Tempe, Arizona – Joshua Butler, a prominent evangelical Christian pastor and author, has resigned from his position as a leader of the Redemption Church in Tempe.
This comes after his book on the theology of sex caused a major uproar online earlier this spring. The resignation was announced in a letter to the members of the church, which was posted on social media.
“We have found ourselves in an impossible situation,” read the statement on his social media page when he announced his resignation. Also, his photo and details no longer appear on the church’s official website.
The release of Joshua Butler’s book, “Beautiful Union,” caused controversy prior to its publication in April. A preview of the book, titled “Sex Won’t Save You (But It Points to the One Who Will),” was posted on the website of The Gospel Coalition, an influential church resource organization. In the excerpt, Butler employed spiritual language to describe sexual intercourse, primarily portraying it as a sacred gift bestowed by a man to a woman and drawing parallels between this act and the relationship between Jesus and the church.
“She gladly receives the warmth of his presence and accepts the sacrificial offering he bestows upon the altar within her Most Holy Place,” wrote Butler. “Similarly, the church embraces Christ in salvation, celebrating his arrival with joy and delight.”
In the letter, Butler expressed that he had found himself in an impossible situation and had made the difficult decision to resign. He thanked the members of Redemption Church for their support and asked for their forgiveness for any pain he may have caused. He did not elaborate further on the reasons for his resignation.
After the release of the excerpt, many members of the public criticized Joshua Butler’s writing, claiming that it contained flawed theology and an excessively sexualized view of religion that prioritized male pleasure. Despite the inclusion of quotes from the New Testament’s Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, several theologians, including Beth Felker Jones, argued that Butler had misinterpreted and missed the true message of the biblical passages he referenced.
“But the piece does not dig into Ephesians, paying close attention to the text,” wrote Jones. “Instead, it turns into a rhapsody over a very male-centered experience of sexual intercourse.”
Butler’s book, ” Beautiful Union,” was published earlier last month and quickly became a lightning rod for controversy. In the book, Butler explored the idea that Christians should embrace and celebrate their sexuality, arguing that sexual desire is a God-given gift. However, his views on the topic of sex and marriage were deemed too liberal by some members of the evangelical community, leading to a fierce debate on social media and in Christian circles.
My statement and retraction of my endorsement for Joshua Butler’s forthcoming book. pic.twitter.com/qrQFQI6bkB
— Rich Villodas (@richvillodas) March 3, 2023