Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Growth and Change

A continuation of yesterday's story.

How did seminary change us? I suppose I need to start with saying that we were both raised in pretty conservative, evangelical households (mine was much more rigid in it's approach than Paul's, and his was growing and changing itself during his childhood and after) and we were still very conservative when we joined the Orthodox church, in politics and theology. When we were studying the Orthodox church, we met Fr. David Anderson from the Ben Lomond church. In discussions with him, I remember the distinct feeling of "if I'm to be Orthodox, I can't be rigid in my ideas of interpreting the Bible literally all the time anymore." Fr. David is actually quite conservative, but he did something for us--he broadened our minds and started us on the road to asking hard questions of what we believed.

Seminary did more of the same. I didn't attend classes, but Paul would bring his more fascinating finds home and discuss them. One of those was the issue of "wives submit to your husbands" found in the teachings of St. Paul. We had taken this commandment quite seriously, including the follow-up of "husbands, love your wives." We had made a pact that when we couldn't agree on an issue, that I would submit to Paul's decision on the matter. In seminary, when we'd been married for about 7 years, he came home after a lecture given by his New Testament professor, where he talked about this command. He said yes, St. Paul did issue that command. But the much greater priority than submission to St. Paul in his writings is unity. That perhaps submission was better than disunity, but unity is the best of all. As we talked it over, we realized that we'd only invoked the submission thing a small handful of times in our marriage, and even then, Paul almost always, when I said it was his decision, would decide the matter in the way I'd wanted. This was a revelation to us, and we began to see that talking an issue over and agreeing, almost always, was possible.

Interesting the correlations I can see now, looking back.....

About this time I learned more about an organization called the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. I requested a free issue of their journal, and enjoyed reading it. I was still on the fence about war and pacifism, though, but I was just beginning to think about the issues. I was glad for that exposure later on, after 9/11 happened....I'll talk more about that later.

We saw more than our share of corruption of power and just plain old politics at seminary, too. Since we were closer to the center of the Orthodox world (in the US) we were affected a lot more than if we'd just been in a parish. Archbishop Iakavos retired and Archbishop Spyridon was selected to replace him. We had such high hopes for him---he was born in the US, English was his first language, etc. We thought this was a chance to further the progress of the church in the US. But as his time went on, he showed a completely different priority--to keep the Orthodox church in the dark ages. He said that women had no place even in church choirs. He came down hard on any parish that was not in compliance with him. He fired professors at the seminary who were teaching in the spirit of academic freedom, like Paul's New Testament teacher, after they investigated a case of sexual harassment on campus and recommended the student's expulsion. (The student continued and graduated that year.)

What was even more difficult than all the corruption going on in the hierarchy was the split it created in Paul's class at seminary. We had those who were for and those who were against. They no longer were united in anything. The next class was just deeply confused and disheartened, but we were warring against each other.

On other academic freedom fronts.....Paul listened to a lecture that asked the question that I'd never heard before: what if certain language in the Bible does not mean the same thing as what we mean by it now? How does that change our perception of what is sinful and what isn't? The lecturer was specifically referring to homosexuality. (Which in itself is not a word that appears in the Bible at all.) We still believed the way that we'd been taught growing up, that homosexuality was a perversion, and that it was the worst sin that there is. I filed this information away for another time: it didn't really relate to my life, anyway.

One concept that I really loved and resonated with that Paul brought home from seminary was John Zizoulas' concept that we, as individual human beings, only exist in relation to each other. I suppose this is a variation on the Buddhist idea that all of life is one, we are all connected. But I think it puts a bit more emphasis on the individual, without denying that we are connected. This concept really changed my outlook on relating to others.

Also in seminary, Zachary was born! We said for years that as far as we knew, he was the first baby to be born on the campus of Holy Cross seminary. :-) He was born at home, and we planned it that way! But recently someone told us that there was a baby born in the school cafeteria--they were trying to make it to the hospital and didn't make it. So, I guess Zac doesn't have the distinction after all of being the first. We didn't tell too many people that we were planning a homebirth, because we didn't want the news to get to those in charge and have them tell us we couldn't do it. But it went off without a hitch, and we became the talk of the campus. Zac's godmother told us that someone asked her in the bookstore, where she worked, "did you hear there was a baby born on campus? Oh my gosh, who would do that?" And she said, "yes, I was there!" That same night, however, was the night the sexual harassment occurred, so we weren't the talk of the campus for very long.

After Paul graduated from seminary in 1999, he was assigned to be Metropolitan Anthony's deacon. He'd been ordained to the diaconate in December of 1998, by Met. Anthony. The Metropolitan (another title for bishop) was impressed by Paul's struggle to be allowed to be ordained by him, instead of by Archbishop Spyridon who was insisting on doing all ordinations himself. So impressed was Met. Anthony that he announced that day that Paul would be his deacon after graduating. And so, in June of 1999, we moved to San Francisco. It was a mystifying place to us at first, but we really grew to love it. San Francisco was the first place I really considered myself a city girl.

This story will be continued!


Mimi said...

My youngest son was born at home too!

Interesting thoughts continue in this story - I'm awaiting part three!

Dawn said...

Thanks for what's come so far.

Anonymous said...

you are conveninetly discrediting things in favor of being policitally correct. Teh Bible says it is a sin for aman to lie with another man and a woman with a woman. I don't believe it's a choice either but a spiritual stronghold, filling an emoional void. Even if it was found to be genetic, it's stil wrong and shouldn't encouraged, just as schizophrenia, alcohilsm (which is also shown to have genetic predispotions), etc.

Elizabeth said...

Anonymous, I'm simply telling my story and how I have come to see it. I used to believe as you do, but have come to see the gospel of love as being THE most important. How many words did Jesus have about homosexuality? And like I said, the Bible doesn't mean the same thing as we do when we say "homosexuality."

Hey, Anonymous, why don't you start a blog? It'd be a good outlet for you to share your story.

This is my story.

Anonymous said...

You used to belvei as I did. Sounds proud. Funny, how you are so enlightend that you and the rest of the liberal gang of theologians now have learnt all this hidden translation isssues that somehow the centuries worth of Biblical scholars and ancient language experts never got! No, you are simply choosing to believe a small body of supposed (relatively 'new') revelation/transaltion over orthdox scripture and teaching. It doesn't mean married men taking on male lovers only and wahtever else you want to believe!

If you are Orthodox then you believe Jesus is God and in the Bible being the Wrod of God, right? God has a lot to say about this "abomination" and not just in the Old Testament. I will give you NT too below. But, as an orthodox (let alone "O"rthodox) christain, you believe the Bible is the very word of God. How can you reason away clear teaching, let alone centuries of church teaching? (I know why, because it isn't popular or culturally acceptable anymore.) It is NOT loving to embrace someone to continue in a destructive sin, which this is. It is a strong spritual deception, often combined with a childhood of abuse and/or emotional neglect.

Even in the New Testament homosexuality is talked about. It doesn't have to expressly say what it is for the inferrence to be made! For e.g., the bible doesn't actually say "porn" is wrong yet we know from inferrence of other scripture that it obviously is--too look at another woman is wrong regardless! Just because the New Testament doesn't use the word 'homosexual', it is still obvious it is considered immoral and "unnatural" or perverse. it is not just because of an adultery issue but the act itself is wrong!

Read Jude 1:7 for example. It clearly talks about "unnatural lust" referring to the inhabitants of "Sodom" and Gammorah.

Romans 1, 26-27 further makes it clear that such sexual desires (lesbian/homosexual) is "unnatural" and wrong. You can try to interpret the words however you like, but if you read it in context, it is obvious what it is saying! You are simply choosing to adopt a small liberal mindset of interpretation over the weight of other scriptures and orthodox teaching/interpretation of scriptures throghout the gerenations.

Read this from Romans:
"26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done."

--Note, this doesn't refer to only those who are married!

It is such a big deal, because unlike other sins, this sin is against one's very own body, aside from the spiritual union of sex! Look at what Romans says about the consequences of it, more than one might get from from other sins, like greed for example.

By condoning it, you are actaully helping those potentially struggling with this area to further adopt it and receive the penality therein. That is not love...and all for the sake of being politcally correct. It is actaulyl spritually cruel. Be honest wit hyourself and reread scriptures in context, including the Old Testament. God's moral law doesn't change. Or if you want to continue this false interpretation, then at least don't mock your church and call yourself Orthodox or even "o"rthopdox Christian. There are plenty of non-bible based churches you can join. Remember what teh bible says too about the judgment of elders and priests is far greater than on the other followers. I would strongly encourage you to re-examine and not take this one liberal class material over everything else, simply becasue it is easier to swallow.

I'm actaully surprised you are even Orthodox. theologically, you sound more like a Sunday only Methodist or something or non christian. Sorry but this is what I read.

And yes, I have homosexual friends and cowrokers, working in a homosexual owned and occupied agency where they know my points but they also know I genuinely love them, even though I don't embrace their sexaul acts. The same goes with alcoholics, abusers, etc, etc. I can love them without having to embrace or explain away their particular sin.

BTW, I don't blog because I wouldn;t keep it up!

P.S. I'm sorry if this offedns you but this is what i see.I write it to you as a wife of a priest no less! If you don't want honest comments, then turn off this feature. I won't be commenting again but glad you read my comment. Oh, one final thing I don't know for sure what I believe but I do know what the bible says on the big issues! So, on any other issues I doubt you used to or do now believe as I do!

Elizabeth said...

Anonymous, I have only one more thing to say to you. I didn't start a blog in order to argue. I am sharing my story here. If you want to argue, be my guest, but do it on your own blog or on a blog where arguing is encouraged.

It is apparent to me, even though you haven't shared anything about yourself, that we are very different and arguing would have no effect anyway. I believe one way, you believe a different way. I can accept that you have sincere beliefs. Can you accept that I do too?

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course you do. You don't have to reply you know. The thing is is that your beleifs are not based in the Bible as you tried to assert earlier! You can't even explain why the Romans passage is in there if homosexuality is apprently all ok as you contend. (Doesn't add up, does it?) Instead of misleading your flock, why don't you just be intellectually honest and say you 've decided to more embrace the values of the day rathen than what the bible says? You are being anythign but Orthodox. That would be better than being intellectually dishonest and trying to make the assertions you made earlier and leading others astray in your postions of authority.

BTW, being sincere means nothing if sincerely wrong, particularly when you are in postion sof authority and infleuence. Your mantle for truth is meant to be higher. You can not validily support your postion with the Bible, regardless of whatever some class tickled your ears with, it is just not factual.

I am not writing this just to you but to all those that might go back in this blog and naively believe/wonder the thigns you contended earlier regarding what you "learned" about the position of homosexuality and the early church. It is flatly historical revisionisim and wrong, all for the sake of trying to validify you non Biblical, modern day politially correct stance.

You can't explain why the book you apparently believe in would have a passage like Romans, let alone others throughout the OT, if actaully homosexuality was just fine in the eyes of Go and the only issue all along was jsut one adultery! Come on, whoa re you kidding?!! MAybe you don't belevie in teh Bible, then fin, say so, just don't be chalerletons and in positions of authorty in your church as priest and prist's wife no less. You mock the orthodox faith.

Elizabeth said...

Here's a link that my husband sent me that perfectly sums up our position:

I don't know what is meant by the Bible in speaking about these behaviors, and neither do you. We don't live in that culture, that time, that context. There are many things the the Bible says that we reject out of hand (anyone for stoning rebellious sons?). But when I see the suffering of gay folks, I cannot condone this condemnation any longer. One moment of truth came to me when I thought about this question: why would they *choose* to be gay, when it is so hard to be gay? When much of society hates you for being what you are? Why would they do that? Would I?

If I can put myself in those shoes, and realize that I don't want to be condemned for being who I am, I see that I do not want to condemn anyone else for being who they are. I believe this approach to be consistent with the gospels. If you want to think that means I'm not in agreement with the Bible, so be it.

There's more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line
--Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine