The past few weeks have seen the number of young people being targeted for their homosexual identity then it has in years past. Recently TV personality Ellen Degeneris, herself a lesbian, posted a video about the bullying of people who are different then the rest of us. I posted this video to my Facebook page and received a variety of responses. I thought it would be helpful to review the Orthodox Christian position on Homosexuality.
I know this will be hurtful to many of my readers and please know that I do not wish to cause you any harm but the truth of the teachings of the Orthodox Church are time tested. The Church does not nor should not, conform to society. It is the Churches role to conform society to the way of Jesus Christ. It is also the Churches role and responsibility to point out sin and make a way for reconciliation with people to Christ and His Church. Jesus loves everyone regardless of their sin, but our sin separates from Him and His desire is that all be reconciled to Him and His Church.
As I have said before, since there is no one single head that speaks for the Orthodox Church it is difficult to come up with a clear statement one way or the other. Also, I do not speak for the Orthodox Church or even my Archdiocese; these words are my interpretation of church teaching. These are also the words of the Orthodox Christian Priest. I make no reference to what other churches believe or do not believe. If you wish further clarification I suggest you seek out your own priest.
The bulk of this will come from the book, Contemporary Moral Issues Facing the Orthodox Christian by Fr. Stanley Harakas.
A distinction needs to be made between the homosexual person and homosexual acts. The Orthodox Church has a long and clearly articulated position on homosexual acts but a position on homosexuality is difficult to come by. From the Encyclopedia of Bioethics Vol. 2 p. 671 comes this definition of the homosexual person that will aide us in our conversation.
“Homosexuality is… a predominant, persistent, and exclusive psychosexual attraction toward members of the same sex. A homosexual person is one who feels sexual desire for and a sexual responsiveness to persons of the same sex and who seeks or would like to seek actual sexual fulfillment of this desire by sexual acts with a person of the same sex.”
The Orthodox Church considers the homosexual act morally wrong. Homosexual acts, along with all other expressions of wrongful sexual expression, to include fornication, adultery, prostitution, incest, bestiality, masturbation would be considered the wrongful expression of sex and therefore morally wrong. The only proper place for sexual expression is in marriage.
The evidence from Old and New Testaments as well as the writing of the Church Fathers and Mothers clearly state that homosexual acts are morally wrong.
“If there is a man that lies with males as those be with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.” (Leviticus 20:13)
“Their women exchanged the natural functions for that which is unnatural, and in the same way the men abandoned the natural function of women and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men, committing indecent acts…” (Romans 1:24-28)
All of this points towards the fallen nature of man and the depraved passions of man in the fallen state. We must work to turn away from the passions and configure our life towards Christ.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
The patristic tradition is also clear in the judgment. From the Didache of the Twelve Apostles in the 2nd century, through the writings of St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, Blessed Augustine, St Gregory of Nyssa. The 6th century Code of Justinian, the cannons of St. John the Faster to the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America in March of 1978, the teaching of the Orthodox Church is consistent and unvarying, homosexual acts are immoral and wrong.
In the terminology of the Church the attraction of one person to another person of the same sex is called a passion. It is a wrongful orientation of our desires. Passions come in many forms and are directed away from many things. Self – pride, money – greed, food – gluttony, extra marital sex partners – lust, others property – theft to name a few. It is our common spiritual and moral struggle against sin in all forms that we work together to fight temptation and overcome the passions.
The Church offers many spiritual tools in fighting the passions to include, worship, fasting, the Sacrament of Confession, reading of Scripture and Patristic works and spiritual counseling. This passion of homosexuality is no different then the other passions and the church need to exercise care and concern for all those who are battling the passions no matter what the passion.
With all of this said, and in light of my opening statement the Orthodox Church supports the guarantees to the basic rights due all persons, life and dignity, liberty, basic needs and access to them. However the Orthodox Church cannot support any action that would allow for the public display of homosexuality to include marriage. “The overt practice of homosexuality, its public acceptance as an ‘alternative life-style’, the effort to make prideful that which is shameful are condemned by the Orthodox Church and seen as a severe attack on the family.” (Harakas 95)
The general position then of the Orthodox Church can be summed up in the statement from SCOBA issued on March 7, 1978:
“The Christian family is currently subject to serious negative pressures from secular elements in our society. Such are the extensive campaigns of self-proclaimed homosexuals, both individually and collectively, to obtain recognition of their life-styles as being of equal worth with marriage and the home. Without wishing to penalize anyone who deserves sympathy and pastoral assistance from the Christian community because of physical or emotional personality states over which they have no control, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas reiterates the clear directives of scriptures and tradition which condemn voluntary homosexual acts as sinful and forbidden and detrimental to the existence of the Christian home. Persons who embrace homosexual life-styles are not qualified to teach children or act as spiritual leaders.”