Texas Orthodox Clergy Deliver Stinging Rebuke to Fr. Arida and Enablers

Statement of the Brotherhood of the Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston and Southeast Texas on the Comments of Fr. Robert Arida on Homosexuality

Published on Monomakhos

Source: Orthodox Houston

oca-logo-dec-11In response to Fr. Robert Arida’s recent article, which was posted on the OCA’s Wonder blog, there have been many eloquent rebuttals. We do not wish to attempt to reproduce those critiques here, but we do wish to underscore some of the more important points that have been made, and to speak out publically on this controversy.

We find it unacceptable for Orthodox Clergy, who have been given the charge to instruct and guide the laity, to suggest that the moral Tradition of the Orthodox Church needs to change with the times or with the prevalent culture. St. Paul admonishes us to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). And it should be noted that the word translated “world” is not “kosmos” (the material world, world order, or people of the world), but “tō aiōni” which refers to the age (or generation, or time) in which we live. And we have no better guide as to what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God than we find in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church.

It is also contrary to our Tradition to write about matters of faith or piety in ways that are intentionally ambiguous – this is rather the approach of liberal Protestantism. As Sergey Khudiev wrote, in response to a previous statement by Fr. Robert Arida, which was likewise replete with studied ambiguity, liberal Protestants have “a particularity which entails a tendency to explain themselves with rhetorical questions, vague allusions and highly mysterious phrases from which you can with more or less justification guess at their positions, but are unable to explain clearly.”1

We are all the more concerned that members of Fr. Robert Arida’s parish who identify themselves as homosexuals, report that though they make no secret of their ongoing homosexual relationships, they are freely communed. One such person, wrote, on an open Facebook group (named oxymoronically “Pro-Gay Orthodox Christians”):

I am gay… I was married to my husband in a civil ceremony in 2005. When I began attending Holy Trinity later that year I was completely up front with the priest. My husband, Martin, began attending liturgies regularly about two years ago. He was chrismated Holy Saturday earlier this year. Our relationship is not a secret; I have had no negative interactions with either clergy or laity in this parish. Martin and I are not the only gay people in the parish, though after Martin became Orthodox, we are the only Orthodox gay *couple* as far as I know. I don’t think this constitutes “don’t ask don’t tell.” More like “ask or tell whatever you like… we don’t care.” Just saying.2

Fr. Robert Arida’s recent and past statements on the issue of homosexuality are a scandal to the faithful. They also present those who are sincerely struggling against homosexual temptations with additional temptations, and misdirection. As a pan Orthodox organization, we are also concerned that such blatant disregard for the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church present further obstacles to Orthodox unity in America. We can only unite around a common fidelity to the authentic faith and piety of our Tradition. If we are not united in that, then authentic unity is impossible.

This is not a matter that can be swept under the rug of “theologoumenon.” A theologoumenon is an opinion that may or may not be correct, but which is neither an authoritative teaching of the Church, nor is it outside of the bounds of acceptable Orthodox opinion. Suggesting that homosexual sex may not really be a sin is not within the bounds of acceptable Orthodox opinion, but on the contrary, the consistent teaching of the Scriptures, canons, and the fathers and saints of the Church that homosexual sex is inherently sinful is clear and unambiguous.

We recognize that those who are struggling against homosexual temptations should be treated with pastoral patience, mercy, and love… as should sinners of any kind that are repenting of their sin, and seeking spiritual healing. However, suggesting to any sinner that their sin is not really a sin, and that they need not repent of it in order to worthily receive the Mysteries of the Church is pastoral malpractice, and cannot be tolerated.

We pray that the Bishops of the OCA will deal with this matter with the seriousness and urgency that it warrants, and put an end to these abuses.

Notes:

1. Sergey Khudiev, “Let Your Yea Be Yea and Your Nay Be Nay”, July 5, 2011 < http://www.pravmir.com/let-your-yea-be-yea-and-your-nay-be-nay/>

2. October 19, 2014

Comments

  1. I didn’t find the statement to be stinging. Rather the fathers responded with clarity and charity.

  2. Since he is the dean of the cathedral, I find it hard to imagine that he does not have his bishops blessing to do what he does.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Nick, I see it the same way. That portends problems for the OCA unfortunately.

      • Well said Nick & Fr. Hans.

        This is like an abscess that has been festering. It must either spontaneously burst & drain, or it must be surgically lanced & drained in order for healing to occur. If one of these two therapeutic options is not selected then the infection will spread (either locally or systemically) & the illness progresses.

        I pray that the Holy Synod of the OCA will take this matter seriously & act with pastoral sensitivity in accord with Holy Tradition.

    • Vladimir Saemmler-Hindrichs :

      I’m afraid I have to agree with Nick and Fr. Johannes on this side of the point, but I remain amused that anyone is shocked. Are you all as concerned at all of the heterosexual shacking up which occurs? Even in the best of families and parishes ;-)? That said, there is rampant ignorance of the problem out there, as can be seen by the notion that it will spread if left unchecked. They are the same comments which were made when various denominations considered integrating in the Sixties. I note that this has not led to an increase in the number of people who wanted to be Black. What I do find lacking here is an articulation of just what constitutes the sin. I was always under the impression is was the act of relations outside of marriage. If it’s the status of being homosexual and not in some manner connected with the performance of the physical act, then I’m afraid our God sold us a bill of goods, because he created an imperfect creature.

      In XC

      Vova Hindrichs

      • There are several mistakes in your reply Hindrichs.

        First, the equiparation of being gay and being black. Being gay is defined by at least a compulsion, fullfilled or not, for homossexual acts. Being Black means just a certain amount of melanin in the skin.

        Second, a lot of people do want to have darker skin and that’s why they spend hours tanning in the sun or in machines. The difference is that having a darker skin is not a sin, and that’s why the Church says nothing about it. Others adopt several traits of “black culture” and as long as these traits are not sinful in themselves, the Church does not say anything about it either. But, if for example a person were to adopt certain African animist paganisms because they want to leave “white civilization” behind, then you can be sure the Church would say something, and problably a black bishop would do it himself.

        Third, the fact that the Church *has* been lax with heterossexual sins is not an excuse to just pretend homossexual sins are non-sins. On the contrary, it means we should focus even more on that sexual sin that has been considered legitimate for the longest time in our culture: serial monogamy. While we treat that as acceptable, we will have few to none arguments against more serious sins, because in accepting it, we accept all the principles that are the base for the others.

        Fourth, just like any sin, having the compulsion to commit it is not a sin in itself. Some Fathers speak of three, five or seven stages of sin, but they all agree that while it is in the stage of mere imagination it’s a temptation, but not a sin. We can compare with a more radical sin. A man finds out his best friend robbed him in the company and cheated on him with his wife. For a week he contemplates murdering his old friend but eventually gives up and simply breaks the partnership and ask for a divorce. He had the temptation, but did not sin. We all are born with leanings toward certain temptations. Some to fornication, some to anger, some to gluttony, some to sloth. We all fall now and then, and with that in mind, people should have their own sins before their eyes when they think of condemning homossexuals for their falls. But, just like with any other temptation, submitting to it *is* a sin. The sin is not sex out of marriage, as if two gays who were “married” could engage in homossexual acts and not sin.

        Here is what is *not* sinful: two (not less, not more) people who are mature mentally and physically, from opposite sexes and who are married in the Church and who, out of love, engage in sexual acts exclusively with each other and that do not attempt to avoid generation of new life. If any of the elements there is missing or twisted, it’s a sin. Everything else is sinful. The other option is a wide gate? Yes. The right path a narrow gate? Yes. But we know where wide and narrow gates lead to.

  3. If something of gravity does not happen the cancer will spread. We see where this has led e.g. the Church of England and many mainstream Protestant denominations which end up standing for virtually anything or nothing at all.

  4. Vladimir Saemmler-Hindrichs :

    That’s right, and in this country, and for that matter every country except the couple which at least nominally pretend to be Orthodox, even an irrelevant old saw like the Anglican Confession remains more attuned to its parishioners and of much more import than the Orthodox faith does in the United States. The issue here is not homosexuality. It is standing for something. So, what is it we stand for again?

    Vova Hindrichs

  5. Dear Father Hans:

    I will not attempt to comment on Father Arida’s confused and confusing missive. I am not sure what he is trying to say, and I suspect that neither is he. I agree that he needs to state clearly what he is trying to say, and that he needs to clearly enunciate the moral teaching of our Orthodox Church.

    That being said, there a a few thoughts that come to mind.

    First; is seems that all sides seem to be caught in a false dichotomy between moral strictness and compassion. It is possible to uphold the church’s teaching and to show compassion for those who suffer from the passions. Our church has done so through the centuries.

    We also need to remember the biblical anthropology that underlies the church’s moral stance.

    First, we might recall that homosexuality is not the primordial sin; but is rather a punishment or a consequence of that sin.

    [expand title=”Trigger Text”]
    The Apostle Paul teaches:
    “Therefore God gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged what is natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. Romans 1:25-27

    Second, we might remember that in the church’s language the word ‘pathos’ means BOTH sinful passion and suffering. The liturgical texts often play on this conjunction.

    “By your Passion (suffering) we were set free from our passions (sufferings), O Christ, and by your resurrection we were redeemed from corruption. O Lord, glory to you.” Aposticha of the First Tone Saturday Evening Vespers

    Without surrendering the biblical teaching about homosexuality, we can therefore recognize that those who suffer from sexual passions are not only sinners so much as they are sufferers. We often hear that the church is a “hospital for sinners”. How many of the sick will go to hospital armed with stones?

    We ought to recall the Lord’s own approach to this when He was confronted with the woman caught in adultery. After saying to the crowd:

    “ He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first. And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted in their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her: “Woman where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one Lord”. And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”. John 8: 3- 11

    Notice this: The Lord refused to condemn, and then He said “Go and sin no more” Why are we incapable of doing the same today? There are confessors who are experienced in dealing with sexual sins and homosexuality in particular. The late Father Lev Gillet was reported to have such a gift. There are such confessors even here in America.

    In the Russian tradition, there is a teaching from the Optina Fathers that each of us is responsible not only for our own sins; but in some way for the sins of the whole world, that each of us recapitulates in our own sin the Fall of Adam and that each of us has the potential through repentance to achieve forgiveness and redemption not only of our own sins but of the sins of others as well. This idea is best expressed by Dostoyevsky in the dialogs of the ‘Elder Zossima” in the novel “The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoeyevsky was a disciple of the Optina Elders.

    St. Seraphim of Sarov taught:”Learn to be at peace, and thousands around you will be saved”.

    St Silouan the Athonite also taught:” Dear Father do you think you could be happy in heaven looking down on the sinners in hell? The Father (who had condemned atheists and the persecutors of the church) answered. ‘It would be their own fault. They chose that way.’ St. Silouan answered: “Love could not abide that. We must pray for all.”

    It seems to me, that we need to look at this issue, and every issue through the scriptural and patristic tradition – a tradition often invoked but rarely considered in these debates. All too often in our zeal to ‘protect’ the church – as if God Almighty needed our protection! – we forget to remember that we ourselves are also fallen and sick sinners in need of forgiveness and healing. All too often, our Orthodox zealots are selective in their moral outrage. So many only condemn sexual sins even though the scriptures teach that one who commits a sexual sin “sins against his own body” I Corinthians 6:18; but one who commits murder has destroyed as it were the whole world.

    While we are poking our collective noses into other bedrooms and targeting our neighbors sins, thousands are eve now dying in a horrible, fratricidal conflict that pits Orthodox Christians against each other. This very week the Russian military brazenly sent three more convoys of tanks, missiles and soldiers into occupied Ukraine in order to re-ignite the war there – a war that has already killed 4,000 civilians and driven 1 million civilians into exile and poverty. They also sent convoys of carriers to remove the bodies of the many Russian soldiers who have been killed and who are being buried secretly to hide the Russian governments sponsorship of this war. Where is our outrage at that?

    Where is the outrage of the persecution of Orthodox Christians in occupied Georgia? Churches were stolen from their parishes just before this past Pascha in the ever expanding ‘borderization’ around South Ossetia. Metropolitan Isaiah in Tskhinvali / Nikazi remains captive behind the occupation line as the FBS officers informed him that if he crosses back into free Georgian territory he will be banned form returning to his flock in the occupied territory. During the 2008 invasion of Georgia, the Russian bishops Panteleimon of Adyghe-Kabardia and Feofan of Saratov accompanied the invasion forces and literally “blessed’ the weapons and missiles used to attack civilian targets. On August 8th of that year, the Russian and Ossetian forces used these “blessed’ missiles to attack the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral and the shrine of the Protomartyr Razhden in Nikazi. On the next day, they looted the Cathedral, desecrated the Holy Altar and burned the sanctuary. Where is the outrage at that?

    St. Silouan said: “My brother is my life”. So many of our posters here are only concerned with their brother’s sins; but not their brother’s life and welfare. This too, is a grave sin, for as Our Lord said: “ I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was sick and imprisoned, and you did not come to Me. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.” Mathew 25.

    Let us remember, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

    Perhaps if we were better Christians, the gays would have “repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago”. Matthew 20:11.

    [/expand]

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      “Poking our noses in other’s bedrooms and targeting our neighbor’s sins…” Really Mr. Frost?

      Fr. Arida communes men “married” in a civil ceremony. That declares such an arrangement as morally valid, within the order of creation. That’s a public act, not a private one.

      The same can be said for Fr. Arida communing men in active homosexual behavior with other men. That denies that the behavior as sin. That too is a public act.

      • Vladimir Saemmler-Hindrichs :

        Interesting outrage, Father. Tell me, have you ever communed any of your younger folks who are engaging in heterosexual activity without the benefit of either a Church or a civil license? If you haven’t, you probably have the only parish in all of Orthodoxy where that does not happen. I think you’re cherry-picking the fashionable sin of the week. And that’s just in the sexual transgression department. We don’t even want to go anywhere else, now, do we? I find it telling that Mr. Frost quotes Christ, and that you, and most of the other outraged naysayers, quote Paul.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Outrage? People in cohabiting heterosexual relationships should not be communed either Vladimir. Nevertheless, even if they (incorrectly) were, the prohibition against homosexual behavior remains.

  6. Francis,

    There is no false dichotomy. It is sin (and this case probable false teaching) that is condemned, not the sinner.

    If anything, the false dichotomy is promoted by those who want to change the moral Tradition, if that were even possible (and it isn’t). It is they who insist that those who struggle with the moral Tradition have been condemned or isolated by the Church even though there is no evidence for these assertions. Notwithstanding the lack of evidence – either historical or current – they nevertheless seek to convince us that it existed (and exists) by means of false narratives, reading the Scriptures or Church history through the lens the modern culture of sexual identity and ‘equality.’ It is as if they are saying, “So you can see that throughout the Church’s history even those we revere were wrong about this or that. Therefore, if we are to remain sensitive and “vulnerable” to the love of God, we must question our [supposed] assumptions, about most everything,” the unspoken implication being that this questioning of assumptions includes the moral Tradition itself.

    If Fr. Arida and his defenders were simply attempting to warn of the very real danger of allowing the moral Tradition to become the Gospel, of highjacking the Gospel to promote a dead utilitarian ‘moralism,’ no one would object. But if that were the case there would be no need for employing the tool of unanswered, open-ended rhetorical questions.

    As I commented on another blog…

    There are obviously some intelligent and faithful people who comment here and elsewhere who have yet to see this drama played out. Thus the vigorous defense of what truth is carefully embedded in Act I of the script. Those of us who have already seen the play recognize its opening act and know how it ends, for the playwright is not a man but a now very familiar spirit.

    To the doubters, all we can really say is keep watching. By the final act the actors will no longer be recognized for what they seemed to be at the beginning of the play.

  7. “All false teachers, all purveyors of false religion, are the enemies of Christ, and the enemies of truth, and the enemies of the gospel, and the enemies of souls.” ~ John MacArthur

    “The person who demonstrates no desire for the things of God and has no inclination to avoid sin or passion to please God is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thus does not belong to Christ.” ~ John MacArthur

    “Anybody who has a corrupted view of Christ and the gospel needs to be exposed in the way Jesus exposed these men; and…that’s a merciful act, because these are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Lord pulls no punches and the main element is that they are spiritual frauds.” ~ John MacArthur

    • Vladimir Saemmler-Hindrichs :

      I have almost as many icons of ‘John MacArthur’ in my corner as I do of Paul. Relevance, please, Chris?

  8. Many decades ago the problem with Fr. Robert Arida was perfectly described by C. S. Lewis:

    “It is possible to have so much sympathy for a sinner that you join him in his rebellion against God”.

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