The Christian church has a deeply flawed understanding of sex that has led to morally groundless objections to masturbation, birth control, abortion and homosexuality, says a leading Canadian Anglican bishop.
In particular, the church has been wrong for centuries on the notion that sex exists only for the purpose of procreation, Right Rev. Michael Ingham, bishop of the Greater Vancouver Diocese of New Westminster, told a conference in Ottawa last night.
"Christianity as a religion stands in need of a better theology of sexuality," he said, "a better understanding of the complex role sexuality plays in our human nature and of the purposes of God in creating us as sexual beings."
He said the church has misunderstood references to homosexuality in the Bible, wasted energy in persecuting individuals who have argued for a new understanding of sexuality, and failed to comprehend how much the Bible and church doctrines have been shaped through the lens of male experience.
Bishop Ingham's call for a new theology of sex will be felt as a shock throughout the 77-million member Anglican Communion, Christianity's third largest denomination.
If so, they must be an easily shocked lot because this little play is into its umpteenth revival, although each time the houses are emptier.
A keen-eyed modern Rip Van Winkle awakening from a slumber of several decades might perceive a certain dislocate between the rhetoric and the action that attends many public issues in the West. For example, he might notice how many environmental activists are forever claiming to ground their terrifying predictions in science while at the same time declaring the scientific debate to be over and shouting down any further inquiry. He might wonder why many religious folks in the West, characterized widely as slaves to intolerant, absolute dogmas that brook no dissent, are getting their hands dirty trying to distinguish between Muslims who threaten them and Muslims who don’t, while many secularists proclaiming tolerance and freedom can’t wait for the glorious day Islamic culture and faith are completely eradicated. And he might notice that certain church leaders whose dawn-to-dusk calling seems to lie in preaching or defending sexual amorality are forever accusing their opponents of being fixated by sex.
Theological libertines like Ingham love to drop phrases like “the complex role sexuality plays in our human nature”, when they mean the exact opposite. What they mean is that it is complex only for those who believe in restraint and objective morality and suffer all manner of warping complexes and hang-ups as a consequence. Their sub-text is that, when the sexual apocalypse arrives, we will understand that sex stands in glorious isolation from the rest of our material, psychological and spiritual lives and none of us will give a hoot what we or anyone else does. We will go wherever the itch leads us because that’s the Divine Will. When that happens, there will be no further need to talk about it, but until then, do they and his cheerleaders ever seem to have a lot to say.