In the winter of 1965 I stepped into the retreat center with anticipation; the annual gathering of our conference ministerium was about to begin. Two of my contemporaries were playing Ping-Pong while others stood around watching idly. When one of the spectators called out, “What’s on your mind, Everett?” the player facing me paused before serving, and with a delighted smile on his face said, “Sex is what’s on Everett’s mind! Sex!”

I knew, more or less, what he was referring to. I had recently published in our denominational publication Covenant Youth Today a fictional piece that began something like this: “Peg had never gone all the way, you could say that for her. But sex was still the main reason to go out with Peg, you had to face it.” From that opener the story went on to be a highly evangelistic tale about the conversion of a football player. But after the Ping-Pong game, my friend told me he knew some local church leaders who had been so offended by my suggestion of sex among Christian teenagers that they would not distribute the paper to their Sunday-school classes.

Fast-forward to 1979, an airport restaurant. Several ministers, on our way home from a convention, are having coffee together. The subject is sexual morality. A pastor in the church that had rejected my story years ago remarks, almost casually, “It seems now as though sexual intercourse is just the payoff for a nice evening.”

“Even among Christians?” I ask.

He nods. In 14 years, fornication had not become ethically acceptable, but it had made a giant leap from scandalized silence to open acknowledgment, if not tacit acceptance.

The widespread change in attitude toward fornication ...

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