NEW YORK -- The United Methodist Church's official communications agency and the denomination's unofficial evangelical caucus are caught up in a debate over the value of erotica.
In a proposed resolution to be submitted to the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis in April, United Methodist Communications expresses the belief that erotica "can show persons in warm, caring human and responsible relationships."
It defines erotica as "sexually explicit and arousing" material that does not "use coercion, inflict pain or use violence in any way."
Good News, a magazine published by the Forum for Scriptural Christianity in the United Methodist Church, reported on the resolution in its January-February issue in an article titled "UM Agency Okays Soft Porn." It said United Methodist Communications condones "nonviolent, 'soft-core' pornographic materials such as Playboy magazine."
Nelson Price, associate general secretary of United Methodist Communications' public media division, said the Good News article "quotes out of context to present sensationalized opinion . . . focuses on a single section of a comprehensive resolution and misses the major substantive point of that section."
According to Price, "the resolution does not endorse Playboy magazine or 'soft-core pornography.' " He said to conclude that it does "is an Olympic leap made by the writer."
James S. Robb, editor of Good News and author of the article, said he objected to the resolution's definition of erotica. "Erotica -- explicit materials designed to arouse -- are exploitative, especially of women," he said. "It is designed to evoke an undesired response."
Robb said the evangelical caucus does not object to nude pictures in medical or sex education textbooks and feels that "even explicit pictures of the sex act in educational materials may be all right in some cases." But, he added, "erotica is entertainment, and we cannot condone it at any level."