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PotentialLGBTIAffirmativeDiscourseoftheOrthodoxChurch.

ChallengesandHopes
byMishaCherniak

Preamble
Iamwritingthispapernotasanacademictheologian,butasanOrthodoxbelieverconversantin
Orthodoxtheologyandasanactivistbelievingthatthereisalwaysacreativesolutionandawayoutof
deadlocks.

Context
WhyistheOrthodoxChurchimportantinthecontextofhumanrightsbattlesinthemodernworld?
Firstofallbecauseitcomprisessome250millionpeopleworldwide.Itisthesecondlargestfamilyof
churchesconsideringthemselvestobeonecommunion.Itiswellrepresentedinsuchecumenical
bodiesastheWorldCouncilofChurchesandtheConferenceofEuropeanChurches.Anditisknown
forhavingblockedthediscussiononmanyissuesthatitconsidersextrinsictotheOrthodoxfaith.
Moreover,attemptstodialoguewithitusingtheargumentsandthevocabularyofhumanrightshave
provenfruitless,asthislanguageismostlyforeigntotheOrthodoxdiscourse.Soinordertopromote
dialoguewiththeOrthodoxChurchonthesecontemporaryissuesonefirstneedstounderstandwhy
theChurchoftheEastdoesnotrespondtotheexcellentargumentsofthehumanrightsdiscourseand
thenlookatwherearethepotentialentrypointsfromwithinOrthodoxtheologyandtradition.
Especiallysince,asIandsomeotherOrthodoxtheologiansandactivistsbelieve,Orthodoxtheologyis
theoreticallythemostLGBTIaffirmingcurrentinthewholeChristiantradition,oratleastamongthe
socalledhistoricalchurches.Thechallengeistofindthekeytoopenitupfromtheinside.
Inordertodothisitisimportanttoclearawaytherhetoricaldebristhathavebeenlayeredontopof
Orthodoxtraditionandnowpretendtobeinherenttoit.Allthoseargumentsareusinggenuinely
Orthodoxconceptstoservesomeotherungodlygoals.Forexample,ifonelooksatthecompositionof
those250millionpeople,onewouldseethatapproximately68%liveinformerSovietterritories,16%
liveinotherpostcommunistcountries,2%liveintheMiddleEastandAfrica,and14%liveintheWest.
Ofcourse,itishardtodefinewhoisanOrthodoxbeliever(bearersofthesocalledOrthodoxculture,
nominalbelieversorthosesharingthecreedandsomehowinvolvedintheeverydayworship
practice).Andthefiguresvaryconsiderablydependingonthecriteria.Yet,inthecontextofculture
wars,letsagreetothemaximumnumbersandcountallthebearersofOrthodoxmentalityand
culture.Sowhatdothosefigurestellus?Firstofall,thatwearedealingwiththeinheritanceofthe
communistregimesofthe20thcentury.TheChurchhasbeenbothoppressedandcorruptedbythose
regimes.And,thus,inmanycasesthepresumablyOrthodoxrejectionoftheaffirmativediscourseon
humanrights,sexuality,etc.,isnotduetotheOrthodoxtraditionitself,butratherduetothesocial
andsecularissueshavinglittletodowiththeChurchitself.
ThisisjustoneexampleofthingsthatmayhaveframedtheOrthodoxdiscoursethewaywe
experienceit.Therearemanymorefactorstoconsiderwhiledeconstructingtheseframes,suchas
history,geography,politics,etc.Letuslookatsomeexamplesofsuchcontradictions.

Clashes

Thehumanrightsperspective(andmorewidelyhumanisticperspective)putsthehuman
beinginthecentre(soitisanthropocentric),whilethewholeOrthodoxworldviewiscentred
aroundGod(whichmeansitistheocentric).Nowonderthatthelatterisseenassomething
superior.
Inthisperspective,theissueofrightsisconsideredtobenonChristiansinceatruebeliever
doesnotdemandrights,butremembershisduty,hedoesnotaskwhattheChurch(orGod)
candoforhim,butratherwhathecoulddofortheChurch(orGod).
Thus,standingfortherightsofapersonisconsideredanegotisticposition,foronehastocare
forgreaterthingsandhigherauthorities,firstandforemost,theChurch.Besides,nationis
alsoseenasaconceptsuperiortotheconceptofaperson,and,asRussiaanditsallieshave
recentlyclaimedattheleveloftheUNHumanRightsCouncil,itsrightsshouldbeesteemed
higherthanthoseofaperson.
Orthodoxbelieversmaysaythattheirtheocentricpositionisobjective,whilethatofhuman
rightsissubjective.ThisbecomesevenclearerifwebearinmindthattheOrthodoxlifestyle
presupposessobriety(spiritualselfcontrolortemperance)avirtueofavoidingspiritual
delusionsthatarethedevilstraphidingbehindanythingtoopersonalandpossiblydiverging
fromthenormsandcanonsoftheChurch.ThiscollideswithallegedlyWestern
psychologisationthatpromotesthevalueofselfawareness.Thisalsohinderstheuseof
personalstoriesasanadvocacytool.Whileinpersonalcontactsthesetypesofstoriesstill
work,butattheleveloftheofficialdialoguetheymaymeetwithaseriouscriticism,ifnota
completerebuttal.
Selfacceptance(withallitsbornthiswaymassculturepromotion)isnotaparticularly
popularconceptintheOrthodoxworldeither,asitsupposedlygoesagainsttheverypurpose
ofhumanlifethatistheosis.Thelatter,translatedsometimesasdeification,isaprocessof
gradualcomingintounionwithGod,which,oftenbymeansofselfdenial,sacrificesand
variousasceticpractices,presumesthegradualtranscendingonesweaknessesand
imperfections.WhatisimportantisthatforanOrthodox,thisovercomingdoesnotnecessarily
meanreachingthedesiredstate.Theprocessitselfandthestrivingareconsideredtobe
enough,evenwhendespitealltheefforts,changesdonotarrive.Forexample,some
Orthodoxgroupsproposeovercomingoneshomosexuality,eventhoughthereisno
evidenceofsucheffortshavingsucceededinchanginganyonessexualorientation.
Paradoxically,subjectiveselfdeterminationcollideswithacceptingonesGodgivenidentity.
AnychangesorattemptstomeddlewithitareseenasarebellionagainstGod.Amongother
factors,thisexplainstheverynegativestancetakenbymanyOrthodoxChurchesandpastors
towardstransgenderpeople,especiallythoseundergoingtransition.
Theideaofsexualrightsandapositiveapproachtosexualityingeneralarerareinthe
Orthodoxworld.TheChurch,runbymonksformanycenturieswhohaveimposedamonastic
agendaonthelaity,trieshardtopretenditcaresonlyforthingsdivineandheavenly.And
suchframingexcludessexualityassomethingdangerouslyearthlyandcarnal.Yet,body
hatredbasedonthebeliefthatbodyisaprisonforthesoulandmerelyasourceof
temptationsandsinsisactuallycharacteristicofPlatonismorGnosticism,andcanhardlybe
calledapartoftrueChristiantradition.
TheveryconceptofhumandignityhasbeenchallengedrecentlybysomeOrthodoxcircles,
forexample,theinfamousBasicTeachingonHumanDignity,FreedomandRightsofthe
RussianOrthodoxChurch,2008).Accordingtothisdocument,thedignityofahumanbeingis
notasunquestionableandinalienableasitmayseemfromthehumanisticpointofview.

ManyintheOrthodoxworld,thoughfortunatelynotall,believethatassinscandarkenthe
imageofGodinus,sodotheydiminishthisdignity.Thisisaverydangeroustheorythatcan
leadtonumerousmanipulationsandjustifyallsortsofdiscrimination.
Strivingforpersonaldevelopmentandprogress,aimingtoimprovethelivingconditionsand
circumstancesmaybeseenasgoingagainstthevirtueofhumility,asafailuretoacceptones
ownlotandperseveresufferings.
Beliefinprogressasadvancementforthesakeofimprovementofhumanconditionsandthe
aspirationsfocusedonthefutureingeneralarehardlycompatiblewiththeOrthodox
orientationtoTraditionandhistoricity.InOrthodoxtheologyandpractice,anynewconcepts
havetobecheckedagainstthewritingsoftheChurchFathers.Ifnotfoundthere,thenew
conceptswillmostprobablyberejected.Thefocusofahistoricaldenominationonthepastis
understandableonmanylevels.However,thelackoftrustforanythingmodernisavery
dangeroustrait.Suchchurchwouldinevitablyfinditselfprogressivelyfurtherdetachedfrom
theexperienceofitsflock,speakingnonsenseandmakingscientificallyungroundedclaims.
ThefocusonthepastbecomesevenmoredangerouswhenwerealizethatforsomeOrthodox
itjustifiesthelackofinterestintheplaguesofthecontemporaryworld.Whyconcern
themselveswithinjustice,povertyorenvironmentalissuesifsalvationcanbeframedas
somethingentirelybeyondthisworld?Yes,thetranscendentnatureoftheKingdomofGod
allowsonetopaylessattentiontoearthlytribulations.Yet,eventhoughthecriteriaofcaring
forthelessfortunatethatChristisgoingtoapplyattheLastJudgmentweresetoutbyhim
veryclearly,theOrthodoxsometimesviewtheallegedlyWesternaccentonsocial
responsibilityandministryoftheChurchrathercondescendingly.Buildingajustworldand
bringingpeoplehappinesshereandnowmaybeconsideredadeviationfromthetrue
vocationoftheChurchtopraiseGod.
Thevalueofmakingonesowndecisionsandchoosingonesownpathinthelightoftheright
toselfdeterminationdeterioratesinthecontextoftheOrthodoxmodelofcollectivedecision
makingandcommunitybuildingcalledconciliarity,synodalityorintheSlavictradition,
sobornost.Whilethisisaveryimportantandevenpositivemodelintermsofcounteracting
authoritariantendenciesintheChurchandfosteringChurchunity,theproblemisthatinthis
modelindividualmovesandeffortsareoftenconsideredselfishandhostile.
Thevalueofnonconformityandthenotionofdaring,thoughconstantlypresentintheBible
(uptothepointofJacobfightingGodhimself),havebeenneutralizedinthelifeoftheChurch
bytheneverendingestablishingofstructures,andtheunderstandingofhierarchyasthe
Godgivenprinciple.
Addingtothatisthevalueofobedience,comingfromthemonastictraditionthatnow
dominatestheOrthodoxChurch.Inthisparadigm,thereisnoplaceforafreedomof
expressionandspeech.
Thesameproblemiseasilytransposedtothesocialdimension.Acitizensrightto
insubordination,rebellion,orcivildisobedienceisstronglyquestionedintheOrthodox
tradition.ThewellknownwordsofStPaulfromRomans13:12(Leteveryonebesubjectto
thegoverningauthorities,forthereisnoauthorityexceptthatwhichGodhasestablished.The
authoritiesthatexisthavebeenestablishedbyGod.Consequently,whoeverrebelsagainstthe
authorityisrebellingagainstwhatGodhasinstituted,andthosewhodosowillbring
judgmentonthemselves.)couldpotentiallyhavedifferentinterpretations,butnotinthe
Orthodoxcontext.Here,historicallytheimportanceofsymphonia(oraccord)betweenthe
Churchandstatehasalways,sinceByzantinetimes,beenvaluedtoohigh.TheOrthodox
Churches,especiallytheethnicones,alignthemselveswiththeinterestsoftheirrespective
stateswaytooreadily.Theoretically,theconceptofsymphoniapresupposesmutualrespect,

withneitherinstitutiondominatingtheother.However,inpracticetheChurchalwaysloses
thisgame,assuchdancingwithCaesargoesagainstitsnaturewhilebeingcompletelyinline
withthenatureofthestate.Unfortunately,theOrthodoxChurches(atleastsomeofthem)
havelearnedtocondemnanyformofcivilprotest.
Andfinally,theuniversalcharacterofhumanrightsisaredflag.Opponentsclaimthatthat
theWestforcestheconceptofhumanrightsontheRestandimposesaforeignmindsetonto
unique,localcultures.Joiningforceswiththeantiglobalistandseparatistmovementsgaining
momentuminvariouspartsoftheworld,thispurportedlytraditionpreservingeffortisinfact
layingafoundationforthecompleterenunciationofdemocraticstandards.Itisaperfect
exampleofpoliticalframingwhenvaluesaremisusedandabusedinordertojustifyinjustice.
ItisespeciallysadthattheOrthodoxarekeentousethisframe,eventhoughtheexaggerated
focusontheethnicattheexpenseoftheuniversalwasclearlycondemnedbythe
ConstantinoplePanOrthodoxSynodof1872astheecclesialheresyofphyletism.

Thislistisdefinitelynotexhaustive.EveryonewhohascomeacrosstheOrthodoxactivistsand
speakersonalllevelshasseensuchmatrices.TheyareusedinpoliticallobbyingattheCouncilof
EuropeandattheUN.TheyareusedtoblocktheworkoftheWorldCouncilofChurchesandthe
ConferenceofEuropeanChurches.Theyareusedtobuildalliancesofreligiousrightallovertheworld
(organizationssponsoringthisconservativeagendainEasternEuropearethesameonesthatstand
behindthelobbyingofthedeathpenaltyforhomosexualityinUganda).Toacertainextent,wecan
seetheirusagebytheRussianstatetodestabilizetheEuropeanUnionfromtheinside.
ButwhatdoessuchanOrthodoxChurchhavetooffertotheworld?Thegeneralpicturethatthese
framesformisthatofaChurchthatabsolutizestradition;focusessolelyonthepast;trustsonlythe
ChurchFathers;despisesanythingmodern;rejectsprogress,science,orpsychology;discardspersonal
experiences;ignoressexualnatureofhumanbeings;caterstocollectives,hierarchies,andstructures;
andservestheinterestsofthestate.Isthisall?
Yetagain,IrepeatthatquiteafewofthosesupposedlyOrthodoxkeynotionsarenotreallywhat
Orthodoxyisabout.OnewaytoputitisthattheyareabouttraditionsandnotabouttheTradition
withthecapitalt.Otherwiseneutralorgoodnotionsandconceptsaretransposedornarroweddown
andtheresultingframesareusedasargumentsagainstthehumanrightsdiscourse,genderequality,
andLGBTrights.ThusakeystrategyistoremindtheOrthodoxChurchofitstrueself.
UnlesstheOrthodoxChurchiswhatittheoreticallyshouldbe,thenthedialoguewithexternalactors
isdoomed:thefundamentalistparty,withitssiegementality,seeingitselfasthedefenderoftrue
faithandtradition,israrelyempatheticandopentolisteningwhenapproachedfromtheoutside.Itis
moreinthenatureoftheliberaltobeabletotryontheopponentsshoes.Thatiswhytheliberal
forcesneedtolearntousethevocabularyoftheChurchandbasetheirargumentsonthemost
inherentconceptsoftheOrthodoxtraditionandtheology.OnlyworkingfromwithintheChurch
perspectivemayadvancethedialogueorevenopenupnewspacesforthatdialogue.Inthenextpart
ofthispaper,Iwilloutlineseveralofsuchpotentialwindows.

PositiveInput
Thelistoftheseopeningswillnotbeexhaustiveeither,butIwilloutlinewhatwasimportantforme
personallywhenIhadtoreconcilewithinmyselfmyidentitiesasanOrthodoxbelieverandasa
homosexualandhumanrightsactivist.

Withacertaindegreeofsimplification,onecanstatethattheEasterntheologyisapophatic(or
negative,dealingwithknowledgeofGodobtainedthroughnegation),unliketheWesternonewhichis
kataphatic(positive,dealingwithknowledgeofGodobtainedthroughaffirmation).Thismeansthatin
theWesttraditiondeemsitnecessarytorationallyandpositivelyclassify,define,anddescribeGod
anddivinematters(weknowthatGodisthisandthat).TheEastpreferstostandinawebeforethe
mysteryofGodanddescribeHimnegatively(wecanonlyknowthatGodisnotthisandnotthat,but
asfortherestitishiddenfromus).SaintCyrilofJerusalem,inhisCatecheticalHomilies,states:For
weexplainnotwhatGodisbutcandidlyconfessthatwehavenotexactknowledgeconcerningHim.
ForinwhatconcernsGodtoconfessourignoranceisthebestknowledge.Suchanapproachisagood
antidotetotheWesterntasteforclassificationsandlabels.Forexample,cataloguesofsinsand
distinctionbetweenthemortalandthevenialonesarrivedintheEastfromtheWestquitelatein
Churchhistory.Another,evenmoreimportantexampleisthattheOrthodoxtraditioninitially
refrainedfromsinglingoutspecificsacramentsbutratherconsideredthewholelifeoftheChurchand
ofbelieversasacramentoffaith.Theapophaticapproachischaracteristicofthemysticallyinclined
Easterntraditionandpraxisonmanylevels.Yet,whatinterestsushereisthatOrthodoxyknowshow
toleavethingsnotanalysed,describedorspelledout.Whenweseeanaspectofrealitythatdoesnot
fitintoourclassification,wecandecidetolivewithit,asitisGodsmysterywhyorhowthisparticular
aspectofrealitycameintobeing,andwhatHewilldowithit.Itdoesnotnecessarilyneedtobe
labelledasin.Noteverythingnotexplicitlypermittedshouldbeforbidden.Evenifwedonotknow
howthevarietyofsexualorientationsandgenderexpressionsfitsourpictureofGodsinitialdesign,it
doesnotmeanitiswrongorwasnotplannedbyHim.EspeciallysincetheParadiseasthepointof
originandtheKingdomofGodasourdestinationaretwodifferentthings.
InPatristicpastoraltheology,therearetwoapproachesproposed:akribeiaandoikonomia(and
paradoxically,aswithmanythingsintheEast,bothapproachesmustcoexist).Theformermeansstrict
adherencetotheletterofthelawoftheChurch,abidingwithinthesetboundariesandfollowingthe
rules,forhumansoulisfallibleandneedsdiscipline.Thelatter,alsospelledeconomyandderiving
fromtheGreekwordforhousekeeping,meansdiscretionarydeviationfromtheletterofthelawin
ordertoadheretothespiritofthelawthatisloveandcharity.Takingtheeconomyapproachmeans
thatcertainshortcutsshouldbemadeifwewantthehouseofGodtobebuiltandtoexistandnotbe
empty,exactlybecausethehumansoulisfallible,thereisnobodyperfectandweallneedsalvation
anddivinegrace.Themainimplicationofthisapproachisthegeneralacceptanceofexceptionsand
nonnormativecases,forthereisonlyoneJudgeandHeismercifulandcompassionate.Makingfinal
decisionsisHisexclusiveprerogative.Thisunderstanding,combinedwiththeapophaticattitude,has
ledmanypastorstoacceptandwelcomeLGBTpeopleintheirparishes.Theseclergymenhavedecided
tobasetheiropiniononthefruitsoftheirparishionerslives(cf.Mt17:6).
Orthodoxyknowswhatdiversitymeans.Itis(atleasttheoretically)unitedwithoutuniformityorone
centraladministration.Suchecclesiologyallowsforamuchmorepracticalrealisationoftheprinciple
customarilybuterroneouslyattributedtoStAugustine:Inessentials,unity;innonessentials,liberty;
inallthings,charity.Innondogmaticissues,thelocalautocephalouschurchesareabletomaketheir
owndecisions,applytheirownpoliciesandadopttheirlocalsocialpractices.Forexample,thishas
allowedsomelocalOrthodoxChurchestobemuchmorewelcomingtoLGBTmembersintheir
congregations(e.g.,intheUnitedStatesorFinland).
Thisprincipleisreinforcedinthehistoricalperspective,sincethecompulsorydecisions(thoughsome
ofthoseareoutdatedandnotobserved,andsomeothersshouldprobablyfollowsuit)weremadeat
theEcumenicalCouncilsofthefirstmillennium.Therest,untilthenextCounciltakesplaceanduntil
itsdecisionsgainuniversalreceptionbytheentireChurch,arelefttothepastoraldiscretionofthe
localchurches,bishops,evenconcretepastors.Thoughtheoreticallythiscouldcreatechaosand

contradictions,inpracticeitpreventsmanyofthosepastorsfromhidingthemselvesbehindthewalls
ofrulesandallowsthemtogettoknowspecificreallifecasesandapplyapproachesthataremuch
moreflexible.Intheperspectiveofthenewecumenical(or,intheabsenceofthePatriarchofRome,
ratherpanOrthodox)councilsorsynodshappening(liketheHolyandGreatCouncilplannedforthis
PentecostinCrete),thesituationwillmostprobablyremainthesame:theOrthodoxChurchesintheir
diversebackgroundsareunlikelytoreachanagreementoncontroversialissuesandwouldingeneral
becautioustodosooreventobringittotheagendaofthemeeting.Whatwilldefinitelybe
reiteratedisthefocusontraditionalandfamilyvalues,butevenaquickanalysisoftheseconceptsis
enoughtodemonstratehowvaguetheircontentisandhowartificiallytheyareframedforpolitical
purposes.
Intheory,Orthodoxyknowshowtorespectscienceandincorporatescientificknowledgeintoits
worldview.Inthefirstcenturies,theChurchFathers,whilepreparingtheirtheologicaltreatises,were
notafraidtoinvitesecularorevenpaganscientiststoassisttheminwriting(ifnotwritingthemselves)
thepartsdedicatedtoscientificexplanationsofspecificphenomena.Theirtheologywasoftendeeply
rootedinthescientificknowledgeoftheirdayandage.ThebestexampleisSt.GregoryofNyssawith
hisanthropology.Unfortunately,todaymanyintheChurchconsidersciencetobenonneutral,partof
ahostileideology.Theywouldliketobeabletopickandchoosewhattoacceptfromscientific
knowledgeandwhattoreject.
InsomeplaceswheretheOrthodoxChurchisnotallowedtoconductstateregistrationofmarriages,it
haslearnedtorespectcivilmarriage.TheOrthodoxChurchremembersthatthesacramentof
marriagewasnotintroducedattheearlieststagesofChristianity.InOrthodoxtheology,amarriageis
enteredintobytwopersonstakingresponsibilityforeachother,whilethesacramentofmarriageis
madebyGod.TheChurchseesadifferencebetweenthesetwothings.Itdoesrequirefromits
membersnottosettleforthesmalleroption.However,onlyinformalunions(i.e.,cohabitation)are
condemnedasasin.Inpracticethatmeansthatifanoldcouple,marriedforsome40years,converts
toOrthodoxy,theyarenotrequiredtorepentfortheyearslivedwithoutthesacramentalmarriage
unlikeintheCatholicChurchtheirlifetogetherwontbeconsideredasin.Anotherexampleknownto
me:inoneMoscowparish,therectorgotsotiredofyoungpeoplerushingintomarriagesandthen
askingfordivorceshortlyafterwardthathenowrequiresthemtogoandfirstenterthecivilmarriage
(asRussianChurchdoesnotperformthose).Thenaftersomesixmonths,theyshouldcometohimfor
thesacramentalone.Theimplication(thoughpurelytheoreticalatthemoment)isthatinstates
wheresamesexmarriagesareofficial,theOrthodoxChurchmustalsolearntorespectthose.
AsignificantpercentageoftheOrthodoxclergyismarried(e.g.intheRussianOrthodoxChurchsome
mere3%ofpriestsaremonks).Besidesshowingageneralrespectforhumanlove,thisalso
demonstratesthattheOrthodoxChurch(unlikeitsCatholicsister)doesnotresorttocelibacyasthe
ultimateresponsetocomplexityofhumansexuality.IntheOrthodoxChurchtherecurrentlyseemto
benogroupsorpeopleinspecificcircumstancesonwhomtheChurchimposesstayingsinglefrom
above.AndthereisnoreasonwhycelibacyshouldbeforcedonOrthodoxLGBT.
IntheOrthodoxunderstandingofmarriage,procreationisnotseenastheprimaryobjectiveof
marriage.Itcanandpossiblyshouldbeitsfruit.Theobjective,however,istherelationshipitself:the
unionoftwopeopleand,inthesacramentofmarriage,theunionofthreepersonsthecoupleand
God.Procreationisnotinstrumentalizedtobemerelyavalidationformarriage.Anawebeforethe
diversityofsituationsandGodswayscanbeseenevenhere.
Thisisalsoconnectedtoamuchmoreliberalapproachtocontraception.Thoughthereisnodecision
onthatissuemadebyanyecumenicalcouncil,moreorlessalllocalChurchestoleratetheuseof
barriercontraceptionforthelaity(ifitisnotusedoutofselfishmotivation).Theclergyhoweveris

calledtobeanexampletothelaity,soheretheakribeiaapproachmayprevailinsomepartsofthe
world.
Lastbutnotleast,intheOrthodoxChurchtheEucharistic/parishcommunityplaysacentralrole,
especiallyinthecontextofthesocalledEucharisticrenaissancetakingplaceallovertheOrthodox
world.Duetovarioushistoricalfactors,bythe20thcenturythecommunitydimensionofChurchlife
hasbeenlongneglectedandreceivingCommunionforlaymenhasbecomeaveryraredutyrather
thanajoyfulencounterwithGodandconsciousparticipationintheverycentralactoftheChurch.
VariousOrthodoxtheologiansandwritersfromdifferentpartsoftheOrthodoxworldbeganreminding
oftheimportanceoftheEucharistandoftheroyalpriesthoodofallfaithful.Andgraduallythefire
startedspreadingaround.Whiletheprocessisfarfromover,ithasalreadyraisedtheselfawareness
ofmanyOrthodoxbelievers.TheyrealisethattheyhaveanactiveroletoplaybothintheEucharist
itself,aswellasinthebuildingofthecommunity,andthroughboththosewaysmysticallyand
practicallycontributingtothelifeoftheChurch.Thoseparishcommunitieswheresuchformationis
giventothemembersseenotonlyariseinsocialministryandmission,butalsoagreateropennessto
theother.Generallyhigherlevelofinvolvementandselfawarenessamongparishionersallowsthem
toseetheothernotasachallengeandthreattotheirfaith,butasaneighbourandfellowbeliever.
Thatiswhyinmanycases,suchcommunitieshavealsoprovedtobeaplaceofgreaterconcernfor
genderequalityandinclusionformarginalcasessuchasLGBTbelievers.Parishionersgettoknow
eachother,theytakeresponsibilityforoneanother,andtheyshareeachothersburdens.Trustallows
theLGBTmembersofthecommunitytoopenupandcomeout.Thiscloseness,sharingoflivesand
trust,makestheparishcommunityenvironmentthekey(ifnottheonly)spaceinOrthodoxywhere
personalstoriescanreallywork.Thesametrustthenallowsthecommunitymemberstomakebrave
decisionstoembracesuchexceptionseventhoughitmaycontradictwiththeletteroftheChurchlaw.
Ofcourse,thisisaslightlyidealisticviewofthesituation.However,thenumberofsuchcommunities
isgrowingbytheday.Andobservationsshowthatinmostcasesthisprocessfollowstheprocessof
overallrenewalofEucharisticandparishlife.

Conclusions.Whatcanbedone?
WehavementionedboththenegativeandpotentiallypositivecontributionsofOrthodoxytothe
dialogueontheissueofsexualitybetweenthedomainsoffaithandhumanrights.Thoughatthe
momentthepictureisrathersad,thereisstillmuchhope.Oneneedstorememberthattheflawsof
Orthodoxyresultfromitsinfidelitytoitsownnatureandcalling.Therefore,anyinitiativesthathelpit
rediscoveritself,startingwiththerenaissanceoftheEucharisticconsciousnessandparishlife,are
worthyofsupportandfostering.
Alongwithsuchslowgrassrootsworkthereshouldofcoursebefurthertheologicalreflectionon
issuesofgenderandsexualorientationfromthepointofviewofOrthodoxanthropology,Christology,
soteriology,andothertheologicaldisciplines.Scholarsandtheologicalschoolsshouldbeengagedon
thewidespectrumofneighbouringfieldsandtopics.Ecumenicaldialogueasameansofbearing
witnessandsharingstoriesshouldnotbeneglected.Andthoughstrictlyspeakingpoliticaladvocacy
willprobablybelimitedtotryingtosilencethetraditionalvaluesproponents,asloudprotestsdonot
necessarilyhelpintheOrthodoxworld,thereisstillmuchworktobedone.Theprogresswon'tarrive
toosoon.SomayGodgiveusboththegiftofimpatienceandthegiftofpatience,verymuchinline
withOrthodoxloveforparadoxes.