Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church

An Orthodox Presbyter’s Response to the Manhattan Declaration 16 Dec 2009

“An Orthodox Priest”

16 December 2009

I will not sign the Manhattan Declaration. It is not an Orthodox document. The theology behind it is not Orthodox. The approach to pastoral ministry it represents is not Orthodox. The fear, arrogance, and lack of compassion are not Orthodox. I am tired of hatred disguised as fidelity. I am tired of simple-mindedness and naiveté masquerading as wisdom. I am tired of politics being shoved down our throats by those who do not know the difference between political conservatism and Christianity. I am tired of Orthodox Christians who cannot differentiate between Calvinism and Orthodoxy, of being co-opted by the Christian Right, the Family, Focus-on-the-Family, the Republican Party, and the myriad evangelical converts to our Faith who have yet to unpack their religious baggage and whom we allow to cajole the Church into an alliance with extremists.

The signature of an Orthodox prelate appears between that of James Dobson and Tony Perkins! It is scandalous. that the only thing we share in common is (in some cases) vocabulary.

I am tired of the voices of Orthodox Christians who do not know what the word oikonomia means! Oikonomia is the heart of the Orthodox pastoral approach. It is the way of Christ who died for all, the way of love and compassion, the way that sees things (and people) as they are not as we want them to be. It is not the way of fundamentalist, cookie-cutter dogmatism which we are being asked to support.

William Blake wrote,

If one is to do good, it must be done in the minute particulars. General good is the plea of the hypocrite, the flatterer, and the scoundrel.

This Declaration represents the cowardly way of hypocrites and scoundrels. The Christian Right and its allies choose this path because they have no idea how to respond with love and compassion in an historical milieu that offers new challenges and new opportunities. The Christian Right and its allies have nothing new, creative or salvific to offer trapped in an ossified world view that is more and more irrelevant.

And who is to decide what the general good is? Christianity? Which Christianity? Who will be its spokesman? The Evangelicals with their lust for power, sex scandals and their mega-church, financial empires? The Roman Catholics reeling under clergy sex scandals in the US and Ireland? The Orthodox jurisdictions in America, hopelessly disunited and struggling with scandals of their own both public and boiling barely under the surface? Who among us has the authority to cast the stone that will impose our “values” on the pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-religious, democratic society that protects and defends our right to exist in this land?

Do we practice what we preach? Why should anyone pay attention to us at all until we do? If there is a persecution of Christianity in this country it may well come not because of our fidelity to the truth, but due to our arrogance and hypocrisy.

Conversion and humility set the soul aright.

Compassion and gentleness make it strong.

Evagrius of Pontus 5 (Philokalia I, 177)

Who among us has the courage to say to the writers and signers of the Manhattan Declaration, “The way of power and fear is not our way nor is the way of legislation and the courts. Ours is the way of compassion and humility. Ours is the way of personal, interior transformation. Of sacrament. Ours is the way of minute particulars. If we must, we will suffer gladly for the truth, but we will not be the cause of suffering for others. Because we are called to love our enemies, we have no enemies, only neighbors. We reject your declaration.”

I reject it.

“An Orthodox Priest”