37 Responses

  1. Well, here’s my take: I don’t think that if you are going to talk about this issue and mention ‘The Church’ that you can do so without taking into account the *entire* Church. So, where goes the State Church of Greece, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the BOR, and other churches stand on these issues? The truth is that they are not far apart from what is condemned here as ‘Protestant’ behavior. I think this is an exceedingly narrow construct.
    I lived for a time not long ago on a Greek island where adultery was punished by death… in the shadow of an Orthodox Church. They make our ‘Protestant Converts’ look positively leftist in comparison. How many of these ‘Protestant Converts’ have disrupted a gay pride parade? Again, our internet chatter is mild in comparison to what goes on in other parts of the Church. We ought to have a little perspective here.
    Fr. Arida’s antagonism of his brethren was as cold as it was purposeful: the OCA has been in constant turmoil for over a decade, and this topic he raises not only brought down the OCANews web site, but was a part of the Met. Jonah fiasco. The OCA is still healing, and he poured battery acid on the wound.
    As an outsider (I’m in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and encourage you to talk to an old Arab priest about how we need to be more accepting of homosexuality), all I saw in his ambiguous post was a man who used his intelligence and skill to provoke not a discussion, but a blow-up. I’m assuming that he knew that by keeping his post ambiguous enough, he could let people draw all kinds of conclusions.
    My conclusion is this- I think that before we talk about loving others outside the Church, we ought to work on how we love one another in the Church. That means dropping the ‘left’ and ‘right’ baloney, and be able to engage one another as family rather than as the ‘ignorant reactionaries’ versus the ‘immoral perverts.’ So, the bell has rung… back to your corners…

    1. Your concluding point is not so different from that of the essays’. We need to work on our internal problems. We need to find a way to engage and love one another. We need to engage and love those who are not within our particular church. As for the non-Americans, I disagree. The sociological demographics of America are what they are. America is where we are. America is the country we are called to engage. If one’s in Canada, the same applies there. If we love one another and engage others appropriately, we can even be a light to the rest of the Orthodox world.

      1. ted perantinides

        MOST ESTEEMED REVEREND HERBEL,you are 100% correct.our internal problems are huge and getting larger as time goes on.our churches need to eliminate ethnicity and to get out of the restaurant business and into the evangelization of lost souls.resources spent on ethnic food and pastries is wasted money(long term).at the end of the day ,@#*^!are needed in the pews.

    2. Evgueni

      ***How many of these ‘Protestant Converts’ have disrupted a gay pride parade? ***

      Yeah, right. Try to do it, and the next day you can find that you don’t have a job any more – the left will take care of that. And not only the left; when several young Orthodox converts tried to protest the feminist action last Spring, the author of this blog went all the way to make sure they got condemned by the bishop and excommunicated (although they have not violated any Church canon or taught any heresy condemned by the Ecumenical Councils). Obviously, we can speak that we “love everyone” and “embrace everyone”, but the reality is very different. Sometimes I even think: may it is God’s will that our churches are getting empty?

      “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)

      1. I am not convinced “salt” = “racism” but we may have to agree to disagree on that one, Evgueni. I’m not going to open up the Heimbach situation again. He’s recently gotten the slap down from some of his own for being too hardline and harsh. He’s hanging himself with his own rope. Best to let dead dogs lie I think.

  2. Well said.

    A Buddhist firend once told me that when Buddhist missionaries set out to new places and were spreading their message to those who had not heard it before, they made only two kinds of statements:

    1. This is what we do.

    2. This is what we do not do.

    I think that would be a good principle for Orthodox mission is well.

    Note that the statements are indicative, not imperative.

    Only if people showed an interest in learning more did they elaborate on those statements.

    And one of the things they did not do was try to force their message on the world by hook or by crook, saying this like “This is what you must do” and “This is what you must not do.”

    What Protestants (and others) do or do not do is none of our business. If they ask us, we can say “We do not marry people of the same sex,” or “We do not have female bishops,” or whatever else it is where our practice differs from theirs. But unless the they are seriously interested in becoming Orthodox there is no need for us to urge them to follow our practices.

  3. The thing is, though, many who might seriously be interested in becoming Orthodox (not to mention many already Orthodox people and many outsiders) want to know WHY we do or don’t do what we do or don’t.

    And that’s where we’re weakest— we often can’t answer, particularly around the red-button issues concerning— how did Fr put it?— “human sexuality, the configuration of the family, the beginning and ending of human life, the economy and the care and utilization of the environment including the care, dignity and quality of all human life.” And women’s role in the church.

    Hence we NEED to have those discussions and controversies that Fr Robert was urging people not to be afraid of starting. It’s not enough just to say, We do/don’t do this or that, and expect people to say, Oh ok that’s cool.

    It would be helpful for people to admit when they don’t actually know things. I once heard of a hierarch who said that the infallibility of the Pope didn’t trouble him so much as the infallibility of his priests when they were talking to their parishes.

  4. Evgueni

    Father Oliver, I am really shocked. How can we even think to define the Church attitude through some “American religious right” (either by accepting it or denying it)? I have always believed that we, Orthodox, have our own identity shaped by the Holy Tradition (as delivered to us by the Holy Fathers and the teaching of the Church Councils). This Tradition is what it is, and it does not depend on the existence of “political right” or “political left”, or the “Republican Party” (or whatever). I am a little bit surprised since the Church history is your specialty, so you know that the Church has survived many political regimes and social teachings. Ideally, we should just ignore all this stuff and teach what the Church has always taught (regardless of how many people like it or dislike).

    I sincerely do not understand one thing. It appears that you are suggesting that we must appeal to the social liberals, because most people with no religious affiliation tend to be liberals, and their fraction is growing. Well, while the statistics in the article you are citing is true (it is liberals who are becoming non-religious, not the conservatives), shifting to the social liberalism for the Orthodoxy would be a plain suicide. It will definitely lose its conservative constituents (who would decide rather stay home and serve Vespers, Orthros and Tipica services by themselves than going to church), and it will NOT bring the liberals to the Church. If I remember your personal story correctly, YOU YOURSELF has left the Lutheran Church because of its liberal trend (and it was back in the 1990s, when even Nancy Pelosi would not think about “legalizing gay marriages” or something like that!) and joined the Orthodoxy since it was traditional. Now, you are suggesting the Orthodox Church move to the same direction as the Lutheran Church did – and you expect it to gain more people because of that?

    1. One shouldn’t be forced to shift either way. My point is that we need to engage our surroundings more thoughtfully and we need to see our faith as transcending the politics of right and left. My reasons for leaving Lutheranism and entering Orthodoxy were not quite that simple. I actually entered believing women’s ordination was still an open question. I did find the blatant pro-abortion stance of many at Luther Seminary to be too far but the moral questions were only one facet of it. Anyhow, I don’t think I’ve ever officially told my story anywhere. There were various dimensions and components. I can say I didn’t walk in anti-Lutheran and I don’t waste time worrying about what contemporary Lutherans may or may not be doing.

      1. Evgueni

        You talked in detail about your conversion from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy during the debates with an atheist professor back in 2010 (I forgot his name). Regarding abortions it is actually not that simple (as it might seem): the Holy Fathers have taught that a fetus is not a human being until he is formed and has a human image (on this particular issue liberals have point). But my point was different: the Church already has attitude towards the social issues and it has nothing to do with the politics. We had it before any “right” and “left” appeared, and yes: the Church tradition on the social issues is more adequately represented by the current political right (not other way around). You have objections over it? Then I will be glad to hear your arguments.

        1. Oh yeah. People could check out that debate. I could link to it in a future post. I hear what you’re saying on abortion. Perhaps that topic would be worth investigating in a post. That’s the way I prefer to tackle the social issues rather than I. The comment thread. I’ll see what we can’t do here at RRO over time.

          1. Evgueni

            I had an article on it published on a major conservative Orthodox website 5 years ago. Interestingly, it used to be a Roman Catholic Church teaching too until the XIX century, and the reason the RCC teaches now that an embryo is a human being since conception is the Dogma of Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary adopted in 1854 (I can elaborate on that more if you wish, it is a very interesting topic).

            (Throwing one more bone to the liberals): if you want to discuss a really hot topic, check what the Church has taught on concubinate (cohabitation without official marriage). You may be quite surprised when you see what the canonical sources say about it. (If you haven’t done it already, of course).

  5. The Anti-Gnostic

    Arcane theology and elaborate liturgics appeal only to a very small subset of the American population. I’m not sure how the Church is supposed to attract people by being more polite.

    In all these discussions, I never hear the most obvious way to grow the Church: have children and baptize them. That’s how the Church makes new Christians. The future belongs to those who show up. Muslims, Amish, Hasidim and Mormons are showing up. Orthodox are as likely to be higher-g, middle aged converts who’ll die with no children around to light candles and pray them past the tollhouses. That’s an awful thought.

    The goal here is an autocephalous Church on American soil, right? That means a Church wedded to her people through an inter-generational succession of baptisms, weddings and funerals. That’s not going to be very appealing to rootless cosmopolitans and homosexuals outside the stereotypical ‘gay uncle’ who keeps things in the closet.

    The American secular creed is frankly not compatible with Orthodoxy; the place was founded on Masonic principles, after all. In a secular, propositional nation, religion is just another choice in the national shopping mall.

    Either the Church changes or America does, and the Church does not change. In other words, Orthodoxy in America either dies out and leaves these shores, or America becomes a more “Orthodox” place.

    1. It’s a false dichotomy to claim either the church changes or the culture does. Both are ever changing in different ways. Politeness is only one angle (though one I would not dismiss–I think it’s virtuous to be polite). I also think we need profundity. Repeating either stereoptypes from the right or the left don’t help (though interestingly, only those on the right are reacting negatively to this piece).

  6. Jonathan Hill

    The essay Fr Robert Arida wrote was not simply trying to find new ways of speaking to the culture around us.

  7. Dianeski

    An obvious one seems to be that we prefer to critique non-Orthodox to an unhealthy degree. – See more at: http://holyresurrection.areavoices.com/2014/11/19/orthodoxy-in-america-will-increasing-political-conservatism-lead-to-increasingly-becoming-a-high-church-sect/#sthash.gDxcAGtl.dpuf

    Rod Dreher: Exhibit A.

    I wish his hierarchs would tell him to shut the flip up about Catholic Problems. If he spent half the time extolling the beauties of Orthodoxy that he spends bashing Catholicism every time some bishop burps, he would do a lot more good for his cause. Countless people (including his coreligionists) have tried to tell him this, but he reacts defensively and passive-aggressively and remains in hardcore denial. Maybe if his bishop or priest wised him up, he would get a clue. One could only hope, anyway.

    Thanks for the thoughtful piece, Father. Can’t say I agree with everything in it, but I appreciate its spirit of irenicism and charity.

  8. Deacon Jeremiah

    “It means we will have to bring together those who stand against a same-sex marriage rite and those who believe we are not doing enough to minister to those who are gay.”

    Father, do you consider advocacy of a putative marriage rite for homosexuals compatible with Christian Orthodoxy? I ask because this sentence seems to imply, though it does not plainly say, that such a rite could be a way of ministering to homosexuals.

      1. Deacon Jeremiah

        Respectfully, Father, I *did* read your essay and know that you said, “for the record I would not support creating a new marriage rite for gay couples.” I was not asking about your position. I was asking if you consider the opposing point of view compatible with Christian Orthodoxy, even if you do not agree with it. Even if you would not support the creation of such a rite to “minister” to homosexuals, do you consider it an open question?

          1. Deacon Jeremiah

            “I do not believe our theology of marriage supports developing a gay wedding service.”

            This was clear from your article and, again, I did not intend to question this.

            “Let’s move on.”

            Will do. Thank you for your time.

  9. GC

    I’m sorry Father, but I will have to disagree with your assesment of Fr Robert’s essay. I also have to disagree with you seemly lumping anyone who disagrees with Fr Robert into categories that may or may not be applicable to all who object to or finds issues with Fr Robert’s essay.

    I think, and others think too, that the way Fr Robert wrote his essay has many things said in an ambigous, muddled manner, leaving the reader wondering “what did he mean by that?” or, “Is he saying that….?”. The essay in my opinion is not clear and I dare say, not a well written essay. If your claim is true, that all Fr Robert is saying is that we need to find ways to engage with the culture around us (something I’m all for and see that the Church needs to do this) without changing the fundamental teachings of the Church. However, I don’t see this in Fr Robert’s essay. He leaves too many things opened ended and ambiguous.

    But this leads me to my next question/statement. What, exactly, does the Church need to do in regards to homosexuals? What exactly does the Church need to change or do to address an issue that frankly is not new. People have engaging in homosexual activities for thousands of years, including during the time of the Apostles. So, again, what exaclty does Fr Robert want the Church to do? We already know we ought to love one another, be kind, have mercy, accept others where they are, welcome and show hospitality, regardless of their situation or place in life. We already know all these things, no one is preaching that we ought to bully, hate, or otherwise mistreat any human being for any reason.
    So, I ask again, what, exactly does Fr Robert want the Church to do that she is not doing already?

    Because he does not spell this out, and leaves opened ended statements that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, do you not see how this essay could be anything but controversal?

    1. Protodeacon Michael

      “Caveat emptor” is what I say! Fr. Robert Arida’s musings on homosexuality did not start with his latest post (on a page directed at youngsters, of all places); here is a link to something he wrote back in July of 2011: http://www.ocanews.org/news/AridaResponse7.1.11.html

      Arida appears, in the article under discussion here, to be doing what he said he would not do (or was not doing) in that article three years ago, which is to step up his efforts on what looks for all the world like an apology for same-sex marriage. In that article, he insisted that, “As a priest in the state of Massachusetts where homosexual marriage has been legal since 2004, the law of the Commonwealth has never intruded upon my ministry nor has it sought to alter the Church’s vision and theology of marriage.”

      Subsequent history suggests otherwise. It is no secret in the blogosphere that there have not only been allegations but fairly enthusiastic admissions (from gays who attend his parish) that Arida has communed openly gay and openly living-as-if-married gay folk for some time now. That he’s adopted a policy that goes well beyond don’t-asking and don’t-telling seems entirely plausible. To my knowledge, Arida himself has not confirmed this, but neither has he denied it; indeed, pastoral realities may deny him the opportunity to respond. Otherwise, if these allegations are untrue or misconstrued, it is mystifying that he has apparently not addressed them.

      Either way, it is frankly disingenuous on his part to say “we need to talk about this” if he’s already made up his mind, and will proceed regardless of the outcome of “discussion.” And (once again, if he has in fact begun to sanction what the Church has not sanctioned) he displays a remarkable disregard for the statements the OCA bishops have made up to this point, all of which were once again trotted out on the OCA website in response to, once again, Arida’s “look, I’m just asking questions.” If one looks at Arida’s article cited above, and his more recent article that was taken down by the Synod, his questions have, in fact, been answered by the bishops; he likely just doesn’t like the answers and, in the vein of the irritating teenager who’s been denied the car keys, continues to reframe and deflect.

      So it seems fair to request that Fr. Arida come clean here, without any “depends what ‘is’ means” obfuscation. I don’t suggest that we stifle authentic discussion or treat those with same sex attraction with disgust or blame. “We do this; we don’t do this” is probably unworkable at this point, though, because the Arida’s of the world are very much like the the psychiatrist giving the Rorschach test to a patient who finds something sexual in every ink-blot pattern. Doctor: “You seem to have a sexual problem.” Patient: “You’re the one who keeps showing me dirty pictures.”

      Just so, it seems that Arida, far from saying anything especially prophetic or arresting, simply joins his voice to a culture that has decided to make the autonomous self the arbiter of sexual propriety, that mandates “education” in questionable sexual practices for eight year olds, that gives literature to teenagers about the virtues of whippings, etc., that has eliminated all vestiges of modesty in the grocery store checkout lane in the name of “protected speech,” and then turns around and deflects our stated reservations by telling us that WE are obsessed with sex! (It never fails to amuse, that uber-strident and uber-public insistence on homosexuality’s being a “private” matter!)

      The discussion, then, is very offensive; not as in, “I’m offended,” but as in LeBron James posting up my 6-2, 61 year old self. There is nothing irenic about how this discussion routinely occurs, just as there is nothing irenic for me, a 6-2 geriatric, if I find myself guarding LeBron James. We are frankly denied, under the terms of engagement, the way to effectively “get our stuff out there.” We get (again in basketball terminology) “faced.”

      “Progressive” students of Dante delight in pointing out that the usurers and gluttons were in a circle below the one occupied by adulterers and perverts. But both were still in Hell, weren’t they? Nervous pecking at canons and furtive investigations of Nth Century practices easily become mere diversions, and tend to obscure the fact that marriage was instituted before the fall of the first Adam, when the proto-couple were their purest, not as remediation or correction; rather, marriage is a fulfillment of God’s purpose for humans.

  10. GC

    Fr Oliver, are you going to respond to mine and Fr Dn Michael’s posts? Or, are you going to do the same thing Fr Robert is doing? Say something and retreat into the shadows?

    Really Father, this does not bode over well for the OCA, some are wondering when the OCA is going to go into schism.

    1. Where’s your blog? I may try to find time to read your posts. If you mean comments I don’t always have time but I do try to keep in mind some general feedback points to help me shape future posts.

    2. Protodeacon Michael

      I didn’t necessarily expect a response from Father, I just meant to add something hopefully lucid to the discussion. I don’t disagree w Fr. Oliver’s general idea in his blog post; my point is that it is extremely difficult to have a reasoned discussion with those on the other side of the issue because the “givens” tend to negate authentic Christian input.

      Just curious: who’s talking schism?

  11. GC

    “Just curious: who’s talking schism?”

    no one person in particular. Just talk about what if the OCA continues on the path it’s apparently on, and whether or not it could lead to schism.

  12. Dave O'Neal

    I appreciate your point of view and applaud you for your effort to respond honestly in the face of the heaps of dishonesty that have characterized the response to Fr Arida’s piece. But I don’t think it’s accurate to imagine there to be two “sides” in this debate, and the framing of it that way is an ongoing problem, it seems to me. You note two extremes, number one: those who accept every dictum of the far right and who thumb their noses at all else, and then, number two: “those who reject all that exists in the political right, including the religious right, in order to bring in as many ‘nones’ as possible, no matter what the cost to doctrine. Here one who thumb one’s nose at the right, taking pride in how progressive and enlightened one is.” Do you actually know anyone in who fits the criteria for number two? I don’t. Though we likely do know a number of people who fit category one, which is my point. I don’t perceive conservative and liberal sides here. There is certainly a conservative, anti-engagement-with-culture, our-Church-NEVER-changes side, but there’s no comparable liberal “side” that stands in opposition to it. Rather, there are a range of views among those who aren’t dug in to that right-wing mindset. I find it’s generally those of what I’m calling for convenience “the right-wing mindset” who identify as relativist-liberal anyone who’s basically not them. This was demonstrated in the recent conference in NYC re women and the diaconate. The right wing came out early with knives sharpened in an attempt at a preemptive strike on that event in a pretty predictable way, accusing the participants of creating a subterfuge for sneaking women into serving in the altar. Pretty much what you’d expect them to say. But then, if you look at the people involved in that conference, you see that really was in no way the case. There was a large range of points of view. There were many people who hadn’t made up their mind (and may not soon)–and there likely were people there who are militant about reestablishing the female diaconate tomorrow (pretty few, actually), but there was a whole spectrum in between, and what united them was their willingness to examine the issue, to hear each other, to agree and disagree, and an understanding that the work of the Holy Spirit isn’t necessarily frozen in doctrine. This was illustrative to me of the whole problem. There aren’t conservative and liberal “sides” that need to accomodate each other. Thinking of it that way misses the reality. The reality as I see it is the right wing against anything else (you can call the right wing something less pejorative like True Orthodoxy or something, doesn’t matter, it’s the same folks). The right wing versus everything-other-than-the-right-wing battle isn’t fightable. It’s a fight between those who are utterly sure of themselves and those whose faith includes the possibility of growth and ambiguity. The non-right-wing isn’t a single position or ideology. Thus the right-wing makes them into one. Thus Fr Arida simply brings up the need for honest engagement with culture and gets cast as the devil.

    1. I am not going to get into naming names but there are Orthodox who do believe we should have a gay marriage rite and who press for progressivism in a manner that I find to be a mirror opposite of what the extreme on the right argue and posture. The difference is they are far fewer than those on the extreme right in our church, I think, but yes, they are there. I don’t mind the disagreement here between you and I over how to frame it. That, too, must be explored by the church.

    2. Oh, as a PS, I haven’t posted on that diaconal event but I thought there was disingenuousness on both parts. Perhaps I should articulate how and why I thought that, but not here in a comment thread.

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