A few days ago, George Demacopoulos, co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham and co-editor of the Public Orthodoxy blog tweeted the following:
It is telling that the 6-7 essays (out of 150 total) Public Orthodoxy has posted about marriage and sexuality have an outsized readership.
— George Demacopoulos (@GDemacopoulos) September 2, 2017
A post I sent to Public Orthodoxy was accepted and will be published later this month. It also deals with marriage and sexuality. There is a reason those essays have an outsized readership. Sex and marriage (particularly the gay kinds) are the major issues Orthodox Christianity is dealing with right now. Or, to be more precise, they are the major issues Orthodoxy is trying hard not to deal with right now.
Conservative types will say, “We do not need to deal with it because we have already dealt with it!” The implication here being that everyone else just needs to accept the fact that it has already been dealt with. I think the fact that not everybody is accepting that fact is proof that it has not, in fact, been dealt with sufficiently. Though sex and marriage look similar today as in years past, they are substantively and fundamentally novel. To say the Orthodox Church has dealt definitively with those matters is like saying it has dealt definitively with the Internet. There are principles to guide us in both cases, but Orthodoxy always tries to reposition itself to new phenomena that present themselves. This happens through long and often heated dialog.
Much of the dialog one hears on these issues is the kinds of dialog one would expect. Trollish types scream bloody murder and start telling their sisters and brothers they perceive to be liberal to just go become Episcopalian. (This is the Orthodox polemical equivalent of saying, “Go f@#k yourself!”) But there are an equal number who express their appreciation in various ways. Most of these expressions of appreciation come in private emails, comments, and whispers after liturgy.
It is interesting to me that those who would like the church, at minimum, to be less shrill about issues relating to human sexuality only feel like they have to express their appreciation quietly. There are degrees of fear and anxiety about coming forward—coming out of the Orthodox closet, so to speak. A lot of these people are not pro-gay marriage. I would guess about half are not (it is, however, only a guess). They are some degree of undecided, or they think the needs to deal with these issues better. They are not pro-gay as much as they are pro-dialog. Those who are not pro-dialog, who would prefer those who disagree with them leave the Orthodox Church entirely, need to consider the effects they are having on their sisters and brothers in the faith. If people are afraid to talk openly about an issue, a vitally important one at that, then they are not being loved rightly, and those who pride themselves on their theological certainty are just noisy gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Cor. 13:1).