New and Controversial: “Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church” Just Published

From the Press Release:


Controversial Book ‘Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church’ Published; Editor Justin R. Cannon Says Constant Focus on ‘Sex’ and ‘Sin’ Misguided

Newly-published book “Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church” offers a brief overview of the experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans Christians in the life of the Orthodox Church, including personal testimony and a Bible study.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, February 12, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ — “Too often the discussion around homosexuality in the Church focuses on sin, when the real question before us should be: How can the Church faithfully minister to and love homosexual Orthodox Christians?” These words are found in the preface to the recently published book Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church (ISBN 978-1456416874), now available on Editor Justin R. Cannon believes that most conversations about homosexuality are misguided because they reduce people, lives, stories, and struggles to two issues: sin and sex. “This is not just about sex–it’s about people, relationships, love, and that core human longing for companionship,” explains Cannon. “Often it is not until the ‘issue’ is given a face and someone’s close family member or dearest friend comes out that hearts and lives are changed. This is not about an act, but about people.”

Cannon points out that most mainstream Christian denominations–even Roman Catholics with their ministry Dignity USA–have at least one gay-affirming group. But such is not the case with Orthodox Christianity. “The conversation concerning the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Orthodox Church has not started in the same way it has in the Roman, Anglican, and Protestant churches. While many localized Orthodox jurisdictions teach that practicing homosexuality is a sin, this teaching has not been ecumenically affirmed within the Orthodox Church,” states Cannon.

According his website, this book offers “a glimpse into the life, witness, history, and struggle of Eastern Orthodox Christians who happen to be homosexual.” Cannon identifies three ways that priests handle their congregants who are gay and partnered: 1) they just don’t talk about it and maintain a ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy, 2) They kick them out of the Church, or 3) They are embraced and welcomed to be full members of the community. “The frequency of these different responses is probably in that exact order,” he comments.

This 116-page tome is one of a kind–purportedly the very first book about homosexuality in the Orthodox Church that challenges the status quo belief that same-sex relationships are sinful. The book includes four accounts by Orthodox Christians and family members, an essay by a Ukrainian bishop, a history of a group called Axios (which served gay Orthodox Christians), a brief Bible study, and a list of further resources. Copies of the book are available for $12 through at

In the book’s Preface, Cannon writes, “It is my prayer that this anthology will open up dialogue and discussion within the Orthodox Church about the struggles, stories, and witness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Orthodox Christians, and those who love them.”

Inclusive Orthodoxy is a Christian ministry which teaches that the Church must be inclusive of all faithful believers regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, while also holding firm to the authority of Scripture and Tradition. More information is available at

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  1. Michael Bauman says

    Yes, its about people dealing with sin–not just sexual sin, but a whole complex of disordered emotions. They should be dealt with pastorally in acord with the Orthodox spiritual tradition of guided repentance and abstaining from one’s besetting sins.

    Here we are–accept both the sinner and the sin.

    Bad anthropology, bad soteriology in the cause of making everybody feel good about themselves. It ultimate leads in the direction of denying the existence of sin altogether and telling everybody to just do what makes you happy. The perfect way to damnation even if homosexuality did not exist.

    Neither Orthodox, nor inclusive, nor a ministry.

  2. When through some mishap a person has pain, the thought warm hearted others have is to help to relieve the pain and if it is chronic pain to help the person manage going forward. We who do not have pain count ourselves lucky indeed and have sympathy for those who have unchosen pain. Everyone has a different tolerance for pain, some able to soldier bravely on though having some level of pain, others similarly having pain debilitated. At some high enough level, pain will overmatch anyone’s will to soldier on despite it. While it is no sin to have unchosen pain, it is no great honor either. Nobody would think for a moment that only those who have pain should be expected to do well modeling in public how everyone could live. Nor would anyone think for a moment only those having pain be favored to have administrative authority over those who don’t.

    Now, substitue ‘atypical sexual urges’ for ‘pain’ in the above.

  3. I can’t help but think that the reason the issue of homosexuality in Christianity tends to get focused on sex and sin is the simple fact that there is much talk about calling a sin not a sin. If adulterers suddenly started questioning whether their infidelity was truly a sin, I believe they would be treated likewise.

  4. Not sure why this is making the rounds.

    It’s not from an Orthodox source, no matter how often it says ‘orthodox’.
    (and the Ukrainian bishop is, iirc, UAOC).

  5. Geo Michalopulos says

    You know, I feel for homosexuals and their urges. But I can’t help shake the feeling that any of this gay liberation talk is not offered in good faith. Why do I say this? Because as Isaac states, there is no concomitant drive for inclusion or understanding the needs of adulterers. It’s simply not enough to say “well, heterosexuals have a sanctioned outlet (i.e. marriage)” when in reality the heterosexual drive is so great that it can never be satisfied by one person. Islam and renegade Mormonism takes this into account and sanctifies polygamy. Why don’t the mainline Christian denominations do likewise? Our needs are just as important as those of homosexuals, and ours at least can have a eugenic effect since the most fit individuals are the ones who are the most attractive sexually. I’m just sayin’.

  6. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Andrew, it is making the rounds because it presumes Orthodox authority. It’s a ploy of course. The title “Orthodox” as well as the icon on the cover draws from an implied authority that these terms and images inherently have. (It’s why organizations like the National Council of Churches that have no clear idea why they even exist, are so eager for Orthodox involvement.) You are correct. The author is Episcopalian, homosexual, and the book no doubt (haven’t read it but these things always follow a form) provides vignettes that tug at the heart strings and leaves any serious intellectual work behind. Of course, our culture is so confused on moral issues that now the Oprahization of moral theology, properly packaged, is considered serious reflection. And this book, by all appearances, is properly packaged.

    So it is making the rounds because it will require an answer.

    • Well, it’s worth noting that part of its “packaging” is that it was published through an outfit called “CreateSpace,” a self-publishing, print-on-demand service (source). The authors didn’t actually get a publisher willing to take the financial risk on this.

      No doubt the authors put up the money to buy themselves an ISBN. They probably also have to pay for copies of their own book.

      • CreateSpace (owned by Amazon — hence the Kindle version) provides a free ISBN. He does have to pay for copies of his own book, even for the proof copy, I believe.

  7. Fr. M. Mikhail of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Seven Hills OH has written an essay on his church’s beliefs concerning homosexuality. Some of his points are listed below:
    About homosexuality itself:
    * No society in history has accepted homosexuality as normal.
    * Gays and lesbians have never been comfortable about revealing their sexual orientation.
    * Nobody is born homosexual.
    * A homosexual orientation can be controlled.
    * One’s genes do not determine their sexual “preference.”
    * Some people become homosexual because of a hostile parent.
    * Others become homosexual by thinking positively about gay/lesbian activity, and experimenting with it.
    The church and homosexuality:
    * Homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible, Coptic tradition and church creed.
    * It is condemned by God.
    * Sex is only proper between a man and woman who are married to each other.
    * Leviticus 18:22: This passage condemns homosexuality.
    * Leviticus 20:13: This verse goes further and condemns them to death.
    * Genesis 19:1-29: God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality.
    * Romans 1:24-28: Homosexuality is a depraved passion
    * 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Homosexuals will not go to heaven.
    * 1 Timothy 1:9-10: Agrees.
    * Jude 7: Sodom’s sin was homosexuality; Homosexuals will undergo a “punishment of eternal fire.” — presumably eternally in Hell.
    * St. Athanasius stated that homosexual behavior abolish the purpose of the creation of the world, and of Christ’s mission.
    * Homosexuals will not repent of their sins.
    * Active homosexuals are not saved.
    * The “Gay church” is a shame to Christianity.
    * Church tradition states that homosexual acts “are always objectively grave evil and intrinsically disordered…Homosexuality was regarded as a sin against nature and as such abhorrent.”
    * Within marriage, the husband is the leader and head; the wife must “demand, encourage and enable” her husband’s leadership. This balance of power cannot work in a homosexual partnership.
    * Homosexuals are “foolish, faithless, heartless and ruthless.”

    How homosexuals can become heterosexual:

    * Homosexuality is a learned behavior and thus can be changed.
    * Three preconditions to becoming heterosexual again are: to have a strong desire to become straight, to seek and accept God’s power and to accept support from others.
    * Studying the Bible helps; in particular, dwell on the anti-gay verses.
    * Study homosexuality in history.
    * Learn why God created a man and women.
    * Gain self control and self respect.
    “Homosexuality is a sin, and a homosexual who wants to recover should see it as such and repent.”

    • Eliot,

      The problem here is that almost everybody understands ‘sin’ in the ‘everyday way’ meaning: doing the wrong thing on purpose.

      ‘I didn’t finish the race because I have a broken foot’. ‘I didn’t finish the race because I tripped.’ ‘I didn’t finish the race because the next guy tripped me.’ ‘I didn’t finish the race because there was this cute person cheering so I stopped and forgot about it.’

      All the above are examples of falling short, the blameworthy and the not so much. The old understanding is about results, and healing and correcting and/or managing the impediments to those results. It takes away the rationale that lack of blameworthyness is the same as permission. Likewise it imposes on others the duty of empathy.

      • “The grain is changing into smut, and he believes himself wronged wheat”

        This is how Fr. Boca describes the man who wanders on the path of sin and who does not seek neither receives correction. The beginning to any rectification is the acknowledgment of the mistake . No one can help the man who is justifying the sin and condemns those who want to bring him on the right path. When one has that habit to justify sin then “there is not mistake but mortal sin”

    • Just by the way, God condemned Sodom because of rape primarily. Stating Sodom has to do with homosexuality as such is incorrect.

      Furthermore, studying the Bible and “focusing on the anti-gay verses” is absurd; after all, there are very few so-called “anti-gay” verses. Citing Leviticus is a bit odd, as — for the most part — Leviticus talks about a specific male-to-male relationship and does not touch on relationships between women.

      Finally, I believe the Orthodox Church does not state that homosexuals can be “converted” to heterosexuality. Asserting otherwise is a misrepresentation of the faith, which — as far as I know — states that sexuality is generally static.

      This so-called “list,” by the way, sounds insanely Protestant.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        Hannah, this is biblical revisionism. The sin of Sodom is homosexuality, not rape. The rape thesis presupposes that homosexuality is morally normative, which it may have been in Sodom, but certainly not in scripture and thus the children of Abraham. This prohibition is still in force with Orthodox Judaism which the article reveals. The prohibition exists in Orthodox Christianity as well although we deal differently with it of course.

        As for “conversion” to heterosexuality, Orthodoxy does not believe that homosexuality is an ontological category. By this I mean that the modern tendency to see sexual orientation as a category of personhood is false. Homosexuality is understood as a passion (in strict terms there is no such thing as a “homosexual”, which is to say, the object of one’s sexual desire is not a primary definer of who that person is). Sexuality is a very complex and powerful interior and inter-personal dynamic however so dealing with it is difficult.

        Finally, whether or not sexuality is “static” is by no means settled. See: NARTH.

        • The “rape thesis” does not suppose homosexuality is morally normative. Disregarding the morality of homosexuality, there is nevertheless a radical difference between consensual and non-consensual sex. Rape and homosexuality can exist as two distinct categories, and they certainly do in Sodom. My point is that stating that Sodom was destroyed simply because of homosexuality and homosexuality alone is inherently false. Sodom is mentioned constantly as representing the pinacle of idolatry as well.

          Yes, being gay is not an ontological category in the Orthodox Church — I’m well aware of that. Nevertheless, perceiving homosexuality as not an ontological category does not mean one can suddenly “become” a heterosexual. The Orthodox Church advocates an ascetic struggle in those cases; it does not send people to conversion therapy and makes them marry women. There is a tremendous difference.

          Yes, I’m aware of NARTH’s existence. And, to Eliot Ryan, “vulnerable young?” Yes, nothing we say should be taken seriously as we are “young and vulnerable.” As a young Orthodox Christian, I find this a bit troubling in terms of ministry…

          • Michael Bauman says


            Homosexuality is a form of idolatry. Whether it is consensual or not makes little difference. Allowing the consenual aspect into the discussion as a significant parameter merely places man’s will over God’s once again. Human beings mired in sin are perfectly capable of consenting to anything. Is seduction into sin any worse than having it forced upon you?

            It is impossible to disregard the immorality and idolatry that is inherent in homosexual activity. To attempt to do so is, IMO, an attempt to place homosexual and hetrosexual activity on the same moral plane.

            One does not have to be young to be vulnerable to the ideological propaganda of the moral and political egalitarians. We are all vulnerable. In fact, in some instances it is the young who see through the propaganda more readily.

      • Eliot Ryan says

        The vulnerable young are easy victims of an insidious secular humanist propaganda : “it’s ok to be gay”; “if two gay people love each other why can’t get married?
        Love is not just simple carnal sexual attraction. The Christians are not homophobic: they are trying to warn people, out of genuine love and concern for their souls, against a horrific judgment.

        Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

        There absolutely is hope for homosexuals. God did not make them that way because feel that way.
        Many people, although attracted to the opposite sex, feel that it is just not in them to be faithful to one because they are attracted to more than one partner to be satisfied. Should God overlook them? No, God calls them Adulterers and Fornicators.

        The only way to overcome these attractions is realizing that it will cause you to sin. The struggle against sin is a fierce one, but God gives strength to those who want to overcome these destructive selfish passions. God can cleanse and purify all persons from sin.
        There is a great reward in store for those who help sinners find their way to Christ. Even greater the reward for those who struggle against sin, not out of a fear of God, but out love of God.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        Dr. Nicolosi confirms from the psychological side my theological point that “homosexual” is not a proper ontological category. What this means is that the common perception that the object of one’s sexual attraction is a primary characteristic of how we define what constitutes a human being is in fact a gross misconception.

        Teens and SSA – Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.

        Source: Narth

  8. Here is the real problem as I see it:

    1) Will the episcopal assembly address issues raised in this text and publicly clarify church teaching? NO

    2) Will any office of Church and Society out there address issues raised in this text and publicly clarify church teaching? NO

    3) Will any Seminary Faculty address issues raised in this text and publicly clarify church teaching? NO (After all the “chaps” at SVS honored Rowan Williams who basically embraces similar positions)

    4)Will any local primate or local bishop address issues raised in this text and publicly clarify church teaching? NO

    5)Will any youth ministry department address issues raised in this text and publicly clarify church teaching? NO

    6)In the absence of clear and unified pastoral teaching, is there the possibility some confused Orthodox leader will give support to this text? YES

    There is no question the book contains errors and is an attempt to shape perception on this issue. In a world of new media such texts should be expected. The Church deals with error in every age and errors certainly deserve a response. However, the real issue the publishing of this text reveals the breakdown of the teaching ability of the hierarchy and other institutions in America. Errors will flourish when those entrusted to teach and witness to the Faith do nothing. Errors will also flourish when our leaders and teachers choose being fashionable over teaching Orthodoxy.

    Isn’t it time the hierarchy, leaders, and teachers of the Church stop being absentee fathers to their flock in America?

    • No offense, friend, but a simple Google search yields quite a lot of just the sort of thing you seem to believe doesn’t exist. Of particular note is the 2003 SCOBA statement:

      SCOBA Statement on Moral Crisis on Our Nation

      Wednesday, August 13, 2003

      As members of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), representing more than 5 million Orthodox Christians in the United States, Canada and Mexico, we are deeply concerned about recent developments regarding “same sex unions.”

      The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church. Neither Scripture nor Holy Tradition blesses or sanctions such a union between persons of the same sex.

      Holy Scripture attests that God creates man and woman in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27-31), that those called to do so might enjoy a conjugal union that ideally leads to procreation. While not every marriage is blessed with the birth of children, every such union exists to create of a man and a woman a new reality of “one flesh.” This can only involve a relationship based on gender complementarity. “God made them male and female… So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8).

      The union between a man and a woman in the Sacrament of Marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). As such, marriage is necessarily monogamous and heterosexual. Within this union, sexual relations between a husband and wife are to be cherished and protected as a sacred expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such was God’s plan for His human creatures from the very beginning. Today, however, this divine purpose is increasingly questioned, challenged or denied, even within some faith communities, as social and political pressures work to normalize, legalize and even sanctify same-sex unions.

      The Orthodox Church cannot and will not bless same-sex unions. Whereas marriage be-tween a man and a woman is a sacred institution ordained by God, homosexual union is not. Like adultery and fornication, homosexual acts are condemned by Scripture (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This being said, however, we must stress that persons with a homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed by our Lord Jesus Christ upon all of humanity. All persons are called by God to grow spiritually and morally toward holiness.

      As heads of the Orthodox Churches in America and members of SCOBA, we speak with one voice in expressing our deep concern over recent developments. And we pray fervently that the traditional form of marriage, as an enduring and committed union only between a man and a woman, will be honored.

      August 13, 2003

      †Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
      Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

      †Metropolitan HERMAN
      Orthodox Church in America

      †Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
      Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

      †Archbishop NICOLAE
      Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America America and Canada

      †Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
      Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

      †Metropolitan JOSEPH
      Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

      †Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
      Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

      †Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
      Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA

      †Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
      Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

      • Michael Bauman says

        Given the rather questionable personal situations of the some of the signatories, the statement does not carry as much weight as it ought.

        What Anderw is getting at, I think, is the necessity to expound and apply the teaching embodied in the statement pastorally and publically so that there is no lack of clarity within the Church. He does not see that being done.

        The attitude that ‘everybody knows where the Church stands’ does not work. Everybody may know, but many don’t care or see any reason to care. Why not just go with the flow. Surely homosexuality does not really threaten salavation does it, or even worse;; Salvation? I don’t need no stinkin’ salvation, I’m already (fill in the ethinc adjective) or any other paraphrase of the Pharisee-let them do what they want.

        The Church needs to publically, specifically and consistently confront the anthropological monstrosities with which we are face that include the normalization of same sex attraction and the diminuation of sin altogether. If we don’t have we lost our savor as well as our savior?

  9. Father, we are talking about publication of this text and the questions it raises. It is a forward looking question. The text is an opportunity for leaders to teach. We are also talking about the leadership structures in the Church and how they respond and teach moral issues. While I agree the SCOBA statement covers these points, maybe you can help us here and share how your local bishop has publicly addressed these issues? Are there texts available? Maybe you can help me out here as well, Has the EA been busy preparing teaching texts on moral issues?

    By the way, if you click on the google search you listed you will see the text referenced in this article already has multiple entries and points of reference.

    Lets be honest the 2003 SCOBA statement does not absolve our leaders from any future engagement of this issue and to suggest it does in some way is not expect much.

    • If you’re expecting a response to this particular book, I think that may be a little unreasonable. This is a brand-new, little self-published, print-on-demand volume written by someone outside the Orthodox Church with help from uncanonical “Orthodox” clergy. It’s likely most Orthodox people have never even heard of it, and it was also released last month. This is not a major publication. There isn’t even a publisher. You seem to think this little book should be taken far more seriously than it, quite frankly, warrants.

      It’s also not like the Church’s position on this question is unknown. It is well known.

      It’s also not like it’s going unaddressed. I know many clergy who have preached, written, counseled, etc., on precisely this issue—including bishops.

      The fact that not everything is published as a text that happens to come onto your radar screen does not mean that nothing at all is being done. Most sermons are never published. Most counseling sessions or confessions are never publicized (nor should they be!). This issue is being dealt with constantly. That you are seemingly unaware of that reality is not the fault of our leaders.

      Whether the Assembly of Bishops has specific intention to address homosexuality, in addition to the clear statement issued by its predecessor body (SCOBA) is unknown to me. Perhaps you may wish to inquire with Bishop Savas, who chairs the Committee on Church and Society.

      Anyway, you ask many questions and make many bold statements about what is not being done, but based on what I can find with a simple Google search, I suspect that you haven’t done the research to figure it out for yourself. Instead of condemning our leaders and demanding that everyone else hand research to you, why don’t you find out for yourself?

      • Father, what is your definition of well known? The results of the recent survey from the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute seem to suggest there are serious issues with how people receive and understand the moral teachings of the Church. I also believe Fr. Gregory Jensen outlined these issues in an article on AOI. We have also seen the spectacle of SVS honoring someone who endorses sex outside of marriage.

        All evidence indicates there is a problem. Pretending there is not a problem only places more people at risk of being harmed in the long run.

        • Scott Pennington says

          I have to say Andrew does have a bit of a point on this. You may recall that Fr. Thomas Hopko – – and I respect much of what he has done – – endorsed the establishment of civil unions for gays and lesbians, using language reminiscent of homosexual apologetics in the process. You may also know that Russian clergy who participate in ecumenical gatherings are routinely taken aback by the silence of the Greek clergy when the subject of homosexuality comes up.

          I’m not suggesting that its a problem in only one branch of Orthodoxy but rather a problem that is having an effect on the de facto teaching of the Church rather than the official teaching that is represented by Tradition and formal statements. This book is more of a frontal assault rather than soft subversion. It is indeed fortunate that Orthodoxy’s center is not in the Western world, but rather in the East where this type of concept is less tolerated.

  10. As a follow-up to Fr. Andrew’s comments and my own —-throughout my entire life I have heard the comment repeated that Church leadership does not have to produce any letters or written instruction because the teaching of the Church is well known and taught all the time privately. I think thisis a horrible excuse for healthy orthodox witness. I believe it is also an excuse for mediocrity. The Apostle Paul wrote letters providing guidance to communities and today’s those letters are treasures that guide us all. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote letters to communities and today we look to those letters as guidepost for our own faith. In present times, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s sermons are preserved in writing and are a joy to read.

    These are all examples of how letters, public teaching and the written word can change lives for the better. Each of these examples of written instruction benefit Orthodox Christians today. Why are some so quick to dismiss the power of the written word to change lives, prevent people from sinning and lead them to joy? Sure counseling and confession are essential. But it is also important to help people not to sin in the first place and avoid the snares of enemy.

    In the age of information and the internet our leaders should place a special focus on the written word. You never know— that pastoral letter, written sermon or reflection might just be something that saves a person and helps change their life forever.

  11. All of what you write is of course true in its essence, but nowhere did I or anyone else dismiss the power of the written word. (I did my undergrad in English literature, and I tend to be quite taken with the written word, email out my sermons, post on my weblog, write podcasts, books, etc.)

    What I dismissed was the dismissal of our pastors based on a clear lack of basic research. This unfortunately happens all the time. Quite often, people post such things as are above, e.g., “Where is the OUTRAGE?”, “Why are they doing NOTHING?!”, etc. But such an outrage at a lack of outrage is outrageous, because it presumes one’s own omniscience.

    • Father, I gave you three examples in post 9.1.1 that clearly show a leadership problem. I would say this constitutes clear evidence that my concerns are well founded and verifiable.

      I also strongly urge you do dial down the histrionics. The point of my post was to question Orthodox leaders. There is nothing wrong with questioning them and their work. Its perfectly mature to do so.

      What I find disturbing are Orthodox clergy and leaders who think every question is a condemnation. This is a serious problem among many in Orthodoxy today.

      • Andrew,

        Regarding your points:

        1) The results of the recent survey from the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute seem to suggest there are serious issues with how people receive and understand the moral teachings of the Church.

        This is true, yet public statements are, quite often, “preaching to the choir” when this sort of thing is concerned. In other words, the only people that usually read such statements are those who, one way or another, have an ax to grind (in this case, activists for or against homosexual inclusion in the Church). The “let them do what they want; why should I care” people are not going to take the time to look up statements.

        2) I also believe Fr. Gregory Jensen outlined these issues in an article on AOI.

        There is an issue of pastoral economy actually working against, instead of with, doctrinal akrevia. Many just hold to their own opinions, and just don’t bring it up, knowing they can still commune because the priest doesn’t know if they don’t tell him. This creates a problem for the priest who DOES want to address the issue: how is a priest able to bring those questions up in the first place? Why does he think so-and-so might be gay? What if someone is struggling to be celibate but falls?

        3) We have also seen the spectacle of SVS honoring someone who endorses sex outside of marriage.

        Please. As a current SVS student, I can tell you that that was about his work on Origen’s Philokalia and his work on Dostoevsky, both of which are thoroughly researched and, from a purely academic standpoint, quite rigorous and well-respected. It was only a “spectacle” to people who see some sort of “compartmentalization” or “turning a blind eye to sin” when someone is honored academically for academic work that influences Eastern Christianity. Were Fr. Gregory to accept an honor from the APA, who explicitly took homosexuality out from the DSM as a mental illness (as they had listed prior to 2009, iirc), would he be castigated here for “compromising” and “fellowshipping with the morally lax”? I very much doubt it; such an event would be certain professionals meeting to discuss matters pertaining to an arena of expertise they all held in common, regardless of whether all of them held to an identical anthropology informed by the same (or any) theology. Your polemics are, quite frankly, besides the point here. Spectacle, indeed.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          Good comments David. Thank you for contributing them. I took a look at your website. Very good. Your reflection on The March for Life, 2011 is excellent.

        • David, thank you for your comments. I have no intention of dragging this out forever. I cannot accept the excuse that public statements are not needed because they are just for the fringe folks. Public statements can be an important guide to thinking about the faith. Its about teaching. To say there is no need for teaching is to promote mediocrity.

          I would also like to point out that a professional guild such as the APA is in no way similar to a Church institution like SVS which is a part of the Church. The APA is not part of the Church, the faculty of SVS are part of the Church. SVS faculty have responsibilites to the Church and to teach what the Church teaches. A honorary doctorate from SVS is a Church honor. It is disigenuous to say the Church can honor someone for there positive contribution to the study of Origen while ignoring the fact that their theological work also seeks to justify sex outside of marriage. Rowan Williams is a politically correct figure. He goes over easy with the Orthodox and the “chaps” at SVS. Lets be honest, SVS is not going to give a honorary doctorate to someone likeRobert George of Princeton.. Your campus would go nuts.

          If this entire conversation about public teaching has taught me anything its that many folks are settling for mediocrity from the very folks who have been entrusted to teach and communicate the faith.

  12. cynthia curran says

    well, the homosexaul issue is thought in political terms of left versus right. Actually, let’s say in the old Byzantine Empire which sometimes punished homosexuality with castration that this wasn’t so. Emperiors could view homosexuality as morally inoorrect by could be considered liberal in terms of economics in the modern worldew The old Justinian code also offer mercy to homosexuals that repented ot that sin.

  13. Michael Quay says

    Did anyone ever actually take the time to…I don’t know…maybe spread pamphlets and Bibles and prayers books across you kitchen table and actual READ them with an open eye?
    Or better yet, take the time to study the world’s major religious schools, and honestly ask yourself “which one sounds most true?’

    I know the answer ( some of you studious readers know too!)…but I’m gonna wait for you to find out for yourself.

    • Eliot Ryan says

      Michael Quay: I do not believe that you can find out which is the one true religion by asking yourself “which one sounds most true?
      The Truth lies beyond the grasp of human reason, philosophical argument or human logic. The Truth is so powerful that it changed the pagan culture into human civilization and Christian culture. The change was accomplished by those sent by the Lord “out into the world Like Lambs amongst Wolves”.

      • Michael Quay says

        The truth did not “change a pagan culture”! How ignorant. All of the so-called Christian nations were baptized en mass for purely political reasons. You were either baptized with “the truth” or had your head chopped off. You reply amazes me!
        Also, to say that “the truth” lies beyond human reason is just a cop-out on your part. You and I both know the earth is an orb, though “your team” insisted for centuries it was flat!

        The subject matter may have changed…but your argument is still the same.

        • Eliot Ryan says

          Michael Quay: Your reply equally amazes me! It seems to me that you are born spiritually blind and been under continuous indoctrination since birth.

          Fr. Hans: In historical terms, that testimony of the twelve men known as the Apostles and then in the lives of others was so powerful it that became the foundation of an entire new civilization.

          Even more impressive is the fact that Christianity emerged as a dominant religion after three centuries of persecution by the pagan majority and their rulers. Christians endured:

          mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
          They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point;
          they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.
          The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.

          My “team” did not insist for centuries the earth was flat! Ancient people knew it was round because during a solar eclipse they could see earth’s round shadow on the moon.
          You may want to read:
          or go in peace!

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

          Michael, you don’t know history. A round earth was posited as early as 6 BC. Byzantinum taught it. As for the cultural shift from paganism to Christianity, read two recently published works Atheist Delusions and Defending Constantine to correct your misconception (or any basic history text will do).

          Flat Earth

          The paradigm of a spherical Earth was developed in Greek astronomy, beginning with Pythagoras (6th century BC), although most Pre-Socratics retained the flat Earth model. Aristotle accepted the spherical shape of the Earth on empirical grounds around 330 BC, and knowledge of the spherical Earth gradually began to spread beyond the Hellenistic world from then on.[2][3][4][5]

          The misconception that educated people at the time of Columbus believed in a flat Earth, and that his voyages refuted that belief, has been referred to as “The Myth of the Flat Earth”.[6] In 1945, it was listed by the Historical Association (of Britain) as the second of 20 in a pamphlet on common errors in history.[7]

    • Scott Pennington says


      Actually, I have visited synagogues, temples, mosques and quite a number of different churches as well as reading in depth about Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Bahaism, Jainism and Confucianism. I came to the conclusion that Christianity is true and that if any form of Christianity accurately reflected the teaching of the Apostles, it is Orthodox Christianity. It is not so much that Orthodoxy or Christianity “sounds” true. It is that, given some life experience, the teaching of Christianity makes sense, particularly in its Orthodox form.

      If you don’t mind films with subtitles, rent a Russian film called “The Island”/”Остров”. It’s about a first mate on a boat during WWII who, along with his captain, gets stopped by the Germans. They force him to shoot his own captain in order to be spared himself. Then they blow up the barge he was on. He survives and is taken in by monks. The rest of the movie is set in the mid-70’s.

      The fundamental human condition as understood by the Orthodox Church is well represented as the dilemma the German officer imposes on Anatoli (the first mate’s name). We do not believe, as Western Christians do, that all mankind inherits the guilt of Adam. We do believe that mankind suffers from the effects of Adam’s actions, however. One of these effects is death – – we are all subject to death. The knowledge that we will die often leads us to surrender ourselves to the passions out of fear. This is one of the main origins of much of human sin. Each day, we are faced with Anatoli’s choice – – to do evil or to defy the compelling motivations which lead us toward sin.

      In the end, a cowardly man who grovelled for his life and actually shot his friend to escape death is transformed into a saint who magnificently touches the lives of all around him. But he does so in ways that they do not initially comprehend. He even uses the fear of death to enlighten his abbot regarding his weakness for comfort.

      Orthodoxy is like that in its effect on those who dare to believe in it.

      • Ostrov (“The Island”) is a real gem of a movie, one of my unqualified favorites. Certainly, it is one of tne of the most edifying movies I have ever seen. It is such a powerful and remarkable portrait of a (fictional) Fool for Christ, that I have given it out many times. it is impossible to imagine Hollywood producing anything like it. By all means, a worthy film for Lent (if that thought is not oxymoronic). Finding the English subtitles is difficult if you can’t read Russian, but – again – worth the effort.

        • Eliot Ryan says

          The Ostrov movie is my favorite too. Part 10 and 11 are edifying; demonic influence and bondage is real.

          Ostrov The Island with English Subtitles 10 of 12
          Ostrov The Island with English Subtitles 11 of 12

          Without the Church our fate is awful; there are no values, no morals, no spirituality, only the delusion and illusion that the grass is always greener on the other side.

          The story of Gadara ends with the man that had terrorized the neighborhood, who for years had been a dangerous maniac, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and of sane mind.

          Jesus was not the only one who cast out demons. The disciples of Jesus, the Apostles cast out demons; some of the early Christians cast out demons. It is happening in our time too, but we keep ignoring it and explain it using terms and definitions related to the science of psychology and psychiatry.

          Once I heard a priest saying that the demons did enter the swine; the swine rushed off the cliff and drowned but the demons did not perish; they came back into the world to afflict people and to persuade them to sin, to shoot others or commit suicide.

  14. Eliot Ryan says

    The Elder Porphyrios treasured the following quote from the writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian. He had it printed and handed out to his visitors.

    We should look upon all the faithful as one person and consider that Christ is in each one of them. We should have such love for them that we are ready to sacrifice our very lives for them. For it is incumbent upon us neither to say, nor think of any person as evil, but we must look upon everyone as good. If you see a brother afflicted with a passion, do not hate him. Hate the passion that makes war upon him. And if you see him being terrorized by the habits and desires of previous sins, have compassion on him. Maybe you too will be afflicted by temptation, since you are also made from matter that easily turns from good to evil. Love towards your brother prepares you to love God even more. The secret, therefore, of love towards God is love towards your brother. For if you don’t love your brother whom you see, how is it possible to love God whom you do not see?

    For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God Whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

    • Isn’t that quote by St. Symeon lovely? I’d like to share a personal story that I hope will shed some light on what it’s like to bear this cross. That said, I do not mean to speak for all bisexuals or homosexuals.

      I am new to Orthodoxy and looking forward to being baptized soon. I am in a faithful, monogamous marriage with a man. And I also consider myself to have a bisexual orientation. While the orientation itself doesn’t feel like something that can be changed, I am open to the possibility, because I know with God all things are possible. I admit that I have found comfort in the label “bisexual” as a way to understand myself, but I am also open to one day no longer needing to define myself in that way.

      When I was younger, in fact after I had the first inclination I might also have attractions to girls, I had a vision in which I met Jesus. Many things I experienced were similar to what people report after near death experiences. It was the most real and wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced, and it became a kind of litmus test for me when sifting through various world religions in an attempt to find there the Jesus I had met personally. After being led astray on more than one occasion, I began to lose faith in ever finding Him again. I never doubted that He was real, but honestly nothing felt more anti-Christ than trying to believe in a theology that was in conflict with what I knew of Him.

      Meanwhile, I was distracted by two attitudes toward homosexuality. Either it was something good that should be accepted with open arms and celebrated with bright rainbow flags and parties or it was not only detestable but pure evil, and homosexuals were just lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike the next innocent victim with their vile homosexual agenda. At the time, I could not see that there were any other options. If God is love, how could the second attitude toward homosexuals be called a Christian one? How could paralyzing fear and guilt and self-hatred be what God wanted? And so, unable to break free from that false dichotomy, it made sense that by deduction, the first attitude must be of God.

      So I began to follow The New Age “religion,” with all of its tolerance for everything that feels good. It felt safe and welcoming, far from the fearful, angry judgments of so-called Christians. Then I took a class on International Human Rights, and it turned this notion of relativism on it’s head. If it’s all relative and it’s someone else’s “culture” to beat women, for example, who am I to judge? But wait, that can’t be right. Surely God wouldn’t approve of men beating women, no matter which culture endorses it. Could it be that there is such thing as an ultimate, universal Truth? And it was there, in a very, very liberal university, that a little class called International Human Rights gave me permission to have an opinion- and perhaps, even, to offend someone who might disagree.

      It still took several years after this for me to consider Christianity again. But when I did, I decided to start back at the very beginning. And that’s how I found Orthodoxy. How come I’d never even heard of it before? Why couldn’t Jesus have just said, “By the way, the Orthodox church is where you’ll find me”? I may never understand why we suffer the way we do, but I’d go through it all over again if that’s the only way I could know what it means to be Christian.

      Through this journey to Orthodoxy, I’ve noticed that certain things which used to be a huge problem just aren’t so troublesome anymore. The concept of Hell used to be something I just absolutely could not accept. And yet, now I believe. I used to be adamantly pro-choice. And yet, now I cannot fathom how I allowed the fear of not being able to control my body outweigh any compassion for an innocent life. I may never understand in my heart why homosexuality is so wrong. But when I’m filled with doubt and have trouble believing, I make the choice to trust. Maybe, just maybe, bisexuality happens to be my particular cross to bear.

      Whatever the meaning behind it all, I am no longer willing to let my sexuality get in the way of a relationship with God. So I don’t ask for my sexuality to be accepted or understood, and I don’t ask for my past behaviors to be condoned. I would simply ask that my Orthodox brothers and sisters try to see the Christ in me that I see in them.

      • Eliot Ryan says

        Emily: Whatever the meaning behind it all, I am no longer willing to let my sexuality get in the way of a relationship with God. Yes, this is what Living is all about: struggle against sin.

        We live in a society where sensuality is greatly encouraged and the body is in control. The bottom line philosophy is “whatever you feel you do it; you’re just an animal at the end of the evolutionary chain; this is the only life you’ve got, so you got to live it BIG Time”. Don’t use your mind, do whatever your body tells you. This is a sure way for a person to become a pitiable slave to his passions and to blind his mind to truth.

        For the Orthodox, body and soul both comprise the complete human being, and in the end, body and soul will be reunited. Fasting and prayer is the way to “restrain one’s physical desires and to allow the soul’s noble aspirations to bloom and strengthen.”

        The necessity of abstinence of food arises from the human constitution itself, possessing not only a body but an immortal soul. Because of the sinfulness of our nature, the harmony between our body and soul has been disturbed. As a result, the desires of the flesh often predominate and sometimes completely stifle all the soul’s endeavors for righteousness. A person becomes a pitiable slave to his passions and at times worse than an animal. It is possible to restrain one’s physical desires and to allow the soul’s noble aspirations to bloom and strengthen with the help of prayer and fasting.

        Fasting, according to the teaching of Basil the Great, brings forth prophets, strengthens the warriors of Christ, and makes the law-givers wiser. Fasting is the good guardian of the soul, the weapon of the valiant. It repels temptations, is the cohabitant of sobriety and the foundation of chastity. Fasting carries prayer to heaven, becoming its wings. On the necessity of abstinence

  15. Eliot Ryan says


    I may never understand in my heart why homosexuality is so wrong.

    The purpose of life is to healed (all) the passions – both of the body and of the soul.

    Hell is the absolute and infinite eruption of our passions, which can no longer be satisfied. This is the description of hell made by Saint Gregory the Great in his Dialogueues about death. Passions, although of spiritual origin, can be satisfied only by means of the body. After death, when body changes its properties, its spiritual side will keep the properties and habits of its lifetime. When entering eternity, passions will progress infinitely, so that even the slightest irritation will become rage and a guilty look will become an ocean of lust. But the body will not be capable to fulfill its desires. Suffering will arise from the turmoil of all the passions rushed upon the helplessness of the body. The existence of the body is necessary, both the sinners and the righteous will recover their bodies. The saints (as Saint Gregory says) to enjoy the perfect harmony which they were created for; the sinners – to die permanently and forever in body and soul.

    Satan’s warfare against us begins in the mind and, in order to resist, we are to bring into captivity every thought to obey God. Our Church teaches us to pray unceasingly.

    Healing all passions (a gradual process which enables us to escape eternal torment) and dedicating ourselves to prayers is what bring us close to living heavenly-like, with no sin in between to hinder the closeness. “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)
    “Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no homosexual perverts, sodomites, thieves, ..or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit God’s kingdom.
    Saint Ignatie Brancianinov said that those who do not turn monks willingly, in the end would do it unwillingly forced by illness and death.
    We have to live moderate lives and to avoid every excess. We “eat to live, don’t live to eat”, and overeating (a failure of self-control), leads to obesity.
    However, this does not mean that we should all be monks and nuns.
    Marriage (between one man and one woman) is honorable and is the place where life is begotten and nurtured. Those who are married should “not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; Then come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

  16. Rob Zechman says

    Eliot, perhaps I misunderstand you, but passion and emotion is, in itself, no sin. The question is how that fervor is directed, I think. Self-centered passions tend to lead to vices such as anger, jealousy, lust that objectifies its objects, covetousness, etc. A passion and fervent desire for the good of others sometimes accompanies a willingness to engage in great acts of charity and heroism.

    I don’t think reacting to the world like an automaton or being unable to embrace the natural goods of this life necessarily makes us any more “human”.

    • Eliot Ryan says

      Rob: What is meant by passion is is of course sinful passions.
      We are commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
      Fr. Calciu spent a total of twenty-one brutal years in prison and after he beng released maintained a strict ascetic life of fasting and prayer. This kind of life does not make one “react to the world like an automaton or being unable to embrace the natural goods”.
      Fr. Calciu, “He had a beaming smile. He was often amused by life, and ready to laugh. . . . Fr. George was joyful. . . . He was naturally affectionate, and would hold my hand or anyone’s . . . just beaming with a radiant smile.”

  17. Rev Carol Stubbs Smith says

    I am happy to see that this book has been published. However, I am stunned that it is the first in the Orthadox Community. Even Roman Catholics have had a strong gay affirming group and teachings. I pray for those beginning to spiritually search what most denominations have been studying and now living in equality and justice. Blessings…..

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Happy? Stunned? No need to be either. The book was written by an Anglican, not Orthodox author. He cites Orthodoxy only to lend a patina of moral gravitas to the topic. The only real notice the Orthodox have taken is that the book was published under the pretense of speaking for Orthodoxy. It doesn’t.

      • The book is not “written by an Anglican.” It was edited by an Anglican, but includes accounts by Orthodox Christians. If it was edited by an Orthodox he would probably have been excommunicated.

  18. I will never understand why people allow other men to dictate to them who they are to be? Can any of these Orthodox priests call down God from the heavens? NO! But people continue to allow the fears preached to them to turn them against their brothers. Some people are created homosexuals, and this is not a sickness or mental disorder. If homosexuality was a sickness, you would not need people to abuse them in order for them to feel bad about themselves. Intolerance and Discrimination are signs of sickness and many people who have posted here are clearly SICK!


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