When the light shines, the darkness is made manifest scripture tells us and nowhere is this clearer than in the debate about the morality of homosexuality in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Most readers know that this debate is heating up, driven in large part by the Facebook group Listening: Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church.
True to its tendentious name (there is no “silence” that needs “breaking”), the group follows the playbook of homosexual activism that crippled the Episcopalian Church: Accept the premise that the prohibitions against homosexuality need to be “revisted” (a favorite phrase) and thereby undermine the authority of the moral tradition. Refuse and you will castigated as unloving, uncharitable, closed-minded, ignorant, homophobic, responsible for teen suicides — all the usual pejoratives that are foisted on those who disagree. It’s all done with a smile of course. Call it intimidation through church-speak.
The OCA is hampered with the problem of homosexuality because past leaders were active homosexuals. These leaders did not champion the homosexual agenda, but because they were morally compromised the homosexual behavior in some ranks of Church leadership went unchallenged.
Met. Jonah, a moral traditionalist, recognizes the institution corruption that the tacit acceptance of homosexual behavior can cause and does not tolerate it as past leaders have. This was one reason why detractors rose up and attempted to remove him. Other bishops have since come to recognize that the attempt to create moral parity between homosexual and heterosexual behavior has institutional as well as personal ramifications. They are joining with Met. Jonah in the clarification of the moral tradition not only in teaching, but in practice.
It is very important that Bishops speak out. The Episcopalian Church fell because its bishops gave in to homosexual ideology. Had the Bishops resisted, and had they developed a deeper anthropological understanding of the human person (knowledge that the Orthodox already possess but must uncover, examine and explain in greater detail), their collapse may have been avoided.
We are foolish to think that collapse cannot happen in the Orthodox Church. True, the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, but only God determines where those gates are located. And Bishops, as Orthodox ecclesiology teaches, are first the guardians of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the tradition that flows from it. If they fail, the Church fails.
There is no need for “dialogue” with homosexual activists. The moral legitimacy of homosexual behavior is a closed question. It would be better if the Facebook group and their fellow-travelers used the moral tradition as their baseline rather than attempt to Episcopalianize the Orthodox Church. They are dragging the culture wars into the Church and won’t rest until it contravenes the moral tradition regarding homosexual behavior just as the Episcopalians have. My question to them: If you feel that strongly, why not join the Episcopalian Church?
A personal note. Every time I write about homosexuality, I get letters from men dealing with same-sex attraction urging me to keep the teachings of the moral tradition crystal clear. They write that many men are seeking a way out of the homosexual lifestyle because it imposes a severe psychic and emotional penalty. This drives some to Christ where they discover that life in Christ and an active homosexuality are simply not compatible. One or the other has to give and if they accept their attraction as a cross, salvation begins.
I even received a letter from a man who transgendered to a woman, found Christ, and made the switch back again. I’m not sure how that works mechanically but his story is a moving and powerful tribute to the love and mercy of God. He too urged moral clarity saying that if we compromise on the tradition, we steal the hope of finding Christ from those caught up in the homosexual lifestyle who are trying to find Him.