Rabbis disagree over 'holiness' of nonmarital sex


May 05, 1994|By Reported by Frank P.L. Somerville

A group of Orthodox rabbis in Baltimore has issued a stinging rebuke of leaders of the larger Conservative branch of Judaism for commissioning a report that finds "a measure of holiness" possible in sexual relations outside of marriage.

"It is most unfortunate that, at a time when the prevailing sexual ethics have deteriorated from our traditional standards, a commission of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly has seen fit to confirm further this erosion of our tradition, while forgetting that the restraints that were commanded by the Torah and the codes have helped us to stay together as a people throughout the millennia," said Rabbi Ervin Preis.

He was speaking for the Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore, an organization of Orthodox rabbis of which he is president.

Sharply criticized was the Commission on Human Sexuality of the Rabbinical Assembly, which announced its controversial recommendations in New York April 27. The assembly represents 1,500 Conservative rabbis serving 1.5 million synagogue members in the United States.

While condemning casual or promiscuous sex and adultery, the Conservative Jewish commission urged acceptance of rules of morality that would tolerate premarital relations between single men and women under certain conditions and consider the possibility that homosexual relations could be part of God's plan.

The middle-of-the-road Conservative rabbinate's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards is expected to begin deliberations on the recommendations in the fall.

But Baltimore's Orthodox rabbis wasted no time in castigating the proposals as being "against every and any Jewish principle of human behavior" and called on their colleagues in the Conservative branch to reject the document.

"The Conservative movement once again is not leading but is giving legitimacy, and most unfortunately using the word 'sanctity,' for totally impermissible sexual behavior," Rabbi Preis said. "It should not be the purpose of any religion to follow the Gallup poll of behavior and find justification in order to ease the conscience of its adherents."

Baltimore's Orthodox rabbis "pity the good and well-meaning Conservative Jews who may be, unfortunately, led by their leaders to legitimize a proposed 'set of ethical standards for unmarried Jews who are sexually active,' " Rabbi Preis said.

For more information, call Rabbi Preis at 486-2532 or Rabbi Leonard Oberstein, secretary of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore, at 484-7200.

Unitarian co-ministers

A husband-and-wife pastoral team has been appointed to lead Baltimore's historic First Unitarian Church, Charles and Franklin streets.

The Rev. John Parker Manwell and his wife, the Rev. Phyllis LeNoir Hubbell, who had careers as lawyers in Washington before studying for the ministry, have been called by the 176-year-old Baltimore church to be its first co-ministers.

Mr. Manwell and Ms. Hubbell will leave their separate pastorates near Toronto and assume their duties in Baltimore in September.

& Information: 685-2330.

A new cathedral

Bishop Willard E. Saunders Sr. and District Elder Willard E. Saunders Jr. have announced that ceremonies opening Christ Temple Apostolic Cathedral in Cherry Hill will begin with a parade at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

The parade from nearby Christ Temple Apostolic Church at 827 Cherry Hill Road will precede the 5 p.m. ceremonial opening of the cathedral at 701 Cherry Hill Road.

Between April 18 and April 30, the Christ Temple congregation was host to 10 guest preachers at evening services celebrating its 43rd anniversary.

& Information: 355-8986.

Crisis pregnancies

Anne Pierson, who with her husband, Jim, operates a nonprofit organization in Lancaster, Pa., that encourages unwed mothers to bring their pregnancies to term and assists them after the birth, will conduct a seminar for families wishing to participate in this work tomorrow and Saturday at Bishop Cummins Memorial Reformed Episcopal Church, 2001 Frederick

Road in Catonsville.

More than 1,000 couples in 28 states have been trained by the Piersons during the past three years. Mrs. Pierson is the author of "Mending Hearts, Mending Lives." Information: 744-3383.

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