Sex, often called an obsession of modern society and its mass media, also is attracting concentrated attention by religious organizations.
Four major Protestant denominations have had special task forces probing the subject, and Roman Catholic bishops recently issued their first comprehensive guidelines about it.But this shouldn't suggest "it is some form of fixation," distracting the church from its work of evangelism and service, says an Episcopal commission's report on human sexuality.
"There is too much else to be done for God."
Nevertheless, special panels of two denominations - the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) are recommending basic changes in church stances about sex, particularly homosexuality.
Indications of wide opposition cast doubt on whether church conventions this summer would approve the reports and made sharp controversy about them inevitable.
In both cases, recommendations are being made that would allow ordination of active or non-celibate homosexuals to the clergy, and also would ask consideration of blessing same-sex unions.
"Coming of age about sexuality requires affirming a diversity of responsible sexualities in the church, including the lives of gay men and lesbians," says the Presbyterian report.
In a third denomination, the United Methodist Church, a study committee also has tentatively decided to recommend dropping its condemnation of homosexual practice as "incompatible with Christian teaching."
The Rev. William Mason of Tulsa, Okla., chairman of an evangelical wing, Good News, sees "absolute indignation" among both clergy and laity as the result.
The issue, however, won't be acted on by that denomination until its next general conference in 1992.
A fourth denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, also has a special sexuality study under way, but its conclusions won't be ready in time for the biennial church assembly in August.
Still another religious body, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing Reform Judaism, last fall acted to allow ordination of active homosexuals as rabbis.
Roman Catholicism's sexual education guidelines, approved by U.S. bishops and published in February, uphold traditional positions limiting sex relations to marriage and requiring celibacy in singleness and the clergy.
However, recommendations by the Episcopal and Presbyterian panels would condone sexual relationships of homosexuals, and allow ordination of those involved in such unions.
The Presbyterian study panel was sharply divided, 10 to 6, in its majority conclusions that acceptable sex relations need not always be confined to marriage - the traditional church position.
Declaring that "we are witnessing a massive, deep-seated crisis of sexuality in this culture," the report says the church should mark a "path between moral conformity and moral license."