Thursday 5 March 2009

Does Changing Attitude advocate casual sex?

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.


  1. So to cut to the chase, what you're offering us is a widow and widower who have sex but do so outside of marriage. That is your offering? Are you trying to suggest to us that such a relationship is holy? What if they were in their 20s?

  2. And just to add to the above, what was the sin that Jesus is thinking of when addressing the woman caught in adultery, he says "Go and SIN now more"?

  3. Peter, Changing Attitude is working for full equality within the church, irrespective of age, sexuality or marital status.

    Yes, I am suggesting that such a relationship could be holy.

    I deliberately offered an elderly, widowed heterosexual couple. I want to know whether you are only concerned with sexual activity of LGBT people of of all humanity including the majority - heterosexuals.

    I am not happy with the word 'brief' in the quoted sentence. Changing Attitude didn't write the report, as I have said.

    I do believe that a loving sexual engagement, permanent, faithful, stable, outside of marriage, as any gay relationship must be, can be holy. The implication of this is that permanent heterosexual non-marital relationships can also be holy. Inclusive means that what applies to one group applies to all.

  4. Peter, I would say that was more holy than Hollywood celb marriages that last 2 days and then they file for divorce/annulment.

    The notion that homosexuals are more promiscuous than heterosexuals is pure bunk.

  5. James,

    I'm not asking whether it was *more* holy than something we know was a sham of a marriage. How can something be *more* holy? It either is or isn't holy, full stop.

  6. Well, if you take a couple of pensioners, he drawing his own pension, she that of her deceased husband - if they married, she would lose her widow's pension. But as his second wife, if he then died, she would be stripped of his pension and suddenly find herself pennyless.
    They would be really stupid to get married.

    But that doesn't mean that their committed relationship isn't holy.

    The holiness of a relationship lies in its quality, not in whether there's sex involved or not.
    God isn't half as sex obsessed as most of his followers.

  7. What actually constitutes marriage?

    1. That a couple go to the state and pay the fee and get a license and then exchange vows of matrimony?

    2. That a couple go to the church and exchange vows in the rite of matrimony?

    3. That a couple make commitments to one another and live together honoring those commitments?

    There is no legal religious marriage in Mexico. There is only legal civil marriage in Mexico. Civil marriage is expensive and so beyond the means of the majority of Mexicans, who are poor. The vast majority of Mexicans who are coupled, live as number 3 above. Are the majority of Mexicans immoral and bound for hell?