Peter Ould has asked me to present an example of a “brief and loving sexual engagement” that constitutes not “casual sex” but rather a “Permanent, Faithful, Stable” monogamous commitment.
The Sexual Ethics report was published by Changing Attitude on behalf of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation. It is their document, not ours. We published it as a thoughtful contribution to the process of formulating a Christian sexual ethic for LGBT people – it is not the final word.
The Report explores two possible ethical frameworks, the first scriptural and thematic, the second humanistic via a ‘friendship’ model. In the scriptural and thematic section exploring faithfulness, commitment and covenantal relationships, the report recognises that casual sex can often be addictive and destructive. It also recognises the possibility that a brief, loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be an occasion of grace.
The report is not presenting a brief, loving sexual engagement as equivalent to a permanent, faithful, stable monogamous commitment, which the report identifies as the Christian ethical ideal. Nor does it equate a brief, loving sexual engagement with casual or promiscuous sex. It briefly explores other ways in which adults engage sexually. It identifies casual sex as undesirable.
In answer to Peter, the example of a brief and loving sexual engagement that comes to mind is that between an elderly heterosexual couple, widow and widower, who meet in old age, choose not to marry for a number of reasons, form a close and loving relationship and share themselves sexually. This may not be the kind of example Peter was thinking of. The report doesn’t specify age or sexuality in suggesting that a brief and loving sexual engagement may not always be taboo.
Conservative evangelicals seem to be obsessed with gay male sexual activity. When sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage is considered, they only seem to think about gay men, rather than the majority of heterosexuals who enjoy sexual activity without being married.
Conservative evangelicals also seem obsessesed with penetrative sex. This is not an obsession shared by gay Christians. There are many ways of being sexual and sharing sexual pleasure and intimacy that do not involve penetration.
If marriage is the only context in which conservatives think sexual activity of any kind can occur, they cannot participate in debates about sexual ethics for LGBT people. There can be no ethic apart from total abstinence. An alternative for lesbians and gay men who do not have a vocation to celibacy would be same-sex marriage or Civil Partnership. St Paul explicitly advocated marriage for those unable to remain celibate; this applies equally to lesbians and gay men, who are unable to participate in a heterosexual marriage’.
Changing Attitude is engaged in an adult conversation about love, intimacy and sexual relationships with many different groups of people, engaging not only conservative evangelicals and LGBT Christians, but LGBT people who are not Christian and who live in many different cultures – the whole spectrum of humanity for whom Jesus came and comes.
I suspect God is not as obsessed with making sure that we have sex in the ‘right’ contexts and with the ‘right’ people in the ‘right’ way as some of us are. Why do I suspect this? Because of the encounters Jesus had with the woman of Samaria at the well and the woman caught in adultery, among others.