St. Vladimir’s Seminary Reacts to Amsterdam Conference, OCA Bishops Remain Silent

Orthodox priests who undermine the tradition undermine the Church

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

The meeting in Amsterdam held several months ago to discuss Orthodoxy and sexuality raised serious questions, some of which have been answered. Thankfully, several attendees withdrew their support of the conference once the questions were raised. Also contributing to their withdrawal was the publication of an essay on the Public Orthodoxy Blog by Peter J. (Giacomo) SanFilippo that argued that a renowned theologian of the Russian Orthodox Church was a sodomite (read the refutation here). The conference was poorly conceived and should have never been held.

One troubling question raised was that many of the attendees cited their affiliation with St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS), presumably to give the conference a patina of authority it obviously did not have. This fact was not lost on SVS leadership, including the President and the Board of Trustees. Does the seminary want to be associated with a group that by all appearances considers the moral tradition up for grabs, subject to the deconstruction of Orthodox culture of the kind we see in the SanFilippo essay? Clearly not it turns out.

Several weeks ago St. Vladimir’s Seminary leadership, evidently troubled by the promiscuous use of the seminary’s name and reputation, reaffirmed its fidelity to Orthodox tradition. They wrote:

At their meeting on July 24, 2017, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of St. Vladimir’s Seminary affirmed that the Seminary, in its teaching of theology on the issues of marriage and human sexuality, is guided by the document titled, “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,” originally issued by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in 1992.

Additionally, during their Semi-Annual meeting on May 19, 2017, the full Board of the Seminary unanimously adopted another statement titled, “Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Regarding Marriage,” which was also adopted by the Holy Synod in June 2016. The first paragraph of that document states that “The Orthodox Church in America teaches and maintains as a sincerely held religious belief that God has established marriage as a lifelong, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, and that all intimate sexual activity outside the marriage relationship, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise, is immoral, and therefore sin,” and then goes on to cite several scriptural passages upholding that stated belief.

“These two statements, originally issued and adopted by the Holy Synod, provide the public with a clear articulation of the fundamental Orthodox Christian teaching regarding marriage and human sexuality, as well as a recognizable moral guideline,” said Archpriest Chad Hatfield, president of the Seminary.

“And our Board’s recent actions regarding them assure that theological education at our school remains in alignment with the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church,” he continued.

“Moreover,” Fr. Chad concluded, “our Board’s consistent adherence to the Holy Synod’s statements regarding marriage and human sexuality serves as a legal bulwark for the Seminary in matters of religious liberty.”

This is a strong clarification of what might otherwise have resulted in corrosive confusion. Culture arises from faith; religion is the ground of culture. What one believes is how one lives. Cultural deconstruction begins when faith erodes because the weakening of religious faith weakens the foundations of culture. As the erosion increases, cultural forms grow feeble as the traditions that once informed and upheld them fade from consciousness and eventually from memory. Oftentimes this process is aided and abetted through direct attacks on the core teachings that make up the traditions that in turn shape and give content to the cultural forms.

Orthodox culture arises from the Orthodox faith, the teachings that direct us how to live our lives that have been forged in centuries of a human experience guided by men of deep faith and a profound understanding of human nature and the workings of God. They are our teachers. They include the Fathers, Saints, Martyrs, the pantheon of exemplars — a great cloud of witnesses — whom we revere and honor but should also understand and follow.

SanFilippo’s essay is a clumsy but dangerous broadside against Orthodox tradition. Implicitly imputing the sin of sodomy to a preeminent Russian Orthodox theologian weakens the prohibition against sodomy among the Orthodox faithful if his broadside is believed. Change the tradition and eventually you change the culture which is precisely what SanFilippo aims to do. His essay is deadly serious because the sin of sodomy is deadly serious. St. John Chrysostom teaches that sodomy is worse than murder because sodomy kills the soul.

It is not yet clear if the folks at Public Orthodoxy are aggressive deconstructionists of Orthodox culture like SanFilippo. They have not yet clarified why they even published such a sloppy essay (polemics disguised as scholarship) and have yet to comment on the refutation. The most we can conclude at this point is that Public Orthodoxy cannot be considered a serious enterprise.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary is to be commended for their clarification. They understand the cultural implications of the conference and refuse to let the authority of the institution be used in ways that undermine its mission. This is leadership.

Left unanswered however is where the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) stand on this misuse of ecclesiastical authority. OCA Chancellor Fr. John Jillions participated in the conference and listed SVS seminary as his affiliation where he serves as an adjunct professor, but clearly his position in the OCA bureaucracy is of greater importance. Does he agree with the implicit presupposition of the conference that Orthodox teachings regarding sexuality are malleable? Does he hold to the soft deconstruction of Orthodox culture that Public Orthodoxy’s silence on the SanFilippo essay implicitly advocates?

Moreover, why are the OCA Bishops silent about some of its priests who openly advocate for the normalization of homosexual activity? Why aren’t those priests reprimanded? Fr. Robert Arida is the most notorious because of his essay written several years back that advocated a retooling of the tradition similar to SanFilippo. It’s disingenuous for Fr. Arida and his cohorts to surreptitiously deconstruct Orthodox culture when they could easily join the Episcopal Church since it already believes and practices what they want the Orthodox Church to become.

The OCA Bishops need to clean house. They need to take their place on the shoulders of the courageous men who shaped Orthodox teaching and forged Orthodox culture. All it takes is a modicum of courage punctuated with manly virtue. The SVS leadership provides an example.

Comments

  1. Richard Kendall :

    Fr. Chad Hatfield is a stellar leader of St. Vladimir Seminary. I respect him greatly. I am grateful that the Seminary has upheld traditional Orthodox positions on these matters.

  2. This is why all statements that come from our Bishops need to be well thought out and relevant to the entire situation not just parroting statements found on an progressive nonprofit website.

  3. “If any cleric or teacher in the Orthodox Christian Church advocates for these corrupt ideas, they have betrayed the Orthodox Faith. In their confusion they lead the faithful astray. They are fighting against the laws of God and nature. They are supporting rebellion inside the Church and society. They are not to be trusted. Their revolt against nature is ultimately a revolt against God.” — Fr. Ioannes Apiarius

    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2017/08/the-abnormal-cannot-dictate-whats-normal/

  4. Chris Banescu :

    re: “Moreover, why are the OCA Bishops silent about some of its priests who openly advocate for the normalization of homosexual activity? Why aren’t those priests reprimanded? Fr. Robert Arida is the most notorious because of his essay written several years back that advocated a retooling of the tradition similar to SanFilippo. It’s disingenuous for Fr. Arida and his cohorts to surreptitiously deconstruct Orthodox culture when they could easily join the Episcopal Church since it already believes and practices what they want the Orthodox Church to become.”

    Dear Bishops,

    The duty of true and faithful shepherds is to preserve and defend the Christian faith. “We are to defend Christianity itself–the faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the Creeds, expounded by the Fathers.” wrote C.S. Lewis. We cannot add or subtract from the teachings of Christianity based on individual opinions regarding God or man or other timeless tenets of the faith that we may consider difficult or objectionable.

    There are certain lines that Christians, especially priests and Christian leaders, cannot cross and still remain a Christian. In his book, God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis cautioned that clear boundaries of Christian doctrines must be established and maintained by all who preach Christianity. If such limits are forsaken by pastors, the only honorable solution is for them to change their professions.

    “But I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priest think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your own minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession.” ~ C.S. Lewis

  5. Hans, my brother. You and I both knew Peter in Seminary. He was a deeply troubled man, driven by a narcissistic legalism. I had heard he drove off the cliff in his personal life, it doesn’t surprise me at all that he would still be causing problems. Peter, if you read this, try to see my comment as constructive. Its time to back up and give some thoughtful consideration to Christian Charity.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Craig, yes, I remember. I didn’t know him well enough to know if he was troubled or not but I recall spending some time with him and it was fine. I lived in the main building and trekking up the hill was not something I did that often unless I had to, mostly to play Monopoly on Friday nights. I remember the dinner in your apartment when Sue came to visit. That was a good evening.

  6. The OCA bishops remained silent about another OCA priest who preached falsehoods that went against the teaching of the Church.

    Second, a respected senior archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Fr. Alexis Vinogradov of Wappingers Falls, New York, threw down a gauntlet on this issue in July 2011. For a now-defunct Orthodox blog, he wrote an article titled, “New Beginnings in Community: Gender Issues and the Church.” He hoped “to start a conversation . . . because among the Orthodox churches, at least, we do not yet have a common platform for respectful discourse on the complex social issues of our day.”

    But “respectful discourse” quickly evaporated when he began to rail against the “growing appeal and reliance on simplistic and formulaic answers” among many of his fellow Orthodox. “Such a religiosity cannot,” he continued, “tolerate ambiguities, for it attributes the modern moral and spiritual crisis entirely to the disdain for absolutes and certainties. . . . So, we are told that the debate on sexuality must stop, because the indisputable norm is the choice of heterosexual marriage or celibate life in society or in monasticism.” Alert traditional Christians could already spot the Trojan Horse that Fr. Alexis was trotting out, as he subtly began to call for a new, third “norm.”

    Fr. Alexis elaborated in such a way as to remove all doubt concerning his vision:

    Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual. It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin. That much we know today. There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact. But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons. God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us. For any member of the human race when that love is not forthcoming openly and easily, when community taboos and fears isolate them away from the family, it is inevitable that their legitimate searching and need will appear as an anomaly to those who have safely passed through the invisible selective screen. The selective culture, society in general or church, will have pushed them to extremes.

    http://www.aoiusa.org/three-trojan-horses-insider-attempts-to-disorient-the-orthodox/

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      There is a measure of truth in Fr. Alexis’ comments. It is true that someone does not necessarily chose their passions. They begin as inclinations and are strengthened as they are indulged. Once the passions grow through indulgence, they affect outlook (the start of the “orientation”) and become habits. Once habituated the passions can be difficult to remove or, more accurately, channel the energy vivifying the passion back into its proper circuits.

      Where Fr. Alexis’ analysis breaks down is that he buys into the fiction that “heterosexual” and “homosexual” exist as distinct anthropological categories. He believes that the homosexual passion is part of one’s created being, put there by God so to speak. That’s why the language justifying the creation of these categories (and the reworking of Orthodox anthropology in the process) shifts to an appeal to the emotions.

      His response is polemical, not pastoral. A pastoral response to the struggle would be entirely different.

  7. James Bradshaw :

    “Implicitly imputing the sin of sodomy to a preeminent Russian Orthodox theologian weakens the prohibition against sodomy among the Orthodox faithful if his broadside is believed.”

    How so? Even if such an accusation happened to be true (I doubt it is), it would not necessarily eliminate the inspiration or authority of their words. The fallibility of the Judeo-Christian Fathers are well known all the way down to the “righteous” Lot. King David was a murderer. According to Talmudic scholars, the promiscuously polygamous King Solomon was one of the 48 Biblical prophets. Both Augustine and St Ignatius of Antioch endorsed the notion that slavery was a God-ordained institution that should not be overturned.

    “St. John Chrysostom teaches that sodomy is worse than murder because sodomy kills the soul.”

    You can murder someone and still remain in a state of grace? Murder doesn’t kill one’s own soul?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      How so? Orthodoxy is not merely about propositions and theological ideas. It is primarily about culture, which is to say that salvation is apprehended and acquired through communion with others and God. I won’t say more about that here but this point is crucial to Orthodox self-understanding and critical to deeper self-integration and the concrete experience of knowing oneself and God. In Orthodox anthropology — the way we were really created; the way that the soul is structured (and it has structure) — communion, real and concrete interchange between the other (men and God) is the locus, the means, in which salvation occurs.

      The fault in the SanFillipo piece is the slander. It’s an affront to the conscience because it defames a teacher. This too challenges your claim that ideas are disembodied. Fr. Florensky’s ideas can’t be separated from the man. Life does not work like that despite the conceits of some academics. SanFilippo knows this. That’s why he used the preeminence of Fr. Florensky to make his case. SanFilippo used the character and reputation of Fr. Florensky for what amounts to little more than propaganda given the shoddiness of the piece. He didn’t even make the effort to find out if his assertion had any facts to back it up.

      It should also be noted that Public Orthodoxy gave him the forum. That they did not see through the paltriness of the piece and refuse publication indicates what? — It will publish anything? It agrees with SanFilippo’s thesis? It’s just an aggregator of Orthodox essays? We don’t really know.

      I drove a cab for Yellow Cab one summer in Minneapolis. The joke among the drivers was that if you had two arm and two legs and were breathing you could drive for Yellow. At Public Orthodoxy it increasingly looks like that if you can spell, format a paragraph, and throw in a few footnotes, you will get published. Much of the stuff they publish is innocuous. SanFilippo’s preoccupation with homosexuality and his culture warrior orientation however, required that when he implied that Fr. Florensky was a sodomite both he and Public Orthodoxy needed to be called out. Public Orthodoxy had a chance to correct the record when the rebuttal was published but never did.

  8. I fled from a decade long battle in the Episcopal Church to take refuge in Orthodoxy. This is the last best hope of Christianity. Based on what I have learned about the gradual, insidious process of desacralization, I would humbly counsel the bishops to separate from any clergy that softens or twists the moral standards taught by Scripture and tradition. I developed this guide on sexual issues in the church as the result of this protracted battle: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4_1PiGE3abiR2hhSUhZZ1pSQW8/view

    • James Bradshaw :

      Bill: What do you make of the fact that Scripture refuses to explicitly recommend punishment for men having multiple wives? King David and Solomon both had numerous wives (really, Solomon had not just multiple wives but many casual “sex partners” labeled simply as “concubines”). Small infractions (such as gathering wood on the Sabbath) were met with the death penalty (Numbers 15:32-36). Wouldn’t it be rational to conclude that if something were an egregious evil, there would be some form of punishment expected?

      • OT law is viewed through the prism of NT teachings which reaffirm the original creation of man and woman (i.e., monogamy) as the moral prototype. This is found in section I of my guide (linked above). The fact that there is no punishment for polygamy and concubineage can mean that it is either moral and therefore permitted, or that it is not moral, but tolerated as in the case of divorce for any cause (“Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted…). Polygamy falls short of the ideal set forth in creation.

        As far as the small infractions you speak of, the OT law has three components: Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial. This division is simplistic (because there is sometimes overlap) but it is often helpful. Under a theocracy the Sabbath laws were strictly enforced as a matter of civil law to preserve the identity, order, and holiness of the community. These laws are not moral laws and did not exist prior to the Mosaic law. nor are they found in the NT. Indeed, Jesus changed the way in which the Sabbath was observed (Mat 12).

        There is no simple equation for drawing moral conclusions from OT law. The nature of the law in question has to be examined first. The most consistent guide to sexual morality is God’s spiritual order for creation which is described in section I of my guide.

  9. Those words about Father Robert Arida are pretty slanderous especially regarding a fellow priest

  10. Francis Frost: I deleted the paragraphs on Russian and Georgia. I know it is important to you but if you want to campaign, start your own blog instead of using the comments section here. The part that I retained below are fair questions and I will answer them in due course. If you disagree with this decision let me know and I will delete the comment entirely. Fr. Hans

    Dear Fr. Johannes:

    You applaud the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Board for upholding the church’s traditional teaching on marriage by their affirmation of the two Statements issued by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America. But then you decry that same synod of bishops for failing to make a statement! Has it not yet occurred to you that your complaint is patently absurd?

    Of course, you don’t want a statement. What you want is a scapegoat. You want somebody to be punished, either Fr. Robert Arida for his statement published years ago or Fr. John Jillions for associating with those of whom you do not approve.

    First off all, Dr. Fr. Johannes, unless you are a Presbyterian, you ought to know that presbyters do not issue ultimatums or demands to an entire synod of bishops. I can only wonder what His Beatitude, Metropolitan Joseph, must think of your arrogance and presumption.

    Secondly, Fr. Arida’s statement, which honestly was nearly incoherent; was more a cri-de-coeur of a father torn between his love for a daughter and his duty to the church. I don’t suppose that it has ever occurred to you the Fr. Arida has already been punished enough, has suffered enough; without your judgmental demand for the proverbial “pound off flesh” in order to satisfy your outraged sense of morality?

    You reminded me of the story of one man who read the story of the woman taken in adultery in the Gospel of John. When Metropolitan Antony asked him, “who are you in that story?”, the man replied. “I am the one who would have thrown the first stone.”

    The trouble with our so-called ‘traditionalists’ is not their theology, which is correct. No their fault is in their complete lack of love, compassion or mercy. You don’t want Fr. Arida or his daughter to repent, you want them to suffer and to be outlawed. No doubt you would fault the Eternal Father for taking back his prodigal son. You have forgotten, dear Father Johannes, that you too, are a prodigal son in need of a merciful Father who overlooks your transgressions every day.

    The other problem is that our so-called traditionalists are abject cowards with a selective morality. They are quite willing to denounce sexual sins; but they never denounce the greater sins of political violence, mass murder and ethnic cleansing carried out by the putative Orthodox heroes of ‘traditional morality’.

    Where was you voice of moral reason, dear Father , when tends of thousands of our Orthodox brothers and sisters were slaughtered in their own homes or driven into exile in the three invasions of Orthodox Georgia?

    The rest of the comment (which went on way too long) was deleted.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      No, Francis, I’m not interested in having anyone punished or finding a scapegoat, although the statement by the seminary was good. And yes, I stand by my statement the OCA Bishops need to clean house because they do. That doesn’t make me a Presbyterian though.

      I have some sympathy for Fr. Arida’s personal plight. However, the conflation of the personal into the political (Fr. A and cohorts mirror the dominant zeitgeist in that way) doesn’t clarify much. It is fraught with all sorts of problems and in the end usually the one who shouts the loudest wins. It certainly does not justify the retooling of the moral tradition in the way that he advocates.

      The problem with approaching these issues in this way is evident in your example about adultery. Met. Anthony was right. We are all adulterers. But do we confess or do we retool the tradition to sanction adultery? You have again conflated the personal into the political in this example and it ends up where it always ends up — moralistic shaming and finger wagging. That’s where statements like, “You have forgotten, dear Father Johannes, that you too, are a prodigal son in need of a merciful Father who overlooks your transgressions every day” come from and that, for you at least, appear to carry moral power and authority. They don’t, not really.

  11. I have found Public Orthodoxy to be a forum for intelligent and critical dialog from a number of Orthodox perspectives. It is worth noting that in addition to the SanFilippo article they recently published an article articulating a defense of traditional marriage. The church should not be afraid of dialog.

    • The only appropriate dialog is “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.
      There is no fear in that.

      I have been watching “dialog” since I was young beginning with the coalition governments with the Communists in Central America; the purveyors of sin in the sixties and the assualt on the Protestant assemblies.
      In modernity dialog without repentance is a tool of the evil one.

  12. Both Fr. Arida and Fr. Vinagradov doubled-down on their previous soft-peddling of homosexuality and calls for “dialogue” with active LGBT people (aka: normalization of homosexual conduct within the Orthodox Church communities) by publishing articles in a militantly pro-homosexual and pro-LGBT book For I Am Wonderfully Made”: Texts on Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT Inclusion just published January 2, 2017 .

    One could infer that the OCA bishops didn’t do a darn thing about correcting or reprimanding these priests, since both are still at it! Several years have passed since their opinions were made known and here they are spreading the same confusion, continuing to disorient the Orthodox Christian faithful and support the LGBT agenda. They continue to use their sacramental priesthoods and “Father” titles to lend credibility to the twisted arguments and false theology that the homosexual activists have spread within the culture at large and are now fighting to drag inside the Church, as Fr. Hans Jacobse warned back in Nov 2014 (see http://www.aoiusa.org/fr-robert-arida-why-dont-you-become-episcopalian/).

    “For I Am Wonderfully Made”: Texts on Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT Inclusion
    http://amzn.to/2xE5sPe

    The book includes the following chapters (essays):

    Response to Myself. A Pastor’s Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage
    Fr Robert Arida

    New Beginnings in Community: Gender Issues and the Church
    Fr Alexis Vinogradov

    What the book is about:

    In the midst of the culture wars of our broader society, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have become the focus of a spiritual battle within the Orthodox Church. The recognition of LGBT rights in the political sphere has triggered negative ecclesial responses. In the struggle to maintain traditional values and teachings, LGBT Orthodox are denied confession, communion or blessings. Many face exclusion from parish life, and some face physical violence. Roughly half of the essays gathered in this book were first presented at a seminar entitled “Orthodox Theological Reflections on LGBT People,” held 20-23 August 2015 in Finland. The other half represent Orthodox theologians, clergy, scholars and activists writing over the past 20 years. Together they offer an affirming message, urging LGBT Orthodox to proclaim with the psalmist: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139:14)

    How’s that for chutzpah!

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      This is identity politics. It subsumes any pastoral response into the energy of the dominant zeitgeist and directs that energy into emotional language that portrays all LBGT people as victims. It really is no different than what you hear from Gay INC day in and day out although this crew uses a religious vocabulary.

  13. Elijah John McKnight :

    Peter J. (Giacomo) Sanfilippo attempted to show his readers some sense of same-sex relations which bears the nuance of recognizing that this union is not explicitly sexual. The essay seeks to answer the question: “Can two persons of the same gender form a bond in which ‘the two become one?’”1 With reference to the Father Pavel Florensky, Sanfilippo seeks to treat the experience of this treasured Russian theologian as a lens to formulate a kind of “conjugal friendship,”2 as he calls it.

    Unfortunately, an unknown Russian theologian, who provided a rebuttal to Sanfilippo’s article, is correct in some of his assessments. Among other critiques, the author charges Sanfilippo lack of credibility. Sanfilippo provides no evidence for his “historical” references to Fr. Florensky nor to any of his other unambiguous examples and claims. Sanfilippo writes with clarity, but his shows no accuracy of his statements. Both clarity as well as accuracy are universal intellectual standards, which being held, ensure a level of quality to one’s arguments, writing, or work.3 Sanfilippo writes:

    “Friendship” stands as a perpetual testimony to their relationship, its nuptial language and playfully homo-romantic emblem all the more remarkable if we consider that Florensky was a married priest and father of his first child when he prepared Pillar and Ground for publication.

    Florensky’s ideal of friendship as constitutive of “one soul in two bodies,” making of a man’s unique Friend his “other I,” has its roots in the writings of Plato and Aristotle.4

    Where does he get this information? These are strong claims without any sort of proof. His examples are certainly pictorial and graphic, but unless we have references to these accusations, than they are wishful thinking, which appears to be the main argument of the anonymous Russian theologian’s refutation.5

    With respect to intellectual consistency, I refuse, to allow this rebuttal of Sanfilippo’s essay to go unchecked. The anonymous writer exhibits a complete disregard intellectual honesty and virtue, because first and foremost his argumentation is rooted in an ad hominin. No doubt, one’s spiritual orientation will affect or infect the way they do or write theology, but to completely attack Sanfiippo’s spiritual life as being the cause to the lack of providing evidence for his work is appalling to say the least.

    First, I have actually read Sanfilippo’s thesis or fuller essay, as he sent it to me via email, and he offers substantial evidence for his claims in his work. What he posted in Public Orthodoxy was a short summary of a much larger work. Perhaps Sanfilippo should have included sources in his blog post, but to simply imply that his wishful thinking is in regard to his previous “sinful” experiences, is intellectually dishonest and is nothing but personal defaming.

    Secondly, the anonymous author makes statements over and over with the use of the words like “sodomy” and “homosexuality” equivocally to mean the same thing in very different historical and cultural contexts. He assumes that whatever same-sex relations meant in antiquity, whether by the New Testament writers, the Canons, or the Church Fathers, it must hold the same definition and understanding of same-sex relationships for our current context. I am assuming the words sodomy, homosexuality, and the like, which the anonymous author uses, appear to mean “sexual activity.” But for our 21st century context, and for Sanfiilppos’s essay, same-sex relationships are not always about sex. How is going to the movies, or even holding hands something that the Apostle Paul or the Church fathers condemn. I personally know two lesbians who are in a loving, committed celibate relationship and tried to be committed to their local Eastern Orthodox Church, but felt unwanted and loved, so they have discontinued their involvement with the Church for now. When it comes to issues related to sexuality, Orthodox Christians, especially clergy there is a double standard. Persons who are curious and ask questions about matters of faith and sexuality are immediately charged as demonized while the religious “elite” continue to protect their models of reality that are founded upon intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy, and laziness.

    The problem that my two friends have faced as well as many other LGBT persons in the Church is not the lack of Orthodox theology, but Orthodox pastoral ministry. Sadly, many in the Orthodox Church while they tend to shame the philosophical and theological differences of their Roman Catholic brethren, yield to strong sense of natural theology that arises from St. Thomas Aquinas when it comes to articulate their beliefs about sexuality. Blogger Andrew Sullivan shares this problem:

    To reduce it to its crudest essentials, Aquinas too the notion of the individual’s nature and universalized it. Drawing on Aristotle’s conception of the normative nature, Aquinas theorized that all human beings had a single fundamental nature and a single natural end…According to Aquinas, all human beings’ sexuality is linked to procreation.”6

    Aquinas would have made a terrible pastor. The person he saw in front of him would have been labeled, their proclivity would have been categorized. The problem has nothing to do with making substantial claims about same-sex intercourse. We get that. The Church has been pretty clear about this teaching. Even Sanfilippo alludes to this at the beginning of his essay:

    “Can two persons of the same gender ‘have sex’ with each other?” we hear from Holy Tradition a resounding no.7

    The rebuttal was an attempt at answering a question that was not raised. This anonymous author depersonalizes his whole response, not only with his content, but also by attacking Sanfilippos and remaining anonymous. As Fr. Jacobse noted, he is concerned about protecting his constituency. Apparently, he is and more so than he is in publicly and personally standing behind his statements. It’s not fair to Sanfilippo who was willing to be vulnerable, sharing a summary of his research, only to receive a coward’s response.

    Yes, Sanfilippo did us a disservice by making strong claims without evidence to support those claims. However, this anonymous critic lacks intellectual virtues himself. He seeks to correct Sanfilippos’ reasoning and chastises him for his anachronistic tendencies, while he commits the same actions. One Saint said, “A true theologian is the one who prays,” I really hope that this unknown author does pray for Sanfilippo, but also for himself. I hope to God this guy is not a pastor, if he is he has a lot to learn from Orthodoxy.

    Elijah John McKnight, MA

    References

    1. Sanfilippo, G. (2017, May 02). Conjugal Friendship. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/05/02/conjugal-friendship/#more-2779
    2. Ibid.
    3. Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2009). The miniature guide to critical thinking: concepts and tools. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.
    4. Sanfilippo, G. (2017, May 02). Conjugal Friendship. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/05/02/conjugal-friendship/#more-2779
    5. Letter From Russia on an Article Defending Same-Sex Marriage and Defaming Fr. Pavel Florensky. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2017, from http://www.aoiusa.org/a-letter-from-russia-on-an-article-defending-same-sex-marriage-and-defaming-fr-pavel-florensky/
    6. Sullivan, A. (1996). Virtually normal: an argument about homosexuality. London: Picador.
    7. Sanfilippo, G. (2017, May 02). Conjugal Friendship. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/05/02/conjugal-friendship/#more-2779

    • Elijah John McKnight – in his own words:

      https://elijahmcknight.wordpress.com/about/

      I became a member of The United Methodist Church the week of my graduation from the university. It was my theological coursework at Indiana Wesleyan University and dialogue with a professor that thrust me into this next theological move.

      Certainly, my realization of my attraction to the same-sex has thrown me for a theological and spiritual loop. Growing up in a very conservative, Southern Baptist church I knew what the Bible “says” on contemporary issues such as homosexuality.

      Recently, I have been questioning such ancient models of reality. I do not deny the inerrancy of Scripture, but only question particular models of reality that are based upon misinformation and are misinformed by science. Not that science can dictate issues of morality, but science is definitely not an enemy but a friend to faith. It can inform us and cause us correct poor ideas.

      I am now officially and Orthodox Christian, being chrismated Holy Saturday May 2013. I am grateful for my theological and spiritual journey and have adopted the following My Life Motto: “working out my salvation and sexuality with fear and trembling.”

      Books to Recommend: Being As Communion (Zizioulas)

      Subjects of Interest: Gay Theology, Political/Public Theology, Postmodernity, Christology, Soteriology, Epistemology, Ecclesiology, and the History of Doctrine

      • Elijah John McKnight :

        See, Centurian, This is called a red herring. I’d be happy to discuss my views, experiences, an ideas that I share on my website (which I haven’t used for a while), but in the meantime do you care to address my comments related directly to this post?

        • I will let Fr. Jacobse and other more experienced Orthodox priests and scholars respond to the nonsensical and self-contradictory mess of an argument you posted. I will say that when you publicly state that you’re an Orthodox Christian who is also interested in Gay Theology that’s like saying you’re an atheist who believes in God or a chaste man who’s interested in pornography. You may want to rethink your belief system or check out the Episcopal Church.

          Speaking of which, what exactly did your Catechism cover for you to become Orthodox while failing to reject false ideas that contradict the Scriptures and the Orthodox Christian faith?

          • Elijah John McKnight :

            I’m interested in studying and understanding gay theology. What I understand of gay theology, I believe it to be heretical an antithetical to Orthodox Christianity. I believe before making an argument against something, one should have a phenomenological approach to the religious/theological other rather than resort to ad hominem and strawman attacks. I have a master of arts in apologetics, but I have no desire to engage in polemics with you, Centurion. But it sounds like to me you need some humility.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Homosexual desire is a passion. It arises as an inclination that is indulged, and then through private activities (usually compulsive masturbation in the teen years) it becomes habituated. The orientation forms because of visualization and fantasies during the masturbatory cycles aided and abetted in the last two decades by the easy access to pornography.

      It’s a passion that can be deeply rooted because it is tied to one’s sexual drive (God given) and a person’s need for intimacy. Men need communion with other men. It has to be deep and authentic. It is the only way that a man learns what it is to be a man. Men cannot learn it from women.

      The yearning that SanFilippo expresses is in fact a yearning common to all men. I understand it and count it as a necessary good. Where we part ways is with the assertion that this need is met through having sex with other men. It isn’t and never can be. Some men pair off with other men for the duration but this is very rare and even then most of the relationships are open. Women tend to pair off longer then men but then most don’t engage sexually after a season.

      Sex between men cuts short the necessary maturation for a man to learn how to become a man. That’s part of the killing of the soul that St. John Chrysostom warns against. Anyone with eyes to see can see the harm that continuous sodomizing does to the personalities of men who engage in it.

      The act of sodomy inverts the natural creative prowess of the male into a dead end. Depositing the generative seed in the waste canal of another person (male or female) is in fact a revolt against nature (the anal canal is not a sexual organ) and thus against God. When a male deposits or receives from another male a distortion is being expressed that has concrete ramifications for both actors where the void that compels the act grows larger and the desire for sodomy increases. Repentance is in fact healing and Orthodoxy has the clearest understanding of how to offer healing given that it has the clearest anthropology. If repentance is refused however and the void and desire increase, then hope that the longing can be filled dies and is replaced with a different one: nihilism, the longing for non-being.

      The Church can never accept the normalization of sodomy (or any male to male sexual activity). It is compassionate with those who struggle with same-sex desire but most who struggle are not Gay INC activists. This is a distinction that SanFilippo — and yourself apparently given the descent into identity politics above — refuse to make. It’s either normalization or nothing. That’s why it would be better to move to the Episcopal Church since they believe and practice everything that you want the Orthodox Church to become.

      Looking at this theologically, the attempt to normalize male to male (or female to female) sexual activity essentializes a passion. It demands that we see same-sex attraction not as an aberration, but as intrinsic to our created being (God made me this way!). If this anthropological revisionism is accepted it will stream through the Church like a retro-virus, killing that which is healthy much like the AIDS virus that swept through the homosexual population decades ago and that a new strain of non-treatable gonorrhea threatens to do in the next. The anthropological revisionism functions like a heresy. Think of heresy as the theological equivalent of a retro-virus. That’s why all the Christian communions that accept sodomy as normative get sick and die.

      • Elijah John McKnight :

        Fr. Johannes,

        Please keep in mind, I don’t object to most of what you say. The problem is a pastoral response. Just like the Evangelicals who recently posted the Nashville Statement. None of this is news to me. Here was a comment that I saw on a post about that Statement on another social media site:

        …Mostly though, I’m tired of hearing statements that draw a line in the sand without much intention of reaching across that line to love people and show them how good Jesus is…
        …this is what the church has been saying for a long time – and it hasn’t produced the fruit of Christian people being safe, empathic, disciple makers of the LGBT community.

        The point is, none of the rhetoric (which you outline) is all that new. What would be new is for someone to formulate a statement that calls for compassionate curiosity, to actually hear people’s stories and to feel their pain. To know they are not alone and that someone actually cares for the LGBT persons as PERSONS, not as labels. We need such a response. Oh wait, we got it from Fr. Robert Arida, but he was accused of flirting with a culture that invites homosexuality. No, no he wasn’t. It’s just clergy are fearful that they would have to actually have deep conversations with LGBT persons. Maybe they’re afraid they’ll get AIDS. It’s so much easier to preach at distance.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          No, we didn’t get a response from Fr. Arida at all. His argument is that the proper response requires a retooling of the moral tradition. That’s been tried elsewhere and in all cases leads to sickness and death. He wants anthropological revisionism (see above) but those ideas arise from the political ground of identity politics; ie: the notion that passions and desire determine identity.

          I’ve actually dealt with men dealing with same-sex attraction often. The restoration of the person begins by entering more fully into his self-identity as an adopted son of God. Men who have been active in the lifestyle for say a decade or more have internalized “gay” as a component of their self-identity. The truth is that because the categories of homosexual and heterosexual are a modern fiction, the internalization of the categories distort self-identity much in the way superstitions distort our understanding of nature. I always begin by asking their baptismal name and when the internalization surfaces I remind them of their true identity by saying something like, “No, you are John, son of the living God.” That’s how it begins.

          Younger men, early twenties mostly, who struggle seem to have a lot less trouble emerging out of the homosexual self-identification if they discipline their interior lives so that they can hear and receive the transformative self-knowledge that comes only from God. A life of chastity is difficult but it is difficult for almost everyone in our sex-saturated and sex-obsessed culture. There is a dynamic at work here (ie: interior self-discipline and creativity work hand in hand) the substance of which I won’t go into although you can see it outlined in an editorial I wrote published in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune earlier this year: Pornography is an affliction for young men. And it’s been mainstreamed.

          You imply that my earlier responses are not sufficiently pastoral. I hear this criticism frequently. In fact they are profoundly pastoral because healing begins by clarifying the anthropological confusion. These misconceptions hold the mind captive and prevent the insights (the self-understanding) that can only come from God (see the editorial) from reaching the soul. Fr. Aridia and others promote ideas that in fact function as a retroactive virus in the interior life and thus thwart and even subvert human flourishing. Those ideas cannot go unchallenged. Further, as I said upstream, most men struggling with same-sex attraction are not Gay INC activists and many resent the expectation that they should be. You won’t hear from them but I do.

          Clergy are not “fearful that they would have to actually have deep conversations with LGBT persons.” This statement is the kind of moralistic shaming that arises from the demand that homosexual desire can only discussed in the framework of identity politics. Identity politics demands that we accept the anthropological revisionism as self-evident fact; as an assumption that cannot be challenged. Clearly I don’t and most clergy I know don’t either. “Deep conversations” ensue nonetheless. Often they go very deep.

          • Elijah John McKnight :

            Fair enough, Fr. John.

            My biggest concern is that we can correct fundamental anthropological flaws (the cause) all day long, but when you have a first session with a priest (as an Orthodox inquirer) and within his first statements he labels people “those gay people over there,” it can take a much different (and better) turn when he comes face to face with someone who is actually gay. The rhetoric has to change.

            • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

              The public rhetoric won’t change as long as the Orthodox activists (the ones who insist the Orthodox tradition must be retooled) continue operating in the categories of identity politics. The only (ostensible) moral power that approach holds is moralistic shaming (“You’re a hater!). It replicates the thinking and methods of the early Puritans because it is bound to the common zeitgeist and the deep structure of American culture.

              Moreover, the activist demand that “dialogue” must change is disingenuous because it cuts off the opportunity for constructive dialogue before it begins, or more accurately it restricts “dialogue” to the false anthropological categories under the threat of public shaming. In other words, it is impossible to “dialogue” with the Orthodox activists because the Gay INC polemics they employ demands that no accord can be reached unless we first agree with the anthropological presuppositions. If it were otherwise, there would be no need for the public shaming.

              No one is “actually gay.” That’s a false construct that restricts and can even prevent a person from experiencing life in Christ to the measure it is intended and can be experienced. This is not to say that the struggle disappears although I can testify that some people are healed from the passion while for others dealing with passion becomes the means of their sanctification (acquiring the freedom to become the person that God created him to be). Only Christ knows why it works this way.

              The “cause” however is not the false categories. They exist as impediments to the development of the interior life and thus also the deeper understanding of one’s own manhood. False constructs, muddled conceptions, impede the work of the Spirit within man and thus restrict the healing — the salvation — that Christ offers. The actual cause is a deep yearning for authentic intimacy with other men. I have learned that this yearning is met concurrently with a deepening intimacy with Christ. It’s a dynamic, not static, enterprise. We must do what St. Paul instructs us to do:*

              This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

              But you have not so learned Christ; If so be that you have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That you put off concerning the former way of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:17-24).

              *In my experience many young millenials have an easier time grasping St. Paul’s exhortation than their middled-aged and older counterparts. I think it’s because they are not bound to the static vestiges of our decaying culture in ways that their elders still are.

  14. Elijah John McKnight :

    Centurion, I would add only that you clarify my point, in my original comment, even more. I feel that you use my website as a way to label me. I’m not sure what you’re attempting to do, but just for clarity I have never had sexual intercourse with any other man nor have I ever been in a relationship. Furthermore, these kind of conversations are between myself, my confessor, and God. So if you’re attempting to “out” me as someone who is activally defiant against Orthodox teachings, you fail.

    • Reposting your own words is “outing you”? You’re the one who chose to post your own description of yourself using those words. And stated that you’re interested in Gay Theology. And defended Sanfilippo’s infantile homosexual propaganda dressed up as “scholarship.”

      PS, What you do in the bedroom or in the confessional was never an issue anywhere, until, again, you brought it up! Red Herring you said?

      PS2, Yes, defending Sanfilippo’s catastrophically bad essay and attacking legitimate Orthodox Russian scholars who bear witness to the truth is an act of public defiance “against Orthodox teachings.”

      • Elijah John McKnight :

        I am no longer going to be conversing with you. You have disqualified yourself from any thoughtful conversation.

  15. It is all so simple, it seems to me. Fr. Hans has offered a viable option to those who want the homosexual agenda to be accepted. It will not be accepted in the Orthodox Church if our Church leaders are true to the Faith. The Episcopalians who are diminishing in numbers and need your support welcome you with open arms. Go and be happy, and leave Orthodox teaching alone.

    • Elijah John McKnight :

      Your rhetoric is ridiculous and presumptuous. I cannot speak for everyone on this post, but for myself: you don’t know me from Adam. To suggest that I’m trying to change it desire to see change in Orthodox doctrine and to join the Episcopalians is insulting to say the least. I have a suggestion: how about you practice humility and reflect listening? There is a need for a more pastoral response in the Orthodox Church. Why? Because people are resulting to suicide, because they live in despair. You all will be judged for how you treat your gay neighbor. May God have mercy on you.

      • It is not ridiculous and presumptuous. I’m sincerely pointing a way out for those who want the Church to change according to their whims. There is a place for them in the Episcopal Church, honestly and humbly. To destroy the teachings and anthropology of Orthodox teachings is not the answer. Why destroy centuries of loyalty to Orthodox teachings?

        • Elijah John McKnight :

          But that’s not what I am or at least others I know are seeking to do. At all. But I think you need to adjust your understanding of Church Canons. They are not infallible.

  16. Elijah John McKnight :

    Orthodox Christians who seek to protect principles (canons) over listening to the heart-stories and painful experiences of others, betray their own doctrine. Orthodox theology is personal theology. The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all other doctrines. God is personal. God comes to use personally, to share in our humanity and humble himself. He comes not only to teach and show us the Way, but as the Way, He shares in our pain, listens rather than shames others. I guarantee that if Christ visited our Orthodox parishes, today, he would not be recognized or even welcomed. In fact, he does visit us through the stranger-through the gay person.

    “In confronting the stranger, whoever, we are more likely to come face-to-face with the magnification of how much learning to love we have ahead of us, since it is much easier to justify anger hatred, resentment, and demonization of those who threaten our identities.”1

    Reference:

    1 Papanikolaou, A. (2012). The mystical as political: democracy and non-radical orthodoxy. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

  17. Elijah John McKnight :

    Now, before I post this, I know some of you will probably say, “Oh look! He references Frank Schaeffer, the liberal apostate who hates God and the Church.” I know your cognitive process too well, and I’m not going to let you off the hook with an ad hominem. Please read, reflect, and review the following post I made w/ Schaeffer back in 2014:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankschaeffer/2014/07/gordon-college-believes-that-religious-liberty-is-the-right-to-persecute-gays-or-as-westboro-puts-it-fag-marriage-dooms-nations/

  18. Elijah John McKnight :

    “And first of all remember Your Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which You have purchased with Your precious blood. Confirm and strengthen it, enlarge and multiply it, keep it in peace, and preserve it unconquerable by the gates of hell forever. Heal the schisms of the churches,[1] quench the ragings of the heathen, speedily undo and root out the growth of heresies [2], and bring them to naught by the power of Your Holy Spirit.”

    [1] [2] Dear, Jesus in case you read footnotes, this would include the fundamentalist Orthodox Christians, who love the Canons and principles more than other people. Amen.

  19. I have followed most of the conversations on this thread. I spent a decade in the Episcopal Church fighting this battle. And while I understand the need for compassion and pastoral guidance, I must also sound a warning here. Those in the Episcopal church who were pushing acceptance of homosexuality did so under the banner of compassion. They used the “stories” of gay men and women to soften the ground, so to speak, in order to prepare the church for full acceptance. Empathy became the slippery slope to gay theology.

    Please understand that I am not accusing anyone here of using such deception. But you need to know the consequences of this approach, whether intended or not.

    • Bill,

      It’s much worse than that. There is no doubt about what the homosexual propagandists want to do to the Orthodox Church. They themselves removed all doubt. They openly declare that “homosexuality is not a sin.” They’re proud of fighting to force the Orthodox Church to tolerate and eventually embrace this. They also want the Church to accept same-sex couples, commune openly gay and homosexually active individuals and same-sex couples, embrace transgenderism, etc.

      Orthodox and Gay
      http://www.orthodoxandgay.com/

      Orthodox and Gay Facebook page
      https://www.facebook.com/gayorthodox/

      Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality in the Orthodox Church
      http://www.orthodoxlistening.com/

      AXIOS – Eastern and Orthodox Gay and Lesbian Christians
      http://www.axios.org/doku.php

      LGBTQ Supportive Orthodox Christians
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/20917659986/

      “For I am Wonderfully Made” : Texts on Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT
      https://www.facebook.com/notes/bryce-e-rich/for-i-am-wonderfully-made-texts-on-eastern-orthodoxy-and-lgbt-inclusion-updated-/10154817385611195/

      More heretical websites here:
      http://inclusiveorthodoxy.yolasite.com/links.php

      • Centurion, I had no idea there were this many sites. Apparently this issue has followed me from the Episcopal Church! The same language is employed as well: “for us to tell our stories about being Orthodox and gay.” Anecdotes are the tools used to engender empathy and break down resistance to gay theology. Those who openly espouse these views in the church are, according to Scripture, false teachers. The church must respond by offering them the grace of repentance, then, failing that, excommunication. There is no ambiguity here. See section V in https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4_1PiGE3abiR2hhSUhZZ1pSQW8/view

        • Bill,

          AXIOS!

          THANK YOU for sharing that resource. I’m going to share it with as many Orthodox Christians as possible. Maybe some of them who manage Orthodox blogs and FB pages will publish it in full or portions of it or use it in other ways.

          This is the kind of work the bishops in North America should REPEATEDLY be putting out as resources and even summarize in more concrete and direct Official Statements redressing the confusion of some priests, clarifying the teachings of the Church being deconstructed by the homosexual activists and refuting the escalating rebellion of the LGBT radicals (Fr. Trenham’s description of these groups).

          None of the bishops in America (or their official spokespersons or staffs) seem to be speaking out publicly or preaching individually and regularly on many of these pastoral and theological topics. Yearly official statements are inadequate given the constant Gay Iconoclasts assault on the Orthodox Church and their defamation of Her right preaching priests, theologians, teachers and apologists. Our priests need to have their bishops leading them and supporting them in this serious war.

          Only a handful of courageous Orthodox priests in America: Fr. Johannes Jacobse, Fr. Josiah Trenham, Fr. John Whiteford, Fr. Alexander Webster are fighting this battle in the public arena, frequently challenging the lies and distortions of the Gay Iconoclasts. There may be others, and I hope they forgive me for not remembering them. (Please add to this list if anyone knows of other Orthodox priests in America who have joined this effort.) They deserve our support and prayers! We need them and the Orthodox Church needs them!

          Gay Iconoclasm: Holding the Line Against the Radical LGBT Agenda
          http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2017/07/gay-iconoclasm-holding-the-line-against-the-radical-lgbt-agenda/

          “This ideology is a cultural and religious iconoclasm. The homosexual political agenda is anti-religion and anti-civilization at its core. There is no precedent in any religion or civilization for defining marriage as between two persons of the same sex or legitimizing same-sex eroticism. Such violent iconoclasm does not just hold in contempt classical religious and political philosophy, but it disdains and it claims superiority over all the great religions of the world, not just rejecting Judaism and Christianity but Buddhism and Islam as well.” — Fr. Josiah Trenham

          AXIOS!

  20. Elijah John McKnight :

    Having empathy and trying to uphold the Orthodox teachings on sexuality and marriage are not mutually exclusive. But at the end of if one has to error on truth or grace, I will choose grace. It’s like my priest in another parish said once, “If you cannot speak truth in love, than it isn’t true.”

    • Real love means speaking the truth, pointing out real spiritual and physical dangers where they really exist. Yes, it also means listening with real compassion, and probably all of us could do better with that. But really hearing their pain should not mean acceding to what’s causing their pain. Actually, it should inspire us all the more to offer the healing to their pain that only a life of sexual purity can lead to. And this, I’m convinced, is what Fr. Hans and many others like him are trying to do – which flows from utmost pastoral concern and compassion.

  21. Elijah John McKnight :

    I’m not some who seek to question the motives of others. I’ll believe what you say-that Fr. Hans and others really are concerned about others lives/souls. Although more graphic than I really wanted, I acknowledge what Fr. Hans says about the specifics of the gays/homosexual sex, etc. I just wonder what epistemic ingredients he has to make such detailed arguments? Statistics? What’s the source? Personal experience or witness? I “feel” that he right, but let’s be honest–and this is something I think we can all agree on from all of the preceding posts: feelings can deceive us.

    As far as having pastoral care, part of that means admitting, as Fr. Robert Arida does, that the Scriptures, Councils, and Canons do not give us details about all of life. Yes, they are very clear not to have butt naked gay sex, among other things, and even as a gay man, I see serious cultural issues in our day, namely-the autonomy of self-defining ourselves regardless of our inclinations, feelings, proclivities, etc. For my my same-sex attraction (which I think God for) is involuntary but keeps me humble – I need God to live for God on God’s terms. But it keeps me humble in one sense, because transgender issues, for example, really freak me out. I don’t understand it at all, but I empathize with the experience. I try to keep my mouth shut about things I don’t know (and actually fail pretty miserably for the most part).

    Personally, I don’t try and seek out Orthodox clergy, who some deem should be Episcopalian. But voices like Fr. Arida are refreshing although people freak out. Now grant it, there are other voices that annoy the hell out of me: especially from the list which someone gave earlier. I did just order “For I Am Wonderfully Made.” I was slightly annoyed, because one of the authors is not even Orthodox and is a part of the Gay Church (I’m too lazy too look up what’s actually called). It’s already difficult to encourage dialogue in the Orthodox Church, encouraging voices like Fr. Arida, and then a goon like this comes along.

    I recognize all truth as God’s truth, but find it unfortunate that people don’t have discernment. Please know, however, many gay people have grown numb against the Church, because they feel that they have a special sin that is “more sinful.” that they are somehow the chief of sinners by others. But we know that true humility would lead us to call each of ourselves that. I’m fortunate, because I’ve had a lot of loving people who have prayed for me, encouraged me, and even from the terrible state of Mississippi (I lived there, yes it’s terrible)- I had an Orthodox Christian who privately messaged me and said, “I’m glad you are doing battle with the devil in the Orthodox Church.” She knows my struggle.

    I renounce the gay culture, because it is glorified individualism and sensuality. There is no way in Hell it honors God. Well, maybe in Hell–okay never mind. A while back (2012) I was seeking to write a book called “Gay for Good” which was a play on words meaning, I would always have same-sex attraction but I could use this experience by glorifying God and not Self. The book was based on this premise (a quote by the late Fr. Thomas Hopko, of blessed memory: “The question that every Christian must as is, ‘Is same-sex attraction a gift from God or a cross to be be borne, to be carried.’ And then we would follow up with, “Every cross is a gift, because it is through the cross that we enter the Kingdom.”

    Bottom line: I need the Church. The Church is full of terrible people, and I’m one of them. Some of those people cannot fathom mystery, because everything must be certain. These people, although perhaps with good intentions, hurt LGBT people and push them a way from the Church. Seriously, if going to church means being around hateful, people unwilling to empathize and join in your pain, but actually increases your pain, because of their interest in protecting their beliefs more than your personhood, than I don’t question why they would rather sleep in on Sundays.

    Peace.

    • Elijah,

      The pastoral wisdom and Orthodox Christian theological insights Fr. Jacobse shared with you either went right over your head or you rejected them without taking sufficient time to consider and reflect.

      Regarding your un-orthodox self-description of yourself as a “gay man” maybe the proper and true Orthodox Christian understanding of this, as testified to by Huw Raphael, an Orthodox convert who had formerly been in ECUSA as (in his own words) “a sexually active gay man who wanted to be an Episcopal priest”, and was healed, will help clear the spiritual fog and confusion. You’re still dancing around with sin, hoping, in some way, to find a non-existent “3rd way” to deal with your passions. It’s impossible, it has never happened. You can’t serve God and mammon.

      Being gay” as a category of Revealed Ontology doesn’t exist. We are men and women. But as a category of distorted ontology, or fallen ontology – the things into which we are drawn – it is a real category. Those who experience same sex attraction may find in themselves the exact same patterns as others who engage in sex outside of the bonds of matrimony, indeed, as those who engage in matrimony. The pattern is only “tweaked” if you will, by the direction in which one is drawn to have sex. The seeking after that pattern is then faulted by our gender: homosexual relationships are painted by our genders.

      Women tend to be domestic and caring and two women tend to fall into a odd pattern of “too much home”. There is much truth to the old joke, “What did the lesbians bring on their second date? A U-Haul.” Equally, for men, even long-term relationships tend to drift into polyamory. The lack of a domestic and stable influence – a woman – creates “open relationships” where even the most “monogamous” of men are allowed to “play” when they are away from home. A lesbian relationship can seem like the “inner circle” one met in High School, but could never get inside. A gay male relationship can seem, even in their most stable – like a night out with the college fraternity. Equally, “straight” men and women, when looped into non-sacramental relationships find themselves replicating the patterns of marriage anyway” the gender dance is created even without the “blessing of the church” or without the “having a piece of paper”.

      Because we who experience same-sex attraction are in the same dance as the rest of you, because we are not dealing with something strange, alien and unknown, but rather with something predictable, seeable and no more strange than that for the rest of you, “gay” doesn’t exist as anything more than a distortion of who we really are: men and women.

      None of this is to make light of the sin of sexual activity outside of marriage. It is to note that our “being” as men and women is what we are. Where our sins take us does not undo this. So here’s the rough conclusion of the first part of these notes – the pleasure seeking principle is distorted in all of us.

      For those of us who experience same-sex attraction, it is equally distorted in seemingly the same ways with only one or two minor changes. We are pleasure seekers, the same as any others. By that I mean we are sinners, the same as any others. Thus I reject the classification of “beinggay. There is no such thing.
      https://huwraphael.blogspot.com/p/ontology-i.html

  22. Elijah John McKnight :

    I’ve read several of his pages on his blog. Good stuff. Is he Roman Catholic, now?

  23. Elijah John McKnight :

    Thought I would share what is happening at my alma mater. A (gay) friend, who is a journalist, wrote this article:

    http://www.reporterporter.com/blog/2017/9/4/questions-linger-after-homosexual-behavior-clause-deleted-from-iwu-handbook

  24. Elijah, it is important for you to know that there are many Orthodox who are not same sex attracted who deeply understand the dynamic that Centurion cites. The world labels us “homophobic”. We are not. We will in fact do what we can to support you in your struggle for it is our struggle too.

    One thing the homosexual debates have made clear to me is how similar the struggle for chastity is for all men. The lonliness we all face because we lack it.

    There are differences to be sure but many similarities. The world will call that a lie.

  25. It seems as though what we are discussing is whether to adhere to the truth, or purport a lie. When one starts with the Orthodox moral tradition, it is obvious that engaging in homosexual sexual activity is a sinful abomination, regardless of the context. That is the truth. If, however, one starts with one’s feelings, which seem overwhelmingly true in some sense since they are being experienced and, in the case of SS sexual attraction, seem compelling, then one seeks to finesse out room within the Orthodox moral tradition to validate that “personal truth”.

    It would be much more simple if upon entering the Church gays simply agreed to cease identifying as gay and accept the fact that, though they may still engage in same sex physical encounters, that this activity falls into the category of sin, then everyone could just move on. But it is the perversion or rationalizing of mutually exclusive propositions that attracts resistance. It is the sort of thing you would encounter if you simply kept insisting that 2+2=5.

  26. Elija,

    I am very late in coming to this thread, so I hope you see this comment. I would like to ask you some honest questions.

    Fr. Arida writes:

    “In the struggle to maintain traditional values and teachings, LGBT Orthodox are denied confession, communion or blessings. Many face exclusion from parish life, and some face physical violence.”

    Now I will admit that I haven’t been everywhere, but I have “been around” quite a bit. Yet I have never – ever – heard of folks such as yourself who struggle with SSA (or even those who, unlike yourself, have actually committed homosexual acts) being denied confession, communion, blessings, or being subjected to physical violence in the context of the Church community. The only things I have ever witnessed that even remotely approach this claim of his is the exclusion of the unrepentant from the Cup (until they strive for repentance) and the obvious refusal of the Church to “bless” same-sex unions. Fr. Arida’s claim thus strikes me as dishonest.

    Has your own experience been different? And if so, how?

    Also, based upon what you have written here, I assume you would agree that one cannot maintain an open resolution to continue in sin while at the same time considering one’s self to a repentant sinner, as all of us (hopefully) are. As a man who finds females attractive I cannot openly identify as a fornicator or adulterer with no intention of repentance and expect to be admitted to the Sacraments. Here, too, I find Fr. Arida’s claim that those who struggle (with emphasis on the word struggle) are ostracized to be dishonest. A priest who subjects illicit sexual behavior of any kind to discipline is simply following the prescriptions set forth for our healing; is he not?

    How is the prescribed exclusion from the Sacraments of any openly unrepentant, obstinate sinner any different from what Fr. Arida claims LGBTs are uniquely subjected to?

    And finally, we are constantly told (quite rightly) that these are “pastoral” issues – things that ought to be (again quite rightly) handled discreetly by one’s priest or Father Confessor. What purpose is served by discussing them in public forums? I can hardly imagine a less discreet and impersonal way of assisting pastors with the challenges of our time. Are these not topics that should be discussed among pastors in the privacy of clergy conferences?

    • Elijah John McKnight :

      Brian,

      From my own experience, I’ve never been denied confession, blessings, Communion, etc. But I have heard and read accounts of LGBT persons who have, so what Fr. Arida claims is not false. I would just be curious of his own sources or evidence which he is referencing.

      To answer your subsequent questions, I would say that the same-sex issues is not just a moral issue, but a pastoral one. Not all LGBT people behave the same way. What LGBT are subscribed, as Fr. Arida argues, is much more than disciplining behavior, but discriminating against being who they are (orientation). Pastors should discuss these things among each other in private, but I’m afraid that unfortunately there are more clergy who speak out against LGBT persons than there are those that defend/love them.

      Hope this helps.
      Elijah

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