Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Theologians meet in Amsterdam to discuss human sexuality

(ACOT) - From 7 to 9 June, the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam hosted an invited international group of Orthodox theologians and pastors to reflect on a wide range of matters concerning human sexuality as addressed by science and natural law, theological anthropology, legal issues, psychology, and pastoral care. This was an GroepfotoSymposiumJune2017opportunity for scholars and pastors to share work that they have been doing with their colleagues, in a conversation about how the Orthodox Churches might consider and respond to current pastoral questions while remaining faithful to Christ, the Gospel and Orthodox Christian Tradition. The dialogue was collegial and fruitful, offering each of those present food for thought in their continuing work and ministry.

Participants were: Bishop Maxim (Vasiljevic) of Western America (Serbian Orthodox Church), Nikolaos Asproulis (Volos Academy), Fr. Michael Bakker (ACOT), Fr. John Behr (St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, ACOT), Brandon Gallaher (University of Exeter), Edith Humphrey (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Fr John Jillions (SVOTS), Pantelis Kalaitzidis, (Volos Academy), Fr. Philip LeMasters (McMurry University, SVOTS), Fr. Joan Lena (ACOT), Fr. Andrew Louth (Emeritus Durham University, ACOT), Fr. Nicolae Mosoiu (Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu), Aristotle Papanikolaou (Fordham University), Fr Vasileios Thermos (University of Athens), Gayle Woloschak (Northwestern University, SVOTS).

The symposium contributes to the courses of the master and post-master programmes of the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology.


  1. I really don't understand the necessity for such a conference. Everybody knows the approach to healing sin: prayer, fasting, repentance and worship with the guidance of a confessor. It is the lukewarm who create confusion and promote death. That is why they will be vommited out of the mouth of the Lord.

    We laity have to learn to bear the burdens of our fellow sinners without affirming the sin.

    May God save us from both hard line idealogs and the wishy-washy who seek to curry favor with the world.

    We are created male and female. There is no gnostic abolition of that essential difference in salvation. In Christ and in Christ alone is that seeming dicotomy fulfilled in an antinomical union.

    1. If for no other reason than we're losing the battle on this topic with the greater world and our own youth. Our parish-level formulations for the same sex issue are not working.

    2. It would seem more honest and much more productive for priests to meet together with their bishop in prayer and fasting to explore the matter. But, I am just a simple guy the least in my parish.

      Formulations and programs never help anyone. Personal interaction out of genuine compassion will. Not everyone, but I don't get to decide who is lost. I just have to be faithful as I can to the revealed truth and allow God to give the increase.

      The Church will likely grow much smaller in the days ahead and it only by God's grace that any should be saved.

  2. I am not sure we can retain those who refuse to accept the ultimately simple truth which is what I outlined. To be a Christian I have to allow myself to he conformed to the truth whether I like it or not. However, if I am told lies or confused blather by people who are
    Supposed to know, it makes it difficult. Speaking the truth about same sex attraction is far more important than trying to manage people's responses.

    All sin separates and makes us deeply lonely. Same sex attraction more so if my interactions with many homosexuals over the years means anything. I have always seen a deep and particular sadness in their eyes. It has always broken my heart because they were neat people. (Most of my experience was before I became Christian BTW). Communion with Jesus Christ is the only antidote to that lonliness.

    We will certainly not retain folks if all we offer is academic **** which always seeks compromise to the world.

    I have zero trust in any such meetings, even less in the results.

  3. "If for no other reason than we're losing the battle on this topic with the greater world and our own youth. Our parish-level formulations for the same sex issue are not working"

    Granting this, why is this so? I believe it ultimately comes down to too much "mixing of the light with the dark", which is the fruit of secularism of the last 500 years (or push it back further). In other words Rod Dreher's "Ben Op" evaluation (of the Church vis-a-vis secularism) and his recommendations are what is needed. If you disagree with the specifics of the Ben Op, then an the details can be tweaked but the the outline is correct IMO.

    However, as Fr. Patrick Reardon noted on another blog this particular group of people actually have very little real pastoral experience (he added up about two years). One of these persons teaches at my seminary, and she believes that there are "vast theological differences between unborn children and {the born}". Yep, that is a quote. Her take on our created sexuality (to say nothing of our existence) has everything to do with Francis Bacon and little with Christ.

    I took in a symposium headlined by Met. Kallistos about a year ago that was streamed on the internet (when I should have been doing other things ;) ) Fr. John Behr. was there as well, and during the question and answer period a young man of college age walked up and ask about the "ontology" of our created male and femaleness. Fr. John answer was that Christianly we needed to "get beyond" our created sexuality! i had one of those visceral, gut reactions "WRONG ANSWER FR JOHN!!". The answer was pastorally completely out of context and reflected Fr. John's life spent in the details of philosophical theology.

    Here is a hard truth: Our Orthodox "theologians" and leadership in general in the English speaking world (really, Western Civ: Europe, NA, etc.) are too compromised by secularism to be of any use. Indeed, many of them are at the leading edge of compromise/accommodation with secularism (think of those Fordham boys) and spend most of there time trying to weasel in female deacons, an anything but the Tradition approach to marriage/sex/homosexualism, etc.

    It is not an accident that the Ben Op was written by an "outsider" layman like Dreher and not one of the folks at this conference. If and when papers and proceedings of this conference are issued, I expect more of the same from them...that is, more of what is "not working".

    1. I have a lot of sympathy for Rod's vision but ultimately, I think the "Ben Op" is the same approach to rapacious secularism as that taken by the Middle Eastern Christians in response to rapacious Islam. That is, in exchange for payment of taxes and pledges of loyalty to their Arab overlords, the Christians were allowed to raise their children in the Faith and function as mercantile middlemen. This has not worked out well as Christianity slowly goes extinct in its former homelands. In like fashion, Rod Dreher begs to be left alone with his nuclear family and a few close friends in rural Louisiana as the world goes to Hell and our children slowly slip away from us.

      The early Christians practiced their faith and seized the levers of State power as soon as they could. Modern Christianity by contrast practices secularism as the first and greatest Commandment.

      Contrast Christianity's endless cession to its enemies with the robustness of Islam in the West: when they need their cultural space, they simply carve it out, and nobody lectures them about the lack of female imams or refusal to recognize gay marriage. In similar fashion, the Amish are expanding into the American Southwest and Mexico, and the Hasidim maintain their millenium-old bloodlines. Even the Mormons with their bizarre creed have managed to insinuate themselves into much of the United State's national security apparatus.

      The future belongs to those who show up, and the "Ben Op" doesn't seem to be a strategy for showing up. Rather, it strikes me as a rear-guard action by aging converts begging to be allowed to die in peace.

    2. Interesting post Anti-Gnostic! In the end, it is a erroneous evaluation of the Ben Op (have you read the book?) in that you make the most common reviewer allegation: that it is a mere "retreat", an inward turn, a rear guard action. This could not be further from the truth in that while Rod proposes a "get the house in order" ascetical turn, this is for a reason (not an end-of-itself) which is so that we can "show up" as you say. In other words this "robustness" (good word!) that you see in Isalm, Amish, Hasidim, and Mormons is exactly what is missing from how Christianity has been practiced in the main for the last 500 years or so in Western Civilization. The Ben Op is a cry to stop doing what we have been doing and to grow a backbone before we die and then from their battle for the Great Commission. I don't agree with the every detail of Rod's suggestions on how to do this, though I do think he has the general outline of a praxis right.

      I suggest you read the book - it is not what you think it is!

  4. Jake, totally agree. Thinking of G. K. Chesterton "It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It is that Christianity has not been tried."

    Christianity is the most radical of faiths and it makes almost no sense at all unless one accepts the reality of the Incarnation: God made man and wholly transforming everything.

    Most folks, including me shy away from really being Christian because of the change it demands.

    Fortunately part of the Incarnation is unfathomable mercy.

    Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.