What can sexual intimacy tell us about God? Why and how has the subject been downplayed in Christian formation and regulated in Bible study? What dimension of faith have we tossed under the bed and how can we restore the link between food, sexual intimacy, and the longing for God as the hoped-for promise of Divine Communion? Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson, a Berkeley professor and priest celebrating 25 years of service to the church, has written one of the first books to place sexual ethics and intimacy in a liturgical context. “I’m hoping to broaden the scholarly discussion and offer a guide for both clergy and laity to explore the sacramental significance of sexual intimacy,” he said. “Before debating rules and policies, Christian communities ought first to reflect on sex itself, its theological and spiritual significance. The Eucharistic Table provides the best location for Christians to prayerfully engage in that reflection – the Table where the Church has always proclaimed the hope and promise of “divine communion.” Divine Communion: A Eucharistic Theology of Sexual Intimacy Jay Emerson Johnson 9781596272521 $20.00 Paper 6 X 9 192 pgs Seabury Books
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What prompted such an original work? “The hesitancy of modern Western churches to address embodied sexual relations explicitly highlights a critical gap between today’s Christian communities and historical traditions that I aim to bridge with this book. I aim to do so with renewed attention to the theological, liturgical, and spiritual significance of sexual intimacy and bodily eroticism. As I attempt that bridge-building, I imagine both biblical writers and Christian theologians over the centuries teetering on the brink of making the truly audacious claim they longed to make but could not quite bring themselves to do: erotic energy sits at the heart of Christian faith and practice.” Sex then is a part of faith? “Love lies at the heart of the Gospel. I do not mean the sanitized or sentimental versions of love that proliferate in greeting cards. I mean, rather, the many forms love can take, all of which exhibit an erotic character, the hope for encounter and intimacy. Christians can claim even further that this deep desire for love originates with God, whose longing for intimacy not only shines forth from biblical texts and theological traditions but also in every elegant, fumbling, joyous, and disappointing or even traumatic encounter we have with sex and sexual intimacy. Divine eroticism shines forth from all these moments precisely because God created their physical and material conditions. God has done something else as well. By making human bodies, with their complex physiology and all their various parts and organs, God has planted in each of us a carnal pathway for encountering divine love.” So what is your goal with the new book? “Overall, I hope that Christians will find fresh and invigorating ways to talk with each other about their own experiences with erotic desire and their longing for union with God. That conjunction describes the One Story of Christian faith and its kernel of good news for all those who ponder sexual ethics and who seek to live in a world of reconciliation and wholeness, with each other and with this planet of God’s creation. Christian communities enact and proclaim this startling story every time we gather around a ritual table to share a simple meal of bread and wine—a remarkably erotic and hopeful performance of Divine Communion.” Jay Emerson Johnson, PhD, teaches at Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union, while serving as Associate Clergy at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Berkeley CA. He is also the author of “Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope.” The new book can be ordered at bookstores, including member stores of the Episcopal Booksellers Association, direct from Cokesbury customer service at 800-672-1789, through Cokesbury.com, or from any other online bookseller. Founded in 1918 and headquartered in New York City, Church Publishing Incorporated is the publisher of official worship materials, books, music, and digital ministry resources for the Episcopal Church, plus a multi-faceted publisher and supplier to the broader ecumenical marketplace. Publishing imprints include Church Publishing, Morehouse Publishing, and Seabury Books. Additional CPI divisions include Morehouse Church Supplies, a provider of church supplies and clergy shirts, and Morehouse Education Resources, which produces lectionary-based curriculum and faith formation programs.
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