Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Kallistos Ware raises questions and more. . .

The Wheel is a journal of Orthodox Christian thought and culture.   According to its web site, It seeks to articulate the Gospel intelligently and constructively for the 21st Century—a pluralistic era which presents Christianity with new and unique challenges, demanding a creative re-imagination of its social identity and role in public discourse.  I am not personally familiar with this journal or its online activities. . . until now.

Writing in the foreword to the current issue, Met. Kallistos Ware has stirred the pot a bit.  The whole issue is directed toward the subject of sex, gender, orientation, and the Orthodox faith.  While the journal said it initially avoided focusing on the highly charged topic of humans’ existence as sexed and sexual beings, Yet such a question begs to be addressed by all churches.  In the light polling that  suggests members of churches may not hold to the stance of their church's official teaching on such  matters, The Wheel decided to accept the proposal of board member Father Andrew Louth for an issue that would refocus the conversation on gender, sexuality, and sex within the broader context of theological anthropology.  The Wheel notes this is not a topic alien to the Orthodox faithful: a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Orthodox Christians in the United States are not only broadly tolerant of homosexuality but also—despite some clerical pronouncements to the contrary—actually support same-sex marriage rights at a higher rate than the general public.

You can read his foreword for yourself here. . .

All that said, Met. Kallistos Ware has given a qualified endorsement to the issue and its authors as they address these topics -- though not always as many Orthodox would feel comfortable. It would not be unfair to describe Ware's introductory words as somewhat provocative, although they leave us uncertain as to where he actually comes down on the issues themselves.

I have read his foreword a few times and would not exactly say that Met. Kallistos Ware has come out for gay marriage. He certainly does appear to lay groundwork for such but leaves his own position somewhat vague with respect to the articles in the Wheel and the issues raised there. His words are certainly provocative and in respect perhaps unhelpful. Yet he does point to practical issues with which the Church must grapple in her conversation with the world – such things as are the typical fodder for debate as the world charges the Church with at least the appearance of unfairness when heterosexuals may freely choose marriage and homosexuals cannot. In this is also the somewhat confusing ambiguity and injustice in the way some in the Church treat those who say they are struggling to remain chaste but are promiscuous against those who will not be chaste but at least are monogamous (in same sex relationships).

While I am not prepared to address them as he does, these are exactly the issues that must be forcefully and faithfully addressed and I have not exactly heard Orthodoxy do so -- perhaps that is my fault and not Orthodoxy's but I read a bit and have not encountered the Orthodox position as publicly as it should be. Silence is not an answer, so Ware says.

I will say that I do appreciate how he extrapolates doctrine from liturgical rites and have always been intrigued by the second rite for those divorced. None of the rest of us has such a thing (though it would be beneficial even though some would not have the courage to use it). That is something perhaps we should address in order to have a clear position with respect to divorce and remarriage among church members (even multiple divorce and remarriage).

Clearly the whole idea of orientation is a modern challenge that few churches have directly addressed though it is certainly an issue begging for a formal and theological response. The issue of friendship is a timely one in a world so filled with technology that only seems to amplify loneliness, isolate us from each other, and deprive us of such loving relationships. Clearly Ware has baited the trap by suggesting the Church is a voyeur in its interest in what happens in the bedroom and that perhaps no harm is being done behind closed doors.

Ware is always interesting, often skirts the fringes of things, and has not helped the cause to open the doors to the wider GLBTQ+ community here – unless he has stirred Orthodoxy to address the issues with something more than “no” or silence. I am not sure his words have been helpful but it is still something less than an unqualified endorsement of gender, orientation, same sex marriage, and all other forms of sexual behavior practiced by the GLBTQ+. It remains to be seen if he is sitting on the edge of heresy in order to promote orthodoxy or if this is but the beginning of a wholesale surrender to the moment. In any case, I am sure this is not the last word we will hear from our brothers and sisters in Orthodoxy.


Joseph Bragg said...

One must distinguish between the "official Orthodoxy" of the world and the True Orthodox Church. The "official Orthodoxy" (of which Ware is a representative)is an organization that has succumbed to the heresy of Ecumenism and is on the same path as it's partners in the WCC, albeit, a slower path. The True Orthodox Church doesn't change or waiver in its truth. As in all groups, many are "Orthodox" in name only. Unfortunately, they are always presented as the Church because of their officialdom. The Church is not an organization but the Body of Christ that holds to the truth in worship and practice with apostolic succession in chronology and in truth.

James Kellerman said...

Kallistos Ware argues that we should treat unrepentant, monogamous homosexuals better than repentant but promiscuous ones. But his argument falls apart if you apply that same line of reasoning to other sins. If a married man occasionally resorts to prostitutes while on business trips, but regrets that behavior and always goes back to his wife, he does far less damage to his marriage than if he carries on a long, adulterous affair with one mistress and says that he will never give her up. Or which is the worse form of idolatry: the wholehearted devotion to only one idol or the occasional lapse into whatever idolatry appeals most at the moment? It's not the number of idols or mistresses or sex partners that matters; it's whether one repents of the misdirected affection.

David Gray said...

His argument falls apart if you have a passing familiarity with the Scriptures. But his current actions are no surprise.