The depiction of Jesus as gay in a play that will be opening in Sydney has been strongly condemned by Australian Church leaders.
The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, expressed his outrage at the plot of "Corpus Christi" on Sunday, calling the play "historical nonsense."
"It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they're obviously having a laugh about it," he told the Sun-Herald newspaper. "I wouldn't want to go and see it. Life's too short,"
The play, which is set to open on Feb. 7 as part of Sydney's annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival, depicts Jesus being seduced by Judas and conducting a gay marriage for two apostles, and ends with the crucifixion of Jesus.
Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway strongly condemned it, saying, "The ideas are offensive and really border on blasphemous. It's just completely fanciful and self-obsessive."
"The play creators have committed a big enough crime by neglecting to treat Christianity and Christian believers with more sensitivity," she said.
The piece by American playwright Terrence McNally portrays Jesus and his disciples as sexually active homosexuals.
It originally opened in the United States in 1997, and is a modern retelling of the Gospels, taking place in the Texan town of Corpus Christi.
The play drew strong opposition with protests and some even sending bomb and death threats to McNally, who draws parallels between the rejection he faced as a young gay man growing up in Texas and Christ's persecution.
McNally also received a death edict, or fatwa, from a UK-based Islamic group, which declared the play blasphemous when it ran in London in 1999.
However, the director of the play in Australia, Leigh Romney rejected accusations the play mocks Christ.
"I think it humanizes Him in a way Christians might find difficult because we like to believe God and the son of God are ultimately divine and above all of us," said Romney, a Christian.
"I wanted this play in the hands of a Christian person like myself to give it dignity but still open it up to answering questions about Christianity as a faith system," he told the Herald.
Stephen Billington, who plays Judas Iscariot, has said that the play carries a message about tolerance.
This is not the first time that it has been suggested Jesus might have been gay.
In 1977, Mary Whitehouse, a moral campaigner, brought a private prosecution against Gay News for publishing a poem by Professor James Kirkup titled "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name." The poem depicted a centurion's love for Christ and the newspaper was fined under blasphemy laws.
Also in 2005, New Hampshire Bishop the Rt. Rev Gene Robinson, an openly gay Bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, suggested that Jesus might have been homosexual and said that Jesus was an unmarried, "non-traditional man" who did not uphold family values, "traveled with a bunch of men" and enjoyed an especially close relationship with one of his disciples.