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Policing Orthodoxy’s Borders

Met. Kallistos Ware (Jim Forest/Flickr)

You might remember the other day a discussion here about the well-known Eastern Orthodox theologian Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, who was (unfairly) accused of coming out for same-sex marriage in an essay he wrote for an Orthodox theological journal, The Wheel. He didn’t do that, though he came awfully close. The Orthodox blogger John, at Ad Orientem, writes:

From my perspective he seems to be spouting the same theological revisionism that has devastated what we once called the Mainline Protestant denominations and which, like a deadly cancer, has now infected and is spreading within the Roman Catholic Church.

This needs to be addressed quickly and decisively. The Holy Synod must demand a formal affirmation of his adherence to the Orthodox Christian Faith which I believe would necessitate recanting a great deal of what he wrote. This is not a time or place for “dialogue,” one of the favorite words employed by modernists which can be generally understood to mean “let’s talk until you realize how wrong Christianity has been for its first two thousand years.” This is a time for a firm defense of Holy Orthodoxy in the face of liberal Protestant heresy.

He’s right about that. Met. Kallistos is a dear man — I have received hospitality from him — but this is dangerous stuff. There’s a reason why that Orthodox website was so quick to accuse Met. Kallistos of selling out. Many of us convert Orthodox who have seen what “dialogue” on this issue has done and is doing to our former churches are particularly on edge about it. This is “dialogue” as a strategy for putting heterodoxy on the same level as orthodoxy, and giving it a foothold until it has turfed orthodoxy out. Here, from the same journal, is an essay by the English Orthodox priest Andrew Louth. Excerpts:

In many of these cases, we find a similar pattern: the conservative reaction appeals to tradition, but too often this tradition turns out to be a reaction dictated by fear of change. If, however, tradition means what is handed down, and the process of handing down—as we are so often told—then the very notion of tradition is bound up with encountering change. There would be no need for the process of handing down the deposit of faith if everything remained the same, but things don’t remain the same and in- deed it often seems as if we live in a period of more dramatic change than has ever been known (though I expect that many in past ages had much the same perception)—which only means that we need to rethink what is the heart of what we believe in changed circumstances.

What’s interesting about his meandering essay, which appears in a journal published by sexual revisionists within Orthodoxy, is that it contains truth. This is how the modernizers are going to advance: by mingling heterodoxy with honest and truthful observations. Orthodox theology — pastoral and otherwise — really does need to contend with the radical changes in modern society regarding sexuality and gender. It is pastoral malpractice to ignore it, to pretend it will go away. At the same time, Orthodox clergy and theologians must face the questions it raises from a position firmly and uncompromisingly rooted in Scripture and Tradition. If our feet are firmly planted on solid ground, we can do this with insight, compassion, and fidelity. The problem with the essays by Met. Kallistos and Father Andrew is that they are so filled with hemming, hawing, and throat-clearing that one feels that one is in the presence of 1990s-era Anglican bishops, of both the theological left and the right, who are either afraid to say clearly what they really think, but who hope that by advancing “dialogue” they can put off confrontation.

The goal of those seeking “dialogue” is surrender by the orthodox. That’s it. We’ve seen this over and over in other churches. At this point, prelates and theologians have no excuse for ignorance.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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