April 24, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah

The following essay was posted on Monomakhos and OCATruth today. I’ve avoided the internal fight in the OCA but with the revelation that some in the Church are openly advocating a “rethinking” of the moral tradition regarding human sexuality, I’ve decided to post an investigative piece by Nicholas Chancey that outlines it.

I’ll address the ideas of the advocates later. For now it’s sufficient to say that the thinking appears shoddy. Sentiment replaces clear reasoning, emotive appeals blunt the authority of the moral tradition (what I call the Oprahization of moral theology), and dissenting views are discouraged. You can see the ideas on the Facebook page Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church.

We need to remember that every church that has accepted a moral parity between homosexuality and heterosexuality has suffered precipitous decline. The most obvious is the Episcopal Church which is a shell of its former self. Close behind is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and others. Once a church adopts the homosexual agenda, people leave.

After doing this research, some things have become clear. There is a movement within the Orthodox Church in America to mainstream homosexuality. There are priests, bishops, and academics that are sympathetic to this movement. Some are providing quiet assistance.

By Nicholas Chancy

Note: All links open in new window.

The reasons for the deliberate attacks on Metropolitan Jonah have been analyzed online on such sites as OCA Truth and others with varying conclusions. Some observers see it as a fight between the “old guard” wanting to hang onto power and the “new guard” wanting to change things around. Other writers have painted it in terms of personality conflicts. But one of the most interesting ideas put forward has been that the fight against Metropolitan Jonah is itself a manifestation of the so-called, “Culture Wars.”

This is how Muzhik, one of the contributors to OCA Truth, characterized the situation:

What is it about Jonah’s vision that they find so objectionable that they want to throw HB out? People I’ve talked to who are in much better position to read the OCA insider tea leaves than I am hold the opinion that Stokoe and his crowd cannot stand the public stances HB has taken on “culture war” issues. They hate that he has spoken out publicly against gay marriage and related subjects. They resent his pro-life activism. In short, they want the OCA to be Episcopalian, even if it means continuing to follow a path to irrelevancy and decline.

But is that really possible? It is true that the online base of support for those opposing Metropolitan Jonah is OCA News. It is also true that the site is run by Mark Stokoe, a partnered homosexual. But, coming from the Diocese of the South, it just seemed too far-fetched to me that Metropolitan Jonah’s stridency on same-sex marriage could have been a major factor in bringing on this crisis. After all, could Metropolitan Jonah’s conventional Orthodox moral position on such a subject really provoke such animosity among Orthodox Christians?

I assumed that this was clearly impossible, and that there had to be other, more important factors at work. I held that opinion until the day I crossed paths with Inga Leonova on Facebook.

Bishop Savas of the Greek Archdiocese had posted an article on his wall by a Catholic writer on the topic of same-sex marriage. Inga and I got into a heated debate over the subject. Given the nature of her answers, I asked if she and another individual with whom I was debating were Orthodox Christians. This is how the conversation developed from that point:

Inga: Yes, we are both Orthodox, and I may shock you even further by admitting to holding a position within the Church governance structure. Sexuality is an inherent part of a person’s biological makeup same as race. The early Church did not know that, and moreover, the early Church has dealt with matters of behavior, not identity. Much work needs to be done to actually learn the context of Pauline pronouncements, for example, or St. John Chrysostom’s exegesis on them – which most people who are happily quoting them are unwilling to do, much to the detriment of our Tradition and theology.

Nicholas: The official teaching of the Orthodox Church is that any sexual expression other than heterosexual marriage is inherently disordered and sinful. You can try to apply exegesis to this if you choose, but that will never change. Exegesis is only going so far in Orthodoxy. There is also the marriage ceremony itself. It is clearly written for male and female. Who will re-write it? Who has the authority to?

Inga: Your first paragraph, translated into plain English, states that the Holy Spirit has ceased to act in the Church and we are now but a museum of the venerable, dust-covered collection of “stuff”. Scary! This is simply inaccurate, too, from the canonical perspective. The Church has the authority to change most things except the key Trinitarian and Christological doctrine if it is pleasing to the Spirit. The Liturgy has been revised many times over the centuries; the canons of the Church are getting revised; things change! I refuse to acknowledge that we are dead because then we are worshipping Christ in the Tomb, not the resurrected Christ, and I do not worship a dead and buried God, nor do I worship the Law.

I did not for a second hope to change your deeply-held homophobic convictions, just pointing out the glaring parallels with the racist rhetoric, more to the benefit of the other readers of this thread than yours.

My curiosity was piqued by such an exchange in which a professed Orthodox Christian called me a “homophobe” for articulating the clear teaching of the Church. So I went in search of who Inga Leonova was. Where that led made me think I had fallen down a rabbit hole into an alternative reality.

Inga Leonova attends church at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Boston. She is, from all appearances, a very active member. Several of her articles are on the parish website. This is a link to one of her articles. Inga has served in various “official” capacities in the past. She has also contributed to OCA News, which indicates a link to Mark Stokoe going back several years at least. Here is a link to one of her articles about the Metropolitan Herman-era scandals.

Inga Leonova, during our exchange, invited me to visit her Facebook Group called Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church. I visited the group and started reading the posts and the documents. While the group bills itself as a discussion forum on topics of sexuality in the Orthodox Church, it is quite clear from extensive reading that only those with opinions affirming same-sex relationships are permitted to hang around.

A friend of mine joined the group in order to defend traditional Orthodox teaching on the subject of sexuality. He was banned by Inga in less than 20 minutes, although she did kindly refrain from deleting his posts. So, to be fair, there is some room for open discussion — but not for very long.

Quite obviously, the Facebook Group is dedicated to spreading a message that same-sex relationships are compatible with Orthodox Christianity. One rhetorical method used by the posters in the group is to denigrate those who disagree with them. One of their favorite targets is Metropolitan Jonah.

In fact, one of the group’s co-founders, Juli Lundell Tarsney, stated the following when discussing the subject of homosexuals in the military and the impact on Orthodox Chaplains, “One impetus for us to start this group was the letter Met Jonah wrote on this subject, which gained some notoriety after being published on the internet.” The letter Juli was referring to was Metropolitan Jonah’s letter to the Armed Forces Chaplains Board (.pdf) concerning the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy which appeared in May, 2010. It struck me as interesting that Metropolitan Jonah’s restatement of conventional Orthodox morality would be so offensive to Juli and Inga that they would go out and found a Facebook Group to combat it.

This is an excerpt of a document written by Inga and published on the Facebook Group which is less than complimentary to Metropolitan Jonah:

Moreover, in the course of this political thrust His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah has been very consistent in employing the rhetoric which is divisive, derisive, and threatening to a large body of individuals – not just the homosexuals in the Church and in the rest of the world, but also those who happen to espouse views more compassionate than those articulated by him. It is more than disappointing – it is endangering the message of the Church to the world. It is worth noting that His Beatitude is not alone in the Orthodox world in his quest, but is perhaps most closely allied with the similar momentum in the Russian Orthodox Church. In the context of this aspect there is a bigger issue of the Church’s engagement of its contemporary culture, especially of the diverging matters in that culture and its contemporary multi-confessional plurality.

This criticism of Metropolitan Jonah was posted February 4th, 2011 not long before the Synod took action against him.

It seems that criticism of Metropolitan Jonah is almost a daily occurrence on this Facebook Group. One poster added a link to an article from the Greek Archdiocese titled Pan-Orthodox Consensus on Same-Sex Unions — Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Inga had this to say in response, “It is extremely unfortunate that various jurisdictions are playing the media game and trying to jump on this train wreck instead of keeping restraint and dealing with the many question that have arisen in the last years internally and pastorally. . .Unfortunately, we can expect to see +MJ’s letter shortly as well.” (emphasis added).

These are just some examples. Clearly Inga, Juli, and the other members who post on this Facebook Group have serious issues with Metropolitan Jonah and his “homophobic” language.

After reading the site extensively, I then turned my attention to the membership of Inga’s Facebook Group. You can find the list here.

One member immediately caught my attention – Bishop Nikon of Boston. He is Inga’s bishop. Seeing his name on the membership role answered a burning question in my mind as to whether or not he knew what Inga was up to. Clearly he does, as he not only belongs to the group, but according to several posters he reads the Facebook Group’s pages regularly.

Bishop Nikon has been an opponent of Metropolitan Jonah and an ally of Mark Stokoe. I had known that before I saw that he was a member of a Facebook Group dedicated to mainstreaming same-sex relationships within Orthodoxy. But putting these two facts together made me curious to know more.

Digging deeper, I discovered that Bishop Nikon is very close to Bishop Mark, his predecessor in Boston who is currently retired in Miami. Bishop Mark lives with a man named Archdeacon Gregory Burke who was suspended in 2007 after he left Miami to go to California to marry a man. Archdeacon Burke and Bishop Mark built the home they share together in 2003. Bishop Mark apparently bought his housemate out in 2007 when the Archdeacon made his matrimonial journey to California. The deacon has been living with Bishop Mark since his return to Florida. He has spent most of that time on suspension from his liturgical duties, but is currently back serving at the altar. Bishop Nikon is said to stay with Bishop Mark in his home when he goes on vacation to Florida. That fact indicates that Bishop Nikon must be fully aware of the unusual domestic situation.

All of this is rather odd for an Orthodox Bishop, and may indicate a clear motivation for getting rid of a traditionalist Metropolitan who is clearly opposed to same-sex relationships.

Another member is Inga’s priest – Father Robert Arida of Holy Trinity in Boston. Father Robert Arida was a teacher at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Seminary. Father Robert Arida is a relatively well-known individual within Orthodoxy, even giving the commencement address at St. Herman’s in 2010.

Not surprisingly, he has also contributed to Orthodox News. When we debated online, Inga was really enthusiastic about Father Robert. In our dialog, she recommended listening to Father Robert’s sermon for the commemoration of the Saints of North America. You can listen to it here:

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In the sermon, Father Robert, essentially, counsels the Orthodox Church to stay out of the public sphere. His sermon didn’t really surprise me, since it is not at all unusual, or even undesirable, for a pastor to not want to see the Church abused as a prop in various political contests.

So I found myself wondering where Father Robert Arida stood on these issues. He wasn’t a member of the Facebook Group, unlike Bishop Nikon. Was he on board with all this? In an online article recently published on Inga’s Facebook Group, Father Robert Arida removed all doubt of where his sympathies lie.

Father Arida’s article was entitled, “Response to Myself.” In this response, Father Robert Arida seems to re-iterate the point he made in his sermon, mentioned earlier, that the Orthodox Church should steer clear of political debates like those concerning same-sex marriage. He then goes on to meditate on what he considers the confused nature of marriage within Orthodox Tradition.

His essential point is summarized in the first sentence of the quotation below (emphasis added):

Given our Church’s biblical, patristic, liturgical and canonical sources one eventually detects that there is no universally consistent and accepted teaching on marriage as to its origin, purpose and goal. Is it prelapsarian or postlapsarian? Is it eternal or temporal? Is it dissoluble or indissoluble? Is it a legal contract between free persons? Is it an accommodation to human passion – a form of legalized fornication – and therefore subordinate to monastic puritanism or is it a sacrament of the Kingdom which leads to the salvation of spouses? Each question has been answered in two ways, yes and no.

If the Church is going to respond to the legalization of same-sex marriage/union it seems that it should begin by considering how to minister to those same-sex couples who being legally married come with their children and knock on the doors of our parishes seeking Christ. Do we ignore them? Do we, prima facie, turn them away? Do we, under the rubric of repentance, encourage them to divorce and dismantle their family? Or, do we offer them, as we offer anyone desiring Christ, pastoral care, love and a spiritual home?

Indeed, the Church has never sailed these uncharted waters. But our history teaches us that what is new need not compromise Christ who is the “same yesterday, today and forever.”

This sentence, “Or, do we offer them, as we offer anyone desiring Christ, pastoral care, love and a spiritual home?” seems to sum up the thinking of Father Robert Arida on this topic. When “married” homosexuals come knocking on the door of the Orthodox Church, the correct pastoral response according to Father Arida, is one of acceptance of their same-sex relationships. Does that acceptance also extend to creating a form of “same-sex” marriage within Orthodoxy? I think from the tone of Father Robert’s letter that this possibility is definitely open in his mind.

What is even more interesting is that a few days after this article appeared on Inga’s Facebook Group, it suddenly made its appearance on Mark Stokoe’s Orthodox News site under the title, “A Pastor’s Thoughts On Same-sex Marriage.” This fact tends to reinforce the impression that there is a good level of cooperation occurring among like-minded people.

I also noticed some other academics who were members of Inga’s Facebook Group. Some of them are non-OCA, like Valerie Karras. Valerie teaches at SMU and is on the editorial board for the “Orthodox” Website the St. Nina Quarterly. While she uses that site to lay the theoretical groundwork for women priests, she appears to confine her favorable comments concerning same-sex marriage to Inga’s Facebook Group.

After doing this research, some things have become clear. There is a movement within the Orthodox Church in America to mainstream homosexuality. There are priests, bishops, and academics that are sympathetic to this movement. Some are providing quiet assistance. Some, such as Father Robert Arida, are publicly promoting a change in Orthodox teaching concerning same-sex marriage.

Quite a few of the members of this same-sex lobby within the OCA have ties to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, two of whose current faculty members (Al Rossi PhD and Fr John Behr) are members of the pro-homosexual rights Facebook Group run by Inga Leonova. Many of the people who are publicly working to change Orthodox Tradition concerning homosexuality have collaborated in the past with Mark Stokoe, who is the online voice of the anti-Metropolitan Jonah wing of the OCA.

I have looked at the official “charges” leveled at Metropolitan Jonah, and they appear to be much ado about nothing. There is no way these overblown allegations could account for such as storm as we are currently enduring. For a long time, I have suspected that the real crux of the problem is a difference in vision for what the OCA should be. After having researched Inga Leonova and her links to others such as Bishop Nikon, I have now come to the conclusion that this is really the case.

As a young, traditional, and energetic Metropolitan, His Beatitude Jonah represents a direct threat to the desire of one faction within the OCA to turn the Orthodox Church into an institution which accepts homosexual relations as godly. What these people are trying to do must be widely exposed and then rejected. Members of the OCA must back our Metropolitan, and support him as he tries to restore order to a church that is dangerously adrift.

Nicholas Chancy is a member of the OCA in the Diocese of the South. He has been an Orthodox Christian for over 10 years, and has served the Orthodox Church in a variety of roles.

Comments

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    A technical note: Membership in a Facebook group does not necessarily equal support for its activities. People can be added to a group without their active consent and will remain members until such time as they take the step to remove themselves. Especially if someone is not very active on Facebook or perhaps not knowledgeable in how to remove himself from a group, he could potentially be a member of a group he would not join voluntarily. Therefore, it wise to be wary of drawing too many conclusions from mere membership alone.

    None of this is to say that the author’s conclusions on this are necessarily wrong, but I don’t take a name being in a list of Facebook group members as being evidence of much other than being Facebook “friends” with someone who’s already a member.

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    Eric Henderson says:

    I will add a note of urgency to your conclusion. I am “cradle” Protestant Evangelical Christian who, for all the usual reasons, has been moving towards Orthodoxy for some years now. This kind of chicanery makes for a very poor case as dicsussions with my wife and family proceed, for that matter it even gives me pause in spite of my increasing conviction of Truth.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Eric, thank you for this. Orthodoxy is not immune to the pressures of the dominant culture but there are many of us who will not sit by and allow the Church to become homosexualized in the way that the Episcopalians and others have been. There is no moral parity in the Orthodox moral tradition between heterosexual and homosexual behavior.

      This is not saying that a proper pastoral response to homosexuals needs to be formulated. It does. But it is clear by reading the comments on the Facebook page that most participants exceed this pastoral need and want to see homosexual behavior normalized. That simply cannot happen.

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      Cyril says:

      Eric, speaking as a convert (for more than a decade) this is sickening. Speaking as an historian, it is almost risible, were not souls on the line, for many have sought to remake the Church according to their own fantasies, delusions and vapid imaginations. Au courant theology is pitiful fare at any theological feast, but this swill of modernity dressed as tolerance or Christian charity is actually the road to perdition, if not for its purveyors, certainly so for those whom they are telling to be comfortable in their sin. Such particular attitudes are new, very western, and something eschewed by the rest of the Orthodox world. Some few years back a priest was bribed to perform a “wedding” for two men in Russia. The Russian church excommunicated the participants, defrocked the priest, and leveled the church. What you are witnessing Eric are the pains of an immature church weakened by years of misdirection and abuse, which is now trying to regain its strength. The old disease is still there, and the OCA may be years in recovering. I am glad for such men as Met. Jonah and Bishop Michael. But the rot is deep, and may be some years in purging.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    One thing struck me immediately as I read Fr Arida’s essay –to the question as to whether we ask gay couples to “dismantle their families” “under the rubric of repentance”, I can only respond thus: No “family” was created when two people of the same sex came together to form their union in the first place. The reason is because two people of the same sex cannot logically be married. Marriage by definition is the union of two people of the opposite sex.

    Having said that, may I ask Fr Arida what he would do if a polygamous Mormon family from Arizona* came to him for baptism in the Orthodox Church. Would he “turn them away” or ask them to “dismantle” their “family” under the “rubric of repentance”?

    *I say from Arizona because the official Mormon Church (LDS) which is based in Utah has officially condemned polygamy. One has to go to the American desert to find fundamentalist, renegade Mormons )who have been excommunicated by the LDS church) practicing polygamy.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    George, the tendentious of Fr. Arida’s essay is one of its greatest flaws. Repentance is not a “rubric.” It’s the way of salvation. Repentance is related to anthropology; it deals with ontological character of the human being and the nature of his relationship to his Creator. Rubric implies practice. It could define how a formal repentance should take place, but it does not speak to the nature and character of repentance.

    There has to be a proper pastoral response formulated concerning homosexuality and it has to come from the bishops. Lacking that, every priest becomes his own bishop and we will end up with nonsense like we see in Fr. Arida’s piece: appeals to emotion, implicit undermining of the anthropology that informs the moral precepts, a Balkanization of parish life where one parish communes active homosexuals and others don’t, and so forth.

    Fr. Arida’s essay is a conceptual mess and has that clammy feel of emotional sophistry permeating every syllable. I’ll get to that later.

    Fr. Andrew, thanks for making your point. It’s important.

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    Isaac says:

    The irony Leonova’s tirade is that she appears to be painfully ignorant about the people she thinks she is heroically defending. This is usually a sign to me of the narcissism that lies behind this kind of advocacy. She doesn’t care about real gay people, who would vehemently resent her proclamations about biological immutability. She cares about the accolades she gets from other like minded people when she claims to defend them.

    This is precisely why real discourse is shut down. It is unpleasant. It interrupts the flow of ego gratification. A person genuinely interested in the issues would be genuinely open to dissent. A person wanting to have her ego stroked would start a Facebook page for the purpose. After all, it is Facebook that has made narcissism respectable.

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      Cyril says:

      “Facebook….has made narcissism respectable.”

      I love that line!! Can I borrow it?

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        Matthew says:

        A line from Time magazine on Mark Zuckerberg’s creation: “Facebook is supposed to build empathy, but since 2000, Americans have scored higher and higher on psychological tests designed to detect narcissism, and psychologists have suggested a link to social networking. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have seen a rise in the number of divorce cases involving social networking; 66% cite Facebook as the primary source for online divorce evidence. Openness and connectedness are all well and good, but someone should give two cheers at least for being closed and disconnected too.”

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    B.E. Ward says:

    Some thoughts – likely disparate ones – from a guy making his way into the Orthodox Church.

    1) It would be silly to think the Orthodox Church would not be slammed by the same waves that have decimated other Christian groups. I’m not suggesting that there is any silliness going on here, just trying to put this whole matter into context. The difference, I believe, is between the Orthodox Church as the ark of salvation.. a strong ship that can handle anything.. and the lifeboats that many Christians have felt they’ve needed to clamor into over time, despite the cultural storm that has raged for thousands of years and the ark as a known safe haven. As they row away they’re easily overcome.

    2) I agree that the bishops need to come together as one voice on this. Ideally, they would formulate a statement to answer three separate questions:

    - Is homosexuality a sin?
    - If every person is sinful, why not ordain homosexual men that refuse to live in chastity?
    - What is the proper way to handle someone in the church who doesn’t believe homosexual activity is sinful?

    I know there are some pretty obvious answers to these questions, but hopefully such a statement would provide both a counter to some of the dissent on this topic, as well as offer a beacon to other non-Orthodox Christians who feel betrayed by their denomination. I would especially love to see this be a project of the Episcopal Assembly (with assistance from hierarchs abroad) to put a pan-Orthodox exclamation point on it.

    The point of such a project should not (and I would argue cannot) be a statement to the public – like the Manhattan Declaration. It’s to make Orthodox teaching very clear to the faithful in this particular time of cultural challenge.

    3) This might be a little controversial, but I believe strongly that Orthodox on opposing sides of this issue NEED to talk to each other in a public forum. The Roman Catholic Church (and virtually every mainline Protestant denomination now) have garrisoned themselves into ideological colonies that seem unable to do anything except to lob flaming objects over the walls at each other.

    I would really like to see a mediated month-long ‘debate’ online between laypeople who support the Church’s traditional teaching and folks like Inga Leonova or Barbara Marie-Drezhlo. The resulting conversation is unlikely to change anyone’s mind, but it *could* show that Orthodox with opposing viewpoints are able converse.. and it’s amazing how difficult it is to use silly juvenile nicknames when speaking directly to one another. However, I suppose the likelihood of any such conversation actually taking place is minimal at best.

    4) I wish folks that are trying to change centuries of Christian moral teaching from within the church would ask themselves “why this?” and “why now?” Is it because earnest Christians are just trying to follow the Holy Spirit? Or is it because earnest Christians are being manipulated by a political campaign that has declared anyone who resists its cause to be against ‘human rights’ or ‘equality’?

    5) It’s important that everyone, absolutely everyone, stand humbly before our mighty and immortal Creator and recognize our human folly for what it is. Lord, have mercy..

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      Michael Bauman says:

      B.E., the trouble with your suggestion is that, if followed, it gives intellecutal parity to their ideas. Once intellecutal parity is given, moral parity is not far behind and eventually theological parity. We know what their ideas are, they know what the moral and theological tradition of the Church is (better than most actually), they don’t care. They are in revolt because they wish to statisfy their own desires. Both lust of the flesh and lust of power are involved.

      Part of the problem with mounting a sensible, coherent statement on homosexuality, is that it would ultimately have to include all forms of lust such as pornography, adultery, fornication, divorce and abortion. Unfortunately, there are those who don’t like homosexuality, but are up to their hips in their own forms of lust which they don’t want confronted either. Fellow travelers as it were.

      The only difference between we Orthodox and the other Chrisitan groups is our foundation. The Anglican/Episocopal church was founded on the validity of satisfying one’s own desires, it is a wonder it took as long as it did to slide down the rabbit hole. Protestantism in general, founded as it is on private interpretation, has little with which to resist the onslaught of the spirit of the age (whatever it is).

      We Orthodox and to a certain extent the Catholics, while troubled by the onslaught since we are in the world, have the resources (if we use them) to weather the storm and come out stronger.

      It is a sin;
      Living in chastity is a basic requirement of the Orthodox life, clergy are called to something even higher;
      Spiritual quidance first, if they persist, excommunication.

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      Anil Wang says:

      The Roman Catholic Church hasn’t garrisoned themselves into ideological colonies that seem unable to do anything except to lob flaming objects over the walls at each other. Whether by accident or design, the Catholic Catechism outlined the Catholic position on homosexuality ( http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm#2357 ) which provides a clear outline of the teaching about a decade and a half before the current global push required such a statement be affirmed by all faithful. Faithful homosexual Catholics, like those in Courage ( http://couragerc.net ) know what’s expected of them and faithful defenders of the Catholic faith don’t have to figure out exactly what the Catholic Church teaches as faithful Protestants have to, and thus don’t fall into the error of either over-condemning or under-condemning homosexuality and don’t have to worry about the slow slippery slope that eventually overtook the Anglican Church and several formerly “Orthodox” (at least by Calvin and Luther’s standards) Protestant churches.

      The OCA along with the other Orthodox jurisdictions could easily make such an addition to the various Orthodox catechisms. A full ecumenical council isn’t required for this, just a series of synods in each jurisdiction. It doesn’t need to even start from scratch. The Catholic Catechism’s statements can be a starting point, and where deficient can be nuanced with quotes from the Church Fathers. Such a catechism addition would greatly aid the defenders of the Orthodox faith.

      While the Orthodox Faith should be able to withstand this global assault on the Church (some of the initiatives behind the UN’s gay lobby aimed at our children are quite scary), history has shown that God will let the Church be decimated (though not destroyed) when the faithful become complacent.

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      Tharreni says:

      Orthodoxy does not need to make any new studies on anything. That is the nature of our Church. We stand firm from the beginning with everything covered. The wisdom for every age is there from the beginning. Once you come into Orthodoxy you will understand that. This suggestion of a new study is non-Orthodox thinking.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        I would say that the Orthodox approach is to recognize truth wherever it exists, in whatever faith or philosophy or science; remove it from the surrounding detritus, polish it up and let it shine forth. We have the fullness of the truth and anything that is of the truth elsewhere can be found in the Church already, but we don’t always have it well articulated at any given moment.

        In fact, the mystery of male and female and how we interact and how that mystery allows us to bring fruition to the rest of creation as God commands runs thoughout all of creation and our very beings. While there are cultual things that are transient, there is much more that is enduring and must be recognized and celebrated as such.

        That is the point, this issue cannot be approached strictly from a moralistic/legalistic standpoint. Homosexuality is an ontological and spiritual disorder. It is not the only one–all sin is of that nature. While moral standards, like the Mosaic Law are necessary to convict us of sin (exactly why Jesus taught not to abandon the law but allow it to be fulfilled in Him, with Him. Such moral standards are not sufficient to heal sin. Only accessing the grace of God and submitting to His love in the repentance of sins is sufficient to begin the healing.

        We don’t need new studies, that is true, but neither should we reject them if they reveal something of the truth. We only need to reject them when the run counter to the truth.

        The trouble with many today is that they preach against moralism and nominalism, often rejecting the application of traditional morality in the process without really opening the door for repentance and healing because they also tend to deny the reality of sin. It is a type of reciprocal of Phariseeism and even more hypocritial. Such folk refuse to allow others to enter the kingdom, and don’t even give them the consolation and guide of traditional moral teaching and the Law.

        I fear for these folks. It is not the way of Christ which is “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

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    Kathy Erickson says:

    It troubles me that the argument that homosexuality is biologically defined and therefore is immutable, or even if it is immutable, somehow justifies casting aside 2000 years of Church Tradition regarding sexuality.

    If someone has diabetes, they were doubtless born with a biological predisposition to diabetes. Does that justify a diabetic eating all the sugar he wants? Of course not. The diabetic needs to practice ascetecism in the form of exercise, eating properly, and taking whatever medication is proper. If someone is attracted to members of their own sex, perhaps they were born with a predisposition to such attraction. Does that justify performing sexual activities with someone of the same sex as himself or herself? Of course not.

    Same sex attraction is a form of illness just as the Church teaches that all Sin is an illness infecting mankind. A person who has same sex attraction needs to avoid images, fantasies and do spiritual warfare. This idea that somehow it is unloving to deny people the possibility of sexual gratification outside of marriage is ridiculous.

    I am a single, heterosexual woman. I don’t get to have sex. I do get to have extra time for prayer, charitable works and loving others. The argument that if homosexuals are “born that way,” then they are entitled to form “families” in “marriage” is a construct only applicable in modern culture, not in the nature of the original creation, and not in the body of Christ.

    For us Christians, it’s not about our rights. There is no right to marriage, no right to have sex, no right even to family. We are called to theosis, not to gratifying our sexual desires. And calling someone a homophobe is simply a way to avoid dealing with the argument being made – demonize the messenger so you can avoid receiving the message.

    If someone shows up at the church door who is involved in a same sex “union,” then they are welcomed, loved and when they indicate an interest in becoming Orthodox, they need to be taught that union with God is the goal of the Orthodox way, and one cannot get there by preferring sexual gratification to God. Loving another human being is not the problem.

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    Isaac says:

    For the record, the way that Inga Leonova responded to Nicolas is the logical fallacy coined by C.S. Lewis as “bulverism.”

    The form of the Bulverism fallacy can be expressed as follows:

    You claim that A is true.
    Because of B, you personally desire that A should be true.
    Therefore, A is false.

    Specifics:

    You claim that the Orthodox Church has always held the view that any sexual expression outside heterosexual marriage is disordered and sinful.

    Because you are a homophobe, you personally desire the first premise to be true.

    Therefore, your first premise is false.

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    Ivan says:

    There are a great many “silent observers” in the group’s membership, who simply consider it important to know what’s being discussed.

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    Pravoslavac says:

    Ah, yes, homosexuality is “biologically determined” – i.e., they are “born this way” per Lady Gaga, the real deity of so many homosexuals today. Perhaps; I’m no scientist. As our knowledge of human life, and the key role of DNA in just about everything, continues to expand, it is clear that a great many tendencies have a hardwired biological basis. I have had a couple gay friends tell me that, back to childhood, they had no recollections of “normal” (different gender) sexual attraction, and I have no reason to think they are lying.

    So what? This hardly implies moral sanction. It’s very clear that a lot of bad human behavior – thievery, pyromania, pedophilia – is often hardwired too. Is is “ok” because the man who has been sexually attracted to 8 year olds for his whole life – so it must be somehow biologically just “there” – says he is “born this way”?

    Besides, we are contorting ourselves over a group, however loud and affluent they are, that constitutes 1.4% of the population, according to recent, very thorough CDC analysis. The Orthodox Church’s teachings on homosexuality have been pretty clear for two millennia – anyone who pretends otherwise is a liar and a deceiver, and we know, in the words of our Lord and Savior, who those people are working for.

    As for HTOC in BostIt is depressingly clear that the Orthodox Church in the USA does indeed have the Pink Mafia that the Dreher Mafia is so obsessed with (yes, I said “obsessed”: makes one wonder …). Anyone who has followed the excellent work of Pokrov.Org knows this. I have no evidence to suggest that the Orthodox are especially troubled by this, it’s everywhere among churches in the West generally, but one case is too many.

    As for OCA Truth and the aforementioned Dreher Mafia, I share with them the concern about Mr Stokoe’s motives given his, ahem, lifestyle (though outing him online, as they have done, is very ugly). Yet I would caution them about throwing stones in glass houses, per the cliche, as that Pink Mafia goes farther and wider than they seem to imagine. Unlike Dreher, et al, I will not name names, though they are known to anyone who knows the OCA well.

    Which cuts to the heart of this now sadly public matter. Dreher, et al, have been horribly played here. Rod walked into conflicts which go back decades, real inside-baseball OCA stuff, and seemed to understand little, if any, of the backgrounds of the dramatis personae. You got played, Rod, face it.

    The Pink Mafia exists, but it is hardly exclusively on the “other” side here, it’s everywhere and a genuine moral crisis. I don’t know how the OCA should solve this, but I do know things cannot continue as they are.on, where Fr. Arida and Inga come from, it’s a very “diverse” place in the post-modern definition. No more need be said.

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      Harry Coin says:

      We must no longer allow these two wholly different things to get muddled together.

      1. Having the background necessary to have rank/title leading to church decision making authority.

      2. Decent treatment no matter the nature of one’s struggles.

      We suffer destruction when our due responses to appeals for decency are ‘just understood’ by those with same gender struggles as if they were recognitions of superior holiness and ‘of course’ superior rank.

      To the extent will/choice is involved, choosing same gender sexual activity clearly disqualifies that person from holding Orthodox church rank/title. We can decide otherwise but intellectual integrity will force us to agree so doing is a new thing pretending without historical integrity to be ‘the same’ as what was handed down.

      Regarding that portion that is not a matter of choice but biological developments (science has yet to speak to this), the church rules already make clear those suffering from similar adversities (born blind, etc. etc) already have enough to be getting along with than adding the burdens of clergy life as well.

      To not accord a person decision making power, more properly understood as decision making responsibility, over others in the church is not the same thing as ‘being mean to them’. Nobody thinks it’s ‘being mean’ to a person born blind to not make them painting instructors. Why? To do so is ‘being mean’ to the students and generating the circumstances for failure all round.

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    Pravoslavac says:

    Whoops this got cut, not sure how:

    “As for HTOC in Boston, where Fr Arida and Inga come from, it’s a very ‘diverse’ place in the post-modern definition. No more need be said.”

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    Brian Delaney says:

    The “essay” was full of innuendo worthy of the late Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin instead of a real examination of the issue

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    Jason Lamoreaux says:

    As a Biblical Scholar and as a member of the Orthodox church, I am disturbed by the lack of humility found in the homophobic rhetoric found in the church. Yes, it’s homophobic to deny reality and eventually change the current false traditional doctrine of the church concerning homosexuality.

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      macedonia74 says:

      Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand

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        Toe Jam, Mississippi says:

        macedonia74,

        It’s nice to see some Scripture used in this discussion. You should be in sales.

        The “Biblical Scholar” [and what, pray tell, is the deal with those capital letters?] to whom you were replying needs to brush up on his bible. He must not be so “Brite” if he thinks the Orthodox Church’s doctrine concerning homosexuality is wrong.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Lots of moral judgments here: lack of humility, homophobic rhetoric, denial of reality and so forth all in service to the assertion that the traditional teaching about homosexuality is false. Do you have any idea why we “homophobes” see your reasoning as shallow?

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      William harrington says:

      I find it strange that Homosexuality was removed from the roles of medical and psychiatric conditions and somehow replaced with the new condition of homophobia, a condition which meets none of the conditions and displays none of the conditions of a phobia. I have never seen anybody reduced to an inability to take action through terror simply because a homosexual is in the vicinity. Nor have I seen any panic attacks from the same cause. The word is pure propaganda and I have reached the point where i quit listening to anyone who uses it.

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        Toe Jam, Mississippi says:

        William Harrington, the way you explain how so-called “homophobia” is not a phobia is quite accurate, not to mention humorous. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to use your explanation to ward off “homophobe-phobes” when I encounter them.

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      Jesse Cone says:

      Jason, you say,

      Yes, it’s homophobic to deny reality and eventually change the current false traditional doctrine of the church concerning homosexuality.

      I’m sorry but I don’t understand this sentence. Is it homophobic just to “deny reality”? As for the second half of the sentence, I’m just confused.

      Also, please understand that the reason people are shocked is not because of the arguments and actions that one finds on your side of the continuum, but simply that such a continuum of belief exists among Orthodox Christians. The vast majority have not seen that in the Orthodox Church, and so it is only reasonable for them to see you as apart from the Church. If you want to have sincere and productive dialog with people you might want to have graciousness for that reaction.

      You might also want to exorcize the word “homophobe” from your vocabulary.

      The homosexual arguments I have seen from your corner are not new to me — as I doubt they are to most on these kinds of forums. Still, I believe what I believe. I’ve also had the painful experience that this sort of dialog is worse than fruitless: it is destructive and exhausting. It is not something I seek out; especially online and with people I don’t know in person. Others who share my experience will be likely to save their energy for something that doesn’t seem to them to be an exercise in futility. These are just some things you have working against you from the get-go: lest you think resistance to even having dialog with the pro-homosexual crowd is homophobia.

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        Rob says:

        Part of the fruitlessness in this dialogue results from the fact that we all make assertions about the interior dispositions of people whom we’ve never met. This is a profoundly arrogant position to take, one which I strive to avoid. “Studies show … ” and “statistics reflect” do not inform us of the life of the person living next door to us. So, I inquire and probe, although even then, we are not privy to the past experiences of someone which may weigh heavily on their current disposition and attitude or behavior.

        Although it disturbs me to hear someone’s ideals simply discarded as bigotry, it’s also disturbing to read of the lives of men and women attempting to live as honestly and with as much integrity as they can being categorically labeled as “self-centered” and even “evil”.

        This path inevitably leads to the dehumanization and demonization of entire segments of our population, and it seems an ever easier thing to do in our modern culture and the ease and scope with which we communicate.

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          macedonia74 says:

          Rob –

          I’m not a big fan of the demonization of anyone, but then again when someone focuses on their passion as their number one personal identifier, creates a whole movement to sway popular belief to this fact, and then attempts to ram this lifestyle down my throat when I say I do not agree with it – I would categorize that as self-centered, when it begins to become part of the educational curriculum or the main focus of every single form of entertainment that my child will view, then it is even evil.

          Does this mean that a practicing homosexual who is a proponent of this self-centered and evil lifestyle is unable to do “good things” as well, absolutely not.

          No one, I would hope, is a proponent of violence against those who choose this lifestyle, and along those lines the answer isn’t to use equivocating language for equivocative language is also a form of violence. Violence against truth, violenece against the true dichotomy between right and wrong, good and evil

          As Orthodox Christians, we are called to protect the faith and truth and all that this entails – not to be just another mouth-piece to the mob that seeks to cloud over the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. This narrative we learn from universities, not from the the Church.

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      Toe Jam, Mississippi says:

      Professor Lamoreaux,

      In your last sentence you state “…it’s homophobic to deny reality and eventually change the current false traditional doctrine of the church concerning homosexuality.”

      Are you saying that YOU desire to see the Orthodox Church change its “current false tradition” [i.e., its stand against homosexual marriage]? If so, why do you do you call your desire “homophobic”? In turn are you claiming to be homophobic yourself? I’m confused, but then I’ve never thought myself to be a biblical scholar. I’m just one of the common folk, living out on the farm.

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    Isaac says:

    Pravoslavac,

    And I have friends who dabbled in same sex relationships when they were younger, but have chosen to have a family and heterosexual relationship now that they are older (which is something else the CDC discovered to be common). These friends would resent being told by Leonova that they were in denial about their biologically determined orientation when they have experienced their varied attractions as something they do have a choice about. In other words, human sexuality is all over the map when it comes to attractions, but Leonova’s outdated view is held to because she is making the “they can’t help it so we should let them have sexual relationships never sanctioned by the church before” argument. Meanwhile, as you point out, the Church never seemed to care much about how these attractions come about (genetic, womb conditions, early sexual trauma, relationship to opposite sex parent, political leanings, prison, and so on) since every Orthodox Christian is called to celibacy or a sexual relationship withing a marriage to a person of the opposite sex. My biological orientation is to have multiple female partners, but you don’t see Leonova clamoring for a reassessment of the Church’s view on polygamy.

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      Pravoslavac says:

      Isaac: Lot I could say, but I’ll confine it to this. Sexual sins, any kind, are between the sinner and God. Building an identity, a “lifestyle”, based on those sins, is something altogether different, and far more sinful. In my wolfish days I had many lovers – female – but I knew it was wrong, and I certainly never sought the Church’s sanction for my sins; on the contrary. The Church’s teaching on that is admirably clear, and sinful me, even I never though the Church should be more “accepting” of my “lifestyle” on that issue.

      It is important to always bear in mind that while homosexuality has been with us since day one, the idea of a “lifestyle” based on it is entirely modern, going back only a hundred years or so – Oscar Wilde and friends. This is a very modern and very Western invention. Going to the Middle East today one finds a lot of homosexual acts – a shocking amount – but, like the ancient Greeks, this is a part-time thing that is in no way in contradiction to being a husband and father. They literally have no idea what the “gay lifestyle” is and, when they figure out what we are talking about, they go from disbelief to homicidal thoughts in a matter of seconds. Even in Italy, the word for gay is … “gay” … because they literally have no word for it.

      The “gay movement” is a symptom of a very diseased society around us that would have been literally unthinkable until very recently. Even 20 years ago in the USA, “gay marriage” was so out of bounds as to be unmentionable among normal people; now you render yourself invisible – or worse – in polite society by opposing such an “obvious and natural” thing.

      Orthodox who are despairing about this – and all believers should be – should take note that in Russia the Church has taken a deep and authentic stand resisting any of the “gay movement” efforts (they think this a Western import and Satanic: it is) to infect their country. Pray the succeed. Orthodox should take notes. Cleaning out the Church would be a good place to start.

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    Isaac2 says:

    Mr Lamoreaux,

    I have been homosexual for as long as I can remember, and lived as an openly gay man for a substantial part of my adult life, being both sexually and politically active. When I joined the Orthodox Church some years ago, I repented of all that and I now live according to the traditional teaching. I’ve read a good deal of the Biblical Scholarship on this issue over the years, both before and after my conversion, and I have yet to discover any reason to change my mind. If you must dissent from the traditional teaching, at least have the good manners to refrain from cheap rhetoric about ‘lack of humility’ on the part of people whose support I value.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Here is something I just received from a man who underwent sex-change surgery to a woman and then changed back. He wrote:

      Keep up the pressure and great work.

      Then he directed me to these two sites. Read them. Very eye opening: http://www.tradingmysorrows.com and http://www.sexchangeinfo.com. The author of the website credits a conversion to Christ for the healing he was seeking through sex-change surgery.

      Addendum: I thought Walt, the man who sent me the note, wanted to remain anonymous. He sent me another note listing his website: http://www.truetranschristians.org/. Walt’s story is compelling and you can read it here.

  16. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Isaac says:

    I can’t imagine struggling for years with a passion only to be told by people in your own tradition that you no longer need to struggle with it because it has been removed from the list of sins.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      There is another dimension to it as well. I refuse to categorize people within the homosexual/heterosexual matrix promulgated by the homosexual lobby. People are more than their passions. Yet increasingly some Orthodox Christians, in adopting the language (and thus the conceptual framework) of the homosexual movement, demand that I first see every person as gay or straight. Then, in the effort to prove my tolerance, compassion, humility or whatever the virtue du jour happens to be, they expect me to pretend that I am not reacting to the categorization that they insist I make! Sorry folks. This has the odor of ideological reeducation to it. I just don’t buy it.

      Moral traditionalists like myself probably have more authentic encounters with homosexuals because we can distinguish between the behavior and the person. Traditionalists don’t see the behavior first, but the person. We think homosexual attraction is a passion, not a defining constituent of personhood. Moral liberals however, because they construe the object of sexual attraction as a defining constituent, can’t possibly see the person apart from his sexual orientation. And I think this hinders authentic encounter with the other person especially if that person is gay.

      If I am talking to a homosexual activist (sometimes they seek me out to challenge me), we don’t get very far. If I am talking to a man struggling with homosexual passion (which is really the way I look at it), even if he is active, we actually can have some meaningful interaction as long as the boundaries are clear. And most times they are because the homosexual is still first a man. He gets it.

      So this idea that we hear from the moralistic Christian wing, that any disapproval of homosexual behavior is hateful, uncaring, insensitive or whatever the vice du jour happens to be, is nonsense. It’s a way to coerce moral traditionalists like myself into a way of thinking that violates the tradition I’ve been handed. Sorry folks. There’s a lot of wisdom in that tradition, and for the homosexual it is also the way to healing.

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        Isaac2 says:

        Thank you for that Father, that is a most helpful clarification, which I hadn’t considered before. It resonates with the intuition I had during the actively gay part of my life, that being gay wasn’t my identity, but something incidental, like a pastime or a hobby.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          That’s what I tell people who come to me struggling with the passion. I tell them there is really no such thing as a homosexual, if what we mean by the term is that a person is defined solely in terms of his passion. Instead, he is a person created by God and the struggle with the passion is his cross.

          I understand that the person did not choose this cross. Often it emerges from a difficult past. Yet none of us really choose our crosses but because Christ carried his cross, it nevertheless makes carrying our cross meaningful. And, because through the cross joy comes into the world, so too can we experience that joy that flows from the throne room of the Father that Christ, through his death, opens to us when we carry ours. And our death is dying to our passions. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3).

          I’ve seen too that healing can occur. Often it is slow, it requires the counsel of someone who really understands the pathology, but the power of the passions do indeed abate when fought properly. It’s really a joy to see the self-confidence that arises from a deeper grounding of the person in Christ (the closer we come to Christ the more we become ourselves). You can see the person grow in self-awareness and strength.

          The older I get and the more experience I gain, I see that the only true therapy is what the Fathers taught about the human person. I’m not a therapist so I don’t do therapy, but I pray with and for people who are struggling with this passion. And I see victory, even if that victory at times is only avoiding despair and recovering hope. But hope fosters strength too.

          I know too that many parents and grandparents face this issue in their own families. Sometimes though you just have to be patient. If a child or grandchild has chosen the homosexual lifestyle, the emptiness and hollowness of that life will become apparent soon enough. When it does, the thoughts of change begin to emerge. God is merciful, but his mercy is always in service to the recovery of the knowledge of Him. Life has to hit us on the head sometimes to makes us come to our senses.

          And, if there are men and women who don’t shy from this truth, then the person seeking recovery actually has a chance to find God and himself again. If not, then the darkness on the inside gets darker and the person slips into despair. That’s what the false moralists who seek to soften the prohibitions against sinful behavior don’t understand. It is not compassionate to label sin as righteousness. They rob people of hope.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    The push to overhaul the tradition is more satanic than the sin itself. If you don’t believe any longer, go somewhere else.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      That’s the problem thought Michael. They’ve destroyed ECUSA (below is a “liturgy” at an ECUSA church in Calif) but it’s not good enough for them. Now they want to take over Orthodoxy. That’s why I still think it’s a fight worth having over in the Anglican Communion (although the easy way out for Traditionalists would be to go ahead and join Orthodoxy). Still, fight we must.

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    Dave O'Neal says:

    My name is Dave O’Neal, and I’m one of the co-administrators of the Facebook “Listening” group, along with Juli Tarsney and Inga Leonova. I’d like to make just a few points corrective to the content of this article. If you read them, please read them all.

    The Listening group was begun in response to His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah’s letter to the Army Chaplains’ Board decrying the repeal of “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell.” Apart from our disagreement with the letter, there were several factual errors in it, and these were addressed in open letters written by a number of us in response. Some of these responses can be found in the “Documents” section of the Listening group. From that beginning, the group grew very quickly into a forum for discussion of homosexuality in the Orthodox Church. Participants exhibited a variety of opinions about how homosexuality relates to our Christian faith. As anyone would expect, the group self-selected for those who look in one way or another for gay acceptance in the Church. Ideas of what sort of acceptance that might be varied among members and led to some interesting discussion, but the thing that united the participants was a belief that the dialogue about homosexuality was possible, and even a worthy thing before God. I suspect that among the many non-participating observers in the group, there are those who consider the dialogue impossible, but who understand that dialogue between themselves and those of us who believe in the worthiness of the dialogue would be, sadly, futile. The small handful of people who’ve come into the group insisting that the dialogue-can’t-happen view be accepted as just one other point of view in the discussion, have of course been frustrated.

    The group is an “open” Facebook group, which means anyone can always read anything posted on it, though only members of the group can post. We have until recently accepted everyone who asked to join. A member can suggest that one of his or her Facebook friends join–so anyone who was brought into the group “involuntarily” was brought in by one of their Facebook friends, and not by a stranger. Apart from that, no one has been added to the group who didn’t ask to be let in, and one can very easily remove oneself from membership at any time. It has been very rare for a person to get kicked out of the group for inappropriate behavior. The main example I can think of relates to a man who wasn’t actually kicked out, but left of his own accord when we asked him to stop speaking disrespectfully of Metropolitan Jonah, and he chose to leave rather than comply. So ironically, that “banning” happened in connection with the defense of His Beatitude. As for the group being a cadre of anti-Jonah partisans: It’s true most members likely have disagreements with him, and such a major disagreement was the impetus for the group to start with, but we have intentionally avoided (and have deleted) posts related to the current episcopal crisis other than what relate to the topic of the group. I invite anyone to come to the group and read the posts, especially to read the documents section. It is, as I noted, an open group, and you can read everything there without associating yourself with it in any way. A read through will demonstrate that His Beatitude is barely mentioned.

    “We” (Orthodox Christians supportive of and participating in the kinds of dialogue we have in the Listening group) and “you” (Orthodox Christians opposed to this dialogue), have, sadly, become enemies. It seems to me that dialogue between us is not possible right now. This should be a source of grief rather than anger. It is for me. In this situation I want to try to take very seriously our Lord’s admonition to pray for our enemies. That simple teaching contains one of the great, inescapable truths of the Gospels. I think it’s the best thing we can do, and it’s a very good thing. I very sincerely ask you—readers of this site—to pray for us. And I sincerely offer my prayers on your behalf as well. May God bless us all, grant us all a spirit of repentance, and lead us all to Truth.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      What is there to “dialogue” about? That’s never made clear. Fr. Andrew (note #19 below) is correct, it is disingenuous to frame your response as if the only moral issue in play is that the traditionalists (“you”) have leveled criticism toward the liberals (“we”).

      Pardon my bluntness, but your argument has the odor of sanctimonious posturing. The language confirms it. “This should be a source of grief rather than anger,” or “In this situation I want to try to take very seriously our Lord’s admonition to pray for our enemies,” for example. You imply that we should join together in feigned concern over a division that you have created. No thanks.

      In reality the divisions are clear: One group approaches the prohibitions against homosexual behavior as an open question and the other regards it as closed. And no, the traditionalists don’t see the liberals as “enemies” but as flat out wrong. There’s a world of difference between the two and any prattle about “loving your enemies” blurs this critical distinction. Frankly, using the injunction to “love your enemies” to justify your notion of dialogue abuses the moral vocabulary. Any Christian who has faced the task of forgiving a real enemy knows this.

      Do you want real dialogue? Then put off the emotional subtext and elevate your sentiments to the level of clear reason. Lay out your arguments. Defend them. If you disagree with Met. Jonah’s response to the DADT policy or towards others as you alluded, then you have to show why you disagree. You are not speaking to Oprah’s audience here.

      On the other hand, if your ideas are not developed enough to state clearly, if sentiments are all you can offer, then you should not be handling these issues at all. There’s already enough confusion in the culture about morality. We don’t need Orthodox voices adding to the ignorance.

      +Jonah and other traditionalists are often criticized for engaging the culture, but it is indisputable that their positions do not violate the moral tradition. Only the liberals insist on a dialogue that presumes a priori that the tradition needs retooling. Who’s really dragging the culture war into the Church here?

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Dave,
      The most inescapable truth of the Gospel: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” The only ‘dialog’ possible is to discover in community and with a spiritual father/mother the depth of my own depravity and work on my salvation with fear and trembling. Any equivocation about the fact that my desires and my own will lead down the path of destruction is simply the tempters getting the better of me.

      One cannot be in communion with God as long as one identifies oneself with the passions and desires. Those passions and desires do not lead to salvation because they are all fallen. As Romans 1 clearly points out, indulging them is a from of idolatry.

      Those who persist in idolatry cannot be and are not a part of the Church.

      Our enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil. Those who sink into the pit of their own passions are under the sway of all three (Lord have mercy, I know). Those who persist in attempting to force the life of the pit on the Church have taken up the task of the devil himself.

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      Dialogue, Dave?

      Suppose Eve had simply told the Serpent, “Shut your stupid mouth. The Lord has already decided this question.”

      I suspect the Serpent would have answered, “It seems to me that dialogue between us is not possible right now. This should be a source of grief rather than anger. It is for me.”

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    It is somewhat disingenuous to frame this as an opposition between those who believe dialogue is “possible” and those who don’t. Dialogue is always possible, but what is at odds here is really a viewpoint which is in alignment with the unchanging moral teachings of the Orthodox Church—which are not arbitrary precepts, but are rather consistent with God’s design for creation—and a viewpoint which is against those teachings.

    That can, of course, be discussed ’til we’re all blue in the face.

    But I think that “dialogue” here is being defined not as discussion but rather as an admission from those who are following the Church’s teachings that not doing so is somehow still in accordance with the Church, that opposing the Church’s morality is somehow in keeping with it. But the truth is that apostasy and Orthodoxy are by their very nature not the same thing. It is one thing to fail morally. We all do that. It is another thing to set up moral failure and even defiance as a new morality. Heretics and apostates do that.

    Liturgics change. Canonical disciplines change. But dogma does not change, and morality does not change.

    Human nature has been distorted and disrupted by the Fall. But that does not mean that we as Orthodox Christians accept the “new normal” and declare that the wound is now health. We are not living in the world as God created it. We are living in the world—and with human nature—as man has distorted it. That is the clear teaching of the Scriptures and the Fathers.

    If “dialogue” means moral parity, then of course you won’t be getting it, “for what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). The proper dialogue here is one of repentance. All of humanity is called to repent for its various sins. What I see here is a refusal to repent. The real division is not between those who want “dialogue” and those who don’t, but between those who say that repentance is called for and those who refuse to call for it.

    Those who reject the Church’s teachings are of course free to do so. They are still loved by God and by His Body, the Church, which desires their salvation and to commune with them. But they are not Orthodox Christians, and communion is not possible without repentance.

    We are all sinners, and Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. But we cannot make the power of the death and resurrection of Christ ours while we deliberately disobey His commandments, because in doing so, we prove that we do not love Him.

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      billybagbom says:

      “Wisdom”! That is one the things that led me to the Orthodox Church, and that is what I hear in your words. Thank you, Father. And, may I add, “Let us attend!”

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    Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Nicholas Chancy: “… it just seemed too far-fetched to me that Metropolitan Jonah’s stridency on same-sex marriage could have been a major factor in bringing on this crisis. After all, could Metropolitan Jonah’s conventional Orthodox moral position on such a subject really provoke such animosity among Orthodox Christians?

    I assumed that this was clearly impossible, and that there had to be other, more important factors at work. I held that opinion until the day I crossed paths with Inga Leonova on Facebook.”

    Unbelievable. The conclusion that I’m drawing from this post is that a militant faction of pro-homosexual Orthodox members, aided and abetted by all the bishops in Synod, have forced the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah. Have I understood this correctly?

    Has he committed any canonical infractions? If so, then I could possibly understand why he was requested to resign. But if he resigned because he refused to mute his voice affirming Orthodox Church Tradition that same-sex behavior is sin, and therefore he was politically ousted by a militant pro-homosexual faction enabled by cowardly bishops, then this is a call to arms for all orthodox Orthodox.

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    Perry Lee says:

    This discussion seems to have had some result. I have tried to look at the “Listening” facebook page twice this morning, and both times I have been informed that the page “is not available at this time.” Either they have taken it down or — more likely — have made it a private group.

    Thank you all for bringing this cabal to light. As someone who left the Episcopal church in the ’80s, I have been following that ecclesiastical train wreck for over thirty years. I was chrismated into Orthodoxy fifteen years ago, and up to now my parish priest has told me that the homosexualist advocates Orthodoxy have been small and ineffectual. These articles should help to change his mind.

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    As a former Episcopalian, I was interested in the assessment, “Once a church adopts the homosexual agenda, people leave.”

    So does Jesus.

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      Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon: “I was interested in the assessment, “Once a church adopts the homosexual agenda, people leave.”

      Question: Was Metropolitan Jonah’s refusal to adopt the homosexual agenda an instrumental factor in his resignation?

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      Toe Jam, Mississippi says:

      Amen, Fr. Patrick, and again I say amen! (BTW, I suspect the snow is finally starting to melt there in Chicago. Enjoy the summer.)

  23. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Italo-Byzantine says:

    Father Arida’s … essential point is summarized in the first sentence of the quotation below (emphasis added): Given our Church’s biblical, patristic, liturgical and canonical sources one eventually detects that there is no universally consistent and accepted teaching on marriage as to its origin, purpose and goal.

    Fr. Arida’s statement is ahistorical, and requires one to believe that in the past two thousand years the Church has not developed a consistent theological understanding of one of the seven sacraments.

    The statement is understandable as a rhetorical strategy: one cannot get the Church to endorse same-sex marriage without first discrediting the Church’s entire past teaching on marriage. Yet it lies on a false premise.

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    mplstim says:

    One thing to remember is that the term “homosexuality,” isn’t as “scientific,” perhaps, as many might assume.It was sort of constructed little more than 120 years ago and is, if you think about it, oxymoronic: “sex” itself implies and requires both genders; two men doing stuff for pleasure genitally are not having “sexual intercourse.” That takes a man and woman, by definition.
    This isn’t “only” semantics.
    It informs the way most of human society has viewed such stuff, and still does; including in the Arab and Muslim world, where male-on-male “love” is seen as not an innate natural thing opposite to heterosexuality, but a way to have fun, while marriage and heterosexual relations are about family and children.
    I think as we get past the contemporary cultural fad since the 1960s which tries to present “homosexuality,” as another natural alternative to heterosexuality, we will develop (or recover) the more practical view that the drive to sate our lusts is deep, and the sexual drive is deeper than just about any other and is easily broken and bent, especially among males.
    Although it seems clear some are born with a bent to same-sex attractions, it likely is much less frequent than it popularly thought: not even close to the absurd claim of 10 percent, and something probably south of 1 percent. For some others, mostly males, early experience of sexual activity seems to “type”one to certain things,w hatever they are; and if the first things are same-sex things, it often remains in the man’s life as a way of acting out.
    And we are all more malleable and prone to adjustment, in matters sexual, than the contemporary template in the West seems to say: if you have lots of time and money, you are going to end up trying many things that you probably shouldn’t and some might become bad habits. (See Jann Wenner.)
    The church is challenged by the new question raised these days: is marriage “only ” for one man, one woman?
    Nobody ever really raised it before.
    The answers aren’t always easy, especially in a culture steeped in sexual freedom and divorce, even among Christians.
    The tough fact is, chastity always has been the rule for Christians, meaning pretty much keep it in your pants unless you are married and then you have to keep it in your pants much of the time, too. And celibacy – no marriage, no sex – was a big rule for early Christians; partly, I’m sure, because of the practical problems of trying to live in a licentious age and society.
    One big problem for the church in judging “homosexual” relationships is assuming one knows what goes on behind bedroom walls; hetero couples get all sorts of grace and leeway, if unmarried, in “the church.” It would probably be helpful to extend similar grace to same-sex partners to some extent, while continuing to teach what the church has always taught about how to handle one’s private parts.
    I’m curious why more Orthodox with same-sex leanings, or whatever we call it, and ways of living faithfully in the church are not wading in, and weighing in, on this Jonah deal……

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    craig says:

    The United Church of Christ has embraced homosexuality. The Church of Christ has not. The are two different denominations.

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    Stephan says:

    I imagine what I’m about to say will sound like it’s coming from the “tin foil hat” ether, but I think it needs to be said. Looking carefully into just who Inga and her fellow travels are would be interesting. Looking over some of her writings, I have to wonder if this is someone who has toyed with “alternative spiritual traditions.” What she says in places regarding the nature of human sexuality makes me wonder if she hasn’t been involved with tantrism or Wicca — or, at the very least, read people like Star Hawk or Gerald Gardner. Since the Babylonians and Gnostics, sexual perversion has been viewed as a vehicle to spiritual enlightenment, of opening up doorways to a higher spiritual initiation. What better way to undermine the OCA than by infiltrating it with a pro-homosexual agenda that a group of Trojan Horse Gnostics can leverage to their advantage? The Catholics were infiltrated by Christian Kabbalism and Crowley’s OTO. Why would the Orthodox be invulnerable to similar attacks? My suspicions here are based in part on past experiences in various forums where someone will defend a position — such as gay marriage — only to eventually expose himself or herself as a New Ager or dabbler in Magick. Consequently, there is little that can be done to persuade them of their errors since they are spiritually invested in what they are doing and not simply ideologically driven.

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    billybagbom says:

    When I became Orthodox about 10 years ago, I assumed that, since the Eastern Orthodox have apostolic succession and hierarchy, there was a “there” there — someplace where the buck stopped, and somebody could speak authoritatively about the content and meaning of the Christian faith. I am sorely disappointed. What I hear now is a cacophony of discordant voices, full of mutual accusation and leaving the average lay-person with the Bible and maybe the canons and the Church Fathers and “good luck to you” (not essentially different from Protestantism, except more inclusive of traditional authoritative voices– except that of the Pope and the bishops united to him). We don’t know what we believe, or who to trust — except that we don’t trust the Pope or anyone in union with him. Well, I am just about finished with all this nonsense. The bathwater’s about to be thrown out; I just hope I don’t throw the baby out with it.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Bill, there is a “there” there, but that doesn’t mean the garden is always blooming. As for trust, in the end your trust is always in Christ, and sometimes you have to trust that in the end His hand will somehow clean up the mess, usually through the courage of others. That’s what Saints do a lot of times. Sometimes their battles were with people within the Church — St. John Chrysostom for example.

      So yes, it is loud, fractious, even kind of ugly sometimes. But here’s what the Orthodox don’t do. We don’t split off and start our own Churches.

      So for now you trust in Christ, and people who deserve your trust. They are there. This will pass soon enough.

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        Catherine says:

        Fr. Hans,

        Have you any recommendation for how an Orthodox Christian might manifest courage in a situation such as that presented in the blog above? Met. Jonah has seemingly demonstrated courage, but in the moment, it appears that his courage as he stands alone is not enough. Should others then courageously stand alongside him? If so, what might this look like for clergy and for laity?

        If we should not stand alongside Met. Jonah the person so as to avoid factionalism in our Church or for some other reason, then should we otherwise visibly stand for the foundational moral truths of our Church that Met. Jonah has been articulating at this time when these truths seem to be under assualt even from within the Church? If so, what might this look like for clergy and laity?

        Regarding the “this” that will pass soon enough: are you referring to the current discord and unrest surrounding the situation articulated in the blog above, or the modernist spirit that underpins the discord, or some other possibility?

        It seems to me that while the upheaval of this present moment will certainly pass (if for no reason other than that our human bodies and souls grow weary and need rest), the modernist spirit which has lead to it might well be here to stay if we do not actively expunge it from our Church.

        If you have thoughts to share in this regard, I would be grateful for them.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Catherine,

          I have seen these kinds of conflicts before in the Church and there is always a period of deep confusion about facts, which we are seeing now. It’s correct that the truth will win out, but sometimes it takes a very long time for that to happen.

          In the meantime a person has to be willing to take the hits that speaking the truth sometimes (often actually) imposes. In the case of Met. Jonah, it is clear that he speaks the truth with depth and coherence because he understands the dominant culture and how people think. He speaking has what I call a prophetic dimension and this gift (and it is a gift) only comes by conquering sin and temptation in one’s interior life.

          He’s a good man but inexperienced in this sense: he only now is learning that speaking in this way will marshal anger against him. He implicitly challenges those who have a basement full of Orthodox bromides but lack the prescience to speak within that prophetic dimension and thus their words, while coherent, systematic, even true in their own way, never rise above the proposition. That’s entirely appropriate in a classroom of course, but it is not preaching. And Met. Jonah preaches.

          So what do we do? Recognize that not everything that calls itself Orthodox is Orthodox, and trust that Christ will lead us in all things, which He will. Live your one life in Truth, and then God guides you and protects you.

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            Catherine says:

            Thank you, Father, for your response.

            Lacking the experience and knowledge to grasp the situation at hand, it is helpful for me to hear from someone who is better girded.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Catherine, having been in a similar situation as to what is occuring in the OCA, I say that you should not allow any untruth to be spoken about anyone, if someone makes a derogatory remark concering anyone else, challenge them politely and with grace to give evidence of the remark and ask what the pont of their statement is. Don’t engage in making derogatory remarks about anyone else (even if it seems deserved). If you slip, go to confession. If you hold any in your heart, go to confession.

          Demand that the truth be spoken and demand of yourself both actions and words that acord with the truth. Forgive readily and speedily any hurt received from anyone, no matter how slight. Pray for Christ’s mercy to be in every heart.

          Too often when facts are sought they are sought not for the sake of the truth, but to use as a weapon against some else. That perpetuates
          the scapegoating spirit. It is hard, quite hard. Only through constant vigilence and the cultivation of a merciful heart can it be achieved.

          Blame no one, but seek the truth. Do not countenance or acquiese in any statement or behavior you know to be a lie. Don’t defend sin.

          BTW, the moderist spirit is not purged from the Church, it is not in the Church. It is in the hearts of each of us. The Church does not need to be purified, only me.

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            Catherine says:

            Michael,

            I appreciate your response as well, especially given that you speak from experience. Many of your exhortations hit the mark and are what I needed to hear.

            Your words regarding the Church are likewise a good reminder and bring to mind a helpful word I once received from Mother Gabriella at the Holy Dormition Monastery in Michigan: she said that no evil can graft itself onto the living vine that is Christ’s Church–though a false branch may seem to have life for a time, it will ultimately whither and fall away.

            Thank you for your thoughts.

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    Tim Warner says:

    I spent three years at Fr Jonah’ s monastery when I was pursuing orthodox monastic life.I am homosexual.I can assure you that FR Jonah is NOT
    homophobic.I had to laugh reading the criticism of him. Strident pro-gay agenda folks use the Big Club of “homophobia” to bash those who disagree with their illogical political position as it attempts to insert itself not only into our culture but into the Church.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] recent disturbances in OCA. Browsing through American Orthodox sites I found out this article – Same-Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah. To tell the truth I was shocked after reading it. Please tell me is the information presented in [...]

  2. [...] is no different than their Episcopalian counterparts. Consider this “dialogue” I had recently with one of the group’s [...]

  3. [...] their thinking is no different than their Episcopalian counterparts. Consider this “dialogue” I had recently with one of the group’s [...]

  4. [...] journalists, I would also recommend the following essay, “Same Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah,” published by Father Johannes Jacobse at the doctrinally-conservative American Orthodox [...]

  5. [...] journalists, I would also recommend the following essay, “Same Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah,” published by Father Johannes Jacobse at the doctrinally-conservative American Orthodox [...]

  6. [...] journalists, I would also recommend the following essay, “Same Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah,” published by Father Johannes Jacobse at the doctrinally-conservative American Orthodox [...]

  7. [...] Same-Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah Fr. Johannes Jacobse, American Orthodox Institute [...]

  8. [...] Same-Sex Marriage and the Revolt Against Metropolitan Jonah Fr. Johannes Jacobse, American Orthodox Institute Blog There is a movement within the Orthodox Church in America to mainstream homosexuality. There are priests, bishops, and academics that are sympathetic to this movement. Some are providing quiet assistance. [...]

  9. [...] perhaps Fr. Hans Jacobse, who is also quoted in the Tribune story, has touched on it with his post here at the AOI Observer. Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply. Name [...]

  10. [...] without the aid or assisting or the church. He did submit that teaching to the Holy Writ however. You could also pretend that the EC fathers allowed or would allow for homosexual marriage or any oth…. In other words having an 'infallible' ecclesiastical authority does not automatically insulate or [...]

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