Saturday, February 20, 2016
Some good and some not so good. . .
This is the report of a former Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and it might have been merely social news except for a couple of things. The good part of this was that Heropoulos was celibate while a priest and insists that he did not break his vow of celibacy. The good part of this is that when Heropoulos decided that he was gay and desired to live as a gay man, he resigned from his office and requested to be defrocked. While to some that might seem harsh, it was the honorable thing to do. The fact that he could not continue in his priestly role in the hypocrisy of one who stood for one thing and lived another is laudable and worthy of praise. Would that those who found themselves in moral or doctrinal conflict with their churches did such an honorable and self-sacrificing act for the sake of the church and for the good of others before self.
The not so good thing is that Heropoulos continues to attend Divine Liturgy and to commune regularly in an Orthodox parish. Clearly he is neither apologetic nor repentant of his present life as a gay man now married to another man. He lives in violation of the canons of the Greek Church and in contradiction to its public stance. But what he could not abide in the public role as Archimandrite, he now continues in the private role of communicant. And therein lies the problem.
Of course there are gay and lesbian folks who commune regularly at the altars of churches that neither affirm nor support the lifestyle. Yet even when these folks fail in their desire to order their lives according to the unmistakable teaching of the Judea-Christian morality of marriage and family and the clear reference of Scripture, they do so as people who are struggling with their weakness and who fail in temptation as people committed to fight against carnal desire and manifest self-control over their desires. They come fallen but repentant to the means of grace and they are well received as are all the sinners who come pleading only the merits of Christ and nothing of their own righteousness. But this is a far different thing that those who insist upon having it both ways -- living in public denial of their church's teaching and Scripture's word but seeking to receive the flesh and blood of Christ without repentance.
I certainly do not know Heropoulos personally but the account of his service as Archimandrite, his resignation and removal from priestly office, and his marriage and communion as a layman all represent a disconnect. This is not so much about him as it is how the error becomes tolerated and eventually normative for the churches. Hardly ever does this happen through the front door but nearly always the departure from solid Christian teaching and Scriptural truth sneaks in the back door, sits in the back pews, and does it often enough to become first tolerated and then acceptable.