Friday, July 1. 2011
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About time someone made some sense regarding this topic. Thank you, Fr. Robert!
#1 Rdr. James on 2011-07-01 14:34
Father Arrida thank you for your explication of the Church's various views on marriage. I wonder since the state has taken over the institution of marriage, through licensing, etc., why Christians are concerned about same sex marriage. In my eyes the real marriage for the Orthodox, or any Christian, is the one done in church. What two people wish to call any other form of marriage is none of my business.
#2 joe quinton on 2011-07-01 16:54
If the church offers, as Fr. Robert suggests, 'a spiritual home' to those committed to acting in ways contrary to church teaching in a visible and ongoing basis, for years and not weeks: why should the rest of us make efforts to uphold what the church teaches when it happens we prefer to do what is contrary to church teaching?
Was it a mistake when the church brought polygamy to an end? Fr. Arida's logic forces us to conclude that as children were involved and it was accepted practice by the civil authority the church was wrong to work against it.
It seems many in church authority become active on this topic not during relevant debates in the society venues when it could matter, but only after, and quietly, in the manner of a fig leaf.
Any wonder our donations are being dishonored as tolerance of misdoing in high places goes on until it becomes so gross the civil authority steps in generating lawsuits against the church leadership?
We must allow proven empty-nester clergy to be bishops if the only reason preventing it is the neglect of the wife to die young as they did before modern medicine was available.
#3 Harry Coin on 2011-07-01 18:03
Dear Fr Robert,
It may come as a surprise to you, but all your questions about the meaning, essence, purpose etc of marriage have been answered
Oh yes, the answers are in the Service of the Holy Matrimony.
#4 Parishioner on 2011-07-01 19:04
So this is the way the way the homosexual agenda and same sex "marriage" is introduced into the OCA. I am sure that the former Episcopalians who read Father Robert's essay will feel as if they have seen this movie before. His subtle and clever apologetic, so very reasonable in tone, which suggests that we should be open to coming to terms with and (perhaps) accepting gay "marriage", is shameful. The new (or maybe not so new) agenda of this website has now become quite clear.
(Editor's note: If asking a question is dangerous, our Lord must be seen as the archtypal provacateur then. Don't be ridiculous, Deacon.
I publish all sorts of reflections and statement from people I agree with, and many I do not. If you want to live in a tiny world where the only voices you hear are those who parrot your positions, fine; but don't call it the Church, or think that is Orthodoxy. In 19th century the Church included avowed socialists to the black hundreds. Patriarch Tikhon communed them all; and not a few, even of the above, have been glorified as saints ( although not for being socialists or members of the black hundreds). The minute we stop allowing questions to be asked, and are unwilling to give answers, we might as well start charging admission to the museum, because that is all we will have become.)
#5 Deacon Timothy Wilkinson on 2011-07-01 21:26
Play nice? This sandbox has rocks in it!
I rather enjoyed reading the essay because I kept wondering where it was going; like would it end on this side or that. I fully doubted it would end in any agreement to my personal positions on the subject. In the end, I was surprised, because it kind of did; but Arida did a good job of putting it much better than I ever could. He did so somewhat rhetorically, and that was okay, too.
Most of you know that I believe the institution of marriage is inherently discriminatory or vice versa in some societal situations and therefore, I believe the greater role of government ought to be to dismantle the inequities marriage (or single life) may bring. A simple example would be naming a second person on a health insurance policy. Why should I have to choose my spouse? Is it because an actuary did statistical studies and most spouses are the same age and so expenses on the policy are more determinate? Or is it because if you are married you deserve more from the workplacde? I'm fairly certain the marriage inequality position, if you will, is the covert position of the existing executive branch and certainly a number of the members of the high court (at least in this country). When I get to the end of the essay, it turns out my reason doesn't really hit all the numbers. I liked that. My reasoning is largely factual-objective, like pointing out workplace discrimination against singles versus marrieds, etc. My position is sort of heartless.
Arida does a good job of asking how the church pastors to these folks. It is a serious question. I can say this much; it ought not be done by just teaching homosexuality as sin. I got that lesson and my behavior towards gays in the past was basically reprehensible as a result. Reprehensible Christian behavior doesn't result in a stronger Christian; it results in a Christian that questions the things they've learned-a bifurcated Christian, if you will (to steal a term from another blogger who accused me of it on another subject). And noone need slam any of my former priests or our leaders for teaching me poorly; it isn't the case.
In all seriousness, I'd like to hear the response to the rhetorical from the Synod or an AAC.
#6 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-07-01 21:58
I appreciate Father's erudite reflection here.
Food for thought.
I'm hopeful this will elicit thoughtful responses.
The pastoral issue -- sex aside -- is on our doorstep.
It won't wait.
Rdr. (Tracey) John
#7 Rdr. John on 2011-07-01 23:04
Thank you Fr Robert for courageously raising these questions and reminding us that this is not the first time Orthodoxy has faced new issues and “uncharted waters.” As you say, even such apparently settled matters as slavery and heterosexual marriage took centuries to resolve, and still leave some questions open. So with such a monumental social change as the rapid and widespread acceptance of same-sex unions and marriage we can expect that Christian reflection and debate are only getting started, especially within the Orthodox Church. As a priest in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003, I can appreciate the pastoral issues this presents and welcome your willingness to at least ask how we are going to address the real people already among us and who will come to us. For now they may be Samaritans as far as Orthodoxy is concerned, “with whom we have no dealings” (cf John 4:9), but we need to ask if this is the response Christ would have us give.
#8 Fr John Jillions on 2011-07-02 04:50
Perhaps the response Christ would have us make is that which he offered to every seeker: test the honesty and sincerity and then lead to repentance and faith? The rest - a God-pleasing life - then follows, by the grace of God.
#8.1 Anthony on 2011-07-04 05:52
Christ's response to the woman caught in adultery was to shame her accusers, then to urge her to go and sin no more.
So while standing up for the homosexual is right, its only "half right" if we are also allowing them to continue in sin. Love must be tough.
(Editor's note: I think this is the question, Father. How does one "stand up for the homosexual", and not have them "continue in sin"? Does one stand up --only if they don't continue? Or does one stand up all the time? How then is that not condoning? On the other hand is individual discretion the solution? This is the guidance I think people are looking for as they approach this question - or rather, as is the case today, this question approaches them!)
#8.2 Fr. Raphael Barberg on 2011-07-06 05:44
I think you have hit the nail on the head. The more fundemental question is, "is homosexuality a sin to begin with?" If so, why? If not, why not? It seems to me that those who would have the Church change its teaching, need to provide a convincing and compelling argument for why homosexuality is not a sin. Once they have done that, then they need to argue why other sexual deviations are, or are not sins also: adultary, polygamy, pedophelia, transgenderism, etc.
Mark, your reply is encouraging. I only have one question because I'm not quite sure i understood part of it. What do you mean when you say, "stand up every time". Do you mean, forgive and admonish them to repent everytime?
(Editor's note: That is actually my question as well. What is the alternative to forgiving them everytime they fall from celibacy? How many sins is too many? 70x70 +1? As one non-Christian gay acquaintance challenged me once: "Say I try to stay celibate through my adulthood, and over the course of 50 years of sexual maturity I have fall once every 10 years or so. You mean the priest will offer me absolution if I repent of these 5 partners - but if I choose to stay faithful to one partner in a monogamous relationship for 50 years the priest will deny absolution? Aren't you just condoning promiscuity then, and denying all the virtues you claim you uphold?" As you can see this pastoral issue is deep, significant, and difficult. There are no quick, easy answers, it seems to me. Feel free to disagree.)
#8.2.1 Anonymous on 2011-07-06 22:49
About 50% of the folks out there will say both are equally as bad because they don't have the intellectual capacity to differentiate the two, or don't want to use the energy to think it through.
#188.8.131.52 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-07-07 21:36
This is a reply to the Editor,
I think the key here is that the second example misses one key word that the former one has; "Repent". The second example only appears to be the correct view when one accepts homosexual couples as being an acceptable lifestyle in the Church. It simply is not.
We're not promoting promiscuity. We're calling a person with the homosexual passion to fight that passion rather than accept his passion as something that is anything but disastrous to his soul.
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2011-07-13 07:41
The real question is, what does it mean to "stand up" for the homosexually tempted?
What it does not mean, is to tell those with same-sex attractions that their attractions are healthy, or natural, or God-given. What it does include is to accept the person "as is," as they are, warts and all," without changing, just as Jesus does, and respect him/her as a human being made in the image of God and an object of God's deepest love. But what it also includes, is (eventually, once a genuine pastoral relationship of trust is established) to speak the truth in love, that sodomy is harmful. We support the sinful person, not the sinful behavior.
As far as "continuing in sin," we all sin, constantly. Forgiveness is not in question, here. What is in question, unfortunately, is condoning this perversion by saying it is acceptable or normal. No one is helped or healed by such lies.
Of course the pastor (and Orthodox people) "stand up" for the homosexual, always, at all times, and whether or not s/he falls. Anyone with any malady is welcomed. But again, the question is, what does it mean to "stand up" for the sinner?
There are different approaches for everyone, since everyone is unique and in a unique struggle. However, there are two clearly mandated approaches regarding those "outside" we may encounter (visitors, inquirers, etc.), versus those "inside" (the faithful). First, we accept (personally) anyone and everyone who enters our doors (or whom we encounter in day-to-day life). (This does not mean we accept their sin, and no matter how much it may frustrate loved ones we cannot imply acceptance of sodomy, but it means that we accept and embrace the person, forbearing whatever sins they may be engaged in.) We don't seek to change anyone (we can't change anyone anyway, except ourselves), and certainly not the moment they walk in the door! It is the Holy Spirit's job to transform; it is our job to pray for, and speak the truth in love to all. At St Stephen's, we (I) don't even bring up any particular sin or sin in general, until the topic comes up in our Seekers Manual (catechism), which is pretty late (topic #17 of 20 see http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/a-seekers-manual/3386768 ). The idea is that inquirers and catechumens will be in the Church's services for nine months, hearing the Gospel and Epistle and hymns and prayers, giving confused consciences a chance to heal before directly approaching whatever sin they may be entangled in. During that time they've also begun honest, growingly intimate relationships with the faithful (who also attend our catechism), and have prayed quite personally and informally together, for each other. In my experience, by that time, those who remain have not only committed themselves to joining the Church, but have come to a point of honesty with themselves regarding sin, and are ready to listen to the Church's moral teaching. (Before that time, some of them perhaps wouldn't even listen or be open to submitting to Christ's moral teaching.)
The other, clearly mandated approach, is to those "inside," to the faithful. There is no sin which cannot be forgiven, and forgiven repeatedly, and forgiven throughout the Christian's struggle in this world. (As St John Chrysostom says, "Even if someone were to go beyond the limit of evil and desired to return from there to the way of virtue, God would receive and approach him, doing everything to guide him to his former condition.") However, there is a requirement for forgiveness, and that is repentance. "Even if one did not show all repentance --but only show the very least repentance-- God would reward him much for the little repentance shown" (Chrysostom).
So it is not the case that one who falls into sodomy cannot remain a Christian. But it is the case that one cannot be engaged in unrepentant sodomy and remain a Christian, or an Orthodox communicant. This is, as I understand it, what the Greek tense means in epistles listing those who cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven: those who "continue" in sin, i.e., those who are unrepentant. The classic trait of one who is unrepentant is to excuse, or belittle, or deny, or justify one's sin. In the extreme, this is shown by calling one's sin "normal" ("I'm only human"), or even "good" (God-given).
There is a grave responsibility on confessors, perhaps the most frightening of responsibilities, to both solicit and assess repentance on the part of the penitent. In the prayers it goes something like, "I am but a witness, bearing testimony before Christ of your repentance and contrition," and comes as we pray to help the penitent not be afraid but openly tell of all his/her sins. It is shown again when we ask the penitent, "Are you sorry for the sins you have confessed?" As priest-confessors, if someone approaches confession without properly recognizing their sin, we talk with them, encouraging honesty and conviction with love. (To some degree, we are all in denial about our sins, and we all need that kind of encouragement toward conviction.) But absolution requires admitting one's sin is "sin," and, as Father Hopko says, "Maybe all he can do is admit what he is desperately sinning with and say 'I hate it!' --that's the beginning of salvation."
Generally speaking, the priest gives what is asked for. If someone does not admit their sin is sin, they are not asking absolution for it, and if someone doesn't ask for absolution, there is no absolution for them.
It is usually helpful to illustrate a point using commonly-agreed examples. Let's use the recent case of Casey Anthony --not that we would agree on whether she committed murder, but that child murder is a sin. So, for instance, if Casey Anthony were to come to confession and admit she killed her daughter and was sorry for it, even this sin can be forgiven. However, if Casey Anthony were to come to confession and admit she killed her daughter BUT... (list the denial: murder is not a sin, it's basically the same as abortion and that's legal, etc., or, list the excuse: she was abused, Caylee stifled her dreams, etc.), the priest would be obliged to talk with her, soliciting at least the beginnings of repentance, and if none, then he would be obliged to excuse her without the forgiveness of Christ's Church.
This sort of excusing one's sin ("sodomy is not a sin" and/or "it's legal") is what is underlying the writings of those who, behind the guise of pastoral considerations, defend same-sex unions. It is not a confession of sin at all, and it is not faithful to the Church's moral teachings on love.
Very interesting article thoughtfully researched and written by Fr. Robert. The topic, however, was "Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage," not the "Historical Development of Marriage." The last paragraph seems to treat the current question as just another interesting historical development in the institution of marriage (and "marriage vs, monasticism") within the Church while the issue of homosexuality was not touched upon at all. I came away feeling that the "same-sex" part of the question was incidental, somewhat like noting that a couple might both have noses or ears.
An easy read of Scripture makes it clear that the question of homosexuality is not incidental at all. While Christ and the Church call all to salvation, all are at the same time called to repentance. While I agree that the Church has no imposition from the State (yet) regarding her moral stand and just whom she will or will not marry, that does not exclude the Church from preaching the courageous call to repentance. We must inform a heterosexual unmarried couple that living together without marriage is sinful while working to bring them to a full understanding of Christ in repentance, which means changing their lifestyle. We must do no less for a homosexual couple.
The Church has consistently preached the Christian vision of a consecrated lifestyle. It has two possibilities: a consecrated, single, celibate giving of oneself to Christ; or a consecrated, monogamous, married (between one man and one woman) giving of oneself to Christ. There is no other choice which leads to life. All other choices lead to death. All other choices need repentance. If you haven't read it, please see Bishop Michael's loving pastoral letter to his diocese of New York/New Jersey on June 24, 2011:
It would easy to assume in the past few years, especially reading this website, that the Church is under attack from bishops and administrators. The Church is under attack period. From all corners within and without. Today's societal movement towards the normal acceptance of any lifestyle as "blessable" is an insidious and powerful attack. I finished the article thinking that the author did not see this current question so much an attack as an opportunity to "broaden" our understanding of marriage. Pity.
#9 Fr. John Dresko on 2011-07-02 06:36
Precisely, Father John. It seems that some read the story of the woman taken in adultery and stop with the presumed heroism of Jesus' "speaking truth to power." This betrays a different way of politicizing, and suggests it is a habit that is certainly not the private playground of "conservatives." If we don't add that Jesus also instructed (and it was manifestly not a mere suggestion) the woman to stop her sinful (and obviously sexual) behavior, we're cherry-picking in exactly the same way Fr. Arida seems to be warning against.
A disclosure: I have been privileged to meet Fr. Robert at Metropolitan Council meetings and I hear, in his article, a "tone" that I would expect; that is, the academic putting words into the mouth of the pastor. I do not mean that in a pejorative or demeaning way but, rather, it resonates with my own assessment of the person who is Fr. Robert Arida, an assessment that is one of admiration and respect. Fr. and I took a walk in the u-burbic streets of East Norwich once or twice and I found that he has a big brain and is a great conversationalist and I do not take issue with him lightly. I only meat that from him fire and brimstone would seem contrived; the use of texts and contexts to construct an argument is him all over! (You didn't know I was paying attention, did you, Fr? )
Fr. Arida makes this statement: "As a priest in the state of Massachusetts where homosexual marriage has been legal since 2004, the law of the Commonwealth has never intruded upon my ministry nor has it sought to alter the Church’s vision and theology of marriage." With apologies, this is an extremely narrow and incomplete way of thinking about homosexual "marriage" and its ramifications. At the very least, to deny the effect that the general culture has on the faithful is to assume that Orthodox live in little conclaves without TV, newspapers and internet, never mind grocery store checkout lanes. Instead, I say homosexual "anything" is in fact a huge cultural issue as is obvious by the ubiquitous (and highly sympathetic) treatment it receives on Oprah, South Park, CNN and mainstream news. The opposing view is ridiculed when it is listened to at all, and I submit that this all adds up to a subtle but profound intrusion on the teaching of the Church and, by extension, any priest's Orthodox pastoral ministry.
I would call Fr. Arida's attention to another time, on this blog, where the state of Massachusetts and the subject of homosexuality figured very prominently in another discussion. Well over a year ago some rather heated exchange took place over the Metropolitan's decision to sign the Manhattan Declaration which, even those who disagree with it's content should be ready to admit, was itself a "truth to power" exercise. (That stream, which unfortunately includes some frightful business about wearing/not wearing cassocks at seminary, can be read here: http://ocanews.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/491-News-From-Around-the-Orthodox-World.html).
To cut to the chase, in that stream Mark (not so stridently) and several others (rather more stridently) insisted that a new piece of Massachusetts legislation, mandating that agencies could no longer deny adoption of children to homosexuals (on moral or religious objection), did not impact adoption agencies who didn't receive state funding. I pointed out that, in fact, funding was not a factor at all; Catholic Charities in Massachusetts had decided much earlier to waive state funding precisely out of fear of state coercion which would have certainly occurred had the adoption arm of Catholic Charities accepted those funds.
As it happened the state of Massachusetts demanded via further legislation that Catholic Charities, irrespective of its funding streams, had to support the homosexual agenda via adoption or cease to participate in helping orphaned children find families. For the sake of clarity: all agencies whose morals and ethics did not allow "married" homosexual or other homosexuals to adopt, had to either support the homosexual agenda or dissolve their ministry, those were the only two possible choices, and Catholic Charities and other adoption agencies were forced into this dilemma exactly by the inertia and logic attending the 2004 law sanctioning homosexual marriage.
Thus, the gay marriage law in Massachusetts did indeed force Catholic Charities, and by extension the Roman Catholic Church, to shut down a very critical and long-successful humanitarian ministry. The fact that it doesn't seem to have impacted any Orthodox Christian ministries is merely another embarrassing example of the extent to which we, who proclaim ourselves "the" Church, are content to let someone else do what we ought to be doing. Either way this law, which attempts to redefine marriage and then exact compliance, has very concretely, successfully and absolutely "alter(ed) the Church’s vision and theology of marriage" through aggressive legislation; any Orthodox adoption ministry which may happen to exist in Massachusetts must either comply or cease.
The state's blatant disregard of the Catholic Church's rights inherent in the "free exercise" clause should be alarming; other agencies who didn't object to homosexual adoption were there all along, and also enjoyed the benefit of state funding. It's difficult to see this legislation as anything other than an assault on Christian teaching, because other agencies were already available who were more than willing to adopt out to homosexual couples; why not just got there?
Fr. Arida's contention, then, that the gay marriage law has not effected him and his own ministry may be true for now, but only partially. Fr's. assurances sound more than a little like King Hezekiah's deflection when Isaiah prophesied the Babylonian captivity: “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” To paraphrase, "It doesn't affect me." Germans and Russians in the recent century which was the source of so much of this highly sexualized "progress" said much the same about those mysterious camps that were popping up here and there, and it reminds me of a profound observation made by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Few are guilty, all are responsible."
(Editor's note: Thanks, Deacon for a enlightening contribution.)
#9.1 Protodeacon Michael Myers on 2011-07-02 11:04
Excellent points, all of them. Thank you Protodeacon Michael.
#9.1.1 Colette on 2011-07-10 17:10
Well put, Father John.
Same-sex attraction is certainly not "incidental," but a deep spiritual and psychological malady, one which Jesus came to heal. While your point is well taken that those in heterosexual fornication --especially those who demonstrate a lack of repentance by intentionally and openly living together before marriage-- should be called to repentance and a change of lifestyle, still, our holy Scriptures make it abundantly clear that homosexual acts are uniquely grievous sins against one's own nature, against one's partner, and against God and the created order.
It is the Church's business to facilitate the health of the souls of Her members, including gender-identity wholeness. I would echo your excellent comments and, with you, also encourage all to read His Grace +MICHAEL's letter in response to the New York passing of same-sex marriage:
In His Grace's letter, he notes that while Christians do not condemn anyone, we do speak out of love against harmful and destructive behavior, which we call "sin." As His Grace says, "Gay marriage or any other unblessed sexual activity is not the love that the Lord extols," and, "No matter what the prevailing pressure of the culture or the legislation of the state may proclaim...we need not be afraid to stand in opposition to prevailing trends." So, let us proclaim and teach, and live as examples of, the Christ-blessed lifestyle for all who are made in His image, whether that be celibacy or normal marriage. And, with His Grace, let us pray that Christians across NY and NJ and the entire U.S. "will continue to stand fast in the divinely revealed truth of what marriage means."
Thank you, Fr John, for your comment, which recognizes that the world's pressure toward acceptance of homosexual activity as "normal" or its lifestyle as "blessable" is an insidious and powerful attack. Tragically, there are governments which already are labeling illegal "hate speech" even what I have remarked above. And pastors are going to jail for simply quoting the Bible on homosexual activity. It is for such attacks, which continue to influence our own ranks against the life-giving truth, that the Manhattan Declaration was written.
Father Mark Hodges
St Stephen the First Martyr
And the only remaining question is why was the Manhattan Declaration not written oh, say 8 years ago?
It certainly can't be the vivid changes that have happened in the last 2.
#9.2.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-07-06 21:47
Dear Fr. Dresko,
I would think that a broad understanding of the historical development of marriage would be fundamental to contemporary Christian ministry. You make it sound as though simplistic moral formulas (marriage and monasticism lead to life, "all other choices lead to death") are the only bulwark against total permissiveness. This is a false choice.
People's lives are complicated and they show up at the Church in all different conditions. If the Church decided to single out gay people as "needing repentance," as you seem to advocate, those people would be discouraged from ever coming through the front door. That might make the priest's life easier, but it would work against the Church's essential purpose.
I truly don't understand your fear that the Orthodoxy is under attack "from all corners within and without." The movement to legalize same-sex marriage is not an attempt to make it "blessable," but rather to secure certain legal rights for gay couples. How is this a threat to the Orthodox Church?
#9.3 Joseph Clarke on 2011-07-03 16:40
The Orthodox Church is not in danger from external mores imported into the church. The Orthodox Church is in danger from the moral rot within the church. We will not be condemned for being too friendly to the gays; we will be condemned because we have deserted our own brethren, the victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing in occupied Georgia. We will be condemned when Our Lord says to us “inasmuch as you did it not to the least of these, My brethren, so you did it not to Me.” Matthew 25:45
Our bishop’s willingness to denounce abortion and homosexuality, which occur *outside the church*, while they remain steadfastly silent about the crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of ancient churches; crimes which occur within the church demonstrates their essential cowardice. They lack the moral fiber to stand up and denounce the political and clerical powers that commit these horrific crimes. Unless and until our leaders summon the courage to confront the evil *in our own midst*, their moral declarations will lack the gravity that comes from conviction.
In a related article, the UOC-MP excommunicated a Ukrainian layman for violating a single Apostolic Canon, while Patriarch Kirill and his Synod have wantonly and serially violated many of the Apostolic Canons with impunity. This demonstrates the utter cynicism and hypocrisy that are choking the life out of our contemporary Orthodox Church.
Canon X. (XI.)
If any one shall pray, even in a private house, with an excommunicated person, let him also be excommunicated.
Canon XI. (XII.)
If any clergyman shall join in prayer with a deposed clergyman, as if he were a clergyman, let him also be deposed.
The renegade Archimandrite Vissarion has publicly served with numerous clergy in Moscow, including Patriarch Kirill, on multiple occasions.
Canon XII. And XIII (XIII.)
If any one of the clergy or laity who is excommunicated, or not to be received, shall go away, and be received in another city without commendatory letters, let both the receiver and the received be excommunicated. But if he be excommunicated already, let the time of his excommunication be lengthened.
The deposed Archimandrite Vissarion was received into the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate despite the fact that he was under an ecclesiastical ban for abandoning his monastic and clerical obedience to his diocesan bishop, Metroplitan Daniel and Patriarch Ilya. Vissarion Aplia was never given a clerical release; but the Muscovites have not only received him; but have concelebrated with him, and have appointed him as the “leader” of the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy”.
A bishop is not to be allowed to leave his own parish, and pass over into another, although he may be pressed by many to do so, unless there be some proper cause constraining him. as if he can confer some greater benefit upon the persons of that place in the word of godliness. And this must be done not of his own accord, but by the judgment of many bishops, and at their earnest exhortation.
The Moscow Patriarchate has sent its clergy (including the Bishops, Panteleimon of Kabardino-Adyghe and Feofan of Saratov, plus the Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev) to serve on the territory of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate, without the consent of the Georgian Patriarchate.
If any presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the list of the clergy, shall leave his own parish, and go into another, and having entirely forsaken his own, shall make his abode in the other parish without the permission of his own bishop, we ordain that he shall no longer perform divine service; more especially if his own bishop having exhorted him to return he has refused to do so, and persists in his disorderly conduct. But let him communicate there as a layman.
If, however, the bishop, with whom any such persons are staying, shall disregard the command that they are to cease from performing divine offices, and shall receive them as clergymen, let him be excommunicated, as a teacher of disorder.
The deposed Archimandrite Vissarion was received into the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate despite the fact that he was under an ecclesiastical ban for abandoning his monastic and clerical obedience to his diocesan bishop, Metroplitan Daniel and Patriarch Ilya. Vissarion Aplia was never given a clerical release; but the Muscovites have not only received him; but have concelebrated with him, and have appointed him as the “leader” of the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy”.
Canon XXX. (XXXI.)
If any bishop obtain possession of a church by the aid of the temporal powers, let him be deposed and excommunicated, and all who communicate with him.
The Russian Orthodox Church sent its bishops to publicly “bless” the Russian invasion and occupation of Georgian territory. Through its agent, Vissarion Aplia, the MP participated in the ethnic cleansing of the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from occupied Abkhazia in April 2009. The MP has created and funded the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy” on the territory and in the very churches stolen from the legitimate Orthodox Diocese of Pitsunda – Tskhum (Abkhazia) and the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate
Canon XXXI. (XXXII.)
If any presbyter, despising his own bishop, shall collect a separate congregation, and erect another altar, not having any grounds for condemning the bishop with regard to religion or justice, let him be deposed for his ambition; for he is a tyrant; in like manner also the rest of the clergy, and as many as join him; and let laymen be excommunicated. Let this, however, be done after a first, second, and third admonition from the bishop.
Canon XXXII. (XXXIII.)
If any presbyter or deacon has been excommunicated by a bishop, he may not be received into communion again by any other than by him who excommunicated him, unless it happen that the bishop who excommunicated him be dead.
Canon XXXIII. (XXXIV.)
No foreign bishop, presbyter, or deacon, may be received without commendatory letters; and when they are produced let the persons be examined; and if they be preachers of godliness, let them be received. Otherwise, although you supply them with what they need, you must not receive them into communion, for many things are done surreptitiously.
Canon XXXV. (XXXVI.)
Let not a bishop dare to ordain beyond his own limits, in cities and places not subject to him. But if he be convicted of doing so, without the consent of those persons who have authority over such cities and places, let him be deposed, and those also whom he has ordained.
The MP has ordained and sent its clergy to serve in the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy.
The following articles from the Russian press demonstrate the Moscow Patriarchate’s multiple wanton violations of the Sacred Canons.
“It’s the Weak Link that Breaks. Abkhazia, the Next Weak Link in the Russian Church’s Diplomacy” by Alexander Soldatov; Portal-Credo.Ru web-site article
Original article (in Russian): http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=comment&id=1875
The Moscow Patriarchate has perhaps the world’s most powerful ecclesiastical-political structure. The quasi-state Russian Church does not suffer from lack of funding. Well, perhaps, there is a lack of personnel; there are not enough creative people in the numerous structures of the Patriarchate, who are enthused by the high ideal of service to the Church for the sake of God’s truth on earth. Also this is a pragmatic time, and the political-economic situation of the ROC-MP does not evoke a romantic mood. If you do not accept as a “National Idea” the nostalgic celebration of May 9th (Victory over Fascism Day- translator); you’ll have to admit the “Monetocratia” the power of money and the faith in its huge, wonderworking might has become the genuine national idea in most of the post-Soviet space.
Since the Russian Orthodox Church acquired “an effective manager” as its head, it has articulated just such a mindset and set of values in its church policy. Patriarch Kirill realized that the time had passed when unpaid church workers would labor ‘for the glory of God’ and that in order to implement its ‘missionary imperative’, the church would require a solid financial policy and sound economic base. Hence the transfer of vast properties to the Church’s estate, the public financing of religious education in the schools and chaplaincies for the military; the creation of state sponsored ‘endowment funds” for the most significant monasteries and parishes. In addressing issues of foreign policy, the Patriarch also routinely relies on the Russian government.
It is no secret to Russians that the wars in Chechnya and the Caucasus region were only concluded by the permanent infusion into the “secessionist regions” of multi-billion ruble subsidies from Moscow. Nor is it a secret that huge sums of money were invested in the restoration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence the Russian Federation recognized after the end of its victorious war against a fearsome opponent – Georgia. The Russian government even expended its financial resources in order to acquire recognition of the “newly independent states” by the governments of Nauru and Nicaragua. The authorities of the microscopic island of Nauru did not even hide the kind of sums they were paid for their recognition of the independence of the two Georgian regions.
For its part, the Moscow Patriarchate also invested its substance in the creation of an independent Abkhaz diocese. Despite the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church recognizes the jurisdiction of the Georgian Church over Abkhazia, Sukhumi and Novy Afon (New Athos), the ROC is constantly sending priests of the neighboring Maikop diocese into Abkahzia to serve there. Moreover, the Russian Church has dispatched to Abkhazia its chief public relations asset, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, who in recent months has carried out successful interventions in the various “hot spots” of the post-Soviet Oikumene. His trip to Moldova of last autumn was memorable for his accomplishment of extinguishing the “fire of a new schism” in the face of the conservative Society of the Blessed Matrona of Moscow. That crew consisted of three priests of the Udmurt diocese, who had ceased the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill; a fact of which, alas, Moscow had not been forewarned. And so we have an example of Fr. Andrei’s successful efforts to prevent schisms on the territories of one of Russia’s central regions.
Officially in Abkhazia since last fall, Fr Andrei has been lecturing at the university, rides around on aMoped, and lives with a pious family, who had moved to the ‘land of the soul’ from stifling Moscow. Unofficially, Fr Andrei is steering the process of forming an autocephalous Abkhaz Church, whose autocephaly will be just as real as the Abkhaz’s government’s supposed sovereignty.
If we accept Fr Andrei as the “overseer” over the Abkhaz Church, the main lever of control over the Abkhaz Church is the priest Vissarion (Besarion in both Georgian and Apsynni languages - translator) Apliaa, who has served in Pitsunda since the Soviet era, when he went by the surname, “Plia” which sounds better in the Russian language. Having tested the waters in several jurisdictions during the Georgian- Abkhaz war, Fr Vissarion came to the conclusion that only the Moscow Patriarchate could successfully support and defend the Abkhaz Church. Fr. Vissarion often travels to Moscow, where he serves with the local clergy including the Patriarch, despite the questionable canonical status of the Abkhaz clergy. Fr Vissaraion elevates the name of the Patriarch of Moscow during the services, although he never was granted a canonical release by the Georgian Patriarchate. This course of action, however, is consistent with the stated policy of the Abkhaz authorities, who carry out Moscow’s orders and are more loyal to the Kremlin than any other region subject to the Russian Federation.
Such a “narrow and puppet-like” position as shown by Fr Vissarion – a representative of the old Soviet generation of the clergy - has not found favor with the younger generation of Abkhaz clergy, formed under conditions of independence, who seek to incorporate the Abkhaz church into the system of “World Orthodoxy” rather than relegate it to the status of a provincial diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church –Moscow Patriarchate. This younger generation rejects the destruction of the special delights of catholicity (sobornost’), the strict centralized “vertical” merger with the plutocratic powers, the commercialization, and the other systemic flaws inherent in the Russian State Church. In general, they are guided by the desire to introduce their Abkhaz Church on the world wide stage, rather than “beg on the doorstep of the Russian embassy”.
Who could have predicted that the Clergy-Laity meeting at Novy Afon on May 15th would be the premier national event in Abkhazia? It was attended by about 2,000 people, a huge number for such a small country. Here it was: real conciliarity (sobornost’), the kind that Russians can only dream about! The meeting welcomed numerous political leaders, including Abkhaz government officials. The chairman of the meeting, Hieromonk Dorofei (Dbar), who completed his MDiv and theological studies in Greece, was named candidate for bishop. The organizers of this event let it be known that they have the definite support of the authorities, so that they will soon be registering the new name for their creation – The Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia. As the name of this structure implies, as well as the personal contacts its founders have with Patriarch Bartholomew, indicates the priority they give to Constantinople, not Moscow, in negotiating their autocephaly. Especially, since the Ecumenical Patriarch is of the opinion that only he has the right to grant autocephaly, a right recognized since antiquity. This is why “World Orthodoxy” does not recognize the autocephaly granted by Moscow to the Orthodox Church in America. Yet even with such “daring” as to proclaim the establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia, these clergy stressed that they remained within the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate.
At one time, the Orthodox in Abkhazia had a choice, similar to the one faced by their brothers in South Ossetia. Have found themselves caught between “two beacons of official Orthodoxy” – Moscow and Tbilisi – and unable to be located in either jurisdiction, they opted for one of the unofficial “True Orthodox” jurisdictions albeit one with the softest stance vis-a vis “official Orthodoxy”, that is the “Synod in Resistance” of Metropolitan Kipirian (Kutsumba). Currently the True Orthodox Church in South Ossetia is headed by Fr Georgiy ((Pukhate) who would like to enter into the Moscow Patriarchate, only Moscow cannot come up with a plan to accomplish the deed.
The Moscow Patriarchate and its de-facto representative in Abkhazia, Fr Vissarion, responded most irritably to the news of the meeting at Novy Afon. Since the monks Andrei (Amparo) and Dorofei (Dbar) are listed as minor (parish) clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Maikop Diocese, they could be subject to canonical sanctions. It is true that Fr Andrei was transferred to the Church of Greece, where he served in parishes; but Moscow will not acknowledge that this temporary transfer was a canonical release.
The newly proclaimed Metropolis will prove to be a “great trial” for the Abkhaz authorities. On the one hand, this organization is deeply nationalistic in nature, and the principle “Independent State – Independent Church ” which was key to the future of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, is dear to the heart of any sovereign power, even a puppet regime. On the other hand the bulk of the Abkhaz clergy, gathered around Vissarion, will never recognize the autocephalous Metropolis without direct and specific instructions to do so from Moscow. Given the fact that the pro-Moscow faction has been present in Abkhazia for twenty years, and the fact that the Abkhaz authorities are so dependent on Moscow; it is unlikely that the authorities could take an independent stance on the church issue. It is therefore unlikely that the “Holy Metropolis” was authorized by the authorities.
The situation may be resolved as it was in Estonia- a division of the parishes between Constantinople and Moscow. If this model works in so many countries around the world; well then, why not in Abkhazia?
In any case even with the story still unfolding, we are dealing with another loss of Moscow’s position in the post Soviet region, and with the expansion of Constantinople, which represents the West in the Orthodox world – that is the U.S and the “aggressive NATO bloc”
Excerpt from the Article: “Abkhazia Again Struggles for Independence; but this Time from Russia?” by Vladimir Vorsobin Moskovskaya Komsomolskaya Pravda, 5/17/2011
Original article (in Russia): http://msk.kp.ru/daily/25687/891281/
Further on the way to the border, in the Sochi airport, I meet the well known Russian missionary, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev. He frowns, furtively and diplomatically. If he speaks, “it is not for publication”. For the past several months, Deacon Andrei has been running shuttling back and forth between Moscow and Sukhumi; trying to maintain peace in the confidential religious sector of Russian-Abkhaz relations. Alas, there is a trench warfare going on. The conflict flared up in the New Athos monastery when the Russian Orthodox Church installed a retired priest, Igumen Efrem, as the new abbot of that monastery. Oddly, the head of the Abkhaz Church, Vissarion Apliaa, calls Fr Efrem by the respectable Abkhaz surname “Lakerbaia”, while their opponents call Fr Efrem by his Russian surname, Vinogradov.
To the amazement of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Abkhazians actually cared. The nationalist scruples of the local Sukhumi Orthodox newspaper “Necessary” described it thus:
“If Fr. Efrem had come alone and had Abkhaz roots; well then let him come; but no - he came with three (read Russian) hieromonks, five or six monks, and a novice… This requires a negotiation.”
“The monastic brethren do not like the fact the Bessarion, behind their backs, took This Fr. Efrem to Moscow and presented him to Patriarch Kirill, and then in their words, Fr Efrem began to give orders what should be and what must not be in the monastery. There was to be nothing of the Byzantine or Greek style; emphasis must be on the Slavonic. It did not please the brothers nor the lay people, who came to worship in Novy Afon, that Fr. Efrem would conduct the services in Slavonic rather than in the Abkhazian (Apsynni) language.
The uproar led the former rector of the monastery, Fr. Andrei (Anpar), with the help of public meetings, to obtain the recommendation of the Public Chamber of Abkhazian ‘to suspend the appointment’. Moreover, Fr Andrei clearly formulated the main and clearly understood idea of an established nation, which has finally become independent.
‘We believe that the future of the Abkhaz church must be built not only on our relationship with the Russian church; but also with the other Orthodox churches: with the Greeks, with the Serbs. The foreign policy of the Abkhaz church should be multipolar.’ As a result, the (Abkhaz) Orthodox community erupted in conflict. The next Sunday, the Abkhaz church split – those under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by Fr. Vissarion, and the independents headed by Fr. Andrei.
Since I promised the Orthodox diplomat (Archdeacon Adrei Kuroev) that I would not cite him in my article, I will only say that the deacon expressed his astonishment at these events in the most colorful and emotional Russian language.
#9.4 Francis Frost on 2011-07-03 19:37
Francis, I want to clarify a couple things for readers who may not know the on-the-ground situation.
(From the article you quoted by Alexander Soldatov on Portal-Credo.Ru:)
"At one time, the Orthodox in Abkhazia had a choice, similar to the one faced by their brothers in South Ossetia. Have found themselves caught between “two beacons of official Orthodoxy” – Moscow and Tbilisi – and unable to be located in either jurisdiction, they opted for one of the unofficial “True Orthodox” jurisdictions albeit one with the softest stance vis-a vis “official Orthodoxy”, that is the “Synod in Resistance” of Metropolitan Kipirian (Kutsumba). Currently the True Orthodox Church in South Ossetia is headed by Fr Georgiy ((Pukhate) who would like to enter into the Moscow Patriarchate, only Moscow cannot come up with a plan to accomplish the deed... The situation may be resolved as it was in Estonia- a division of the parishes between Constantinople and Moscow. If this model works in so many countries around the world; well then, why not in Abkhazia? In any case even with the story still unfolding...”
Mr. Soldatov is willfully ignorant of the facts and/or choosing to obfuscate. The Georgian Patriarchate wants to minister to its flock on its canonical territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but in the current situation needs for the separatist powers to allow them free access enter the territories in order to visit their flock, and serve in their churches and monasteries. Instead of granting access, the separatist powers and Russia backers (including heavy Russian military presence) have set up obstacle after obstacle to prevent ministry by the Georgian Patriarchate. I believe that Metropolitan Isaiah of the Tskhinvali-Nikozi diocese is still able, although with difficulty, to enter the disputed Akhalgori region of South Ossetia, but he is not able to enter the rest of his diocese that lies in separatist South Ossetia. There is no need for Old Calendarist Greeks to be in South Ossetia. It would be uncanonical for the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow to divide up the parishes in either Abkhazia or South Ossetia. This situation can be regularized by returning full and unhindered access to both Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the Georgian Patriarchate, the recognized canonical Orthodox Church for these territories – for all of Georgia.
God bless His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, and his long-suffering flock!
A powerful sensitive statement written by a priest who is in active ministry and who repects and loves all of his people..This is going to make some peoples heads explode...it points out to me that life in the parishes is a lot different than the forums..
#10 Stephen on 2011-07-02 07:01
An Orthodox church must never turn away a family headed by a same-sex couple. If they choose to journey towards being received into the Church, however, their priest must not be content to allow them to continue in their sexual sin, or in the impression that same-sex relations can be considered equal to a marriage.
It is far more cruel and hateful to allow a sweet, godless lie to persist, than to give someone a hard truth.
"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole."
#11 Cordelia on 2011-07-02 07:38
There have been a couple of allusions, both in the article and the comments, to the possibility that the State (whether the federal of the individual state governments) may, at some point, "force" the celebration of same-sex marriages onto the Church. If I may open up a discussion of this sub-topic to Fr Arida's article, I would think that this action on the part of the State would be unconstitutional, for the very same hue and cry that non-believers have successfully used on believers: separation of Church and State!!! If the Church (any Church or denomination) cannot "force" its way onto the State or the general public (to the ridiculous point where Nativity scenes are not allowed on civil property at Christmas time), then, the State cannot force its own "dogmas", in the form of new laws, onto the Church!! "Separation of Church and State", one could argue from our perspective, is a two-way street!!!
#12 David Barrett on 2011-07-02 10:47
Speaking as a married heterosexual male, I have a few comments.
1. I suppose there are a number of reasons for people to 'live together': economic, sexual attraction, alleviation of loneliness, caring for a disabled or elderly person, etc.
2. Can celibate non-related people of either or opposite sexes live in the same household and jointly own property and other assets, without sin?
3. I fear that some of the people who oppose 'same sex marriage' are very worried about the couples involved are sharing the same beds at night and doing various sexual things with each other. Having been around the gay community for some time (I worked in Hollywood for over 20 years!) I can assure people that at least from my observation, not all gay people enjoy serial relationships, nor do they all participate in the scandalous sin of sodomy. I've known a number of couples who had long term faithful relationships and lived out a ripe old age together. Their relationships were based on love, not on lust.
My own take is that we Christians tend to be very worried and upset about what other people might be doing with each others bodies in private. And we assume that if a person declares him or herself 'gay'(or if we perceive them to be so) they must be doing very nasty things a lot of the time. Real life is not necessarily like our fantasies.
#13 Rdr. James on 2011-07-02 13:57
I would be one of those people who labels himself "homosexual" or "gay," and does not practice sodomy because of my decision to be a Christian (I wonder if there are heterosexuals on this list who feel the need to reveal what they don't practice within their marriages. Probably not.). But I have to "deal with what I've been dealt." And I most certainly to this point have not been called to monasticism. (Doesn't that seem ridiculous to attempt?)
I find that the most strident voices on this subject are quite interested in "my" sex life. I'm not interested in theirs, but Fr. Hopko in his book on the subject indicates very strongly that heterosexual activity seems to be under rather stiff proscriptions that -- I just bet -- are followed by very few. But I don't know, and I certainly don't make a campaign of it. Furthermore, I'd consider it -- ahem -- deviant to try to make it my business to ANY extent.
Finally, I do enjoy the companionship of a person for the healthfulness of affection, the strength of friendship, the convenience of partnership, and a focus of love. More than sexual sin, I fear the individualism of complete singlehood and its attendant self-orientedness.
I wish that the Church offered more than proscriptions. But there is too much fear for folks to offer positive direction and more confidence is proscriptive pronouncements. Merely enjoining a strict celibacy doesn't begin to cover life as it's lived on the ground.
I will never be blessed to love, however purely.
Few people live their lives in bed.
It's time for the secure members of the Church who don't, in fact, know of what they speak in this arena, to get beyond sex as the sole focus of these discussions, and start addressing spiritually sound self-knowledge, psychologically-sound relationships, and culturally-aware realities.
#13.1 anonymous on 2011-07-05 16:37
Fr. Robert Arida is to be congratulated on his well thought out essay that challenges us to see pastoral care and sexuality with a new perspective. Fr. Robert's essay should also be read in conjuction with Abp. Lazar Puhalho's essay on morality in the April 2011 issue of ocawonder.com. One of the ways we can expand Fr. Roberts brave view is to reach out to Orthodox Christians who have been alienated from the Church because they are in polyamorous and open relationships. Pastoral care of these families is essential in engaging the new understanding of human sexuality that science has presented. Indeed, when looking at the Orthodox theology of the trinity and community, Polyamory raises a loving challenge to the ancient model of sexuality the Church has embraced. Open relationships can also do much to stem divorce among Orthodox Christians.
Fr. Robert view also presents a distinct challenge to how we teach young people about sexuality. Should chastity be our answer. Is just say no enough? Or should we follow Fr. Robert and exercise genuine pastoral care and give our young people Orthodox tools to explore their own sexuality in safe and secure settings and with the means to protect themselves. Indeed it is my belief that if the OCA embraces these viewpoints then we can experience genuine Orthodox renewal in a manner that is yet unknown.
#14 Ioannis G on 2011-07-02 15:28
As I have said before, the legalization of same sex marriage IS a threat to the church and this article proves it. We now have priests bending the Church's teachings into a pretzel to accommodate a secular world view. The arguments are absurd. Should we site confusion over slavery and redefine what the Holy Scriptures say about murder because it is LEGAL to abort a fetus?!
Same-sex unions, i.e. homosexuality, is nothing new and neither are the Church's teachings on the matter. Having sex outside of marriage, which the Church has ALWAYS defined as being between a man and woman, is a sin.
Here are the answers to your questions, Father: #1 Treat those who engage in sex outside of marriage as you have always done, irrespective of gender. #2 Do not hold children accountable for what their parents do; hold them accountable for their own actions. And #3, if one is unwilling to embrace the Church and her teachings, they do NOT desire Christ so yes, "prima facie, turn them away."
#15 Gail Sheppard on 2011-07-02 18:28
Let me begin my comments by stipulating a few facts on which every reasonable person should agree:
1. Homosexual attraction and orientation is not innately sinful. If it is, then you had better take it up with God, since there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific and medical community that it is not a matter of choice. Of course, as with a heterosexual orientation, whether one engages in sexual behavior is a matter of choice.
2. Two men or two women living together, whatever their sexual orientation, are not necessarily and automatically engaging in sexual behavior.
3. In the modern world, most of us believe that sexual relations are not exclusively for reproduction. Indeed, they usually have nothing to do with intended reproduction, or need to in order to be considered morally permissible, the views of an antiquated tradition not withstanding.
4. As Father Arrida ably points out, societal and religious views of sexual morality, including those of Christianity, are subject to change and reevaluation in the face of changing circumstances and a greater understanding of human sexuality, that comes with increased knowledge.
This is not a brief for "gay marriage" in the Church, but is rather a call to heed Fr. Arrida's plea for tolerance, charity and openness to reevaluating past assumptions. To do otherwise is to condemn our faith to a stultifying rigidity that rejects the possibility that the Holy Spirit can be leading us to a fuller understanding of the Truth in this and other matters.
#16 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-02 19:08
Mr. Tobin, the attraction to sin is part of the disease of sin we inherited from our first parents. It is incorrect to lay the blame for temptation at the Feet of God. God tempts no one to sin. Your saying that we ought to "take it up with God" is specious. Scientists also tell us that men are programmed for polygamy. But that is sinful, too. We know from looking at creation that one man married to one woman is God's plan for marriage. All science can tell us about is the post-fall world. The Church, as Jesus body, is about restoring and healing the damage done in the fall. It seems that what you want is to bring the corruption of the world into the Church.
(Editor's note: Matt, let me ask you two questions - not to challenge your beliefs, but simply to ask you to look at your" evidence" again. First, you say "God tempts no one to sin". Then why did he plant the tree in the garden? And why do we pray " Lead us not into temptation?" That prayer is specficially addressed to "Our Father, which are in heaven...", is it not? Secondly, you say "Looking at creation we know that God's plan for marriage is one man and one woman... " That does not seem to have been the plan in the Old Testament does it, where polygamy, reigned? Or has God's plan changed over time? Now that would open a can of worms.... In these cultural debates people make a great many assertions that do not bear the weight of scrutiny. It behooves us all, on such matters, to be clear that what we assert is fact, and not just opinion, even long-standing ones. )
#16.1 Matt Karnes on 2011-07-05 22:42
Matt, if your contending that homosexual attraction is a spiritual disorder occasioned by the Fall, then we are certainly beyond the competency of science. But a fundamentalist understanding of existence puts us in a fairytale land where just about all modern science is about explaining the consequences of a mythical Fall and mythical Creation. Christianity must come to grips with the world (and the universe) as it is--not as our forebears thought it was and should be. In many respects, this has created a crisis of faith and will continue to do so. But discovering and refining the Truth is a journey we should all welcome--even as we fear it.
#16.1.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-06 14:21
"Lead us not into temptation" is is a misleading rendering of the Lord's Prayer. In the Lord's prayer, the better understanidng is "put us not to the test."
The scriptures are very clear that God tempts no one.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)
(Editor's note: Thanks for the clarification. So, God "puts us to the test", but does not "tempt us". And when the test is temptation put in our way? Just asking...)
#16.1.2 Anonymous on 2011-07-08 07:12
Dear Friends --
Well. Now we're in the area of my special interest by training and experience.
The Editor correctly notes that there's no qualitative difference between 'put us not to the test' and 'lead us not into temptation', so the former is clearly not a realistic option.
But this isn't the only line in 'Our Father' which is in serious need of repair in english translation. Truth be told, most other languages (at least the ones which are translating directly from the greek text of St Matthew rather than from -- or influenced by -- english or latin intermediate renderings) don't have as many problems as our english translations do, and there are many. Some hit more than they miss, but none of them is exactly right.
So, let's take our handy greek copy of MT 6:9b-13a, and see how this suggested rendering matches up -- bearing the Fathers and the Scriptures in mind:
Our Father in Heaven,
may Your Name be kept holy.
May Your reign begin.
May Your will be done: as in the heavens, so also on Earth.
Give us today the Bread we need.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And, rather than let us be put to the test,
rescue us from the Evil One.
Maybe someone should start an 'Our Father' blog....
Hope this helps a little.
Peace and blessings to all.
(Editor's note: Not being a Greek scholar, I can't speak to the accuracy of this translation. But speaking English, I find it wonderful at first read. You can sing it too. And it beats the oddity "Our Father which ..." Thanks a for most interesting post. Maybe this could be a way forward for all Orthodox to finally use a common Lords Prayer in English.... Experts - feel free to weigh in!)
#220.127.116.11 Monk James on 2011-07-08 11:07
MP parishes have been using debt and debtors since the 1950's
#18.104.22.168.1 Moskvitch on 2011-07-09 13:30
There is no place in the universe for homosexual marriage. It is an ontological impossibiity. When God Created marriage (and it is to creation Jesus pointed when he taught on marriage and divorce) it was between the man and woman. There can be no other way. I can't believe this is even being discussed.
#17 Matt Karnes on 2011-07-02 23:31
Much gratitude to Fr Robert Arida for giving voice to what so many perceive to be true but are intimidated to bring up. That this comes from a pastor and theologian of deep learning and seriousness, whose life is centered on Christ, makes the observation especially powerful. May his words empower others to speak up without fear.
#18 Dave O'Neal on 2011-07-03 04:24
If this is what clergy in the OCA believe, no wonder there are people asking for a canonical release into ROCOR.
#19 Butros on 2011-07-03 07:20
Yes, thank God that there are not homosexuals or hypocrites in ROCOR - that bastion of all holiness and purity.
#19.1 Anonymous on 2011-07-06 17:16
Father Arrida's reflection, while certainly compassionate, fails to consider the fundamental economic assumption that underpins (in my opinion) the gay debate. I offer the links/works of Richard Florida who spearheaded gay economics:
Florida makes the economic argument
These economic assumptions/realities are really at the heart of this theological debate ...welcome comments.
#20 Anonymous on 2011-07-03 13:37
Fr. Robert's question at the end of his reflection are I think one of the most important issues the Church in the US will face. How will we deal with the homosexual family in our parishes?
The issue is not homosexual marriage - that is quite a settled "No" in the Orthodox Church. The allusion by another poster to polygamy is an interesting one - what if a fundamentalist LDS family, with four "sister wives" and 15 children, graced our door? Would we tell the father to "pick one and divorce the others"? Would we deny the "others" the love and security of a family? Would we deny the Children the love of both mother and father? How will our actions affect not just those at the center, but those on the periphery?
I would suggest the answer lies in the missionary nature of the Church in North America, and how the missionary has to engage the existing culture. How did the Church deal with this question in evangelizing the African continent? Polygamy was not exterminated, but was limited and people were able to grow out of this sinful condition by the Church saying that those who currently practice polygamy cannot take additional wives or husbands, and there would be no polygamous marriage in the next generation. God meets with each person exactly where they are. We all strive toward an ideal that we cannot reach on our own.
A few points:
The rich young ruler was told what he needed to do to be saved, and went away saddened. But Christ continued to love that person.
Christ and the Church have never asked us to first become perfect before following. After all, it is that encounter with Christ Himself that shows us our sin. That encounter should come through the Church.
Sometimes I think God sends us people rejected by others not so much because of their salvation, but to see if we will love them as He does. God knows how He will deal with them - but how will we deal with them? I'd like to think our parishes would welcome them into our communities and love them as Christ loves them, regardless of how the Bishop and Priest decide to deal with them sacrimentally.
It isn't an easy issue, certainly. We are all sinners in need of God's healing, and we receive that healing through our own repentance. The only thing certain is that God loves these people, regardless of their sins, and even though they do not love Him in return. May God have mercy on us as we navigate the post-Christian realities, and attempt to missionize the North American continent.
#21 Dn. Marty Watt on 2011-07-03 16:12
the pastor's starking homophobia will do nothing but make him odious to the die hard homsexuals. As long as homosexuals are viewed as the Samaritans, that is, there is something wrong with them (homosexuality), and therefore in need of a cure, views like the fine pastor's will keep homosexuals out. You really need to watch out when the pastor says same sex sexuality is not a sin. So long as he sees homosexuals as somehow deficient and in need of condescencion, we have nothing to fear.
#22 Anonymous on 2011-07-04 00:28
I would also like to thank Fr Robert for his very thoughtful essay. In the history of the Eastern Church, there has always been the possibility of study, discussion, debate--the legacy of the councils, but also that of the fathers, both those recognized as teachers as well as many other holy women and men, like those of the desert, whose discernment has become part of the church's inheritance. It is particularly telling that the desert monastics--mothers as well as fathers--is always centered on the person. Paul Evdokimov repeatedly stressed this personalist sense as a hallmark of the Eastern tradition. Thus Fr Robert's reflections on the enormously complex history of what marriage is and is not in the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament ought not to be smeared as is happening online. And those who want to discuss this and other issues are not worthy of easy labels of a pro-homosexuality movement in the church. It's especially sad and tragic at the same time for one commentator to claim that all who are members/readers of a Facebook webpage are "supporters" of any one position--would this be true of all readers of the NY Times? Lastly, in all the barrage of criticism of Fr Robert's essay, I have not heard much by way of concern for a human being, a child of God, a brother or sister Christian who is gay, lesbian or otherwise except judgment and the need to repent. There is an ever so long list of many other ways of being, thinking and action for which every one of us has to repent and change daily. Fr Robert calls for serious examination of both the past and the present with respect to marriage. Surely with divorce rates being what they are in the US today, not to mention so many other aspects that have changed, there cannot be anything contrary to the tradition in study and discussion. such as Kenneth Stevenson's study of the development of the marriage service, or those of Paul Evdokimov and John Meyendorff, not to mention other more recent ones. And the scriptures themselves repeatedly show Jesus encountering many outside respectable religion and culture--tax collectors, women from Samaria and Syro-Phonecia. The Lord consistently reaches out to all who would listen, to all who come. Is Fr Robert claiming anything else?
#23 Fr Michael Plekon on 2011-07-04 05:00
The Scriptures show Jesus encountering many outside respectable religion and culture, but never to debate the morality of their sin. The woman caught in adultery, for instance, was not forgiven by Christ because what she did was acceptable. "Go and sin no more," Jesus said. Photini, the woman at the well, was not engaged in a debate to justify her sin. Rather, Jesus exposed sins --both of those "inside" God's People and those outside. It is true that the Lord Jesus reaches out to all who would listen to His teaching, but not to debate His teaching. His teaching included morality (sodomy as well), and His teaching was not in debate. The proper Orthodox approach to such topics is to start from the well-articulated position of Scripture and Holy Tradition; we go from this common foundation to greater understanding and compassion for modern man, then to discuss pastoral approaches, etc. The proper approach is not to imply ambiguity regarding right and wrong or to seek to open debate about the clear teaching of the Church.
I would like to respond to the thoughtful reflection of my brother, Fr. Robert Arida. My main disagreement with Fr. Robert is that I do not think that in Scripture’s teaching about marriage there is any real “inconsistency” (to use Fr. Robert’s word) as he seems to find there. In what follows, I do not intend to reflect upon what the Church should do in every possible pastoral situation regarding marriage breakdown, nor upon all the possible causes of homosexuality. Rather I am simply taking issue with Fr. Robert’s exegesis and understanding of the New Testament’s teaching.
Our Lord categorically forbids His married disciples to divorce each other, as was allowed in the Judaism of His time. The “except for cause of porneia” clause, present only in Matthew’s Gospel, I would suggest, refers to the situation of discovery of sexual immorality during the betrothal period, so that our Lord says that if such a discovery is made during this time, one is not obliged to go through with the marriage. It seems clear enough that Christ forbids His disciples to divorce a believing partner, so that one is guilty in some measure if this is done.
Our Lord, of course, was talking about marriage between His disciples. There was no “command from the Lord” (compare 1 Cor. 7:25) about what to do if a Christian disciple was married to an unbeliever, because Christ had not spoken about such a possibility. Thus St. Paul gives his own (authoritative) apostolic directive—namely, that divorce was allowable if the unbeliever was determined to depart. There was no “inconsistency of the missionary’s message”—St. Paul was simply speaking about a situation about which his Lord had not given direction. In examining the teaching of Christ and St. Paul, Fr. Robert is making heavier weather than he needs to and is muddying the waters. The teaching is clear enough, and quite consistent.
It is the same with St. Paul’s teaching on slavery. St. Paul did not assert that “slavery was a social phenomenon established by God”. He did not suggest that “slavery as an institution was not to be tampered with”. Rather, he acknowledged implicitly that slavery in his day was an established fact of life along with other sociological facts. He was not answering the question, “What do you think of slavery?” He was answering the question, “Given the existence of slavery, how should Christian slaves act?” It is bad exegesis to take his answers to this question as his justification of slavery. Onesimus was not sent back to Philemon because St. Paul thought slavery was “established by God”. He was sent back because Philemon and Onesimus needed to be reconciled, since they were both now Christians. In fact, many commentators suggest that St. Paul in Philemon 21 is hinting that Philemon grant Onesimus his freedom.
My quarrel with Fr. Robert is not simply that we have differing Biblical exegesis. It is that we seem not to share the same understanding of the authority of Scripture and of patristic Tradition generally. Fr. Arida wants to suggest that Scripture is inconsistent in its witness, and therefore is not a sure guide. I disagree. It think its witness is entirely consistent and clear, both about marriage and other things. By asserting that Scripture’s answers to crucial and timely questions have “been answered in two ways, yes and no”, Fr. Arida seeks to undermine our confidence in its voice. I think such an undermining would be disastrous.
As a former Anglican, I have seen such undermining at work before, and it began in the same way as with Fr. Arida—by asking questions. There is nothing wrong with asking questions—if the issue at hand truly is an open question. But it is not acceptable for Orthodox to “ask questions” about matters about which our Tradition is clear. For example, if one asked, “Can we really say that Jesus of Nazareth is God?”, this would not be a legitimate question for an Orthodox to ask, and to respond to criticism by saying, “But I was just asking a question!” would be disingenuous. One would not then be asking a real question, but issuing a covert challenge. Challenges are fine, but they should present themselves as challenges, and not cover themselves with the cloak of being simple questions. Regarding marriage and homosexuality, the voice of Scripture, interpreted by the Fathers, gives us clear guidelines about how to proceed. The waters are not “uncharted”; they are just turbulent, being stirred up by the ever-shifting mores of secularized society.
Same sex couples who come to the Orthodox Church are not to be ignored, nor turned away. Like everyone else coming to us, they are to be urged to repent—which at very least involves for them the cessation of sexual activity and repentance for such things in the past. Pastoral care, like everything else in Orthodoxy, needs to be grounded in the Church’s commitment that its children “be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind” (Rom. 12:2). The question is whether or not Orthodox today will have the courage to challenge society to resist such conformity to the world or whether it will refuse the challenge under the cloak of compassion and pastoral care.
Thank you, Fr. Lawrence (and Frs. Mark Hodges and Fr. John Dresko and others who have responded in this vein). I trust you as faithful interpreters of Scripture and Orthodox tradition. Fr. Robert, whose kind intentions and apparent sincerity I can certainly respect, asks a good question at the end of his reflection, but otherwise as you have demonstrated shows ample evidence of having abandoned such faithful interpretation in his exegesis of Scripture and tradition at many points.
#24.1 Karen on 2011-07-12 08:14
Well explained, Father Lawrence! Thank you so much for putting things far better than I ever could. In our day of resistance to authority, there is a world of difference between asking a genuine question to clarify one's understanding, versus cloaking a rebellious challenge to the Church's moral teaching in the form of "just questions." Indeed, our challenge --not only in society at large but within the Church-- is to "speak the truth in love," resisting the homosexual agenda while caring for and loving those who repent. May we not shrink back, confusing the flock by equating the acceptance of sodomy with pastoral compassion. No one is helped or loved or healed by our teaching being morally compromised.
It seems we are all often talking about two distinct issues.
1) Pastoral approaches addressing issues surrounding homosexuality and gay marriage.
2) The Orthodox Christian teachings on sexuality, sexual activity and marriage.
In many conversations, questions about #1 are used to obscure the clear, universal consensus of Tradition of #2.
It seems, too, that a rather Protestant approach to the historical road of the Faith is used to criticize the Tradition. This line of attack assumes that early is better, and lack of early consensus means the issue is up for debate. Thus, the fact that a clearly defined theology of marriage was lacking for some time in the early Church is thus proof that marriage is not fully defined or can be redefined today (since it was defined and redefined earlier in Church history). One wonders whether such a line of argument could be used against the doctrine of images, which wasn't fully and finally defined until the 800s - much later than any dramatic changes in marriage practice in the Church.
#25 Ps-Iosifson on 2011-07-05 07:04
Arida has gone mad, that is the only conclusion I can draw from this, and he should be suspended from the priesthood until he repents in public. Arida owes an apology to gay people in the Church who live lives of sexual continence and struggle in life like the rest of us. Arida has zero understanding of Orthodox theology, and his logic is in terrible disrepair.
#26 Sad on 2011-07-05 08:32
Fr. Arida writes,
"Indeed, the Church has never sailed these uncharted waters."
This, of course, is hogwash.
The Church has dealt with homosexuality and homosexual abberation for 2 millennia now. This is nothing new, and requires no new approach. To do so automatically inserts the current culture war into the Church deliberately and is another blatant attempt at moral equivalence, yet again.
Sin is sin, and we aren't changing what we define as sin, nor changing the rules for individual classes of sinners.
It's not up for discussion, except for those who desperately want to change the church's culture/permissibility and therefore definition of these things to appear enlightened to those outside the Church.
#27 Fr. John A. Peck on 2011-07-05 16:02
You're absolutely correct: "The Church has dealt with homosexuality .... for 2 millenia now."
What I am taking away from Fr. Robert's reflection is that the issue of homosexuality is not a black and white case. Homosexuality has been a moving target for centuries; the current distinction between being homosexual and homosexual acts is relatively new, i.e. post Freud. Change in moral teaching is not unknown, e.g. slavery has moved from tolerance to condemnation and usury from condemnation to acceptance.
Complicating an already delicate and complex issue are relatively recent developments in science (last three decades) and biblical studies (last century and half). The corpus of scientific discovery since John Breck's publication, "The Sacred gift of life", in 1997 has only brought the issue of nature versus nuture of homosexuality to an undeniable conclusion in favor of nature. The discovery of the Qumran scrolls, Nag Hammadi Library and the Oxyrhynchus papers have dramatically improved our understanding of biblical languages and their cultural and historical context. An honest appraisal must take new information into account lest we risk a Galileo situation.
Fr. Robert's pastoral concerns and questions are legitimate. Experience is critical; without experience, the church's ability to select, preserve and judge moral doctrine can not develop. The hands-on acquisitions of knowledge of moral issues is part of that experience and that knowledge is called empathy. Theology must be existential for us or we will perish. Theology bereft of experience has theologians without clothes. The strategic plan in approaching the issue of homosexuality or any moral issue should be the rule stated by the Apostle Paul: "That your love abound more and more in knowledge and in insight of every kind so that you test what is vital." (Phil 1: 9-10).
#27.1 Terry C. Peet on 2011-07-06 15:00
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the posts above, there have been many appeals to rethink the Church’s current position on active homosexuality in light of the more recent scientific research in this field. I would strongly encourage those so interested to carefully read the testimony of Dr. Jeffrey Satinover before the Massachusetts Senate Committee in 2003, which is easily accessible via google or other search engines. To the best of my knowledge, the research studies continually cited in support of a biological or genetic cause for homosexuality are those of Dean Hamer, Simon LeVay and Richard Pillard – by their own admission, not one of these research studies yielded such results. This fact is clearly demonstrated in Dr. Satinover’s testimony by his simply quoting these scientists directly. Less publicized research, on the other hand, now suggests that sexual behavior can alter the structure of the brain, and that nurture, rather than nature, appears to play the more decisive role. Along with reviewing research pertaining to a biological link, this testimony also cites a variety of reputable studies that demonstrate the efficacy of reparative therapy for those wishing to leave the homosexual lifestyle. It is not my intention to summarize his entire testimony here, but to strongly encourage others to investigate these matters more thoroughly for themselves.
For those so interested, there is also plenty of additional medical and psychological research at the NARTH website that demonstrates, oftentimes in devastating fashion, the toll of active homosexuality. Young gay men continue to contract AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases at alarmingly high rates, and even in those countries where social acceptance is much greater than in the US, rates of substance abuse, psychological disorders and suicide are proportionately higher for active homosexuals. These studies and others stand in sharp contrast to the gay-affirming studies routinely put out by the current APA which, undoubtedly, has a history of bowing to political and social pressure on this and other issues. Far from contradicting the Church’s teaching on this issue, I think there is a wealth of scientific research to support it.
More fundamentally, however, I strongly believe that the scripture and tradition of our Church has unquestionably taught that active homosexuality is spiritually perilous. Do we no longer believe this? And yes, Christians as a whole were lamentably slow in addressing the evils of slavery, but where in the scripture does it tell us that slaves will not inherit the kingdom of heaven? Or that the slave (not slavery) is an abomination in God’s sight? This, for me, is where the analogy between slavery and active homosexuality always breaks down. I do not consider the sometimes harsh admonitions against active homosexuality in our scripture and tradition to be outdated or, worse still, to be a license for judgment or condemnation, but rather to be a desperate plea from an infinitely loving God. A God whom, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to use divinely inspired men of clay to convey His truths to a fallen world. Yes, the words are not always politically correct, or perhaps as compassionate as some would hope, but the message is undoubtedly clear. Now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to hold our ground and continue to teach the truth in love for those who still want it.
As for the brave gay man above who courageously shared his struggles with celibacy in the world as an Orthodox Christian, I only wish to say that I count you as my brother in Christ. I am a single, heterosexual female, and have lived as a celibate Orthodox Christian in the world for some 20 years now. I know it is not easy, but you are not alone. Whether by divorce, or the loss of a spouse, or other circumstances, there are many heterosexuals in the Church who essentially walk your same path, and share many of your same struggles. I hope that, in some small way, the remembrance of this fact may ease some of the isolation or burden that you carry.
#27.1.1 Theone on 2011-07-06 21:37
If ever there were a discredited medical notion, it is the contention that homosexually oriented individuals can be "cured" or turned into nice straight acting and copulating church goers. Of course, as I said before, we can all elect celibacy. But is that realistic or even desirable? I think not!
It is pure Gnosticism to treat sexuality as some kind of dirty and sinful state unless one is in the business of procreating children. Once one rejects that spurious edict, sexual relations can be viewed in a much different context than pure animal reproduction. Does this fly in the face of some of our traditions? Of course, but the reality is that most modern Christians practice birth control and enjoy a range of sexual activities and practices that have nothing to do with procreation, and they are right to do so.
Perpetual celibacy is certainly a honorable vocation for those who are called to it. But to elevate it to a superior moral state, as many tend to do, is to deny the beauty and morality of our sexual natures. By the same token, sexuality can be abused and perverted when it becomes violent, exploitative, and loveless. But then again, celibacy can result in bitterness, pride and envy.
As the previous comments on gluttony so brilliantly illustrated, we had best attend to our own moral failings and leave the ultimate judgment of others' purported personal failings to God. We may be very surprised to see what He considers important and relevant.
#22.214.171.124 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-07 09:31
Given the topic being discussed, I thought I'd point readers to "Living the Good Lie" by Mimi Swartz (New York Times, June 16, 2011). While a little long, it discusses the difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity, and the developing understanding in the psychological community about how to address conflicts that involve a religious component. The article can be found at http://fwd4.me/054z.
"Haldeman found in his research that the vast majority of people seeking to change their orientation held strong religious beliefs; often, these were married men with families who grew up in a church and who felt that they had far too much to lose by coming out. “For some,” Haldeman wrote in a 2004 paper called “When Sexual and Religious Orientation Collide,” “religious identity is so important that it is more realistic to consider changing sexual orientation than abandoning one’s religion of origin.” In the case of such clients, abandoning the church meant abandoning the entire belief system by which they defined themselves.
They suspected, too, that they would be exiles in the secular gay community, in which many didn’t understand why gay evangelicals couldn’t just change churches or leave religion behind altogether. In other words, Haldeman was certain that conversion therapy didn’t work, but he wasn’t sure that gay-affirmative therapy — helping gay clients to see that their discomfort with their orientation might come from internalizing a prejudice — would help them find peace of mind, either. In these circumstances, Haldeman tried a different approach.
In that 2004 paper, Haldeman laid out the case history of John, a gay, middle-aged, married and deeply religious man. John acknowledged that he was gay, but he also felt fervently that he wanted to stay married to his wife and remain an active, involved father to his three children. In professional parlance, his sexual orientation was gay, but his sexual identity — the way he saw himself, and the way he wanted to be seen — was as a straight man.
John told his wife about his sexual orientation when they were dating in college. She agreed to continue the relationship, as long as he agreed that he would never have sex with men. John kept his side of the bargain until the birth of his third child, some seven years into the relationship. At that point, he began having sex with men and couldn’t stop. Still, he didn’t want to leave his family and live as a gay man.
The approach Haldeman used was, in the therapeutic parlance, client-centered; that is, the client’s desires took precedence over any values or opinions held by the therapist. So if John wanted to be a gay man who lived as a straight man, Haldeman would help him become that person. As part of his therapy, John agreed to steer clear of any place or activity that might arouse his interest in men — the sauna at the gym, the park where he looked for sex and the Internet, which in the late 1990s was not quite as pervasive or accessible as it is now. Haldeman’s clients were taught to acknowledge rather than to deny their feelings (denial only made things worse) but to choose not to act on them. For instance, John had sex with his wife, though he did have a pass to concoct gay masturbatory fantasies. Haldeman also encouraged him to join support groups made up of what have come to be known in the psychological community as mixed-orientation marriages....
Flanigan read Haldeman’s 2004 paper and began trying similar treatment strategies. “I would describe my work as identity management as opposed to sexual-identity management,” he told me. He wanted to help patients feel comfortable with themselves in a way that then allowed them to make their own choices. ...
Around the same time that Haldeman was trying to help his religious clients deal with their homosexuality, two psychologists, Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse, were approaching the same issue from a very different perspective. At this time — the mid-2000s — sexual orientation was one of the most intense battlegrounds in the Bush-era culture wars. Gay-affirmative therapists saw conversion therapists as sadists; conversion therapists saw the affirmatives as, at best, godless.
Throckmorton and Yarhouse are each heterosexual evangelical Christians: Yarhouse teaches at Regent University, a school founded by Pat Robertson; Throckmorton at Grove City College, another Christian institution, just north of Pittsburgh....
Yarhouse and Throckmorton came up with what they called sexual-identity therapy (SIT). At first, Yarhouse told me, many left-leaning therapists saw SIT as a trick — conversion therapy by another name, and many remain skeptical: Wayne Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization devoted to debunking the ex-gay ministry, told me that though he respects Throckmorton, he still believes that SIT is just another way of encouraging repression. “I think Throckmorton means well and really wants to help people reconcile their faith and sexuality,” Besen said. “However, the more appropriate way is for people to find a more moderate religion that doesn’t force them to live at cross purposes with their sexual health.”
Still, Throckmorton is a long way from those who insist that being gay is a lifestyle choice. Though he comes from an evangelical perspective, he accepts that homosexuality is unchangeable and has helped clients and their families to begin to accept that, too. But acceptance goes only so far. I spoke with a woman named Susan, whose gay son went to Throckmorton. “The shame for our family started to lift,” she told me. “We stopped saying it was our fault.” They still harbor the hope that their son could somehow be transformed into a heterosexual, but “we have let go of it as best we humanly can,” she told me. As Throckmorton put it: “We are not trying to change your orientation. We are trying to help you develop the life you are trying to live” through the values that matter most to you....
By 2007, there was enough confusion and dissent about what had come to be known as “sexual-orientation-change efforts” that psychologists were clamoring for guidance. The American Psychological Association formed a task force of gay and straight members to investigate and develop guidelines.... They wanted a client-centered approach that was also based on scientific research. “The science says that being gay is not an illness,” Beckstead told me. “You don’t need another treatment model, because there’s nothing to treat. The important thing is meeting where the client is — honoring them, validating them, supporting them, giving them the ability to decide for themselves.”
In the final document, the A.P.A. clearly stated its opposition to conversion therapy and unequivocally described homosexuality as normal. But it also offered a nuanced view of religious gay people who did not want to come out. The A.P.A. considered the kind of identity therapy proposed by Throckmorton and Yarhouse to be a viable option. No effort needed to be expended trying to change a client’s religion or sexual orientation. Therapy, in fact, was to have no particular outcome either way, other than to guide the client closer to self-acceptance, whatever the client believed that to be. The difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity was microscopically parsed. “Acceptance of same-sex sexual attractions and sexual orientation may not mean the formation of an L.G.B. sexual-orientation identity,” the report stated. “Alternate identities may develop instead.” It further stated that acting on same-sex attractions might not be a fulfilling solution for everyone. “I called up Mark, and I said: ‘Can you believe this? Am I reading this right?’ ” Throckmorton told me.
The chairwoman of the task force, Judith Glassgold, remains pleased with the outcome. “People might want to adopt an identity that fits with what their religion proscribes,” she explained. “Or they might want to be celibate rather than identify as a gay person. Some people prioritize their religion over their sexuality, like priests and nuns. That’s an identity.” The goal was to help the client come up with an identity that worked for them. “The dialogue has changed in the last decade,” she continued. “Among therapists — both among gay activists and the religious — we can have a discussion. We all agree that arousal and orientation are not under someone’s volition. What we can work on is self-acceptance, integration identity and reducing stigma.” "
#126.96.36.199.1 Ps-Iosifson on 2011-07-07 13:05
Thank you for this interesting and informative post. I hope everyone who visits this thread reads it, and ponders its implications.
I, immodestly, think it underscores all the points I have previously made with regard to sexual orientation. Pity those poor individuals who through social pressure, confusion or whatever have entered into marriage only to find that at heart they are homosexual. Shame on the institutions and individuals that may have played a part in creating this tragic situation!
As the article suggests, celibacy is an option for those so conflicted. But for most it would be a negative option, not a positive embrace of celibacy as a lifestyle choice, though perhaps this is the best they can do under the circumstances, especially where children are involved.
While I am encouraged by the intelligent and thoughtful comments by many on this thread, there are still many here mired in a contempt for those whose sexual preferences are different from their own. One need not worry that "gays" will be beating on the doors of their local Orthodox Church to get in to face the smug condescension of those waiting "to save them" from their sinful natures and urges. Rather they will seek comfort and solace from those Christians not wedded to a Pharisaic interpretation of Scripture and a mindless adherence to Mosaic Law.
#188.8.131.52.1.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-08 05:15
The article I posted says nothing about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, much less does it advocate for churches to proclaim anything about homosexuality one way or the other.
The importance of the article is that it shows how the developing medical science of psychology acknowledges that a person with a homosexual orientation can healthfully choose a heterosexual or celibate sexual identity. The APA accepts that a person can choose to follow the traditional Orthodox (Christian) discipline regarding sexual activity, i.e., no sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage regardless of one's sexual orientation or identity.
#184.108.40.206.1.1.1 Ps-Iosifson on 2011-07-08 11:37
Well, you have just demonstrated how two people can come to very different conclusions after reading the same material. For the record, I was not advocating anything other than tolerance and a reexamination of some long held preconceptions.
Furthermore, I think it is more than a stretch to conclude that the APA believes one can adopt a true heterosexual lifestyle if they have a predominately homosexual orientation. Celibacy mabe, true heterosexuality, never. Homosexuals may mimic heterosexuality, but in a kind of inverted "drag show" way. And certainly most homosexuals will see this "therapy" as nothing but an invitation to self-hatred and denial of their true nature.
That said, I hope we can both agree that in the final analysis every individual must come to terms with their sexual nature and how they will utilize it, in their own way. Respecting the informed Free Will decisions of conscience of every individual, however much we disagree with them, is where tolerance begins and oppression ends.
#220.127.116.11.1.1.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-08 13:41
The ex-gay movement runs the gamut from purely religious-based programs to psycho-therapeutic models alone, or some combination of the two. And, yes, some of the programs – most likely of a more fundamentalist bent – employ questionable methods and report doubtful outcomes, but this certainly does not account for the movement as a whole.
Same-sex orientation, being a confluence of many factors, is hardly monolithic, and this is no doubt reflected in the response rates to various re-orientation programs. In 1994, a large gathering of ex-gays vigorously protested the APA’s attempt to prevent psychiatrists from helping homosexuals who desire to change. Their protest deferred that decision for one additional year. In 2001, Dr. Robert Spitzer, a highly regarded gay-affirmative psychiatrist, and the chief decision-maker in the removal of homosexuality from the APA’s diagnostic manual in 1973, decided to conduct his own research on the subject given the ongoing heated debate within the professional community. Though long convinced that homosexuality is neither a disorder nor changeable, he concluded: “I’m convinced from the people I have interviewed, that for many of them, they have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual…I think that’s news…I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained.” Even before Spitzer chose to undertake this study, plenty of research already existed to support his own conclusions.
Whatever you may personally think about them, there is a diverse and growing ex-gay movement in this country, and they claim everything from full recovery to moderate change in unwanted same-sex attraction. Some of them also claim to have loving marriages to members of the opposite sex, even while struggling with some degree of unwanted same-sex attraction. It is my personal opinion that few, if any, are able to completely re-orient their sexual desires, but having read much more on the subject, I am now a bit more open to that claim or possibility.
One thing for certain is this: Ex-gays are routinely and unjustly met with derision and censure in the secular culture, and most notably by gay activists – if ever there was an example of “hate speech,” this is surely it. Like everyone else in this national debate, ex-gays have a right to be heard, and they certainly have a right to self-determination with regard to how they choose to live sexually.
#18.104.22.168.2 Theone on 2011-07-07 17:44
The whole Christian Faith is based on the possibility, by God's grace, for the transformation of man, from the worst of sins to holiness. Your contention that those tempted by same-sex attraction cannot be healed, is a denial of the power of Jesus Christ. The truth of our Faith is, anyone who is willing can be made new. It's not easy and it's not quick, but it is freeing. And this is proven time and again by testimonies of those who came out of the homosexual lifestyle.
Despite what you state in another post, homosexual attraction and orientation is a spiritual and psychological malady --in other words, sinful, in the general sense of the word, amartia, missing the mark.
In another post, you wrote, "Every individual must come to terms with their sexual nature," but again our Faith is clear in that God made human beings male and female heterosexuals. No one is homosexual by nature. All of us are damaged by the world, by our parents/ancestors, and by our own sinful choices. You come close to the truth in one comment, where you admit, "at heart they are homosexual." It is our corrupted hearts which Christ seeks to heal.
Your fundamental presupposition that homosexual orientation is part of one's nature is flawed, according to Christianity. We are created heterosexual, whether we ever use our physical sexuality or not. To "come to terms with one's sexual nature" is to accept being either male or female, even be grateful for the gender God has made us, embracing ourselves and understanding our gender as part of our fundamental being. As Father Hopko says, many falsely think the only differences between men and women is our physical, biological differences, basically teaching that the soul is neutral and is informed by the body, but we say just the opposite: the soul is male or female, and it is the soul which informs the body.
Finally, the ridiculing nature of some of your comments ("every reasonable person should agree," "fundamentalist," "a fairytale land," "if ever there were a discredited notion," "nice, straight-acting and copulating church goers," "pure animal reproduction," "mired in a contempt for those whose sexual preferences are different," "worry that gays will be beating on the doors," "smug condescension," "Pharisaic interpretation of Scripture," "a mindless adherence to Mosaic Law," "inverted 'drag' show," "invitation to self-hatred," etc.) do not help your argument. This is the tactic of those who are confronted with the truth, but have no answer for it.
There really is no point in further debating this issue with you, since your primary contention is so obviously wrong. You may not like it, it may conflict with your deeply and long held beliefs, but it is utter nonsense to contend that everyone is born heterosexual. It would certainly make it easier for people like you if this were so, but it isn't.
End of story.
#22.214.171.124.3.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-15 14:04
Ken, your position cannot be the "end of story," in indeed you are seeking God's truth, and not your own. (As Jesus said, we must seek God's Kingdom and His righteousness --notice He did not say we are to seek heaven, and notice He did not say we are to seek what "I" think is right, but rather God's rule over our lives as the One Who knows best, and God's righteousness, as revealed in the holy Scriptures.)
Stating "your primary contention is obviously wrong," offers no Scriptural or patristic evidence to support your bias against the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church. You say that it is "utter nonsense" to contend that humankind was created heterosexual. This, I would say, ignores the obvious... What is nonsense, is to ignore the biological and physical compatibility of a man and a woman and say that sodomy is its moral equal (in effect saying heterosexual compatibility is nothing more than chance, which is the position of the godless). ....What is nonsense is to blame a holy and loving God for our fallenness and rebellion against His own loving direction and commands for living.
“God created man in His own image; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). Human gender is not only a part of the created order; it is a reflection of God. Equality in Christ (Gal 3:28) does not mean that distinctions between women and men are to be ignored, or that men can take the place of women or vice versa. There are overt differences in Scriptural counsel to men and women, especially in how they relate to one another. As in nature, male and female are not interchangeable. Salvation does not involve the denial of our identity as women and men, but rather the acceptance of our identity. (Part of our redemption is gratitude for who we are!) The distinctions between women and men remain forever, even in the Kingdom of God, both physically and spiritually. Masculinity and femininity have been distorted and perverted in the fallen world; if gender is to be rediscovered and healed, it has to be discovered in our divine image and relationship with God.
God in His wisdom created humanity as man and woman. He has not made us unisex spirits, but chose to reflect His image as male and female. We are male and female in the deepest sense of ur being; our souls are gender-specific --not as something external put upon us, but as who we are and were made to be by God. Gender differences are not just biological, or even mostly biological; our gift of gender is far more profound. As Fr Hopko says, a woman is not maternal because her body is able to give birth: it is from her maternal spirit that the corresponding physiological and anatomical capabilities are derived. Likewise, man is more virile and physically stronger because in his spirit there is something that corresponds to the “violence” of which the Gospel speaks. The physiological and the psychic depend upon the spirit; they service it and express it. These differences are not conflicting or contradictory; they are designed as complementary. In fact, the image of the Trinity in humanity is precisely both male and female; one alone (male or female) is an incomplete reflection of God. (And, of course, two of the same gender are also an incomplete reflection of God.) Dualists say God created us male and female because of sin, and in eternity gender will pass away. Christians say the opposite: in order to be in the image of God, we must be male and female. Without Eve, Adam is not human, and vice versa.
Gender was from the beginning; it is not a result of the Fall. The Son of God assumed everything about humanity except sin; His taking on the male gender proves that gender is not a result of sin. The eternal Word took on our human nature, not as a genderless being or a unisex creature, but as a man, because there is and can be no other way to be human but to be male or female. “If sexuality is sinful, then God is the sinner.” Lust and selfishness seem bound up with the sexual act, and yet they are not proper to it. Orthodox say that gender, marriage, and exclusive marital sex is good, ordained by God, and intended to be a witness of His unifying love.
Not only is our gender a part of our inner self, our personality and psychology, but it instinctively affects our relationships with others individually, in family, and in society. How we interrelate is gender-specific. The “role” of men, in the Christian view, differs from the “role” of women, in much the same way that the “role” of God the Son differs from the “role” of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. (Being in the image of God is a metaphysical reality and not merely a matter of moral imitation.) As we have said, the divine Persons are fully equal, yet each has a unique “role” in their relationship to one another and to creation. In the same way, we are made equal human beings with unique and complementary gender “roles” that unite us as one, as the Trinity is one. Unity is not uniformity; real unity starts with accepting one another's differences, including our own gender. To deny this is to deny our psychological makeup, our different bodies, and our human nature; to deny this is to deny ourselves.
As God created us male and female, He gave us a father and a mother, who are created to be committed in love, divinely joined (“What God has joined together, let not man separate”), and to raise us together, each in their own gender-specific and unique ways. The “role” of father is naturally different from the “role” of mother, and vice versa; it was created to be. A child relates differently to his/her mother than his/her father, and needs to receive both of their gender-specific loves. Likewise, in our relationship with God our Father, we are to enter into a paternal relationship with Him, not a maternal and not a sibling relationship. This is as important as it is to be human; made in God's image.
The two forms of human existence must be in communion to have proper humanity. They belong together, and to each other. Complementarity and mutual fulfillment are essential to our humanness. God made Eve from the substance of Adam to show that she is what Adam is, and is equal to him. Too often overlooked, however, is the biblical teaching about the relationship between male and female. Holy Scripture is very clear that there is in the relationship a loving headship of the husband (I Cor 11:3). Woman is equal, and man cannot be human without her, but in their relationship, there is an order. Eve is created as Adam's “helpmate”; she makes him fully human by completing the image of God in him. Man is “head” the same way that the Father is the head of Christ, and in the same way that Christ is the head of the Church: by the self-sacrificing means of love, self-giving, compassion, and communion. (This, by design, should also be the characteristic of Church leadership and authority.) All this is derived from the Holy Trinity.
(Incidentally, a wonderful saint for those struggling with homosexuality is St Symeon the New Theologian, who confesses such struggle himself, along with sins of sodomy in Constantinople, and who ultimately found purity and inner peace in the Holy Spirit.)
UNBELIEVABLE! So many people have trouble with God's teaching. They were created male & female. Marriage is ONLY between a man & woman who become the new Adam & Eve to propagate the world! There is NO man & man or woman & woman - is is nothing more than illicit sex as a man & woman outside of marriage. WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE HAVING TROUBLE WITH THIS??? Apparently, there is something in the water...or food for REAL! What's this boom in homosexuals? Either get a sex change or get psych help, but God and His Church does not recognize unions or marriage between homosexuals. Get a civil union, but the Church will NEVER recognize that which is not natural!
#28 Anonymous on 2011-07-05 16:43
>>"WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE HAVING TROUBLE WITH THIS???"
Why are you yelling? You seem to be getting very exercised about this.
#28.1 Anonymous on 2011-07-06 12:05
Perhaps this person is "yelling" for the same reason St. Nicholas punched Arius. The salvation of every one of us is at stake. When we stop seeing sin we lose the ability to repent, and if we do not repent how can we be saved? The idea of telling a sick man that he is well while he yet suffers is repugnant to the Gospel.
(Editor's note: Funny, I don't remember Jesus yelling at anybody, except the money changers in the Temple. And there he wasn't worried about anybody's salvation, but desecration... So let's take a lesson from the Lord and not yell at each other.)
Hey, Matt! Let's yell about usury, and greed and gossip, and some other sins, like not caring for the poor, and not freeing the captives (read: not visiting the prisoners, etc). and feathering our middle class nests at the expense of those who have none, etc.
Is errant sex the only sin that we can openly discuss here?
(Editor's note: Welcome to America, Reader. Sex sells. Only humour works half as well - and there is precious little to laugh about in this.)
#126.96.36.199 james morgan on 2011-07-08 18:22
I'm sorry, but I don't understand why this issue even merits significant discussion. Fr. Robert's piece, while remotely (possibly) interesting, seems more relevant to some arcane academic discussion that to dealing with daily life as an Orthodox Christian in North America.
He writes: "If the Church is going to respond to the legalization of same sex marriage/union it seems that it should begin by considering how to minister to those same sex couples who being legally married come with their children and knock on the doors of our parishes seeking Christ."
But are same-sex couples ("married" or not by the state) with children truly knocking down the doors of our Orthodox Churches, seeking Christ? I've never encountered it and have never heard of it. Same-sex couples have been more or less mainstream in America for a while now, and I just don't think there are many of them at all (if any), with our without children, who want to become Orthodox.
Yes, through the grace of God, having everyone grow close to Christ is possible and hopeful and is what we hope for as part of our missionizing efforts here in America. But come on, what's the likelihood of a same-sex couple with kids calling an Orthodox priest to inquire about membership?
And if it were to happen, why the need to reinvent the wheel? How has the church ministered to non-Christians seeking to become Christian throughout the years? With love and compassion but also stressing that certain practices are incompatible with growing close to God -- and homosexual acts and relationships are among these (as are pride, gluttony, love of money, etc., etc.). It's nothing new under the sun and is nothing personal; it's just the way it is, part of our human condition -- active homosexual relationships impair our relationship with God and are incompatible with orthodox Christianity.
I don't understand why this has to be academically dissected so much. It seems quite simple. And I certainly don't think that there's any need for a new committee or think-tank-like "church policy" on how to deal with gay couples with kids who want to become Orthodox -- it would likely rarely happen, if ever. And if and when it does happen, what's wrong with simply having faith that God will grant the priest/pastor wisdom in dealing with the situation as best as he can?
#29 Gregg Gerasimon on 2011-07-06 16:25
There are Orthodox people that are gay that have children, sorry if this disturbs you. If homosexuality is a sin as suggested by the church; they are merely sinners like me.
When the Metropolitan of the church suggests a 'lavender mafia' exists that might be ought to get him for his stance on gay marriage; perhaps discussion about Orthodox gays has merit?
Frankly, the treatment of gays in general by all of us has merit; not just pastoring to them. This concept wasn't really within the scope of Arida's essay, but has implications for us all; especially the Metropolitan of the OCA. I'm not gay and a far cry from being a member of any perceived or real lavender mafia, but I am on the lookout for bad behavior toward gays by the hierarchy and it isn't because I owe MS a thing.
What is a worse sin, maligned treatment of gays, or being gay? I propose it is the former.
And let's go ahead and compare gluttony. How many overweight Orthodox people have been booted from the church for gluttony? How many overweight people have not been allowed Communion? How many overweight priests have been defrocked? How many overweight people have not been Baptised?
So, Mark, a fair question to you. Was this essay solicited or unsolicited? I'm sure most would expect solicited and since Gregg asks why, it seems fair to ask, regardless of whether it is a topic worthy of discussion.
(Editor's note: In answer to your question: I do not , as a policy, solict reflections. In this instance, given that the issue was in the news, that Bishop Michael had issued a pastoral letter ( which I also offered links to) it seemed appropriate that, having already published that reflection on his parish's website, I include Fr. Arida's interesting reflection, given that he has been working in the environment for several years, that Bishop Michael was commenting on. Whether or not it is a topic of discussion was determined not by me, but by the legislature of New York.)
#29.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-07-06 22:31
You make a very good point, Gregg. Are married homosexuals with children knocking at our doors? You are probably right that the phenomenon is probably not existant or at best, extremely rare. The more probable scenario is people already within the church being urged on by society to embrace their sexual desires and build their identity around them.
Thus they are stuck in the middle, with the Church on one side urging them to abstain, while society on the other hand urging them to let it all hang out. It is to those stuck in the middle that we must lovingly and genuinely reach out, with compassion and understanding, and not with condmenation and demonizing.
#29.2 Anonymous on 2011-07-06 23:15
A couple of points . . .
I know all kinds of scenarios of people who were practicing same-sex sex, who are married happily to the opposite sex now (20+years), those who were not gay who are now, those who go back and forth, those who are gay but celibate for life, those who tried not to be, but decided they just are . . . and all those people I know are gay for different reasons.
I was a tom-boy when I was young. I never heard of homosexuality growing up- it just wasn't on my radar until I was a late teen. I didn't hear about it in society, I didn't see TV shows about it, my friends did not ask me to try it, it wasn't on the news or in magazines, wasn't molested as a child (some of my friends were), I didn't have those thoughts because the question wasn't all around me . . ..
Today if I were a tom-boy, I would be being told by everything around me that I have this orientation. No one would even need to talk to me about it, I would pick it up from everywhere around me. If I have "x" traits or feelings or thoughts! I must be . . . the third sex. These are formative and delicate years. Who knows how a child internalizes the world. If the idea is out there, it's more likely to be developed than if it's not.
Since I agree with the above post that states, "currently know(n) medically - biologically, genetically, neurologically, psychiatrically - about human behaviour is so miniscule as to be nonexistent". I would say we do not know why people are gay. I don't believe it's for any one reason. And we do not understand what influences a child. I know in my own church, that our young teens are confused about homosexuality, especially when they see a gay married person taking communion. Why are we adding to their confusion? We are so bent on "our rights!", "ourselves!" "being equal", "everyone gets a lollipop!" We forget (or don't care) what we are doing to others who are observing us--all of us.
We who call ourselves Christians have texts written to guide us. They tell us what the model is. Anything short of that falls . . . short of that. When we fall short we go to confession with the desire to change. We don't go to Confession expecting the Church to change. We give over our thoughts, desires, temptations and former identity to God. We become His. Our rights are given over too, including our communion "rights". I know a man who would not become Orthodox because it would hurt his family too much. So he came to Church for more than 20 years, not taking communion or converting, for their sake. We all have our sacrifices. Why individuals focus on who sacrifices more than another is, well . . . look what we sacrifice is our salvation. Salvation is what the Christian is seeking . . . right!!?? Other wise why are we in Church? So we can be told we are doing just fine? If we cave into the world so we can all be 'just fine', we have lost our salvation. The saints whole lives were about striving, they are our examples.
We can go on studying mankind until the end of time, but we do not need to change the model of what is good in our ancient faith when society blows in the wind. Society will change her mind next week. The "model" must always be there for the Christian, unchanged.
#29.2.1 Anonymous on 2011-07-10 11:03
Fr. Robert's article was interesting, but I am amazed that he can claim that the State placing same-sex relationships on the same legal footing as heterosexual marriage has no affect on the Church. This is absurd on its face.
This could only be true if the Church has no responsibility for the society She is in. What ever happened to "love thy neighbor?"
Perhaps Fr. Robert believes that this social change is inevitable so we better get use to it. He may be right, but should this inevitability mean we watch silently as our society travels a path our Church teaches as dangerous to the souls of persons God loves?
Haven't we had enough of the Orthodox faith being nothing but a "boutique" religious oddity in our country? Does our 20 centuries old Faith have nothing to say to a society making these changes? Are we really so weak as to abandon our "diakonia" as salt and light to the society we are a part of now?
As a priest myself, I struggle often how to balance the loving acceptance of a person with the clear moral teachings of the Church, but ultimately it is not actually loving to act as if the moral wisdom of the Church is irrelevant.
And when that same-sex couple and their children come to my parish, they will be loved and cared for and invited to struggle along with the rest of us with the clear wisdom of the Church concerning the hard work of communion.
But to suggest that this legislative earthquake doesn't affect us in the Church is the height of folly and irresponsibility. We are the priests of creation, not some self-contained system that crosses over to the other side of the road when we see the victims of the robbers of men's souls.
We are our brothers' keepers!
#30 Fr. Barnabas on 2011-07-06 20:10
What really chafes at me is the continual use of the term "pastoral care," as if one lacks compassion for supporting the Church's teachings. Being Orthodox requires discipline. Even those who are married are expected to abstain during the fasts and other times during the year. Certainly those of us who are single are expected to abstain. Frankly, I think it's insulting to those who are gay to suggest that they are too weak and morally bereft to follow the same rules the rest of us do. - If same sex couples want to break the rules, no one is going to stop them, but if they want to CHANGE the rules, they're going to have a fight on their hands.
#31 Gail Sheppard on 2011-07-06 22:47
The issue is: How does the Church respond to homosexual unions and their children. Obviously, these "unions" cannot be recognized as either normal nor acceptable in the eyes of the Church. Their children? Problematic since they are being raised in a home where sin is recognized as "normal & acceptable." This is no different than heterosexuals living in sin with children. However, they can normalize their situation via marriage where homosexuals never can. In the eyes of the Church, homosexual unions & marriage can never be accepted nor normalized. A promise of homosexuals that their cohabitation is without relations is silly. Throughout history the Church has always had to deal with homosexual laity, clerics & bishops. The impending issue is that living in such a way is an abomination in the eyes of the Church and they must ultimately answer to God. The Church, being the Kingdom of God on earth, cannot normalize these unions. Receiving the sacraments in the Church can't be done without repentance and receiving the Eucharist and continuing in such a manner condemns ones self.
Sex change operations like Sony Bono; abstinence; psychiatric help or possibly monasticism.
(Editor's note: I think you mean Chas, formerly Chastity, Bono. Sony has passed. But seriously? You would accept some one who has a sex change and married? I think you just raised more questions. As I said, this is a deep and difficult topic....)
#32 Any Mouse on 2011-07-07 07:02
Nature makes mistakes. A woman can be born in a man's body and vice-versa. Normalizing physiology has no theological implications. Homosexuals are either "off" physiologically which can be corrected via surgery or hormones or there exists a mental issue where a good psych can help. BUT, to say that homosexuals are "normal" just isn't true or accurate!
(Editor's note: I don't think anyone has argued here that homosexuality is "normal" in the sense of normative, or even desireable. Perhaps I missed something. But like deafness, homosexuality exists. So, the question being asked is, does the Church have anything more to say than "You are sick, deformed, disabled. Change." There is no cochelear implant for homosexuality. (And many deaf people resent the idea they are disabled anyway, let alone attempts to "change them". ..)
That may indeed ( albeit it in nicer prose) what all the Church has to say. Several writers seem to suggest that course. Others are suggesting an individual approach which recognizes that "change" may not really be reasonable option, the best option, or even an option. I don't know the answer - no one does, because this issue in all its contemporary manifestations has only been around for less than 40 years. It took the Church 800 years to explicate the theoretical understanding of Christ's humanity and divinity adequately; and even then a large percentage of the Church ( The so-called Monophysites) did not accept it. I doubt we are going to explicate the Church's understanding of male and female sexuality in less than 40 years, given that we are not just working with Greek philosophical and theological categories, but must include modern science, philosophy, traditional theology and contemporary sociology in a global, not just an ancient Greek, perspective. This is not a rejection of our past, just acknowlegement that if we are going to speaking to more than the choir, we need to know what languages we are going to have to sing in to be persuasive.
Or, we can just talk to ourselves and wonder why the world moves on increasingly without us, or without reference to Christ. As I said, I don't have the answers. I am only letting people ask the questions. But even that is too much for some, it seems. I, on the other hand, do not think our Faith is so fragile, so weak, so lacking in foundation and experience, that it cannot handle the questions that would emerge at any night course in any community college in any suburb. If we are indeed that intellectually dubious, we truly have declined in vision and substance from the once-proud Church of the Three Holy Hierarchs.
That being said, to say "normalizing physiology" has no theological implications is a pretty outre statement. I mean, if a woman becomes a man, can he then become a priest - since "normalizing physiology" has no theological "implications"? I think the Fathers would disagree - since celibates who made themselves eunuchs ( and thus " normalized their physiology" were technically prevented from being priests. (Although, in point of fact, there were indeed eunuch priests, bishops, patriarchs and saints in the Byzantine era. ) Once again, this shows the whole issue is rather more complicated than some would suggest, when taken in its totality - theologically, pastorally, canonically, etc.)
#32.1 Any Mouse on 2011-07-07 11:33
I have a stylistic suggestion to make. Might editor's
notes not be put in a special font, or something of that
sort, to distinguish them from the original post? For
example, here we have a post, followed by a paragraph
in parentheses marked "Editor's Note", followed by a
paragraph not in parentheses which either author might
perhaps have written, followed by a paragraph clearly
by Mr. Stokoe and ending in an unmatched parenthesis,
followed by the pseudonym of the original poster. Not a
model of clear style.
Norman Hugh Redington
(Editor's note: The system is antiquated and inadequate, and does not allow such things. The whole thing should be upgraded. Alas.)
#32.1.1 Norman H. Redington on 2011-07-08 19:43
Indeed, things we would discuss at any night time community college course! That's how it all starts. You entertain the ridiculous in a serious manner and all of a sudden it doesn't seem quite so absurd.
#32.1.2 gregd01 on 2011-07-08 20:09
Nature makes mistakes? - We aren't products of nature, my friend. God made **us**, you and me (not the animals, the plants, the fish or anything else), in HIS image! Where man is concerned, there are no "mistakes;" only challenges.
#32.1.3 Gail Sheppard on 2011-07-08 20:55
On the sex change option: Any time you geld a horse, you never get a mare.
Raised on the farm,
(Editor's note: Yee haw. Common sense from State College.)
#32.2 Fr John Reeves on 2011-07-08 07:38
Fr. John Reeves:
Science, how does it work again?
#32.2.1 Amanda in the South Bay on 2011-07-09 07:08
If you were raised on a farm you should know that "gelding" (castration) is NOT the same as a sex change operation which includes hormone therapy. Many males in a female body and vice-versa, already have both sets of equipment. Your simplification of the process is based farm castration???
(Editor's note: Then they would not be male or female, but hermaphrodites, and that is a whole nother kettle of fish. I said it was complicated. Scripture and Tradition tend to speak of sex, gender, identity, hormones, biology, nature, nuture, etc, if at all, in black and white terms. On or off. Male or female. Passive or aggressive. Etc. Empirical science tends to discuss it as a multi-sided rubric's cube instead. Any little twist on any side, in any part, makes for changes in the whole. The key is sorting it all out while being loyal and faithful to that which is, that which we can be, and that which we are called to be. Discussing it civilly as Christian brothers and sisters should be a witness to the world that we indeed are not like everybody else, but that we are marked by love. No?)
#32.2.2 Anonymous on 2011-07-09 09:19
One book that may be helpful in this area and may serve to clarify questions and provide some answers, is Fr Thomas Hopko's book, "Christian Faith And Same Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections" (Conciliar Press, 2006)!!! Fr Tom has always had a good balance between the dogmas of the Church and pastoral care!! Hopefully, this book can be enlightening to many people!!!
#33 David Barrett on 2011-07-07 09:11
How is it that a site that came into being to voice concerns over mismanagement of funds has become an arm to try and wrangle acceptance of homosexual marriage? .... As a protestant looking into your faith and attending services, I can say that what has attracted me to orthodoxy is the timelessness of the church that I have oftern heard it said "it is the same today as it was 1000 years ago". I think that's what has attracted many people to the orthodox faith in the last decade or so. Hold onto your identity orthodox christians and do not let the name callers and all the rest deter you. Continue to hate the sin and love the sinner. People far more knowledgeable than I on OCA matters has at least joined the fight. I for one hope they succeed.
(Editor's note: To answer your question: although the Faith "once given to the saints" does not change, although it is, in Fr. Florovsky's words "ever more fully explicated", society does - and the Church must be ready to bear witness to the Good News in every age and in every society. These are questions that are powerful in ours: witness the continuing interest in this discussion. As to why this site is publishing this, well, I answered that already in a response below. The NY legislature and Bishop Michael raised the issue - not me. Nor have I published anything more on the issue, although, as I am learning, there is a boatload of things from every possible angle out there. It is not the focus of this site, not will it become the focus. But to ignore it, and pretend it doesn't exist, is pointless as well. )
#34 gregd01 on 2011-07-07 09:26
To me, this is a difficult topic. So I hesitate to write anything. But I try to enter the discussion, not being the first or last word on this discussion (which I think is why many of us may blog). Just more food for thought.
I don't think, and actually this is more than my opinion I am sure, that the Orthodox Church will ever sanction a homosexual life style as doctrine. Just won't happen. Period.
I don't condone the homosexual life-style; the Orthodox Church is not about to formally condone this lifestyle.
But, it exists, as do so many other sins, in this fallen world.
However, just as Daniel Fall discussed, who is stopping any Orthodox cleric or person from recieving communion due to any personal sin, for example, of gluttony (which is visibly apparent in many of our Orthodox people and clerics)? And who would stop such a person?
So the heaviness we see in any person or cleric may be complicated, from genetics, from childhood, from parenting, from being not able to get excersie for some reason, saying growing up in a high rise apartment, from bad habits, from not listening, from turning a deaf ear, from having the wrong foods in the house, from defiance, from not being taught which foods are healthy, from having to continually entertain to folks which may involve serving rich food or several meals, from having to travel alot which may involve restaurant or fast food, from not wanting to waste left overs, from a variety of medical reasons. I am sure there are many other reasons persons or clerics could be suffering from this malady that I just don't know about. God knows.
But I also don't condone turning away any one from the church, for God is love. We are all supposed to struggle againts our sins. I don't know how well I do at this (!).
I always stop in my tracks from trying to judge anyone in our pre-communion prayer: "I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that Thou art truly the Christ, the son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first."
I also don't know the pastoral relationship between the priest and the homosexual person. Only the priest may know how much such a person is struggling or what history the person is struggling with. I am not privy to anyone's private confession. This may give any person the hope he or she needs, to continue on (For some folks do take their lives in such circumstances).
I also don't think communion is denied to any person because they, for example, may be suffering, say, from mentally illness. Their mental illness may be quite profound and very complicated.
When I was a student at St. Vladimir's Seminary a few of us students, as part of the St. Panteleimon Society, would be requested to drive up to Rockland to help celebrate liturgy there with a few of the long-term housed mentally ill Orthodox. A local priest would come so they could recieve communion. So I think we can safely say that the Orthodox church tries to have compassion on all people, no matter what their situation and circumstances. For is this not the Gospel in Matt. 25, to serve "the least of these, my brethren."
As Daniel Fall also said, "What is a worse sin, maligned treatment of gays, or being gay? I propose it is the former." I tend to agree. One can see this in our society with the hate crimes we have seen in the media and how these are so haneous (the person may even commit suicide due to the bullying, which we have seen on TV too).
Thus, I believe the parish community also goes a long way into trying to accept such persons. If a parish community is not somehow overally accepting, I don't think the homosexual couple will fair that well. Then they become more fodder for a fallen world who, in the long term, to me, really does not care about them.
Perhaps a fallen society seeks "rights" for such people, but in the end, is it really caring about them? Perhaps there is some secular support, but should not the most support that this person receives, in becoming the most whole and healed person, not come from the church? For God continually challenges us to serve "the least of these my brethren" in Matt. 25 and it is the standard in which we Christians are taught that will be ultimately judged, known in the New Testament as "The Great Judgement."
To me, too, whatever sin a person is committing there is always hope. Who knows, after so many years, after a long relationship with a caring pastor and priest, if not with other avenues of intervention and hope, a homosexual couple may repent and just live as two single men. Would that still be a sin, of two people just living together in a celibate lifestyle?
The secular world seems to always have its fallen agenda: forever, amen. Many people are victimized by the secular world and its fallen agenda. The devil has not yet been cast out in this fallen world.
I always believe the Church is our greatest hope, for the worst of sinners. Particularly those who are continually victimized the world's fallen agenda.
I don't know how well I am doing in my struggle in being the best Christian I can. I believe I do try hard. But I could die tomorrow and I know this: I rely on God's mercy, at all times, and in all places. I don't think any of us Orthoddox Christians would try to deny God's mercy. Is not the prayer of the church: "Lord, Have Mercy?" Yes, this is an active, inviting, energized, and spirit-filled prayer. I must do my part, too, to bring His mercy upon me. But how much do I fail myself to do my part?
This is a complicate issue. I am not suggesting otherwise. But I believe we all struggle, in one way or another, in this fallen world. "Lord, Have Mercy," for each of us.
#35 Patty Schellbach on 2011-07-07 09:56
I would also like to thank Fr. Robert for his thoughtful essay as well as the responses from Fr. Michael Plekon and others who have thoughtfully and carefully responded (whether in agreement or not) to his article. I have known Fr. Robert for over 25 years. He is a learned theologian and compassionate pastor. It is clear that he has given this issue a considerable amount of study and prayer. However, I have been disappointed at the tone and substance of some of the responses on this forum (and others) who have disagreed with Fr. Robert. Rarely have these responses engaged the points in Fr. Robert's essay and the pastoral concerns he has raised. (Some have even resorted to ad hominem attacks in a most unChristian way.) All of this saddens me as I think the Orthodox Church has a very life-giving theology (and anthropology). We understand Truth as a person, Jesus Christ (not a set of static propositions to which one must assent.) Our goal is to grow in relationship with this person and become so close that we become one—theosis. (Of course, it is a never-ending process.) If something is indeed representative of the Truth, it will stand the test of scrutiny. We need not fear the dialogue.
Teva Regule, M. Div., Ph.D. in Systematic and Liturgical Theology (cand.)
#36 Teva Regule on 2011-07-07 10:31
Dear Teva and friends:
Teva writes: "We understand Truth as a person, Jesus Christ (not a set of static propositions to which one must assent.)" That non-static proposition itself deserves closer examination.
For starters I would like the first part better if s/he had written "We understand the Truth to be Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man" rather than "person, Jesus Christ." But even my own reconfiguration of the statement would be preferable to me only if we understand that such a single truism is not meant to be a bottom line answer for complex problems llike the ones under discussion in this thread, or a subtle substitute for careful discussion of the same and the results of such discussions, i.e. Tradition as the record and results of the Orthodox theologizing of the past centuries.
I find fault with the second part (inside the parenthesis) because s/he seems to be setting up a false dichotomy (truth revealed in the Person vs. truth revealed in a set of static propositions.) I don't believe Orthodoxy tells us it is either one or the other, or that, if it is, 'Person' "wins" and 'static propositions' "lose." Isn't Orthodoxy "both and?"
If our theology is both defined and expressed liturgically, then certain sets of "static propositions" such as the Creed, or the communion prayer " I believe O Lord and I confess ..." seem to have found a rather permanent and central place in our theology expressed in the greatest mystery of Orthodoxy liturgical worship, the Divine Liturgy.
I think perhaps I sense in or underlying Teva's formulation some discomfort with the content of the normal "static propositions" - or perhaps with the typical, traditional beliefs about homosexual conduct typically held by people who believe in such "static propositions."
#36.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2011-07-09 15:33
Perhaps the understanding of the Church as a spiritual hospital has some meaning in this debate. Given that we are all sinners in need of spiritual healing, can we agree that admitting our personal sins in the Mystery of Repentance is the first step to being effectively treated by the Church?
#37 Marc Trolinger on 2011-07-08 15:22
This may be offensive to some.
The Mystery of Repentance vis a vis spiritual counseling is only as good as the counselor.
It's not real effective when he says, "What you need is a good [expletive] with a woman."
As for above comments about homosexuals coming to the church:
You're all blind if you don't know how many actually do come. Many. And we're often the most "hyper-pious" because we're trying to appropriate the life and tradition of the church for stability and focus in life.
But how many stay?
In my parish, I'm the last of several that, quite by accident, entered together. At times, I stay only by the weakest of grips.
If you wish to truly be a hospital for the sick, then God will bring them. But so far, this conversation treats homosexuals as items to be regarded and discussed.
I've been following this discussion very, very closely. And I've never felt quite so impersonalized and patronized.
Clearly, I'm a problem to most of you.
#37.1 anonymous on 2011-07-09 12:49
The problem with so many of us is that, rather than seeing the persons in our midst, we see a stereotype or a caricature. Gay people, like straight people, white people, black people, etc., are all first and foremost human beings who have been created in the image and likeness of God. Their basic desires are the same as those of everyone else: they wish to love and be loved, to know and be known. The path they walk - through no choice of their own - is a difficult one, particularly in a society such as ours. Until we can see that clearly, until we have known and ministered to people of homosexual orientation, we speak only from a position of utter ignorance. Only then, informed by Christ's law of love, can pastors begin to assist their parishioners in finding a way to walk according to the Gospel in their particular situation. That's what the canons are all about, after all: applying the Gospel in such a way as to work out the salvation of particular persons where they are, in their unique circumstances. It is my belief - and who am I? - that in some cases entering a monogamous, committed relationship may be a positive step for gay people.
May Christ keep you as you struggle, and remember that it is He who has called you to live and serve where you are. He will give you grace and strength, and He loves you so much that He died for *you*.
#37.1.1 An Orthodox Christian Who Shall Remain Nameless on 2011-07-09 16:18
I am very sorry for the experience that you have had. For a presbyter in the Church to respond to you in such a manner, is indeed an outrage. Even though the rampant clericalism in the Church can often impede the Holy Spirit by such behavior, the Holy Spirit is still present in the Mysteries of the Church healing us as we open our hearts to Him.
Sometimes it seems as though the bishops, presbyters, and deacons in the Church are the ones most in need of healing. I guess this is no surprise given the nature of the spiritual warfare ongoing. Satan and his minions are very focused on those in leadership roles in the Church seeking to do the most damage.
Please do not allow the evil one to drive you away from the Church because of the falleness of those in the Church. As your Brother in Christ, I pray that you will find loving acceptance in the Church.
#37.1.2 Marc Trolinger on 2011-07-09 16:19
Thank you for sharing. I feel so bad with what you have gone through at your church. That is a horrible experience you went through with the priest-counselor.
I truly hope that each jurisdiction in the Orthodox church would continue to educate their priests in all aspects of ministry, including pastoral counseling. I believe most professions, much like educators, continually need stay current in the field, and to formally learn more about their professions.
While priests have recourse to talk to fellow clergy in several informal ways, I believe the issue of how to create an effective, compassionate, empathetic, and Christ-centered pastor is a life-long endeavor. I don't think continuing education in any type of formal format is yet required of any Orthodox priest for any jurisdiction. I truly hope this can happen one day.
Christ died for each and every one of us, for He is Love. He wants us to reach out and serve the "least of these my brethren," for when we do this to them, we do this to Him.
May God's love be with you, and each of us, as we struggle to cling to our faith and Christ in such a fallen world.
#188.8.131.52 Patty Schellbach on 2011-07-11 07:45
Christ is risen! Truly risen!
Dear Friends --
Just below, I'm including something I wrote to another list just yesterday. I hope that it is more helpful than hurtful to our kind correspondent.
Peace and blessings to all.
Dear Friends --
This has been a wonderful discussion so far!
It’s clear that the authentically orthodox catholic christian Tradition regards sexual relations outside of marriage as sinful. On that, we’re all agreed.
And I hope we’re agreed as well on the principle that people who commit sexual sins are not much different from everyone else in the Church, provided they acknowledge their sinfulness and
repent their sins and confess them – as often as possible – and not claim any sort of biological/psychological exemption for themselves.
Please, let’s not lay burdens on homosexuals any heavier than we lay on heterosexuals. Our Lord is not patient with those (especially clergy) who make it difficult for people to come to Him, but we must be truthful and faithful to the Tradition if we would not fall under His condemnation of ‘false teachers...blind guides…white-washed tombs’.
At the same time, it’s completely foreign to the Tradition for us to allow homosexuals to be ordained (or remain) as priests, or for the clergy to allow unrepentant homosexuals, especially those in continuing relationships, to receive Holy Communion.
We also agree that homosexuals – who have the same emotional and physical instincts as heterosexuals – do not have the option of being married in the Church.
We would no more marry two men to each other than we would two Muslims, or a Christian and a Jew; such unions are simply beyond the Church’s competence to contemplate, much less to bless.
If the state decides to legalize same-sex marriages, that affects the Church not a whit. In America, at least, we will never be required to marry two women liturgically any more than we would ever be required to marry two Hindus, of whichever sex.
We further agree that we must minister to homosexuals no less and no more than to heterosexuals, and that we must represent the Tradition to both equally, without rancor or prejudice.
Finally, we must realize that it’s not just ‘*possible* for sex to be holy’ – but that, by divine definition in Genesis, sex IS holy.
It’s only perversions of sex which are unholy, and there are just as many (if not more) perversions of sex in heterosexual contexts than there are in homosexual contexts, although the latter are, by christian definition, perverted.
This does NOT give heterosexuals a license to persecute homosexuals on any level, but rather calls our attention to the fact that we are all sinners, and that we should be compassionate toward our brothers and sisters, all children of God, as we and they strive to ‘work out our salvation in fear and trembling’.
Peace and blessings to all.
#37.1.3 Monk James on 2011-07-09 17:20
I think that was well put.
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2011-07-10 05:13
As usual, where "Monk" James is concerned, we are not all agreed on anything!
Two points on this post:
1. It deviously avoids mentioning the traditional moral sanction of procreation in the marital act. So sex, solely for fun, is just fine so long as your heterosexually married?
2. While purporting to show pastoral concern for gays, it actually promotes excommunicating them (unless they repent) and casting them out of the ranks of the clergy. We will sure need a new clergy recruitment program!
#220.127.116.11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-10 06:57
My Dear Anonymous,
God bless you! If I could I would gather you into my arms and give you a big hug. Shame on the priest who would say such a thing. Shame indeed. I know you struggle just like we all struggle. Each persons' struggle is their own greatest battle, and we bow our heads and charge in against our enemies.
Many who post here are lost in the weeds. Love, my dear Anonymous, is the primal element, the cause, and the end of all things. If our churches are to be hospitals for the healing of the broken, the first we must have the humility to know and accept we are broken. We have to recognize our own "poverty of spirit". This includes the pastors that must recognize their own fallen and broken states. I have my own struggles that are beams in my eyes, how can I tell you to remove the splinter in yours. But we can help each other to see clearly and develop those spiritual eyes that, by God's grace, will cause us to see each other with love and long-suffering. Forgive these inane ramblings my dear Anonymous. Your post touched me deeply.
Love and blessings,
#37.1.4 VRev Michael Spainhoward on 2011-07-15 11:47
It's good to read such thoughtful and compassionate posts on a very sensitive topic.
Thank you all!
#38 Rachel Andreyev on 2011-07-08 16:03
come on mark. need a comment section for your friend controlling the diocese of alaska. fr michael oleksa controls even the lesser synod.
#39 Anonymous on 2011-07-08 16:20
RE: Homosexuality - When Christ walked the earth, there were plenty of people engaging in homosexuality and all forms of immorality. Did he say, "Let's just comfort and administer to them in their sin." Yes, he had compassion and love for all, but ALL were called to "REPENT" and change their ways. There is no repentance in today's homosexuality agenda; rather, they want total acceptance as normal with no repentance. As if the Church needs to CHANGE, but not THEM. Think about this. It is the same with abortion. Society wants to accept this as "normal," and insists the Church change. So, how should the Church today deal with homosexuals? With compassion & love, but NEVER with acceptance as the norm. Receiving the Eucharist? Insisting on change, but like all sinners, we continue in our sin. The onus remains on each of "US" and God's grace toward us. And this is why monasteries were created. Many spent their lives in repentance hoping for God's Grace - realizing that whatever their sins, the Kingdom of God was more important than total acceptance in this fallen world. Should all homosexuals enter monasteries? Probably not; nor should all heterosexuals - it is a calling. The main point here is: Does God and His Church change for us or do we change according to God's Word?
#40 Anonymous on 2011-07-09 06:30
The debate is not about the authority of Scripture. It is firstly about Scriptural intent, and secondly about what that means for us in our contemporary situation. There are numerous activities that are strictly prohibited in the Scriptures and the canons that are universally practiced today. Just to name a few:
- Remarriage after divorce - the Lord calls it adultery, but it happens throughout the Orthodox world by way of pastoral condescension to human weakness;
- Charging interest - the canons mandate deposition for any cleric who charges interest, and excommunication for a layman, but we all have interest-bearing bank accounts, because we believe that the modern situation is different;
- Long hair on men - the Apostle considers the wearing of long hair by men to be unnatural, and the canons forbid it to clergy, but most Orthodox clergy wear long hair, and many even consider it an obligatory sign of their priesthood;
- Marital relations during menstruation - the Scripture forbids them categorically in many places, in the same terms and more often than it forbids "lying with a man as with a woman." The canons and Fathers also prohibit it, but I doubt that many spiritual fathers would permanently bar parishioners from the sacraments for engaging in this "abomination".
#40.1 An Orthodox Christian Who Shall Remain Nameless on 2011-07-09 16:31
Stop equating homosexuality with abortion.
Noone appreciates abortion as normal. It is a conservative fantasy you are having. Most everyone appreciates abortion as idiocy-woman too dumb or poor to use birth control (all forms, or should I say any).
It is also fantasy to believe the church doesn't change. Everything we read is interpreted and sorry, but interpretations have changed over the years.
The funniest part about my disagreeing with you is I really don't want the church to allow gay marriage and certainly don't want it to condone abortion, but your arguments are rather silly.
#40.2 Daniel E. Fall on 2011-07-09 21:44
While we're at it, shouldn't we be just as alarmed by other ways the modern Orthodox Church is rethinking direct commands of the New Testament?
Why, just last month I was at an Orthodox Liturgy and women were not silent. In fact, they were singing out loud as if they were men! And then to top it all off (gasp!), after services, many of them went on to teach the faith to others. Imagine - females teaching males. I'm sure St. Paul was turning in his sacred grave.
What is this Church coming to?
#41 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2011-07-09 13:49
I don't mean to tell you what to do, but shouldn't we have a comment section especially for the situation in Alaska? Who is making all these choices for the diocese? The priests and laity? or Fr. Oleksa? I know he's at the forefront of that diocese and done great work, but why does it seem like he feel's like his service entitles him to run the show? Perhaps it's a case of "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain". I hope it is not the case. Mark, let's get the discussion started.
#42 Anonymous on 2011-07-09 17:53
I have great respect for Fr. Arida, in this case because he has "stood firm like a fighter," certainly aware of the reactions to come as the result of what are, in my mind, an expression of the most tentative of comments.
I would note that what we currently know medically - biologically, genetically, neurologically, psychiatrically - about human behaviour is so miniscule as to be nonexistent. In the burgeoning world of genetics, for example, the sine qua non is a genetic marker; a variant sequence of DNA that is distinct, known, and observable. We are all aware that certain diseases (e.g. certain virulent forms of cancer; neurological disorders such as Huntington's Disease; autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis; or variants of hypertension, diabetes, and asthma) are "inherited," or better, "genetically influenced." Nevertheless, genetic markers for human behaviour are consistently absent in research results (I am obviously over-simplifying here, as we certainly determine inheritance without the necessity of a specific "marker," but the reference is to sine qua non). Further, with limited exceptions, genetic influence does not necessarily mean "genetically determined"; in other words, a genetic variant in and of itself may not necessarily "cause" a disease, but does so only in combination with other factors (e.g. cigarette smoking, biohazards such as asbestos, obesity, etc.). Thus, I heard a Nobel-laureate geneticist emphatically argue that we will never find genetic determinants for any form of sexual "preference": why some prefer blondes, why some prefer the buxom, or ultimately, why some prefer the same gender. In this limited sense, I agree with the comments above that homosexuality is not an inherited "behaviour." I strongly suspect, however, that, like such things as "proprioception" (a sensory neuronal state by which I determine or "feel" my body is my own) and "gender identity," both known to be genetically influenced, homosexuality has been inappropriately understood merely as "behaviour," life-style, and agenda (whatever that may mean). Three very recent, independent studies reached a near-identical conclusion: There is no proof that postnatal social environment has any crucial effect on gender identity or sexual orientation. Structural and functional sex differences in brain areas, together with changes in sex hormone levels and their receptors in development and adulthood, are closely related to sex differences in behavior and neuropsychiatric disorders.
It seems appropriate to emphasize that this is hardly apology for homosexuality, and is not intended as such. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to conclude that we can, as some above have noted, change behaviour - homosexual or otherwise - but identity and orientation are significantly different matters. I would suggest that Fr. Robert points toward a pastoral plane, indeed, in uncharted waters, but certainly occurring in a familiar ethos.
As for those who would suggestively disparage Fr. Robert's "pastorality" as "weak on sin", in my estimation, you are breathtakingly shortsighted, and as Hamlet stated, "make your wantonness your ignorance." The Lord's seemingly harsh response to the rich young rich man, as contrasted with the Samaritan woman, was because He "knew his heart." We have so corrupted & reduced the term economia into a "get out of jail free" that the concept of a pastor, "managing the house" because he "knows the heart" of his charges and accordingly acts in the interest of their salvation, as would the Lord, is apparently unimaginable; rather touting the Canon Laws as "federal sentencing guidelines," which, if properly applied, would necessarily reduce entire parishes into penitential classes of "doorkeepers" and "listeners." I would refer you to Byzantine Theology by Fr. John Meyendorff, where he more than adequately settles the topic(s).
Finally, neither is this an apology of Fr. Robert, as it is certainly unnecessary. It is hard to imagine that I first met him nearly 40 years ago - apparently he somehow managed without my counsel - only to remain the same, measured & wise.
#43 M. Stankovich on 2011-07-09 18:06
Thank you for reminding us that we live in an anthropologically flat earth Ptolemaic universe. My late and brilliant psychotherapist told me in 1954 that we know nothing at all about homosexuality except that it is not something that a person can change. I know and can empathize with those who desire simple solutions (simple for them and unimaginably cruel for others) but as once many pious Orthodox truly believed that the Jews were Christ killers deserving persecution and death, I fear that those who have the answer for Orthodox homosexuals, in defending what they conceive to be the purity of the Church, are unwittingly demonizing people they do not in the least understand.
#43.1 Alice Carter on 2011-07-13 17:44
The question of homosexuality is not a question of orientation but of acts. Whether or not ones sexual orientation is determined biologically, genetically, or by one's upbringing is irrelevant. The Scriptures and the Canons never use the word "homosexual" because that word did not come into existence until the 19th century. However, the Scriptures and the Canons do condemn sexual acts between members of the same sex. If we understand sin in the western sense, as something which angers God, then we can honestly questions whether or not these acts are sinful. However, the Orthodox understanding of sin is as a sickness of the soul, the manifestation of the soul being bound to an unnatural passion. Any sin and passion behind it orients our soul away from authentic communion with God. God does not alienate Himself from us, we alienate ourselves from Him. Secondly, the Church teaches that a human person is both body and soul. What affects the body affects the soul and vice-versa. ....What affects the body, affects the soul.....The Church warns us that engaging in this behavior will harm us ....emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. So to condone this sin is like giving a lighter and a gasoline can to a pyromaniac.
#44 Anonymous on 2011-07-11 10:10
I hope Arida reads this. Maybe Arida should go back for a refresher at an Orthodox seminary on the theology of marriage. Fr. John Meyendorff must be vomiting in his grave. Fr. Arida's teachings are not in concert with the vast historic body of Orthodox theology. Fr. Vinogradov, while making a number of interesting and valid points is equally astray. A living theology is not, and should not, be putty in the hands of a couple of heretics.
Where is the discipline, where are the empty headed bishops? These priests though clearly struggling with an important issue, should be sanctioned canonically.
I don't know who wrote #44, but for me, it is a last word on the subject. Thank you 44!
#44.1 Kilmarnock on 2011-07-12 06:11
Thank you, Fr. Alexis!
I greatly enjoyed your reflection. Very thought-provoking and where I think we need to be in our thoughts on all this.
I think your words here help sum up that we need to support each other as we ALL grow away from our sinfullness and into Christ:
"The development of my full humanity, in consideration of the fallen condition in which I work towards my salvation requires me to take into account my weaker brethren [Romans 14]. Herein lies the root of the Church’s ascetical life. Self-restraint, the restraint of my “self” is precisely so that the “other” next to me can arrive at fruition, can reach his or her own “goal” without the imposition of my ego and my claims."
#45 Patty Schellbach on 2011-07-11 18:36
I find several posts on this web site very disturbing. The teaching of the Church on matters of sexual morality is clear and does not need revision or modernization. Although the arguments are very cleverly expressed in rather obtuse language, the meaning is clear. Some clergy seem to favor a more liberal policy are based on theology built on the flimsy foundation of human logic informed by the values of secular society. Orthodox do not base their beliefs on what seems reasonable to the finite and sinful mind of humans, much less on the values of the secular world. Instead, we base our beliefs on the truths that have been revealed to us through Christ and preserved by the Church through the centuries. God is not schizophrenic. He would not lead His Church to teach that something is sinful for almost 2,000 years only to change His mind and inform the Church that what the Scriptures, the Fathers and the Seven Ecumenical Councils taught is no longer valid. One writer asked what we should do if a couple in a same sex relationship approached out Church. The answer is very simple; we should treat them like everyone else. All must repent of their sins. All must come to the Christ on Christ’s terms. One is reminded of St. May of Egypt who could not enter the Church of the Resurrection until she repented of her sins. It is not easy to be an Orthodox Christian. We reject the feel good religion that has become fashionable in America. Instead, we must be willing to repent of our sins and strive to live our lives according to the teachings of Christ as preserved by the Orthodox Church. At every Divine Liturgy, the deacon, if there is one, cries, “The doors, the doors, in wisdom let us attend.” That proclamation goes back to the days when the Church only allowed those who were members in good standing to participate in the Liturgy of the Faithful. All others, including those not in the Church and those under penance were dismissed after the Gospel. It is evident that one of the most important requirements of Orthodox spirituality is ascetic struggle against the desires of the flesh. That means that anyone who is tempted in a sexual way, regardless of if it is heterosexual or homosexual, must struggle against that temptation. Those who argue that the Church has not clarified its theology of marriage should read the texts of the Marriage Service. Through our worship, we express our theology. In this case the Marriage Service clearly teaches that sexual activity is meant by God for the Mystery of Holy Matrimony, which as defined by the practice of the Church is only between one man and one woman. The Orthodox Church has withstood persecution by the Jews, the Romans, the Muslims and the Communists. Today the Orthodox Church must withstand the more subtle persecution of a secular society that has lost is moral bearings and surrendered to the cult of pleasure as the highest value of all. Frankly, I left the Episcopal Church over 30 years ago to be a part of a Church that knew what it believed and did not change its teachings to accommodate every fad that sweeps through the secular culture.
Archpriest John W. Morris
#46 Archpriest John W. Morris on 2011-07-12 09:16
As someone who also left the Episcopal Church some 25 years ago, I can only say I didn't do it in order to escape reality and find certitude in an unchanging tradition that mindlessly codified social attitudes of past generations. Yes, there is an unchangeable core to Christian Faith best expressed in the Nicene Creed and the Gospels. But many of the accumulated traditions of the past are pure chaff, to be cast to the wind when they no longer serve any useful purpose, or worse, when they undermine the very foundations of Faith.
Like it or not, we know more about human sexuality today than we did 100, 500, or 2000 years ago. The expression of our Faith should reflect that fact, just as it does with regard to other situations. Certainly, as has already been eloquently pointed out by others, the role of women in secular society, and the Church, is very different today than it was not that long ago. And there are many other instances where this is true, i.e. we no longer beat left handed children (nature or nurture?) for their Satanic behavior! Or do we?
This is not to say we need ape every secular fad that comes along. No one on this thread has endorsed "gay marriage" in the Orthodox Church. A conservative approach to change is usually best, just so long as it doesn't result in obstruction and intransigence in the face of obvious reality. We can argue over the nature and mechanics of change, while accepting its inevitability on the non-essentials of Faith.
Christ never directly addressed the subject of homosexuality. Nor is it likely that He would have urged casting stones. St. Paul did, but in an arguably limited context. As for the Old Testament, one would think that modern Christians would realize that Jesus Christ has liberated them from the dictates of Mosaic Law on a whole range of issues. But apparently not, since it keeps being referenced. Of course, the traditions (small case) of the Church are clear--at least since the Emperor Justinian codified them as secular law and provided draconian penalties not unlike Islamic countries do today. Some tradition!
Finally, let us pause and consider how this matter will be regarded 25, 50 or 100 years from now. Will the Church be repenting of its bigotry and intolerance a la Rome regarding Galileo and Copernicus? Or will the fires of Inquisition burn bright?
Time will tell.
#46.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2011-07-16 07:37
You know, I am just purely disgusted with what I am reading here!. What has happened to the OCA? While I understand that those who consider themselves gay have to work out their salvation, there is no excuse for those who are Bishops, Priests, or lay leaders to live this life style while in a position of leadership in the OCA.
(Editor's note: You may be reading that there are gay bishops, priests and lay leaders in the Orthodox Church; there are. Gays make up 6% of the population, and historically, a larger number in the Churches. That should not surprise you - you find a larger percentage of sick people in hospitals as well. It's where people go to get better. However, you are not reading about gay bishops, priests or lay leaders here. It is easy to sling mud against people whose moral position is to turn the other cheek; the problem is those who throw the mud end up with mud on their hands; not the truth. )
#47 Rudovsky on 2011-07-12 20:06
St. John the Baptist lost his head for standing up for the sanctity of marriage because Herodias wanted him dead "Because John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." (Mark 6:19) We commemorate the beheading of St. John the Baptist on several occasions throughout the year. It would behoove us to contemplate and consider the sacrifice that St. John made to proclaim and preserve the sanctity of marriage.
Yes, in the OT there was polygamy. That doesn't mean that it's God's will. This is a topic for another time, but I believe that the divorce rate is so high because our culture doesn't hold the Eucharist as a sacrament (it being the body and the blood for salvation and the forgiveness of sin), but merely as a "remembrance". How much less is marriage held as a sacrament. Definitely not God's will.
In our society and religious institutions we are discussing this as though the concept of marriage is debatable. One of the reasons I left protestantism was because of all the debating. It is one thing to ponder on the mysteries of God and His Church, His love for us, being created in His image and growing in His likeness (because of the Fall we were no longer in His likeness), and quite another to rehash how to make the church fit the culture. The Church has been through this. In its wisdom, lead by the Holy Spirit, she has confirmed the definition of marriage as that based on what God conferred onto Adam and Eve in the beginning.
The impact of sodomy (in case you are trying to research it in the Bible, and what homosexuality used to be called before it got a psychiatric label) on our society is like yeast in bread dough ~ no different than any other pervasive sin. Try watching current TV shows or reading current novels or listening to words of the songs your children are listening to. The topic is everywhere. Including surrounding my young grandchildren.
We are called to be the salt of the earth, for if we are no different than the culture and society, then where shall God's lost children go? We MUST be different. We are CALLED to be different. And those who want to follow must also pick up their cross, as we should already be doing. Is it easy? No. Is it lonely? It can be. Is it hard? If it weren't, it wouldn't be called a "cross."
For singles, taking up our cross every day is to be celibate and chaste. For those who are married, theirs is to be chaste ("refraining from sexual intercourse that is regarded as contrary to morality or religion; virtuous" i.e. How many married couples have had sexual relations for purely their own physical satisfaction?)
This is where the older, mature men and women help the younger ones to walk the difficult path. We are all sinners, walking this journey together, but we are called to repentance, to "sin no more."
I fall, I get up. I fall, I get up. I fall, I get up. Lord, have mercy.
(Editor's note: Thanks for that articulate reflection. However, there is one point of fact in error that should be corrected, only because some would challenge your thesis by the error. Sodomy, as a term, was only used from the 12th century on, and is not even one of the terms used in the Bible for homosexual relations. It is only the term used by the KJV in the 16th in English. And few scholars, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, would argue "sodomy" was the sin of Sodom, so the meaning, while clear to most, is not really helpful when discussing the text.)
#48 Alison on 2011-07-12 23:59
Once upon a time, I left my "former delusion" for Orthodoxy because of the gradual intrusion of "the homosexual agenda" on its life and teachings. What Orthodoxy provided was a bastion of timeless and uncompromising truth, a place for divine illumination revealing within the depths of the soul who we truly are before God. No rite, posture, cassock, hat or beard could hide the true self before the One Who Is. In this light, I eventually had to face up to the fact that I was a gay man and there was nothing I could do about it. The day I faced that truth I also faced the reality that there was no place for me in the Orthodox Church.
Now I am nothing. I will not return to my "former delusion" and because I am living in a loving monogamous relationship with another man I cannot return to the fountain of immortality. Perhaps that is for the best if some of the clergy and laity commenting here are to be believed, I would never want to dispel the illusion of their perfect church.
#49 In exile on 2011-07-16 10:30
You are not the only one. Though I hang on by a thread in a Church that clearly would much rather I simply disappear.
How sad. There probably aren't enough of us to matter in the long run. Excluding us simply won't impact larger Church attendance numbers enough... we are, after all, somewhere in the single digit percentage points of the overall population.
We do have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors... perhaps they will come to our aid... though not in sufficient numbers yet to make a difference.
I haven't given up yet. The number of negative comments on this article (and another similar one from Fr. Alexis) don't seem to be massively outnumbering the positive. I think I'll wait and see.
#49.1 Not in exile yet on 2011-07-18 12:13
If we identify ourselves with our sin, how can God console or save us from it? It may be that you're to far gone down that road to help, like the man in I Corinthians 5, and as such exile for now really is whats best. Get this through your head..... it has nothing to do with any "illusion's" regarding the people who belong to the Orthodox Church and everything to do with what's best for your salvation.
#49.2 A Sinner on 2011-07-18 15:20
God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!!
(Editor's note: This is the kind of stupid statement that hinders Christian dialogue. God created Steve too, friend. And Bob, and Ted, and Alice, if you are old enough to remember the reference. Let's remember that we are the Church, and not the world, and not reduce people's lives to cheap sound bites.)
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