Please forgive my imperfect words. I have struggled to write this. I have gone between not writing something and writing something and just what to write. I have started and stopped many times over the last twenty-four hours and my words seem to be incomplete but I feel I need to write something. I have not struggled with my belief on the issue but I am struggling with what our response should be. Does this change anything? How will this affect what we do as church, if at all?
I have many friends who have chosen a lifestyle that I do not agree with. Some of them are involved in life long relationships and some are not. As an Orthodox Christian I cannot support the lifestyle they have chosen for themselves as Homosexuality is incompatible with Orthodox Christianity and that is a case that was decided by God.
The Orthodox position on marriage is very clear, and was stated by our bishops in 2012:
The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church. Neither Scripture nor Holy Tradition blesses or sanctions such a union between persons of the same sex. Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America, Statement on Marriage and the Moral Crisis in our Nation, May 16, 2012 (This is the official Orthodox Position)
I will say this again just so I am clear, same sex marriage is incompatible with Orthodox Christianity. Homosexuality is incompatible with Orthodox Christianity. Sex outside of marriage is incompatible with Orthodox Christianity and I believe that this statement makes that abundantly clear.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States, redefined marriage for all eternity. They redefined marriage in a civil context and not in a religious context. Now, some of my brother priests will disagree with me on this point, but I don’t really care what the government or the court says about this because for me it is not a civil issue it is one of theology. Orthodox Theology teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman as God ordained with the first marriage of Adam and Eve and there is no court in the land that can change that. For now, I am not forced to perform marriages that my faith does not allow me to perform. I have issues with signing a marriage license but that is for another discussion. Yesterday’s decision did not affect my belief in marriage at all. I also believe that this is a slippery slope and that the definition will continue to change to make room for all sorts of marriages and that is also very dangerous. Again, I am sure that there are some of my brother priests who disagree with me on this point.
I believe that trying to legislate morality is a dangerous position. I ask, whose system of morality are we going to use? Sure it would be nice if everyone had the Orthodox system of moral teaching, but the fact is we are less and 1% of the US population and not all Orthodox agree on a system or moral teaching. Since the majority of the people in this country now do not attend any Church, will we use that system of morality? What about the Muslim system or morality and Sharia Law? Would that be acceptable?
Morality is taught from the pulpit and it is our job as authentic teachers to teach those that God has given us charge over, to teach just that. How do we change society? One person at a time. If we teach and preach what our Church believes, not our version of what the Church believes, but what the Church believes, that is all we can do. If we change the hearts and minds of people then the laws will not matter.
For me it all comes down to love. We are commanded to love everyone, we do not have to love what they do, but we have to love them as people created in the image and likeness of God. In the secular, pluralistic society we live in we have to make room for the opinions of others. We do not have to agree with them but we have to make room for them.
I have said before that the Orthodox Church is open and affirming of everyone, not of their behaviors but of them as people. It is our job to help people change their lives and to walk with Christ. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he did not dismiss her as a sinner, He accepted her and pointed out where her life was not right and he helped her to see that for herself. He did not scream that she was a sinner, He did not refuse conversation with her, but just the opposite He sat with her and taught her with love, not hatred. This is at the very essence of Orthodoxy.
Preaching the Gospel truth, as we Orthodox understand it, is not easy in a world that is hostile to what we want to preach. The truth, as revealed to us through God’s Holy Church, makes people uncomfortable and if we are not willing to make people feel uncomfortable then we have no business standing in the pulpit. The problem with most religious thought of the day is we confuse theology with politics. We use terms like liberal and conservative within the Church and these are political distinctions that should not be used in the Church. We also cannot decide theology on what is popular, it is not about being popular it is about being faithful to what has been revealed to us through God’s Holy Church. Our faith is unchanging and if that makes us unpopular so be it, Jesus did not preach what was popular, He did not say, your lives are just fine the way they are so go about your business, no He called us to look at what we are doing in light of the unchanging Gospel message. We are all sinners and have all fallen short of the glory of God but that does not mean He loves us any less and that is what we have to do, love everyone.
I am not 100% happy with these thoughts but writing helps me to come to terms with issues that I am working through. Yes we have black and white stands on issues and we are unmoving on all of them, but I always try to approach them with love and understanding.
Feel free to disagree with me but I ask that you do so with respect. I reserve the right to delete any comments that I feel are disrespectful.