Three Trojan Horses: Insider Attempts to Disorient the Orthodox

Trojan Horse

Source: Touchstone Magazine

Reprinted with permission of the author.

By Fr. Alexander F.C. Webster

The benighted Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete in June 2016 reminded Orthodox Christians that the rock of Orthodox faith and practice has been splitting for decades. The fissures are particularly evident among the approximately one million Orthodox Christians in the United States.

What is unconventional about the tone of the conflict is the aggressive ad hominem rhetoric of the avant-garde toward those who insist on unwavering fidelity to Orthodox Tradition. In a community widely known for its conservative approach to religious doctrine, morality, and liturgical rites, innovators would normally maintain a low profile, avoiding unwanted attention and charges of “heresy,” while gradually trying to effect “change.” Ironically, the Orthodox traditionalists are under assault and on the defensive in America and in a few autocephalous (“self-headed”) Churches around the globe.

The Orthodox “left” is waging their offensive on three fronts. Since the vast majority of the Orthodox faithful in this country are unaware of such machinations by the few but determined intellectual elites—clergy and laity—engaged in this spiritual warfare, I shall borrow Orthodox columnist Rod Dreher’s use of Homer’s “Trojan Horse” as an apt metaphor for the primary tactic of those elites.1 In fact, I intend to triple-down on that metaphor. Like the celebrated tactical ploy of the ancient Greeks, the contemporary Orthodox Trojan Horses appear to be gifts but are, instead, full of clandestine theological warriors poised to sack the Church.

Dismissal of Orthodox “Deplorables”

The first Trojan Horse is the increasing tendency of Orthodox leftists to mimic Hilary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” insult of September 9, 2016, against half of her opponent’s supporters. In this case the epithets are born of theological instead of political enmity.

Some of these neologisms seem a bit forced. For example, Aristotle Papanikolaou, Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture and Co-Director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center (OCSC) at Fordham University, has dusted off an ancient Christological heresy. He perceives what he calls “political Nestorianism”—defined as “a politics of dualism, a politics of us vs. them, a politics of demonization”—among American “Christians, including Orthodox, who cannot but see certain political issues as driven by a godless, politically liberal, humanistic agenda.”2 That is rhetorical overkill directed at fellow Christians who are, shall we say, more Tradition-minded than himself.

The expletive of choice among the Orthodox left appears to be “fundamentalist.” Never mind that term’s Evangelical Protestant provenance, dating from 1922, when Curtis Lee Laws took a cue from the publication of The Fundamentals tractates in the previous decade. Never mind that the term began as a badge of honor. Never mind the weird misapplication of it since the 1980s to large swaths of Islam and reactionary elements in other religious communities. The Orthodox left is simply echoing the anti-Evangelical hyperbole of the mainstream liberal Protestant denominations in the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches with whom they have shared brie and Chablis for so many years.

No less an ecclesial dignitary than Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus (senior bishop of an ancient autocephalous Orthodox Church) fired a shotgun blast indiscriminately on the first day of the recent Pan-Orthodox Council at unspecified anti-ecumenical “groups” whom he blamed for the absence of four entire Churches from the council: “The fundamentalist and fanatic groups, among which are theologians and hierarchs, which to a greater or lesser extent today are active throughout the whole Orthodox world, are a serious reason why a real threat of not only postponing, but even of canceling the Holy and Great Council loomed over it.” The archbishop identified the targets of his ire simplistically as those who oppose “any idea of drawing nearer to other Christians.”3

Back in the United States, a growing cadre of Orthodox scholars, mostly lay theologians, have, with increasing abandon, dismissed many of their co-religionists as “fundamentalists”—perhaps none more often and harshly than George Demacopoulos, Fr. John Meyendorff and Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies and Co-Director of the OCSC at Fordham University. In a blog post in January 2015 on an official website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Demacopoulos depicted his unnamed theological opponents in overwrought ad hominem smearsas “extremists” and “radical opportunists” who pose an “insidious danger” motivated by “self-promotion.” Demacopoulos averred that their “key theological error” is “the presupposition that the Church Fathers agreed on all theological and ethical matters”—a patently nonsensical claim to anyone who has delved into the rich variety of extant patristic texts. Other dangerous trends that Demacopoulos perceives, falsely, include a preposterous insistence “that the Fathers were anti-intellectual”; “the slavish adherence to a fossilized set of propositions,” a mere “subset of theological axioms” derived from a “reductionist reading of the Church Fathers” and used as “a political weapon”; and an inevitable “idolatry” in lieu of an “earnest and soul-wrenching quest to seek God and to share Him with the world.” Demacopoulos’ phrase “soul-wrenching quest” is, on the contrary, a weird post-modern existentialist -distortion of the Church Fathers. Cartoonish does not begin to capture that kind of bizarre, emotive diatribe.4

But what is really behind all the heated rhetoric? A clue appeared in a brief post-council assessment in September 2016 in the mainline Protestant journal The Christian Century by Peter C. Bouteneff, Professor of Systematic Theology at St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. He referred to the Orthodox Church as “lagging in its responsiveness to modern demographic realities and to modernity in general.”5

Embrace of “Secularization”

That moderns-versus-ancients meme also undergirds the second Trojan Horse: a full embrace of “secularization,” while ostensibly rejecting “secularism.”

In an essay “sponsored” by the Orthodox Theological Society of America (OTSA) and published in May 2016 with the stated purpose of influencing the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete the next month, six Orthodox scholars, including Fordham’s Aristotle Papanikolaou, proclaimed the virtues of secularization:

[S]ecular political spaces are not defined by a high wall between religion and politics, but a differentiated public and legal order that maximizes pluralism. In secular societies, the differentiation of spheres (political, legal, economic, religious, etc.) has become an essential tool for the restraint of state power and the protection of human liberty. Thus, while it is right to reject secularism as an anti-religious ideology, the Church should discerningly approve of secularization, in order to ensure that her life is not restricted to certain precarious political spaces, but made available to all people. Secularization liberates the Church from political confinement, enabling the Gospel to be freely chosen as a way of life.6

There is some merit in that distinction. Not all attempts at secularization have been coupled with “an anti-religious ideology”—at least not yet. But the connection is unmistakably evident in every country that has succumbed to communism, beginning with Orthodox Russia in 1917 and continuing today under the godless regimes in North Korea and Cuba. Nor is the secularization of Western Europe and the United States immune to what appears to be an inexorable degeneration into prohibitions of “public” religious activity that may yet result in full-blown persecution. The OTSA group’s attempt at intellectual nuance may be more naïve and quixotic than wise and realistic.

A more subtle, expansive argument in favor of secularization appears in Aristotle Papanikolaou’s 2014 book, The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical Orthodoxy. His project attempts to bridge the secular and sacred realms by extolling the former at the expense of the latter. One key theological presupposition is this: “I do not think the transcendent referent need be to the divine, but can take the form of a common good.” In an earlier version of that argument in 2003 under the title “Byzantium, Orthodoxy, and Democracy,” Papanikolaou proceeds to circumscribe the most essential of the Church’s divine purposes:

In relation to a democratic form of the common good, the church must accept its own limits and recognize that the goal is not the formation of a eucharistic community through persuasion but, rather, the construction of a community in which diversity and multiculturalism are affirmed and protected and in which the recognition of such diversity and multiculturalism must be enforced if they are not voluntarily accepted.7

By 2014, Papanikolaou had replaced “multicuralism” with “cultural difference.”

But that mild change did not conciliate Vigen Guroian, Armenian Apostolic professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. In a devastating review of The Mystical as Political in First Things, Guroian revealed the Trojan Horse in Papanikolaou’s argument:

In the place of this ecclesial vision of transformation, we are served the claptrap of diversity and political correctness. . . . Enforced? Does this not imply that the liberal state has a responsibility and right to coerce the Church when the Church does not affirm “diversity and cultural difference”? Surely, Papanikolaou knows that these terms are the property of the progressive left that insists on same-sex marriage, among other things Orthodoxy refuses to “recognize.”8

In “The Secular Pilgrimage of Orthodoxy in America,” a subsequent paper given at the annual OTSA conference on June 23, 2016, Guroian questions why the religious pluralism that defines America in the twenty-first century “is interpreted as the norm of religious life, much as a separation of church and state is interpreted as a divine mandate, almost as if it is an eleventh divine commandment.” Why should the Orthodox Churches embrace a more aggressive secularization that would put them back into their previous religious and ethnic ghettos apart somehow from the common good?

The road to secularization ought to be for Orthodox Christians—indeed, all traditional Christians—as in Robert Frost’s memorable poem, “the one less traveled by.”

Sexual Potpourri

The third Trojan Horse may be the most spiritually dangerous of all.

The emergent Zeitgeist of sexual disorder, confusion, and libertinism that first appeared in America in the 1960s has become the dominant social ethical ideology. Who could have imagined that any Orthodox clergyman or theologian would enlist in such a movement? Alas, the ranks are growing, it seems, with each passing year.

Prominent Orthodox clergy and theologians have advocated for various avant-garde causes of non-Orthodox provenance, ranging from women clergy (first, the “restoration” of the obsolete order of “deaconess” and, for some, even the radical innovation of female “priests”) to a soft-sell of the ancient proscriptions against abortion to the latest trend, “transgenderism.” But the granddaddy of them all is a mounting obsession with all things LGBT.Concerning the latter, the leftist elites are surprisingly not so far ahead of a majority of the regular church-going faithful. The 2016 Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center disclosed that 64 percent of Orthodox Americans surveyed in 2014 thought that homosexuality “should be accepted,” while only 31 percent thought it “should be discouraged.” Similarly, 54 percent strongly favored or favored “same-sex marriage,” while only 41 percent strongly opposed or opposed it. The “same-sex marriage” percentages comport with those of Mainline Protestants and Catholics, but are inverted compared to Evangelical Protestants and Mormons.9

Still, three Orthodox scholars (two of them ordained priests) constitute an elite vanguard pushing hard for this deeply disturbing movement.

First, Fordham’s Aristotle Papanikolaou recently signaled his sentiments in his post-election op-ed titled, “Being Christian during a Trump Presidency”: “[I]f Christians do not prophetically demand of Trump that he publicly disavow white supremacist support, then Christians are complicit in extending and empowering racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.”10 Struck, in particular, by the last term in that Clintonesque litany of deplorables, I asked Papanikolaou in a telephone conversation to specify what he would deem an unreasonable fear of homosexuals (for that is what the politically correct term “homophobia” means literally) among Orthodox Christians. He replied that violence, of course, would be reprehensible, and on that we would agree. But he also proffered that “discrimination” against active homosexuals in hiring also ought to be prohibited as an offense against decency and common humanity—even in Orthodox parishes and parochial schools!

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.”11 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.

That appeal is all too familiar to Protestants and Roman Catholics in America, but it is still novel to most faithful Orthodox Christians: we must accept homosexuals, who are born that way, and not drive them away by calling them to repentance and celibacy—the only traditional moral “norm” besides “heterosexual” marriage. Later in his article Fr. Alexis had the chutzpah to warn that it is “our callousness, judgment, and self-assurance,” not sexual perversion, that “can injure” the Bride of Christ, the Church.

Fr. Alexis afforded us a sobering glimpse of the way the spirit of the world has captured those who would take it upon themselves to lecture and even scold us (fill in the blank: simplistic, frightened, totalitarian, intolerant, superficial, intransigent, self-centered, unrestrained, callous, spiritually weak—Fr. Alexis hurled all of those epithets our way in his brief for affirmation of the “other”) Orthodox and other Christians who reject the tiresome notion that the times are a-changin’ and we must change with them.

Third, Archpriest Robert Arida, longtime pastor of the OCA Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Boston, has played the role of Odysseus for this modern Trojan Horse. In June 2011, shortly after New York passed the Marriage Equality Act, which legalized marriage between two men or two women, Fr. Robert posted on his parish website a short essay titled, “Response to Myself.” Weighing the implications of the new legal trend, he explored the Church’s checkered history tolerating slavery and concluded by proposing an intriguing hypothetical:

If the Church is going to respond to the legalization of same sex marriage/union it seems that it should begin by considering how to minister to those same sex couples who being legally married come with their children and knock on the doors of our parishes seeking Christ. Do we ignore them? Do we, prima facie, turn them away? Do we, under the rubric of repentance, encourage them to divorce and dismantle their family? Or, do we offer them, as we offer anyone desiring Christ, pastoral care, love and a spiritual home?12

Although that scenario may seem, prima facie, to require pastoral nuance and sensitivity, Fr. Robert’s use of “or” in the final sentence betrayed a subtle questioning, and perhaps rejection, of a universal requirement for the Holy Mystery of Matrimony in Orthodoxy—namely, one man and one woman. He clearly implied that anything less than a full embrace of the “family” as is in his hypothetical would be unpastoral, intolerant, and unloving.

Another essay on Fr. Robert’s parish website three years later, “Never Changing Gospel; Ever Changing Culture,”13 caused a firestorm when it was also carried on the Wonder blog, an online publication of the Department of Youth, Young Adults and Campus Ministries of the OCA. Fr. Robert purported to “raise questions,” lest we turn the past into “an oppressive tyrant.” While affirming, in the spirit of Hebrews 13:8, “the unchanging Gospel who is Jesus Christ,” Fr. Robert insisted that the Church must “come to terms with postmodern culture”—that is, by demonstrating “a desire on the part of all the faithful—bishops, priests and laity—to allow the mind and the heart to change and expand.”

That, in turn, entailed this oxymoron, which Fr. Robert put in both italics and boldface for effect: “To preach the never changing Christ requires us to be ever changing“—not only spiritually through struggle against sinful passions, personal repentance, and cultivation of the virtues, but also theologically by “no longer ignor[ing] or condemn[ing] questions and issues that are presumed to contradict or challenge its living Tradition.” On the one hand, he berated “Orthodox Christians who misuse the never changing Christ to promote a particular political agenda and ideology or as license to verbally and physically assault those they perceive as immoral.” Translation: traditional Christians who “bully” homosexuals. On the other hand, he did not specify how Orthodox Christians ought to “expand” their minds and hearts on the “issues” he enumerated.

But Metropolitan Tikhon (Mollard), primatial bishop of the OCA, was able to read between the lines. He removed Fr. Robert’s essay from the OCA’s Wonder blog and substituted his own response. The bishop offered a brief clarification of the OCA’s long-standing teaching on marriage, the family, and human sexuality and explained why discussion of such profound theological and moral issues “would benefit from a more in-depth analysis than can be provided on a blog.”14

However, Metropolitan Tikhon’s intervention came too late. Fr. Robert’s essays, and the initial official approval of one of them, reveal that this Trojan Horse is already inside the gates of the Orthodox Church in America. Soon to appear in print through the auspices of the so-called European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups is a new volume of essays under the title, “For I Am Wonderfully Made”: Texts of Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT Inclusion. Among the contributors are Archpriests Robert Arida and Alexis Vinogradov, Mark Stokoe (a layman in the OCA), Dr. Bryce R. Rich (an OCA lay theologian and author of a chapter titled, “A Queer Personhood: Freedom from Essentialism”), and Maria McDowell (an erstwhile OCA scholar who left the Orthodox Church and was joined in “marriage” to a woman by a female Episcopal minister).

A Familiar But Daunting Task Ahead

What we behold in the appeals of the trailblazing Orthodox scholars discussed herein is a subtle, erudite, but disingenuous public challenge to abandon ancient Christian verities under the guise of a “conversation” or “discussion.” That should sound an alarm to refugees from mainline Protestant denominations and radical Roman Catholic parishes who witnessed the naive embrace of their own Trojan Horses beginning in the 1960s. The pattern is unmistakable: first, a call to “transcend” narrow, rigid, archaic dogmas, coupled with an invitation to a “conversation” to share viewpoints based primarily on personal experience and “new” knowledge instead of immersion in the Tradition; followed by a summons for mutual forbearance, tolerance, and, ultimately, full acceptance of diverse moralities. Soon enough, the orthodox frog in the gradually boiling pot is fully cooked and no longer a living frog.

One of the scholars quoted above, who regularly teaches a Sunday school class for Orthodox high-school students, told me that he never includes sexual morality in his curriculum and dreads whenever a student even so much as asks a question about any sexual issue. So captive to contemporary sexual mores are those high-schoolers that he is convinced that any attempt to present traditional Orthodox teaching might be, at best, futile but would, in fact, drive every one of his students from the Church altogether. Such pedagogical timidity constitutes, in my estimation, ecclesial malpractice, a preemptive surrender to the Zeitgeist and a guarantee that those Orthodox teenagers will eschew prophetic moral witness to society lest it disrupt their comfortable accommodation to the surrounding culture.

Perhaps this essay will sound a clarion call to all of the Orthodox bishops in America, as well as clergy and laity, to engage with love and justice those who would distort our venerable moral tradition.


2. and

Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster , Ph.D., is a retired U.S. Army chaplain (Colonel) and parish priest of St. Herman of Alaska Russian Orthodox Church (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia), Stafford, Virginia.


  1. Michael Bauman :

    Christ is Risen!

    I have reached the point where I think trying to correct such Trojans is futile. A simple direct statement “You are wrong!” made without rancor or defensiveness is the best recourse.

    That and emulating Gandolf in the mines of Moria when facing the Balrog: “You shall not pass!”. There are plenty of other groups with whom they can ride into hell with if they desire.

    The time for politeness, courtesy and dialog has passed. They are making the Temple of the Lord a den of thieves. Robbing people of their salvation. Changing the incorruptible glory of God into corrupt ideologies of men. Anathema!

    Those who wish to ordain women to any rank of the priesthood or have done so are no longer Christian. Unless there is repentance, no dialog is possible.

    Those who deny the reality of creation and the Kingdom embodied in marriage and wish to obscenely use it for those of the same sex are not Christian. Without repentance, no dialog is possible.

    Any attempt at dialog gives them strength and creedance.

    Any priest or bishop who advocates for such things should be stripped of their office and laicized with a long period of penance where they cannot approach the cup to follow. Same with abortion. Any lay person who believes such things should not approach the cup without a change of heart.

    That is the truly pastoral approach. If they have abandoned Christianity they need to know it.

    If action is not taken, schism will occur.

    In any case, we are likely to grow smaller. That should not be feared.

    Glory to God.

    • “The time for politeness, courtesy and dialog has passed…If action is not taken, schism will occur….In any case, we are likely to grow smaller. That should not be feared.”

      Well said.

      However these truths are being furiously denied at the “leadership” level (i.e. Bishops, seminary’s and the professionals who work there, lay leadership groups, etc.).

    • When you abjure courtesy, you fall into your own condemnation. You, sir, are on the side of the Balrog and cannot see it – or, perhaps, you emulate some stray Dwarf. Do consider that the Creed and Sacraments are the, um, touchstone of who is and who is not a Christian. And perhaps a change of heart for you will return you to courtesy and obscurity, those traditional virtues that so well suit your revealed mindset. But I do thank you for the strength and credence you lend, out of your poverty. Girls being ordained, and boys marrying one another, will not harm the Glory of God, nor steal anyone’s salvation, nor rise to the level of heresy. You may thank God, yourself, that you are not great enough to be a Heretic through your errors and public indulgences in the Passions, malice, and monkey-with-a-parasol prose. .

  2. typical fundamentalist hate rhetoric for the choir. He doesn’t provide any substantiation for any of his claims other than that he thinks that people who disagree with him are not “Traditionalists.”

    He wonders what fundamentalism is, and seems to think it isn’t real because it was originally regarded as an honor. But I would suggest this article portrays fundamentalism in a nutshell. Fundamentalists distort Tradition through fear, then claim their distortion, which inevitably becomes authoritarian and restrictive, IS Tradition and everything else is wrong. Jacobse, who seems to think nothing of writing for the conservative press while deriding “leftists” (the conflation between tradition and political ideology is obvious), doesn’t even have the self-awareness to see how ironical an article this really is.

    • Oh good – when the term “fundamentalist” gets used and abused it is always a sign that the light does not have communion with the darkness – and it is time for the Faithful to shake the dust off their feet.

  3. We have entered the age of Human Iconoclasm!

    Apparently there are many impostors in our midst. Thanks be to God for faithful Orthodox priests who are challenging these heretical teachings and standing for Truth and righteousness.

    Thank God also for the Internet since it’s shining the light of truth and exposing the darkened and confused “preaching” of these hirelings. The rational and faithful flock must be warned of the hyenas hiding in their midst scheming to lead astray and devour the innocent sheep.

    “For the rejection of God’s order of male and female is a strike at the heart of creation itself, Satan’s endgame evisceration of the imageness of God.” ~ Andrée Seu Peterson

  4. 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.”

    Time for these impostors and hirelings to repent and renounce their heretical teachings, change their professions, or leave the Orthodox Church!

  5. Michael Bauman :

    Chris, you and I agree, thank God. Your identification of the sin/heresy as iconoclasm is most apt.

  6. Tom Hamilton :

    Lord, have mercy.

  7. Currently, I am the Orthodox chaplain for the OCF at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before that, I was chaplain at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. At all three secular, research institutions, I have found that if I patiently explain the Orthodox understanding of human sexuality–including homosexuality–students aren’t just respectful but often enthusiastic in their appreciation and support of the Church’s tradition.

    The pastoral problem isn’t so much that young adults (whether Orthodox or not) are opposed to the traditional Christian moral teaching on sexuality but that they have rarely, if ever, HEARD this teaching. Most young people, thankfully, no particular onus against their LGBTQ classmates. If anything, their response is one of live and let live.

    Because WE haven’t explained the tradition to them, others have. Or rather, others (whether through ignorance or malice) have distorted the tradition. Most of our young people, in other words, have only heard distorted versions of what the Church teaches on homosexuality. Given this starting point, their support of homosexuality is not surprising. They’ve been told, and WE’VE never challenged, that Christians hate homosexuals.

    To quote Pogo, the St John Chrysostom of the Okefenokee Swamp, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

    • Fr. Gregory,
      Your experiences and wisdom about this issue are attested by and confirmed by many others!

      Former Homosexual: Even Harsher Language on Homosexuality Needed from Christian Hierarchs
      I will always be thankful to that priest – because, he was not afraid. Some would argue that he was about as un-pastoral as you can get: he named the sin, told me where it came from (the devil and hell itself) and then went about casting it out. It sounds harsh, but sometimes the most invasive forms of cancer require the most severe forms of therapy.

      That’s what this priest did for me…He respected and loved me enough – to tell the Truth. Probably, the greatest voice yet to emerge from the Synod is not one of the egotistical Cardinal heavyweights from Western Europe. But a seemingly inconsequential prelate from a Hungarian backwater, Archbishop Fülöp Kocsis, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archeparchy of Hajdúdorog stated: “We must call these diabolic forces which have a role to play with these phenomena by name because this way we can find some indications even for the research of possible solutions.”

      Transformation of a Homosexual: What Change Looks Like Through Jesus Christ
      Meanwhile, dozens of former homosexuals, many now married with children, sat in the audience unable to share the truth about the power of Christ to transform lives. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Baptist leaders were spending hours “dialoguing” with leaders of the so-called “gay Christian” movement. It broke my heart.

      In the recent documentary, Such Were Some of You, Dr. Neil T. Anderson was asked if change was possible for the homosexual who has given his or her life to Jesus Christ. His reply: “God has only one plan. It’s that we conform to His image. And so: Is change possible? That’s what it’s all about! That’s what Christianity is — it’s the process of becoming somebody we already are. We’re children of God, now we are becoming like Christ.”

      That is a description of the sanctification process where, throughout the rest of our lives, we who have been made holy by the sacrifice of Christ progress in the outworking of that holiness as we grow and mature (1 Cor. 6:11). As we fall more deeply in love with our Savior in the course of an ongoing pursuit of Him (Phil. 3:8-16), we are transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18) and we are conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

    • I agree with Fr. Gregory Jensen’s observations. Let’s never waver in preaching the truth in love, and those who have ears to hear will hear!!

    • Fr. Gregory,

      You speak to those “outside” the Tradition as it were (for how many of those standing next to us in Church have not been “explained” the Tradition).

      However, Fr. Alexander is speaking to something else. Namely, those who have had the Tradition “explained” many times (Bishops, clergy seminary professionals, and lay leadership) and have rejected it for a steaming hot cup of secularism…

    • Chris Banescu says “Time for these impostors and hirelings to repent and renounce their heretical teachings, change their professions, or leave the Orthodox Church!”
      FR Gregory says “To quote Pogo, the St John Chrysostom of the Okefenokee Swamp, “We have met the enemy and he is us!””
      I agree with both of these sentiments. Yes, you have met the enemy in your mirror. Like Caiaphas, you speak the truth in despite of your intentions.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Fr. Gregory, we do need to preach the Christian anthropology with love. But to be fair in my 30 years in the Church it has not hard to find if you give a damn about what the Church says. Often it is ignorance born of apathy. There is an assumption that there is no difference so why open ones ears. Other times it is antipathy born of a basic rejection of the reality of Christ as anything other than an idea, I.e. idolitry-loving the created thing more than the creator.

      Neither is it difficult to see the nihilism inherent in what is laughingly called our culture and the “Christians” who proclaim the way of death instead of repentance and life.

      What is difficult is putting what the Church has always taught ahead of the passions of the world and acting on what the Church teaches rather than on where the passions lead us and the lies the world proclaims. Those who struggle in Christ, no matter how fallen they are have my respect and honor for I am the least of these.

      Those that support abortion, perverted sexuality of any type(which includes most of what is called heterosexual behavior) or women priests are no longer Christian. They have abandoned the struggle. I not going to pretend that they are Christian whether they are bishop, priest, monastic or laity in the world.

      You who believe such lies stop pretending you have not left the faith to which Christ’s death on the Cross and Resurection leads us all to.

      That pretence is the greatest of your lies.

      To become Christian again and remain Christian requires repentance. That is the same criteria for us all. You who object to the faith are not special in fact you are depressingly common and utterly boring. In life there is infinite diversity and creativity. In death there is nothing.

      There is neither novelty, wisdom, compassion or truth in anything you say. That is why there can be no dialog.

      • Michael,

        I assume your are referring to something in the past and not simply these two posts of Fr. Gregory? You have never quite lost me like this as far as I can remember. Do you have a link perhaps?

        • Michael Bauman :

          Nothing from the past. Sorry to confuse you. Do you have specifics I can clarify?

          The Orthodox Church’s teaching on anthropology and human sexuality is neither complicated or hidden. Anyone who wants to learn it can. All they have to do is look. It needs to be reinforced. But there is a responsibility to seek as well.

          Those people who support abortion, sexual perversion of any kind and ordaining women as priests have left the faith. It is that simple. They are beyond heretics, they are apostate and have nothing of value to offer the Church.

          To treat them as if they are still Christian is neither honest nor helpful.

          • Thanks Michael. I have a fairly fine tuned secular crap detector, and yet I don’t see quite what you see in Fr. Gregory’s words. This is not to say you are incorrect, but I don’t know…ah well, the important thing is that we stick to the main theme. Mistakes will be made, but we work past them.

  8. There is no scientific explanation for homosexuality. In fact, there isn’t even an agreed definition of what psychologists do, and don’t, mean by sexual orientation. Where the Church and the American Psychological Association disagree is on the morality of sexual behavior between members of the same sex.

    For a summary of the scientific data see

  9. Ross S. Heckmann :

    It appears that Papanikolaou (mentioned above) has co-edited a recently published book touching upon the above-referenced theme of secularization. See . For your convenience, the text of what is at that link follows: “In June, Bloomsbury Publishing will release Political Theologies in Orthodox Christianity: Common Challenges – Diverse Positions edited by Kristina Stoeckl (University of Innsbruck), Ingeborg Gabriel (University of Vienna), and Aristotle Papanikolaou (Fordham University). The publisher’s description follows:

    “‘This book gathers a wide range of theological perspectives from Orthodox European countries, Russia and the United States in order to demonstrate how divergent the positions are within Orthodox Christianity. Orthodoxy is often considered to be out-of-sync with contemporary society, set apart in a world of its own where the church intertwines with the state, in order to claim power over the populace and ignore the individual voices of modern societies.

    “‘As a collective, these essays present a different understanding of the relationship of Orthodoxy to secular politics; comprehensive, up-to-date and highly relevant to politically understanding today’s world. The contributors present their views and arguments by drawing lessons from the past, and by elaborating visions for how Orthodox Christianity can find its place in the contemporary liberal democratic order, while also drawing on the experience of the Western Churches and denominations. Touching upon aspects such as anarchism, economy and political theology, these contributions examine how Orthodox Christianity reacts to liberal democracy, and explore the ways that this branch of religion can be rendered more compatible with political modernity.'”

  10. Typical fundamentalist hate rhetoric for the choir. He doesn’t provide any substantiation for any of his claims other than that he thinks that people who disagree with him are not “Traditionalists.”

    He wonders what fundamentalism is, and seems to think it isn’t real because it was originally regarded as an honor. But I would suggest this article portrays fundamentalism in a nutshell. Fundamentalists distort Tradition through fear, then claim their distortion, which inevitably becomes authoritarian and restrictive, IS Tradition and everything else is wrong. The author seems to think nothing of writing for the conservative press while deriding “leftists” (the conflation between tradition and political ideology is obvious), doesn’t even have the self-awareness to see how ironical an article this really is.

    • AMEN! Well said Eric. I also found this article distorting and fearful. This author seems sloppy and jaded and it just seems like a sad position to take, I feel bad for the author…

  11. Teena H. Blackburn :

    Fr. needs to make two small corrections to his article. Bryce’s middle initial is E., not R. Maria’s wedding service was conducted by a gay, male, Episcopal priest, not a woman. Neither of these facts touch on the substance of the article, which is excellent, but it makes him look sloppy in his research.

    • Elizabeth Schroeder :

      Thanks Teena. I am married to Maria and I can attest that it was a gay male priest who performed our wedding ceremony. When Maria is ordained, she will assumedly perform many wedding ceremonies as a female Episcopal priest. And I concur; the author is not only sloppy in his research but also in his assumptions.

      • Teena Blackburn :

        Well, we disagree that he is sloppy in his assumptions. Only in a couple of minor details. What Maria does when she is “ordained” in the Episcopal church is none of my business. Her continued meddling in Orthodoxy is. It is not enough that she has a church that recognizes your marriage, and will ordain her (even though you are a divorced woman, which would disqualify her even if she was a man, even before we get to the issue of homosexuality), but she continues to push the same agenda in a church she left because she could not get her way. I suppose those of us who cannot see clear to bless such things are to have no place to go. You will have approval, or else. Well, you aren’t going to get it. Not here. If the two of you just went on with being Episcopalians, I don’t think anyone in the Orthodox communion would give you the time of day. And, that’s the point, isn’t it? What would be Maria’s claim to fame if she stopped riding on her victim train, because the mean old Orthodox church wouldn’t let her be a priest, and marry her lesbian lover, herself the ex-wife of an Orthodox priest? It wouldn’t be a story worth telling in the Episcopal church. Who would care? I know I sound nasty, because I am beyond frustrated. You left the Church. What it does is none of your business. You have no dog in the fight. What you do in your new communion is nothing to us, as long as you leave us alone.

        • Well stated Teena. I wanted to speak to this:

          “What you do in your new communion is nothing to us, as long as you leave us alone.”

          Secularism is many things, but it is important to remember that it is a *moralistic* crusade – it believes not only in its own God-of-Self revelations, but also that it is commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations” (its roots being in Christian heresy). They will never leave us alone, for to do so would be betrayal of their deepest selves. There is nothing more dangerous, more destructive than a moral person/people.

          “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” C.S. Lewis

          • Dimitri Christo :

            Christopher, you make some very good points. I would only tweek it a bit in reminding us that it’s really the Adversary pulling the strings, for, as the Apostle Paul clarifies in Ephesians 6:12 “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…”. For Satan, the game now is the popular opinion of the wider culture vs. true believers—with the endgame being the destruction of both. Things are moving at such a rate that secularism may morph into nihilism before our very eyes. Your C.S.Lewis quote is fitting: for those outside the safety of the church have the appearance of independent thinking, but it’s all just mindless lock-stepping. People need our prayers; agendas need to be met by a more vocal defiance from Christ’s True Church.

    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster :

      Thank you Ms. Blackburn for highlighting the typographical error in my listing of Bryce E. Rich along with others in that, shall we say, rather un-Orthodox book, “For I Am Wonderfully Made”: Texts of Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT Inclusion. That affords me an opportunity to cite Rich’s own self-description on his personal blog.

      I have been out as a gay man since before my first trip to the church. The priest and his wife have been very welcoming and we have become friends over time. Most everyone in my parish who has ever talked to me knows that I study Eastern Orthodox theology and queer theology in my doctoral work. We’ve gotten along very well. In some ways this may be helped by the fact that I’m single and my own Christian beliefs dictate that I remain celibate outside of a very particular kind of relationship. (Meaning, I do make space for committed, same-sex relationships. However, this goes way deeper than just dating… But that’s a separate discussion…) [ ]

      I presume you will agree that the public support of Bryce E. Rich, an active communicant in an OCA church in Chicago, for certain non-celibate “same-sex relationships” is more pertinent to our discussion than my erroneous citing of his middle initial.

      Similarly, I must fall on my sword for identifying the officiant at Dr. Maria McDowell’s “wedding” as a “female Episcopal minister.” I gladly yield to Elizabeth Schroeder’s correction that “it was a gay male priest who performed our wedding ceremony” and apologize for underestimating the moral enormity of the event: a so-called “gay male priest” is more avant-garde and contra-Traditionem that a mere priestess.

      I also wish to thank you, Ms. Blackburn, for your spirited but respectful rebuttal to Elizabeth Schroeder’s comments on my article. That inspired me to do a little “neat” research of her role in the Trojan Horse phenomenon. And, lo, I discovered this little gem published last September: Dr. Michael Plekon (editor), Maria Gwyn McDowell and Elizabeth Schroeder (series editors), The Church Has Left the Building: Faith, Parish, and Ministry in the Twenty-First Century (Foreword by John McGuckin). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016. Archpriest Michael Plekon is a professor of sociology at Baruch College, City University of New York, and an OCA priest. Archpriest John McGurkin is Professor of Early Church History at Columbia University and Nielsen Professor in Ancient and Byzantine Church History at Union Theological Seminary, as well as “pastor of St. Gregory’s Chaplaincy, a community within the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada meeting at Union Theological Seminary.” The blurb for that book on includes this telling sentence: “Not only does the church change for its own existence, it also does so for the life of the world”—in other words, yet another serving of “sexual potpourri.” Why would either of those distinguished Orthodox priest-scholars collaborate on such a book with a “married” lesbian couple?

      • Teena Blackburn :

        I don’t know Father. Perhaps you could ask Fr. Plekon why he exclaimed, “Axia,” in response to Maria’s post on being ordained to the diaconate. Or, perhaps you could ask Fr. McGuckin why Dr. McDowell has referred to his parish, in the past, as “gay friendly.” I would respectfully suggest our main problem isn’t this married lesbian couple, who, even as they continue to agitate, have left the Church. The problem is well known, well placed, Orthodoxy clergy, who apparently think they have nothing to worry about when publicly supporting them.

  12. On another blog Fr. Hans wrote:

    “Once a church becomes feminized, all sorts of sexual confusion results. In the Episcopal Church it took only one decade before the congregants were expected to extol their first lesbian bishop, and another decade when a gay primate was elected who promised a new age of structured licentiousness that was the wave of their oh-so-enlightened future. It didn’t work out. He divorced his male partner and throughout this entire forlorn episode the Episcopal Church collapsed.

    A female priesthood fosters deeply symbolic confusion where the creative power of God is conflated into the creative power of the female body. The Uncreated gets subsumed by the created. It’s neo-pagan, a return to the fertility cults. It works in the post-Christian West because feminism has largely succeeded in destroying the feminine. “

    Fr. Hans is correct and this is exactly what awaits the Orthodox Church if we allow these Trojan horse progressive-liberal changes in. This is only the beginning. The end-game is exactly what Fr. Hans pointed out and it’s borne out by what has happened to the Episcopal Church and all those other “Christian Churches” that have apostatized.

    Is it no coincidence that virtually all the progressive-liberal-leftist propagandists –who attack the Church teachings and conservative and traditional Orthodox priests, bishops and Christian apologists– either ignore or defy the Moral Tradition, the Church Canons and Gospel teachings, and also advance a radical feminist agenda, support same-sex marriage and promote pro-LGBT ideas and ideals. Many are silent about abortion, and almost never speak of concepts such as repentance, morality, sin, virtues, faithfulness and chastity.

    Some even already commune “married” homosexuals at the chalice and want and have begun to speak openly about sacramental inclusion of same-sex couples and active and militant homosexuals into the life and communities of the Orthodox Church.

    • It doesn’t seem that his problem is with homosexuality at all as much as he feels threatened by women. His worry is not that the church will become corrupt or immoral or heretical. His worry from the first sentence is that it will become “feminized.”

      • Elizabeth Schroeder :

        Feeling threatened by women indeed! So, Fr. Hans, when women are called to the priesthood it shows a neo-pagan return to the fertility cults, but when men serve as priests it is because they are following a holy calling from God? Please explain how this works. No, save your breath. I already know the kind of self-delusion involved here.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Let’s put aside the “holy calling” qualifier concerning a male priesthood for the moment. It doesn’t stand as a valid counterpoint to “fertility cult” and female priesthood.

          A female priesthood leads to a conflation between the creative energy of the Uncreated God and the creative prowess of the female. God created the world by speaking it into existence. The creates ontological distance where the Creator is absolutely distinct (“completely other”) from His creation. A woman creates out of her body. A child is the stuff and substance of its mother. There is no ontological separation.

          On a symbolic level (using the Greek meaning of the term; the level of the sacramental ) confusion occurs because the two manners of creation are conflated. Think of the Eucharistic here. New life comes through the chalice. But new life also comes through the female body. Which life then is actually represented when the priestess offers Holy Communion? The confusion does not occur overnight, give it a few years. Further, since the confusion deals with human ontology, it is no accident that the communions that ordained women priests are also the ones where natural law concerning sexual differentiation (and the moral tradition regarding sexuality) were abandoned in less than a decade.

          We see the confusion in the breakdown in language as well. Father is a patriarchal term, yet feminism hates patriarchy so we must call God our “Mother” we are told. The problem is that the analogue for a birth by woman is only found in the creation. When the term is applied to God (and the feminized churches insist on this application), it implies that God somehow gave birth to the creation. As a result the ontological distance between Creator and created collapses. God is brought into time, and the elemental forces of creation are perceived as coming out of the stuff of and substance of God/gods. We arrive back at paganism.

          Having said that however, a return true paganism is a conceptual impossibility even in a decadent Christendom. That God is monotheist has so permeated the deep structure of the cultural memory that the only real option open to it is nihilism. You won’t like this but I will say it anyway, sodomy is deeply nihilistic act (the Fathers teach it destroys the soul). Depositing the life seed in the waste canal of another person is a revolt against nature and thus God and exalts death over life. Yet this is precisely what the Progressives (such as yourself) demand that we ‘celebrate.’

          This isn’t “self-delusion.” It is actually quite clear once you think about it. It’s not even about politics, social justice, or any other value that secularists hold dear. It’s about the self-revelation of God to man.

      • Well sure, “feminized” points to a secular grounding and understanding of who and what we are (anthropology), and who/what Christ is (Christology). In the secular religion/worldview, our createdness is to be overcome by the self and the will – the God of Self. It is essentially a nominalistic and Cartesian worldview. Such a religion does not need Christ, and it of course effects its own Eschaton.

        Christianity is of course something entirely different. Women, men, etc. are not their own – and thus we know that the secular Sacred Quest for Equality and Justice is really neither here nor there. Sure, equality and justice around our created male/femaleness can be a relative good in a political sense, but the Church is not a political society – and when it becomes that it no longer has the Spirit of God with it (such as what has happened to the mainline protestants who have replaced Christianity with secularism).

        I say all this Constantine and Elizabeth, not to call you out as “pagan” (something actually not all that far from Christianity) but to say your philosophy does not even rise to that level. Pagans know they need the gods – you don’t even know that…

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Constantine, your default to armchair psychology is a function of lazy thinking. There is a difference between the terms “feminized” and “feminine.” I’ve written elsewhere that the purpose of feminism is the destruction of the feminine (this happens on the level of language and ontology, not politics).

  13. As a New Yorker who patronizes the arts, and I happy to learn that the avant garde is not simply a group of socially isolated artists on the fringes of society making work that is far too abstract and self referential to be understood or relevant to the general public but is in fact at the vanguard of public threats to traditional Orthodoxy.

  14. Odd article. Snobby writing style. Uninformed comments posted. Irrelevant points. Jaded Author.
    What a fitting article to be published after lent. We have been praying the prayer of St. Ephraim, “Give me not the spirit of idle talk.” That is exactly what this article is. Weak writing, weak points, weak author, and “idle talk.” Sounds like you need some real problems. Sad that such a peaceful church can have such rot growing from the inside. Next time you think about writing another article Fr. Alexander, you should stop, pray the prayer of St. Ephraim, put down your computer, and think about whether what you are about to say is christo-centric or just your bloviated opinion. Seems like ignorant views are becoming more bold in the church. You cant go a day without reading about some archaic, out of touch argument being spewed all over the web by bored priest. They need to get a second job, how do they have so much time to come up with stuff like this. Sometimes it seems like the bads ( Seraphim Rose, Fr. Weldon Hardenbrook, Fr. Josiah Trehnam) out weigh the goods. But then I remember that this is the CHURCh of ALEXANDER SCHMEMANN, THOMAS HOPKO, MET. WARE, and many, many more wonderful people!! They are bright, real, honest, hopeful people who all love Christ. Im with them and Im with Christ!

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Francis, moralistic finger wagging and clucking of the tongue doesn’t count as clear thinking. There are no ideas expressed in your reply, just disapproval and name dropping.

    • Teena Blackburn :

      Fr. Schmemann wrote articles against women’s ordination. Fr. Hopko did talks against the same. Fr. Hopko wrote a book on the issue of same sex attraction. It basically said sexually active, unrepentant, homosexuals, should not commune. I doubt very seriously Fr. Alexander would approve of homosexuality. Who exactly are you presenting as representing the “other side”?

  15. Dimitri Christo :

    (*tapping fingers*)…Just waiting for the Zeitgeist pendulum to swing back to the priority of seeking Holiness, rather than the current fad of justifying serving God at our own Kumbaya-ish convenience…To Francis: With all due respect, you’re off the mark in shooting the messenger just because you don’t like the message…yes, it’s the trendy thing to do, but as St. John Chrysostom points out “nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument”. You see, at its root, homosexuality is a spiritual problem/deception—had you read Fr. Hopko’s book Teena mentioned (“Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections), this would be clear. In the interest of time, I would refer you back to the above comments of Chris Banescu and the links he has provided. I would hope your goal is seeking Christ, as you say, but sometimes we don’t realize that we are the 100th sheep gone astray until, after much prayer in truly seeking to be objective, we get rid of the smoke-screen-and-mirrors (misconceptions like “it’s about love”, “it’s natural”, “patriarchy-blah-blah-blah”) and truly listen for the Good Shepherd’s voice. Within the Church we have Holy Scripture, Tradition and the uniformity of the Fathers on this issue, whereas your tone and words mirror the culture at large. Praying for you as well as for the clergy mentioned in the article. I’m a firm believer in repentance and restoration. And to Father Johannes: I sure hope you don’t get that “second job”! Write on!, and keep on doing 1 Timothy 6:12 ! 🙂

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Progressive morality (the moral law of secularism) resembles an inverted Puritanism including the use of public shaming as its enforcement mechanism.

  16. Chris Banescu :

    Speaking of Trojan Horses…

    Fr. Michael Courey: Orthodox Church Must be More Inclusive, Welcome Same-Sex Couples

    • Michael Bauman :

      Chris, I sent a very irenically composed E-mail to Fr. Michael expressing my concern for him and gentling reminding him of what the Church teaches. I do not expect a reply.

      No dialog.

Care to Comment?