October 25, 2014

Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster: A Gauntlet from Archpriest Alexis Vinogradov, Wappingers Falls, NY

Archpriest Alexander F C Webster

Just when we begin to wonder whether some of the recent musings of OCA priests and laity on homosexuality may not be what they seem, along comes another one that raises the rhetorical ante and reminds us that we are, indeed, whether we desire it or not, engaged in spiritual warfare.

In a bizarre, presumably unintended way, Fr. Alexis Vinogradov’s latest “reflection” on the OCA”News” website is another case of the gift that keeps on giving. It affords us who cherish the moral tradition of the Church, along with all the wonderful facets of Orthodoxy as the light of the world as long as we reflect Christ the True Light, an unexpected windfall—a sobering glimpse of the way the spirit of the world (note the lower case) has captured the minds, speech, and, actions of some who would take it upon themselves to lecture and even scold us [fill in the blank: simplistic, frightened, totalitarian, intolerant, superficial, intransigent, self-centered, unrestrained, callous, spiritually weak—Fr. Vinogradov hurls all of those epithets our way in his brief for affirmation of the "other"] Orthodox Christians who reject the tiresome, very au courant notion that the times are a-changin’ and we must change with them.

He has thrown down a gauntlet for all the Orthodox world to see, a public challenge to abandon ancient Christian verities under the guise of a “conversation.” I, for one, am ready—and, I hope, able—to retrieve that gauntlet, brush aside the pseudo-dialogue, and engage in spiritual combat.

Here is the link to this, at once, erudite and tedious essay: http://www.ocanews.org/news/Vinogradov7.12.11.html. I invite a “conversation” about its content, what it portends, in particular, for the Orthodox Church in America, and how we can repulse this frontal assault on Orthodox moral tradition.

May God the Holy Trinity, the God of Truth and Virtue, sustain us in the dark times ahead.

Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD
Chaplain (Colonel), U.S. Army Reserve (Ret.)
Board of Advisors, American Orthodox Institute (AOI)

Comments

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    Fr Gregory says:

    Axios! Well said Father Alexander!

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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    Amen, Fr. Alexander.

    The truth is that the Church must be the conscience of Culture, not the other way around.

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    In recent weeks we have seen a number of OCA clergy come out of the closet, and express views that should result in them either being suspended and deposed, or issuing a retraction. There is no mistake about what they mean, and either something will be done about it, or it will get a lot worse in the very near future. The guantlet has indeed been thrown down, and we will learn a lot about the character of the bishops of the OCA in the next few months, either for good or ill.

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      Good heavens, never realized that so many were in that closet! Sad to see how a seminary education and many years of supposedly reading the Scriptures and the Saints seem to not have opened their hearts and minds to God’s Truth as revealed through Christ and attested by the Gospels, the Apostles, and the entire Orthodox Church. These men should know better! Compromising the Moral Tradition and adopting a worldly view on changeless moral principles is a recipe for disaster.

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        Unfortunately, a seminary education in which they were taught to use a Liberal Protestant approach to the analysis of Scripture, and to use a very similar approach to the analysis of the Services, has apparently brought along with it some other Liberal Protestant baggage as well.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Thank you Fr Webster for doing this. As profoundly depressed as I am that Christian priests have to uphold the simple truths of our Faith, the more emboldened I am to know that there are true shepherds out there.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    There seem to be three basic fronts on which this latest attack on Orthodox moral tradition is being waged, and I think we can sum them up this way:

    1. If the Apostles and Fathers only knew what science has shown us now, they would say something different about homosexual activity.

    2. It is better for someone to be in a committed homosexual relationship than to constantly fall into sin.

    3. There are things that have changed in Orthodoxy before, so this could change, too.

    As for #1, this commits a very basic theological error in anthropology. It assumes that what “science” shows us (also assuming that there is some sort of reliable, monolithic body out there called “science” whose every pronouncement is infallible) is reflective of God’s intention, namely, that because there at least seem to be some bases for homosexual attraction that are not in the conscious will, then that must mean that God intended for those people to be that way. But the error is this: science, for all the good that it can do, can only study the fallen world. Science cannot study the uncorrupted world that was God’s design, because it doesn’t exist in that mode any more. So, even if there really were some absolutely reliable field of knowledge out there that could mathematically and perfectly prove that homosexual attraction is genetically hardwired into some people, that doesn’t mean that acting upon that wiring is according to God’s design.

    There are, in any event, plenty of indications in scientific study that people seem to be hardwired for all sorts of other behaviors that these folks would no doubt object to. Indeed, even the basic drive for genetic diversity would seem to preclude monogamy. If the moral line should be drawn to include homosexual monogamy, I do not see why it should not also include polygamy, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. There are certainly plenty of folks out there who would claim (and could find some scientists to back them) that such things are hardwired for them, too.

    Christian morality is not about succumbing to the Fall. It is about struggling against it. In any event, Orthodox theology does not recognize sexual attraction as an ontological category. There are simply men and women, all of whom are called to the same moral behavior, no matter what their particular temptations are.

    As for #2, this also falls flat in committing a basic error in soteriology. It is better to sin less than to sin more, sure, but it’s still sin. The Church never gives a blessing to sin. Entering into same-sex “marriage” is a plan to sin. It is not simply moral failure, but a conscious strategy of immorality. Saying that a same-sex “marriage” is better than casual fornication with multiple partners is like telling an alcoholic that it’s better if he stays home and just gets soused on his closetful of Jack Daniels rather than finding himself drawn to a bar and then having whatever’s on special at happy hour. Entering into same-sex “marriage” is not a pastoral response to the problem of deviant sexual passions—it’s outright surrender.

    Again, Christian morality is about struggling against the Fall. Yes, we sinners fall into sin every day, over and over again. But there is a world of difference between recognizing that fact and then struggling against it and simply redefining sin as virtue and then giving up the struggle. It is one thing to be a moral failure. We are all moral failures. But it is another to declare failure to be success and to strive for it.

    As for #3, the error here is one of history. Yes, change has been part of Orthodoxy, but the change is only in certain respects. Liturgics change. Theological language changes. Canonical disciplines change. But dogma does not change. Neither does morality.

    Dogma doesn’t change because it’s about Who God is, and God is always the same. Morality does not change, because it’s what God’s design for us is, and God’s design does not change.

    Yes, one can see a gradually broadening moral revelation between the Old Testament and New (e.g., polygamy to monogamy). But again, the history has to be read correctly. For one thing, God never said, “It is good for man to have many wives.” He never explicitly sanctioned polygamy. So it’s not like He changed His mind and said that now monogamy is what He wants, but polygamy is what He wanted before. (Remember, His design for us does not change, because He does not change.) In addition, the transformation from the morality of the Law in the Old Covenant to the morality of Grace in the New is never in terms of greater permissibility, but less! The Old Covenant said you should keep to your own spouse, but the New says that even looking on another with lust is sinful! The bar is always raised by Christ, but that’s because of the coming of Grace, because we are now empowered in a way that even the prophets could not quite attain.

    That leads us to the final point regarding change and revelation: Yes, there is a progressive revelation from the Old Covenant to the New. But now all truth has been revealed to and through the Apostles. There is nothing left to be revealed. There will not be a third covenant. God does reveal Himself anew to the saints throughout the ages, but He is not revealing any new revelation. He is revealing His changeless Self, which is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    That some claim that Orthodoxy is “coming late” to this “dialogue” is simply an indication that they do not believe that the Holy Spirit actually led the Apostles into all truth. It is also an admission that this assault fundamentally comes from outside the Church.

    At least we can be fairly happy that those who are assaulting the Church’s way of salvation don’t seem to be pushing the delusion that the Bible and the Fathers didn’t really say about homosexual acts what it’s clear that they said. But I expect they will eventually adopt that tactic, and the infallibility of Freud will for them trump the truth of the Bible and the whole of Orthodox tradition.

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      Fr. Andrew says:

      Just as an addendum: If it really is the case that God is in the process of revealing a new morality which contradicts the one He revealed before, why is it that this alleged revelation is coming from “science” and not from the saints? The saints, whenever the question comes up, are all of one mind on these things.

      When the saints speak about these things, they aren’t groping around in the dark or sitting in ivory towers musing on the implications of academic learning; they’re being illumined directly by God. They know Him intimately, and they speak from divine experience.

      There is no reason for us to follow the doctrines of those whose sanctity is not that of the saints. They can only guess at such things. The saints actually know, because they know God.

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        Fr Andrew, a superb analysis! As a layman, thank you for coming forward and being a true shepherd.

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        Sub-Deacon David Duttweiler says:

        Excellent observation, Father. This is what should give all pause to ask exactly what is the source of this “new revelation”? If it is the Holy Spirit, then why have none of the saints ever expressed such a thing before? Why is it not even hinted at in the Tradition, in the Hymns, in the life of the Church? We are taught that even the Ecumenical Councils did not formulate new doctrine, but merely expressed in new ways what the Church has always taught, believed, lived. In what way has the Church ever taught, believed, or lived homosexual activity is anything but sinful or that marriage is anything but the union between one man and one woman? The only “conversation” there can truly be is an invitation to repent and truly enter into Communion with the Church.

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          anonymous says:

          The source of this “new revelation” is Antonio Gramsci.

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          Brian Jackson says:

          Have you also noticed that the disparagement of “proof texting” seems designed precisely to rule out any use of direct statements on the issue from Saints or the Scriptures when engaging in “dialogue”? For instance, were one to quote St. John Chrysostom on the issue of marriage, or the Apostle Paul’s statements on homosexuality, one might be accused of the fundamentalist tactic of “proof texting” rather than honored for the laudable inclusion of the words of the Saints in this conversation.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        Fr. Andrew: Your posts above provide all needed ideas to make a consensus statement on the subject on behalf of the Orthodox Church worldwide. Anybody (bishop, priest or lay) claiming otherwise is teaching (knowingly or unknowingly) a false doctrine which will result in countless lost souls.

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      Fr. Andrew, thank you for an excellent analysis. This point in particular is indeed brilliant , full of wisdom and truth:

      “Again, Christian morality is about struggling against the Fall. Yes, we sinners fall into sin every day, over and over again. But there is a world of difference between recognizing that fact and then struggling against it and simply redefining sin as virtue and then giving up the struggle. It is one thing to be a moral failure. We are all moral failures. But it is another to declare failure to be success and to strive for it.”

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Fr. Andrew, a good analysis but I would tweak Point #1.

      The reason science can’t speak to anthropology is not because the world is fallen, but because the tools of science (beyond, say, statistical analysis or some other measurement tool) can’t reach it. Put another way, terms like political science, or behavioral science, are misnomers if what we mean by them is that they are scientific disciplines. Metrics are used in observation of course but the conclusions, if they go beyond what the numbers display, are something else entirely.

      So even if the world was not fallen and operated in different ways than what we see today, science would still operate in exactly the same way, and the conclusions we make that go beyond the metrics would be made in the same way as well. Science, in other words, has natural limitations and those limitations exist irrespective of the state of creation.

      Our problem is attributing conclusions to science that science cannot properly give. This happens when the gay marriage crowd claims that science has given us new information that calls for the retooling of the moral tradition. You are quite right in your assertion that sexual attraction is not an ontological category. Yet science never speaks to ontology. It can’t. No tool of science can define or measure it. Their claim then is merely an appeal to authority, nothing more.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        It is not only that our senses, instruments and techniques are limiting our understanding. Shameless manipulation of statistics by authorities and shameless manipulation of the media reveal a long practice of hiding the truth from people or manipulation of the truth for political convenience. Perhaps what we see now is only the tip of the iceberg, a mere fragment of the deliberate deceit and manipulation made over the centuries.

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      Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Great analysis, Father, but I would tweak #2 a little. You write:

      The Church never gives a blessing to sin. Entering into same-sex “marriage” is a plan to sin. It is not simply moral failure, but a conscious strategy of immorality.

      In practice, the Church does actually give a blessing to sin when it knowingly communes people in same-sex marriages as if this does not disqualify them from partaking. We are blessing gay-marriage by communion, and even clergy who think we shouldn’t be blessing it are nevertheless doing so because they are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings and possibly turn them away forever.

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        SteveM says:

        Well said Deacon Patrick. Keep standing up for what you know is right, even if it means being branded “intolerant.” Jude has something to say on the matter, and the Old Testament more so. The open-minded, anti-Christian koran might end up providing God’s judgement to America for suffering “lusting after strange flesh,” and then all those pie-eyed liberals won’t be too happy.

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      Harry Coin says:

      Fr. Andrew, those who claim science demonstrates a physical un-chosen basis for homosexual desires cannot point to experimental results in the scientific literature. Many have scientific suspicions that it will share something with the mechanisms increasing the chances of alcoholism. Those are suspicions, not theories tested by experiments.

      More importantly: Those who value what science has to say as a basis to decide policy must embrace all the firm results of science– the one thing science is clearest about is that same gender sexual conduct leads to a fearsome array of adverse medical events that burden and shorten life.

      If you love someone having those feelings, you don’t want them to be sick, you don’t want them to suffer, you don’t want them to leave the world one second earlier than possible. So to be supportive in the way that matters, the long term, we need to be clear about what actual science has already said.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Fr, if I may buttress your first point. Having spent years in college studying the “hard sciences” (physics, chemistry, biochem, cell biol, etc.) I can honestly tell you that we are deluding ourselves if we believe that there really is such a thing as “objective science” which is “neutral.” Although this does exist in theory, the reality is that within any science colloquium there is just as much horse-trading, posturing, and pontificating going on as in any other professional endeavor. It can get quite unseemly. Unfortunately, in our secularized, de-Christianized world, people are being told that as long as its “scientific” it’s 100% true and value-neutral. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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    Gregg says:

    I am just a 20 something who has only wrestled with his broken sexuality for a bit less than a decade but I would like to add just a few thoughts to this conversation. As Orthodox Christians, and especially those in ordained roles, we are called to pursue above all sanctification and ultimately theosis. We must seek to become partakers of the divine nature and thus become Christlike. Christ was never afraid to speak truth but the heart of his message was to seek God and thusly to seek love.

    The greatest commandment as spoken by Christ was, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40 NKJV).

    This message is often taken as an excuse to justify any behavior by saying God loves me the just the way I am. While so very true, often the reality of what the love of God looks like is missed. The love of God as witnessed in Scripture and by the Church is a consuming fire that burns away all iniquity. It is this love that radiates from the throne of God that can be the greatest pleasure if we ourselves accept this purifying love, or it can be our hell and our insistent holding onto those impurities that God’s divine love burns away is torment. This is the kind of love we are called to show and seek as Christians. It is a love that seeks to purify but has grace and humility like a skillful surgeon that carefully removes the cancer without butchering the patient.

    Fathers, in your wisdom I pray that this is the definition of love that must be preached and taught. We must seek to go back to the Church’s long standing teaching and definitions in these areas by reexamining the language and definitions we use instead of assuming a mutual understanding.

    Another thing I wish to present is the great deal of wisdom and insight that our Protestant brothers and sisters are contributing to this discussion. I cannot recommend enough these recent books and the insight they bring to the topic of homosexuality: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark A. Yarhouse, The End of Sexual Identity” by Jenell Williams Paris, Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin and Matt Jenson’s moving speech on the topic on Youtube (see below).

    These are authors who are beginning a new age in the Protestant Church’s conservative approach to this difficult topic. Wesley Hill presents one of the most honest and well written discussions of suffering and celibacy as the calling for many with broken sexuality. Yarhouse is currently one of the top researchers in the area of sexual identity, dealing particularly with the effectiveness of reorientation and a conservative approach to the topic. Paris, like Hill, seek to look at the traditional role of sexual and romantic intimacy in the Christian life, seeing that a sexually intimate relationship is not always been the crux of Christian intimacy.

    Instead of marriage and sexuality being at the core of our identity they seek to place Christ at the core. Marin through his ministry in the heart of the GLBT movement seeks to bring understanding to the whole debate by giving the reader tools to better understand and engage with the GLBT community as a whole while not abandoning a conservative Christian morality.

    Lastly I pray that we all remember when standing out in this difficult discussion that behind the rants, the hate, and the comments there are individuals created in God’s image and likeness who often themselves are struggling with deep hurt, pain, sin, and rejection. Men and women who see their sexuality and their sexual relationships not as just one aspect of who they are but often things that are at the very core of their personhood.

    When this is questioned they can often feel as if their very existence is the evil that is being fought against. These are just a few things that have come out of the last few years of my wrestling with this difficult topic. I by no means believe I have all the answers. Thank you for your courage, wisdom and strength.

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    Fr. Christopher Allen says:

    Thank you, Fr. Alexander! I am grateful that you are outspokenly defending the basic moral and theological underpinnings of Orthodoxy.

    As a refugee from the former ECUSA, I know all-too-well that “conversation” means “I will talk to you until you acquiesce, and if you refuse, I will excoriate you and publicly humiliate you, and gladly destroy your livelihood, church, diocese, and entire religious heritage.”

    I will follow the unfolding of these events with interest and trepidation. I’m awaiting the dropping of the shoe on us military chaplains when the repeal of DADT is actually implemented.

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    Fr. Joseph Bittle says:

    Thank you to Gregg for an excellent post. I enjoyed the video lecture from Marin that you provided. However, I was also reminded of a critique of Marin’s book “Love is an Orientation” by R.A.J. Gagnon (author of “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics”) that those who desire to read Marin might desire to read as well. It can be found, along with other critical review essays, at http://www.robgagnon.net/ArticlesOnline.htm

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    Fr. Joseph Bittle says:

    Please forgive. I realize that I ascribed the video lecture to Marin, but it was by Matt Jenson. Nonetheless, the critique of Marin’s book is still relevant since it was mentioned in Gregg’s post.

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      Gregg says:

      Fr. Joseph,

      Thanks for the link. I confess that at the time i posted the original response i had only finished half of Marin’s book and in fact had stopped directly before the main chapter that Gagnon specifically critiques. Gagnon gives an incredibly thorough analysis of Marin’s book. I myself when reading Marin’s scriptural analysis found it to be very light and had little backing it up. I agree with almost everything Gagnon says on this issue however i will give a few following thoughts as not necessarily answers but things to think about when discussing the topic.

      I agree that the Church, and those ordained and representatives of the Church cannot falter in their teaching of what is sin, especially in regards to homosexual sin. We cannot ignore the gravity of such sin as so clearly expressed in scripture. I do believe however that when it comes to personal interactions with those in the GLBT community, those in either an actively Gay church or more importantly those completely outside the Christian faith, that it is important to just shut up and listen. So often those in the GLBT community feel that every conversation they have with a Christian starts with and ends with an outright condemnation. If a person is asked “is homosexual behavior sin?” the response should be honest and frank, not glossing over the scriptural reality. However so often listening to someone’s story, knowing their pain and what they’ve experienced and validating that as a real experience goes a very long way in establishing relationship. As Jenson says in his talk, if they know you are a conservative Christian than they probably already know that you view homosexuality to be a sin, they don’t need you to continually remind them of that fact. We don’t have to back away from the truth, but we equally don’t have to begin and end every conversation with it. The Church has practiced this same approach particularly when ministering to those in great poverty. We welcome into our Church’s and soup kitchens and food pantries countless people who are actively sining in grave ways. Prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, promiscuity, theft, etc… but we don’t as they walk in the door remind them that they are all in active rebellion against God. We sit down with them, we talk to them, we listen to their lives and engage them as human beings created in God’s image and likeness. My experience with groups such as FOCUS, and YES has shown me just how powerful this ministry to those in poverty can be. While not an exact parallel I think we can learn a lot about ministry to those outside the Church by looking at ministries like these.

      My second thought is this: ministry to the GLBT community is something that is needful in the Church. The great commission calls us to preach the good news to all nations. Perhaps we might see the GLBT community as a united group of individuals like a nation and people that we are called to preach the good news to. The Church has been missionally minded since Pentecost. It went into communities and countries adapting and working on the terms of the people. Not hiding or ignoring the teaching’s about sin, but always mindful of the cultural context in which they were working and teaching. These missionaries sought to understand the most effective way they could communicate this truth given the social context. They didn’t seek to offend or cast out but rather to embrace and understand and form relationships with the people and cultures they were ministering to. Yes the GLBT community and pro-gay agenda can be a powerful force but the Church i believe spends far too much time on the defensive and we as Christians need to return to this missional mindset. This is i believe the already established framework for how the Orthodox Christian Church can minister and speak to those in the GLBT community.

      Again Fr, thank you for the link. Marin’s book i still believe is helpful in understanding the people of the GLBT community but Gagnon shows a great deal of the weakness in some of Marin’s thinking and this must be taken into consideration.

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        Fr. Joseph Bittle says:

        Thank you, Gregg. Well said.

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        Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

        Gregg,

        Much that you say is worthwhile and well said, but the idea that the Church can treat the gay community as a separate sort of heathen nation that needs to be evangelized presupposes that the Church has a very clear and secure idea of its own identity as other than that separate nation. Our immediate problem within the Church is that many people, clergy included, do not see gays as other than ourselves and wish to welcome them in as fellow Orthodox Christians just the way they are. Until we deal with that subversion from a fifth column within the Church, we don’t dare reach out too warmly to the gay nation. Doing so could be our undoing.

        To illustrate the danger, we might look at the U.S. State Department, which has long had a problem of foreign service officers “going native” — adopting the thinking and sympathies of the countries in which they serve. This is a problem because so many Americans, especially the left-leaning educated types who become foreign service officers, lack a clear sense of national identity, tending to see America as a nation for all nations and therefore not truly other to any nation. That’s about how some Orthodox today see the Church with regard to gays.

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          Gregg says:

          Dn. Mitchell,

          I agree with you that if the Church truly has lost its identity than yes, we do have bigger issues to deal with. While there has been some recent difficulty and controversy i haven’t yet seen, and hope i never do, a much wider spread and acceptance of homosexual behavior within the Orthodox Church.

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          Deacon, your insights about our foreign service are fascinating. The fact that they have no “national identity” is something that I’ve never considered with but may nonetheless be true. This would explain the seditious nature of people in the British foreign service (like Kim Philby and the others with him) who came to despise their own country while slavishly worshipping Stalin. Now that I’ve mentioned Philby, Burgess, Blount and the others, it is worth noting that they were also homosexual.

          But I digress. Why did our elites “go native”? Is it because they had a deep-seated inferiority complex because of their ethnic background?

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            Peter Evans says:

            George, I suspect that the reason our elites “go native” is because of their higher education. The ‘above-it-all’ intellectual stance of those who academically compare ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ precludes their own identification with any particular culture except the utopian, symbolized by the ivory tower. They imagine that they have already become like gods. When confronted by ‘natives’ of whatever cultural stripe, intimately and un-apologetically engaged in their own culture, they are immediately struck by the ‘authenticity’ of the culture, a quality they claim to revere. More likely, it is the spiritual/emotional committment of the ‘native,’ his un-abstracted sense of self, immersed in his milieu which seduces the hitherto cloistered academic.

            Going native is the perverse consequence of a deep-seated superiority complex, deriving from the spiritual/emotional dessication of their academic/intellectual background. Similarly, the much-touted virtue of ‘tolerance’ is often (but not always) an expression of patronizing condescension.

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    SteveM says:

    Priests who take communion unworthily face some serious Biblical consequences. Romans 1 comes immediately to mind. And there’s a scripture somewhere in Daniel about “changing customs.” Neither tolerance, (the virtue of an empire in decline) or suffering as King James had it, nor acceptance of a lie is a Christian principle. A purging out of foolish vomit is medicine in some lesser cultures. But it could work. Root out the unworthy priests at Saint Nicholas and then denounce the puff piece authors among the scribbling set afterwards.

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    Harry Coin says:

    I think a very well thought through article is needed on the scriptural theme of retaining and growing/great commission/scandalizing the weak that considers these points:

    1. all see + won’t tell = high office

    2. Non-circumstantial evidence of conduct vs. privacy laws.

    3. Higher scriptural requirements regarding appearances for those wanting to continue/engage in church leadership.

    4. Because of the current innovation of civil gay marriage, this rule for all our Orthodox churches in such societies:

    “Those ordained and any being considered for, or continuing in church office involving decision making over others must be at least one of: presently married in the church, or living with a blood relative, or alone, or in a monastery with more than two adults; with exceptions for students in dorms, or military deployed, or not more than three months per thirty six.”

    After all, if there is nothing untoward going on, changing housing so as to avoid being a source of scandal while in leadership can be at most a bother only, a small matter. Who could disagree?

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Excellent points, Harry. I for one, long for the day in which we have lots of monk-bishops living in actual monastic settings. Not only would their economic needs be taken care of, but they would not be subject to coercion or bribery by wealthy elites. The present system of well-paid (and let’s be honest, if you don’t have a family, any salary over $60K is well-paid), single bishops who live worldly lives (for the most part) is what is causing the destruction of Orthodoxy in America.

      The lack of such a situation, in which we have bishops who always carp about money for boondoggles (and not hospitals, soup-kitchens, orphanages), together with worldly elites who like to play Byzantine dress-up ensures the continued diminution of Orthodoxy in America. Make no mistake: these wealthy Leadership 100 types know what the problem is and could reform the entire system overnight, but they like the idea of a compromised heirarchy.

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        Harry Coin says:

        George, the reason Leadership isn’t as you describe I think is because the ‘compromised hierarchy’ as you term them are leading to great and shameful expenses, expenses that they could have avoided had they acted on them back when they first heard of them.

        I mean, seriously, did you see what the bishop wrote in response to the priest soliciting gay sex at truck stops? Asked if that was unethical, the bishop replied ‘not necessarily’. Sure. Ok. Give generously.

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        Andrew says:

        George, allow me to commend to on this quote:

        The present system of well-paid (and let’s be honest, if you don’t have a family, any salary over $60K is well-paid), single bishops who live worldly lives (for the most part) is what is causing the destruction of Orthodoxy in America.

        You are 100% correct and today our bishops are more concerned with institutional maintenance and keeping up their suburban lifestyle than they are about evangelizing. We can have no Orthodox renewal Until we put an end to the idea that our bishops must be rich.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        A more general perspective is found in VISIONS OF ELDER ANTHONY

        I saw the great lengths the universal evil is prepared to go to in a bid to malign the Holy Church, the immaculate Body of Christ! First of all, they shall sling abuse at it in all the papers, on radio and television. The Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians shall be scoffed and ridiculed, as will be their rites, fasts, the Christian way of life – everything that was always the mainstay of the people´s vitality. Thousands and thousands of destroyers of Orthodoxy shall be infiltrated into the Church itself, among the clergy. Despite an overall outward piety, their spirit will be alien, anti-Christian, and the people shall turn away from the churches where these representatives of the clergy are predominant. So the resurrected, or newly-built churches shall stand empty. However, the light of true sanctity shall continue to flicker in some places. He who seeks shall find… Nobody shall be able to exonerate oneself saying: “Lord, I sought yet did not find!” Amidst the gloom of total lack of Faith and godlessness, lights of Truth flickers all across the land. Yet, the true clergy shall be persecuted and hounded, and subjected to all manner of disparagement. The demon´s henchmen shall not stop short of murder, if the Lord sees it fit for the pious to accept the halo of a martyr. There shall be many of them, pious martyrs of this time!

        One of the freedoms that the demon´s henchmen attempt to inculcate in people at any cost is the freedom of moral licentiousness. Alas, people have already accepted it, and made it an inalienable part of contemporary life. Fornication is no longer branded as such, but perceived as sexual freedom. Depravation sets in at an early age in the guise of education in sexual culture and behavior of the sexes. Children are shown naked bodies, the sexual act – all in a bid to fire lustful passions, which they refer to as natural instincts. The press and television are inundated with naked bodies and terrible scenes of fornication. The nakedness in today´s dress is only the beginning. The final aim is much, much more horrible – the feast of Astarte and Baal, where hundreds and hundreds of heathens fornicated, stupefied with alcohol and drugs. That is where the proponents of sexual freedom drag humanity – to worship the demons of fornication. One is a slave to the one who vanquishes one, and people are enticed into this gift-wrapped slavery…

        However, even the common sin of fornication is not enough for the demons´ retainers: sodomy and pederasty shall be dished out as ultimate manifestations of freedom. The propaganda of these disgusting sins will gather incredible force – almost stronger than sexual licentiousness! Incidents of homosexual marriages shall receive as much eclat as the discovery of antibiotics in its time! Sodomy will be markedly spreading: initially among the artists and politicians. The sin of sodomy will become a label of the future. Already now licentious debaucheries are held under the guise of annual carnivals of homosexuals in America! All this will become a part of the Russian scene, too, in no less an ugly manifestation. All who resist these ugly demonic onslaughts will be branded as impinging on another´s freedom, as grossly ignorant or even enemies of the state and its interests, since all states shall regard a protection of the demonic freedoms, rather than moral values, as their ultimate goal.

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    Dr. John Bonnage says:

    It is absolutely clear that every priest – and by extension – every parish member must deal with the individual person in a spiritual context. There is NO room for pre-established norms that do not take the person into consideration for this would be a violation of the canons on ‘confession’ of sins. It is the soul of the individual that is under examination. The priest, according to the canons of the church, may not absolve a person of “sin” if the individual does not understand a specific activity as sinful. The priest must speak with the confessing person about other elements that are subject to absolution and grant absolutionand forgiveness based upon those elements of ‘sin’.

    The Church is not an ecclesiastical “bar association” of lawyers who apply strictures. We are a ‘koinotis’ [community] who are in Christian love with our members. And the Greek term: ‘ekonomia’ (not quite well known in the West) is what allows us to be Christian with each other. Without this ‘economia’, we are in danger of becoming Church-fascists. And I’m sure that the Lord would not approve.

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      John,

      You’re setting up a false dichotomy between an objective standard (i.e., a canon) and the person. The moral tradition of the Church helps me understand myself and give the proper moral weight to my actions and to the things that I value. No one here, or to my knowledge anywhere, is suggesting that we not view each person in his or her uniqueness or in “a spiritual context” (though it isn’t clear to me what you mean by this).

      When I hear confessions I must be mindful of the tradition and how well or not the person is living in harmony with the teaching of the Church. This an objective criteria. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a subjective evaluation–there is and must be–but this evaluation is concerned with the moral culpability of the person (i.e., how free is the person relative to his or her behavior).

      None of this requires that we turn the Church into a collection of lawyers “who apply strictures.” At the same time, without standards and boundaries we cannot be a community much less can we love one another. Love, in the teaching of the Apostle John, is predicated on our obedience to God. “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it” (2 Jn 1.6). No standards, no obedience, no obedience, no love.

      +FrG

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      I think what you mean to say is that every priest must deal with every person one on one. That is a given. There is, however, room for the canon even if a priest applies them in pastorally detrimental ways (which has happened on occasion). Be careful not to negate the former because of the failure of the latter. Neither the need for canonical order or the authority of the canons is nullified because a priest might apply them improperly.

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