The recent debate surrounding an essay by Giacomo Sanfilippo has yet again reminded me of a the importance of dialogue surrounding sexual minorities in the Orthodox Church. I’m not an expert in the theology of Florensky so I will leave the theological particulars to Sanfilippo and other theologians. I do have experience though in how the Church discusses sexual minorities and interacts with the LGBT community. I have read a few critiques and seen several posts by Orthodox writers and clergy reacting to the post on “Conjugal Friendship.” Most seem to be reading into his essay or assuming the worst about it and lamenting what they see as just another attack on the Church’s steadfast commitment to the traditional sacrament of marriage. I would like to take this opportunity to offer a few reflections on how we as a Church can better discuss the various paths available to sexual minorities within the Church rather than Sanfilippo’s specific content or that of his critics.
©️ 2017 Gregg Webb
What I took away from Sanfilippo’s essay was less the specific arguments or case he makes for developing an Orthodox theology of Same-Sex love, and more the fact that he is attempting to find paths of living for sexual minorities within the church. As both a gay man and an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I wrestle daily to try and figure out what I am called by my church to surrender and to give up. I am constantly reminded of all that I am asked to forsake at the Church’s request of fidelity to its, and my own, understanding of same-sex sexual expressions. I don’t need to be reminded that the path my heart most naturally is inclined towards, that of pursuing a husband and a family in a same-sex partnership, is not available to me. I don’t need to be reminded that I am called daily towards chastity and celibacy and to remain steadfast in following all that the Church teaches related to sexual intimacy. I know these things all too well and those battles within my heart rage continually. I need no reminders of these battles or allegiances. Read More
Copyright Gregg Webb 2012
There are a number of factors that contribute to my conservative views as a celibate-gay Christian. The traditional view of marriage that I’ve held my whole life rests on several things and goes beyond the main passages of scripture that are so often brought up. Scripture is of course foundational for many of my beliefs regarding my sexuality as are the consistent teachings of the Church for over two millennia; they aren’t however the strongest day to day reminders of why I’ve chosen celibacy as my path. From my Eastern Orthodox upbringing I’ve grown up with the stories of countless men and women who have followed Christ’s call to take up their cross, deny themselves and follow after him. These saints, and especially the ascetics, are my daily reminder of the well-worn path I pursue.
Copyright 2009 Gregg Webb
Cross posted from Spiritual Friendship
Over the last few months I’ve been slowly working through what it looks like to grieve the loss of the “what might have been.”
For me the “what might have been,” is the husband I will never have. As a celibate gay man I will constantly wrestle with the intersection of my desires and my convictions. By following my desire to become like Christ through the life of the Orthodox Church, I must always be willing to give up anything that runs contrary to that life. For me, I’ve experienced this sacrifice most profoundly as I slowly grieve the real cost of my celibacy: saying no to a romantic and sexual relationship with another man.
Copyright 2013 Gregg Webb
We are people who enjoy comfort. It is easy to exist within a bubble where our ideas and world-views are only confirmed and never challenged. We are prone to shy away from opportunities for our own growth by allowing possible friends to remain strangers. Ideological differences are allowed to define and enforce separation often under the guise of safety. My own experience has shown that the bubble is never safe. It is far too easily ruptured when an uninvited co-worker, family member or classmate who would otherwise be an ideological object becomes a real person. When this happens we are forced to grapple with the tension that relationship creates in our lives. We must embrace a biblical calling to be “all things to all people” and by doing so understand our own convictions. It is only through relationship with others that our own understanding and faith can be fully deepened and formed.
There has been a great deal of hubbub about Alan Chamber’s announcement that Exodus International would be shutting down. (If you’re not familiar with Exodus International check out out my footnote on them.) I am glad to see that Alan Chambers has begun to seriously begin correcting many of the wrongs done in part by Exodus over the years. I am also glad to see that with Exodus’s closing the mainstream acceptance of reparative therapy has come to an end. Over the last five years Exodus has had an impact on my life in several ways, both negatively and positively, understandably my emotions surrounding their closure are also mixed.
Associated Press photo: by Shakh Aivazov
‘The one who loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘will keep my commandments’ and ‘this is my commandment, that you love one another.’ Therefore the one who does not love his neighbor is not keeping the commandment, and the one who does not keep the commandment is not able to love the Lord. -St. Maximus the Confessor*
Large crowds of anti-gay protestors gathered in the country of Georgia to disrupt a gay pride demonstration this week. Images and videos have circulated on my social networks and even one Orthodox priest on his popular blog hailed it as “taking action” to protect against the “disastrous consequences of ‘Gay Pride.’” All I can think about when I these images and read the accounts are the hundreds of same-sex attracted Georgians who have to watch their clergy, friends and families threatening to lash with stinging nettles and stones at people like them. Videos of thousands of men, women, and youth with numerous clergy mixed in show a terrifying scene. Over a dozen people were injured, mostly gay demonstrators and police. All of this makes me pause and wonder where Christ would have been in this scene.
Some of you may already know me from my posts over at Holy Protection but for those who don’t, I’m Gregg. I’m a 23-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri and have been part of the Eastern Orthodox Church since birth! I was the church poster boy when I was young. I served in the altar from the age of seven and thanks to being homeschooled attended weekday services regularly. At Sunday school and at Christian education at an Eastern Orthodox summer camp I was the guy who knew everything. Some years I wouldn’t answer questions just to avoid being a know-it-all! From the outside things looked pretty good. I had a family who loved me, I was highly involved in Church life and when I was 15 became one of my church’s main chanters, I attended various Orthodox educational opportunities, spent several summers at an Orthodox summer camp, and attended several Orthodox programs/conferences across the country. I didn’t cuss, I didn’t listen to music with curse words, I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, and I’d never had sex. I looked pretty good to almost anybody, but I knew that something deep inside of me was off, very off.