This is the tenth voice to speak out in Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s Fifty Years after Stonewall: A Virtual Listening Tour. The author has ministered pastorally to LGBTQ persons who have been run out of the Orthodox Church. Our failure time and again to minister to our own has consequences in the real lives of real human beings and will face a stern accounting at the Last Judgment.
We urge our readers to forward the articles in this series to their diocesan bishops and parish priests. We beg our hierarchy and clergy to listen, attentively, reflectively, and prayerfully.
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To my brothers in Christ, the Deacons, Priests, and Bishops of the Orthodox Church to whom this letter may be presented: I pray for you all and I ask you to pray for me who, without God’s infinite mercy, am lost.
I am Father Sean Andrew Lotz, a priest since 1993 in the Celtic Catholic Church. I am not Orthodox, but I have always loved and learned from the Orthodox Church and held her in the greatest respect. Although I am not Orthodox, what I have to say concerns you directly for reasons I will explain below. I ask you in the Name of the Lord whom we serve to give my letter a respectful reading.
Let me first tell you a little something about me. I am the pastor of a tiny congregation, and so I work at a job to support myself. I am surrounded most days by non-Christians, former Christians, and Christians who have chosen to stop attending church. I am blessed by God frequently to have intimate conversations with people who do not have a pastor and who consider me something of their priest. Furthermore; I am gay; and although this fact does not reveal itself in my “lifestyle” in any way whatsoever (if you followed me around 24 hours a day and spied on me from behind the mailbox, you would have no idea one way or the other), everyone who spends any time talking to me knows, since I am vocally “out” about being gay and about being a priest.
There, that should let you know whence I write.
I talk with a lot of “former Christians” or “refugees” as some call themselves. Where I have lived and served over the years, most are not Orthodox, but some are, and that makes what I have to say your concern.
Over years I have lost count of the people who tell me they have abandoned at least the Church if not the Faith itself or the Lord Jesus because they are gay or lesbian or transgender (LGBTQ+). Many of their complaints are so obvious that I will not insult your intelligence by listing them. A simple application of the Golden Rule will answer the question, “If I were gay, would I feel welcome in the Church as a whole?” But what I am asking you to consider is something that maybe has not occurred to you yet.
LGBTQ+ people who have left the embrace of the Christian Faith (and some who have specifically left the Orthodox Church in the dust behind them) talk to me about their reasons for having left, and many of those reasons are some version of choosing what they know to be true and rejecting what they know to be lies.
All of their lives, LGBTQ+ people have heard repeated falsehoods about themselves presented as necessary truth of the Christian Faith. They have heard preachers and other apologists echo the same untruths that have been corrected so often that they are no longer honest errors but outright lies. And they have been told that to be a Christian they must believe these things which they know are untrue. They are told that these mistakes are somehow fundamental to the Church’s practice and beliefs. And naturally enough, they reject the falsehoods and the Church which insists on repeating them. And then they reject the Lord whom the Church represents in the world. And then I cry.
Fathers, when you tell a gay man, “Being gay is a lifestyle you chose. It is not a part of who you really are,” that gay man knows you are wrong. And if he knows that you have been corrected by those who know better, then he knows that you are lying to him.
Servants of Christ, when you tell a transgender person that every human is precisely male or female, and that you can tell which by looking between their legs, it is hard for them to take you seriously. Heck, we’ve known since forever that some people simply are not either/or (all it takes is a working pair of eyes to see a penis and a vagina on the same person), and modern science has greatly extended our ability to observe deep differences that make it clear we are not all of us entirely male or entirely female. Some of us are really complicated. And when they realize your theology does not understand this indisputable fact, they naturally reject it. Honestly, Fathers, would you give any credence to somebody who does not realize that you actually exist?
When you tell a lesbian that she must put aside everything she wants and yearns for in a spouse and marry a man (or become a nun, with no evidence of a calling), she wonders how is it fair that heterosexuals are given at least the opportunity to find Mr. or Miss Right, whereas she has been denied the possibility from birth. And when she walks away, uninterested in the obvious injustice, how in the Name of the Just One can you be surprised or blame her?
I used to know a man who believed that headaches do not exist. He thought they were a scam invented to sell aspirin. He had his understanding of science to back him up; he had what he thought was common sense; he even had a book written by a PhD which bolstered his argument. He had all his evidence and authorities and an unshakable confidence in the rightness of his belief. I, on the other hand, had nothing but a headache.
Fathers, my brothers in Christ, allow me to get down on my knees at your feet and grovel in the dust. Your former parishioners talk to me and cry out their agony, or they spit out their anger. Or worst of all, they yawn their indifference. And therefore I make my plea and beg you. Listen, I am not asking you for much. I am not asking that you re-examine your understanding of Holy Tradition while being open to the possibility that you may have interpreted it incorrectly. I’m not asking that of you. I don’t ask you to change your theology. I am not asking you to consider more accurate interpretations of the six verses in the Bible that are used to condemn homosexuals. No, I am not asking any of that. I understand that all of those things would be difficult if not impossible. And terrifying to think about. I understand.
So here is my only plea. This is what I am groveling at your feet, begging in the Name of Jesus on behalf of people He died for: at the very least, don’t tell your LGBTQ+ people nonsense in the name of the Church, the Tradition, or the Lord. Please do not tell them things that their daily experience disproves. Do not tell them non-scientific mumbo jumbo. Do not make stuff up. Do not lie. Do not tell them that “there’s no such thing as headaches.”
And here is where I beg specifically in the Name of Jesus: Please do not pass that stuff off as coming from our Savior.
Listen, my brothers. They know better. They live the reality; they read the science; they have lived in their own skins all their lives; they have functioning brains. When you say, “You are really straight, and God says so,” or, “You are male completely despite your weird chromosomes and unusual internal organs and a lifetime of knowing that you are really female,” or even, “You, unlike most people, must live lonely or a lie with no chance of anything else ever,” then either you are wrong or God is wrong. There are no other options.
When you spout untruths to your LGBTQ+ people, the results are catastrophic. Suicide is shockingly common, and eventual apostasy is pretty much the norm. The Name of the Lord is cursed among the former Orthodox because of you.
Fathers, my brothers, please reconsider your approach. Consider the consequences of your words. Apply the Golden Rule. Save lives rather than sacrifice them. Let God break your heart for His broken children. Whatever you do, speak only verifiable truth in the Name of Him whom you represent.
Father Sean Andrew Lotz
See the Fifty Years after Stonewall and extensive Sexuality and Gender sections in our Archives by Author.
Father Sean Andrew Lotz, CCG, STLic, DD, has been a priest since 1993 and gay since 1962. Although with no academic degrees in human sexuality, he has extensive experience applying his theological studies to the broken souls of those who have been hurt by the Church and her representatives.
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