Defend Your Flock! Please.

Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15)
Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15)

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has issued a statement regarding the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage. I appreciate the following from His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon:

The ruling does not change the teaching of the Church, but it does remind us of the need to be Christ-like in our dealings with everyone. The state has the responsibility to enact laws that protect the rights of each individual. The Church, while it does not bless “same-sex marriages” or view them as sacramental, does see the image of Christ in every individual, and his or her worth in the eyes of the Lord Who died upon the Cross for our salvation.

It concerns me deeply that this has warranted a statement from the OCA, but that neither the OCA nor the GOA could call the violence in Charleston what it was: racism.  Orthodox seem to struggle to speak directly and clearly against the specific factors which create violence.  This statement is a case in point.

An email was recently sent to a number of LGBTQ Orthodox, threatening to “out” gay and lesbian Orthodox, regardless of whether they are in an intimate and sexually active relationship. These “Protectors of Holy Orthodoxy” also threatened to seek out groups that support Orthodox Christians who experience same-sex attraction. This email was apparently read by an Orthodox teenager, who responded, “the thought of being outed to every Orthodox Christian in the world makes me want to die.” Parents of Orthodox LGBTQ teens are afraid for the lives of their children.  I am the parent of an LGBTQ just-out-of-the-teens individual who struggled with thoughts of suicide.  One of these parents wants this to be heard:

The fact is, when an online mob gets going like this: vulnerable people commit suicide, and even when they don’t, it’s an unbelievably traumatic experience. Sadly, today, Orthodox Christians on social media need to be told this and I can’t do it alone. Everyone, for the sake of the woman taken in adultery and Our Lord who forgave her, please put a stop to any online mobs seeking out LGBTQ Orthodox groups.

In light of this, I would like to ask the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to issue a statement. It is not enough to reiterate, as has been done on multiple Facebook threads, the 2013 Assembly Statement on Marriage and Sexuality. Orthodox clergy must speak out in defense of their flock, all their flock, condemning such harassment.I would like them to consider something along the following, which does not in any way question the Orthodox position on same-sex marriage, but may allow LGBTQ persons to feel safe(r) with Orthodoxy:

  1. It is the long-standing position of the Orthodox Church that the intimate relationships of her people are discussed only with a confessor or spiritual father/mother.
  2. The decision to commune a person is entirely between the confessor and confessee and their bishop.
  3. It is not appropriate to speak about or reveal a person’s intimate relationships in any public or private forum without the explicit permission of the person.
  4. All attempts to publicly or privately condemn, reveal, or shame persons who struggle with any sin are considered gossip and a sin against both the individual and the community.
  5. We condemn in no uncertain terms any and all forms of slander, hate communication, or attempts “purify” the church based on shaming or condemning others for their sins.
  6. As clergy, we view such communications as an attack on a beloved member of our flock and will ask privately, and publicly if necessary, that such communications immediately cease.
  7. As clergy, we will not participate in any attempts to seek out persons who sin in a particular way, we will not question the judgment of another clergy member and confessor, and we will not respond to gossip or threats.
  8. As clergy, we will love all those who join us, we will treat all with respect, and we will seek to protect all members of our flock.
  9. If controversial issues are to be discussed, it will be done with the same respect and love our Lord Jesus used when debating the rich young ruler or the pharisees with whom he shared meals.

If you make this statement, it is likely that you will be persecuted by members of the church. But you will be persecuted because you have chosen to love and care for your people.

Filed under: WIT Posts Tagged: LGBTQ, Orthodoxy