Dear George…

This was sent by an anonymous reader:

Dear George:

I love reading your blog. It’s the voice of sanity in the OCA today. It does me good to know that I am not alone.

I wanted to write to you based on a conversation I had at coffee hour on Sunday with a fellow parishioner. He knows my sympathies in this whole fight between the Synod and Met. Jonah, but like almost everybody else in my parish, hasn’t been following the controversy closely, and doesn’t understand what it’s about. He wanted to know why people like me keep bringing up homosexuality in the Church. I explained the Mark Stokoe business, how a man who is openly homosexual and living in a de facto “gay marriage” is in effect running the OCA. He understood that this is a problem, but he said the bishops aren’t going to change the teaching of the Church, so what’s the big deal?

I told him that a lot of Orthodox who came through the Episcopal Church disaster know exactly how the ultimate corruption and downfall of the church via the gay issue happens. The other side never says what they intend to do, and Stokoe himself, I believe, has denied wanting to change the teaching of the Church. What they depend on is the unwillingness of bishops and others to take a strong stand. Once they get their nose under the tent, there’s no stopping them. Very few people in the OCA see that. They look like Episcopalians of 30 years ago who could not imagine that things were going to turn out like this.

I saw that I did a bad job explaining this to my co-parishioner. Today I see a story in the New York Times that illustrates what I was trying to say. The story is about how the Presbyterian Church (USA) has decided to approve of gay clergy, even if they are sexually active. This quote really stood out to me:

All of us are surprised,” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the church’s stated clerk, its highest elected official. He attributed the turnabout in the votes to both the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the larger culture, and to church members simply wearying of the conflict.

We’ve been having this conversation for 33 years, and some people are ready to get to the other side of this decision,” he said. “Some people are going to celebrate this day because they’ve worked for it for a long time, and some people will mourn this day because they think it’s a totally different understanding of Scripture than they have.

This is exactly how it works! They start out by wanting to have “dialogue” or a “conversation” about the moral acceptance of homosexuality in the Church, and maybe before that by preparing a culture of indifference among the priests and seminary instructors, and even the bishops. We see this in that essay you posted a couple of months ago from Fr. Ted Bobosh, Stokoe’s priest, who said the right words about homosexuality, but obviously doesn’t believe them, or he wouldn’t be approving of Stokoe’s participation in the Church’s leadership. When it becomes optional whether or not to take homosexuality seriously as a moral offense, it won’t take long for the gays and their allies to build on that to make it totally acceptable, especially because the pressure from secular society to normalize it is so strong.

Judging by the Episcopalian example, when the pro-gay forces are weak, they want “dialogue,” or at the very least for us to focus on our own sins, and to be indifferent to sexually active gays in the priesthood and in parish leadership. They dress it up in pious Orthodox language, for example, “Focus on your own sins.” Before you know it, it has become something we should “dialogue” on. Then, when the gays and their liberal allies are in a position of power, they take a “stand for justice” to drive out the traditionalists as haters. We already see that — a friend forwarded me a comment from some Orthodox list where somebody on the Syosset staff, the name escapes me now, denounced +Jonah supporters as Orthodox Tea Party types. See how it works? Taking a stand for basic Orthodox Christian morality on homosexuality is now the equivalent of being a partisan right-wing politician.

I don’t have much hope that it can change now, given how badly compromised the bishops of the OCA are. If I had to bet money, I would bet that most of them share Orthodox teaching on homosexuality, but they don’t care to enforce it. They are useful idiots. I don’t expect any better from them anymore, but I hope and pray that my fellow OCA laymen will not be useful idiots. Thanks for all you do to help wake people up to what’s really going on.



  1. JDWatton says

    The progressive Orthodox are way behind and hopefully will never catch up to Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Both of those churches and many others permitted women to be ordained and serve in higher offices for some time before they came around to the gay agenda. Will we see a woman priest any time soon? I don’t think my parish has ever even had a woman as the president of the parish council.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      JD, you bring up an interesting point. I am of the opinion that before the gay agenda was brought up or could be brought up, the first rampart that had to fall was the reality of male/female roles. You may very well be right, that because priestesses are a non-starter, then the next logical battle to be waged –the normalization of homosexuality–may not transpire.

      However, I’m not so sure. It’s possible that society has been so completely deconstructed now that the homosexualist agenda will proceed apace regardless of whether or not women are ordained into the priesthood. It’s a chance that I am not willing to take.

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        Neither am I. This, the Church’s pro-life stance and insistence on a male priesthood must stand and hold. If any one of these break we have lost God’s Church. On the rise of Homosexuality in the Church you do NOT fight alone George.


        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Peter, I thank you for your own resolute witness on this blog. We are all called to fight; even if we lose we will still have to give an account to God for our actions (and inactions).

      • Dude, it has already happened! No chances of this, that, or the other need be contemplated.

        What are they upset with Jonah for? The main thing appears to be his willingness to tell the whole world what Orthodoxy teaches about sex. They have ALREADY silenced him.

        It is not like this is some future possibility. It is your current reality. You are going to have to change the current reality to get back to where you seem to believe you are.

        • Jonah made an effort to reach out to Episcopalians who were being persecuted for upholding traditional teaching (ironically the official TEC teaching) on human sexuality. I can tell you, his pastoral outreach meant a lot to many who were numb and broken down from the battle, people who had been lied to and manipulated and used for the selfish purposes of a group of people that did not share the stated values of the religion. In some cases these good people had been screamed at and called names, slandered, inhibited, deposed, or driven out of positions of ministry. In some cases they had been forced to leave the parish of their baptism, marriage, or where their family members were buried because their consciences simply could not allow them to support the abomination any longer. There was always real pain and stress, sometimes economic loss, and often real spiritual damage. I knew nothing about OCA when Jonah showed up to express the love and support of the Orthodox Church for people like us, and to let the world know that Orthodox teaching was on our side. A lot of people felt your love through him — or so they thought. I know they felt God’s love through him.

          I was personally impressed by the witness your church seemed to be able to offer to contemporary society. We knew that what Jonah did pissed the heck out of gay rights activists in TEC, and those surrounding TEC, who wanted to claim it as their prize. Incidentally, the Russian Orthodox also followed developments in TEC closely. I know this because of a Russian friend (not gay himself but what they call an “ally”) was spitting mad that Russians would take the time to condemn developments in TEC on their blogs. “None of their business!” he would scream when talking about it. He really couldn’t understand why the Russians would take the time to educate themselves on these developments and to comment publicly. But the Russians seem to actually understand the implications for all of society and seem to genuinely believe that caring is part of their sacred calling here on earth.

          I can tell you that gay rights activists do hate Jonah with a passion and they would like nothing more than to bring him down and shut him up. So what is happening to him now is predictable, if shocking for how quickly it has all come together. When Jonah stood up publicly to condemn innovations in TEC, he became an object of hatred for both Christian and non-Christian gay rights activists around the world. He might as well have painted a big red target on his back. You can be sure his name has been cursed in smoke-filled rooms from NYC to LA. As I’ve stated before, you guys don’t realize what a prize these churches are to gay rights activists and how much more they care about your church politics than you do.

          It is very possible that forces within OCA, including Stokoe himself, might not have cared enough to bother Jonah, might have left Jonah to his own devices, had it not been for pressure and encouragement from forces outside your church. But there has been no clearer voice, no more authoritative moral force for Christian teaching on human sexuality in the U.S. the past 3 years than your own Metropolitan Jonah. Come to think of it, I can’t even name a sitting leader of any other American church who has taken a stand against gay marriage (don’t know who the leader of the American RCC church is, not sure who leads the Southern Baptists, but that’s part of my point — Jonah’s legit, he’s got street cred, he is a political force, like it or not, and gay folk don’t like it one bit). In his postings Stokoe has indicated that he is able to blackmail others in the church to get what he wants. When a man like Jonah stands in the way of the gay rights movement, all bets are off. Not only might Stokoe be pulling strings within the church, but folks outside the church might be pulling strings as well. The puppets need not be gay or bisexual in this theater production, and even Stokoe himself might not be safe if he doesn’t take swift and decisive action. My guess is that Stokoe needs no motivation to make Jonah his pet project. But either way, don’t kid yourself: enormous human and financial resources are just a phone call away for him right now. In TEC, I’ve seen nationally prominent lawyers flown in to help defend gay priests pro bono in church court — that’s right, secular lawyers in church court — against charges having nothing to do with homosexuality, and this at a stage when most thought TEC had already been tagged and bagged.

          • I think you are right, but I also think that due to specifics of the Orthodox Church, things will play out differently. Not less of a danger, but a different gameplan for the gay rights folks.

            Orthodoxy, although it appears to be as loosely held together as Anglicanism, is much tighter theologically/doctrinally and in terms of orthopraxis. This means that it would be extremely difficult for one local Orthodox church to openly ordain openly practicing homosexuals, or to ordain women, for that matter. Churches would break communion over something like that fairly easily.

            I think, however, that the danger lies elsewhere for Orthodox. Specifically, because we are fairly comfortable that any “formal” change would be unlikely due to the likelihood of triggering real schism, this can give rise to an attitude that is more relaxed than vigilant. The danger for Orthodox doesn’t as much lie in the area of formal acceptance of these things, but rather very much in the area of “tacit” acceptance of them. In other words, even if the Church will probably never formally agree to ordain unrepentant, “practicing” homosexuals to the priesthood, if the policy is to tacitly permit this through a combination of (a) ordaining gay guys to the priesthood and (b) covering over, or ignoring (e.g., by not defrocking via a spiritual court) practicing gay priests and bishops, you arrive at a similar place. Why is that? Because the likelihood that such people will be extremely soft, to say the least, on the public witness of this central moral controversy in our society will be greatly increased. And that, folks, is the whole enchilada as far as the gay rights activist community is concerned when it comes to the Orthodox brand of Christianity.

            The more informed gay activists also are aware that formal acceptance of homosexuality by even North American Orthodox churches is a very long shot because of how Orthodoxy works. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a danger. It just means that the tactic is different. The whole point of infecting the churches with openly homosexual clergy, remember, is to de-fang the witness of the Church about homosexuality, full stop. They know very well that the leading objection to the normalization of homosexual lifestyles in our culture is a moral one, based primarily on Christian morality, given the religious demographics of the United States. And we also know that the vast majority of gay rights activists couldn’t care less about religion insofar as it doesn’t impact them. So, the goal has always been to do whatever it takes to de-fang and weaken the witness of Christian churches against the morality of homosexual activity. In the case of PECUSA the tactic was maximalist (i.e., ordain them openly at every level) because this was possible to achieve and, as the “establishment church” in the US, sent a strong socio-cultural message. What was the intended message? It was “Here is what mainstream Christianity is doing in terms of waking up to the current morality about homosexuality, and other ‘Christians’ who criticize this are not mainstream, and are fundamentalist, wing-nut bigots who are loony tunes.” It was done to marginalize conservative Christian witness against the morality of homosexual activity. Most gay people don’t care at all who the PECUSA ordains to what — they’re not Christian. However, the importance of this as a decisive cultural symbol was clear, as was the fact that, following this, it could be assumed that the PECUSA would not be speaking up against normalization of homosexual lifestyle choices in our culture — which is, as I said above, the ultimate goal. De-fang the Church of its witness.

            When an informed gay activist looks at the Orthodox Church, he probably didn’t care very much about it until Jonah spoke up. That’s because Orthodoxy is mostly invisible in the United States. Sure, the MP may speak up about homosexuality, and some international gay rights groups will condemn the statement, but that’s as far as it goes. In the US context, Orthodoxy is mostly off the radar screen. However, Jonah changed that, and put himself on the radar. The approach, then, in terms of tactics, is to get him off the radar as soon as possible. That is, the goal for Orthodoxy is for it to go back to being off the radar screen on these issues — if they can achieve that, they’ve achieved their goal for American Orthodoxy: silence its witness, as a practical matter, in the public square on homosexuality. And, beyond Jonah himself, perpetuating a culture of hidden homosexuality among the “celibate” clergy in the Orthodox churches in North America likewise furthers the same end, as these individuals are far less likely to witness in the public square in the way Jonah did. So, tactic two is to shut down any kind of program or approach to deal with this issue, as well, and rather continue the status quo, which meant that statements about these issues, when made at all, were made privately, within the confines of the Church itself, and certainly not in the public square.

            In order to combat this, we need to understand what the goals are. Informed gay activists likely don’t have the same tactical goals with respect to Orthodoxy as they did with respect to Episcopalianism. However, that doesn’t mean that their goals are any less dangerous for us as a Church. Again, keeping in mind that their campaign to normalize homosexual lifestyle choices in the culture has, as a central lynchpin, de-fanging the witness of the Church on this issue, anything that we do which furthers that goal is nothing less than complicity.

            • I agree. Your church has some tremendous resources to draw on (not least of which is a strong connection with the ROC).

              Although to be fair, many in the Episcopal Church thought Anglicanism had some stabilizing resources to draw upon as well, including episcopal governance, the Abp. of Canterbury, and fellowship with a more conservative world-wide communion (the great majority of Anglicans are in Africa). Although not widely understood, the majority of Anglicans today are officially NOT in communion with TEC, because of the gay ordination issue. Episcopalians just stopped caring and did their own thing.

              It would be wonderful if your church could do more than just survive.

              You are being confronted with the great moral issues of our time. Is it possible God has a purpose for the OCA in this? Is it possible you are being called to grow into a mature body to communicate and show God’s love to a nation of people who are confused and hurting because of sexual sin?

              Time will tell I suppose.

              I do know that many people laugh at the suggestion that gay marriage could hurt our culture. They are right to laugh, because no one has explained this notion to them in a sensible way. Jonah was trying.

              You could retreat. You could go back to your private lives. Or you could do something much more difficult, meaningful, and beautiful.

              I’m a skeptic at this point. Still I wish you the best, not just for sentimental reasons, but because the need is so real.

              • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

                Dear Um,

                I agree with the many, Anglican and otherwise who believe that the deepest problem of TEC is one of essential faith, and that the immorality follows from that. To adapt from the scripture, TEC was given up to immorality because it tolerated, right up to the rank of bishop those, (Spong is the obvious example), who denied God and the Gospel.

                Anglicanism has always had two principles – one which we might call with the 20th centuries most well known Anglican “Mere Christianity” ( in its Western form cf the 3 parts of the Lambeth Quadraleteral which did not involve the episcopacy) and the other principle is “comprehensiveness” including as many as possible in the State Church. The secret to seeing comprehensiveness abandon Mere Christianity is to see that Mere Christianity was always at the service of comprehension, since the Elizabethan settlement. That is Anglicanism, in its beginning as Elizabeth’s I’s state church was of course Christian because whatever else the English were then, they were Christian. Beyond that Anglicanism adopted this mildly protestant with significant Catholic continuity to pacify the religious dispute. It is significant that the Anglicanism has usually allowed those too committed to leave rather than expelling them. Recusants left first, but Elizabeth genuinely tried to convince them to stay. It took the puritans all the way through the civil war to the 1680’s to say their farewell. And the C of E in 1689 was considering making some of the “Catholic” survivals (such as the one sign of the cross left, in baptism) optional so the puritans could stay. The Methodists left. Newman left for Rome. The REC left the Episcopal Church. None of them were hounded out through a disciplinary process.

                Anglo Catholics, (for whom I have a lot of sympathy), who chose not to follow Newman to Rome were the first to simply refuse to leave. By the late 19th C you already have Anglo Catholics who both by conviction and practice are virtually Roman Catholic. To this day if you want to see the Roman Rite practiced as it was before the first changes in the 1950’s you can go to St. Clem’s in Philly or S Magnus in London. “More Catholic than the Pope”. But they didn’t go to Rome, well by now a lot of them have, and again, they choose to leave.

                Thing is, once you have people willing to stay, Anglicanism has not much mechanism to enforce Mere Christianity because it was always set up to include whoever was willing to compromise enough to stay in. Once the common assumptions of Christians, both about doctrine and morality are no longer so common, comprehension powerfully moves Anglicanism to accomodate. Indeed, most Anglicans in the world are not in Communion with TEC. These large groups in Africa also live in cultures where the old moral assumptions (especially relative to homosexual acts) are very strong. Comprehension pushes them to keep the traditional morality, just as it pushes TEC and the C of E to modify it. In the 30’s the Cof E memorably insisted that the King not marry a divorcee. Today, a twice divorced and remarried man can be a TEC bishop and no one bats an eye. In the 30’s divorce was rarer, now it is common. Anglicanism is built in to adapt.

                Thing is, I suspect we are going to have to live out our Christian lives in a culture that does not support us. I think that we already are in place where what marriage means civilly and culturally is very different from what it means to Christians, and that before the subject of homosexuality comes up, (if most people held the Christian understanding of what marriage means, “gay marriage” could not even come up as a concept, it’s only because marriage has changed its meaning that the concept of “gay marriage” becomes possible.

                So the culture may not be savable now. The promises of Christ are still true, and we may still be saved. Christ calls us to be transformed. whether our transformation effects the culture is up to Him.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Um, you paint a dire picture but one in which I think there is a lot of truth. Lately, I’ve been battling my instincts which tell me that American Orthodoxy has been (or is in the process of being) betrayed to outside forces. (My favorite whipping boy is George Soros, but I’m sure it’s broader than that.)

            The fact that high-dollar lawyers were brought in in the past to prosecute traditionalist ECUSA priests tells me a lot.

            Let’s take this a step further: why ECUSA? in my opinion, ECUSA is the closest thing the US has had to a national church. Most of our presidents, Supreme Court justices, a lot of Congressmen, generals,, etc. –in other words the cultural elite of America–were members of ECUSA. If the globalists can take out ECUSA, then what’s left?

            Further reflection: why go after the OCA? After all, compared to ECUSA it’s pretty much small potatoes. Maybe because the globalists didn’t expect ECUSA to become the laughing-stock that it has? Maybe because Satan truly hates the Orthodox Church?

            What do y’all think?

            • Lots of ex-Episcopalian traditionalists fled to the American Orthodox churches. The OCA is the only Orthodox church in America not under foreign domination, so they might assume it’s more malleable. Also, they’ve already gotten substantial footholds everywhere else.

      • Chris Plourde says

        I’d add this, George,

        Fr. Hardun explicitly mentioned the filioque when speaking to (“warning”) the Presbyterians. He was pointing to an error in the past that had set them up for the hubris that declares the Holy Spirit is creating “new” moral teachings.

        It took nearly 1,000 years for the Western heretics to get from the filioque to ordaining people who identify themselves by their sexual passions. Along the way it was necessary for them to declare each man a Church unto himself (sola scriptura), to redefine the Eucharist (and all the mysteries) to a mere symbolic bauble (consubstantiation), to deny the Biblical and sacramental role of the Bishop (congregationalism), and to redefine God from being beyond human comprehension to a being conjured in the midst of “the people of God.” It takes all of that to arrive at the point where you declare the spirit of the age to be the Holy Spirit, and where whoever you want to ordain is no big whoop.

        The Orthodox Church has not traveled one step of that path. We are not the Western heretics nor are we just another “branch” of their vine.

        That’s not triumphalism, but I just don’t see Orthodoxy leapfrogging 1,000 years of corruption to arrive at their state.

        • So if your theology is correct, you are immune from sexual sin? Or you are immune from the corruption sexual sin would otherwise bring? Or both?

          Paul and the Council of Jerusalem highlighted sexual sin as a big deal almost 2,000 years ago, well before the Presbyterians or anyone else had time to corrupt anything.

          The problem with your church currently is not triumphalism vis-a-vis Presbyterians, but pride vis-a-vis sexual sin.

          To put it another way, Paul and the other apostles believed Christians could fall into sexual sin and suffer grave consequences back when there was an undivided Church. Why are you better than them?

          • George Michalopulos says

            My read on Paul and the prophets before him was that sexual sin (“immorality”) invariably led to paganism, not visa versa. That’s why denominations that have priestesses invariably become burdened with sexual sin. Like when they had orgies on the altar at the ECUSA cathedral in NYC several years ago. It’s very possible that sexual perversion has a ritualistic element to it.

          • Chris Plourde says

            LOL! Man, you’ve got to walk a loooong way to get from my post to yours.

            Let me try it again: There is no Bishop in the Orthodox Church anywhere in the world today who would pen a work whose title and thesis is “Why the Church Must Change or Die.”

            The Orthodox Church is chock full of great sinners, of whom I am the first, but what the Orthodox Church does not tolerate is those who declare that sin is not sin. And sin, for the Orthodox Christian, is quite literally anything and everything that turns us from God.

            We make no exception for ignorance nor do we differentiate between voluntary and involuntary sin. And while a confessor may treat a person suffering from one quite differently from a person suffering from the other, this is a matter of proper treatment for the ailment, not a denial of the ailment itself.

            So no, Um, the Orthodox Church is not immune from sexual sin. Far from it. But neither are we prone to declaring that what separates us from God actually draws us nearer to Him.


            • Yes, much clearer, thanks. I do also appreciate your honesty and perseverance.

              How about: “Why the Church Must Come Alive to Show God’s Love to All Sinners, Not Just The Ones in the Church”?

              • Chris Plourde says

                ROFL! It’s pretty amazing how many assumptions can be squeezed into a single line…

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          good points all, Chris. Perhaps the road not taken by we Orthodox is proof that despite our internal failings, our church is still governed by the Holy Spirit. (If it had been up to us, we’d have shrivelled up and died long ago.)

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Chris, I think the Filioque is what started the catalyst for all that became schismatic and heretical in the West. Even though we have had our heresies in the East (iconoclasm, Messalianism, etc.) it’s a wonder how they never took hold for longer than a few centuries or led to permanent schisms. I think the demotion of the Holy Spirit to a “force” between the two now-necessarily unoriginate poles of the Trinity (Father, Son) created a vacuum which could only be filled by men or other concepts. Like the Pope, sola Scriptura, etc.

          • Chris Plourde says

            I think it important to remember why the filioque was inserted into the Creed.

            The Roman Catholic Church was not seeking heresy, it was seeking to combat heresy! It was not seeking error, it believed it was defending the truth! But having made Arianism the focus of its effort, it momentarily lost sight of Christ, and thus error was introduced.

            Even today Roman Catholics see this as a small thing. But the effects have demonstrably been quite large and unfortunate.

            There’s something cautionary about this, that people with the best of intentions can inadvertently undermine the faith. It shows why, when times get tough and it seems that we’re floundering, the solution is to focus on Christ and not on the storm.

        • I think Chris’s observations here (to Um) and George’s replies may be setting the stage for a crucially important and meaningful discussion. I hope this is the embryo of a most edifying and promising dialogue. Sounds to me like the herald of something very fruitful indeed.

          Wouldn’t a better understanding of God in Trinity lead us all to a greater, more powerful love, of God and then of our neighbors? From such knowledge, all good things will flow. Mercy, lovingkindness and more just judgments. Nepsis. Discernment. Peace and joy. Philokalia. Christ’s Church united by the Holy Spirit in Truth. Victory over the Enemy, sin and death.

          Please forgive me for interjecting yet another empty-headed spiritualization, pace Fr. Jacobse: whenever we speak or write (or think, for that matter …), shouldn’t we always bear in mind that the dignity of our calling in Christ demands that we carefully, cautiously, prayerfully try very, very hard always to utter the truth in love: to our God, ourselves and each other? Mark Stokoe’s fall from speaking, and doing, the truth in love, or Fr. Hester’s or Bishop Mark’s or that of any other person in the Church is only to be expected, sadly: we’re all sinners, including each of them. So this happens, as it always has and probably always will until Christ returns for his faithful. Each of us sees via a nous damaged and, to various extents, corrupted by disordered passions. Therefore, aren’t cautious watchfulness, humility and patience key, always? Please forgive me for my own lapses.

          I repeat: I think this discussion has immense potential. For whatever my opinion may be worth.

          • Something I left unsaid but which is obviously basic and was therefore assumed: this must begin among those of us who have been given the gift of faith, by God and His Grace, in Christ, of course. I don’t mean to suggest anything gnostic by this. To be clear.

    • Rebecca Matovic says

      “I don’t think my parish has ever even had a woman as the president of the parish council.”

      It’s a pity to imply, how ever casually or even unintentionally, an equivalence between women not serving in positions of lay leadership (to which there is no theological barrier) and women not serving as priests (which would require significant re-examination of tradition and its theological underpinnings). In fact, by so doing, you fall into the same trap that has led various Protestant groups to ‘ordain’ women — treating the sacramental priesthood as simply a leadership position and evaluating the appropriateness of women in that role purely from the cultural perspective of acceptance of women in positions of authority.

      You may be arguing the opposite side, saying, in effect, “We [at least your parish] don’t embrace women in any such role.” But do you really want to treat the sacramental priesthood as falling in the same category as the parish council? If you do, you overlook much that separates the Orthodox from those other groups in our understanding of the priesthood, sacraments, and the nature of the Church.

      If you really want to keep Orthodoxy on a path that is separate and distinct, you’ll willingly embrace women as lay leaders, but keep a clear distinction between different roles within the body.

      • Harry Coin says

        There are large groups of people who think women can’t be parish council officers? There’s an Orthodox parish near me where a woman has been president and for quite a spell, doing impressively well.

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        There can never be ANY re-examination of women serving as priests. Sorry.

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        Further St. Paul did not allow a woman to hold a position of authority over a man in the Church. Have a problem take it up with St. Paul and God. I am sorry, but on this and the Gay issue because of the premissiveness of our society a zero tolerance position must be taken when it comes to women in the priesthood and active Honosexuals having their lifestyle accepted and affirmed in the Orthodox Church.


        • Rebecca Matovic says

          Peter, I was making a comment that compared parish council positions with the sacramental priesthood and was very careful in my language to make absolutely no claim that women ‘priests’ would be acceptable within Orthodox tradition.

          Is it your position that women serving in lay leadership positions is also unacceptable? Because, as Harry points out, there’s no bar to that and in my experience it’s quite common and perfectly acceptable within Orthodoxy.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            You have to define as what you mean by “Lay” leadership. If you mean Parish council members/president, fund raisers, working as legal counsel to the church and board, etc., that is fine and has been fine for several years and is perfectly acceptable. I was brought onto the Parish Council of my church by a Female president that I admired and still admire to this day. She was a wonderful president and she is still involved in our Church.

            However, if you mean the old and tired canarred of the Female Deaconate then I am 100% opposed. The female deaconate issue has been used and misused as a bridge to female priests. I am firmly in the camp, having researched this issue, that there was NO ordained female deacons in the Orthodox Church. On this issue I and many who hold otherwise have butted heads over the years, and continue to do so.

            I was very said to see that the EA endorses a female Orthodox group that is in support of “Reviving” the female Deaconate, as if it ever existed, and I firmly believe that it is being used to get Females into the Priesthood of the Orthodox Church.

            My comments are limited as to females serving in the Altar, not in the running of the Church overall. Sorry for the confusion.

            • JDWatton says

              That is surprising to me. I think that the historical documentation of deaconesses serving the church is overwhelming. Certainly, knowledgeable churchmen like Fr Hopko talk about deaconesses quite casually in podcasts I’ve listened to. According to Hopko, deaconesses were important in performing baptisms of adult women converts since an adult man and woman entering a baptismal together was not proper in the culture of the time.

              Presvytera and Dr. Jeannie Constantinou on her podcast, Search the Scriptures often talks about deaconesses and the role of women in the church. In fact, she tells of a woman she knows who serves in the altar area today with the Bishop’s blessing, in a GOA parish. I thought the real question on deaconesses was on the role they played and not did they actually exist. If they served with St. John Chrysostom then why not with our current priests and bishops?

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Deaconesses as helpers to their Ordained Deacon husband’s yes. Even Priest’ wifes that we call presveteres were and stil are a great help to their ordained Husband’s who were/are priests, but they themselves (i.e. Women) were NEVER ordained, and served in the Holy Altar. Never is there one hint or any documentation of a female Deacon serving Holy Communion, after receiving a blessing, to a congregation. Find that practice and you can prove Ordained female Deacons. Otherwise, what you have are “Helpers” to their ordained Deacon husband’s. Very big difference that unfortunately because of the passage of time, diffrence between our culture and 1st century semetic culter and diffrences in lanaguage that this diffrences get lost.

                Also, the GOA/OCA push and support Ecuminism. Is that accepted by all? No. Just because its done does not mean its right.

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  I want to clarify as meaning “Find any Historical practice in the last 2,000 years were this has been allowed. If a GOA Bishop allowed a Woman to serve in the Altar and give Communion either he is in open defiance of the Church’s teaching OR there was a very unique and special circumstance that allowed for that dispensation to occur. I cannot even begin to think of what that is here in America. In other countries, poorer countries maybe, but still that would be at the very, very, VERY bottom of the list of this to allow even in the poorer countries of the world were an Orthodox presence is lacking.


                  • JDWatton says

                    Also to clarify, this woman was not serving communion. She was behind the iconostatis doing whatever they all do back there. In my parish we can have quite a crowd – altar boys and men and as far as I know those are not ordained positions, except sub deacon on up. To get the story more directly one can find Presvytera and Dr. Jeannie Constantinou on her podcast, Search the Scriptures on Ancient Faith Radio in the series on Leviticus. A ritual purity discussion got her off on a tangent 3 podcast series on the role of women in the Orthodox church.

                    I have not done a lot of reading on deaconesses but what I have seen, for example the Wikipedia article on Deaconess presents a very strong indication that they were ordained in the same sense that male deacons are at least for a period of time in church history. Perhaps you have a different definition of ordained. I am under the impression that Readers are technically ordained, and I know women readers. In any case, I reject the case that deaconess was a term to refer to a deacon’s wife. That is a more recent development in church history.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      Sorry wrong. On this point I am firm. You want to discuss it then ask George to start a separate blog entry on this topic. I am not letting this one go. Ordained means one thing to serve in the Altar and administer communion. Readers nor Cantors are ordained. My wife and Koumbara have been readers, I have been a reader and part-time cantor, but no woman has ever had the right or privilege of ordination to serve in the Altar and perform the divine liturgy and serve communion.

                      As for helper being a modern phenomenon wrong again. You want to debate this and have me bring out all the historical and documentary data. Then have George start a separate blog entry on this issue. Let’s go.


                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      Also, Wikipedia? Really?


                    • JDWatton says

                      Gotta love Wikipedia. Here’s a quote I pulled from Wikipedia:

                      Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote:[54]

                      The order of deaconesses seems definitely to have been considered an “ordained” ministry during early centuries in at any rate the Christian East. … Some Orthodox writers regard deaconesses as having been a “lay” ministry. There are strong reasons for rejecting this view. In the Byzantine rite the liturgical office for the laying-on of hands for the deaconess is exactly parallel to that for the deacon; and so on the principle lex orandi, lex credendi—the Church’s worshipping practice is a sure indication of its faith—it follows that the deaconesses receives, as does the deacon, a genuine sacramental ordination: not just a χειροθεσια (chirothesia) but a χειροτονια (chirotonia).

                      I am not the expert you are so I am not in a position to debate and have no desire to either. But if you have a reference that educates on your view I would be glad to read it. And forward to the Bishop. 😉

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      First, Bishop Kallistos Ware has openly questioned the exclusivity of the Male Priesthood. He is dangerously close to heresy on that point. That is a known fact. His position is not well-received in the Orthodox Church. You can go on You Tube and catch his remarks. Also, I know exactly what Bishop Ware is talking about and it has to do with the diffrence between “Blessing” and “Ordination,” which Bishop Ware takes the Liberal view instead of the Orthodox Christian view.

                      As for the debate, I’ll leave that to George if he wants a separate blog entry or not on it, but again the one thing that was asked of Bishop Ware and other so-called supporters is that neither he nor any “Deaconess” supporters cannot answer is this:


                      Now if you want more proof, I am ready willing and able. However, I’ll leave that up to George for a separate blog entry on this topic.


                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Peter, I will defer to your wishes and start a seperate blog entry about ordination and the theological reasons for our anthropology vis-a-vis the sexes. Probably in another week. Please be patient.

                • Pravoslavnie says

                  It is my understanding that the prohibition against priestesses, and women in the sanctuary in general, is wrapped up in the doctrine of the real presence in the Holy Mystery of Communion. The issue at hand is that the only blood in the sanctuary is supposed to be that of our Lord and Savior, and that menstruating females would otherwise risk contaminating the Holy Gifts. Similarly, I also remember reading that a priest is prohibited from consecrating the Holy Gifts if he has cut himself and is bleeding. For this reason I think that while deaconesses may have existed in earlier centuries that their ministry was not on the same track as male deacons, and they never served at the altar.

                  This makes some sense if you take into account the roots of Christianity based in Judaism. Orthodox Jews still place great importance on ritual purity, and Jewish practices prescribed ritual cleansing for both men and women, including women who were considered to be “unclean” following childbirth and menstruation. For this reason it was considered important to build the ritual bath or Mikvah even before erecting a synagogue. The Muslims attach similar importance to purity, and often still provide baths or basins for washing of feet and hands outside Mosques. I saw this myself recently in the Holy Land. Muslim women who are menstruating are even prohibited from offering formal prayers and must stand behind rows of praying women until they stop menstruating and bathe.

                  • Rebecca Matovic says

                    Responding to a couple of things …

                    Thank you, Peter, for clarifying the distinction you are making. The original comment by JDWatton was open to interpretation as being dismissive or disapproving of women in lay leadership in the sense of your first category, and that was what I was trying to call out and discuss. We may or may not agree on other issues you raise, but that’s beyond the scope of what I was interested in addressing at this point. On the point I was trying to make, we clearly agree.

                    But now Pravoslavnie comes in with a very different issue, that of ritual purity and blood and connecting this to the ordination question.

                    I think it’s quite clear that women’s priestly ordination lies entirely outside the historical tradition of the Orthodox church. I think it’s also quite clear that, the question never having been asked until now, the church has not formulated a clear answer to, “Why not?” One can be staunchly opposed to the ordination of women, one can see it as an ontological impossibility, and, at the same time, reject bad explanations for why it is an impossibility. I think that the ritual purity argument is a bad explanation.

                    See this article for a discussion: (And, yes, I know there is as least one quite extensive rebuttal floating around. Personally, I find Sister Vassa’s analysis more cogent.)

                    Explanations I find more convincing on the ordination question revolve around the iconic role of the celebrant as an image of Christ — not in some superficial way (he has to be male to look like Christ), but connecting to some hard to articulate correctly, but nonetheless profound, significance of male/female (that it’s not accidental that God was incarnate as a male).

                    Given the flux, confusion, and highly charged emotions around gender roles in our time, we are singularly ill-equipped to articulate and deal with these issues in a balanced way. Consequently I’m not particularly interested in engaging on the question of women’s ordination. As a practical matter it’s off the table. Let’s leave it there for a while until the dust settles on the social changes we’re experiencing. Let our children or grandchildren deal with it and plumb the tradition to grapple with the reasoning in a calmer time (we can always hope and pray for a calmer time!).

                    But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do some sorting of the wheat from the chaff — bad explanations can take on a life of their own (e.g., the date of Pascha is different in the East than in the West because we can’t celebrate before or during the Jewish Passover), so better not to leave them hanging around to complicate matters.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      The Orthodox Position as to why Women cannot serve as Priests is not necessarily tied into the blood purity issue, but, at the same time it is. When we discuss Deaconesses I will explain further, but for now the Orthodox position on this issue is actually quite clear and has a very clear basis in the Patristic tradition as well as the Gospels and New Testament writings themselves. However, Ritual purity and the Iconic argument are NOT the basis for the exclusion of Women from the Priesthood and the regualr duties of a Deacon. I shall wait and bid my time to explain further, and explain clearly I pray.

                      Thanks for the opportunity George. Please take your time. I’m in your house so I do as I’m told.


                    • Pravoslavnie says

                      Well, I never intended to offer a comprehensive explanation, nor did I mean to imply that ritual impurity might be the only impediment to women receiving ordination, either as a deaconess or presumably a priestess. For that reason I don’t think I offered a “bad” explanation with regard to those barriers, just an incomplete one. The only thing I was trying to raise was an awareness of the historical connection to Christianity’s roots in Judaism where among Orthodox Jews today there are still laws and tradition governing ritual purity. History casts a long shadow, although sometimes the details get forgotten. All that said, I read Sr. Vassa’s monograph with great interest, and she makes some very good arguments, but it seems the matter is still unsettled and is now mainly up to local custom.

                      Having passed through several Orthodox and non-orthodox jurisdictions here in North America, I notice that it tends to be churches with a substantial recent “old world” immigrant population where ritual impurity involving menstrual blood is even an issue anymore. So I guess as immigrant peoples become more Americanized, American sensibilities become more offended at the notion of any differences standing between the sexes, and rules are bent or ignored to compensate. Of course, I’ve not had to worry about these matters much myself, and I was not aware of the of the issue or prohibitions until quite recently. I’m fairly certain that women in an OCA parish I formerly attended would not even know what I was talking about if I raised the topic of ritual impurity, whereas a substantial number of the women in my ROCOR parish are quite aware of and observant of the traditional rules. They abstain from communion during their time. In the Russian tradition we also separate the sexes onto the two sides of the nave although the practice is not enforced, it is maintained out of custom. Again, it seems as if these matters are governed now by local custom and any rules need greater clarity. I’m all for tradition, but it needs a sound basis.

    • Closeted gay and bisexual male bishops played a critical role in the first irregular ordinations of women within the Episcopal Church (TEC).

      This in turn led to the regularization of female ordination in TEC and then via a domino effect to female ordination in virtually every major Protestant denomination. Non-heterosexual leadership continued to be supportive throughout this process.

      Ordained women in turn have likely accelerated the “coming out” of gay priests and bishops. But you need to think long and hard about how important or unimportant the difference is between a closeted gay priest or bishop and his openly gay counterpart.

      • Of course, these things don’t happen overnight, at least not officially. The first women were ordained in TEC in 1974. As recently as 1994, the General Convention of TEC “affirmed that there is value in the theological position that women should not be ordained” (wikipedia entry on TEC).

        As of right now TEC does not explicitly teach that homogenital sex is good, it has no provisions for gay marriage or same-sex domestic partnerships, and it has not officially overturned its traditional teachings about the sanctity of marriage. The catechism and prayer book contain teachings that are probably 100% consistent with “Orthodox teaching” (whatever that may be: is there one person who can give me the definitive account?).

        PCUSA also has not endorsed gay sex or gay marriage. There has been NO official change in official Presbyterian teaching about sexual ethics.

        The only real changes within TEC have been to make it officially ok to ordain a gay person, and in PCUSA to not go to special effort to prohibit gay ordination (still not officially ok in PCUSA mind you).

        There is no difference between current PCUSA and OCA policy on gay ordination and gay sex. Not officially.

        If you want to take comfort in your belief that you will never get much worse than PCUSA currently is, you are free to do so. But I would humbly suggest that you reconsider your position for your own good and for the good of all that could be touched by your church.

        • Fr. Blues says

          UM, Just out of curiosity what is your Church affiliation? On an earlier post I believe you mentioned that you were not an OCA member. Are you Orthodox or something else? God bless.

      • In Chicago the “gay” anglo-catholic parishes were against women’s ordination…

    • Hieromonk Joshua + says

      “He who busies himself with the sins of others, or judges his brother on suspicion, has not yet even begun to repent or to examine himself so as to discover his own sins…” St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love no. 55).

  2. Harry Coin says

    If you’re so sure this is all ‘really about’ accepting improper sexual activity in high places why not just go out and take your photos and publish them? Seriously. Or does the controversy serve you better — mostly about using and extending and amplifying this discordant time to shave people away from the OCA, for example?

    • George Michalopulos says

      No Harry, speaking for myself, I would much rather be writing about something else. I don’t want or cherish the controversy.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      Harry you assume photos matters. They do NOT! I know of at least one Bishop where the hierarchy knew he was a ctively Gay, had photos from those who did not want to see him ordained as Bishop and the leaders did not care. I can name names, but I will not make any difference. However know that they are there and the leadership does not care UNLESS and UNTIL they appear on, and they have to pay out money in the form of settlements. How sad.


      • Harry Coin says

        Peter — I assure you: publish apropos photos — you will see changes. In fact, the people would really like to know which bishops saw those photos and voted to ordain anyhow. Possibly the same ones that thought it was a good idea to take in the Astoria bunch who molested various for years? Possibly the ones who sent Fr. Karambis to be a priest at our parish after all you can read about him on Pokrov?

        And we wonder why we’re having problems growing. Time to tell it to the church. Just post them on a website, they’ll be national news in three days. Then maybe those who aren’t having problems with self restraint can make better decisions. I wonder whether they’ll be the ones who want to be bishops in the USA but have applied for Turkish citizenship?

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          Or working in Syosset.


        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Peter, Harry, I think you are both right. This only reinforces my point about the Dumping Ground. We laity have kept the priesthood open as an escape hatch.

      • I think that happened in Chicago too…the ruling Bishop pushed his chancellor through the process to become an auxillary bishop even though many clergy and lay people protested…are our gay clergy just better liars than the episcopalians?

  3. R. Howell says

    In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 we learn how the Apostle Paul reacted upon hearing rumors about one of the Christians in Corinth being in an improper sexual relationship. “I’m shocked that people are gossiping about this person,” he didn’t write. “You people should be minding your own business. You have no idea what’s going on between him and his confessor,” the Apostle didn’t continue. “Maybe he’s in a Platonic relationship, or at least struggling to be celibate,. In any case just focus on your own sins and don’t worry about what that man’s up to,” he didn’t conclude.

    • William Harrington says

      St Paul’s guidance is pretty basic and clear. Don’t have anything to do with them. How does this look in practice when we are dealing with Bishops and Priests?

    • Tiresias says

      Dear to Christ R,

      Your paraphras and gloss on 1 Cor. 1-5 is interesting. Here’s the actual text.

      1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

      Where is the admonition you asert to avoid gossip? where is the instruction to leave it it him and his Confessor? It’s not there. It says the Corinthans fault is that they have not mourned over it that the offender might be removed. It says that St. Paul has judged already at a distance and that they are to deliver the offender to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.


      • A. Rymlianin says

        The point is that political correctness does not trump Christian moral teaching. R. Howell was lampooning stokovite political correctness. What you read was a lampoon not a paraphrase.

    • Well said!

  4. igumen Gregory says

    Isn’t interesting to note how these issues have been brewing in certain quarters of the Orthodox Church for some time now. What seems to be or weakness of organizational unity may soon prove to be a boon for the church in America. Believe me the OCA is in no position to change any of the doctrinal nor moral teachings of the church without breaking with sister churches world wide. Time is now for all of us to get back to repentance and begin spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in an Orthodox Manner. If we are one in Faith then eventually the one local church will emerge as a result of our firmness and love of the Orthodox Faith.

    • Chris Plourde says

      Time is now for all of us to get back to repentance and begin spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in an Orthodox Manner. If we are one in Faith then eventually the one local church will emerge as a result of our firmness and love of the Orthodox Faith.


    • Michael Bauman says

      igumen Gregory, do you not see that such evangelism is not possible or credible except in the most general sense without local communities who trust and revere their bishops and priests and whose bishops and priests love their flock(s) and actually teach the Gospel in uncompromising Orthodox understanding? Do you not see that when there is a veritable moral collapse in the episcopate, the teaching of the Gospel is harmed and the fabric of the sacramental confession the OCA is supposed to share is torn?

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Igumen, for the Church to grow, it must have resolute bishops. If it doesn’t it will wither and perhaps wax again when the right man comes along. Your atttitude to my mind unwittingly reeks of clericalism. That is to say, “well, there’s nothing stopping you from evengelizing, just because the bishop’s a bad apple, the Church’s teachings remain pure.” If the bishop is such a marginal figure, then let’s just dispense with them.

      The hyporcrisy here is evident to anybody who has had to tangle with a corrupt bishop. One the one hand they overlook real improprieties and the canons (like the canons against drunkenness, immorality, or my favorite “one city/one bishop”) but if youl try to take them to task because of something administrative it becomes: “How dare you intrude on the office of the bishop! Don’t you know I’m your archpastor and the canons yada yada yada?”