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One Body, Many Members

A repeat showing of a naturist Mass in the Netherlands has been cancelled because of complaints from garment-wearing branches of the church. The first naked Mass was celebrated by a clothed priest before a defrocked congregation of eighty in Zeewolde, a town in the region of Flevoland, in June. It was organised by a Christian naturist organisation called Gan Eden (Garden of Eden).

However, it provoked a flood of protest from other Christians, including threatening phone calls. As a result, not only has the event been cancelled but Gan Eden has closed down its website, 'because of the negative publicity and the lurid curses in the guest book'. A spokesman told the Daily Telegraph, 'I don't understand what all the fuss is about. We are just a group of Christians and we want to hold a church service.'

It's probably fair to say that this understates the point at issue somewhat.Christian naturism is an international movement. The Christian Nudist Convocation, for example, an ecumencial body with an evangelical statement of faith, organised weekends this summer in Texas, Missouri and Tennessee, for worship, discussion and nakedness. Sixty members attended, which may, CNC concedes, be small comparatively, 'but we are not shy when it comes to encouraging growth! A lot of friendships were developed, with a lot of excitement and encouragement coming from the attendees.'

In 2005, the Quaker Bill Martin built a 240-acre Christian nudist camp in Florida called Natura, though it is no longer in business. One feautre it offered was restoring the practice of the early church with nude baptism.

And there are of course plenty of sites on the internet offering theology, discussion, mercifully few pictures, and a scriptural defence of the flesh. Our favourite proof text: Jesus said 'I was naked and you did not clothe me'.