ARCANUM — The Castine Church of the Brethren, in Arcanum, is hosting a two-day conference, to understand harmful impacts of sexual addiction, through Pure Desire University.
Pure Desire is called to raise up leaders who understand the harmful impact of sexual addiction, and who are willing to engage in the fight for healthy sexuality in the home and community, according to the organization.
Castine Church of the Brethren Pastor Gary Cloyd said the church is not having the conference to create controversy, but to raise awareness.
“It is about being in a place, with solid biblical information, in an environment where there is grace,” he said. “Whether man or woman, not everybody that will walk into this conference is struggling with this particular issue. Don’t feel like if you come to this, you are going to walk in and be surrounded by a bunch of sick people. Many people will come to learn and grow. I can flip that around and say we are all sick. It doesn’t matter where we are, we are surrounded by people who hurt and who struggle, who have had traumas and difficulties, and sin has impacted their lives in different ways.”
According to sexual recovery.com, porn addiction, often coupled with compulsive masturbation, is the most common form of sexual addiction. It occurs when a person loses the ability to choose whether he or she will continue to view pornography. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, porn addicts, like other addicts, engage in addictive behaviors, not to have fun and feel good, but to escape from painful emotions and to feel less. These are the exact same reasons that people abuse drugs and alcohol, gamble compulsively and engage in other addictive behaviors, according to sexual recovery.com.
Cloyd said some of his attention towards sexual addiction came from a conference he attended a couple of years ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, discussing such topics as: brain science and porn, the impact of porn use and pornography in the church. In addition, an April 11 2016 Time Magazine article caught his eye, featuring a cover story on pornography, and how it is threatening virility and other cultural effects.
“It is often about medicating pain,” Cloyd said. “People say, ‘No, it is all about sin and if people just stop sinning, they will be all right’.”
Cloyd refers to the Bible book of James 1:14/15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.”
“Death is the addiction,” Cloyd said. “Each person is tempted when he is lured, and I picture a baited hook. The bait looks good. The sin piece occurs on the initial decision; they are making a choice that isn’t right. The addiction becomes like a well-worn path where people automatically return to escape from problems. They are no longer thinking about it.”
“That is where the church needs to adjust its thought of, ‘You can’t be doing that, you are sinning’,” Cloyd added. “In the church, we view porn and sexual addiction with such a narrow lens, and we don’t want to talk about it, often because pastors are hooked in it so bad themselves, they will not bring their pain forward. Therefore, if something is so evil that the church won’t even talk about it; someone may wonder, ‘How bad must I be?’ Shouldn’t the church be a place where human sexuality is discussed in a healthy and uplifting way, rather than being another thing that we don’t deal with because it is too hard or unpleasant?”
The Barna Group, in partnership with Josh McDowell Ministry, has created a landmark study “The Porn Phenomenon: The Explosive Growth of Pornography and How It’s Impacting Your Church, Life, and Ministry” on the pervasive nature of Internet pornography and its impact on the church. Some initial key findings in the study include: Twice as many young adults, ages 25-30, first viewed pornography before puberty than did the next generation; Whether they are seeking it out or not, 16 percent of young adults say they come across porn daily, 32 percent do so weekly and 23 percent say they do once or twice a month; 33 percent of women, ages 13-24, seek out porn at least once a month compared to 12 percent of women over age 25; about 12 percent of youth pastors and five percent of pastors say there are addicted to porn; 87 percent of pastors who use porn feel a great sense of shame about it, and 55 percent of pastors who use porn say they live in constant fear of being discovered, according to Josh McDowell Ministry website .
“We are all broken,” Cloyd said. “How about we drop the masks and just be real and transparent with each other, and out of that find grace and healing. That is what the church needs to be, not this gathering of the self-righteous, but a gathering of the broken to say, ‘Yeah, that is who I was, but praise God it is not who I am.’”
The Pure Desire conference is March 9 and 10, at the The Castine Church of the Brethren, 624 U.S. Route 127, in Arcanum. The cost is $99 before February 7, and $129 after. The cost will offset expenses to facilitate the Pure Desire speakers, including flight and hotels. For more information, call Anna at 503-489-0250, or email [email protected].