Baylor cuts ties to Review & Expositor; Logsdon studying ties
___By Mark Wingfield & Marv Knox
___Managing Editor & Editor
___Baylor University's Truett Seminary has ended its sponsorship of the academic journal Review & Expositor after publication of an issue on sexuality the seminary's faculty deemed "irresponsible" and "contrary to sound theological scholarship."
___Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University, meanwhile, has indicated it could sever ties with Review & Expositor if the journal's editorial board does not take steps to prevent similar problems in the future.
___And Dan McGee, an employee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas who edited the contested issue of the journal, says the views represented in a controversial article are not his own and are in fact "radical" and "provocative."
___BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade denounced that article on "embodiment theology" as disturbing, distasteful and lacking "clear biblical foundation." The BGCT has no direct ties to
Review & Expositor other than through McGee's service as issue editor.
___Review & Expositor is a quarterly theological journal originally published by the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
___However, in 1996, the seminary faculty declared the journal to be independent of the seminary. A new coalition of sponsor and patron schools was announced.
___The three lead schools sponsoring the journal became McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Va., and Truett Seminary at Baylor. Five schools were enlisted as patron institutions: Campbell University Divinity School, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, White Divinity School of Gardner-Webb University, Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.
___The lead article in the spring 2001 issue, titled "Embodiment versus Dualism: A Theology of Sexuality from a Holistic Perspective," was written for the journal in 2000 by Leslie Smith Townsend, a pastoral counselor and marriage and family therapist in Louisville, Ky. Although dated last spring, the journal was released only recently.
___Townsend uses frank, clinical language to discuss issues such as menstruation, intercourse and genital function. She quotes another author to suggest that "the sexual feelings, functions and meanings of our genitals" can be "important modes of revelation" about God.
___"The physiological crises of menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause serve as instruments of revelation in female experience," Townsend also argues.
___For females, she adds, "God is 'living' us through the experience of menstruation."
___Some readers interpret Townsend's article as touching on goddess theology, quoting a poet who wrote, "I found god in myself, and I loved her."
___Townsend disagreed. "When I speak of God 'living' us through the experience of menstruation ..., I am drawing upon a rich tradition of incarnational theology," she explained.
___Regarding the male understanding of God, Townsend draws a comparison to the male experience of penile function. She also compares the flaccid and erect state of the male organ to experiencing God as both potent and impotent.
___Townsend further relates the experience of sexual intercourse to understanding the revelation of God.
___Primarily because of publication of this article, faculty of Truett Seminary voted Dec. 10 to withdraw immediately from the coalition of sponsoring schools.
___"The theology presented in articles in the spring 2001 issue of the journal is judged to be irresponsible and is inconsistent with the theology embraced by Truett Seminary," according to a statement released by the university. "While academic journals by their nature often include controversial viewpoints and are designed to provoke discussion, this particular issue--which was not edited by or seen in advance by Truett faculty--presents ideas that are contrary to sound theological scholarship."
___At Hardin-Simmons, a statement released by Bill Ellis, vice president for academic affairs, said the university is "extremely disappointed in the decision of the editorial staff of the Review & Expositor to include articles in its recent issue on 'Sexuality and the Church' which are of an inappropriate nature for a Baptist journal."
___"While we affirm that all aspects of God's good creation and of the human condition in its relationship to worshipping and serving God are appropriate materials for academic discourse, we do not believe the provocative nature of some of articles, particularly that by Ms. Townsend, ... has a place in the Review & Expositor," the statement continues.
___"Consequently, the HSU administration with the support of the dean of the Logsdon School of Theology will ask the journal to review its editorial decision-making processes and, based on the responsiveness of the journal to our concerns, we will decide whether or not Hardin-Simmons University will continue its relationship with the journal."
___The issue that sparked response by Baylor and Hardin-Simmons was edited by McGee, director of counseling and psychological services for the BGCT. The convention has no direct ties to Review & Expositor. McGee had served as issue editor while on faculty at Hardin-Simmons before joining the BGCT staff.
___Review & Expositor, like many academic journals, appoints an issue editor each quarter. That person works alongside the journal's managing editor and associate editor.
___Nancy deClaisse-Walford of McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta is managing editor of Review & Expositor. Wayne Ballard of Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., is associate editor.
___The editorial board of Review & Expositor, on which each sponsoring or patron institution has a seat, meets twice a year to plan issues, according to deClaisse-Walford. The issue editors, however, are responsible for enlisting writers, finalizing topics and reviewing submissions. The editorial board approves writers and topics but does not read the articles before publication, she said.
___In specific reference to the spring 2001 issue, deClaisse-Walford said she and McGee approved the content before publication.
___Despite criticism of the issue and specifically Townsend's article, deClaisse-Walford said she stands by the decision to publish it.
___"When I read the article, I thought, 'This is going to raise some eyebrows,' but one of the things I try to emphasize is that the people for whom this journal is written are pastors and leaders in churches. They should be seminary educated and should be familiar with the language and issues being talked about."
___Further, she explained, the journal attempts to present a wide range of viewpoints, including viewpoints that may be discomforting.
___McGee, the issue editor, acknowledged the Townsend article contains "radical" quotations and "provocative" views. "She does not represent my viewpoint," he said.
___McGee noted he is passionate about all the other articles in the issue but included an article on embodiment theology at the request of the editorial board.
___"Representatives of the Review & Expositor board said it was important to have a theological treatment of the topic of sexuality, and they would recommend the article deal with embodiment versus dualism and a theology of sexuality," he said.
___"I had no idea what 'embodiment' was. I know what dualism is. But I'm not a theologian. I am not on the inside of what goes on in theological circles.
___"I said, 'I'm a sexologist, and if you want to know what I think needs to be dealt with in terms of sexuality, ....' And I gave them the other articles."
___Members of the editorial board recommended Townsend and another embodiment theologian, James Nelson, as possible writers, McGee said. He found Nelson's books "far too radical for my comfort zone" and contacted Townsend.
___"We discussed what 'embodiment theology' meant, and my impression was the human body and all its functions are a reflection of the nature of God and we can learn from his creation by attending to the body and the functions and listening for what God has to say to us about his creation," he explained. "Frankly, that doesn't bother me at all."
___Although the article presented problems for McGee, he moved toward publication. "In hindsight, knowing the climate of the political conflict among Baptists today, I wish I could have taken the time to seek out a conservative theologian for his/her views on embodiment and dualism," he said.
___"The rest of the journal was important to me," said McGee, a marriage and family therapist and staunch advocate of sexual fidelity and marital faithfulness.
___In the same issue of the journal, McGee wrote an article on marital intimacy, emphasizing the sanctity of marriage. Other articles include a discussion of clergy sexual misconduct by Mark Laaser, a popular author published by LifeWay Christian Resources, and an article on "The Church's Response to Homosexuality: Biblical Models for the 21st Century" by Bill Tillman from the Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons.
___"I was convinced we need to speak to the academic world about the responsibility Christians have to reclaim our own sexuality and make it a part of our theology," McGee said.
___"To that degree, I felt most academic people can read (Townsend's) article and say, 'That's far out, but it's what some people are writing, and that helps me know what's going on in this field of sexuality and theology.'
___"This was not prepared for a Sunday School lesson and was not going to be presented at the Southern Baptist Convention or the Baptist General Convention of Texas. But it was, as I see it, a part of the dialogue between academics that includes a broad spectrum of beliefs."
___In an introduction to the journal, McGee distances himself from views in the embodiment article. "The writers ... represent a wide spectrum of academic, clinical, theological and even geographical differences," he writes. "We do not necessarily agree, nor do we endorse each other's viewpoints on sexuality or the church. ...
___"America is in danger of losing its soul for its own trivialization of marriage, romanticizing of violence and normalization of sexual irresponsibility. ... Our goal is to challenge church leaders to be assertive rather than timid about the church's responsibility to parishioners and the public, to look at what is being done in the community of faith to address these issues so critical to our survival as a nation.
___"We would like to challenge churches to take action to reclaim sexuality as an integral part of life, faith and relationships."
___BGCT Executive Director Wade said the journal issue on sexuality and particularly Townsend's lead article express views contrary to the convictions of Texas Baptist leaders.
___"The issue of sexuality and the church is worthy of thoughtful academic discussion and careful examination from a biblical standpoint, but the theological approach taken in the lead article of Review & Expositor was disturbing," Wade said. "The author's language was distasteful, and her presentation lacked a clear biblical foundation.
___"BGCT leaders certainly do not agree with the viewpoints she expressed. Clearly, this will prompt serious discussion about the future involvement of any BGCT personnel with the journal."
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