Breaking News, August 27, 2003

SCOBA bishops issued a statement this morning on same-sex unions; the usual about it (even civil unions and any form of homosexuality) being intolerable and somehow threatening the institution of marriage. In reality, it is divorce which threatens the institution of marriage, not homosexuals' desire for equal rights in society.

The bishops' latest statement (along with similar statements made on behalf of other religions) constitutes ignoring our mandate to love God and neighbor in favor of a secular homophobic ideology. Rather than this being an upholding of Christian morality, one sees that in fact fundamentalists of all the major religions - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu - all are homophobic, as are many secular ideologues as well. It is a cultural, secular and ideological manifestation of fundamentalism rather than a pastoral, truly religious or theological response). To provide a non-Orthodox example, the strong-arm tactics of Roman Catholic officials threatening Dutch and Canadian officials (including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien) if they continue to uphold their countries' laws permitting gay marriage, is sad and hardly a Christian response. However, it is certainly not unprecedented in the church which protected the abusive sexual practices of its clergy (actively obstructing efforts to bring them to justice) while labeling loving same-sex relationships between consensual adults as sinful. While the Orthodox do not seem to have had to endure something of the same magnitude, it is really the same un-Christian attitudes which have contributed to such scandals that have occurred in the Orthodox Church -- such as the well-known late-1980's scandal in Colorado, where the offending bishop got off scot free, while the abused underage girl's family was bullied into silence. Since the Orthodox Observer wanted only to stifle discussion of that scandal, we had to rely on People magazine for the truth. Such is the result of the bishops' misguided priorities in the area of sexuality; one of whom's take on the scandal was said to be "At least it was a woman" (wrong: it was an underage girl who had been abused; that is true immorality, not a same-sex union between consenting adults).

Civil unions, gay marriage, adelphopoiia -- while these forms of same-sex relationship all differ in the details, the common denominator is two people loving each other and committed to each other for life. As Christians we are called, first and foremost, to love God and love neighbor. We should not make an idol out of the gender of the people concerned, and act in hateful ways simply because true love can also be expressed between those of the same sex. One should also consider the detrimental effect of rigid gender-based ideologies on transgender and intersex individuals. It is silly to expect all non-heterosexuals to forego any kind of intimacy for life simply because some clergy have never bothered to sincerely look at this issue and formulate a truly Christian response, rather than a knee-jerk ideological one.

It should be noted that all their Biblical citations have been amply addressed before; that the alleged Biblical condemnations of homosexuality are in reality condemnations of various abusive practices (attempted rape, idolatry, and inhospitality). The bishops do not address the quite different issue of the relevancy (or lack thereof) of their pronouncements on those in loving, committed relationships with their same-sex partner, and certainly not those who have already entered into a union of "adelphopoiia", an integral part of Orthodox tradition.

Meanwhile, the less "compassionate" Orthodox fundamentalists don't merely call for automatic celibacy, but promote the so-called "ex-gay" "ministries", which are famous for their deceptions and lack of "success" in changing orientations, as well as lack of follow-up to even determine whether any real change occurred. They should instead look at how many people are driven to suicide by the constantly dashed false "hopes" which these kinds of organizations pursue. Look in the Lives of the Saints -- how many "ex-gay" conversions do you see? Zero. But on the feast day of the "sweet companions and lovers" Saints Sergius and Bacchus (October 7th), we Orthodox continue to sing:

"How good and pleasant it is, to be together in Christ."