The word Orthodox means “straight” (ortho) doctrine or “right” teaching; it can also mean “right/straight” worship as the Greek (doxa) has two implied meanings: doctrine and worship. Belief and practice, faith and action, teaching and worship – each belongs intimately together in one symbiotic union, each an expression of the other, each a black and white objective reality living in constant tension in this present worldview of subjective and self-serving grey where what the Church teaches is not only questioned and rejected – but is most often mocked. No where in our culture today is there such a war between truth and orthodox apostolic belief and secularism is when it comes to what constitutes marriage, family and sexuality. The Church is clear, has been clear, and God willing, will remain unmovable on its confession of these truths in the midst of cultural societal elitist and even “christian” attacks on these sacred pillars of God’s gifts to mankind.
Many of us have become Orthodox Christians for this very reason; as historically Orthodoxy does not bend or break under the secular pressures from within or without to change the boundaries of faith and practice. The more things may change… the more Orthodoxy remains the same… 2,000 years and counting. Here is one such example of remaining faithful to the Faith. An encyclical given by His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah – of the Orthodox Church in America. God bless and protect our Bishops who teach and unabashedly declare and defend the truth at any cost… perhaps even one day, unto the shedding again of blood.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10)
In our own lifetimes we were blessed by an act of prophetic witness in July 1992, when the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America issued the magnificent “Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life.” Two decades later we Orthodox who live in the diocese that includes our nation’s capital city need to be reminded of some of the moral verities contained in the Affirmations. It should be obvious to any attentive observer that those verities are under increasing assault by the intellectual, social, and cultural elites in this country—and even by many of our public officials, particularly in the federal government headquartered here in Washington, DC. More alarming is the erosion of those moral verities within some of our Orthodox congregations.
The dire need to preserve and protect the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception has been the focus of the annual encyclical of the OCA primate for Sanctity of Life Sunday each January for many years. I wish to remind you, in the prophetic spirit of the apostles, that the Holy Mystery of Matrimony and the moral limits of human sexuality are ancient traditions of the Church not subject to whatever winds of change may be blowing through our society at the moment.
The 1992 Affirmations enunciated clearly and forcefully the following principles and guidelines among others:
- God wills that men and women marry, becoming husbands and wives. He commands them to increase and multiply in the procreation of children, being joined into “one flesh” by His divine grace and love. He wills that human beings live within families (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-24; Orthodox Marriage Service).
- The Lord went even further to declare that people who look at others in order to lust after them in their hearts have “committed adultery” (cf. Matthew 5:27-30).
- Christ’s apostles repeat the teachings of their Master, likening the unique marriage between one man and one woman to the union between Christ and His Church which they experience as the Lord’s very body and His bride (Ephesians 5:21-33; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
- Marriage and family life are to be defended and protected against every open and subtle attack and ridicule.
- Sexual intercourse is to be protected as a sacred expression of love within the community of heterosexual monogamous marriage in which alone it can be that for which God has given it to human beings for their sanctification.
- Homosexuality is to be approached as the result of humanity’s rebellion against God, and so against its own nature and well-being. It is not to be taken as a way of living and acting for men and women made in God’s image and likeness.
- Men and women with homosexual feelings and emotions are to be treated with the understanding, acceptance, love, justice and mercy due to all human beings.
- People with homosexual tendencies are to be helped to admit these feelings to themselves and to others who will not reject or harm them. They are to seek assistance in discovering the specific causes of their homosexual orientation, and to work toward overcoming its harmful effects in their lives.
- Persons struggling with homosexuality who accept the Orthodox faith and strive to fulfill the Orthodox way of life may be communicants of the Church with everyone else who believes and struggles. Those instructed and counseled in Orthodox Christian doctrine and ascetical life who still want to justify their behavior may not participate in the Church’s sacramental mysteries, since to do so would not help, but harm them.
To be continued…