Tuesday, 25 October 2016



Russia nuking London? God forbid! Despite the obsessive British demonization of his country, the sanctions and streams of invectives aimed at his person, Putin has not unleashed the nuclear warheads, yet. Do visiting Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill‘s negative comments on the Church of England serve as a ‘soft power’ version of that? Maybe…

‘Kirill is Putin’s stooge!’ Western media blather. Unkind. And a tad ironic, considering how deeply Anglicanism is wrapped up with the British state. 26 bishops - ‘the Devil’s brood’, an extreme Protestant divine termed them - sit in the House of Lords. Does that make Archbishop Justin Welby Theresa May’s puppet? Besides, that is a purely ‘ad hominem’ argument. Even if Kirill was on the Kremlin’s payroll, his assertions could still have objective validity, methinks.

Kirill has fingered for blame unorthodox innovations like priestesses and bishopesses. Little controversy there. Both Bible and Sacred Tradition, upon which Orthodoxy stands, repudiate them. The C of E has passionately courted feminist fads but the faithful have deserted churches in droves since the introduction of such creatures. Kirill has also alluded, not-so-darkly, at problems with ‘the family’ and ‘morality’. What could he mean?

Morality for the philosopher Aristotle meant virtuous human habits or mores. The whole area of human relations. Its converse, immorality, had oddly come to signify wrong sexual conduct. You don’t need to be a fly on the Moscow Patriarchate’s wall to divine what Kirill what gunning for: gays and gay marriage. ‘God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’, he might have been thinking. As clear as eggs are eggs, eh?

The late Professor John Boswell, from wherever he is now (Below? Above? In between?), must be grinning away. In his 1994 book, ‘The Marriage of Likeness’, subtitled ‘Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe’, Boswell contended that homosexual marriage was no aberration. His research uncovered examples of early Eastern Orthodox liturgies indicating weddings between men. With the blessing of church authorities. Two revered Eastern saints-martyrs, SS Sergius and Bacchus, went in for that. Thus, Moscow is ignoring its own traditions, Boswell would opine.

The Professor’s argument however hinged on a key Greek word in the liturgies at issue. He rendered it as ‘same-sex union’ but ‘brotherliness’ would do just as well. Boswell clearly read into the ancient text his own predilections. The documents detailing the martyrdom of Sergius and Bacchus state that the holy youths were united in faith not in nature. Brothers in Christ then, not physical lovers. Moreover, given the ethical rigour of the early Christians…let us say that being gay was not quite flavour of the month.

Should you inform Patriarch Kirill of Boswell’s claims, I suspect he would react the same way that controversial, gay-unfriendly Shia’ Sheikh Hamza Sodagar would if you brought up with approval the name of Hakim Bey. In ‘Scandal: Essay in Islamic Heresy’, this marginal Muslim praised some abominable pederastic practices allegedly rife in Persian Sufism. Scandal indeed! East and West are united in deploring the stuff.

Marriage is the fundamental unit of society and it should not be tampered with. Still, the Church historically has valued chastity and celibacy even higher than marriage. Christ was unmarried (pace  Da Vinci Code crap) and many of the greatest Saints were celibates. Nowhere does it say in the Scriptures that marriage is essential to salvation. The Council of Trent actually cast an anathema on those who said that the celibate life was not spiritually superior to the married one. It is good to remember that, in this stupid, sex-crazed age. And that applies both to gays and straights.

I must be fair to my own Church – however distasteful the task. As intrinsically bound up with the state and the constitutional framework of England, she pays the price for her privileges. Even her liturgies technically need parliamentary approval. (The Queen in theory is the Church’s Supreme Governor but that is purely honorific. It means nothing.) When Parliament was virtually the Lay Synod of the Church, and the nation was resolutely Christian, Caesar and God worked in harmony. But now that England has sunk back into practical polytheism, and society’s prevailing culture is antithetical to the Gospel , the Church confronts an awesome challenge.

Appealing to Archbishop Welby’s conscience, to ask him to lead the Church out of her Babylonian captivity would be a waste of time. The time-serving man is a mollusc. Incapable of, and unwilling to, resolute action. That is why the Establishment gave him the Canterbury job. He is a safe pair of hands. To be counted on to keep the liberal-democratic nomenklatura happy. What conscientious Christians must absolutely not do is not to give up hope. That would be the ultimate betrayal. To act like Judas, Christ’s infamous traitor. So they must pray. And those who have the prophetic vocation must speak out, whatever the cost.

Some media hacks accuse the Russian Orthodox Church to be living in ‘the dark ages’. But I recall overhearing a dad once telling his children on a visit to the British Museum how the so-called dark ages were not dark at all. ‘Because they had the Light of the Lord’, he explained. Bracing words I shall never forget. The real darkness is what is engulfing the formerly Christian West now. And the Light may be shining from the East.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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