September 23, 2014

Did Presbyterian Church USA Decline Start With “Dialogue”?

Does this sound familiar? Quoting Alan F.H. Wisdom, Adjunct Fellow of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD):

“Progressive leaders have expressed their hope that the church could remain united, that people would not leave. They say that they want to have the contributions and involvement of more conservative Presbyterians in the denomination,” he explained. “However, the problem that many of us see is that [progressive Presbyterians’] rationale for deleting fidelity and chastity was justice. They regard it as discrimination that people would affirm marriage, but that they (at the same time) would not affirm people in same-sex relationships.”

“Justice” is also a subtext of the Facebook group “Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church,” the Orthodox wing of homosexual activism that seeks to abolish the prohibition against homosexual behavior in the moral tradition. (If the abolition of the prohibition is not their aim, I welcome dialogue from any member of that group on the topic.)

“Justice,” while a strong and compelling term, is also a bit fuzzy when the group uses it. Most often it is interchanged with “fairness” as in: it is unjust (unfair) that heterosexuals can get marriage and homosexuals cannot. (This overlooks of course that homosexuals can get married but not to members of the same-sex.) Wisdom makes a good point. If injustice (unfairness) is the result of bigotry, intolerance, and ignorance, then how is reconciliation even possible?

Mark Tooley, president of IRD had these words:

Every denomination that has embraced sexual liberation over Christian orthodoxy has similarly faced schism and spiraling membership,” he said. “Sexual liberationists in the churches clearly are choosing their faddish brand of social justice over the church’s health. Love for the church should instead compel us to contend against the secular culture’s baser demands rather than surrendering to them.

We are foolish if we think the Orthodox Church would be immune from schism and spiraling membership if the retooling of the moral tradition advocated by the Listening Group takes hold like it did in the Episcopalian Church and now the Presbyterian Church USA.

Criticism of the Listening group does not mean that a pastoral response to same-sex attraction is not warranted or necessary. Of course it is. But the Listening group advocates not only a pastoral response (which lies outside of their purview anyway) but moral parity for homosexual behavior.

Further, as I mentioned in my essay “Facebook ‘Listening’ Group Drags Culture Wars into the Orthodox Church,” if we abolish the prohibition, then we also lose the distinction between a person and his passion. Sexual desire becomes “ontologized;” the object of one’s sexual desire becomes a baseline constituent–a foundational building block–of self-identity. I wrote:

True compassion sees the person struggling with same-sex desire as a person first and not as a “homosexual.” That’s what our tradition teaches. False compassion redefines the person in terms of his passion. That’s what the homosexual lobby teaches. Throw out the prohibitions however, and this distinction is lost. The knowledge that informs them will be lost with it.

The Listening group might have soft hearts, but they also have soft heads. That’s their biggest problem. If the distinction is abolished, then the ground for a pastoral response disappears with it. The scripture says that some who profess wisdom became fools. Maybe we need to revise that: Professing themselves to be compassionate, they became uncaring.

Conservative Presbyterians Looking to Start New Reformed Body?

Source: The Christian Post

Nearly 2,000 conservative members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began discussing on Thursday how to move forward after a decision in May to allow ordination rights to openly gay and lesbian clergy has some leaders looking to start another denomination.

PC(USA) officials at the two-day conference in Minneapolis ending Friday are leading table discussions about the options churches opposed to the decision might have. The ratifying amendment to the church’s rules on homosexuality and chastity went into effect in July.

“The PC(USA) decision to abandon Christian sexual ethics predictably is fueling accelerated membership decline and schism,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), in a statement Wednesday. “Some traditionalists are struggling to stay within the PC(USA) while creating new forms of accountability to compensate for the denomination‘s failure.”

One of the main topics being discussed is the possibility of joining a “new Reformed body” distinct from the PC(USA).

Alan F.H. Wisdom, who is an Adjunct Fellow of the IRD, told The Christian Post that although he had a positive view of the meeting because of so many representatives of congregations coming together, he was not sure about the future of PC(USA) – the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country.

“This meeting is to consider options for people who feel that a line that was crossed by the PC(USA), which took a stand that clearly departed from biblical teaching,” Wisdom said.

In May, the progressive faction of the denomination led a majority of the PC(USA) in voting to delete the so-called “fidelity and chastity standard” which required church officers to be faithful to the marriage of one man and one woman or chaste as single, Wisdom said.

“Progressive leaders have expressed their hope that the church could remain united, that people would not leave. They say that they want to have the contributions and involvement of more conservative Presbyterians in the denomination,” he explained. “However, the problem that many of us see is that [progressive Presbyterians’] rationale for deleting fidelity and chastity was justice. They regard it as discrimination that people would affirm marriage, but that they (at the same time) would not affirm people in same-sex relationships.”

“That being the case, they would not in the long run seem to be able to tolerate those of us who engage in what they see as discrimination and injustice,” Wisdom said.

Tooley also expressed skepticism in his statement. “Every denomination that has embraced sexual liberation over Christian orthodoxy has similarly faced schism and spiraling membership,” he said. “Sexual liberationists in the churches clearly are choosing their faddish brand of social justice over the church’s health. Love for the church should instead compel us to contend against the secular culture’s baser demands rather than surrendering to them.”

There are no ruling actions scheduled to take place at the conference. Although it is still not officially recognized by the PC(USA), the new Reformed body is scheduled to meet in January in Orlando, Wisdom said.

“The PC(USA) structures will need to accept the legitimacy of this new body and the speakers at the podium have indicated that they have gotten less help on that point than some of the other options,” Wisdom said. “The other options have to do more with churches trying to remain in the PC(USA), but cultivate relationships among themselves with those that wish to maintain biblical teaching on sexuality and other issues.”

It appears that in the future, churches will face a choice as to whether they want to remain under the authority of the PC(USA) or go under the authority of “this new Reformed body which would in affect become another denomination,” he said.

“I do hope that wherever people end up in one church structure or another, that they will be united in the same call to an evangelical mission and that we can work together. Denominations are becoming less important and the troubles of the PC(USA) don’t need to stop us from working together for Christ’s mission,” he added.

The PC(USA) has a membership of over 2 million people and became the fourth Protestant denomination in the U.S. to give the ordination rights to openly gay and lesbian clergy.

Comments

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    George Michalopulos says:

    most troubling.

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    John Panos says:

    Classic normalization of dysfunction. I think these protestants are so used to magnifying the image of the genteel Christian, that they have forgotten to fight for their own faith. How many of their forebearers would have died rather than permit such perversion?

    They’ve treated sin as the Gospel, and the Gospel as sin.

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    Anil Wang says:

    The problem is inherent in Protestantism, since there are no doctrines that are not man’s interpretation of the Bible. Luther made it clear that no councils and creeds and tradition are all fallible and thus may be rejected if one believes it contracts the Bible (whether it actually does or not). As such, even issues of faith such as the Trinity can be voted on and changed by a simple majority vote. Such a majority is possible through standard political maneuvering ensuring only “the right people” get to vote (e.g. Arianism). Once that majority vote is achieved, it’s virtually impossible to go back since new members will increasingly hold this view.

    The Orthodox, Catholics, and Orientals have one thing that saves them from this political mess precisely because the Church is powerless to change doctrine. The moment the Orthodox, Catholics, or Orientals open the possibility that even one doctrine is fallible, all doctrines are up for grabs.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Anil, Luther taught that no authority in the Church supersedes apostolic authority. “Sola-scriptura,’ in historical terms, means that scripture, because it holds the apostolic word, is of primary authority. In this he is correct. We Orthodox see it the same way.

      Be careful not confuse the historical meaning of the term with the modern Orthodox apologetic against it. The apologetic reads history incorrectly.

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    Rusnjak says:

    Protestantism is certainly more vulnerable to this sort of Satanic nonsense, given their a-historical and (literally) unorthodox belief in sola scriptura, but Orthodox must be neither naive nor complacent about this. As this blog has demonstrated, Satan, in his Cultural Marxist clothes (one of the Dark Lord’s more effective get-ups in recent decades), is present in Orthodoxy as well, having corrupted not just laity but plenty of clergy too, and Americans show little stomach for taking the hardline, actually Christian stand here that the Russian Church has.

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    M. Stankovich says:

    I must admit that where there is a clear, demarcated “end point,” uncompromised and uncompromisable, I have great difficulty feeling threatened by “dialog.” I grant that the initial “caution” of the Listening Group is gone – I read now about the Church’s refusal to marry same-gender couples, presuming this is not an ontological principle, but rather some form of “legislated” condition – but, honestly, was this not obvious from the beginning, and such a change predictable? How has the “threat level” increased? I would offer two examples:

    In the early 1980’s, the late Bishop Basil Rodzianko was the official US government representative to a Soviet-American “peace conference” in Madrid; his selection was undoubtedly influenced by his devotion to a daily delivery of sermons broadcast into the Soviet Union by the Voice of America. His description of his daily “dialog” with officials who, quite literally, were engaged in the active persecution of the Church, over the period of an entire week, was so spiritually encouraging & satisfying to me that he twice said to me, “You must be enjoying this; you can’t stop smiling!” Me, I would have approached this “dialog” feeling compelled to “outwit” them, confront their facade, overwhelm them with “verbiage.” Vladyka Basil said that, proportionally, he listened more than he spoke, and while he may well have “underwhelmed” them, it was certainly not a calculated tactic. And in parting, that did what they did not do coming in, shake his hand and wished him well. His was a confidence born of a trust that “I am with you and no one can be against you.”

    Secondly, back in the day, every SVS student had a community “job,” and mine was the responsibility for “special meals”; preparing for, serving, and cleaning after dinners or lunches where the faculty entertained special visitors. One such meal honored whomever, “Papal Legate,” who was in NYC visiting from Rome. He went on and on, basically uninterrupted, detailing that when reconciliation with the Orthodox Church occurred, they would need the faculty’s “input,” etc. Fr. John Meyendorff had to momentarily excuse himself, and as he passed me, rolled his eyes and said “Scratch the dog’s back…” Then there was the customary throat-clearing that indicated a forthcoming statement by the late Professor S.S. Verhovskoy: “And so, God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit goes where He wishes, but until you repent of your heresy, and this is unlikely, there will never be reconciliation.” Someone loudly scolded, “Professor!” and weakly apologized to the Legate. In my mind, this was not hubris or mockery, but rather surety in the “Spirit of Truth.”

    Finally, it is unclear to me when I read, here and elsewhere, that we “cannot ignore” or “we cannot be complacent” in relation to the Listening Group. What do you consider to be the Church’s appropriate response? What does this mean practically? And please, I do not ask this with malicious intent or with any pejorative implication. I read an astonishing amount of excoriating hostility and disrespect for the Hierarchs – and the clergy in general – for failures to take action, indecisive leadership, and just short of “depraved indifference.” And the commentaries in general are angry, accusatory, and continuously defocusing to supposed motivations and conspiratorial associations. It seems to me that the best that can be said is that such actions are not productive.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    The appropriate response is to engage it, to dialogue with it but not on terms that grant the presupposition that same-sex behavior is normative.

    I think you are more upset that the dialogue is more of a street fight.

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    Joseph Clarke says:

    Fr. Jacobse, you quote yourself in this post but not the group you’re attacking; this should be your readers’ first tip-off that they’re receiving a slanted perspective.

    The “Listening” group is a forum for discussion amongst people who have various points of view — not a unilateral blog like yours, pushing a monolithic agenda. Nonetheless, I’m pretty confident that most of our participants would explicitly reject the opinion you impute to us that gay people should be accepted in the Church on the basis of “justice.” In fact, I think that term has seldom arisen at all in our discussion, so your allegation that we “use” it is simply untrue.

    If you want to disagree with some group members’ opinions, fine, but falsely characterizing our conversations is a disservice to your readers and is not Christian behavior. The inability or unwillingness to grasp what your interlocutors are actually saying is not only dishonorable but also the first sign of a “soft head.” I have no intention of participating in a “street fight” with you on these terms (or any other, for that matter).

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume you’ve honestly mistaken our conversation for the kind of muddled theological thinking that many current members of the Orthodox Church thought they’d left behind when they converted from liberal Protestant denominations. On this topic, I refer you to a recent thread on our discussion group, which exemplifies our participants’ genuinely divergent perspectives, shared intelligently and respectfully:
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/listeningorthodox/?view=permalink&id=256471491039369

    If you’re not interested in dialogue about this issue, Fr. Jacobse, that’s OK with me. But if you are (and your barrage of recent posts suggests that you very much are), take the time to read what’s actually being said and don’t mischaracterize it.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      I wrote an editorial Joseph. Of course it is “slanted.” It’s my viewpoint; that’s what editorials do. As for not quoting from the group directly, that’s why I provided a link. I’m following standard conventions, and adequately so I might add.

      Nevertheless, I took a look at the link you provided and, as usual, there are a lot of open-ended questions but no real engagement with the moral tradition. Let’s take another look at my main point (which you don’t address either):

      When the moral prohibitions are discarded, then the anthropology to which they point is jettisoned along with them. The prohibitions do not exist in a theological vacuum. They draw from deep insight and knowledge about the human being that in some cases took centuries to comprehend and develop and serves today as the foundation to better understand homosexual pathology and how to deal with it.

      You want to normalize homosexual behavior, to grant it moral parity with heterosexuality — ideally heterosexual monogamy. (I add the qualification because heterosexual fornication is just as much a sin as male to male genital contact.) The thing is, no relationship legitimizes homosexual behavior. It is clear to anyone with more than two ounces of sense that the purpose of this “conversation” (just like the purpose behind requests for “dialogue”), is to rewrite the tradition.

      This kind of activism has concrete ramifications, some of which I have already pointed out: declining Churches (Episcopal and soon the Presbyterian Church USA), the quashing of hope for the person struggling with same-sex desire who wants to bring that struggle to God, and so forth. And no, acting on those desires and then launching into what amounts to narcissistic ramblings about how difficult the life of the homosexual is changes this. (The group is dominated by middle-aged, financially secure homosexual men. Ever notice that?)

      To put is as simply as I can: the prohibition you want to discard implies a different anthropology in the end. No amount of culture wars sophistry changes that fact. Deal with this point and then a real conversation can occur. (This, I think, is clear to even you and explains why you won’t address my objection head on.)

      One more thing, how I falsely characterize your “conversation” you don’t make clear. There’s a lot of finger wagging, but your reasons don’t rise beyond adolescent scoldings. Scoldings get no traction here. We don’t have the same problem with soft heads that you do.

      By the way, did you catch the New York Times today? Check out, Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret. In a culture wars piece masquerading as news (here’s where your charge of “slanted” really applies), the NYT reports that a study is coming that proves that promiscuity is endemic to the homosexual lifestyle. As you and I both know, this is going to cause a serious public relations problem for GAY Inc. because it confirms the worst “stereotypes” that conservatives hold about homosexuals.

      What to do? There’s only one option. The narrative has to shift and the NYT is signalling what it should be: Adultery actually strengthens marriage! Want a better relationship? Agree to cheat! Now there’s real wisdom. Good thing we have the NYT moralizing to us about what makes relationships more solid. They even claim that unstable homosexual relationships should be the model for stable heterosexual relationships!

      See what I mean by soft heads?

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        Joseph Clarke says:

        I think I made clear how you falsely characterized our conversation. You write:

        “Justice” is also a subtext of the Facebook group “Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church” […] “Justice,” while a strong and compelling term, is also a bit fuzzy when the group uses it. Most often it is interchanged with “fairness” as in: it is unjust (unfair) that heterosexuals can get marriage and homosexuals cannot.

        The above is not an argument being made, explicitly or implicitly, by most members of our group.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Sure it is. The refrain about being treated unjustly is endless. There’s an entire thread lamenting that people in parishes don’t accept the activist package. That’s what happens when homosexuals see themselves as walking emblems of discrimination, which most of your middle-aged, financially stable posters consistently do.

        Did you take a look at the gay psalm someone posted? It’s a paean to self-importance. The guy is actually a pretty good lyricist, but the viscosity of the self-pity is so thick you are left gasping for air. Guys who have time to write that stuff and post it on YouTube don’t suffer the discrimination they think they do, but then his lament is not really about discrimination. It’s about the deep isolation he feels that is angrily directed toward those who refuse to sanction the moral parity that he thinks will relieve it. It won’t of course, but since he has ‘ontologized’ his desire (he is what he feels), he can’t see any other way out.

        So, sure, injustice is a theme running through most everything (including the ‘straights’ who chirp ‘gay-affirmative’ bromides whenever the need for a self-righteous fix hits them). But it functions, as I said, as subtext. And why wouldn’t it? The activist paradigm is borrowed from the Civil Rights movement although that movement dealt with real injustice.

        In any case, what about the point that the purpose of the group is to retool the moral tradition? Take the word “Orthodox” out of it and I would let you dialogue to your heart’s content. Don’t tell me though that they parity you seek is in accord with Orthodox moral teaching. It’s not.

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          Joseph Clarke says:

          Since you still haven’t produced a single example of a group member using the term “justice,” which you explicitly asserted that we did — much less the repeated invocations of it that would be evident if it were really a “subtext” of our discussion — I hope at least some of your readers will see that you’re attacking a strawman.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Let me explain what “subtext” means.

          From: Your Dictionary. The dictionary that you can understand.

          Subtext

          noun

          –the complex of feelings, motives, etc. conceived of by an actor as underlying the actual words and actions of the character being portrayed
          –an underlying meaning, theme, etc.

          Remember, I said:

          “Justice” is also a subtext of the Facebook group “Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church” […] “Justice,” while a strong and compelling term, is also a bit fuzzy when the group uses it. Most often it is interchanged with “fairness” as in: it is unjust (unfair) that heterosexuals can get marriage and homosexuals cannot.

          Now, if justice a subtext, why would you expect an “example of a group member using the term ‘justice'”? Maybe it’s the quotation marks that are confusing you. Or maybe it needs to be rewritten. Try this:

          The Listening groups presumes the moral prohibitions are unjust although like much Progressive thought, the concepts concepts becomes blurred to that fairness and justice often mean the same things. What is fair is just, what is unfair is unjust. This complex of feelings and motives enforce a common theme that requires contributors to implicitly affirm that homosexual acts possess a moral imprimatur not in accord with the Orthodox moral tradition.

          Occasionally, like all subtexts, the theme emerges into the forefront. Examples include:

          Where Did Love Go and How Do We Get It Back?
          Gay Psalm from Ft. Valley (1976)
          Dave O’Neal: There’s a question I’ve been interested in asking for a while, and this goes out particularly to gay people who entered the Orthodox Church as adults, conscious of being gay and aware that the church was in many places non-welcoming and often hostile. How did that affect your decision? Did you expect that dialogue and struggle would be necessary? Did you expect an ecclesial version of DADT?

          That’s all I am going to say about this. I generally avoid arguments that require endless repetition of earlier quotes. You can have the last word and I will let the reader decide.

          +++++++

          Answering that, how about my question to you:

          In any case, what about the point that the purpose of the group is to retool the moral tradition? Take the word “Orthodox” out of it and I would let you dialogue to your heart’s content. Don’t tell me though that they parity you seek is in accord with Orthodox moral teaching. It’s not.

          How about it? Do you think the moral tradition is wrong in prohibiting homosexual acts?

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            Joseph Clarke says:

            Without denying that prohibitions are part of our tradition, I would contend that Orthodox moral theology is centered on the spiritual health of the individual human person. The welfare of a confessor’s spiritual children trumps the blanket application of rules every time. Anthropology is not reducible to a set of prohibitions, and the moral dimension of this question is considerably more complicated than you make it out to be.

            This is a debate we can have — I don’t expect you to agree with me — but what I’m *not* claiming is that a modern liberal notion of “justice” or “rights” be imported into the Church. Moreover, that idea has been explicitly debunked in our group on multiple occasions. I strongly support the rights of gay people in civil society, but I don’t think this language has any place in the Church. Since I consider this to be a weak basis for argument, I resent its being imputed to me or others involved in the Facebook conversation.

            I’m happy to terminate our discussion here, since it has now entered the realm of the truly surreal. In your post, you claimed explicitly that our group “uses” the term “justice.” Now, you ask with a straight face, “Why would you expect an ‘example of a group member using the term justice?'” If your imprecise writing was an honest mistake, fine — let’s move on. But in future, please don’t accuse others of having “soft heads” in the same breath as you misquote them.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            Yes, I don’t think that you are arguing for a lifting of the prohibitions based on a political apologetic of “rights,” but I don’t agree the conversation has entered the “surreal.” It is finally touching on what it important. For example:

            Without denying that prohibitions are part of our tradition, I would contend that Orthodox moral theology is centered on the spiritual health of the individual human person. The welfare of a confessor’s spiritual children trumps the blanket application of rules every time. Anthropology is not reducible to a set of prohibitions, and the moral dimension of this question is considerably more complicated than you make it out to be.

            This is true, but only in terms of pastoral praxis. You don’t berate a person with the rules that defines sin as sin.

            It does not follow however that if a person has a difficult time fighting against sin, that the rule defining the sin as sin should be nullified. Marking sin as sin is the purpose of the rule. For example, If a person has a compulsion to steal, we don’t nullify the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.”

            The moral prohibition against homosexuality then, exists to show the person that acting on the same-sex desire is not congruent with who and what God created Him to be. It exists as a marker, a guidepost, a barrier against passions that, if internalized and acted upon, leads away from God.

            Homosexual behavior and obedience to God are incompatible. God is merciful and has ordained repentance rather than moral perfection as the way of salvation. But our weaknesses — our propensity or ‘orientation’ toward particular sins (orientation is not restricted to sexuality alone) — cannot be ‘ontologized,’ it does not define in any permanent or enduring way who we are or what we were created to become. It represents instead corruption, the concrete ramifications of the fall in our own being. Then, in that paradoxical way that death becomes a doorway to life, it becomes instead the cross through which God is known and His salvation appropriated.

            The struggle against sin (against the “death that reigns within us”) shapes pastoral praxis, and the mercy of the counselor or confessor can go a long way to help a person discover and appropriate for himself the deep mercy of God. But even the praxis has boundaries. It must be guided by the prohibitions.

            This is the point the Listening group refuses to consider and why the “dialogue” is hopelessly one sided. This is also the point at which you declared that the conversation becomes “surreal.” But this is where the conversation needs to begin.

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              Geo Michalopulos says:

              very well put, Fr.

              Joseph, why don’t you and your Facebook buddies just come out and state that you don’t think homosexuality is a sin and that the Church should sanction monogamous same-sex couplings? It’s so much easier than the verbal fog that y’all engage in. Truth is, I have more respect for the hooligans over at ACT-UP who are defiant in their sinfulness. At least with them we know where they stand. Your Facegbook group is far more insidiuous because it seeks to undermine the moral tradition of the Orthodox Church through subtle means like “dialogue” and “tolerance.”

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        It is clear to anyone with more than two ounces of sense that the purpose of this “conversation” (just like the purpose behind requests for “dialogue”), is to rewrite the tradition.

        I believe that the purpose of such “conversation” or “dialogue” is not just “rewriting the tradition”. It is actually aimed at changing the Law of God – the moral law within. The existence of morality is as evident as the existence of physical objects, hence Kant’s famous words inscribed on his tomb, the “starry heavens above and the moral law within.”
        Now I understand why the activists brainwash primary school children with homosexual propaganda. They want to wipe out the ” two ounces of sense” that children naturally have. They figured out that wiping out the common sense and moral instincts of otherwise normal individuals can cause people to become ungrounded; they figured out that “common sense” can be replaced by “uncommon sense”.

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    Rob says:

    Pursuing justice for gays and lesbians does not require overturning the Orthodox moral tradition regarding their sexual habits. It DOES require, however, that gays and lesbians be treated at least similarly to those who, to varying degrees, violate those traditions in similar manners.

    For example:
    – it is not a crime for heterosexuals to engage in fornication (also a sin), yet many Christian believers still cling to the notion that homosexual behavior should be met with civil penalties (perhaps not here, but I’ve certainly read enough blogs to have come across this mindset). This lack of consistency shows prejudice, not principles.

    – it is against the law to discriminate in employment and housing against someone who is divorced (also a lifestyle choice that is, in most cases, a sin), yet many conservatives are fighting employment discrimination not against divorcees (nor have they ever) but against gays and lesbians. Does this arise out of principle or is it due simply to the fact that many just don’t want to work with “queers”?

    – it is unjust (not to mention dishonest and sinful) to attach to large groups of people vices where they do not exist and to blame individuals for things they have not done. This is scapegoating, and it is a pernicious and vile habit among those on the *far* Right, especially when it comes to gays. The American Family Association is fond of the author Scott Lively, whose book The Pink Swastika, essentially posits that the Nazi party was run by homosexuals. What conclusions should we draw from such a thesis, exactly? Further, these groups attribute to gays elements in society they could not possibly be held accountable for. “Breakdown of the family” and gays are mentioned in the same sentence, as if gays are somehow responsible for the increase in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbirths. It defies reason.

    – I know Christians who would allow their son or daughter’s live-in boyfriend/girlfriend to attend family functions, but if it was with someone of the same gender, they don’t want them around. Again: inconsistent. Whether you agree with the behavior or not, this is still a person deserving of a certain degree of respect.

    The men on the Facebook may be middle-aged gentlemen with some means, but you act as if the negates the possibility that gays in many areas in this nation and the world are subjected to unjust discrimination. Pastor Martin Ssempa in Uganda has moved to make homosexual conduct a crime that is met with upwards of a decade in prison and, in some cases, the death penalty.

    So again, this isn’t about overturning the notion that same-sex conduct is sinful (although I don’t doubt that it might be the agenda of some). It’s about equitable treatment as human beings in both civil law and in personal relationships.

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      M. Stankovich says:

      Pursuing justice for gays and lesbians does not require overturning the Orthodox moral tradition regarding their sexual habits. It DOES require, however, that gays and lesbians be treated at least similarly to those who, to varying degrees, violate those traditions in similar manners.

      I happy to confirm (and Mr. Clark, ecouté, there appears to be a single example) that, according to your definition of justice, the Church does, and has always viewed sinfulness with equanimity. I would refer you to the text of the Vespers of the Sunday of Forgiveness: all sin is epic. Why ask forgiveness of people you don’t even know, that you couldn’t have possibly “offended?” Because sin, all sin, by its very nature is cosmic event. But personally, this strikes me as a fool’s justice and vindication, earned because of my own lack of faith, disobedience, and rebellion: “Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know.” (Job 34:33)

      I believe, if you would look carefully, you would see that I have made a considerable -in my mind exhausting – effort, here and elsewhere, to put forth accurate, contemporaneous scientific research data that would suggest factors other than environmental factors or events, psychological trauma, or “learned” behaviours contribute to the acquisition of same-sex preference. That there is a fundamental distinction between same-sex attraction and same-gender sexual activity. Why do I believe is this is important? Because it challenges stereotype, unfounded prejudice, and discrimination that would alienate or exclude those who would seek the Physician by following the path of ἀχράντου, purity of the whole life, not limited to sexuality alone, as opposed to those who would wish to normalize behaviour that cannot, ontologically or anthropologically, be sanctified.

      For this reason I feel mocked by your decision to come here and, in my mind, lewdly demonstrate that dialog appears the furthest thing from your mind.

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        Rob says:

        I’m not certain where you’re getting that those who DO wish to live chaste and even celibate lives as same-sex attracted individuals should be on the receiving end of prejudice of any kind. To the contrary, they should be granted aid and assistance in their efforts through the Church in as supportive and loving a fashion as possible. Don’t attribute things to me I’ve never implied.

        “I happy to confirm (and Mr. Clark, ecouté, there appears to be a single example) that, according to your definition of justice, the Church does, and has always viewed sinfulness with equanimity”

        Really? What’s the Orthodox position on divorce and remarriage, and what’s the position of Scripture? In case you are unaware, let me enlighten you.

        Mark 10:11 “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.”
        Matthew 19:9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
        Luke 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
        Malachi 2:16 “”I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.”

        Yet, we both know that leniency and grace is extended to heterosexual couples when their initial marriages fail, even if those marriages occurred as believers (marginal or otherwise). I’m not suggesting that it should not, depending on the circumstances, but the Scriptural standard after a divorce is to remain celibate for the remainder of one’s life or reunite with one’s first spouse. End of story. But of course, people are human and sometimes our best efforts fail, and we go through periods of extended weakness and trials. So the Church, in its mercy, embraces heterosexual couples who are entering their second and, if only occasionally, their third marriages. This is despite the exacting and unyielding standards of Scripture, however, so let’s dispense with this equanimity nonsense, shall we?

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Rob, your post still seems to be founded on a false premise: the moral, spiritual and anthropologic equivalency bewteen same sex-attraction/behavior and normal sexuality. There is no equivalency and any argument that posits such equivalency is null.

      With that in mind, however, let me respond to your points:

      The inconsistency you repeatedly cite is not a function of prejudice necessarily, but simply because the ability of many to maintain the moral tradition has slid down the pole, but not quite all the way to the bottom yet (hasn’t reached the easy acceptance of the immoral behavior inherent homosexuality).

      Just because we have acquiesed to a certain level of immorality, does not mean we should keep on going. Therefore:

      1. [I convict myself of some past crimes here] I believe that all fornication should be a crime whether it be with an animal, vegetable, mineral, same or opposite gender any format or combination that our depraved imaginations can summon forth — it doesn’t matter. The Church should be much more strict on the treatment of heterosexual fornication than it is. We should not treat divorce and re-marriage with the often cavalier attitude we do. No civil marriages and many so-called Christian marriages should be recognized as marriages. All civil marriages and many so-called Christian marriages are without any Trinitarian blessing and are simply property contracts. In the parishes in my diocese, those who divorce are excluded from the cup for at least a year. Those who marry outside the Church likewise have to go through a period of penance before being received again, the length depending on the circumstance. Those who approach the Church living in sin or who are in the Church are required to separate and re-establish chastity before being received.

      2. As a matter of principal a person should be able to do with his own property what he wants, including not renting to folks he doesn’t want for whatever reason. Just as an employer should be able to employ, or not, anyone he wants for what ever reason.

      3. You and others who seem intent on overthrowing the Church’s understanding of humanity, sin and our interrelation with God attach all kinds of evil and perverse motives to the Church historically and to people in the Church who uphold the tradition without any evidence and often inspite of explict statements to the contrary. It is a form of emotional blackmail which is utterly offensive. To you discrimination based on the Holy Tradition is prejudice, unjust and that most execrable of all words ‘unfair’. Man, even in typing the word I hear the sounds of a bratty little two-year old trying to get over on the parent. (child pounding on the ground shouting: unfair, unfair, unfair! Wha, Wha, Wha.). “In the course of justice, none of us should see salvation” God is the most unfair and ineffably illogical being in creation for which I am deeply grateful. You scream for ‘justice’ while at the same time demanding a twisted ‘mercy’ that has nothing to do with God’s forgiveness but rather acquiesence in sin.

      Let me be explicit: anyone who suffers from the temptation of same sex attraction or any other tempation to fornication and who is working with a confessor to, by the grace of God, overcome that temptation will always be welcomed by me. If they are not working in acord with the tradition and are publically intransigent in their sin, they should not be part of any Orthodox community. The fundamental purpose of the Church is to provide a safe place and the sacramental grace to allow us to overcome our sins–to reform our souls so that we and the rest of creation may be re-sanctified. Unless one wants to and attempts to live a life of repentance, they simply have no use for the Church. Why would such person want to be even a titular part of the Church? The Church is not an inclusive social club, it is the narrow way to life.

      Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is later than you think.

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        Michael, if I may add, the present tolerance of divorce which seems to exercize Rob is of a recent vintage. If you will rent The King’s Speech (which I highly recommend on its own merits), you will notice references to a divorcee not being able to “go to Court” which is the Royal Court. Even today, though this rule has been relaxed, it is considered bad form for a man to introduce his mistress to a member of the Royal family at a state event. Even if it is acknowledged that the couple are cohabiting in some way, a man can only properly introduce his wife at Court.

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          Rob says:

          Why is it that instead of simply asking your own denomination to enforce its standards, everyone seems to expect that responsibility to fall upon the state? Don’t excommunicate or ban remarried couples from your congregation, just make divorce illegal and never allow the civil marriage contract to be annulled under any circumstances. Never mind that we live in a society with a diverse set of Christian ideas about when it’s permissible to divorce (yes, despite the clear indications in Scripture) as well as whole populations who aren’t even Christian or even theists.

          Is it just me, or is this a bit backwards?

          I do find it intriguing that those who believe in the use of government for such purposes believe it should be used to enforce the virtue of chastity, but never the virtue of charity or generosity. ;-)

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    M. Stankovich says:

    Rob,

    I accept responsibility if what I wrote is not clear – I am verbose, overblown, and dyslexic all at the same times. Sorry.

    My point was to rely on Gal. 5:9: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” What I observe is that those who struggle with same-sex attraction – seeking a path consistent with the life of holiness to which we are all called – openly experiencing the same hostility and prejudice as those who would wish to normalize same-gender sexual activity. I find this “generalization” especially troubling, and the hostility despicable.

    Why do I believe is this is important? Because it challenges stereotype, unfounded prejudice, and discrimination that would alienate or exclude those who would seek the Physician.

    As to your second point, I would suggest reading Fr. John Meyendorff’s Byzantine Theology, and especially what he writes about the Holy Canons and his discussion of the principle of economia; literally the “management of the house,” or as you say, the extension of “leniency and grace,” or as Mr. Clark describes above, “centered on the spiritual health of the individual human person,” and I would add expressly for the individual and their salvation. What I believe you will find is that Fr. John clarifies that the term “law” was not our contemporary understanding of “rules,” or “prohibitions,” (“understanding there would be no ‘legislation’ in the Kingdom”), but as guides to salvation for which the application of economia was never viewed as a weakening of the moral foundations of the Church, but referring to the fact that, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matt.19:8). And certainly economy of any kind is not to be celebrated, but a sorrowful acknowledgment that “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1). Nevertheless, it is grave error to imagine that the Church has ever, or will ever, compromise eternal Truth, even for me and my salvation. Trump or no trump.

    Please do not mistake me as your antagonist or enemy. I am not. I would happily and without hesitation ask to join the “Listening Group” if I believed I could say there what I am allowed to say here.

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      Karen says:

      Further, M. Stankovich, to “compromise eternal Truth, even for me and my salvation” seems to me to be an oxymoron. If the Church “compromises eternal Truth” in her application of economia to me (and I don’t think economia actually does this, when *properly* exercised), she also compromises and hinders my salvation. Chastisement and refusal of the Chalice, rather than being a hindrance, may ultimately be a requirement at some point for my salvation (Hebrews 12:6).

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      So your complaint is that those struggling penitently against same-sex attraction experience “hostility and prejudice.” Please give us some specific examples of behavior you consider hostile and prejudiced. Tell us what you have seen.

      Here’s what I have seen:

      1) people apparently afflicted with same-sex attraction being given the benefit of every doubt, to the point of indulgence
      2) people apparently afflicted with same-sex attraction objecting whenever something is said publicly against sodomy and same-sex attraction
      3) people apparently afflicted with same-sex attraction condemning others as “evil” for speaking the truth about sodomy and same-sex attraction
      4) people apparently afflicted with same-sex attraction jumping to the defense of others who were denied communion because they publicly proclaimed their gay marriages at church

Care to comment?

*