Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church

Response to Fr. Mark Hodges

Two weeks ago, the website published an opinion piece by the OCA priest Mark Hodges criticizing President Obama as “the most pro-sodomy president in our history” and warning of an impending decline in public morality. In response, I wrote a letter to the editor, which has now been posted.

Fr. Hodges’s original article:

My response:

To the Editor:

I write concerning the view of homosexuality presented in Fr. Mark Hodges’s opinion article “Regarding the Obama Administration’s Abandonment of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).” As a member of the Orthodox Church in America, I find Fr. Hodges’s words to be well outside the Church’s tradition of pastoral guidance on this issue.

In my early 20s, I began to acknowledge my sexual attraction towards other men, and turned to the Church for help in understanding whether and how I might understand these feelings as God-given. I was blessed to encounter priests, monastics, and wise laypeople who counseled me without resorting to simplistic moral formulas. As St. Paul writes, “all things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.” (1 Cor 6:12) Discerning what kinds of sexual expression are “helpful” for an individual requires the utmost pastoral sensitivity.

Throughout its history, the Church has uniformly condemned sexual acts that are “against nature.” How can truth-seeking Christians reconcile this tradition with recent peer-reviewed scientific evidence which indicates overwhelmingly that homosexuality is inborn—and therefore natural? As Orthodox theologians begin to grapple with this difficult question, Fr. Hodges’s dire warnings about a so-called “gay agenda” (a term invented to incite fear) are unhelpful at best.

Indeed, Fr. Hodges seems determined to use the language of morality to serve his political ends. His concern is about the attorney general’s determination that the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act violates the U.S. Constitution. To support his article, Fr. Hodges quotes neither legal arguments nor words of Church fathers, but rather political rhetoric by former aides to presidents Nixon and Reagan. His implication that Orthodox Christians are obliged to support a specific party is offensive to both constitutional and biblical principles.

At the most recent All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, Fr. Hodges (together with Fr. Alexander Webster) proposed an anti-homosexuality resolution which ominously cited unspecified “rumors… concerning homosexual activity among some of the clergy.” The Holy Synod of Bishops ruled that this resolution did not merit consideration. Likewise, in the realm of secular politics, Fr. Hodges is free to advocate whatever causes he desires; but Orthodox News readers should be aware that in so doing, he does not represent the mainstream consensus of canonical Orthodox Christian opinion.

Joseph Clarke