I support gay civil marriage. This puts me at odds with the official views of my bishops. If I had been asked about that on air, I would have said something about how I am personally uncomfortable disagreeing with my hierarchs, but I would also have said that in the Orthodox Church, just because a synod or council meets and says something does not mean it is right. Let me give you a few examples…
Today I begin a series I call Ancient Faith Continued. I chose that title with a purpose.
Gregory of Nyssa (Wikimedia Commons)
At the most basic level, “Ancient Faith” refers to a radio program I recently appeared on to discuss how the church responds to gay marriage and the culture wars. I wanted to “continue” what I said there by addressing some questions I was told to prepare for but did not have time to discuss.
At a deeper level, “Ancient Faith” invokes the modern nickname for the Orthodox Church, and “Continued” points to the way I think about its relationship to culture. This raises questions of about the way I think about the Tradition (i.e. the scriptures and traditions of the Orthodox Church). Continue reading →
The Huffington Post e-mailed me yesterday to let me know my article on gay marriage had been published, and I immediately got a sinking feeling in my stomach. (It was the same feeling I got less than a year ago.) I hate writing about this subject. Really, I do. I get attacked from both sides. New atheists (who apparently have too much time on their hands) attack my beliefs, and my sisters and brothers in Christ attack the sincerity of my faith. Just this morning, someone called me stupid (atheist) and a liar (Christian).
Though there were many beautiful and theologically correct things that brought me to Orthodoxy, one challenge for me was that women are not allowed to be priests. I had come from a denomination that ordains women and allows women to hold many leadership positions in the church. The idea of an all-male priesthood and the fact that women were never allowed behind the altar chafed against my conscience. I also hated the thought of my daughter never being able to be an acolyte. The fact that the early church had deaconesses only added to my chagrin. Deaconesses administered the sacraments to women and girls since back then men couldn’t touch women.
Sts. Paul and Thekla, Equal to the Apostles
My best friend from college, who is an ordained (female) minister in the Nazarene church, asked me over and over: “How can you be part of a church that doesn’t ordain women?”
I tried to explain to her that I’d found a church that engaged in right worship, was built on historical Church tradition, and offered a community of saints. Spirituality was a practice, not an emotional experience. If I do feel moved emotionally in an Orthodox liturgy, I am certain that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the effect of singing Just As I Am or Lord I Lift Your Name On High twenty times. “Maybe all that is more important than women being ordained,” I said.
I have finished the “proposal” part of my book proposal and am currently revising/writing my sample chapters. The following brief passage comes from Chapter 1.
Historically speaking, the Orthodox Church likes empire. It just feels like home to us! Of course this is true to a certain extent of all Christians. But it takes a uniquely triumphalist form in the world of Orthodoxy.
Roman Catholicism has been forever shaped by its hard scrabble childhood. Its early years were spent wandering through the rubble of the once “Eternal City.” The church in Rome learned to be self-reliant. Nobody but the pope would protect the Christians of the city from the Huns, Vandals, and Lombards. The pope offered some protection from the violent political seas of western europe – the constant battering of barbaric would-be caesars against each other. The see of Peter became a rock to cling to in more than one sense. He was both a relatively stable symbol of eternal power as well as a memory of lost glory (and perhaps a hope for its return).
The childhood of the Orthodox Church was more privileged. Rome had not died, just moved to Greece. Caesar still reigned in Constantinople. Its glory was diminished, but never lost. As western Christians saw in Peter a sign of transcendent security, eastern Christians saw transcendence-made-immanent in the person of the emperor. Even as the empire began to collapse all around them, even as lands were lost to the Slavs, Arabs, and Turks, many looked to the emperor, half-praying/half trying to convince themselves that, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.”