Moscow, June 14, 2017
From June 7 to 9, an international group of Orthodox pastors and theologians gathered in Amsterdam to discuss matters of sexuality and pastoral care, reports the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology (ACOT) of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which hosted the event.
Participants reflected “on a wide range of matters concerning human sexuality as addressed by science and natural law, theological anthropology, legal issues, psychology, and pastoral care.” The event was reportedly conducted in a harmonious atmosphere, with those gathered discussing “how the Orthodox Churches might consider and respond to current pastoral questions while remaining faithful to Christ, the Gospel and Orthodox Christian Tradition.”
Humphrey writes: “The group was not monolithic in views, and discussed many different aspects of pastoral care and sexual matters. It did not meet to strategize or to make plans for the Church, but simply was a group of academics and clergy whose writings or pastoral concerns have touched upon these topics.”
That the group would not be monolithic in views is evident from the list of participants (full list given below). One participant, Fr. Philip LeMasters, for instance, ably gave voice to an Orthodox conscience on troubling matters of modern “sexuality,” when he wrote in a homily, “It is not yet clear how far the agenda of deconstructing maleness and femaleness will go, but to make gender identity simply a matter of subjective self-definition should deeply trouble us all, and especially advocates of the rights and equality of women.”
However, concerns have been raised about several well-known participants who give voice to views outside the bounds of Holy Orthodoxy. The blog Monomakhos notes that attendee Aristotle Papanikolaou is the co-founder, along with George Demacopoulos, of Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center, which publishes the blog Public Orthodoxy, which has proved to be quite controversial in its short existence. The blog recently hosted the article “Conjugal Friendship” by Giacomo Sanfilippo, a defrocked Orthodox priest and publicly-known practicing homosexual, in which the author attempts to justify homosexuality, stating that “Holy Tradition possesses in germinal form everything necessary to articulate, thoughtfully and cautiously, an Orthodox theology and spirituality of what we now call same-sex love, adequate to the pastoral needs of the 21st century and fully consistent with the ascetical ethos of Orthodox life for all.”
Public Orthodoxy has also recently published an article from Mark Arey, who gave up his Orthodox priesthood after 30 years and “married the love of his life,” as his biography states.
Another participant, Gayle Woloschak serves on the advisory board of the online journal The Wheel, which also includes Fr. Robert M. Arida, who argued in favor of homosexuality on the OCA’s Wonder blog, aimed especially at youth. The Brotherhood of the Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston and Southeast Texas released a statement responding to Arida, saying in part, “Fr. Robert Arida’s recent and past statements on the issue of homosexuality are a scandal to the faithful. They also present those who are sincerely struggling against homosexual temptations with additional temptations, and misdirection.”
The Wheel’s editorial board includes Gregory Tucker, a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and PhD student of Fordham University, who is involved in a homosexual “marriage” with a former hieromonk who gave up his priesthood and broke his monastic vows to live with Tucker. He has also contributed to Public Orthodoxy. Also on the board is Inga Leonova, an architect, writer, and educator, who is the founder of a pro-homosexuality group on Facebook, who has also contributed to Public Orthodoxy.
The 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 (OCA), 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).