Breaking the Silence on Sexuality within the Orthodox Church

Thoughts on Love

This question of what is “natural” is at the heart of the dilemma, the theological way forward. I was careful not to use the word “natural” in my post (some posts down); we use natural every time there seems to be a logical consequence or the mirror is strong outside in nature, human or otherwise. What is natural is debated; what isn’t debated is that the inner sense of what is natural is important and bound up with human and metaphysical truth. So what is natural? This has been discussed here. To me the central part of our question abides in what man and woman are to each other, their creation, how that creation has changed since breaking with a higher order intended for them. Presently, de facto, they are not natural with each other. Natural, in its core, may have been as some have described male and female as separate but at the same time one whole, their spacial relationship different, their nakedness covered in divine light, their love complete without intercourse, their communion with God so intense that the sense of a “private couple” an oxymoron. I don’t know and it is hard to carry on the tradition of the midrash and haggadah of the Rabbis or the Church Fathers. But they tried and perhaps succeeded in many ways with their exegesis. Varying interpretations has always been Traditional.

So “natural” as naturally perceived has to be abandoned. We walk the earth as separate beings, looking for love, looking for sex, looking for fulfillment to a loss that we barely understand. God knows this and loves us in this. Man and woman are essentially divinely ordered to find each other again, to create anew the communion lost. This is why the sacred view of marriage is so essential rather than an office of the state: not for people between each other, but for people with God, fulfilling the old school vocation of being in communion with our Creator. One aspect of the church is to make this possible.

In our times we have come to realize that this way back to communion is not the way for some. We don’t think homosexuality is new; what is new is the spiritual recognition that a homosexual can love another person, that his love is not a manifestation of lust. There are those whose sexual desire reaches for communion with God not in the opposite sex but with someone of their own sex. Even when they choose to not make love the deep longing bound up in their own creation is for someone of the same sex. They may be chaste but they are homosexual, full stop. There is not a 12 step program that will bring them elsewhere and many of us are inclined to say nor should there be so destructive is this path (the pseudo reform).

Our Lord, in the gospels, makes no reference to the possibility of a woman being joined with another woman or a man being joined with another a man. The canons of the church, following Scripture, are crystal clear about where sex is allowed: in marriage. Since the church rejects homosexual marriage it rejects the sex of homosexuals.

But this is not the end of the story. The pandemic suicide deaths of homosexuals (many of them very young), the soberly examined lives of elder Christian homosexuals, the growing number of social studies, the harrowing of sexual reform programs–all this constitutes a very radical problem for the Church in its examination of herself: why is God silent in the hearts and bodies of gays? why must the gay person live so alone when dramatically un-called to monasticism? Why do they have to be systemically denounced as delusional that their sex life is important to their love life? Why the cruelty of comparison to alcoholism, pedophilia, bestiality? Why is their “working out their salvation” so special, unique, unprecedented? Why is the only thing we can say is pray more, lay low, lets go get a cup of coffee and commiserate? In other words our problem is not ‘natural’, its “phenomenological’–the experience of our human consciousness in the midst of the church does not give us adequate answers. And even while we accept that human consciousness is enslaved to its own reasonings we also proclaim, worship, a Savior who reveals himself through the cross and into the Resurrection. Where is the living, resurrectional life for the homosexual?

So, as a priest in the Orthodox Church, a parish priest, I believe that homosexuals need to be offered a third way: to work out their salvation in this silence of God. They cannot receive blessing, they cannot receive marriage, and in their sexual activity they should not receive communion as any unmarried should not. The church has forbade it. But in the space between God’s silence to their being, GOD’S SILENCE TO THEIR BEING, and the high bar of the church always offering her communion to repenting sinners…. they must work out their salvation in communion. They must have courage in the face of God who invites them to the table with their whole selves, not apart of themselves and I believe God is more forgiving (especially for those facing existential questions) than he is a pass provider if the heart is contrite and truthful. The Lord help me if I am in error but I believe God wants to be held accountable for His Silence. “I no longer fear God; I love him” St. Antony