Home Forums General Discussion Is a change in official church teaching possible?

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  • #1941 Reply

    Hi everyone, I’ve only just started to discover some of the riches of the Orthodox Church so please excuse my ignorance. I’m hugely attracted to the church, spiritually and theologically but the current stance on homosexuality is a big problem for me. I could live with a church that is many, many years from changing its position but I don’t think I could live with a church where a change in its attitude to gay relationships is impossible.

    As I understand it (no doubt incompletely) there is no possibility of the church ever being able to contradict a historically stated position. Have I got this right? I’m wondering whether if it is even possible for the church to change its position and how this has happened in the past.

    Thanks in advance for any answers

    #1942 Reply

    Hi Caspian,

    What follows is only my opinion; I don’t speak with any authority on the matter, but it seems highly unlikely to me that official Orthodox teachings on homosexuality are going to change within my lifetime of yours, no matter what your current age. Still, the practice of the Church with regard to matters like divorce and contraception has changed with time. And it’s worth bearing in mind that if you become involved with an Orthodox church you will be surrounded by flesh-and-blood people working through the compromises required by day-to-day life rather than by abstract principles.

    Some of those you meet, both straight and gay, will hold strictly to established Orthodox teachings on homosexuality while others will be more lenient and accepting, provided you show evidence that–like everyone else in the church–you are trying to humbly live a life of self-control and repentance rather than giving in to unbridled lusts. Since this applies both to priests and to parishioners, the only way for you to know whether you will feel at home as an Orthodox Christian is to find a church and start taking an active part in its services and communal life. It perhaps does not need to be said that you will no doubt be better received if you come conservatively dressed and eager to learn than if you arrive passing out LGBT manifestos while holding your lover’s hand and looking like you just stepped off the most flamboyant float at the Pride parade.

    But perhaps you already know all this. It isn’t clear from your question whether you have been attending services or are still learning through reading. Either way, I hope your exploration of Orthodoxy brings you rich rewards.

    #1943 Reply

    Thanks for your reply, James.

    I think I could accept the official stance not changing in my lifetime as long as there is the hope that the position could change one day. I live in the UK, and am in a faithful heterosexual marriage so I wouldn’t be so personally affected, but I deplore homophobia and would struggle to be part of a church that is irredeemably against same sex relationships. I’ve not yet attended any orthodox services but I’m keen to do so. At the moment I’m reading orthodox spiritual teachings and theology and it’s truly incredible, so much so that I find myself persuaded that this really could be the authentic church of Christ. I do so hope there is a way I can square getting more involved with a personal stance that affirms same sex relationships.

    What you say about the church having changed its position on divorce and contraception is very interesting and something I wish I knew more about. Wouldn’t this involve disowning or contradicting previous authoritative church statements? My basic understanding of the orthodox church is that it is impossible for one generation of the church leaders to contradict previous generations but it seems from what you’re saying that this isn’t exactly the case. No doubt, there are many facts and nuances that I’m not aware of.

    Thanks again, I love this site and the discussions on it.

    #1944 Reply

    It was good to hear from you again, Caspian, and to discover a bit more about your current situation. Once again let me begin by stating that I write not with any particular training in Orthodox canon law but only as a lay member of an Orthodox congregation.

    It is my impression that the Orthodox Churches are less legalistic in nature than many of the more high church or evangelical branches of Western Christianity and more willing to see all in the church as sinners engaged in repentance. That, I think, has allowed individual priests, when hearing confession and giving guidance, a measure of flexibility to take into account our human fallibility as we strive to the best of our abilities to become more Christlike rather than to demand of us strict adhere to a set of rules which are too demanding of us at the present time.

    You may find this brief interview with Metropolitan Kallios Wear on gender issues in the Orthodox Church (women’s ordination and homosexual attraction) of interest, keeping in mind that not all bishops would endorse his views:http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/metropolitan_kallistos_ware_on_gender

    It would certainly be worth visiting the Orthodox church you feel most drawn to if only to see for yourself how the theory you have been reading about is put into practice. I would think, too, that it would be wise to get your wife’s approval before making any commitments should you decide that the Orthodox Church is the one you have been seeking. In addition to much standing and some prostration, we do observe a lot of meatless days and fasts during the year that may annoy any cook, or at least tax their menu-planning skills.

    #1945 Reply

    Hi James, that’s a great website and a fascinating interview.

    I love what he has to say about gender but I do find his ideas that gay people are automatically called to a life of celibacy unpalatable.

    I know that church leaders must draw on scripture and tradition above all, and that they must engage with the thinking of the church world wide, but even so they do this over the years from very different societies. Perhaps increased openness and LGBT tolerance in those countries where the Orthodox Church is the majority faith will in time ‘produce’ different thinking. While it seems unlikely that change will happen any time soon, I’m getting the feeling that it is at least possible.

    Thanks for the tips about fasting etc. I’ll look into it

    #1958 Reply

    Hello Caspian,

    I just wanted to let you know about the following article in case you haven’t read it.
    The Orthodox Church of our time obviously doesn’t hold a unanimous stance on homosexuality.


    #1960 Reply

    “The Orthodox Church of our time obviously doesn’t hold a unanimous stance on homosexuality.” – Titian
    I think this important to remember! And there will be many more priests etc who are supportive who feel unsafe in publicly saying so at this present time.

    To me it comes down to two things – If the Orthodox Church is the Bride of Christ (which I believe it is), and if there is nothing morally wrong with same-sex marriages/relationships (which I also believe to be true), then with the Holy Spirit’s guidance I am sure things will change.

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