Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15)
Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15)

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has issued a statement regarding the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage. I appreciate the following from His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon:

The ruling does not change the teaching of the Church, but it does remind us of the need to be Christ-like in our dealings with everyone. The state has the responsibility to enact laws that protect the rights of each individual. The Church, while it does not bless “same-sex marriages” or view them as sacramental, does see the image of Christ in every individual, and his or her worth in the eyes of the Lord Who died upon the Cross for our salvation.

It concerns me deeply that this has warranted a statement from the OCA, but that neither the OCA nor the GOA could call the violence in Charleston what it was: racism.  Orthodox seem to struggle to speak directly and clearly against the specific factors which create violence.  This statement is a case in point.

An email was recently sent to a number of LGBTQ Orthodox, threatening to “out” gay and lesbian Orthodox, regardless of whether they are in an intimate and sexually active relationship. These “Protectors of Holy Orthodoxy” also threatened to seek out groups that support Orthodox Christians who experience same-sex attraction. This email was apparently read by an Orthodox teenager, who responded, “the thought of being outed to every Orthodox Christian in the world makes me want to die.” Parents of Orthodox LGBTQ teens are afraid for the lives of their children.  I am the parent of an LGBTQ just-out-of-the-teens individual who struggled with thoughts of suicide.  One of these parents wants this to be heard:

The fact is, when an online mob gets going like this: vulnerable people commit suicide, and even when they don’t, it’s an unbelievably traumatic experience. Sadly, today, Orthodox Christians on social media need to be told this and I can’t do it alone. Everyone, for the sake of the woman taken in adultery and Our Lord who forgave her, please put a stop to any online mobs seeking out LGBTQ Orthodox groups.

In light of this, I would like to ask the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to issue a statement. It is not enough to reiterate, as has been done on multiple Facebook threads, the 2013 Assembly Statement on Marriage and Sexuality. Orthodox clergy must speak out in defense of their flock, all their flock, condemning such harassment.I would like them to consider something along the following, which does not in any way question the Orthodox position on same-sex marriage, but may allow LGBTQ persons to feel safe(r) with Orthodoxy:

  1. It is the long-standing position of the Orthodox Church that the intimate relationships of her people are discussed only with a confessor or spiritual father/mother.
  2. The decision to commune a person is entirely between the confessor and confessee and their bishop.
  3. It is not appropriate to speak about or reveal a person’s intimate relationships in any public or private forum without the explicit permission of the person.
  4. All attempts to publicly or privately condemn, reveal, or shame persons who struggle with any sin are considered gossip and a sin against both the individual and the community.
  5. We condemn in no uncertain terms any and all forms of slander, hate communication, or attempts “purify” the church based on shaming or condemning others for their sins.
  6. As clergy, we view such communications as an attack on a beloved member of our flock and will ask privately, and publicly if necessary, that such communications immediately cease.
  7. As clergy, we will not participate in any attempts to seek out persons who sin in a particular way, we will not question the judgment of another clergy member and confessor, and we will not respond to gossip or threats.
  8. As clergy, we will love all those who join us, we will treat all with respect, and we will seek to protect all members of our flock.
  9. If controversial issues are to be discussed, it will be done with the same respect and love our Lord Jesus used when debating the rich young ruler or the pharisees with whom he shared meals.

If you make this statement, it is likely that you will be persecuted by members of the church. But you will be persecuted because you have chosen to love and care for your people.

15 thoughts

  1. “Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.

    Be crucified, but do not crucify others.

    Se slandered, but do not slander others.

    Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.

    Suffer with the sick.

    Be afflicted with sinners.

    Exult with those who repent.

    Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.

    Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.

    Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.

    Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.

    And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.”

      1. I am not quite clear how much explication is required: St Isaac’s model of the Christian life is to condemn no one and to protect those who have fallen into sin. If they are hurting, we are to empathize with them. The idea that folks should be “outed” and “exposed” to evoke shame or inflict pain is pretty much the polar opposite of what the saint recommends. We can choose how to manage our conduct: certainly we can choose to act as St Isaac suggests (which aligns with your recommendations in my view) or in the polar opposite manner as our internet jihadists suggest.

      2. Thanks Greg. I have had enough conversations recently which advocate that “priests only do good” and argue that such recommendations cast aspersions on the priesthood that I wanted to check that you weren’t arguing that the vulnerable should just suffer. It is frankly crazy that I even have to wonder what you might have meant, so thanks for the clarification.

  2. It’s beyond tragic that people are trying to expose others for sin. What happened to Matthew 7:3-5? Yes, I hope communities take their jobs seriously in defending those who are most vulnerable during this time. Even us Protestants need to take this seriously, as we have members among us who are committing similar travesties.Thanks for this!

  3. True pastoral care involves good theology as well as compassion for suffering people. This piece seems more informed by Feminism and Process Theology than by Scripture,Tradition, and the Fathers.

    All are called to repentance. All sin means estrangement from God. We cannot embrace the fullness of the Gospel unless we begin there.

    1. Alice, I agree with everything except your second sentence. I can’t quite see how this article is particularly feminist (though you know perfectly well I am a feminist) or informed by Process Theology (to which I do not ascribe). Unless this is how you summarily dismiss arguments with which you disagree for some reason or other but don’t take the time to explain.

      1. I hope the quote by St Isaac is sufficient to counter Alice’s comment. The Orthodox ascetic and moral teaching is clear on sex, yes, but of also on greater importance and obligation of co suffering love, which is the image of Christ who died for us in our sins.

  4. The greatest commandment was for us to Love One Another. And lest we forget, “Get the beam out of your own eye.” People within the church trying to violate and exclude others because somehow, their sin is greater (who rates them?) is appalling to me. I hope their father confessors are speaking to them about this, and instructing them to stop or leave the church. They are an embarrassment to Orthodoxy and to Christianity, in my opinion.

  5. Wisdom. A discerning, caring direction. As the people of God, the body of Christ on Earth we are to show love in action, unreservedly, fully, completely.

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