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IN N.C. WOODS, CHRISTIANS LIFT VOICES AND DROP CLOTHES

SHARE IN N.C. WOODS, CHRISTIANS LIFT VOICES AND DROP CLOTHES

"Amazing Grace" lifts softly into the North Carolina pines from the meeting room where voices gather greater fervor with each verse in praising God.

Take away the video screen and music and it might be just another Saturday night in a Christian campground tradition that predates Billy Graham - except the woman leading the song has no clothes on, her husband wears only a T-shirt and all the others are similarly undressed.Welcome to the first Christian Nudist Conference, where naked Christian karaoke is but one sign of a coming-out party for this tiny but growing movement of religious naturists.

Some 40 Christian nudists from around the country stood naked and unashamed before their God at the conference, which ended Sunday with a worship service where ministers both robed and unrobed distributed communion to the nude and nearly nude outdoors underneath a wooden cross.

"The No. 1 goal of this whole thing, ultimately, is to glorify the name of Christ," said Carol Love, an owner of the Whispering Pines Resort where the conference was held. "We feel like we've been Christians for a long time, and this is our next step to get closer to God."

Christian uneasiness with nudity goes back to the biblical account of Adam and Eve. Public nudity is associated with original sin, and most Christian denominations encourage modesty in dress so as not to inflame lustful passions.

But if churches emphasize fallen human nature since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, some nudists contend Christians can recapture a purity of spirit regarding creation.

"The Bible does say God created man in his image, and I think his image reflects the physical aspect of life," said John Kundert, editor of the Fig Leaf Forum, a newsletter for Christian nudists. "I think as Christians, the redeemed, the new creation, (we) should be able to recapture some of that original goodness."