The topic of the Parish Life Conference this year was the Last Judgement. The key note speaker was Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir's seminary. His lectures were excellent. I can't even begin to summarize it. As soon as the recordings are available I will let you know.
The other hot topic of the convention, especially during the clergy meetings, was the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. The most vocal response to the matter was arguing for a political battle: Protests in Washington D.C. and strongly worded public statements. This vocal group used lots of violence-laden language: "We have to fight for"... "the battle is about"... "we have to make our voice heard"... etc. I must admit I was somewhat shell shocked (to continue in the battlefield metaphors). I was confused. My heart was breaking. "Was this the weapon of peace?" I asked myself. I could imagine a few hundred Orthodox clergy marching in a rally of thousands, only to have all of the media outlets quote the most outrageous gay-bashers in the group, but show only the Orthodox clergy in their TV footage.
I wondered if I were alone in my feelings, but during the week, other clergy shared with me their reticence. No one I spoke to thought same-sex marriage was a good thing. However, some, like me, felt that an aggressive political response was only a recipe for misunderstanding and almost certainly guaranteed to alienate the very people whom only the Church can help.
I don't know what the Church should do to respond to this new political reality. I don't know what the Church should do except what Christ has called the Church always to do: to pray, serve, love, and speak the truth. These seem to be the tools God has given the Church. If the prophets of the Old Testament are any guide to us today, perhaps it is because the Church has not done very well what it is called to do that we are in the messy moral and political situation we find ourselves in. Perhaps the best response is not to fight fire with fire. Perhaps the best response is to return to our calling, to repent ourselves, and to funnel all of this indignant energy into a renewed emphasis on prayer, self-sacrifice and love of neighbour.
May God help us find the right way through the darkness.