Community of Christ’s Obsession with Sex

John Hamer, Seventy and pastor of the Toronto congregation, recently gave a lecture entitled “Christianity’s Obsession with Sex”. A majority of the lecture has to deal with the broader Christian community’s attitude toward sex and how it developed. In the latter half he talks about what Community of Christ’s relationship is with sex and encourages our church to give up sexist and out of date ideas surrounding sex and instead focus on our enduring principle of “Responsible Choices”. This is the transcript of the latter half:


Let’s step back then from this sort of background as we tried to look at the history and origin. Regardless of where that all came from, I think its easy to concede that Christianity has nevertheless had a very long, unfortunate history of promoting unhealthy attitudes regarding sex, and although that’s the case, none of these really are essential or intrinsic to the religion. They are something that has been a part of it, for sure, but I would say not a good part.

These attitudes are not part of Jesus’s teaching – indeed, the over-emphasis seems to be completely contrary to the examples of how Jesus operated in the gospels.

I’m not normally one to say “Well, we have this idea and its actually coming from Plato” or “its coming from Greek philosophy”. Why not just say, “We should get rid of them, because they’re bad”? Actually Greek philosophy gave Christianity all kinds of good ideas, but I do think in this case that this bias against sex in general is not one of the good ideas. I think that its actually caused all kinds of unhealthy suffering, people feeling guilty for no reason, people confusing supposedly moral issues that don’t actually have any problematic ethical basis, and therefore avoiding thinking about actual ethical problems – things that are really important.

So how do we move forward? I definitely think we should be ditching sex obsession.

Here in Canada in 1967 while proposing laws that decriminalized same-sex activity in Canada, the Prime Minister at the time, Pierre Trudeau, declared, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”. I would like to say as a Christian pastor, I believe that the bedrooms are likewise no place for the churches to be. There’s no place for them. Churches and clergy, I think, need to get out of the sex police business, and we need to refocus our attention on important social justice issues that are everywhere in our world here in the 21st century.

Let me affirm again, sex is not inherently a sin, and indeed I would argue that the most common sin associated with marriage is sexism, not sex. We can take a picture here of the traditional wedding cake dolls – you can immediately see all of the amazing layers of gender roles that are being imposed. The history of marriage – we should do a whole lecture on this. The history of marriage is essentially one of property, the property owner (the father) is giving his daughter to the other family in the form of this new son-in-law. She’s dressed in white to proclaim her virginity, marched from the father’s house to the new house, and is literally given, property-wise, and then she traditionally loses her father’s name and assumes the husband’s name. The background tradition of this, of which the vestigages are still kind of rehearsed in a traditional wedding ceremony, are pretty stark. I think its very common for people in heterosexual relationships to transcend gender roles. Women end up doing, even if they’re both employed with full-time jobs, a disproportionate amount of child-rearing and house cleaning even so to this day. Its still a pervasive problem that we need to be worried about, as opposed to being worried about sex all the time.

I would say, therefore, that consenting adults should make responsible choices. That should be the standard – the enduring principle – when thinking about this. Acting in ways that are not selfish, in other words, treating other people involved with empathy and consideration. That’s true anytime you’re acting with other people. When involved in sex that’s also the same. Its the same standard or principle whether you’re going into business with somebody or into a sexual relationship with somebody.

Sexual abuse is of course immoral, but that’s because of the abuse part rather than the sex part. That’s where the inherent problem is: in the abuse.

Reforms are still needed, and that is actually also true in my demonination, in Community of Christ. Community of Christ in Canada, the church that the Toronto Congregation is a part of that I serve as a pastor for, is an LGBTQ+ affirming church and women now serve at all levels of leadership. The presidents of the church here in eastern Canada is a team of three women.

Nevertheless, the demonination has its roots, and was organized by people who were strong opponents of Mormon polygamy back in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, including Emma Smith whose one of the co-founders of our denomination. She was an ardent opponent of Mormon polygamy.

And so because of this historic place that we come out of – we are all products of our own history – we actually still have on our books something called a “Priesthood Cohabitation Policy”. Its one of our few rigid policies that we have that are enforced – sometimes anyway, when it is enforced – that violate our general principles as a church because it is a historic thing that needs to be reevaluated and reexamined.

That policy, unfortunately, continues to be a source of injustice in the church. For example, there are people in Canada who should be called to be ministry – who should be ordained to priesthood – who have not been because they are in a loving, committed relationship with a partner and they’re not married to that partner. This policy, if its enforced – which sometimes it is haphazardly – prevents that ordination from happening. Again, we need to get out of people’s bedrooms; that has nothing to do with anything. [This policy] should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

I do hope that Community of Christ is going to be able to do that and rescind the Priesthood Cohabitation Policy. We are going to have a World Conference next spring. It is my hope that we recover from this unhealthy distraction, and we are able to refocus on mission that is actually essential and relevant in the 21st century.

All of the many issues of activism that animates us on a normal basis when we’ve taken this little bit of break in reviewing this because I’ve been thinking about this in advance of the conference, so I appreciate you being here with me. I am interested in any feedback and also any questions or thoughts that you may have had.

So I will invite Leandro to share your questions with me. Let’s see what people have been writing.



Lewis Smart says, “Polygamy is one thing, what about polyamory?”

Like I said, we have a historic opposition to polygamy. Polyamory is, I think, a new word that in some ways is a blanket term that can mean all kinds of different things. It depends on what you mean.

If we’re talking about consenting adults having sex with more than one partner outside of marriage, then again, the enduring principle there that a person should be operating under in my view is “Responsible Choices” – making sure that whenever you’re involved in doing anything with another person you’re thinking of them as another person. You’re not engaging in ways that are selfish, harmful, absuive, or those sorts of things.

If its none of those, things then you’re probably just fine, I would say.