’s. Please fully disclose MOP’s stance regarding homosexuality as well if they accept or want to “help” homosexuals (as in help someone who is addicted to drugs), help them to be uncorrupted–

  8. Abbigail Drake says:

    https://blog.mops.org/raise-your-voice/

    What is Mop’s official stance on homo sexuality. There faith statement response regarding- gender equality is confusing. Is this intended to speak to only men and women or transgender?

    Would Mop’s please “come out of the closet” in regarding to their official understanding of homosexuality. It seems like Mop’s trying to trick people into believing the organization is a reflection of our current culture.

    The church that hosts Mops in the community where I live would like make homosexual individuals straight via there conviction and love of Christ, so they are no longer sinners and can be real Christian’s and not sinners.

    Thank you Mops– for clarification.

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