The Episcopal Church & Sexuality

by Aaron Charles
Gene Robinson is the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop.

Gene Robinson is the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop.

The Episcopal Church does not want "sex talk" to be taboo. In fact, the Church believes that human sexuality is a gift from God and is something that should be discussed and celebrated. At the same time, Episcopal leadership has strong and evolving views about how sexuality may be expressed.

Sexuality

The Episcopal Church does not believe that the main goal in sex is to procreate, as some Christian denominations believe. Being a Protestant faith, Episcopalians say that the primary object of sex is to enjoy another person in sexual intimacy, and that procreation is a secondary benefit. Traditionally, Episcopalians believe that sex should be had only among those married to one another. But now that openly gay, sexually active persons are allowed in the Episcopalian faith, new questions have been raised about marriage and sexuality.

Homosexuality

The Episcopal Church blesses homosexual relationships and backs same-sex marriage ceremonies in the states where they're legal. Regarding same-sex couples who aren't legally allowed to marry, the Church apparently has made no specific comment about whether they should feel free to have a sexual relationship, in spite of the fact that they're not married. However, openly gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson said in a 2012 interview with Publishers Weekly that he agreed that new understandings of human sexuality have weakened some the Bible's authority on the subject. He said that all the biblical texts assumed that all believers are heterosexual, and therefore aren't completely reliable for guidance on homosexuality.

Celibacy

At the other end of the spectrum there's the matter of celibacy, which the Episcopal Church neither requires nor condemns. Some Episcopalians may make voluntary vows of celibacy in order to live in a monastic or other religious order. But celibacy is not a requirement in order to be a member of the Episcopalian clergy. The Church encourages young people especially to be open with their feelings about sexuality, including thoughts and concerns about sexual abstinence.

Chastity

Episcopalian leadership encourages sexual purity among Episcopalians. They define sexual purity, in general, as virginity for the unmarried, fidelity for the married and continence, or sexual restraint, for the widowed. Still, the Church acknowledges evolving discussions in terms of sexual ethics and how they affect Church beliefs. Specifically, Episcopalian leaders say that the central questions in sexual ethics include the nature of sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual and gender identity, as well as the effects of patriarchy and the need for justice, equality and intimacy among all people. The Episcopal Church's future answers to these questions could provide new meaning to their understanding of sexual chastity.

About the Author

Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."

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