A play presenting Jesus as a gay man who was seduced by Judas, and marries two apostles, has caused a fracas among religious leaders and conservative groups in Sydney.

Corpus Christi, written by renowned American playwright Terrence McNally, is set to open at the city’s New Theatre on February 7 to coincide with this year’s annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The controversial play has already been slammed by religious leaders, with the Anglican Bishop of South Sydney saying that “It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they’re obviously having a laugh about it.”

“It’s historical nonsense and I wouldn’t want to go and see it. Life’s too short,” he was quoted as saying by the Sun-Herald newspaper.

“…the moralists miss the point: this is not a play that mocks Jesus; it is a play that speaks out against inhumanity by providing a witty, contemporary interpretation of Jesus’ life,” reads a press release by the theatre.

The Sydney production’s director, Leigh Rowney told Reuters that he is himself 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.”

Corpus Christi, which is a contemporary retelling of Jesus’ life, in which he and the disciples are gay, was first performed in New York in 1997. At the time, board members of the Manhattan Theatre Club received death threats and the theatre was besieged by protestors at its opening.

In the UK, a Muslim Group, Defenders of the Messenger Jesus, issued a fatwa against the gay McNally, who also wrote the well-known Love! Valour! Compassion!, which was made into a film.

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