On April 9th, the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Chicago released a statement in the wake of recent Supreme Court hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 (more here). On one hand, the document condemns same-sex marriage and reminds readers that the Russian Orthodox Church will not sanction such unions. insists that "living a homosexual or any other sinful lifestyle" is incompatible with Christian faith and church teachings. To boot, it adds that people "actively engaging in any immoral or unnatural pursuits" cannot take part in a full sacramental life. (See www[dot]synod[dot]com/synod/eng2013/20130409_enchicagoresolution.html)
On the other hand, the document tries to soften its homophobia by discouraging believers from ostracizing LGBTQ persons. The authorship stresses how "empathetic" the church is to people who "suffer" with same-sex temptations.
"It should also be made clear that living a homosexual or any other sinful lifestyle is not compatible with Christianity and this has always been the teaching of the Church. That being stated, it is also crucial to state that the Church is a Spiritual Hospital and all those wishing to receive the healing freely offered by God through their repentance and God’s Grace are fully welcome. This includes those who have participated in immoral or unnatural acts of any kind as well as those who are tempted by such sins. The Church is empathetic to those who suffer in such a way and offers them support, healing, and Christian love. Those actively engaging in any immoral or unnatural pursuits cannot live a full sacramental life within the Church. However, this does not mean that we seek to drive away or ostracize those who have transgressed in such a way. Rather, we must make all efforts to draw those in such an unfortunate situation back to chastity and the opportunity to again partake in the Life Giving Mysteries of the Church and to engage the struggle for their salvation within the parish community."Translation: we love LGBTQ people, we just hate it when they expect equality or any chance of having a fulfilling sexual or romantic life.
The document continues, urging Orthodox clergy to condemn homosexuality and other "unnatural expressions" as sinful. However, clergy are supposed to do so lovingly, while inviting LGBTQ people to repent for their alleged sins.
"It is crucial that our clergymen not shy away from the position of the Church as regards the sinfulness of homosexuality and other unnatural expressions of the God-given gift of human sexuality – but it is also crucial that such statements be made with love and with a corresponding invitation to repentance and reconciliation with the Church."Can we please dispense with the prejudice masquerading as "love"?
Can we please stop defending unfair policies and antiquated church doctrines in the name of "love"?
Can we please stop justifying corrosive rhetoric as some sort of kindly outreach to the LGBTQ community?
Can we please accept LGBTQ people for who they are, instead of demanding self-hatred and celibacy from them?
Like other voices opposed to same-sex marriage, the Diocesan Chancery document is yet another example of how those opposed to LGBTQ equality present their message as a somehow loving one. Real love is respectful. Real love is affirming of others' humanity. Real love encourages others to flourish. What the LGBTQ community needs is a love that affirms equality, not inequality.