Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Friday, October 04, 2013


TOWARD A NEW MONOGAMY              Rough Draft

Here is a question that must be faced by the Episcopal Church and all Christian churches.

You must have sex only with your husband or wife is the assumption we make when we vow “…forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as log as you both shall live?”

We live in a world where new cultures have emerged. Some people today allow that they and their spouse may be sexual with others where there is mutual agreement to do so. To be clear, many partners mutually agree to allow their partners and themselves to be sexual with others.

The traditional Christian vow to strict monogamy was to ensure that the children born of the woman were the legitimate offspring of the husband. This had to do with inheritance of estates, money and lines of authority for royalty. It had nothing to do with the solidity, moral or sexual purity of the relationship between husband and wife. Married men and women from Biblical and times immemorial have had lovers other than their spouses.

A new monogamy means the vow that “I will be with you forever and we may choose to be with other sexual partners when there is mutual consent to do so.” Adultery is when one enters into other sexual relationships WITHOUT the other partner’s consent.

The church has entered a new world.  Look at the changes we have already made. In Biblical times, polygamy was practiced among ancient Jews; think Kings Saul, David and Solomon.

In Europe and England, Christian royalty and ruling classes, men and women, as a rule, had sex with other people than their spouses. American Christian politicians, business people and celebrities of stage and screen have regularly married and then have carried on with others, including multiple divorces and remarrying.

Most Christian churches except the Roman Catholics allow for divorce.  The vow to be partners and faithful until death is easily broken, rightly.

Today in some Africa priests of the Anglican Communion have multiple wives.  I dare say that some Anglican and Episcopal Clergy already engage in open marriages where with mutual permission, each partner may have sex with other partners. Only recently Blacks and whites may marry each other legally. We allow divorced clergy to remarry, where it was unthinkable fifty years ago.

In the 1920s the Episcopal General Convention decried birth control. In the 1930s the church said it was a responsible action for married people. Abortion is now approved under strict circumstances. We need to look forward to new ways of regarding marriage as customs and cultures evolve.

There was a time Christians said God and the Bible proclaim monogamy is the only right way to behave in marriage. Leafing through my Bible, commentaries and remembering my theological education, I cannot find the word of God establishing monogamy.

Of course St. Paul wrote about marriage.

"But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."[1 Cor. 11:3–9]

I suspect his views on women, men and marriage do not constitute a humane view of marriage and monogamy. Nor what most Christians take seriously as coming from God but a very human Jewish man trying to organize the church.

 The idea of monogamy was the product of the church and society well after the time of Jesus.

Divorce was once fiercely opposed because of deleterious affects on children and their nurture. There is scant evidence that children of divorced families fare worse than children from unbroken homes. Children have learned to adapt to fathers, stepfathers, mothers, stepmothers, and step grandparents rather well. Children of same sex parents are quite used to having two mothers or two fathers.

The argument that open marriage weakens traditional marriage is similar to the discussion that same sex marriages threaten heterosexual marriage. There is absolutely no proof that traditional monogamous families will be damaged by such allowances.

Also monogamy may fit the personality of some people but not others. People really are different. When young people marry they expect to be monogamous. Some find after a few years, they want other partners.

Some people marry expecting lifelong monogamy get divorced and have a period of having a number of partners.  When they marry again late in life, they are happy to be monogamous.

Another difference between people is sex drive. Some people have high sex drives and want sex several times a day. Other people are content with once a week. When most people marry they have a lot of sex in the first few months or year and it tapers off. But, sometimes it may taper off for the man but the woman may want more sex and more often. This is also true of homosexuals. Sexual drives varies from person to person. 

Now that homosexuals can marry, they bring a whole new cultural ethos into marriage. Many lesbians and gay men have had open relationships. Even when they choose to marry in church or state, there are differences they may bring to their marriage. Some LGBT people want to be monogamous and others want to be in or continue to be in open relationship. That should be and is their personal choice.

Some will say married clergy, whether LGBT or straight should live To a higher standard. This really means clergy should not be free to enjoy the sex life they choose, but he one defined by ecclesiastical rule.  I think clergy and lay people need to exercise the freedom of their own conscience about their sexual behavior as long as the couples are in agreement in that behavior.

It is interesting that the Episcopal Church has never taken a stand on pre-marital sex, sex for divorced people, sex for unmarried homosexuals or masturbation. It is just as well as I think bishops, priests, deacons and lay people need to keep their noses out of other people’s bedrooms.

We need to look straight in the eye the fact that many devout Christians, clergy and lay, bring differences of attitude and behavior that challenge traditional views of what constitutes the traditional vows in a marriage.

The Reverend Robert Warren Cromey

Robert Warren Cromey
Copyright 2013
All Rights Reserved


Anonymous Fred Fenton said...

Pope Francis, like his namesake, bravely calls for reform of the Church. The Pope says there has been too much emphasis on rules and regulations and too little on acceptance, forgiveness, and ministry to the poor and those in need. I think you rightly emphasize the importance of mutual consent when committed partners desire sexual experience outside the marriage bond. 50 years ago I heard Margaret Mead say that eventually sexual intercourse "would be the extension of a handshake." It has nearly come to that, I suppose. What matters is not private, consensual sex between adults, but not doing to others what you would not want others to do to you.

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