7 JULY 1973, Page 17

Husbands of Christ

Sir: When Canon Hugh Montefiore's suggestion about the possible homosexuality of Christ (referred to in ' Husbands of Christ,' May 5) was reported in the press, a statement from Anglican headquarters denied that there was any evidence to support his ideas, affirming the Christian belief that Christ was a perfect man, but it did not tackle the root problem; nor has any theologian in your recent correspondence columns.

Reference books say that orthodox Judaism frowned on celibacy and debarred the unmarried from public office, believing that religious perfection could be achieved only in the married state, so some explanation is required when an unmarried Jew speaks so authoritatively about godliness and invites everyone to follow His example. According to the Gospels, Christ made it plain that he was inaugurating a kingdom which could not be entered by natural birth, that His teaching would disrupt the family life on which Judaism placed such emphasis, and that thl important relationships were of those who became a family through writing in obedience to His Father's will. Untutored readers conclude that traditional Jewish teaching about the duty of founding a natural family is no longer relevant.

But this is not what we get from ordained men outside the Roman Catholic Church. By teaching and example they revert to the pre-Christian level, although quotations from Judaism have to be more carefully selected now that rectories overflowing with children and servants are no longer economically possible and fruitful vines are to be avoided. Many of us have had the same experience as the principal of a theological college who wrote with reference to the unmarried minister, " I find it significant that there are two passages of Scripture which I have never heard expounded in church, Bible class or study group, Matthew XIX II-12: 1 Corinthians VII 33-34." What we do hear is Ephesians V 25-33, written for newly-converted Gentiles as a model for married life, expounded as a specific injunction to Christians to marry as the ideal way of experiencing union with Christ, and we have heard rabbinical sayings used to justify, to young inquiries, the use of contraceptives to this end, e.g. "The Shekinal lies between husband and wife in marriage," with not a word about " Shekinal " meaning " Divine immanence in creation."

One Jewish custom which has not been resurrected during the decades of Anglican debate on the spacing of families is given in one of the aids to Bible study edited by Dr William Neil. whose latest book was enthusiastically reviewed (June 9) as a return to spiritual sanity " The child was breast-fed by the mother until it was about three years old, The weaning was celebrated by a feast such as that which Abraham made for Isaac's weaning. So long as the mother was feeding the child she and her husband lived separately: there was therefore normally a minimum of three years between the birth of children. The number of children that any woman would be expected to bear was therefore limited."

I do not know whether the writer of ' Husbands of Christ' takes seriously his own suggested solution for homosexual clergymen, but he does not need to be told that it would be unacceptable to many rank-and-file Christians. At the same time, he has good reason to argue that the Anglican hierarchy which has been able to convert, unfortunately to its own advantage, a once positive sin into a positive duty (to keep the marriage alive) is not in the very best position for instructing others on how to deny their own natural sexual instincts. The man who said, "I can do all things Through Christ whiCh strengtheneth me." Philippians IV 13; had taken his own medicine.

Emily Jackson Park Lodge, 3 Park Road, Buxton