Gay Orthodox Tortoises (Yeah! That title should do the trick!)

Thanks in advance, Disney, for not suing me.
Thanks in advance, Disney, for not suing me.

Pinochio had Jiminy Cricket. I have Mary Evelyn Smith. She is apparently my conscience. I have been writing on gay marriage again, and it’s her fault click here if you want to know why I hate writing on gay marriage). Mary Evelyn posted an article by Maria McDowell on my Facebook timeline that raises some important questions about the way gay parishioners have to navigate life in the Orthodox Church.

Gay people in the Orthodox Church? Yes. We have them.

Some of my ecclesial kin surely already have a response to every issue McDowell raises. It goes something like, “We (the Orthodox Church) must continue to hold the line on our moral teaching. Gay people who come into our church must be counseled to pursue a life of celibacy. I know that seems hard and unfair, but life is not fair. We all have crosses to bear. Love the sinner. Hate the sin. Etc, etc.” [Yawn!]

I am not saying “No” to that answer, but I am not saying “Yes” to it either. This ready-made, neatly packaged response that makes some straight people nod like compliant bobble-heads is inadequate to the experiences of most LGBT people. That doesn’t mean the answer is wrong, mind you. It just means that the people who think that answer is sufficient need more gay friends. Basically, as pastoral theology, it sucks.

“Homosexuality” in Orthodoxy cannot be solved by finger-wagging, firm condemnations, or even condescending sympathetic hugs. Nor can it be solved by pretending that this issue is simple and clear-cut. It isn’t. McDowell challenges us with the following:

We can argue endlessly over proof-texts from scripture or the tradition, wielding verses and canons and quotations like scalpels cutting out a cancer, or swords lopping off limbs.  How many of us, though, stop to wonder what it is like to be a partnered lesbian woman or gay man in an Orthodox parish?

A gay Orthodox Christian may be “out” in public, but closeted to his church family. Or perhaps she is known only to her priests and a few select members of her parish. Some gay Orthodox Christians are in long-term relationships with their partners, others fully embrace the celibacy the church commends, while some are full of resentment as they try their best to swear off the affection people like me have the luxury of taking for granted.

LGBT people are not an issue. They are people, people who inhale the same incense and drink from the same cup as the rest of us. Yes, I will even say they are my sisters and brothers. Others may feel qualified to exclude them from the kingdom of God (and thus the true body of Christ). I do not. Love demands that I treat them as kin.

It is never an easy decision…
It is never an easy decision…

McDowell points out that when you are gay and Orthodox, nothing is mundane. I am about to have my house blessed after Epiphany/Theophany. Trying to work out a time for the priest to come by when everybody is home is difficult enough. I don’t have the added complication of guessing as to whether my priest would even be willing to bless my home (or baptize my child, etc.) Consider the fact that I can go out with “the fellas,” have a beer, and kvetch about my wife (not that I would, mind you!) without anybody suggesting that my relationship problems boil down to a deep spiritual disorder of which I need to repent. If you are gay and Orthodox, every sin and struggle comes back to your bedroom, and anything bad that happens to you is because something is terribly wrong with you.

By calling diseased, evil, disordered and destructive something that is experienced as a source of faith, hope and joy, we create a dissonance that is sometimes impossible to unhear.

I do not have any good answers about this. What I do have is gay friends, some of whom have taught me more about the love of Jesus than any straight person I have ever met. I have a hard time judging such people as unrighteous. Thankfully, Orthodoxy teaches me to focus on my own sins, which are legion. The unrighteousness of others is none of my business. My unrighteousness is always worse. I am only called to love.

Love is why I feel the need to keep raising this issue. Our dogmatic and pastoral theology are intertwined. How we conceive of sin, sex, marriage, nature, and so on informs how we treat other people. I am not suggesting that we take a hatchet to the teachings of the Orthodox Church and cut away the parts that we no longer find useful. Tradition is more complicated than that. I think the Orthodox scholar David Bell can help explain some of my concerns with this issue.

Orthodox Christians are obliged to accept the Tradition as it is at present, even though they may disagree with it, and it cannot be denied that although Tradition is a living and dynamic thing, and although it may be changed, it changes–if it changes at all–only very slowly. There are times when an aged and arthritic tortoise moves faster than the Orthodox Church.

"You mean it's NOT the eighth century!"
“You mean it’s NOT the eighth century!”

For better or worse, I am riding the back of this tortoise. Orthodox theology does change, but it changes slowly. For me, the pace is part of the appeal. Bell continues, “Tradition can protect the Church. It can protect it from change which may be too hasty, too rash, or too individualistic.” Of course, I recognize that patience with the tradition is easy when you are straight.

Fr. Georges Florovsky was right when he said that faithfulness to our past demands re-thinking it in light of the present. The passage of time means that we have a very different understanding of same-sex desires than our ancient fathers and mothers, so faithfulness to our tradition demands that we stop trying to put the brakes on this tortoise! Tradition can protect the tradition from ideology, but it can also become an ideology. We can treat passages from the fathers in the same way that some Southern Baptists quote Scripture, which to me betrays a deep insecurity. I’m not sure we have faith if we keep giving in to the urge to protect it.

Orthodoxy can handle our inquiry. It can handle questions the fathers never had to deal with, questions like those raised by Fr. Robert Arida:

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. Do we ignore them? Do we, prima facie, turn them away? Do we, under the rubric of repentance, encourage them to divorce and dismantle their family? Or, do we offer tem [sic], as we offer anyone desiring Christ, pastoral care, love and a spiritual home?

I am merely an academic theologian (not a true theologian). My scholarly focus is political theology. I do not have good answers. Heck! I barely know how to begin to ask the questions. But questions like Fr. Arida’s need to be asked, and we should not be afraid of where the inquiry might take us. We owe this much to our gay sisters and brothers. (Let me add that we also need to have this conversation with them and not merely about them.)

Some Orthodox lights have had the courage to do try to follow Florovsky’s counsel. I already noted Fr. Arida. There is also Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia! He has speculated about how monogamous gay people may live together and love each other. Of course, what he proposes is pretty tenuous. Most of our thinking about this LGBT stuff is. But tenuous speculation is better than silence because gay people are in and around our churches. They are not going away. What Fr. Arida describes above will happen if it has not happened already. How do we respond?

107 thoughts on “Gay Orthodox Tortoises (Yeah! That title should do the trick!)”

  1. David Dunn said…
    “…we have a very different understanding of same-sex desires than our ancient fathers and mothers…”

    If by “we” you mean progressive liberals, then yes: you may very well have a different understanding. But if by “we” you mean the Orthodox, then no, we do not.

  2. Hello again, David. You tried theologian and scholar. You could simply try author and/or blogger, though they might not have the loftiness of other titles. Although, don't give up on the title "plumber". I actually need one at my house right now! :-)

  3. Matt G. Kowasic The Church is a spiritual hospital, but if a group of people with an infectious disease were walking around a hospital, and refusing to abide by the Hospital's protocols, or to be treated, because they insisted that they were not ill, at some point the Hospital would have them escorted out by security. I don't know where you think the double standard you describe exists. I don't know of any priest that would exclude someone from communion based on what they think someone might be doing. People are excluded from communion based on what they either say publicly, or what they say in confession. So for example, if I had a parishioner that was announcing to everyone in the parish that they were in a gay marriage, I would not commune them until they went to confession, and in confession, I would certainly ask them about it, and if they did not repent, they would not be communed. However, if I had a layman who seemed effeminate, but who in confession never mentioned anything about engaging in homosexual activities, I would not bar them from communion, just because I thought they might be gay, and I don't think any other priest would either.

  4. I personally liked the article. I wonder how many clergy are going to be judged for just turning their faces on lgbt people. If the Church is a hospital for sinners, and yet a "different kind" of sinner comes and says "heal me," do we have the right to say ' you cant be healed" OR " you get different standards than the rest of the parish." Thankfully not all clergy are so naïve to believe that every gay person that steps in the church has some debauchery going on at home in the bedroom. Some were raised Orthodox, said their prayers, grew up and realized they were lgbt and then all of a sudden they are not longer worthy of that parish life. I keep going back to my same example of all the young adult males (and females) that are no married but sexually active that get in line week after week after week for communion in some churches with no accountability or confession. Yet, if someone is perceived as gay or known, they may be automatically assumed to be sexually active and asked to leave the communion line. what a double standard! lack of education and fear on the part of the clergy is what fuels this. its easier to throw out a canon, a scripture and a "penance," (not a healing medicine bc at this point clergy are just freaked out and don't know what to do). try meeting with the person, hearing their struggle, crying with them. praying with them, and supporting them somehow IF they are in that space to do so. you don't have to justify.

  5. Dave O'Neal I'm still thinking about your request…

    I am hesitant to say so since you make it very clear that you are skeptical of anyone who claims it, but I do know someone who is gay, Orthodox, and as you put it, lives in "voluntary celibacy". She happens to be my sister.

    I can think of good reasons why any gay person in the Orthodox Church who is celibate might choose not engage discussions like this; I'm sure you can, too.

    You referred to "voluntary celibacy".

    As opposed to what? Involuntary celibacy?

    Voluntary promiscuity? Involuntary promiscuity?

    You make it sound like a gay person being celibate is freakish, especially if it is "voluntary"..

    Why is it so unthinkable that an Orthodox gay person would engage the same sort of spiritual struggle against sin that a non-gay person does?

    It seems to me that we take it for granted that any person who is not married, but attends church, is an active member of a parish, regularly receives the Eucharist or, for that matter, anyone who embraces the Christian faith as expressed in any denomination, and is not married, is celibate.

    What difference does it make if you're gay?

    I know, I know. It's different for people who are gay.

    Except that it isn't. At least, that's what my sister says when she and I talk about the difficulties of being single; being "voluntarily celibate". I don't hear anything different from her than I do from my other non-gay girlfriends who are single.

  6. I have several others I could link as well, all coming from gay writers. I'm just curious if you've read them.

  7. Just curious, David, if you've ever read any of the work of Robert Lopez on these issues. He is a gay man, also an English and classics professor. He has several videos as well as books.

  8. well…you brag about how your priest won't censure you, you have been called a heretic and wrote on that specific topic, you also have affirmed that you would never be allowed to teach at an Orthodox school…that should be an indication that your views are at variance with the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church

    so thats why I asked, why do you not join a denomination where your views would be accepted instead of scandalizing the pious in this Church?

  9. David J Dunn: Your last comments help clear up where there is confusion. I think that, ultimately, the issue here is that you are assuming that "love is love"; to put it another way, you are accepting all "love" as equal. But there are many different types of love (which is why there is more than one term for "love" in Greek), and some are higher forms than others. There are plenty of "loving" relationships that the Church sees as harmful since the love is based only in eroticism or in "feelings," but nothing beyond that.

    In this case, I think that so many people today speak of "love" as a romantic feeling. But when a marriage is based on this – and yes, I am speaking of heterosexual marriages – we see a whole host of problems form. This is what happened in the 1960s with the "sexual revolution." "Love" was turned into something about "personal fulfillment" and "feelings" toward another person… or persons. When that's all love is, then yes, "love" can be aimed at a person of the opposite sex, of the same sex, or even multiple people. But even this type of love falls under at least SOME parameters in society. Thus, (I hope!) most people wouldn't want a 60-year-old man to be with a 15-year old girl, no matter how much they claimed to "love" one another. Now, before I am accused of equating pedophilia with homosexuality, let me make this very plain: what I am equating is the definition of "love" used in either case… the same definition used with most heterosexual couples today. This is one reason that divorce is so prevalent: the feeling of "love" comes and goes. But for the Orthodox, love is an action.

    You will no doubt counter: can't the Orthodox "action" of love exist in a homosexual relationship? Here's where the ultimate problem is: for the Orthodox Christian, married relations are supposed to lead us to a higher relationship and a higher love: the love of God… even to union with Him. If God has taught through Scriptures and the Church – and I don't think this can be argued – that a sexual homosexual relationship injures one's relationship with God and moves one further away from Him, then it doesn't matter how strong the "feeling" of love there is between the two people. In the end, they can live that feeling of love for their entire lives… but because they chose THAT love over the greater love – e.g. the love of God, expressed in our obedience to Him, our pure worship of Him, and our seeking a union with Him – then they lose eternity for a fleeting feeling… no matter how strong. So no: their love is neither redemptive nor sacramental. It is just the opposite.

    Understanding this (hopefully), let's look at the two options you gave:
    1) "Either the love of that family is false…" Well, in this case, I would say the answer is "yes" or "no" depending on what type of "love" we're talking about. If we're talking about romantic feelings and desires to spend their lives together, then I don't believe ANYONE denies that this exists. However, if we're talking about love in Christ in which we seek to grow – on Christ's terms – closer to Him through the relationship, then yes, the love is false. It refuses Christ (by disobeying His commandments) to attempt to grow closer to Christ. This is impossible… and foolish, if I may be direct.

    2) "… or, we have to deny that where love is, God is." I'm guessing that this is a quotation from someone… I know that it comes from Tolstoy, but is that your source? I'm asking because, I don't know any Father that teaches this, and if there is a Church Father or Scripture that teaches it, I already know how I will respond: What's the context??? The context MUST be based in a life of holiness. There are PLENTY of false loves. There is love of money, love of fleshly pleasures, love of food, etc. etc. etc. And there are a MULTITUDE of loves between persons that are absolutely not godly, not holy… are even evil. So I DO deny that "where love is, God is," unless we are speaking of the selfless (and think about what that term means in the case of a homosexual couple), non-egoistical love sought in full obedience to God. THAT is the eternal love that we seek, and false "loves" are precisely what endanger us from obtaining it.

    As for your comments on the child/children of a gay couple who break off their relationship in favor of obedience to Christ and the Church, let me say this: In every case, the pastoral approach will depend on the people and specific situation involved. Hopefully, if such a scenario were to come to pass, BOTH partners would be so dedicated to the Christ that their love of Christ would be taught to the children and felt by them so greatly that they would respect their parents for their self-sacrificing love of Christ rather than become resentful toward the Church. But every case will be different. Either way, to teach them that something we KNOW Christ teaches against is "ok" in order to spare their feelings doesn't help them at all; it is a sweet-tasting poison. This is why this issue and the laxity our society is treating it with is so disturbing. We claim that "love" is the highest virtue in American life, but it is a very specific type of love that we seek… one without rules, without true commitments, without humility. It is humanistic and atheistic at its roots. And it will die, whereas the love of Christ within the Church is eternal. We're choosing the false image over the true God. It happened with the Israelites after leaving Egypt… We're doing the same thing, just with different idols.

  10. Ronda Janell Wintheiser: Your feeling about that is wrong. In discussions of this kind I have continually asked for the input of gay people who are living in voluntary celibacy in response to their understanding that the church's teaching forbids sexual behavior for them, and I, for one, very much want to hear from them and involve them in the conversation. The problem is that these celibates, though constantly referred to, never seem to materialize. And I ask, pretty much every time I hear them appealed to. And I ask you: If you know a gay person who is living celibate in the church, can you ask him or her to check in here? And if the person is unwiling to participate in a public forum due to the desire for privacy, can I communicate with him or her privately? Generally these responses are met by silence (as I suspect few of those who appeal to celibate gays in the church actually know one), or I'm told that the gay celibate's ascesis requires them to remain invisible. My feeling is that if someone were committed to that path, and felt that discussion of sexuality is something that should not be happening, they should bear witness to that for the sake of us who need to see that. And assure you I would listen to them openly and sincerely.

  11. David J Dunn So if the man in Corinth who was living with his step-mother, had a child or two with her, you are thinking St. Paul would have said, "Well, in that case, keep that happy home together!"?

  12. EricandJackie Bruner – Thank you for your response. I think I am actually trying to have this conversation with whomever will have it. I should add that not just we academic types are trying to walk this fine line. I am at an advantage insofar as I do not have a flock to shepherd. I have asked some priests to guest-blog for me, but they have (I now realize) wisely declined so as to be sensitive to the sensibilities of everyone in their parish. I can appreciate that. That is why many of the conversations with people you recommend end up happening in private.

    As for the title "theologian," I hear you! I once read that the German theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher continued to sign his letters "Stud. Theo." That is, student of theology. That is tempting for me. I am still working on that balance. For many, the term "theologian" boils down to a vocation. It is like calling myself a plumber. That does not mean that it is right, but it is what it is. For the rest, I try to have my disclaimer about not really being a theologian front-and-center. In the purely academic sense, I do have a recognized expertise. The process of defending your dissertation is like performing a kata for your black belt. (I have one of those, too.) At a defense, five masters interrogate you to see if they are comfortable shepherding you into the ranks of the doctors. (One rather well-known Orthodox writer I met corrected me when I referred to myself as a theologian when I was just in grad school, saying that I should only call myself a theologian after I have received my doctorate.) Of course, in traditional martial arts, the rank of black belt means that you have finally become a student. The same is true of non-tenured people like me. Academics who read this know what I am. I have given up trying to accommodate those who get irritated when I use the "T-word." I tried to say "scholar" for a while, but it confused others, and critics will always find low-hanging fruit.

    Oh, and thank you for giving me a fair hearing. I would disagree with some of the way you think I am simplistically cherry-picking the fathers; I think I am throwing up my hands and saying, "Here's all I know!" then inviting a response from folks who are more educated. But I will leave things there. I have written too much already. God bless! And if you think about it, pray for me, because I am a sinner.

  13. FrPaul Loren Truebenbach – I agree with what you say about intellectual humility in the face of church teaching. I would only respond that sometimes two faithful people can have different understandings of the nature of tradition, which is to say that the conclusions we reach can owe to intellectual prejudices of which we are often unaware. I think remembering to be generous with each other helps create understanding, and thus I appreciate the grace in your tone very much!

    Here is my response to your statement that, "To split up a homosexual couple tears them from a relationship that poisons their relationship with God, so the split of the 'happy home' is for healing." As the product of an alcoholic father and a battered mother (who divorced, thank God), I agree that sometimes a healthy home is a "broken" home. But I do not think Orthodoxy denies the empirical. I am not sure a loving family is ipso facto poison. I can only see two outcomes of such an assertion. Either the love of that family is false (which I think may fly in the face of the evidence) or we have to deny that where love is, God is. I think that may be why His Grace Kallistos proposed what he did. Is there no sense in which such love could be redemptive, even sacramental? I have a hard time seeing a child of such a relationship staying in the church for the rest of his life. Rather, I see him growing up to be a bitter adult who blames the church for breaking up his home. That is not to say you are wrong. It is only to voice my reservations with your answer. But I am not a pastor.

    Let me add that I am completely shooting from the hip here. I am not proposing that gay "marriage" is a sacrament. (I argue for gay marriage as a civil institution on the basis of Fr. Thomas Hopko's argument for some kind of civil unions, only I contend that gay marriage recognized by the state is basically a civil union by another name.) Rather, I am thinking of the redemptive work of God both within the church and beyond it, and I appreciate the latitude you are giving my wondering mind.

  14. David J Dunn: Sorry for the late response. I can absolutely accept critical thinking and tough questions, so long as we seek genuine answers in Christ and strive to accept them… even when we don't fully understand them or aren't completely comfortable with them. I can definitely say that there have been times that I was uncomfortable with what I found to be the Church's teachings on various topics, but I knew the discomfort was because of my problems, not the Church's. And in learning to love Christ more, I came to understand the Church and Her methods and teachings, which I subsequently learned to love…

    Fr. John Whiteford's examples are very helpful and pertinent for the very reasons he explained. If I could tell you what I take from them: What we may describe as a family – in the fullest sense of the word, meaning that we see it at "healthy" and "happy" – from the Church's view (the TRUE view) may not in fact be a true and legitimate family. God blessed marriage and families because, through them, healing can be sought and one can find salvation. From the Church's view, some "families" are actually destructive and a danger to our salvation, especially when they do not conform to the natural intentions of creation. So in the case of a homosexual couple, the "family" is not a source of healing but is itself a source for continued sin, which means continued separation from God.

    As for the Church being against divorce, gay "marriage" – which I still believe is a contradiction of terms as most anyone would have agreed up until less than 20 years ago – is a VERY new idea. And just because society has begun to recognize this new form of "marriage" doesn't mean that the Church does. I don't think the Church recognizes a homosexual couple's "marriage" as true and legitimate… and certainly not as holy. Thus, "divorce" can't exist where a marriage does not.

    So to sum up my two points, here: 1) To split up a homosexual couple tears them from a relationship that poisons their relationship with God, so the split of the "happy home" is for healing. And 2) because the Church does not view a homosexual relationship blessed by the State as a true marriage, no divorce could even be possible.

    One other quick note: I listed to His Grace Kallistos Ware's comments on a gay couple continuing to live together as celibates, and I think he disregards the intense problem of temptations and thus takes too kind a view of the wills of the people involved. I would not recommend his path, just as I would never recommend an engaged couple to live together before marriage, even if they promised to be chaste. We don't place ourselves in situations that make the devil's work easier…

  15. David J Dunn The equivalence is that in all cases, a "happy home" is broken up to one degree or another. If the Church took your view or Fr. Robert's view about gay couples, and applied it to St. Vladimir, for example, it would have embraced his family as it is, rather than break up a home… same thing with the man living with his step mother, if they had children together. Now if you disagree, then let's hear you say that you would be in favor of telling a gay couple with children (presumably adopted), that they had to split up to be reconciled with the Church.

  16. FrPaul Loren Truebenbach – FrPaul Loren Truebenbach – I am not a priest (thanks be to God). This approach strikes me as moving in the right direction. Nonetheless, I am not entirely satisfied with it, mostly because it breaks up a family in the name of Jesus. (I do not know what to do about Fr. John's examples, which seem like non sequiturs to me, because it assumes an equivalence that is not self-evident.) There is also the Orthodox teaching on divorce, which is that it is a tragedy of the human condition that is somewhat accommodated, with the understanding that human relationships are sacramental, even when they do not meet our standard.

    Naturally, this will be taken as evidence of my agenda. Please take it as evidence of my attempt to think critically.

  17. Stefan….also, World Orthodoxy is not void of truth. When I see truth there I use it. I just can't be in communion with the public preaching and practicing of the heresy of Ecumenism.

  18. Rebecca Magaziner Matovic : Would you please explain the "level of scrutiny" that I apply to gay couples and not to others? It seems that, if you read my first post in this section (in which I begin "I don't think the answer is too difficult…"), I said that I would do exactly what you stated (welcoming first… then exploring and guiding). This is the SAME approach I take in any situation… I'm a bit curious as to how you suspect otherwise. Could you explain? And as with anyone else, eventually, the question has to be asked: will you accept Christ on His own terms, or do you believe that your understanding of man, God, and their relation is higher than the Church (which is an absurd proposition for anyone, homosexual or not). If the latter is the case, then the Church can't help because the Church has already been rejected. We pray for one's repentance, but we can't force someone into the fold of Christ's flock who doesn't wish to listen to Christ as their Shepherd.

  19. FrPaul Loren Truebenbach — People come to the Church in all kinds of states and for all sorts of reasons. They come bearing burdens and passions and loves and talents and confusions and longings for truth twisted and thwarted in a million ways by their experience. It seems that the level of scrutiny you apply to the gay couple could equally well apply to everyone who comes in the door. But I suspect it's more likely that with others you take an approach of welcoming first and gently exploring and guiding later.

  20. Theology in a pastoral context should always have dialogue as a part of the process. Quoting scripture, church fathers and canons without listening to the people it's directed to is so wrong. Listen is a crucial and necessary tool of any pastor or theologian. So, I am fan of your parenthetical stament at the end of your penultimate paragraph "… we also need to have this conversation with them and not merely about them."

  21. I am not at all surprised by your un-Orthodox approach and statements nor am I surprised that you are still called Orthodox in your church. It is all consistent with a patriarch and bishops who say Jews, Muslims and Christian all worship the same God, who join with Muslims to pray and celebrate their feasts and bless them, who pray with all kinds of heretics, joins in worship with the World Council of Religions (with Buddhists and Voodooism), and who call Rome the other lung of the Church. I pray you will flee from heresy as from a fatal disease.

  22. Jude Thaddaeus you wrote: "Fr. John Whiteford: Do you understand that adultery and homosexuality are different things? One man is already married and has recourse. The other cannot marry and has no recourse for his 'burning'."

    This assertion appears to be based on the notion that the only remedy for "burning" is physical and sexual satisfaction.

    But human beings are given the ability to transcend that level of existence.

    I know you don't want to discuss the fact that other people struggle with various urges, appetites, desires, and longings; I realise you believe that a gay person's struggle and pain is unique. Of course to every person their own experience is unique to them and no one experiences anything exactly like anyone else.

    (Incidentally, in AA, a person's belief that their circumstances and what they feel and experience is unique is called "terminal uniqueness.")

    But we are all beset by urges, appetites, and desires — and no one has the right to say that their particular "burning" is worse than any others.

    To insist that there is only one way to remedy these desires is to act on them reduces a person to their body parts; in the case of gay folks, it reduces them to their sex acts. In the comments section of the article in question, we are admonished over and over again *not* to reduce gay folks to their body parts or the sex acts.

    You can't have it both ways.

    You are offended by the phrase "Deal with it." But it happens to be really good advice, even if it hurts to hear it.

    Have you ever seen the movie "The Miracle Worker"? It's the story of how Annie Sullivan became Helen Keller's teacher. There is a scene in the movie where Annie locks herself in the dining room with Helen who is still a child. No one has ever required Helen to sit at the table to eat; she is accustomed to running around the table grabbing food off of other people's plates. Annie won't have it. She insists that Helen will sit at the table, fold her napkin, and eat off of her own plate, but Helen resists with all her tantrum strength; at one point she slaps Annie in the face and Annie slaps Helen.

    Annie cared enough about Helen to say, in effect, "Deal with it."

    I'm not conflating gay folks with Helen. :) I am, however, conflating Annie with whoever it was in this thread who said "Deal with it."

    Not all men can be spiritual fathers.

    Women cannot be priests.

    Not all women can be biological mothers.

    Men can never be biological mothers.

    Not every adult person can be married.

    Not every married couple can have a biological child.

    Not every person can have their "burning" satisfied.

  23. I am not at all surprised by your un-Orthodox approach and statements nor am I surprised that you are still called Orthodox in your "church". It is all consistent with a patriarch and bishops who say Jews, Muslims and Christian all worship the same God and who join with Muslims to pray and celebrate their feasts and bless them, who prays with all kinds of heretics, joins in worship with the World Council of Religions (with Buddhists and Voodoiosm), and who calls Rome the other lung of the Church.

  24. Jude Thaddaeus

    You won't answer my question, but I surmise that while you would not tell me to commit suicide, you would tell me that I should stop having a relationship with a married man — presumably because the Church identifies that relationship as illicit.

    So what is hurtful about saying that a person should not enter into a same sex relationship or should forsake one that has already been entered into — presumably because the Church has identified it as an illicit relationship?

  25. Ronda Janell Wintheiser:

    This conversation is growing antagonistic and unfruitful. I will make this brief.

    It isn't hurtful to tell someone to forsake an unhealthy relationship. It is hurtful to tell them they'd be better off committing suicide or being thrown in an oven. Publicly.

    Also, I never once said or insisted that LGBT peoples' pain is worse than anyone else's. I said their circumstances are unique and that it is unhelpful to the argument conflate them with others'. You are putting words in my mouth and intentions in my heart which you have then used to discredit my position. In so doing, you argue with yourself. Not me.

    Also, if you have feelings for a married man, talk to Met. Philip. Perhaps he knows the man and can arrange something for you.

  26. What you want is to talk about the pain gay Orthodox folks who "partner" (I'm not sure what that means since there has been some equivocating about whether or not sexual activity is involved) feel when they are in an Orthodox parish — without reference to the fact that the Church identifies their relationship as a sinful one.

    But you wouldn't even countenance discussing with me the pain I might feel because I have fallen in love with and am having an affair with a man who is someone else's husband. Oh, my girlfriends might listen sympathetically, for awhile, but if they are Christians, eventually they're going to tell me that relationship must be confessed and forsaken.

    So then, I say "it's not that simple. It hurts. I'm lonely. He loves me. We love each other. Good is coming from our relationship! How can the Holy Spirit not be in this relationship since we love each other and so many good things are coming out of it?"

    What is the Church's response to me going to be?

    How would the Church "actively…properly address" my situation and how the Church is HURTING ME by insisting that I must forsake the man I love and want to be with?

    Again, you continue to insist that the pain of LGBT people is worse than anyone's pain and that no one ought to dare to compare it with anything else.

    I actually said exactly that. It is futile to compare one person's pain with another. Futile. But I could say that. You don't know how bad it feels to be in love with a man who is someone else's husband.

    Will you bring up ways in which the Church could actively properly address my situation as a woman in an affair with a married man that will not hurt me?

  27. I would never encourage someone to leave the True Church, but since you already have views that are at variance with it- how come you and people like Frank Schaeffer aren't Episcopalian or something?

    I don't mean that as an insult or argument, but they are an LBGT affirming denomination. Just an honest curiosity

  28. Jude Thaddaeus

    Well, I'm sorry if I'm so obtuse that I'm just not getting it.

    Maria wrote: "We can argue endlessly over proof-texts from scripture or the tradition, wielding verses and canons and quotations like scalpels cutting out a cancer, or swords lopping off limbs. How many of us, though, stop to wonder what it is like to be a partnered lesbian woman or gay man in an Orthodox parish?"

    At this point, I've stopped to wonder that. As have the many people who read her piece.

    So let's try this. What if I said I wanted to discuss myself having an affair with a married man, but I don't want you to conflate that issue with something else, or dismiss it? And instead, I want you to confine yourself to understanding the issues unique to the circumstances of me having a loving relationship with a man who is someone else's husband.

    How many of us stop to wonder what it is like to be a woman in a relationship with a man who is someone else's husband?

    What would you say, Jude Thaddeus? What would you counsel me?

  29. I hate to post too much, but some things about the quote from Fr Arida have been bothering me and haven't been responded to yet by anyone. First, Fr. Arida seems to suggest that we are dealing with a new thing because now there is a possibility that a homosexual couple coming to a parish are now "legally" married. Why should it matter whether the State has recognized their "marriage" or not; how does this change our response? We are dealing with spiritual and sacred realities here. If the State recognizes and encourages someone in something destructive, our response is to continue to be the Church and do our best to shine a light upon what is harmful. In this case, it certainly doesn't mean that we somehow recognize the "marriage," simply because the State has decided to redefine the term.

    Next, Fr. Arida writes, "Do we, under the rubric of repentance, encourage them to divorce and dismantle their family? Or, do we offer tem [sic], as we offer anyone desiring Christ, pastoral care, love and a spiritual home?" This is a false option. This "either/or" is extremely misguided. It seems to suggest that offering pastoral care means accepting and condoning their lifestyle and sin and that preaching repentance of their sin would be callous and harmful (hence the use of the phrase "dismantle their family"). Here's the problem, though: they have already "dismantled their family" by introducing an extremely destructive element into it… and fleeing that sin would not be "divorce" from a holy union but a divorce from sin. This is the exact type of "divorce" that the Church preaches and seeks for all!

    So preaching repentance (a LIVED repentance, meaning that no, they will not be encouraged or allowed to continue this lifestyle if they want to be full members of the Body of Christ) IS offering the "pastoral care, love, and spiritual home" that they need. We offer Life, and Life more abundantly… even to eternity. If we are offering someone – anyone – a pastoral "care" which doesn't encourage this abundant and eternal Life, then it isn't "care" at all… it's destruction in the guise of "love"… It makes us wolves in sheep's clothing.

  30. Ronda Janell Wintheiser:

    You made a massive, unfair, rhetorical jump. I said "it's not that simple." You agreed. And then you turn around and accuse me of advocating for wallowing in pain when I say "It's not that simple"? You're not hearing what I'm trying to say. I feel like you're trying to fit my perspective into something you can easily dismiss, even when you say you agree!

    We're talking about the Church's response to LGBT people here. The 12 Steps in AA and the grief process over a lost child or an ended marriage are not the same thing.

    I've (and the bloggers this post links to) brought up those ways in which the Church is actively failing to properly address LGBT people and is actually HURTING THEM. That gets no response, other than accusations of wallowing and majoring on pain. If you don't talk about and attempt to understand someone's pain, you can't help them heal, which is one of the main jobs of the Church.

    The blog post is attempting to discuss ideas. The response is "Deal with it", if not out-and-out anger and suspicion in response to the ideas being discussed at all.

    Why is it that, when we discuss LGBT issues, we invariably end up discussing pedophilia, adultery, theft, and alcoholism instead? If we can't discuss LGBT issues on their own terms without conflating them with something else and dismissing them, we're in trouble because we fail to understand the issues unique to LGBT people's circumstances. And therefore, our approaches and responses are counterproductive at best, and add to their pain, their cross, their isolation.

  31. Jude Thaddaeus

    I get that. Why would I say that is enough, having been through what I've been through? — and there's more I could tell. But my point is why go on and on about how awful things are? Yes, grieve, as I said! But the upshot of my point is that majoring on the pain is what is not enough. At some point it's time to move on. And in a way, it is very much like the Twelve Steps in AA. One day at a time. One wave of grief at a time. But don't sit down and wallow in it. Why is that not an exciting thought for you?

  32. Ronda Janell Wintheiser

    Okay, well this is a discussion about how the Church should respond to the struggles and issues LGBT people face. You concluded your comment with "This is what life IS. This is your cross. Grieve, yes. But then let's get on with it, shall we?"

    This thread started with the OP saying "deal with it".

    That isn't enough.

  33. Ronda Janell Wintheiser:

    Ronda, first off, I once again express my sorrow at your loss and I feel for you in your daily struggle. You do have a heavy cross to bear, and I respect and admire your bearing it.

    Secondly, you are making broad generalizations and, once again, assuming that your experience is on the same level as everyone else's. Like things are not the same. Stomach pain is not the same as a headache or a broken leg or fibromyalgia. You start off by saying that these things can't be compared. And you're right. They can't. However, they must be understood and responded to with the same remedies. You say on one hand that these things can't be compared. And on the other hand, you equate them with all pain, all crosses, all struggles. And conclude that people should just "get on with it" like you have. As though the medicine for your pain is the same as an LGBT person's.

    You came to the conclusions that you did about the death of your son after you went through a healing process. A grieving process. You carry a pain and a struggle that should be listened to, understood, and validated without judgment. Those things aid the healing/grieving process and humanize you.

    "Deal with it" does not. Being told never to speak to anyone about your struggle does not. Being told you're not safe around children because you struggle with homosexuality (not pedophilia) – celibate or not – does not. Being told – and I'm not making this up – by your priest that it'd be better to commit suicide than be gay does not. Getting bullied and your life threatened in school does not. Orthodox priests, openly and in the media, talking about how they wish they could stick LGBT people in ovens, does not. Being considered a product of the "sexual revolution" and the "culture war" instead of a human being made in the image of God does not. Your desires being boiled down to a simple sex act with assumed incontinence, does not. Growing up in a family that abused you, and then being told you can never be part of one of your own, does not. Watching most everyone else around you get married and have families (even though those come with crosses) while you sit at home alone and suffer in silence, day in and out, for the rest of your life does not. I know many people who have experienced these things. Very recently.

    None of what I've written gives anyone license to go crazy. Assuming that that's what LGBT people want is also prejudicial. However, you brought the personal component into this, so I'm responding to it. The problems LGBT people – celibate or not – experience need to be understood and responded to. The attitudes of a great many people – bishops and priests, as well – within Orthodox Church are far too quick to jump to "Deal with it" and "Carry your cross", rather than understanding, co-suffering, and well considered, pastoral support for the unique challenges and struggles LGBT people face.

    Although many people can be hurtful and invalidating to someone in the process of coping with the death of their young son, I'm sure you'll agree that your situation is a different matter entirely,

    We talk about loving our neighbor and not judging others, but not HOW. Not what we do in response to someone struggling. Someone who says or does something we disagree with. The Pharisees told people they were wrong and to "deal with it", but they lacked love and were condemned for it. Saying "I love you", thinking you love someone in theory, and acting out that love are very different things.

  34. So why do I get the feeling that hearing from an "actual gay person" who is living a celibate life as a single person, or perhaps one who has married someone of the opposite sex is NOT what you want to hear about? That those struggles are somehow not as important?

    Furthermore, people who speak on this issue do not have a corner on being bullied. My experience with people who advocate for same sex marriage is that if and when I question them or disagree with them, I run a definite risk of being bullied by them! Bullied, ignored, unfriended, cussed at, damned to hell, and all manner of other nastiness. Good grief.

    Where can a person read or hear from an "actual gay person" who takes the opposite tack? It isn't politically correct to hear from those folks; it seems to me that stories from "actual" gay folks who eschew capitulating to what has been referred to here as "burning" are the stories that are missing.

  35. Jude Thaddaeus

    P.S. By the way, I assume you know what hyperbole is ("a rhetorical device or figure of speech to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression"). That's what I mean by my comment about celibacy being worse than death. :)

  36. Jude Thaddaeus

    What I get every time I have a conversation with someone about this from the perspective you are positing — and what is generally underlying this entire conversation is…. (sorry, but this is what it sounds like to me): "LGBT folks are special. They experience more pain and more suffering than anyone else, and have less of this and less of that than anyone else. So there!"

    I'm familiar with this sort of rationale. I've heard it from parents who have had children die. Those whose children die after birth and those whose children die before birth (miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion). Each set of parents tend to compare their loss to the other set — "MY loss is worse than YOURS. I have lost so much more and endure so much more than you do."

    That may or may not be true, depending on the individual as much as the circumstances. But focusing on that is an exercise in futility. What's the point?

    I know from my own experience of having a son who died and later a daughter diagnosed with autism that the more you pay attention to your suffering and the more you compare the sad lot or hand of cards you've been dealt compared to the rest of the world… the worse it gets.

    Why encourage anyone who is in anguish to compare themselves with others? What good can it do? Won't it just turn into envy or resentment?

    After my little boy died, I spent about a year — and I mean a whole year, every single moment of every single day — grieving that he was dead. He was my first child, and I felt I had no recourse! It didn't matter if I ever had another child because I would never have ADAM again! People often said to me "oh, you can have another one!" But a child is not an hors d'oeuvre. You can never have THAT child again.

    At some point during my grief, someone told me that the Chinese word for "crisis" was two characters placed next to each other — one that stands for "danger", and one that means "opportunity".

    I realised then that I was on the cusp or the threshold of the rest of my life. I had a choice: I could make the rest of my life be about the death of my son, or I could refuse to allow Death to take anything more than Adam himself and wrest the rest of my life away from It. I could either stop living and focus on what I had lost, or I could triumph over that loss.

    Jesus said if we want to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. To remind a person of that is not to lack compassion, in fact compassion is much more than commiserating with someone and trying to make their experience easier. At some point, compassion requires something closer to being matter of fact: To say — as any parent has to say to their children at some point — "This is what life IS. This is your cross. Grieve, yes. But then let's get on with it, shall we?"

  37. Ronda Janell Wintheiser:

    For one, I am sorry to hear about your divorces and single parenthood. I resonate with what you say about the struggle involved in being a celibate person, and I feel for you there. I also admire your courage and personal strength to handle your circumstances.

    I should also say that nowhere in any of my responses did I indicate in any way that celibacy would be worse than death. I said in the comments above that some people can handle it, and some people can't. St. Paul said that, too. Applying your experience to everyone just doesn't work. And St. Paul told us not to judge each other if one is weak in an area where another is strong.

    I find it odd that you're using your own acceptance of celibacy as an example, in the first place. You were married twice. You had the option to pursue an intimate relationship (not merely in the physical sense) not once, but twice. You have at least one child resulting from these relationships. Neither situation worked out, apparently, and again I appreciate your struggle and respect your commitment to celibacy. However, you have experienced things that are just plain not ever available to the gay or lesbian person within the context of the Orthodox Church. You have had opportunities, pursued them, and taken them. Opportunities they don't get, ever. Not even for a little bit. Had you to do it over again, would you have never pursued those relationships? Would you have rather never had the chance to have your own children and start your own family? Even if your answer to both questions was yes, you'd still have an advantage over gays and lesbians because you have the luxury of saying yes or no.

    You have furthermore chosen to remain celibate after your second divorce. Again, I respect that. Canonically, you could probably seek a third marriage, so you still have a choice. You still have options.

    Please understand that the Church mandates lifelong celibacy for gays and lesbians (unless they marry opposite-sex people to whom they have no attraction whatsoever), and that is rather different than what you have gone through and are currently experiencing.

  38. Jude Thaddaeus — to answer your question, I live alone. I am celibate. How well I do with that is a longer conversation; I answer, though, because you make it sound like celibacy is worse than death.

    My childhood dream was to be married and to live my whole life with a husband who I hoped would be my best friend. I wanted that so much that I tried it twice and ended up divorced twice.

    My life now, as a single parent who is, as I said, celibate, is as rich and fulfilling as was my life as a married person. I admit that I wish I were married. It is lonely to be single, especially as a parent.

    Why do you, like so many making this argument in favour of same sex marriage, make the ridiculous leap that a person cannot possibly live a fulfilled life while having unfulfilled desires? I think that is actually THE human condition summed up, isn't it?

  39. What should the Church do when a man who has multiple wives, and many children from those wives comes to the Church and seeks salvation? Well we know, because this happened many times in Church history… St. Vladimir being one of the best known cases. The Church told him that he could only have one wife, and he divorced all but one of them, though he continued to provide from them and their children.

    What should the Church do with a man who is living in a sinful relationship with his step mother? Well, if you read First and Second Corinthians, such a case happened, and the man was excommunicated until he repented and ended the relationship.

    If a gay couple with children are sincerely seeking salvation, they should be treated kindly, and lovingly, but they should be left with no illusion that they could continue in their "marriage", and that their sexual relationship would need to end, and that they would need to separate. How their children would be handled would depend on whether either of them was the biological parent, or whether they were adopted, but those details would have to be worked out.

  40. You are right, it is dangerous to judge the intensions of others, and if I was wrong, I certainly was out of line, and apologize.

    I had not read your previous post, so I just did. In my personal opinion, it is comprised of two questions, of comprehensive significance (in your opinion), in which rests the whole of your argument. You then answer those questions by cherry picking the statements of two Saints. This then brings you to a self-confessed non-conclusion. By the way, cherry picking statements from Saints is exactly what you accuse others of doing in the article, and is certainly your prerogative to do so, but then any of these discussions become a "my personal interpretation over yours" argument.

    I understand (as you stated) that you are grappling with Orthodox theology in this matter. Individuals, myself included, fight to try to understand the purpose and significance of many different teachings of the Church, but that struggle has nothing to do with our obligation to submit to them. Again, you call to question the teaching of the Church (which, in this case, you do not see as completely clear as the vast majority of Orthodox regarding the appropriate circumstances which allow for sexual intercourse), however, you aren't asking the vast majority of true theologians. Instead, you seek an audience with primarily non-theologians in attempt to gain readership and a following.

    My personal recommendation is that you consult many (without cherry picking) current Orthodox theologians on this matter to hear their better understanding of the Fathers' teachings. Have I? Admittedly, no. Instead I'll go with the very clear (though apparently not to every single individual) teaching of the Church, the collective wisdom of centuries of Church teaching.

    Again, a quote from your January 7th post, "I am out of my element. I am a political theologian who spends most of his time mulling over how to conceive of, and negotiate the boundary between, the sacred and the secular. I first began writing about gay marriage in that context." I applaud anyone seeking truth. I should do it much more than I currently do. So in that, I appreciate your struggle, as we all must.

    I'm wary when anyone is bold enough to call themselves a theologian of any type, in that the typical person's understanding of the word theologian (though not the total, strict definition) is that one is an expert in that area. I'm sure you wouldn't make such a presumptuous claim as to be an "expert", but it still makes me wary when one designates for himself such a title.

  41. I don't think the answer is too difficult (though I think most people haven't answered it because, as with any pastoral situation, the specifics of each individual case will require a different response. In this case, there are no specifics..). Since Fr. Arida asked this generally, though, I'll answer generally:

    First, I would invite the couple in to talk. I would ask them their story. I would get as much personal information about them, their situation, and their desires for their faith. This would take either one very long meeting or, more likely, a number of meetings. When I felt comfortable with my knowledge of the people and their situation and fairly certain that they felt cared for and listened to, I would proceed to step 2: this is explaining the Orthodox beliefs about the history of salvation and the theology of the Church being a hospital for the sickness of sin. I would slowly and carefully do my best to express what salvation is in the Orthodox Church and how it is sought. In the process, I would emphasize the Orthodox view of sin as a sickness and Grace, found within the Church, as its medicine. This is not a one-sentence explanation of the Orthodox view of homosexuality; it would be a more holistic approach (as much as one can do that with Orthodox theology) concerning man and his relation with God… and both how that can be unhealthy or healthy and how the Church plays a role in that.

    Eventually, though, the question would need to be answered: Fr. Arida said the two people came seeking Christ, but are they seeking Christ on His terms or on their own? Are they willing to crucify ALL worldly desires and activities that we KNOW, based on the teachings of Christ through His Church, separate one from Him, or will they only accept from Christ that with which they already believed? Do they want to seek Christ from a fallen worldview, or do they really wish to make the mind of Christ their own? If they reject Christ's love on HIS terms and only seek it on their own terms, then the Church has not rejected them; they've rejected the Church… and thus Christ. The Church, in this case, did its job: it loved them and sought their salvation. But love doesn't mean that everything will be rosy for all parties no matter what they choose; love means that the Church will offer all Truth with compassion and love, and they will have to decide whether to embrace that Truth or not.

  42. Carlos Andress Vega , I agree. And what the Christian community has failed to do, because most resistance comes from Protestants, is have a wholistic understanding of the passions, articulating why things are inherently disordered. But because the liberal notion of love has corrupted the biblical notion, Jesus has been turned into an advocate for every form of vice. After all, He ate and drank with publicans and sinners? So He is not against anything. Just turn the other cheek.

  43. So does love indiscriminately accept every selfish passion? No. For light cannot exist with darkness.True love abhors what is evil and cleaves to what is good.

  44. So does love indiscriminately accept every selfish passion? No. For light cannot exist with darkness.True love abhors what is evil and cleaves to what is good.

  45. EricandJackie Bruner –

    In general, I think it is a good idea to avoid judging the intentions of strangers. Did you read my last post where I talk about St. Augustine and St. Gregory of Nyssa? There is very little intellectual consistency for me when I think about this issue. My theological anthropology has much more in common with Augustine and Gregory. That is why I cannot say "No" or "Yes" in the way that you and Fr. John might like.

  46. Jude Thaddaeus 1. I guess you can't. 2. Then he isn't a priest anymore. 3. Everyone is free to get married in the Orthodox Church, but only in accordance with the unchanging tradition of the Church. And everyone can get all the grace they need from the sacraments to aid them not to sin — you just can't get sacraments to aid you to engage in sin.

  47. Jude Thaddaeus Of course homosexual acts and adultery are different, but both are driven by sexual passions. And I am talking about cases in which a spouse is separated from their partner for very long periods of time, and so have no such recourse. No matter how much a man in such a case my "burn", he needs to take lots of cold showers, perhaps, but acting on his passion is not a Christian option.

    And by the way, if you believe that the Orthodox Faith is the true Faith, then obviously, you need to conform yourself to what it teaches, even when you might wish it to be different. If you don't believe that, then why are you concerned with what we teach? If you convince other people to twist the teachings of the Church, it won't change the truth oft he matter. You would just have the added sin of misleading people about the teachings of the Church.

  48. Fr. John Whiteford:
    1. In the case of Romans 1, I guess I can't discern the meaning of the term "therefore". St. Paul connects the two points with "therefore" and "because of this" for a reason.
    2. So the priest has oikonomeia. He can be deposed and remarry. That is an option.
    3. Again, it appears that you are not grasping the difference between people who are married and circumstances separate for a time, and people who are never, ever allowed that opportunity to begin with. One gets the grace of God through a sacrament. The other must do without. That is a critical difference.

  49. Jude Thaddaeus You have misread Romans 1. Romans one is about how fallen men hate the truth, and actively suppress it. Sinning against God by worshiping the creation is one way that happens. Sinning against God by rejecting what is in accordance with nature, and embracing that which is contrary to nature is another. Read what the fathers have to say on Romans 1. A priest does not have economia in such a case. A former priest, who chooses to be deposed has the possibility of economia. There are husbands and wives that are separated by wars, prison, work, and many other factors that are beyond their control, and this can go on for many years. And for example, if a woman's husband goes to war, she has no idea when or if her husband will ever return. In ancient times, it was not uncommon for someone to be gone in a war for a decade or more. One spouse might be captured by the enemy and sold into slavery, etc. The situations are actually very similar.

  50. Fr. John Whiteford: Do you understand that adultery and homosexuality are different things? One man is already married and has recourse. The other cannot marry and has no recourse for his "burning".

    Point to the term that definitively implicates "active homosexuals". Not post-1946 English translations of a word that first appeared for the first time in 1 Corinthians 6 (and very rarely anywhere thereafter), to address a culture of ritual temple prostitution and pederasty.

    What of masculine gay men and feminine lesbian women? You read an article that Orthodox Jews are trying it out, and you think that makes it a "very good basis" for a marriage?

  51. Fr. John Whiteford:
    1. The context of Romans 1:26 clearly presupposes that all those with homosexual inclinations are idolaters and disobedient to parents and exchanged heterosexual desires for that of the same sex. Ask a gay person if that applies in any way to them.
    2. A priest still has oikonomeia if he wants to remarry once his wife leaves him or dies. He still has an option.
    3. There is a world of difference between non-sacramental lifelong celibacy and extensive travel. They are not the same thing.

  52. Jude Thaddaeus Again, if a man has a burning desire to commit adultery, there is no economia for that. And since St. Paul said that those who are active homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God, clearly he would not have endorsed any "economia" that would allow for such people to continue is such behavior, and thus not inherit the Kingdom of God. …and if you have a feminine man who is attracted to males, and a women who is masculine and is attracted to females, but both are pious Orthodox Christians, that seems a very good basis for a marriage. I read about Orthodox Jews taking this approach, and according to the article, it worked fairly well.

  53. Jude Thaddaeus First off, that would be because heterosexual marriage is in accordance with nature, and homosexual relationships are not (see Romans 1:26), and are inherently sinful. Secondly, there are many circumstances in which there is no such economia. Suppose a priest's wife leaves him. There is no economia for him, if he wants to remain a priest. Suppose a man has to travel extensively to make a living to support his wife, and it is not practical for her to go with him… there is no economia for him to commit adultery while on the road.

  54. Fr. John Whiteford: What you've just demonstrated is that there is oikonomeia in almost every circumstance and situation for heterosexual people as it pertains to marriage. And yet there is none for the homosexual.

  55. Fr. John Whiteford Do you honestly think that is any basis for a healthy marriage? Mutual lack of desire or attraction? It doesn't address the burning issue, which St. Paul says was an important enough consideration to allow for marriage in the early Church in the first place.

  56. Jude Thaddaeus Just because the laws of the United States might allow a woman in such a case to declare a man dead, that does not mean necessarily that the Church would allow it… and I don't off hand know if there is a clear teaching on how such a case would be handled, but I do know that the Church would encourage a spouse in such a case not to marry a second time, even if they knew for sure that their spouse was dead. Now, it is allowable for a widow or widower to remarry, but it is not encouraged. Clergy, in particular, are not allowed to remarry in such cases… unless they choose to be deposed first. And if you had a man who married three times, and in each case his wife died, he would not be allowed to marry a fourth time under any circumstances.

  57. Jude Thaddaeus Just because the laws of the United States might allow a woman in such a case to declare a man dead, that does not mean necessarily that the Church would allow it… and I don't off hand know if there is a clear teaching on how such a case would be handled, but I do know that the Church would encourage a spouse in such a case not to marry a second time, even if they knew for sure that their spouse was dead. Now, it is allowable for a widow or widower to remarry, but it is not encouraged. Clergy, in particular, are not allowed to remarry in such cases… unless they choose to be deposed first. And if you had a man who married three times, and in each case his wife died, he would not be allowed to marry a fourth time under any circumstances.

  58. Jude Thaddaeus Homosexuals are not mandated to live celibate lives. They are free to marry someone of the opposite sex who is otherwise eligible to marry them. A man struggling with homosexuality could, for example, marry a woman with a similar struggle, and the two of them could mutually support one another.

  59. Jude Thaddaeus Homosexuals are not mandated to live celibate lives. They are free to marry someone of the opposite sex who is otherwise eligible to marry them. A man struggling with homosexuality could, for example, marry a woman with a similar struggle, and the two of them could mutually support one another.

  60. Almost certainly not, Or she could have, given enough time elapsed (seven years in the US, I think), had him declared legally dead and she could therefore re-marry. I personally wouldn't do that were my wife to predecease me – Orthodox marriage is eternal and I will be with her again in the Resurrection – but some are capable and some burn, and I will not judge those who decide to remarry. (Which is serial polygamy sanctioned by the Church.)

  61. Fr. John Whiteford Would your wife's Godmother be prohibited from eventually dissolving the marriage and remarrying, according to the Church, if she desired? Probably not. It was her personal choice to remain celibate. That is fine. Some are capable and some burn. St. Paul had a response to that.

  62. I do not understand how a same sex couples can produce children? It is my feeble understand of human reproduction requires a member of each sex. Same sex couples are parasitic in regards to having children present their home.
    I have never knocked on the door of a parish except when the door are closed to everyone. Perhaps sinners need to come and see instead of banning on the door from the outside. the Church is challenging to any person who is willfully living a sin-filled life style. The Klepto-phobes seem bent on denying an opportunity to serve as parish treasurers. Practicing Alcoholics are denied stewardship of the wine cellar.

  63. Perry Lee
    1) Mandated lifelong celibacy has NEVER been the norm outside of a sacramental vow/blessing within the Church. St. Paul didn't mandate it, even if he said he preferred it. Lifelong celibacy in the world is something the Church discourages, particularly for those who seek the priesthood. Should all homosexually inclined people go to monasteries, then, where they'll be surrounded exclusively by people of their own gender and force them to take vows (which they can't be, according to the vows themselves)?

    2) Alcoholics, kleptomaniacs, and adulterers aren't mandated to live their entire lives defying what God said upon His creation of Adam, "It is not good for man to be alone." Adulterers aren't even prohibited from sexual activity or relationships, just those outside marriage. You're also comparing apples and oranges, compulsive behaviors with non-compulsive desires and attractions.

    3) "Deal with it" is a horrible attitude that helps absolutely no one. It is angry and dismissive. It is "bind[ing] heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay[ing] them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."

    4) None of the Scripture passages seem to describe homosexual relationships as we know them today. None. Most talk about gang rape, prostitution, and pagan idolatrous practices. The Church Fathers talk about them in light of pederasty and pagan practices. It's clear they're not talking about the same things we are today as they apply to most Christians in homosexual relationships.

    5) Slavery is one issue where the Church's perspective has changed completely. In the NT era, St. Paul returns Onesimus to Philemon and spoke of how Onesimus would have been useful to St. Paul had he not already been owned by Philemon. For centuries, monasteries owned slaves. The Church Fathers spoke of it in terms of the "natural order" and a "necessary evil." It wasn't until centuries later that slaves were treated as full human beings according to the Church and given the ability to seek marriage. And it wasn't until even later that slavery itself was abolished. There is no Scriptural or Traditional justification for the abolition of slavery. Yet we've abolished it. Is that wrong?

    No matter which side of this you're on…whether you expect LGBT people to remain celibate or think it's ok for them to pursue relationships, "Deal with it" is not the proper, loving attitude. These people suffer greatly and need answers beyond that. They need help beyond that. They need love beyond that. Not anger, suspicion, and dismissal.

  64. Jude Thaddaeus It is demanded of us: every single one of us sinners. Alcoholics have to abstain from drink. Adulterers must abstain from fornication. Kleptomaniacs must refrain from stealing. All sinners must abstain from whatever it is that separates them from God. Where in Scripture or the canons does it say that you have a God-given right to indulge in sexual activity? The culture would have us believe that access to sexual activity is the norm, and celibacy is a strange and marginal lifestyle, whereas the Church teaches exactly the opposite and has for 2 thousand years.

  65. When David Dunn says "This ready-made, neatly packaged response … is inadequate to the experiences of most LGBT people," what I hear is "unacceptable to … LGBT people."
    Celibacy is the answer the Church provides for ALL people living outside of Holy Matrimony, gay or straight; no special provisions.

  66. David is crafty and dishonest. Throughout his entire post, he is delicately trying to NOT say what he really believes. He constantly criticizes others while offering no solutions, because I suspect his solution (if he were to be honest and just say it) is to pronounce homosexual conduct moral. He certainly infers his hope and belief that the Church will eventually make such a pronouncement.

    He uses his usual "go to" argument, "Well I don't what to do, but it isn't THAT!" His arguments appeal only to emotion.

    We all struggle with sin, but sin must still be called sin. We can't simply pronounce public or private sins moral just because of the difficulty of the struggle. THAT would not be loving, and would, in fact, place the souls of others in horrific danger.

    Of course, I could be wrong, I'm not a self-proclaimed writer on "Orthodox political and public theology" while at the same time saying I'm not a "real" theologian. Trying to have it both ways… crafty politics.

  67. I'm not really sure what you mean with a lot of rather major statements in this article… Two struck me as more confusing than others (and there are others). First, you write that, "Orthodox theology does change." Do you mean theological language, or the actual doctrines and dogmas of the Church? The latter most certainly do not change, for God does not change. And our way of achieving union with God also does not change… otherwise, the Scriptures would seem pretty useless to us 2,000 years later. You later write about Fr. Florovsky's views on Tradition, which I think you severely misunderstand. Tradition means the Holy Spirit's guidance and guarding of the Church. We of course can't blindly follow the expressions of Tradition without trying to give understanding to modern man, but this does not automatically mean that we understand things better simply because it's later in history. You write that "The passage of time means that we have a very different understanding of same-sex desires than our ancient fathers and mothers," though I am quite convinced that they understood these topics BETTER in many cases because of their holiness… causing them to be united with God and thus have HIS understanding of these issues. We muddy our thought with sin too much. And that's probably the biggest thing, here. You continually assert that we offer love (which of course we should), but true Christian love means that we practice and encourage holiness… and such cannot be done while simultaneously condoning/encouraging that which separates one from God, which is sin. Love and holiness cannot be separated. That goes for how we live and what we offer others in Orthodoxy. And that's how we respond…

  68. David, I don't see how this is an intellectually honest position: "I am not saying “No” to that answer, but I am not saying “Yes” to it either." It may be a pragmatic position to take, but I can't see how it is honest.

  69. Dima Kotik I never said anything about anyone being holy without God or the Church… but the fact remains, without holiness no man shall see the Lord…. so it is erroneous to say that holiness is not a requirement.

  70. Fr. John Whiteford, the holiness of Christ imputed to us is a requirement for salvation. Expecting a man to become holy without God and without Church is the same as expecting a corpse to walk. Our holiness is a consequence of restored fellow with God, not a condition for God accepting us.

  71. David, may heterosexual married Orthodox face that very question because they are separated from a spouse for reasons beyond their control, or by death. My wife's Godmother was separated from her husband when he was drafted by the Soviets, during world war II, and never heard from him again. She did not know if he was alive, in a prison camp somewhere, or was killed on the battlefield. She remained celibate the rest of her life. If someone is separated from their spouse, the Church does not give economia for them to commit adultery until they return, do they?

  72. For one, holiness is not a requirement for salvation or church membership, but daily repentance and submission to remedial church discipline is. So response for a gay Christian is [1] confession, [2] effort to keep enter celibacy, [3] openness to intervention, and [4] avoiding temptation. Response of the Church is [1] long-suffering love, [2] intensive care, [3] employment of every method of counseling, including outsourcing for counseling help. We can't ignore them or turn them away. If they already have a family? Er… this one is hard in view of OT initial tolerance of polygamy.

    You are right that LGBT Christians must be a major part of developing recovery strategies. There will not be one answer to those questions that will fit all, but getting LGBT Christians together might work much better. AA works so great because everybody in it is alcoholic or former alcoholic. Can the Church facilitate a forum for them to help each other walk toward restoration?

  73. "Deal with it."

    Now that is a truly loving, humble, co-suffering, understanding attitude!

    "Deal with it" = "Live the rest of your life alone and celibate or go to hell." How well would you do with that if it was demanded of you?

    1. “Live the rest of your life alone and celibate or go to hell.” How well would you do with that if it was demanded of you?

      Um, it is demanded of many of us. Being single, alone, and celibate is not exclusive to gay folks.

  74. The same is true for adulterers, fornicators, thieves, liars, and everyone who continues to engage in sinful acts that separate us from GOD. An Orthodox position might be to not neglect the full list of sins. There are not degrees of sin. Every sin creates a separation from GOD in our lives and separation from is the ultimate negative end to our lives.

  75. ***David Constantine-Wright, read the footnotes in the Orthodox Study Bible for 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Homosexuals who do not repent and abstain will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. And that's not me being my usual judgmental self? :-) That's GOD's judgment. Deal with it. Christ came into the world to change the world, not have the world change His Holy Body, the Church.

  76. David, thanks for the thoughtful post. I agree (which may surprise many) that pace is important, though I clearly prefer a pace that is actually moving, that is, having a civil conversation that takes seriously the presence of God in unexpected relationships.

  77. I often wonder how many heterosexually married Orthodox how say that those born with SSA "must be counseled to pursue a life of celibacy [because] We all have crosses to bear…" would really be ok with it if it were them being made to be sundered from their spouses? Methinks Christ's commandment about doing unto others is appropriate here at the very least pastorally and oikonomically…

  78. Thank you for speaking on this issue, for which one must, sadly, be prepared to endure bullying for speaking about. "I do not have any good answers about this. What I do have is gay friends, some of whom have taught me more about the love of Jesus than any straight person I have ever met. I have a hard time judging such people as unrighteous." This is key–the experience of an actual gay person who is plainly working out his or her salvation is the reason for examining the issue in the first place. And acknowledgement of that experience is the missing element most dialogues and discussion on this subject. Thanks for not letting it go missing in yours.


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