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Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality



COPYRIGHTED 1997 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - MAY BE REPRINTED OR QUOTED FROM ONLY IF CREDIT IS GIVEN LIBERATED CHRISTIANS, MAILING ADDRESS IS SHOWN AND WE ARE SENT A COPY OF PUBLICATION.

Responsible Non-Monogamy in Christian Marriage Affirmed By Theologians.
Embodiment: An Approach To Sexuality and Christian Theology, by James B. Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics, United Theological Seminary

"Fidelity is a commitment of emotional and physical intimacy with the partner; it means caring for the growth and fulfillment of each as a person; it is commitment to growth of the marital relationship itself; it requires honesty, openness, and trust; it involves willingness to explore ways of opening self to the partner at the deepest level; it includes openness to secondary relationships of emotional and potential sexual expression but with commitment to the primacy of the marriage.

Personal growth for either wife or husband may well require other intimate friendships with consent and seeking the best for each other. Secondary relationships can serve not only personal growth but also and at the same time serve the marriage itself. Raymond J. Lawrence, Episcopal chaplain and marriage counselor, observes that transmarital sexual relationships would only be considered "unfaithful" if done for inappropriate motives such as revenge or to hurt the other. But, "the refusal to open oneself to secondary sexual relationships can also be based upon inappropriate reasons. An emotionally immature, religiously self-proving desire for purity and innocence might be one. Another might be the resistance to sufficient autonomy and the persistence in a clinging dependency upon the spouse - which is different from mature interdependency. The high degree of intimacy possible in a good marriage seems to depend in no small measure upon the relative absence of possessiveness and clinging dependency.

Rosemary Ruether presses this further. Historically, she notes, monogamy has been closely linked with the private property relationship of man over woman in patriarchal society. Ruether wonders if we have not lifted up the wrong priority by apparently prizing sexual exclusivity over enduring, intimate companionship and personal fidelity. We might have more of the latter if we were not so insistent as a church on sexual exclusivity."

In another of his books, Body Theology, James Nelson proposes we reclaim sexuality and become sex-affirming, understanding sexuality as a moral good rooted in the sacred value of our sensuality and erotic power without needing justifications that applied to a much different biblical culture.


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