Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces:
On September 24 Orthodoxy in Dialogue published Sexuality & Gender: Open Letter to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. The many members of the Assembly of Bishops who are subscribed followers of Orthodoxy in Dialogue will likely have already seen it.
Fewer than three dozen courageous souls have signed our Letter as of this date. Hidden from public view are the literally tens of thousands of readers around the world who have followed Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s ongoing advocacy for a more authentically Orthodox theological exploration of sexuality and gender than prescriptive moralism—foreign to the ascetical and transformative spirit of Orthodoxy—can possibly offer; the many thousands who have read this Open Letter itself; and the many hundreds who have sent private messages of support and gratitude for our work in this area.
These messages have come from members of your flocks who love Christ and His One Church, and who identify as same-sex oriented, or transgender, or intersex, or the parents of these, or the allies of these. Over and over again they have testified alike to the hope that Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s work has given them when they had lost all hope, and to the fear of reprisal from bishops and priests which keeps them closeted in the Church and paralyzed to express their support publicly. The supporters of our work include bishops, priests, deacons, and well-known theologians.
Our work is often mischaracterized as usurping the teachings of the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth:
We are not now, nor have we ever been, “pro-abortion.” Yet we oppose symbolic, polemical, and often costly gestures that accomplish nothing and fail to save a single child’s or woman’s life. We also oppose legislative measures that have been shown to result in the deaths of women who have abortions.
We are not now, nor have we ever been, “pro-promiscuity” or “pro-immorality.” Yet we insist on the distinction between same-sex love and same-sex lust, just as we distinguish necessarily between opposite-sex love and opposite-sex lust.
We do not diminish, nor have we ever diminished, the scriptural account of man’s creation as male and female. Yet we advocate for the ongoing theological and pastoral need to explore what this means in the real lives of real persons—created in God’s image and endowed with the capacity to acquire His likeness—and to conduct this exploration in conversation with the ever-expanding knowledges and insights of science, medicine, psychology, and the various strands of social theory.
From the patristic era to the present, our greatest theologians have always worked in dialogue with the intellectual, cultural, social, and political currents in which they found themselves, never from fear or a fortress mentality. We can do no less.
I and many colleagues stand prepared to assist the Assembly in this work with God’s help and to the best of our ability.
Your unworthy servant in Christ,
Giacomo Sanfilippo, Editor
Orthodoxy in Dialogue
This letter will be sent later this evening to the individual members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.
We continue to accept signatures for our Open Letter. Send your full name and place of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.