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What is the appropriate relationship to have with friends who are homosexual?


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#1 Zakharia

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 09:47 AM

I have some good friends of my wife's that are a Lesbian couple. They have been together for 6 years and are honestly some of the most generous friends that my wife and I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. My wife has made it clear that we do not agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle, but we love them as people and respect them as friends. There really isn't a while lot of conflict over this point most of the time and they have never brought it up since that conversation. However, the couple has decided that they want to become parents and are now actively attempting fertilization with some material from the sperm bank.

I have no idea how to approach this at all. In my eyes it is wrong to intentionally and purposefully deprive a child of a father. If they are successful in their attempts to impregnate they will begin their own version of a family, complete with a child that has no responsibility for how it was brought into the world. I don't know how to show my love or my disapproval in a christian way With every person that has told me they are expecting it is so easy to say "Congratulations," but what do I say to this? I can't find the right words to express that I love my friends, but I think what they are doing crosses the line. It's also not my place to be their father, but I feel for the loss this child will experience. I grew up without a father due to a car accident, and the loss was immeasurable. This child will experience the same loss, but simultaneously be expected to celebrate it since it was pre-planned. What happens if this couple wants their child baptized? Baptizing an infant means that s/he is a member of the church, but you also must trust that the child is being raised in a home with Christian values to perform the mystery.

I'm sorry if I am rambling somewhat, but I am dumbfounded and at a complete loss here. I thought I had the balancing act, between Christian love and understanding with my homosexual friends, mastered but this has really upended my senses. They certainly don't make greeting cards for this.

#2 Jim McQuiggin

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 12:02 PM

This is a difficult situation and one that is becoming more frequent in our society. From my years of experience as a teacher in the public school system and from my observations elsewhere within my community, I have noticed that children raised by two homosexual parents (male or female) are loved and cared for zealously. They are generally well-adjusted socially. I attribute this to the stability of the home, not its makeup. There are many examples of unstable heterosexual couples who do not make good parents, so sexual orientation and practice is not the deciding factor here. However, when it comes to the child's spiritual development, I'm at as much of a loss as you are. I think it would be an Orthodox understanding that a child's social and spiritual development are only two facets of what constitutes the entire person. Here is where the role of godparents can be useful. It may be that the couple (or even, say, an unwed teenage mother) agree on an intellectual level with the Church but lack the faith and determination to put the teachings into practice. In that case, they may be willing to allow the godparents to assume a significant role in the child's spiritual training. But I really don't know. That is very much a pastoral matter that the priest under his bishop's direction would have to deal with.

In the meantime, I understand that "Congratulations" doesn't seem appropriate. What about this as a suggestion: "You're taking on quite a challenge. I hope he/she will be a blessing to you. You will all continue in my prayers."

#3 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 07:49 PM

I would rethink your friendship and reflect on the difference between liking and loving. Friendship is based on liking. Our friends are our friends because of a mutual likeness and liking. We like them because they are like us. They enjoy what we enjoy. We can therefore spend time together pleasantly and pleasurably, sharing the same joys and sorrows.

Love is something else. When we love someone, we will what is truly good for that someone regardless of our pleasure or theirs. Loving someone means doing what is good for them whether they like it or not. True love is therefore sometimes unpleasant for both us and others.

Sometimes for love's sake, we have to keep people at a distance so that we aren't obliged to live like them and support them in their sinfulness. We have to show them that their sinfulness separates them from others, from us, and of course from Christ. This is hard to do, especially when the world will condemn us as judgmental and hateful. But it is what the Fathers advise. They warn us not to have unbelievers as friends. They tell us to love them, pray for them, do good to them, but not keep them as friends, sharing all the things friends share with each other, conforming our lives to theirs instead of conforming our lives or their lives to Christ.

The Fathers do not counsel shunning unbelievers altogether, “for then must ye needs go out of the world,” says the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 5:10), but they do counsel separating ourselves from the wayward, both for our sake and for theirs, per the Apostle:

“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” (1 Cor. 5:11)



In Homily 14 on 2 Cor. 7:2-3, St. John Chrysostom writes:

“For it is the part of humanity not to humor the sick in every thing nor to flatter their unseasonable desires. No one so loved him that committed fornication amongst the Corinthians as Paul, who commandeth to deliver him to Satan; no one so hated him as they that applaud and court him; and the event showed it. For they indeed both puffed him up and increased his inflammation; but [the Apostle] both lowered it and left him not until he brought him to perfect health.


There is great wisdom in this counsel -- and great danger in not keeping it. Many people let their friends decide what is right and wrong for them, putting their fondness for their friends before their love of the Truth, and putting their fear of rejection before the love they should show their friends.

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 13 October 2012 - 08:08 PM.


#4 Paul Cowan

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 09:54 PM

Fr. Dcn,

I too have several gay friends, not that we hang out or anything. Perhaps friends is not the right word, I have several gay acquaintances I am friendly with and we confide in each other our struggles, but at the same time more than acquaintances, but not so much in that we ever see or talk outside of our present venue. Does that make sence?

They know my position as an Orthodox Christian on their lifestyle and mine. I am sure this thread will bring out a few of our "regulars" on this board and i don't want to fight that struggle again with them. (My brothers, you know who you are. Please forgive me)

At what point do we stop being friendly (or friends as the OP says) and cut ourselves off from them? What is the line in the sand? We hate the sin and love the sinner (as we all are) but St. Paul and St. John quoted above tell a very hard thing to do in the truning our backs on these people we have gotten to know. I can assure you their lifestyle in no way changes or corrupts my own beliefs. To turn my back on them becuase, in the above case they want to conceive, though may be "tough love" is not going to change their minds in trying to have a baby. They will just see this as "Those hateful biggoted Christians".

I too agree they should not conceive outside God's lawful marriage. (I can say that since I am not running for political office) How can we affect change or attitudes in their future lives if we turn our backs on them and leave them to their "potential" damnation? (no more so than my own) [I hate having to qualify everything I say just so no one will take my words the wrong way].

So what am I trying to say? How do we show Christian love and charity and turn our backs on our acquaintances once they cross that line in the sand and who tells them there is a line to cross?

Paul (I am not confrontational, I really want to understand your position and those of the quotes you kindly posted.)

#5 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 11:16 PM

Dear Paul, you seem to be assuming things I have not said. I have not advised Zakharia to "turn [his] back" on his Lesbian friends, "cut [himself] off from them," or "stop being friendly" to them; I have in fact said that we are to love them, do good to them, and not shun them entirely, in addition to which I have advised him to rethink his friendship, which means asking himself whether he and his wife are too close this couple, whether the couple really qualify as friends and should be maintained as friends, and whether truly loving the couple might mean something more than once declaring one's opinion of homosexuality and then going about as if it makes no difference. If we are to be at all faithful to the counsel of the Apostles and Fathers, we must put palpable limits on our association with such people, such that they regret the distance between us and them. Otherwise we are merely making it easier for them to continue as they are.

I would add that we cannot possibly expect to save our own souls if we cannot bear being despised as "those hateful bigoted Christians." All the martyrs have been.

#6 Paul Cowan

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 02:15 AM

Fr. Dcn, forgive me. I do not think I am assuming to put words in your mouth, but your quotes from St. Paul and St. John above directly say to not even eat with "these" people. What else is one to think if not to "cut [himself] off from them"? I don't mind being dispised, my current employer is making that plain to me at the moment... but if as you suggest to him to reevaluate his friendship and then they decide not to continue with thier relationship, then who is the victor? The one that righteously leaves the firendship or the one who no longer must endure the Christian presence whenever visits are made between them. It seems to me that a healthier outcome would be to remain in the friendship with boundaries agreed upon yet still be in a position to offer Christian values to their "wayward" lives.

To leave the friendship as most friendships die away anyway, I can only see ultimatums ensuing. "We love you but don't approve of your lifestyle so change or we are going to leave you or we are going to step away from you". Regardless, the friendship will die or wither solely due to this couple's lifestyle. No Christian witness I dare say is worse than some Christian witness. or is it?

Paul

#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 11:48 AM

Maybe the question can be put in the following way then:

does shunning have a place in Orthodox practice?

if so- then under what circumstances?

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 02:15 PM

Maybe the question can be put in the following way then:

does shunning have a place in Orthodox practice?

if so- then under what circumstances?

In Christ
-Fr Raphael


There are two situations for an adult Orthodox convert to think about. First, what to do, if anything, about existing friendships. Secondly, possible new friendships. The former is difficult and having no friends who are not practising Christians I have no experience in this. As to the second, do offers of friendship have to be declined? One may get on well with a colleague who is, say, homosexual, or a Buddhist, and the colleague suggests coming round for a drink or dinner. Is it appropriate to 'shun' - in the nicest possible way - that colleague's invitation? Probably it is.

We are told not to let anybody or anything come between us and Christ. If we detect any effect on our relationship with Christ as a result of certain relationships, then we have to draw away from them.

#9 John Konstantin

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 04:40 PM

Part of the problem is that we are all on different stages of the journey. I know some Christians who are weak in faith. One then discovers that they almost entirely socialise amongst non-believers. Even in the course of normal conversations taking the advice and sharing the woes of everyday life with them. The spiritually mature can often handle non-believing chums but for those fledgling orthodox Christians it could prove to be problematic. We shouldn't shun anyone but to take someone into position of intimacy with us will eventually highlight one's differences at a fundamental level. What fellowship hath light with darkness? And if so..to what degree?

#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 05:40 PM

After a number of years, it can happen that one finds one simply cannot have the sort of friendship with non-Orthodox people one had previously. There is little or no common ground of thoughts and so none for conversation in things that really matter.

#11 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 06:17 PM

Fr. Dcn, forgive me. I do not think I am assuming to put words in your mouth, but your quotes from St. Paul and St. John above directly say to not even eat with "these" people. What else is one to think if not to "cut [himself] off from them"? ... To leave the friendship as most friendships die away anyway, I can only see ultimatums ensuing. "We love you but don't approve of your lifestyle so change or we are going to leave you or we are going to step away from you". Regardless, the friendship will die or wither solely due to this couple's lifestyle. No Christian witness I dare say is worse than some Christian witness. or is it?



Sharing a meal is the most intimate thing we do with non-family members. We are sometimes obliged to eat with strangers at public or business events, but we dine at home only with family, friends, or people we are trying to get to know. We might occasionally dine with the grossly immoral for the purpose of evangelizing them, as Christ Himself did, but it seems plain to me that the Apostle is advising us not to dine with them for any other purpose, not to socialize with them casually or otherwise cultivate the friendship of such people. That would indeed mean "shunning" in the sense of avoiding close association with the grossly immoral, but not "shunning" in the sense of not having anything at all to do with them.

Paul, the dangers of getting too close to unbelievers are very real. When we make friends with unbelievers, we are often tricked into judging Christianity by what our unbelieving friends think of it. That seems to be what you are doing here, responding against what has been the Christian way since the Apostles because it will seem unloving to unbelievers you know and regard as friends. Sometimes disapproval is the best and only Christian witness we can offer, and often our continued kindness, unrelated to any continued attempt to correct the wayward, will only be received as acceptance and approval of immorality.

#12 Ryan

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 11:02 PM

I have family who are homosexual. I also have friends and family who could also be considered gluttonous, greedy, prideful, etc. I'm not sure why one particular sin is to be singled out above the rest. Some sinners are less repentant than others, but I hope none of my Christian friends would shun me for my sins.

#13 John Konstantin

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 12:50 AM

How do you know they are homosexual? Have they told you they engage in sodomy? Sexual acts? Or are you presuming such?

To say 'I might have gone over board on the extra cheese on my hamburger' puts me in the same league as a sodomite is ridiculous.

Yes there are lots of sins and yes we may be guilty of them but to exonerate one sin at the expense of another is fatuous.

It is as silly as saying:' Yes I'm a pedophile but at least I stick to less than 2000 calories a day and give to charity.'

#14 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 01:41 AM

The saying "no sin is worse than any other sin" is useful to remind us not to take our own sins for granted, but it's hardly an argument for taking grave sins lightly. The Apostle Paul and many Fathers do actually speak of sodomy as about as bad as one can get. This afternoon by coincidence, while reading Chrysostom's homily 2 on 1 Timothy, I stumbled over him asking rhetorically, "What, for instance, is more offensive than fornication?" Then there's my favorite quotation from the Goldenmouth, because it fits our own day so aptly:

O ye subverters of all decency, who use men as if they were women, and lead women out to war as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to subvert and confound all things, to overlap the boundaries that have been appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God has set to nature. [Homily 5 on Titus]


And John Konstantin is right: If you don't want to involve your family or friends in the argument, then don't do so.

#15 Ryan

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 01:58 AM

Perhaps someone could provide a schema for determining which sins require shunning/ breaking off friendships/ disowning, and which do not.

#16 Ryan

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 02:09 AM

I think you will find it here Ryan.


I said nothing about "exoneration." As if exoneration is the only alternative to shunning! I said nothing along the lines of "we're all sinners, so fornication is OK." What I did say, and I'll say it again, is that I see no serious basis for singling out homosexuality as a graver sin than other more common sins such as greed, anger, or other forms of lust for that matter.

#17 Eric Peterson

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:12 AM

No one is worse of a sinner than I am, since they sin in ignorance, and I in knowledge.

For my part, I try not to be the one to end a relationship, unless that relationship is explicitly harmful to me, and even then it does not end with a lecture or with shunning, but just withdrawl.

What one does depends on many factors. There is no one size fits all solution to problems.

I wouldn't say homosexual sins are of the same level of seriousness as all other sins. There are definitely degrees of seriousness for sins. It's not to make light of sin as a serious problem, but I don't think every sin can be treated exactly the same--this ends up distorting a lot of things, such as how these sins are fought against and healed.

To be a friend or relative to someone who openly sins and has no interest in repentance and would not even understand what you said if you talked to them about it is very difficult. It is a cross. But from the cross come blessings. We are concerned for our friend and loved one. We pray more. We have pain of heart. We recognize that human beings are a mix of sin and virtue. Harlots have raised the dead and righteous men have been condemned because of not being humble.

One homosexual person is not the same as another. Each has a different understanding of himself and his condition. Some actively oppose the truth and justify themselves, others do not. Christians need to have some sort of relationship with all people in prayer if not in person. In my opinion, we have not done the best job in reaching out to the rejected.

#18 Owen Jones

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 08:32 AM

If the topic was -- I have a friend of my wife's who is extremely vain and heartless and it is quite obvious for all to see and I am wondering what should I do? -- then you would have the same set of issues at stake. I don't think anyone is singling out homosexuality as the supreme sin. They are just responding to the topic. Yet this argument always seems to come up in any discussion of this particular sin -- why do you claim that homosexuality is worse than any other sin? It has always struck me as a straw man argument. I frankly find it far worse when I see people who claim to be Christian, who pray in public over their meals even, who are shacking up. But that's not the topic. The topic is, how do I relate, as a Christian, to a homosexual couple who, by the way, are planning children? Also, I don't see anyone here saying that you MUST do this or that, but rather, in good faith, trying their best to respond to the question.

#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:49 AM

Interesting how homosexuality excites people's feelings. Sodom and Gomorrah seemed to be places of unrestrained licentiousness where not even ten good men could be found. The men there were also guilty of the offence of refusing hospitality to strangers (a serious matter in eastern societies even now) and of avarice. 'Sodomy' evokes casual and habitual homosexual activities. In our time, we may see a homosexual couple who live in a stable and exclusive relationship (as appears to be the case in the question raised). Is that comparable with the goings on at Sodom, or, indeed, at Corinth (in St Paul's time)? Contrast the heterosexual promiscuity of many young people today. Is the former worse than the latter? And who are we to judge? As is so often the case, what we have from scripture and the Fathers is clear but it is often diffficult to know just how to apply in our times. And what does our Lord Jesus Christ say - that sodomy is as bad as it gets?


"And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor'rah than for that town."


"And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."



We should attend to ourselves but that may entail how we interact with others.

Edited by Andreas Moran, 15 October 2012 - 11:23 AM.


#20 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 02:09 PM

The apostolic and patristic testimony against sodomy is plain. How can we ignore it? How can we ignore it and still insist that the Fathers be followed on so many other things, as people often do here?

We are not dealing here with a merely private sin; we are dealing with a very public sin bearing witness against nature, against the Church, and against God. For that reason alone, we should not associate too closely with such people, just as we should not associate too closely with Jews, Muslims, or others who openly reject Christ. That is what the Church has always taught.




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