July 15, 2012
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” (John 8:7) These are the words of Jesus confronting those wanting to stone a woman caught committing adultery. Jesus is asked for his advice on the matter by those ready to follow the law of Moses, and throw stones at the woman. “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5)
Scripture tells us that those asking the question wanted to tempt Jesus into answering the question falsely, in other words, to catch Him not following Mosaic law, so that they might have something to accuse him of. Jesus stopped the impending stoning with the words: “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” (John 8:7). The Lord refuses to condemn the woman and leaves her with the words: “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
A professor that I had in Seminary, a priest, who had a very sharp wit and enjoyed digging deeply into the original meaning of the various texts asked us a question about this passage: “Do you think that these particular Pharisees might have been looking for a way out of stoning her?” For that priest it was an example of teaching pastoral theology and economy (Greek: οἰκονομία, oikonomia) or the prudent handling of pastoral and disciplinary matters. There will be times, he said, when you will be pastors of parishioners who will be looking to you for answers to difficult questions; choose the way of love, and compassion. In other words, do what Jesus would do.
The “Pharisee of the Year” award may end up being given to Father Evgeni Yanakiev, a Bulgarian Orthodox priest, with the members of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as runners up. On June 6 of this year, Father Yanakiev called upon Christians to throw stones at gay people, in particular at those who would be participating in an upcoming gay pride parade in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. As quoted in the Bulgarian Standard newspaper, and later repeated on Bulgarian national radio, Father Evgeni stated: “Throwing stones at gays is an appropriate way” to act. Pleas were made to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to condemn Father Yanakiev’s statements. The requests fell on deaf ears. Instead of addressing the priest and his call to incite violence, a criminal act, the Synod affirmed the Orthodox Church’s stance on homosexuality as “an unnatural lust that unconditionally harms both the personality of those who commit it and the society as a whole.” (Bulgarian website links below)
At first I thought that compassion and logic might have reached the Bulgarian clergy in the person of Father Antim Manoliov, chancellor of the Metropolitan diocese of Vidin in northwest Bulgaria. But I was quickly proven wrong. While Father Manoliov was critical of Father Yanakiev’s statements encouraging people to throw stones at gay people, he also stated that “those of different sexuality are like blind people and we should help them and not say bad things.” Maybe if Father Manoliov considers gay people to be blind, I wonder if Father Yanakiev believes that he would have justification to throw stones at blind gay people.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church might have had blood on their hands had someone followed the advice of Father Yanakiev to throw stones. The Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had a choice to make. They could have strongly condemned Father Yanakiev for his unlawful and un-Christian provocation, by placing sanctions upon him for a period of time. Instead the Synod choose to side with him and condemn numerous numbers of their own flock as well as the parents, siblings and friend who love and support their gay children, brothers, sisters and friends.
What would Jesus do, has become a cliché question. But in this case it is entirely appropriate.
Would Jesus have thrown stones at the gay people marching in the parade?
Would Jesus have encouraged other people to throw stones at those marching in the parade?
Would Jesus deny His love, compassion and forgiveness to those marching as well as those condemning the parade participants?
Why then does the Orthodox Church, the Bride of Christ, throw stones, and encourage others to throw stones?