I owe a great debt of gratitude to Metropolitan Kallistos—or at least to Timothy Ware. I read his book The Orthodox Church long ago and it was an important part of my conversion to Orthodoxy. I still have the somewhat battered volume on my bookshelf, a gold bishop’s mitre on the cover set off against a black background. That was before Timothy became Kallistos and parenthesized his surname, and I have followed his ecclesiastical promotion and the consequent name changes as he became a priest, then an archimandrite, and then a bishop, and then finally a metropolitan.
As well as following his upward path of ecclesiastical promotion, I have also followed what I consider to be his downward path away from Orthodox Tradition—or at least from his own formerly-held positions. With each subsequent revision of his classic The Orthodox Church, he seems to embrace progressively liberal views concerning the hot issues of the day, such as the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood. Of late he has written about homosexuality, publishing the Foreword for The Wheel, a publication whose stated purpose is “to articulate the Gospel intelligently and constructively for the 21st Century—a pluralistic era which presents Christianity with new and unique challenges, demanding a creative re-imagination of its social identity and role in public discourse”. Those familiar with such verbiage will recognize that its stated purpose is actually to de-construct the current Orthodox Tradition and offer what St. Paul would have called “another Gospel”.
Like everything that His Eminence writes, his Foreword was eminently readable and thoughtful. I should say in advance that it would be unfair to characterize his stance as pro-gay. And much of what he says in the piece is quite good, such as his insistence that we give full weight to the Marriage Service as we articulate a theology of sexuality. I have, however, several concerns.
My first concern is that he has chosen to write a Foreword for The Wheel in the first place. Its professed neutral stance notwithstanding, those familiar with the publication know that its editorial and advisory board include people well-known for their aggressive and destructive homosexual agenda, and that it is anything but neutral or open-minded regarding the controversial sexual issues of the day. It is, in fact, simply an instrument for the advancement of a homosexual agenda within the Orthodox Church. The Metropolitan’s final words about The Wheel wherein he says that “its aim is to ‘initiate discussion’ and that “to ascertain the truth we must experiment” (quotes from two other authors) is naïve in the extreme. For the last 50 years or more the downward slide of the various churches into liberalism and apostasy has always taken place under the claim that the liberal de-constructors are simply “initiating discussion” and asking questions, and experimenting with new modes of thought. But the discussion always seems to result in the erosion of traditionally-held belief and praxis.
As a long-standing academic the Metropolitan cannot be unaware of this. The Wheel is simply offering more of the same. If a respected author writes for a publication whose known purpose is the promotion of a particular agenda, then by that very act he lends credence and credibility to that agenda. If I wrote a piece for a publication promoting, say, White Supremacy, I would not unnaturally be regarded as in some way sympathetic to that cause. It would matter little what I actually said in the piece, for anything short of total denunciation of White Supremacy would serve only to enhance it. I suspect that the Metropolitan, whose entire career has been as an academic in Oxford and a parish priest there, is unable to separate the lecture room from the world outside it.
In the world of Academia, all questions are allowed, and experimentation and the pushing of established boundaries are the norm. All questions are open questions, and no challenge is deemed out of court. Nothing is finally settled and everything in principle is open to revision. That is why the liberalism afflicting and destroying the Protestant churches always began in the seminaries. But although this is (and perhaps must be) the way of Academia, it has never been and cannot be the way of the Church. In the Church we receive truth not by experimentation but by revelation, and a number of matters are not in fact open to revision. For example, when certain things have been decided by ecumenical council and conciliar decree or when they are matters of universal and ancient consensus, these things are not open to revision. We may discuss them in that we may explain them to the questioning world and give the world the reasons why we believe them. But their truth is not subject to doubt. The Metropolitan writes as if he were always in his lecture hall, when in fact he is writing in the middle of a war zone. The truth is being challenged, and souls are being enticed, deceived, and lost. What one needs from a bishop now is not questions, but answers, not the murmur of a lecturer, but the blast of a trumpet. As a bishop, that is his job.
Secondly, it is true, as the Metropolitan says, that “personhood cannot be exactly defined…as human beings we are a mystery to ourselves”. This might give the impression that the teaching of the Scriptures also cannot be defined and that the teaching of the Scriptures is also a mystery. It is not so. Although the human person is a cloudy and complex mystery, the teaching of the Scriptures is crystal clear—unwelcome in many places, but still crystal clear. The complexity of human personhood is being used to obfuscate the issue. It is true that personhood must be understood in dynamic and not static terms. It is true that personhood is only fulfilled in relationship. It is also true that homosexual practice is unequivocally condemned in the Scriptures as sinful and that therefore Christians must renounce it along with other sinful lifestyles. It is not a matter, as the Metropolitan supposes, of the Church imposing or requiring this renunciation. “Are we right,” he asks plaintively, “to impose this heavy burden on the homosexual?” Yes; we are right to require it, because it is not us but God who imposes it upon the homosexual, just as He imposes the heavy burden of celibacy upon the single heterosexual. Does the single heterosexual “feel a vocation” for his or her celibacy? I suspect not, and I am unsure if the phrase has any real meaning. The single Christians that I know do not think in terms of vocation (whatever that means), but of obedience to Christ and the Scriptures. They are “called” to celibacy because they are called to obey.
Thirdly, the Metropolitan gives us the comparative examples of two homosexuals coming to confession. One homosexual is promiscuous and has engaged in multiple casual encounters, but is repentant and is therefore absolved and allowed to commune. This person falls into sin again and again, each time repenting and resolving to change, and each time being absolved and allowed to commune. The other homosexual is faithfully monogamous, but refuses to renounce the sexual aspect of his relationship, and so is not absolved or allowed to commune. This is deemed unjust and inconsistent: “The homosexual committed to a stable and loving relationship is treated more harshly than the homosexual who is casual and promiscuous”.
This is quite extraordinary. The whole issue of absolution and access to the Chalice revolves entirely upon the issue of whether or not the sinner is repentant and resolves to change. Their success in effecting change does not determine whether or not absolution is given—solely their sincere repentance and resolve. It is the same with a heterosexual with a porn addiction. If the person repents and resolves to refrain from using porn, he is absolved. Future failures do not mean that future absolution cannot be given, so long as the repentances are genuine and the resolve to change is sincere. Addiction is hard to break, and so patience and perseverance are required. It is quite different if the person addicted to porn tells the priest that he refuses to repent and refuses a resolve to avoid pornography. If that person said (in the words the Metropolitan places in the mouth of the faithfully monogamous homosexual), “I am not yet ready to undertake that”—whether the “that” is an avoidance of pornography or homosexual practice—then of course no absolution or communion are possible. There is no injustice or harsh treatment in either case. If the faithfully monogamous homosexual said, “Yes, I will try to remain celibate” he would be absolved time and again, as long as his continual attempts at celibacy were sincere. (Obviously a sensible strategy for celibacy would also involve not living in close quarters with someone to whom one was strongly attracted, regardless of the gender. But that is a matter for another time.)
Fourthly, the Metropolitan wonders, “Why do we put so great an emphasis upon genital sex?” The question is an astonishing one, all the more so since it is those promoting a homosexual agenda which place the emphasis on genital sex. One asks the homosexual in return, “If genital sex is not important, why do you insist upon it? Why do you insist on not just living with person of the same gender, but also having sex with him?” The whole screaming insistence upon gay marriage in our culture is predicated precisely on the importance of genital sex.
And one can have some sympathy for this view of the importance of sex. For it is not just the contemporary Church which places so great an emphasis upon genital sex, but St. Paul. Paul differentiates between sexual sins and other sins (such as theft for example). In 1 Corinthians 6:18 he writes, “Flee fornication [Greek porneia]. Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the fornicator sins against his own body”. In other words, it is because we are sexual beings that sexual sins involve the totality of our personhood in a way that other sins do not. There can be casual theft, but there can be no such thing as casual sex—as many have found to their cost. Regardless of what media propaganda says, sexual sin affects us more profoundly than any other. This is not a matter (as the Metropolitan suggests) of “enquiring what adult persons are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms” or of “gazing through the keyhole”. One is not gazing through the keyhole, but at the Scriptures. Besides, the very image of one gazing through a keyhole is absurd and unworthy; in confession the issue is precisely “what adult persons are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms”. And a theology which undergirds and supports sacramental confession must be similarly concerned as well. For how else can we tell our people of what they should repent and avoid?
One appreciates that the Metropolitan does not shy away from such a contentious issue as homosexuality. It is, as he says, quoting Fr. John Behr, “perhaps the defining question of our era”. More than that, it is the frontline in the World’s perennial war against the Church. In this war, one needs trumpets, and clarity, and compassionate, confident answers. One wishes that in this battle the Metropolitan had not given such an indistinct sound.
Note: An insightful look at the wider issue of homosexuality is provided by Hieromonk Herman on the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy site, accessed here.
Thank you for this article, Fr. Farley. The EO stance on homosexuality was one of many factors that drew me to it. I saw so many denominations, within my former Protestant world, sliding into this grave sin of permitting same sex unions and homosexual clergy. The world needs a standard to which we can hold fast, and will not cede that standard as being whatever the prevailing wisdom of the age dictates.
God bless you, Fr Lawrence. Your words here are so clear and helpful.
Wonderful to hear you say this, this kind of theological and moral liberalism is becoming an ever-present worry for us in the United Kingdom.
Well put. It’s disappointing to see Met. Kallistos being used. I can’t believe he dosen’t know better than to write for a publication like this.
Excellent! Thank you dear Father.
Thank you for the article, though I wish it had been published sooner as I have just ordered a new copy of “The Orthodox Church” ! I see now that it is not just revised as to historical information as I thought.
I would not be surprised to read the things you quoted from some other kind of Oxford academic , perhaps a sociologist , it has that flavour, but from a Metropolitan of the Church it causes concern.
I was introduced to the Orthodox Church by a history professor in college. This was 1992-93. Turns out he had received his DPhil (Oxfords equivalent of a PhD) in patristics under Met. Kallistos at Oxford. While I did not come into the Church until a few years later, I had many discussions about Orthodoxy with this professor. He considered (and still does) Met Kallistos a great friend. However when I told him I was going to pick up a copy of his “The Orthodox Church” he told me to be sure to pick up a printing no later than the mid 1970’s!!
Met. Kallistos has been, for a very long time, conflating academic/secular inquiry (which is couched in the non-Christian metaphysics and epistemology of the Enlightenment) with the ascetical and revelatory life of the Church. Such a methodology is guaranteed to get you a wrong answer about “what is man (anthropos)”, and so to wrong answers on the questions of the day…
What you say is true unfortunately. But then I was warned in the early 80’d that he was headed in that direction. Sorry to that is true.
Thank you Father Lawrence. Thank you.
How can you claim to be homosexual and remain monogamous? You can’t. I can’t claim to like pornography but just don’t watch it. You have to repent. You have to change that thought to not want to like pornography, to not want to live a life as a homosexual. Follow the law of God, not a convenient law.
I think the idea is that a person remains in a sexual relationship with one person only.
Someone suggested that I connect with an online, private group that was discussing homosexuality and the Orthodox Church. As a counselor, there was an ongoing series for college students regarding the teachings of Orthodox Christianity and I had been asked to give a presentation on this topic. My experience had already included counseling individuals who are Christian and struggle with same-sex attraction. There are helpful resources on this topic by Fr Hopko and Frederica Mathewes-Green to name two, but this group of homosexuals discussing LGBTQ under the banner of Orthodox theology/doctrine was the antithesis of pastoral and included usual suspects associated with The Wheel. The anger, hatred and seething comments regarding Church leaders that did not see things their way was tragic and dark. The reflection for their personal beliefs was not remotely rooted in the Church, but the world, with arguments of how their orientation towards sexuality was part of the natural evolution of humanity and how St Paul was to be avoided as ancient, ignorant superstition. It is a shame that this iconic author and servant of Christ became ‘useful’ to this agenda, but illustrates the danger of such association with those that have hardened their hearts to Christ.
It seems kind of unfair to portray the Wheel as “advancing the homosexual agenda,” when this is the first issue out of 13 to really deal with sexuality. The previous issue dealt with war, and the ones before that look mostly mundane and uncontroversial. One of the complaints I’ve often encountered from celibate gay Christians (Orthodox or not) is that they don’t get a lot of pastoral guidance beyond “Be celibate,” so I have a difficult time seeing this is a pointless discussion to have.
Is the same criticism going to be applied to other contributors, like Fr. John Behr(https://www.wheeljournal.com/s/Issue-1314-Behr.pdf), Fr. Andrew Louth (who is the editor for this issue), Christos Yannaras, John Jillions, or Bradley Nassim? Nassim’s article (https://www.wheeljournal.com/s/Issue-1314-Nassif.pdf) especially makes it hard to believe this issue is pure LGBT propaganda.
There are other ways of advancing an agenda than simply dealing with the issue head on. Those producing the work include such as Inga Leonova, Gregory Tucker, and Robert Arida, all of whom have a well-defined agenda–especially Tucker who is married to a former monk. The whole approach of questioning and “re-imagining” is meant to produce an environment where such an agenda can find a sympathetic hearing.
That’s all well and good, but you skirted the question:
Alex asked you if the “same criticism [is] going to be applied to other contributers [of the same issue of the Wheel]”, will they? Forget agendas, will every other author of this issue be scrutinized in the same way as the hit piece on http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2018/06/kallistos-ware-comes-out-for-homosexual-marriage/ ? Is Tradition so fragile that one must confront the person behind a difficult argument vs the argument itself? Will the vile comments on that article be taken to task in the same way as the forward of a journal, whether or not you like the people in charge, has been (for example, surely the term “sodomite” is not productive)? Before you think that I’m being rude, this is a legitimate question, Met. Ware’s books were critical in helping me see the truth of Orthodoxy. Now in the last few days I’ve seen Orthodox sites attack an 83 year old man over five pages he wrote. This seems cowardly.
I am also truly concerned by the injection of post-modern theory with a Neo-Marxist twist in academic theology of late. Their dominance hierarchies and group identity theory, which appeals to those who consider themselves marginalized, suggest that their “theological” opinion should be valued ABOVE the consensus Patrum, ABOVE sacred tradition, and ABOVE Scripture. In fact, they will use all the aforementioned to construct their own theological perspectives, one of which is, fashionably, gender equality, gender identity and equal outcome. They will silence or haughtily dismiss everything that runs contrary to their predisposition. As Charles Taylor suggested. Religion in the Post-Modern world has become a buffet, with fundamentalism lurking on the other extreme.
Theology aside, for these so-called “thinkers”, equal outcome is the name of the game. If group A can be priests, so should group B. If group A can marry, so should group B. What more can I say? It is so blatant that the only thing left that can make someone as yourself aware, would be to be struck by a comet! Forgive me. Everything that groups such as, “Orthodoxy in Dialogue” (in monologue actually), contribute is confusion and division in the Church, and exploit the vulnerable.
May I ponder the question if part of this whole problem today is this ill-conceived pietistic view of Holy Communion as a legal waver for every sin, and not participation in immortality? Is Holy Communion not also a Second Coming of Christ, a final judgment, a vision of His Uncreated Grace which can be illumination and deification only for some and the fire of Genna for all others? Does Saint Paul not say that he who does examine himself, and approaches the Cup unprepared, will be judged?
The reason why so many in the West abandoned their traditional Churches was exactly because they could not find peace in justifying death and sin. Moral relativism was the first step.
I could not agree more.
I am shocked by the Blogosphere’s reaction to HE’s article. He has said nothing whatsoever uncanonical or heretical. He has simply stated that gays have inherited a particular part of The Fall, on which he is incidentally surprised not more has been mentioned. In so doing, they then have choice as to whether to exercise such fallen nature or else to be “celibate” which in some ways would be superior to any straight person remaining celibate where the straight person ends up actually getting married.
In other words, he is not “bemoaning” the gays’ lack of recourse to marriage as some have suggested; he is merely stating the obvious difficulty in being tasked with mandatory lifetime celibacy (which he undertook voluntarily) and posing this as an issue for the clerics in discharging their pastoral (and sacramental) duties.
To be absolutely clear there is nothing superior in being born straight over being born bent inasmuch as some unfortunate souls have inherited one aspect of The Fall over others.
To paraphrase the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in response to the question, “This man was born blind. Was it for his sins or his parents’?” “Neither. It is for the glory of God”. Similarly, “Some are born eunuchs, some are made eunuchs by men” i.e. they struggle not only in temptation but also in being exposed to the cumulative sins of the world, the fallen world, a world in which sexuality perhaps has become made more central with every passing second.
His Eminence did also suggest that a gay who was refused absolution in confession for refusing to break off a sexual relationship with his gay partner in a “stable and loving relationship” was being treat “harshly”, ignoring the fact that no one should be absolved in confession unless there is repentance. He also questioned the rightness of the church “imposing a heavy burden” on homosexuals by requiring celibacy. I would not characterize such comments as “heretical” or “uncanonical”. They are, however, contrary to Orthodox Tradition, and spiritually dangerous.
Please answer the question about whether or not you will level the same criticisms against the other contributors — Fr. Andrew Louth, Fr. John Behr, Christos Yannaras, Aristotle Papanikolaou, Fr. John Jillions, Bradley Nassif, even one of your former parishioners, Brandon Gallaher … all eminent standard-bearers of Orthodoxy.
Not that it has much to do with my article, but I have not read very widely in the authors you mentioned. What I have read I have enjoyed. I especially enjoyed Dr. Louth’s article in the 2009 volume Reading Genesis After Darwin and Dr. Behr’s book on Irenaeus.
The reason why it’s relevant is that you state near the beginning, “My first concern is that he has chosen to write a Foreword for The Wheel in the first place,” and then proceeded to denigrate the publication itself and its “agenda.” So, why would the other such reputable Orthodox scholars and clergy be okay with publishing their articles in The Wheel if it’s as abhorrent as you make it seem? Could it be possible that you don’t know the publication as well as you think or are capable of nuance on this subject as much as you project? Could it be that these standard-bearers of Orthodoxy (Fr. John Behr alone would be enough) represent Orthodoxy more than you or your views?
I decline to comment on others who have published in The Wheel, since doing so would be both ungracious to men whose motives for publishing there I cannot know and irrelevant to the actual piece, which was concerned solely with the Metropolitan’s contribution to that publication. His comments revealed that he seems not to have found its manifestly destructive agenda as uncongenial as one should who has sworn to uphold the Tradition.
While I generally find myself in agreement with the concern over Metropolitan Kallistos’ foreword, I can’t help but notice that Orthodoxy Today and No Other Foundation have chosen some rather unflattering photographs of His Eminence to include alongside their responses. One can’t help but to see this in a sort of “ad hominem” light.
On the contrary, the photo was chosen more or less at random from a selection of such images on Google. They all looked pretty much the same except for the ones that were clearly out of date, so I just picked the first contemporary image after spending about 10 seconds looking them over. FWIW, any contemporary photo of me is unflattering too. Some people just age better than others. I meant no disrespect by the choice of photo and apologize to him and his family if they regard it as unflattering.
Father, you should probably update your own photo too. Your wife just likes the smile in this one. 😀
I am an inquirer and new to Orthodoxy, so I apologize if this question has already been answered elsewhere. Practically speaking, what happens if Orthodox bishops in the west begin to actively embrace and promote the sexual revolution and all that mess? Are the priests and laity under their jurisdiction required to allow those heretical practices?
I imagine that an openly heretical bishop would be excommunicated by the bishops of Russia or the conservative eastern countries, but what happens to those under the heretical bishop’s authority?
I have every confidence that the Orthodox church will make it through this storm as it has every other storm in the past. But I don’t want to have an overly optimistic expectation about how bad it could get.
Yours is a very good question. Hopefully the clergy and their parishes would transfer to another jurisdiction if the matter was not resolved.
Perhaps I might be allowed to add a couple of points to Fr Lawrence’s useful critique?
Metropolitan Kallistos is happy to accept the notion of “orientation” without reservation. This notion is a significant part of the LBGT etc. agenda and we should have none of it. Having been ordained for nearly 40 years I have encountered a significant number of people who have changed “orientation”, sometimes more than once. It can be used as a manipulative chat up line for promiscuous homosexuals grooming a sensitive target.
Why is it that as Orthodox Christians now we are very happy to use the visit of the angels to the oak of Mamre as a type for the Holy Trinity, yet when it comes to the reason why the angels were passing that oak we make nothing of it at all? The purpose of the visit was to deal with Sodom and Gomorrah!
This is a frank and excellent response to Met. Ware. Thank you Father for your insights.
I was sent this article by a friend. Very good. Thank you for writing it.
Thank you, Father Lawrence.
It’s ironic that Met. Kallistos wrote once, “…it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery.” The natural order of gender and sex is a great part of that mystery.
The most generous, charitable take I could come up with re Met. Kallistos’ foreword to The Wheel issue, is that it seems he was striving to not stride in swinging a cudgel, but to circumspectly examine the perimeter of the minefield, and to show basic awareness of how the homosexual Christian might consider the issues. And by doing so, thereby to draw out whatever latent good will might yet remain in gay activists, who might thereby be the better persuaded of the truth of Orthodox Anthropology, and thus have an opportunity to be gently led to repentance. Sadly, that approach is likely doomed to failure, and His Eminence should not wait too long to discern the failure of his gentle tactic, and set forth with clarity and pastoral resolve for the salvation of his hearers – as you have done here, Fr Lawrence – the Orthodox teaching on these issues.
Fr Lawrence, at the risk of wearing out my welcome with two (!) comments on this issue, I should like to suggest that one aspect in the discussion of this issue which, as you noted, is “the frontline in the World’s perennial war against the Church,” seems to be missed.
I am speaking of the Cross, and specifically of the truth that those with same-sex attraction have a particularly challenging cross to bear.
It seems to me that a vibrant Orthodox pastoral approach to helping such persons bear their cross well would include recognizing it as a cross, and seeking to engage with the SSA (same-sex afflicted) person to lead them to desire to take up that cross, not to deny it by asserting that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with their desires. Once a person accepts reality and truth, and desires to take up their cross, they have graduated to the level of ‘struggler’ and are quite likely to be blessed by the Lord with moments of grace so as to ‘struggle well’, even to their last breath.
I would even go so far as to say that by not articulating a pastoral theology centered on taking up one’s cross and bearing it, we are inadvertently allowing an enormous obstacle to remain before the SSA person. In our age, any pastoral counsel limited to merely practical demands (“live in celibacy”) will likely fail to convert the SSA person into a cross-bearer and struggler.
One more component of this horribly challenging cross which should be drawn out is the immeasurably glorious crown which awaits those SSA persons who do choose to take up their cross and follow Christ, who choose to struggle. Let us. It forget that Jesus would have been eating and drinking with SSA persons, while still publicly preaching repentance, and not a few would have heard His call and brought myrrh in repentance, falling on their faces to daringly anoint His feet.
It has been said by the Desert Fathers that “in the latter days, those who merely hold to the faith will be counted greater than the early fathers and ascetics who worked miracles and raised the dead.” It seems to me that this is the pastoral opportunity which we must seize and articulate – even thunder from the amvon, as it contains within it all the power of the Gospel, of the Risen and Glorified Lord Himself. Yes, perhaps many SSA persons will reject their cross, but think of the few who will catch a glimpse of the truth and will step out in faith and love for the Lord, and enter into the Arena of martyrdom (for that is what they are being called to!), rather than siding with the lions against the Christians.
Nothing to forgive; such insights as you give are always welcome!
I would love to know where this quote / concept comes from: “in the latter days, those who merely hold to the faith will be counted greater than the early fathers and ascetics who worked miracles and raised the dead.”
I have trying by God’s grace to become a more vocal witness for Christ. Lord-willing, we will be starting a neighborhood study-group to acquaint folks in our neighborhood with the teachings of Christ. That quote gave me comfort. I appreciate your prayers!
Fr Lawrence (My neighbor up here in the Pacific Northwest!)
A FANTASTIC article. SO Clear, correct and more – pure and holy.
After reading his Eminence’s article, I felt dirty.
After reading yours, I felt cleansed.
May God bless your ministry.
I do not agree with many of the Metropolitan’s views in the text you are critiquing. However, to my mind, you are showing a great deal of disrespect to a man who happens to be one of the most preeminent theologians of the Church. He has the right to present his opinions, right or wrong. Your critique seemed haughty and arrogant to me. Bishop Kallistos has done more for the church than most through his writings and scholarship. Perhaps thousands have come to Orthodoxy through the Holy Spirit working through his ministry! Let us give him a chance to explain himself further.
I don’t believe this article was disrespectful at all. On the contrary, it was necessary because of the amount of esteem with which many Orthodox Christians regard +Kallistos. That he is regarded widely as an authority on Orthodox theology demands that he be publicly critiqued for his ambiguities on this issue- ambiguities made all the more troubling by the fact that this publication is edited by well-known homosexuals and those seeking to promote homosexual “marriage” in an Orthodox context.
Fr. Lawrence, your blessing.
It would be all perfect and absolutely beneficial for us laymen, if you had not named the person behind the wrongdoing or sin or whatever deviating from the Orthodox path. Now, most of us reading your article cannot avoid shaping (especially the weak ones) a bad opinion about the person and not necessarily about the deed and bad theology and anthropology. Fr. Kallistos is still a bishop of our Orthodox Church and to judge him openly is no good. Hierokatakrisis is soaring in the internet, and we laypeople think we are ok and develop a kind of super-discernment, but unfortunately run the risk of losing our souls on hierokatatkrisis and puplication and multiplication of the incident, rather than focusing only on the facts, and cover the person, in order to give all of us a chance to salvation.
Knowing who did it does not help me more than just knowing about what is right and stay orthodox.
The situation on the blog-shere is absolutely pathetic and disgraceful.
Thank you for the hospitality.
Thank you for your prayers in advance.
God bless us all.
Nikolaos from Thessaloniki, Greece.
God bless you! Just a brief reply to yourself, Theophanes, and “Truly Concerned” (with a reminder that commenters should always give their names). The reality of both the episcopate/ priesthood and the internet is that if one speaks publicly one will and should be answered publicly. It would have been disingenuous and absurd to begin my reply by saying, “A certain person whom I will not name wrote in The Wheel the following words” as if everyone would not have immediately identified the author. It is not a matter of judging him, but of answering his arguments. I do take your point about the rude condemnation of clergy on the internet, and a quick look at my own blog will reveal that I also have been the object of such rudeness. It is sad, but the inevitable price for stating one’s views on the public blogosphere. In my own piece I made a point of stating my abiding gratitude to him for his work and always referred to him by the term “the Metropolitan”, giving him the honour proper to his office. But it is precisely because of his office and the well-deserved high regard in which he is held that his piece needs to be answered, his age notwithstanding. If a bishop errs badly in public, he can and should be corrected in public–that is a how accountability in the Church works. Of course he has a right to his opinions, but as soon as they are stated in public, they can and should be publicly answered–otherwise silence is taken for affirmation and the error grows. As to the author of the piece in Orthodoxy Today, I agree that his piece lacked the proper respect and that his criticism was unfair. But I cannot offer rebuttal and refutation for every error out there on the internet. The other pieces also had a mixture of good and bad (or at least odd), but the authors did not have the stature of the Metropolitan. It is precisely because of this stature that response to him was required. If the others had the Metropolitan’s stature, response to their works would have been offered as well.
An excellent explanation, review and appropriate approach to the issues Metropolitan Kallistos academically attempts to address. It also clarifies how Academia often runs in conflict with established Church teachings, Church views and Church actions in dealing with what are truly moral behavioral conditions affecting today’s western ideological and political worlds.
Thank you Fr. Lawrence for your insight!
For several years now the online Orthodox community has been very busy going back and forth on the issues of homosexuality and the oxymoron “gay Christian” with little headway towards definitive action. The LGBT agenda has very cleverly and systematically embedded itself in the fields of psychology, the media, the arts, all levels of education, and in perhaps the True Endgame: religion. Forty years ago I can remember when homosexuality was classified as a disorder in the psychiatric diagnostics manual (DSM), and even the first time an ongoing role a gay character on a television show (Billy Crystal’s character on SOAP) created such an uproar in our culture. But, only 40 fast years later, until we witnessed the White House lit up with the colors of the LGBT rainbow flag over the gay marriage Supreme Court stance….the tares have truly grown tall among the wheat!…and, sorry to say, have been ALLOWED to do so by the Church. We have allowed “born this way”, “it’s Love” and “impossible to change” to become the mantras on almost all sides of the dialogue (dialogue that’s not really dialogue). Where, within Orthodoxy, has been definitive action? Other Christian affiliations have their “ex-gay” or “change” ministries (Exodus, Courage, etc.) where the bull is literally taken by the horns including the spiritual level. Where, within Orthodoxy, are similar pastoral and community involvement programs for those literally struggling and suffering to overcome this attraction? We all agree that the Orthodox Church has the fullness of Truth, of Grace, and under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit—so why is the position taken that it’s too hard a feat to undertake, or even that it “can’t be done”?
I mentioned the LGBT Endgame above—the window to being pastorally involved is closing rapidly as lawsuits against change therapy, weddings (and cakes), and even “hate speech from the pulpit” are now at our door. We are aiding with this endgame when practically all sides are preaching to their own choirs. We are now at the stage where some clergy, and those higher up in authority. are embracing this same-sex orientation as something fixed in stone…with “just be celibate” as the only guidance. We’ve opened the gates for the Trojan Horse, when we all should be kneeling before the Royal Doors in repentance and struggling with the afflicted one for true change (true metanoia on all levels). I applaud the contributions of those like Fr. Hopko’s book on this subject, and various online contributions, such as this one, but I do look for the juncture into real time where the Church promotes an all-encompassing position: prayer, fasting, pastoral guidance, and support the parish level (no man/woman should be struggling as an island unto themselves when Orthodoxy promotes “community” on all other matters). I’m a firm believer in the “abundant life” our Lord promised us in John 10:10, on this side of eternity as well as in the life to come, and also in Philippians 4:13 : “I (We) can do all things through Christ Jesus which strengthens me (us).” This issue may well be the battle of battles for the church, but I have personally known of Orthodox Christians who have struggled with same-sex attraction find life changing victory and freedom….but usually after seeking out a heterodox ministry. Why NOT from within Orthodoxy itself?
In closing, I am including a link to an “ex-gay” testimonial on Youtube. There are others, as well as online social media groups, witnessing change and the joy that one experiences along that road. I searched high and low for an Orthodox testimonial, to no avail. In love for our Lord, each other, and those struggling with this attraction, isn’t it time to roll up both sleeves on this issue, even if we have to dialogue with non-Orthodox groups strategies that have had success or failure? Thank you for your time.
Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3c1MGWDs54
Thank you for your comments. I quite agree that the time has come to support those struggling with same-sex attraction in a more organized and effective way. I am tempted to think that endlessly debating with those like Sanfilippo and Tucker is a waste of precious time and energy that could be better spent helping the struggling.
Something that you never see addressed or recognized in some of these pseudo-Orthodox websites and venues that advocate for ideas that contradict and distort the Orthodox Church theology and teaching, is the power of Christ to heal and restore our fallen human nature. It’s almost as if repentance and healing are either optional, impossible, or non-existent. The witness of those who struggled with same-sex attraction and were helped and healed by the Holy Spirit and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is either denounced or ignored by these pro-LGBT “orthodox” venues. Worse still, those who testify of the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit to help and heal, are often ridiculed, defamed, or viciously attacked.
Thankfully there is an Orthodox venue where these stories of healing and powerful testimonies of restoration are being collected and shared with the world. They are gathered under the category:
Homosexuals Healed by Christ
Here are some excerpts from their testimonies:
“The Church needs to lovingly say to this person: This is not who you are. Acting on same-sex inclinations is never going to bring you to a place where you can have a right relationship with God. In fact, if you go this way, you are heading down a destructive path.” ~ Robin Beck
“The grace of God is so much stronger than any sin that may have a hold on you. I am living, walking proof of that. He will pour His mercy and grace on those who truly surrender to Him, and repent of their sins.” ~ Matt Moore
“There is no love in a lie. And the lie of homosexuality is that it comes from a place of love. When in all actuality it comes from a place of brokenness.” ~ Lisa Moeller
“I will always be thankful to that priest – because, he was not afraid. Some would argue that he was about as un-pastoral as you can get: he named the sin, told me where it came from (the devil and hell itself) and then went about casting it out. It sounds harsh, but sometimes the most invasive forms of cancer require the most severe forms of therapy.” ~ Joseph Sciambra
Thank you for your wise comments. I will check out your link in more depth after church tomorrow, looks great so far! God Bless!
The lie being spread now (by many academics and even some deacons, priests, and bishops like Met. Kallistos) is that we need to re-evaluate homosexuality, female ordination, and same-sex “unions” because “progress” has shown us, that the Church, the Apostles, the Saints, the Fathers, did not really understand these issues and were not sophisticated enough in their teaching and preaching for us to trust them anymore; they are no longer relevant in our “modern and progressive” culture. Of course, this is nonsense! It betrays an appalling lack of wisdom and discernment, and a sort of “chronological snobbery” that wrongly elevates modern thought above ancient wisdom.
The rational flock must be vigilant and watch out for the purposeful duplicity and muddled thinking in these false teachers’ writings and speeches. They specialize in constantly posing rhetorical questions. They hide behind modernist long-winded phraseology, obtuse language, overly-ornate words, and pseudo-erudite expressions they believe will awe and impress their readers, but actually confuse most people. Their cowardice makes them muddy the meaning of what they really think and want to accomplish.
They purposely paint over their moral rebellion and theological deconstructions with convoluted language that masks their real intentions and allows them to pretend they’re not saying and doing what they’re actually saying and doing. “Who me, I didn’t write that! No, you misunderstood what I said. I didn’t mean that, I was only asking rhetorical questions.” The opposite of “Let your Yes be YES, and your No, be NO.”
They continually challenge or seek to change the genuine and authentic Orthodox Traditions and Orthodox Theology and Teaching, the faith preached by the Apostles, embodied in the Creeds, attested by the Scriptures and the Martyrs, witnessed by the Saints, and expounded by the Fathers.
They have unmoored themselves from the true Church and float on a sea of moral confusion, theological uncertainty, modernist nonsense, and lukewarm and carnal “wisdom”; always questioning and never finding the right answers.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools,” comes to mind.
I am sorely disappointed at what Met. Kallistos just wrote. As you, Fr. Farley, his most popular books were the catalyzers of my conversion to Orthodoxy. If anything, as a scholar, the Metropolitan is surely aware of the Overton Window and that the shift in sexual mores in the last few decades has been accomplished by shifting this window. At the very least prudence would preclude taking part in this process, which the publication above obviously espouses. Alas, it seemingly was not just a matter of imprudence, for some of his statements betray the depth in the Faith and Scriptures that is expected from a bishop, not to mention a metropolitan.
Glory to God for all things peace goodwill among all,
Your Blessings Fathers and Brethren.
A well put article and needed now in the apocalyptic times we now find ourselves. Two points that need to be addressed as I find that there is much confusion, misapplication and abuse of the two terms mentioned above: “Hierocatacrisis” and “Disrespect”.
Protobresbyter Nicholaos Manolis explained it well in his accurate definition of “Hierocatacrisis” (Hierarchal Criticism). I will recite Fr. Nicholaos Manolis’ words below as he explains it better than I would.
Hierarchal-Criticism & Condemnation v. Heresy and Delusion, by Protobresbyter Nicholaos Manolis
Wednesday August 28, 2013
Protobresbyter Nicholas Manolis, “It is one thing to Criticize and Condemn the Hierarchy and another to exercise strict control of Heresy and Heretics.”
Very wise are the words of the Saints that speak of the extremely serious sin of condemnation. However, this is misunderstood by Heretics and [Syncretistic] Ecumenists.
It is evident, that all heretics and current [Syncretistic] ecumenists, label strict control of heresy and delusion as condemnation and Hierarchal-Criticism.
We must clearly distinguish the difference between condemnation and hierarchal-criticism and strict control of heresy, confessing the faith, and apologetic confrontation of heresy and the heretic.
We do not concern ourselves with anyone’s personal life and secrets of one’s soul. We do not denounce the hierarch or anyone as a thief, sinner, fornicator, or fraudster. To concern ourselves with the various sins of our fellow man, to make them known, to slander, or bear false-witness, disrespects the sanctifying personage of our brethren.
However, when someone, by their words and actions, publicly preaches heresy, [Syncretistic] ecumenism and masonry, then we have an obligation and mandate by the Fathers (I have often mentioned the patristic quotations in my articles), to control him, accuse him, and react against him.
When heresy is expressed publicly, even from the Synod, we are obliged to respond publicly. If we do not, it is a grave sin. And not only is this required of the clergy, but the laity as well, are also requested by the Fathers, to react vigorously, to heretical theologians, priests, bishops or patriarchs who publicly and openly preach heresy.
I conclude my brief announcement, summarizing my above-mentioned writings with the following words stemming from the experience of the church: In matters of faith, that exceed the limits of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, none may be silent “the faith is endangered” including the ecclesiastical subordinates.
All herein written, is for clarification about the dilemmas and fallacious teachings on condemnation that all manner of [Syncretistic] Ecumenists attempt to impose upon us.
Translated from: http://katanixis.blogspot.ca/2013/08/blog-post_2584.html
Second point again I wish to make. And kindly forgive me. Is another comment above where Fr. Lawrence was accused of supposedly disrespecting or supposedly judging the Metropolitan Kalistos Ware.
It is not judgmental or disrespectful to call out something for what it is. It is not judgmental nor disrespectful to disagree with someone regardless of their position in public office. Many Greeks have this unorthodox confusion where they have been incorrectly taught this master/slave mentality. A Greek professor referred to this master/slave mentality with one word “Ragiadismos” or “Ragias”, Ragias was a term which means a Turkish Slave or servant. Sadly, this concept is being passed down to some Greeks where they are simply taught to be blindly obedient without having any sort of discretion, and without being permitted to challenge, question, debate or disagree. The heresy of Pusillanimity (a.k.a. Weakness) exposed by St. Symeon the New Theologian is also being promoted.
Unfortunately, it is not only from the Greek-Orthodox jurisdictions that this is being taught, but also from a political level. We see this disastrous tradition, which has its roots in Islam and Roman Catholicism, being promoted by politicians as well. That an ordinary citizen supposedly does not have the authority to question nor oppose those in public office. Or that one supposedly needs to first be a dispassionate Saint in order to do such things. If it is an offense, a disrespect and supposedly hierarchical criticism to oppose those in a higher authority, then we might as well judge and condemn all the OT Prophets, Apostles, Saints, Martyrs, Holy Fathers, Contemporary Elders, Contemporary Bishops, etc. for being judgmental. No one would ever be able to speak and people would remain as blind and naive sheep to simply follow the robotic and mechanical age of this world.
Unfortunately, many Greeks, influenced by some of their hierarchs, have been indirectly influenced by the doctrines of Papal Primacy, Ex Cathedra, Nazism, Islamic Supremacy, Marxism, Communism, Leftism, etc.
They have bee programmed and socially engineered to believe this idea that it is a sin to question, challenge, disagree with those in a higher authority. A simple and plain reading of the lives of the Saints refutes this unorthodox tyrannical phenomenon.
We continue to see this tyrannical phenomenon being practiced in Greece with uncannonical and unjust sentences handed down to outspoken figures as Nicholaos Sotiropoulos and Frs. Nicholaos Manolis and Theodoros Zisis.
Why even Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos was unjustly accused of supposedly being a fanatic for his opposition to the Synod of Crete. The same Metropolitan Hierotheos revealed later, that he was threatened and coerced to support the Cretan Synod. So we see the fruits of many Greeks supporting and promoting such a tyrannical spirit.
In Christ with Love…
Very well said. I have heard the same sentiments about the situation in Greece from a few others.
So listen, I am an “ordinary citizen”, one of the faithful, in no way, shape or form an academic, but my “antenna” works quite well. It is plainly stated that the laity, at ‘one’ with the clergy, all being ‘the faithful’, are just as much responsible as the clergy for identifying and coming forward to ‘do something’ about these serious issues. We are supposed to do that. But George, we need help. Most are simply unaware or busy themselves with this or that committee…you know that. We need someone to inform us when we are gathered at Church (since many are not cognizant of the depth and consequences of these issues), to lead the conversation, and speak plainly and succinctly as you have just done. Can this person be found in every parish? Show me where they are, please! Where do we start? There is a lot of talk right now of what needs to be done…OK then, let’s do it.
Another thing I noticed…I have a picture in my mind of Met. Ware being enclosed, separated, distanced from face to face interaction with the faithful. Has anyone had the chance to speak to him face to face about the very things we talk about here? Why hasn’t he directly responded to all our concerns? How do you get through to this man? My Bishop is not like that. He is very approachable…almost beckons you to approach him simply by his demeanor.
Upon becoming Orthodox I too learned from Met. Ware’s books, and many other sources as well, the way the Church should function. I naively thought that in real life it indeed does function in a true conciliar manner, all being ‘equals’ and with great respect toward the hierarchal order. I am quickly finding out otherwise. I have enough sense to realize the difficulties of putting ‘theories into practice’, because we are sinners in a very messy world. But dammit, I have unmovable faith in the Orthodox way…I know our way is the truth, about God, Christ, the Trinity, the Church…all of it. The Church has survived and She is going to continue to survive, not because of us but because Christ is our Head. But we still have to do our part. So where do we start? Enough has been said. Are we going to talk and write and blog and….for how long?! Who do we go to? Our Bishop? Our Priest? The people I talk with at “coffee hour”, I’m sorry….they are barely aware of the “dark clouds”. They are still talking about the Greeks vs the Syrians vs the Carpatho-Russians vs the Russians. It’s hard because I love the fellowship, but man!….they tell me, as my voice gets too loud, “shhhhh…be quiet”(so the Syrians sitting at the table next to us won’t hear our stupid conversation) when I challenge their prejudices. Oh…anyway…I’m getting on a tangent….we need help….
If what I read is accurate, the Metropolitan is moving significantly from teachings that have been around now for 2,000 years, and before that the Jews and the Old Testament speak to the continuity the Orthodox Church provides to our faith.
If there is a disagreement from the ancient laws that govern our religion, let them be presented to an Orthodox Ecumenical Council for discussion, debate and either rejection or acceptance.
I absolutely am against a Metropolitan or a Patriarch for that matter, going it alone and risking rebellion amongst either the churchgoers or the clergy. We must come together to discuss our problems or we will begin to fracture away from each other, much the same way as that occurred when around 1517, Martin Luther broke off from Roman Catholicism and we were to see the formation of thousands of differing Protestant religions.
This Metropolitan must take his issues to his Patriarch and thence to an ecumenical Council, if one is called, or otherwise face possible actions against him.
I think that is incredable brave of Metropolitan Ware to take an stand for homosexual Christian that want to marry. He risks his status and respect of his peers with thuis bold action. I Sense a deep compassionate heart that has to sprak out against a discriminating Church rule. There is no real reason why homosexuals cannot love their spouses like heterosexuals. The marriage liturgy can with some creativity adapter to a homosexual couple. They too can lead a holy life in Union with Christ. They too can offer themselves to God and too Esch other. They can also adopt children. It feels like this is a injustice that Jesus could right himself, like He did with the Farisees who thought that they were holy men because they held all religious laws but lack compassion.
Actually there is a real reason why two homosexuals cannot marry: it is the unanimous teaching of the Scriptures and 2000 years of Holy Tradition.
If Jesus had wished to permit same-sex marriage (as you imply), there is no reason why He could not have: homosexual relationships were well known in the Greco-Roman world, including apparently “monogamous” ones, as N.T. Wright points out in his commentary on Romans. Jews were well known for their rejection of same-sex relationships. Jesus’ critique of the Jewish leadership of His day was not that they applied the Torah too strictly, but that they did not apply it at all. Given that the Sabbath commemorated Israel’s exodus, its central purpose was to give rest to others- when Jesus healed on the sabbath, He was not making a legitimate “exception” to the law, but rather fulfilling the law par excellence. And while the forbidden meats of Leviticus 11 are declared to be unclean “for you” (i.e. Israel- as a mark of their special priestly calling), the sexual sins described in Leviticus 18 and 20 are the reason given for God’s judgment of the Gentile Canaanites, and they are specifically stated to be in force for all Christians by the Apostolic Synod of Acts 15.
With all respect to His Eminence (and hoping that he offers a clarification of his ambiguity), to publicly promote homosexual marriage is not brave. Those who promote homosexuality are publicly lauded by most of our culture, especially in the media. Those who reject this zeitgeist are called bigots, hateful, and sometimes even prosecuted. This dynamic was pointed out by C.S. Lewis many decades ago in the context of the Church of England- while those clergy attempting to change Christian doctrine were called “brave”, they were celebrated widely in the academy while the conservative theologians were denigrated.
Dear Father i respect tradition very much in a lot of aspects, but I think tradition had not understood well that this rule is not accordance with the first commandment: love one another. Homosexuals can not be an second class Christian. In countries like Russia this rule leads to persecution of homosexuals. The love of monogamous homosexuals is not pure sexual. And sexual procreation was not the means by Jesus was conceived, he was fathered by the Holy spirit. The natural order is surpassed by Gods interveniance. The Lex Naturalis is not Gods law. I know that my first responsibility is to work diligently and humbly on my own salvation and to do good to my fellow men. Critizising holy men of the sacred tradition sound really arrogant, and proof of my limited natural understanding, but i feel this is a real injustice, a flagrant wrong doing against the civil rights of homosexuals. I fail to understand the real reason behind this rule. The fact that it is tradition of ages is not enough backing of this rule for me. If you do not allow discussion and changing of rules, a injust rule can survive for ages. We live in different times now, and somethings can looked at in a different way. I think that a change of this rule will not destroy the complete tradition. It is an minor adjustment. I am really really sorry that i must speak out of my conscience. I understand that this issue is very sensitive to a lot of people. I am not a homosexual but i met homosexual people who lived together and a loving harmonious relationship. It felt not as something erroneous. I cannot remain silent out of love and respect for them….Please pray for me a sinner.
If unrepentant homosexual practice bars one from the Kingdom of God as Paul teaches, then the first commandment “love one another” is fulfilled in warning the homosexual away from such a disastrous course. No Christian is “second class” before of their desires; they are “second class”–excommunicate actually–if they indulge sinful desires and refuse to repent. The “tradition of ages” is rooted in Scripture. The only question is: do you accept the authority of Scripture in this instance or not?
There are very few texts in the bible about homosexuality and a truthful real one on one relationship between homosexuals. And most of them do not condemn homosexuality as such but another social injustice. Abuse of young boys by older rich men in a temple cult for example. The tradition took these texts out of context and put them in a pure symbolic framework. This symbology works well in matters of metaphysics (because God and his realm is out reach of human understanding), it works not so well in matters of ethics. The symbolic explanation of bible texts (the stand of tradition) in general can lead to terrible accidents. With poetic symbols you can create any kind of message. You need also a reality check of rational thinking. It is not about the authority of the bible here, but about the authority of the tradition, about the authority of the Church that interpreted these texts in a certain way. And there are also awful texts in the bible that are in the context of modern life outdated, the Church do not follow all rules of jewish law that is mentioned in the bible. The package deal of tradition: accept all tradition or nothing is not ok. I accept the moral authority of the Church on how to deal with my sins in general, but in these case it is problematic. But i do not want to hurt anyone. I only want to warn. I understand it must be a shock to hear that a renowd scholarly bisshop, a champion of the faith, seem to go “astray”. For devout christians who follow and obey the teaching of the Church in good faith this must a terrible blow. What is going to happen next? It is possible to close ranks and to excommunicate metropolitan Ware or to start real honest talks about this matter (with him and with each other). I sense that it is probably not the right time for real honest talks. I think that most of the people genuinely believe that has opinion of Metropolitan Ware is a threat to the Unity of the Church and not scriptual and against the teaching of the Church. I do not want to extend on this issue too long. Generally speaking it is better to follow the rules of the Church, and to mind your “own business”. Criticising others is a risky business for your own salvation. I made my point, it is up to the clergy to help to people to deal with this incident, to heal this situation. I really thank you for letting me vent nu opinion here. It is very generous of you to place my take on this matter. In Christ!
To be perfectly clear. The point of my critic is that i have not heard convincing reasons why a mature loving relationship between homosexuals is bad. There seems not be any rational behind it: stealing is wrong because you have to respect the ownership and there are better moral ways to require goods. I understand why promiscuity is bad. I understand why a lack of discipline is bad. I understand the meaning of selfsacrifice and commitment in relationships and marriage. I understand the notions of responsiblity and accountability of your actions. I understand the dangers of lust and temptations, the whimsical nature of emotions. Etc. Etc. I just miss a rational explanation here in the case of homosexual relations why this is so bad.
A full-scale elaboration of the Church’s understanding of sexuality is of course beyond the scope of the comments section of a blog. The main error consists in confining sexuality to one’s individual experience, and failing to recognize that human sexuality is not simply individualistic but also corporate and societal, which includes procreation. Homosexuality errs in re-defining sexual experience as something between two people when it fact it has wider dimensions. The current mania for redefining Christian sexuality ignores the clear meaning of the Scriptures and distorts it, trying to make St. Paul say what he would never have said. It involves a futile attempt to make a first-century Jew speak like a 21st century secularist. A more honest approach to the Scriptures would simply admit that St. Paul was wrong and be done with it–with all that this entails for a Christian.
Father Lawrence, thank you for your views on this difficult (for me) subject. Your love and concern for The Church and for others comes through.
I love my gay daughter, and others in the LGBT community very much. I want them to be treated by society with respect, but I also fear for their eternal destinations. I don’t know how to be like Jesus, sitting and talking and eating with the outcasts, but also showing the way to repentance. Does that make sense?
Years ago, when I was in my 20s, and determined to become the first woman pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (thank God I never did!), my dad said, “If you continue in this path, I would worry for your eternal soul.” He didn’t judge me; he was concerned for me. But because of our relationship, he’s the only one who could have said that to me.
I guess what I need to do is keep those relationships with these dear ones, pray for them, and ask God for guidance. And maybe I can say what my dad said, with love and respect.
Thank you for letting me talk this out. God bless.
Prayers for wisdom as you seek to love your daughter & speak the truth in love.
Jesus’ understanding of marriage and Paul’s condemnation of Homosexual behavior seems to be a very very difficult thing to relegate to the incidental culturally conditioned beliefs of Jesus or Paul.
I have no problem saying that in Jesus’ human nature, he probably believed the earth was flat, and as he says, that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, which is incorrect. Science is not part of the kerygma. Jesus surely made a few measuring mistakes as a carpenter if He was truly human!
Similarly, it seems that Paul probably believed in a literal Adam and Eve though he more presupposes this than asserts it in Rom 5. He is making a theological point about Christ, and using the story of Adam to help him. I don’t think this means WE must believe in an historical Adam.
However, Jesus’ morality is profoundly COUNTER-cultural. It consistently calls us to a HIGHER STANDARD. He calls a LOOK of lust, adultery. Therefore, it seems extremely unlikely that he would LOWER the bar when it comes to OT sexual regulations.
Similarly, for Paul, homosexual sex was commonplace for his time, so his condemnation of it is once again COUNTER-CULTURAL. I think it’s ok to say the biblical writers were wrong about certain things. They were people of their time and God did not remove their culturally incidental beliefs. But it seems very unlikely to me that the biblical writers understanding of homosexuality was simply a cultural mistake. Rather, it seems to be grounded in the gospel, and by extension, God’s revelation of what truly constitutes marriage.
All that being said, this doesn’t tell us anything as to how to deal PASTORALLY with the issue. It tells us that we should regard homosexual behavior as sinful, but as to how to DEAL with the particular sin, this is where pastoral sensibility comes in. And I have not yet read Ware’s article.
I meant that to be a reply to Jan.
Thank you very much for a fantastic article.
I cherish my first edition of The Orthodox Church but have recently became aware that later editions are significantly different from the original edition.I was unpleasantly surprised when I read about it as I do not take part in various discussion on Orthodoxy but as this was discussed in an iconography group, it came to my attention quite by chance.It is apparently a well-known fact and a worry among British Orthodox.I have all your books and I suppose that a lot of thought went into your commentaries, but if you happen to change your mind please, let us know, it is only fair to tell your readers that you changed your mind.Of course, the same is applicable to Metropolitan’s books,he should summarize differences and let us know.That would be a truly honorable way to treat his readers.
I tried to follow up on Metropolitan’s lectures on the net and one of the funniest one was his lecture on the preparations for Crete. While Russians came to all the preparatory meetings but never came to Crete, Metropolitan stated that by far the worst to correspond and communicate with was the Bulgarian church that failed to respond to any letters.And that brings me to my second point.
”Hopefully the clergy and their parishes would transfer to another jurisdiction if the matter was not resolved.”
As I listened to a lot of American Orthodox discussing the jurisdictional problems in North America it seems to me that jurisdictions are there for a reason. Bulgarians will be a safe bet at least according to Metropolitan Kallistos.
Thank you for your kind words. If I ever have a great change of mind regarding my theological views, I will make that clear and state the reasons.
Thank you, Father.
I enjoy reading your blog and books. Your direct, compassionate, pastoral, clear, and understandable style is very helpful. Keep it up! We need people who can articulate the Christian teachings eloquently.
+Thank you. Really, thank you.
So how many of you who are praising Fr Lawrence’s response have read Met. Kallistos’s entire article? I am not faulting Fr Lawrence. He has read it. But why are we thanking him for responding so well to an article I’m assuming most of us haven’t read?
I am wondering why you assume this?
Because it’s not available without a subscription, correct? I couldn’t find the article on google. All these commentors have annual subscriptions or have paid the $35? I could only find the snippets in your blog and the orthodoxytoday article.
If most everyone HAS read it, I sincerely apologize!
I assume they have read it; if you click on the words “the Foreword for the Wheel” in my piece, you should find the article without having a subscription. Anyway, no apology necessary!
Great! Thanks, I’ll take a look soon.
Ok. Read it. I think a response was warranted and I think your response was very good. His example of the homosexual who repents and the one who does not is very strange indeed.
Here a few responses to your response: just because a magazine is associated with Gregory Tucker doesn’t warrant your culturally Marxist description of it. Are Louth and Yanaras “pro-gay”? Is Fr John Behr? If they are, let me know. I would be surprised. Louth endorsed Edith Humphrey’s C.S. Lewis book, and she comes across as quite conservative.
I also think Ware raises some interesting questions and pushes us to further develop a theology of gender, which is a good thing. I think the fact that he ends every “problem” with a question makes us uncomfortable, partly because some his “problems” don’t seem to be problems. But he also gives no “answers,” which makes me uncomfortable, but that’s MY problem. I think we just need to rise to the occasion and answer his questions. I know a young man who finds himself attracted to men but equally set on not acting out on those desires. But he said that if he ever goes to seminary, he would like to write a thesis on homosexuality because the Church’s teaching IS difficult for him to accept and he wants to understand it more himself.
I have no problem with people in the church fighting about this. I don’t think Hopko did either. But i think it should be a fight over things that are less well-settled in the tradition than the idea that one must be repentant before receiving communion. That seems to be a non-issue. OF COURSE this is the case. If people want to fight about what Paul meant, or what the canons mean, or what the Frs mean, let’s do that. I think it will be fruitful. But let’s not fight about the fact that a repentant sinner should receive communion over an unrepentant one. Ware’s statements seem to imply that sexual addiction is a worse sin than other sexual sins. But isn’t this the same type of language we are trying to avoid when we say that ANY sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is equally damaging? Now we’re back to the “your sin is worse than her sin” debate.
Just my thoughts.
Thank you for your comments. I had never heard of the term “culturally Marxist”; I learn something every day! My main concern with Met. Kallistos is that he assumes that questions are open ones which are not, which of course is how everything is in the world of academia regarding theology, and also that his “questions” seem to be simply disguised negations–which would explain his lack of answers. I can’t speak for Louth or Yanaras, I count Fr. Behr as a personal friend, and I know that Dr. Edith Humphrey is sound and wonderful. I suppose it all depends upon why one contributes a piece to such a blog: does one intend to further its agenda or add a contrary voice?
Excuse me , Father , for a second post. I wrote of ordering the book ‘The Orthodox Church’ before you posted the article. I have found it to be of a 1995 vintage, so I’ll read it with my normal attitude of detachment. I’ll exclaim to myself ‘Well ,you would say that wouldn’t you’ as I do with other texts and books . I hope that I won’t have to remark ‘If you believe that you will believe anything’ which is the worst I can say. Detachment is the only attitude when reading history, I find , and I recommend it. I’m almost as old as His Eminence and frequently sceptical.
One is sometimes tempted to say that skepticism is a fruit of the Spirit!
A true member of the Orthodox Church, whether layman or clergyman, would not countenance questioning the Scriptures and God’s decrees in the manner that Metropolitan Kallistos has. His job is to stand squarely in the light of the Gospel and the Epistles. When a hierarch of his stature ceases to do this, he is no longer fulfilling his God-given role and should stand aside. He is simply muddying the waters and closing the doors to those who otherwise, through repentance, may have found their way to God. He is spending too much time with the likes of Roman Williams whose homosexual apologetic “The Body’s Grace” has helped lead the Anglican Church into the darkness and abyss of sexual identity politics.
Yes, and one can see the price the Anglican Church has paid for it. I suggest their example constitutes a cautionary tale.
I meant to say, Father, thank you for sticking your neck out over this. I had to leave my parish because of weird ideas emanating from the priest. Thankfully, I’ve found another thriving, Ortho (straight) dox (doctrine) parish. God is merciful.
Does it concern you that many comments supporting your article have a fascist tincture to them?
In reply: No it doesn’t concern me, probably because they do not have a Fascist tincture to them. And BTW, such labelling is rarely helpful.
‘Fascist’ is a very powerful word. It is usually used by people who need to name call because they don’t like what they are reading or hearing. If you have objections to the comments here – why not specify exactly why? Sarcastic name calling achieves nothing. But if you have an opposing point to make – then make it in a civilised manner and others will respect you, and will try to respectfully answer you.
To my understanding, judgement of a believer;s sexuality relates to the question of stewardship of his/her whole person ( all of his/her body members, thoughts and actions, decisions, time, talents etc) as a living Christ (Gal.2.20)and god by grace (Genesis 1:26 ; 5.3 John 10:34-36). .
How do a person’s actions and behavior proclaim and serve the Heavenly Kingdom on Earth now and in eternity?
How does a person;s sexuality function in accordance to the First Commandment ,”Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”
Genesis 1:28 ?
Even more how are personal, god-given talents in body and intellect shared with the fellow-believers and how do personal choices affect the Church as a body / living organism which wants / is called to live, extend, reproduce and multiply serving Gods plan for creation through the ages ?
Personal accountablility/management grows into social accountablility towards the Church Community which (by the charismatic leadership ) in accordance to the Spirit talking in Scriptural Tradition and Lived Tradition- manages the Sacraments.
Thank You for commenting space and attention !
Thank you Fr Farley for writing about this! You really nailed it on several points.
Fr Farley have you considered or seen how the fellowship of Sexaholics Anonymous has dealt with this particular topic?
Kallistos Ware had nothing to do with my Orthodox formation as I never read any of his books. However, my husband who converted upon marrying me felt his books were an important part of his journey. Age is not an excuse. If anything age should bring increased wisdom. To me whatever good Kallistos Ware had for my husband was negated by his horrendous article. He sounded a lot like many liberals who have left the Church rather than a metropolitan in the position to guide it. I find it hard to belief he did not understand the consequences of what he did. Words are forever and the harm he’s done will be forever to any seeker who comes across this article. The direction they take because of it will be a consequence.