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

Orthodox priests who undermine the tradition undermine the Church

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Richard Kendall says

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

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

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

  4. Chris Banescu says

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

    Dear Bishops,

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

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

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

  5. craig wash says

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

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

  6. Pray4Light says

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

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

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

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

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

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

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

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

  7. James Bradshaw says

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

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

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

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

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

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

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

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

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

    • James Bradshaw says

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Franci Frost says

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

    Dear Fr. Johannes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

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

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

  11. David J Dunn says

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

    • Michael Bauman says

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

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

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

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

    “For I Am Wonderfully Made”: Texts on Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT Inclusion

    The book includes the following chapters (essays):

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

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

    What the book is about:

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

    How’s that for chutzpah!

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

  13. Elijah John McKnight – in his own words:

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

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

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

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

    Books to Recommend: Being As Communion (Zizioulas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  16. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

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

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

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

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

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Bill,

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

      Orthodox and Gay

      Orthodox and Gay Facebook page

      Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality in the Orthodox Church

      AXIOS – Eastern and Orthodox Gay and Lesbian Christians

      LGBTQ Supportive Orthodox Christians

      “For I am Wonderfully Made” : Texts on Eastern Orthodoxy and LGBT

      More heretical websites here:

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

        • Bill,


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

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

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

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

          Gay Iconoclasm: Holding the Line Against the Radical LGBT Agenda

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


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

  19. Elijah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  20. Michael Bauman says

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

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

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

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

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

  22. Elija,

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

    Fr. Arida writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Elijah,
      Thank you for the reply. A few thoughts and some more questions for you if you don’t mind.

      You mentioned discrimination against who you/LGBT’s “are (orientation).” You also said that you yourself had not experienced it in terms of being denied confession, blessings, Communion, etc. but that you have heard of others who have.

      In our modern culture “discrimination” is considered among the worst of offenses. Yet as Christians we are commanded to be discriminating when it comes to our participation in evil (of any kind). We are told, for example, to avoid those who do not walk “according to the pattern” set forth by the Apostles. I do not think this means we avoid repentant sinners or those who struggle with besetting weaknesses, but it does mean that in the context of the Church community we are to avoid those who call themselves by the Name of Christ while refusing to live according to the Tradition. This type of discrimination/avoidance that is commanded of us is not a sign of moral superiority (God forbid!) or a looking down upon those who have placed themselves outside the Church community. Rather, it is a common confession, in agreement with God, that sin is sin. Refusal to agree with God about the truth is what separates us from Him and His people.

      The way of life that is the Church is so utterly contrary to the prevailing culture that it is inevitable that those who have no understanding of it will assume they are being “discriminated against,” judged, or even hated. There are many who have spent their entire lives ‘in the Church’ – to say nothing of the unchurched – who have no understanding of this whatsoever. Misreading of motives is nearly always encountered when, for example, one kindly refuses to allow an unmarried, even “Christian” relative and their significant other to share a bed while spending the night in one’s home. It is not hate, moral superiority, or even judgement; but it can rightly be called discrimination between what God says is permitted for the married and the unmarried. It is not allowing evil to be misunderstood as normal and good. It is agreeing with God, confessing His truth, and witnessing to it in action. It takes courage to be such a witness in our culture, but it is what real love looks like. Someone must speak and act in a truthful manner even if it hurts, and one’s own home should not become another province of this world. Neither is the Church a province of this world. But doing such things inevitably makes the person(s) feel “judged.”

      In short, I wonder if this sort of thing is not what is being reported as “discrimination.” It is not only some Christians who fail to distinguish between sin and the sinner. Those who feel “judged” by Christians who confess the truth (gently, mind you) in love typically fail to make this distinction themselves.

      What do you think?

      Now to my primary question.

      You seem (and I could be mistaken) to include yourself in the ‘category’ of LGBT, identifying yourself as such in that you experience SSA. Much has been said by the host of this blog and many others about the fallacy of saying, “This is who I am.” But I would like to approach this from a different angle.

      I say (truly) that I am a sinner, and it is the confession of this truth that opens the pathway toward my healing. In a similar fashion, an alcoholic begins his healing by confessing, “I am an alcoholic.” Until one confesses the truth – agreeing with God about reality as it is – one cannot begin to heal. And yet to confess that I miss the mark (sin) is to acknowledge that there is a mark for which I was created – and that the “mark” is my true self, fully liberated from sin and fully the image and glory of God. In this sense my true self is not a sinner; I am not an alcoholic, etc. I would add that whether I miss the mark by choice or not is ultimately irrelevant. All of us are born with an inability to reach the mark on our own. It is our inheritance in Adam whether we like it or not, whether we choose it or not; and it is why Christ is come to save us.

      It would seem to me, therefore, that if one says, “I am an alcoholic” or “I am SSA” or “I am gay” as a confession of the truth with an understanding that it is a missing of the mark, their confession in Christ becomes the pathway toward the fullness of life. If, however, one says these very same words with the intent of fully identifying one’s self with one’s passions it becomes a denial of who one really is, was created by God to be, and a willful thwarting of God’s good and loving purpose of conforming us to Christ who is the image and glory of God and who, interestingly, was/is Himself wholly unconcerned with His own “sexual fulfillment.”

      You seem to be involved in a sort of “community,” be it via the internet or whatever, of those who consider themselves LGBT. Would you say that you and/or those in that community who consider themselves Christians – and more specifically Orthodox Christians – generally agree or disagree with these last three paragraphs?

  23. Elijah,

    Again, thank you for the reply. To be clear, I didn’t intend to imply anything improper on your part by using the term “community.” I am merely (and honestly) trying to understand how your (plural) struggles may – or may not – differ from my own. And, respectfully, you didn’t really answer my question. If you care to answer from within a different framework than the one within which I asked, that is fine. Or if you don’t care to answer at all, that’s fine also. My motivation is to learn, not to pry.

    • Elijah,

      I am very familiar with Maria Gwyn McDowell and her many works, including the one to which you referred.

      If you don’t know who she is, her life history in her own words can be found here. I do not share this for the purpose of “outing” her. She has been very open about her rebellion against the Orthodox Church, although she, of course, doesn’t see it as such. I know her words can seem very reasonable, but I beg of you to remember the words of our Lord about how a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Nothing you have shared here about yourself is indicative of the path she herself has chosen or of the path down which she, in her subtlety, would like to lead you and the Orthodox Church she has chosen to reject.

      I do not in any way deny your suffering or that of all those who bear your burden. I know, without any doubt, that there are all-too-many who view your particular burden as somehow ‘worse’ than their own. They are wrong. It is that simple, and little more needs to said. Nevertheless, I urge you as a brother in Christ to seek support and encouragement from those who remain in the Holy Church and hold fast to her Tradition (as it seems you otherwise do according to what you have written here) and to avoid sources such as she and those who share her academic interests and (so-called) religious pursuits. They are spiritual poison.

      I am reminded of the wisdom of Sirach, “Do not consult a woman about her rival, or a coward about war, a merchant about prices, or a buyer about selling, anyone mean about gratitude, or anyone selfish about kindness, a lazy fellow about any sort of work, or a casual worker about finishing a job, an idle servant about a major undertaking– do not rely on these for any advice.” Nor, I would add, the rebellious and unchaste about obedience and chastity.

      Allow me to add something. I once heard it said (simplistically, I admit) that sin is the choice we make, and iniquity is the mess created in our lives by those choices. The scenarios Ms. McDowell describes in the book you referenced all consist primarily of one thing: iniquity. People follow their ‘feelings,’ value them over obedience to the revealed will of God for our good, and get themselves into all sorts of tangled webs from which it is difficult to be extricated. And we all know that heterosexual folks are equally guilty of this.

      “Father, we are pregnant out of wedlock. Will you marry us and baptize our child?”

      “Father, we want to get married.”
      “Wonderful! God bless you. Will you be attending our parish?”
      Oh, yes. We live right down the street.”
      “So you two are neighbors?”
      Well…actually we’ve lived together for three years.”

      “Father, you quickly married us ten years ago when I told you I was pregnant. We have three children now, and my husband has run off with another woman. What do I do now?”

      …and so it goes. The reality is that there are far too many (forgive me) stupid and negligent priests who are quick to overlook the sin that created the iniquities in which we become more or less trapped. The idea that marriage alone is the solution to fornication and lust is both widespread and ludicrous. Apart from first leading us to repentance priests who overlook and “accept,” rather than seek to heal, the wounds of sin only compound iniquity by ensuring that there is no healing, no resolution, and no redemption because, though married, disobedience and lust remain unaddressed. Like such foolish priests, Ms. McDowell would have us believe that sin is a social construct, that it does no harm to us as persons, and that iniquity can be erased by acceptance alone. She is living in the realm of delusion, and her own life is proof of it.

      In other words, in order for there to be any real healing (salvation) the distinction between acceptance of persons and acceptance of sin must be maintained. Otherwise the Church is nothing more than a social club and her sacraments become empty, meaningless, and even harmful to the unrepentant.

      The words of our Savior cannot be rendered void.

      He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

      To be made “worthy” does not mean to earn or deserve. It means to be ‘capable’ or ‘able to bear’ It is not a matter of sin or even the degree of sin. It is a matter of love. To the harlot, our Lord said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much.” Great sinners (and I am the first) find great forgiveness through love. But we cannot have divided loves as Ms. McDowell and her cohorts maintain. If we do not love Christ above everyone – even our closest companions with whom we are entangled, even in the midst of our weaknesses, struggles, and failures – we render ourselves incapable of bearing the weight of His glory.

      There is simply no getting around it. “If you love Me you will keep my commandments” is another way of saying, “If you do not love Me you will not keep My commandments.” Everyone is welcome to love God – everyone. But sadly, not everyone wills to do so, and no person’s salvation is served by pretending otherwise..

      • Elijah,

        Forgive me. I am a bit short of time, so my reply will be brief.

        When it comes to person/nature, there is no such thing as “human nature” in the way many speak of it. Human nature has no existence apart from specific human persons. Brian and Elijah and Sally (and Christ) all share human nature, but it doesn’t exist apart from real, concrete, utterly unique persons with names, faces, and personal wills. This is important to bear in mind when considering theological or anthropological matters of any sort.

        I am less familiar with Rich’s portion of the book; but once again, I know who he is and have read through much of his other work. I also know what he continues to do (apparently without remorse) despite his outward “conversion” to Orthodoxy and where he, like Ms. McDowell, would like to lead you and the Orthodox Church. In this sense, my previous comment is equally applicable to him.

        You mustn’t think that because I say this I believe they are inherently “bad people” or even that much of what they say isn’t true. They are merely deluded, as most of us are at points in our lives. And what is the cause of all delusions? Sin. They think the Church has the power to change reality itself which is something she cannot do even if she had the will to do so. Reality (which is what the Scriptures and the Church mean by the word “truth”) is simply what is, and what is is grounded in the Holy Trinity who is, in the words of Saint Basil’s Liturgy, “The only truly existing.”

        I believe these last two sentences could also serve as an answer to your last question (3), though it doesn’t excuse ignorance and bigotry.

        Sorry to be in such a rush. We can discourse further if you like.

        • Elijah,

          Rich’s line of thought, like all pseudo-theological reasoning, is deeply flawed; and Vladimir Lossky would be horrified to see his work distorted in this way.

          We cannot exceed (a better word would be “transcend”) nature apart from living in accordance with it. The Apostles, every Church Father, and Lossky himself taught that the keeping of the commandments is living in accordance with nature, as well as the prerequisite and only path to transcending it by grace. It is precisely not living according to nature subjects us to its limits. It is why God gave us the commandments. He wants us to be all that He created us to be, to be truly happy/blessed by being fully who we are. To sin is precisely to fail to be who we are according to nature. And though we are not subject to the law it nevertheless remains to reveal sin to be sin. “Do not think that I came to abolish the law…” “Do we therefore nullify the law through faith…? On the contrary; we establish the law.

          You are mistaken if you assume that by directing you away from such pseudo-theological reasoning by reason of its source I am engaging in ad hominem. Bryce makes it quite clear that he considers himself among the few ‘cutting edge’ theologians who will reveal to the Church what has (supposedly) been hidden from our eyes for over two millennia. He writes that change (acceptance of active homosexuality as a good gift of God) in the Orthodox Church is “glacially slow” and may not occur in his lifetime but that his ‘theological’ work is intended to bring it about.

          Saint Jude speaks of such people.

          “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ… They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame.”

          Was the apostle engaging in ad hominem?

          And what does the Apostle John, the theologian par excellence, tell us?

          “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”

          My question, therefore, to you is this. If you accept the Church’s teaching as you say (and I believe you) and you are resolved to submit yourself to her (and here again, I believe you), what profit do you expect to find in sources that are manifestly not of the Church?

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