8 Jan

Thomas Hopko, Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections (Conciliar Press, 2006)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/08/07

"I use the expression 'same-sex attraction' in my reflections because I find the term 'homosexuality,' except in its most general usage, not very helpful. It seems more accurate and useful to speak of persons with same-sex feelings and desires that have a wide variety of causes, forms, and expressions. I reflect on how these same-sex attractions and emotions relate to Christian faith as understood and experienced in Orthodox Christianity. And I especially try to reflect on how they relate to love, as revealed by God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church." Thomas Hopko, Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections . . .

The behavior of various churches towards clergy and others who are attracted to members of the same sex has garnered much attention in the public square particularly since the early 2000s. MARS HILL AUDIO responded to the attention through interviews with scholars and theologians who illustrate the issues at hand, along with their theological, social, and legal implications. The conversationalists are Robert Gagnon (volume 68), Stanton L. Jones (v-50), Christopher Wolfe (v-49), and Hadley Arkes (v-22). Adding a pastoral perspective to the conversation through printed word is Father Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. In Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections, Hopko offers a theologically rich but easily accessible essay in how to think faithfully about, and in how to live alongside of, people with same-sex attractions. Hopko's work, with its nugget-sized chapters, is anchored firmly in the Orthodox tradition but bears wisdom for all branches of the Church.

Before addressing the particularities of the experiences of those who have same-sex attractions, Hopko establishes the framework for his discussion. In chapter one, "Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction," he explains who Christ is. In chapter two, "Christ and the Church," he explains that Christ's body is the Church and what that means for the Church's members. In chapter three, "A Three-Dimensional Experience," he describes the threefold reality in which the Church lives, namely that God created the world and all therein as good; that it has been corrupted through human sin; and that the crucified and risen Christ redeems and sanctifies all that has been afflicted. Supported by that foundation, the following twenty-four chapters of the book explore the realities listed in their titles and how people with same-sex attractions engage, or could engage, them. The chapters note how such engagement, although it taxes these souls uniquely, is similar to that of all those who are seeking God and sanctification. Father Hopko makes applications in the chapters that are based on his theological principles; some readers may dispute the applications even while agreeing with the principles.

The chapters are titled: "Same-Sex Attraction"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Goodness"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Passion"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sin"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Choice"; "Same-Sex Attraction and God's Will"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sanctity"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Asceticism"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Scripture"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Blessed Mourning"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Joy"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Friendship"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sexual Activity"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sexual Knowing"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Children"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Civil Rights"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Death"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Theology"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Religion"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Church Community"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Sacraments"; "Same-Sex Attraction and Pastoral Care"; "Same-Sex Attraction and the Counseling Process"; and "Same-Sex Attraction and Christian Witness Today." [Posted January 2007, ALG]