Category Archives: Gender and Sexuality

Thinking Out Loud: In Response to the OCA’s Curbing of Intellectual Freedom

by Very Rev. Dr. Isaac Skidmore

thinking figure
Image: iStock.com/Benjavisa

I would like to respond to the Statement on Same-sex Relationships and Sexual Identity, issued by the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America during the recent All-American Assembly in Baltimore in July. I believe it will be evident I have concerns about the statement’s curtailment of intellectual and academic freedom. In particular, I would like to share my reaction to the following paragraph:

We call upon all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons within the Orthodox Church in America never to contradict these teachings by preaching or teaching against the Church’s clear moral position; by publishing books, magazines, and articles which do the same; or producing or publishing similar content online. We reject any attempt to create a theological framework which would normalize same-sex erotic relationships or distort humanity’s God-given sexual identity.

When I read these words, I feel a combination of sadness, fear, and anger, because, to me, they mean that the Synod might be posed to intrude upon my intellectual and academic freedom, which I consider to be integral to my own wellbeing, and the necessary context and precondition for any genuine statement of faith.

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To Baptize or Not: God’s Love and Image

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko | български | ελληνικά | Română | Српски

On July 9, 2022, Archbishop Elpidophoros, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, baptized the children of celebrity fashion designer Peter Dundas and Evangelo Bousis in a church near Athens. Reactions to the news of the baptism of children of a same-sex couple were predictable. The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece is reportedly preparing a letter of protest to Archbishop Elpidophoros and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, as the Church of Greece does not recognize same-sex unions.

The baptism of these children raises questions for Orthodox Christians. Does the baptism of children of a same-sex couple imply Orthodox Christian approval or tolerance of same-sex unions? What requirements must parents meet before requesting the baptism of a child? Must one be completely free of sin before committing to the Christian life that Baptism inaugurates? One must refer to the meaning of Baptism itself to answer these challenging questions.  

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Fullness of Faith or Fullness of Fear?
On Prohibiting Open Theological Discussion

by Gregory Tucker

Image: iStock.com/BertiK

At the conclusion of the “Bridging Voices” conference in Oxford in 2019, I thanked the distinguished group of participants for restoring my confidence in the church as a discursive society bound by love of and in Christ. Our meeting was demanding, at times very tense, and inconclusive, but commitment to working through some of the most challenging questions of our day kept a large group of thinkers with divergent perspectives together productively at one table. As far as I am aware, no factions formed at the conference and no participant found it necessary to denounce or reprimand any other. Most attended the divine services together and many remarked on the importance of the liturgical unity of the gathering. Patience and humility made space for attentive listening, transformative encounter, and the refinement of theological argumentation without fear.

It is therefore disheartening to read the latest statement of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America on same-sex relationships and sexual identity, which appears to intend to stifle genuine, faithful intellectual inquiry and cultivate a climate of fear. Much in this text is unremarkable, little more than a rehearsal of apologetic tropes, and a repetition of statements issued previously. Nobody can honestly claim that the position of the Holy Synod of the OCA on these topics is unclear. The same conclusions, the same small body of proof-texts, the same appeal to the unanimity of the tradition, and the same assertion of synodal authority over these issues have been repeated time and again. So why issue yet another statement?

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Domestic Violence, Faith, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

by Romina Istratii

Ethiopian men

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign takes off, it is an opportune time to revisit the role of faith and theology in addressing domestic violence.

The relationship between faith/spirituality and domestic violence is not a simple one, but it is definitely one that should be understood with the nuance it deserves to be leveraged effectively in responding to the problem. While religious language can be used in distorted ways to justify or continue harmful attitudes and behavior, faith and spiritual living can serve as a coping mechanism and a source of healing for victims and survivors and can potentially deter abusiveness among some prospective perpetrators. Moreover, clergy have an important documented role in influencing religious communities on issues of marriage and family life.  

A common reference for the scholarship that looks at faith-based interventions is the understanding that religious personnel, the discourses they use, and their responses to communities can both contribute to the continuation of the problem of domestic violence and serve as a positive influence in efforts to address the problem (Istratii and Ali, under review). While clergy are well-positioned to respond to domestic violence in religious communities, they often lack an understanding of how their own discourses and responses can unwittingly reinforce negative norms, attitudes, or situations, and how to support victims and perpetrators with awareness of safeguarding risks and due processes.

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