Upcoming Pieces On The Church, Faith, Worship, And Praxis

Over the next few weeks I will be writing several pieces covering my reflections on the extraordinary tremors the Church generally, and the Orthodox Church specifically, are right now experiencing, and the ecclesial, ecclesiastical, and spiritual implications of the resulting “tectonic shifts.” The tentative titles and general descriptions of these upcoming pieces are as follows: (more…)

Prayers “For Favorable Weather”

North America is currently experiencing a variety of very dangerous weather upheavals. Houston, Texas and surrounding regions were recently devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Fires are engulfing vast portions of the Pacific Northwest. Hurricane Irma has wreaked catastrophic damage upon islands in the Caribbean, and is now moving toward Florida with unabated destructive force. Hurricane Katia is bearing down upon the eastern cost of Mexico just west of the Yucatan Peninsula. And a magnitude 8.1 earthquake just struck Mexico’s southern coast. Lives have been lost as a consequence of each of these natural disasters.

At the beginning of the Orthodox liturgy we offer a litany of petitions to God, among which is a prayer “for favorable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times.” What we do not pray for is “good” weather, but for weather that is “favorable” to us. The difference is quite simple: we know that the nature of our world often brings weather that exerts extraordinary energy, such as rainstorms, hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fires, etc., and that we may be found in the midst of such events. By asking for weather to be “favorable” we are in essence asking that we, our loved ones, and our neighbors be spared from harm to our well-being and our lives. By asking for “an abundance of the fruits of the earth” we are asking that we be blessed with sustenance and necessity. By asking for “peaceful times” we are asking for the peace that Jesus was able to enjoy on the small boat with his disciples when a terrifying storm raged over the Sea of Galilee.

And so . . .

For those coping with the fires burning in the Pacific Northwest;

For those in the paths of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Katia;

For those enduring the effects of the earthquake in southern Mexico;

For all people around the world who are in the midst of powerful weather events . . .

I pray for favorable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times.

And for those whose lives have been lost, I pray their memories be eternal.

Lord have mercy.

Saint Phoebe The First Deaconess Of The Church

It is no secret that the Orthodox Church, in practice, has a woman problem. Male-only attitudes still fester in the various jurisdictional hierarchies, attitudes which have wrongfully relegated ordained ministry to a “men’s only” exclusive club. In this regard, I fully support the Saint Phoebe Center for the Deaconess, and its Orthodox mission to “provide education regarding the historical deaconess in the church, highlight the diaconal ministry women are doing today, and work for the restoration of the female diaconate for the building up of the Body of Christ.”

Today’s prayer in remembrance of Saint Phoebe, from Saints of Ancient Faith:

Lord God and Father Almighty, today we remember your servant Phoebe, who is recognized as the first woman ordained to the diaconate of your Church. Her faithful service in the name of your son Jesus Christ won praise from Saint Paul, who recognized her for her hospitality and charity in her ordained ministry as a deaconess. By your Holy Spirit, move your Church to repent of all patriarchal and androcentric attitudes that it may once again acknowledge the divine truth established by the liberating work of Christ that, in your Church and in your Kingdom, women and men are full equals in work, worship, and ministry. Grant also that we may all emulate Phoebe’s example of hospitality and charity, for such is the very essence of the Good News, by which we are reassured of your promise to restore all things, unto unending joy in the life of the world to come. Amen.

Why It Doesn’t Matter – The Nashville Statement

If you haven’t read The Nashville Statement, I recommend you do so. You may find its contents vile and reprehensible (which they are), but you won’t find it shocking, nor will you be at all surprised. Why? Because its condemnations (in fourteen declarative “Articles”) of gay people and transgender people are nothing new, and are precisely what would be expected to come out of a religious group that calls itself the “Coalition For Biblical Sexuality” and among whose foremost signatories are Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and John Piper (among other well-known anti-LGBT evangelicals).

Countless notable Christians and groups have come out strongly in denouncing the statement, and I myself add my own voice to that righteous chorus. In the face of such gross injustice that betrays the Gospel, all faithful Christians must speak out, and must affirm their commitment to advocating and creating sanctuary for the people harmed by such injustice.

I immediately noticed two peculiar things about the statement that stood out: 1) it isn’t at all biblical, and 2) none of its “Articles” contains a single Scripture reference. Both rather ironic, considering the statement comes from an evangelical coalition for so-called “Biblical” sexuality. And while I have numerous other criticisms to throw at the statement, I overall tend toward the same position as Jonathan Merritt, who wrote the following in his Religion News Service response to the Nashville Statement: (more…)

What Gay Is, And What It Isn’t

It’s always an uphill battle trying to enlighten certain Christians as to what “gay” means. To be more specific, by “certain Christians” I mean those Christians who, when the subject of “gay” comes up, instantly think of “sin,” refuse to use the term “gay” to refer to gay men and women, and instead insist on using the more condescending “people with same sex attraction,” or sometimes simply “homosexuals.”

So here’s a general summary of what gay is, and what it isn’t.

Referring to gay people as “homosexual” is like referring to Egyptian people as “African.” While it is a true and factual description of the general geographic orientation of Egyptian people, “African” nonetheless completely fails to convey the unique cultural, historical, linguistic, and social characteristics that make Egyptians who they are. As such, if an Egyptian heard you insistently refer to them as African, you could expect them to throw you a curious glance at the very least, and predictably might very well take great offense (and with good reason).

It’s the same with gay people. While “homosexual” is a true and factual description of our general emotional, amorous, and sexual orientation, it fails to convey the more important and unique above-the-waist characteristics that make us gay people who we are. (more…)