Saturday, October 31, 2015

Met. Joseph's Directive On So-called "Same-Sex Marriage"

The complete post is here, but I thought the directives the most intriguing part. Which jurisdictions will follow the Antiochian Archdiocesan lead and put out similarly clear instructions?


Specific Directives to Clergy and Laity

In the saving light of this holy doctrine, then, I set forth the following directives, in concert with my brother diocesan bishops, which must be adhered to by all of the sacred clergy and the faithful laity in every capacity within our Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

1. At this time, and until further directives are given, no priest may refuse to sign a marriage license for a couple who are otherwise qualified and blessed by that priest to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It is not yet clear that the act of signing a marriage license exposes the clergyman to litigation forcing him to act contrary to our stated purposes as a Church. Some Orthodox priests following the same-sex ruling have refused to sign state documents certifying marriages and many asked "Who will follow their lead?" The answer is, apparently, not the Antiochians.

2. No clergyman may solemnize the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony upon persons of the same sex. In cases where the sex (male or female) of either of the prospective marriage partners is disputed, the priest must consult with his diocesan bishop and receive specific instructions for proceeding. In short, only one male and one female (both otherwise meeting the canonical requirements; namely, at least one of them being an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church, and the other being a recognized Christian according to the terms of baptism) may be married canonically.

3. No clergyman may stand present in any so-called "same-sex marriage" ceremony, even as a non-participating guest, regardless of location. Nor may he attend a reception for such, since his presence at this event or others like it, will appear to condone or even bless the event.

4. Any couple which is eligible to receive the Mystery of Holy Matrimony in the Orthodox Church and who have availed themselves of a civil marriage (that is, solemnized by the secular state authority) and who express their desire for the Sacrament itself ("crowning") must be carefully screened. The priest must secure a copy of their marriage license and/or certificate. This must be reviewed and a copy maintained within the parish marriage records. Only after the pastor is satisfied that all civil laws (in agreement with the Church's doctrine) have been complied with may he then consider the couple for the great blessing of marriage crowning in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

5. Any Orthodox Christian who chooses to undergo marriage solemnities of any kind outside of the Orthodox Church voluntarily separates himself (herself) from communion with the holy Orthodox Church. Therefore, any such person is no longer in good standing with the Church and therefore may not receive holy Communion, nor serve as sponsor at baptism, nor hold any parish church office. This applies in all cases; first of all, of course, to such cases in which such a person enters into a false union of "same-sex marriage," so-called, as well as a union with a person of the other sex, outside of the Church. When couples have decided to forego an Orthodox wedding or add on something like a beach wedding following or preceding the crowning, some priests choose to attend. That has always made me queasy so I've historically declined such invitations.

6. If your parish has a policy of renting out any premises for public use, you may be at risk for litigation, due to the state of legal affairs which the Supreme Court ruling poses. Therefore, this Archdiocese strongly recommends that the parish council consult with a local attorney, in concert with communications between the pastor and his diocesan bishop, regarding the regulation of this matter.

7. Though all the clergy of this God-protected Archdiocese are directed to avoid any condoning or encouraging or supporting in word or action of so-called "same-sex marriage," we remind our pastoral clergy that we all have a calling to reconcile all men to Christ. Therefore, all persons who come to us must be treated with respect and dignity. Pastoral communications in personal contact with persons who profess to be homosexual must be positive and compassionate. Any of our spiritual children, the Orthodox faithful, who come to us as pastors to discuss their own personal struggle with homosexuality, must be treated with care as children needing the therapy of the Gospel. The pastoral relationship is basic for us, who are called to "seek out the lost sheep."

25 comments:

  1. Clear and straightforward. Good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. #1 is a mistake, simply from a legal standpoint if not a theological one (and I believe it is). They seem to recognize the danger in #6.

    Too bad, I thought Orthodoxy was ahead of the curve on this...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get his point. I don't think there's really a right/wrong answer. But, in the end, the bishop said "Do this" and it's not a matter of dogma. So, that's that.

      Delete
    2. "So, that's that."

      Until it's not... ;)

      Delete
  3. I guess this means that Fr. Patrick Reardon will no longer be able to keep his stance of not signing marriage licenses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was wrong to act unilaterally without receiving that directive from his bishop anyway, and now he is properly corrected. Good.

      Delete
    2. "He was wrong to act unilaterally without receiving that directive from his bishop anyway"

      Well perhaps, but it is not like the NA bishops have been "leading" on this, so good for him for helping bring the issue to the front.

      Besides, he is right - our priests acting as "agents" for the state (even in this seemingly minor way) is the wrong thing to be doing theologically, and will prove in the future to be a source of legal jeopardy I think.

      Delete
    3. "Well perhaps, but it is not like the NA bishops have been 'leading' on this, so good for him for helping bring the issue to the front."

      A priest does not get to pick and choose when he thinks his bishop is responding fast enough to an issue. Even if it is an ideological dog whistle he particularly feels strongly about. If he thought he had to do this, he could have asked his bishop to bless it and then stated, "With the blessing of my hierarch and shepherd, Bishop N., I have made it a policy in this parish to no longer sign marriage licenses issued by the state." It is really simple: Marriage is a sacrament. Priests offer the sacraments in the bishops place and at his discretion, solely as his agents. If you are a priest, you don't get to make decisions about how and in what way sacraments will be offered in your parish without the express consent of the bishop. Really it isn't even "your parish" anyway. We might even say it isn't "your priesthood" either, but that's a matter for another discussion.

      Someone will always bring up an example from history of a priest having to baptize or liturgize without the bishop's consent. These examples will always be from some terrible time of severe persecution like the height of the Soviet purges or Diocletian's reign. But even bringing up such examples is an indication of the current hysterical state of some ex-protestant Orthodox converts in this country. If you felt that the hierarchy's "lack of leadership" on the gay marriage issue is really at the same level as the capitulation of the clergy during the height of the pagan Roman persecutions then 1) get a grip, and 2) act according to your convictions and break communion with your bishop, for he is obviously a schismatic and a reprobate.

      You'd be doing us all a favor.

      Delete
    4. As far as the comparison of gay marriage and the real persecution *some* Christians (all evangelicals that I know of so far - for example the lady in my state who was financially ruined by our states so called "Human Rights Commision" for refusing to take part in an unholy "gay" liturgy) are suffering for it to Roman persecutions, that is your comparison, not mine. I am a convert (of some 20 years now), however, I only spent a short time in a "protestant" church as I was raised by atheists and taught atheism. Your identification of converts as "hysterical" is your hangup, not mine. I would gently suggest that you might want to examine your own thinking for it's "lack of grip" ;)

      As far as your understanding of how a priest and bishop actually interact around the "edges" of the Faith and cannons, it is a rather idealistic, basic and inflexible understanding - all "letter of the law" and missing the "spirit". As a practical matter, many (most? I am afraid so) priests/parishes in NA simply don't have a local bishop, and to consult him on every jot and tittle has not happened and will not happen. Ask any priest or faithful member of the OCA diocese of the south about their bishop for the last 7 years, to name but one example.

      I suppose I could typecast you as a NE, liberal, ethnic Orthodox person who is (mostly unconsciously) not really faithful to the Church's anthropology and it's ramifications for sexuality, marriage, relations with the state, etc. - but that would be unfair. I would say that you seem awful clingy to the idea that you and your priest are under no threat whatsoever from the state. You might be right, but you actually have no evidence whatsoever. Those of us who are pointing to the danger have all the evidence - just look out your window at the state of our culture, our legal environment, and what is actually happening to certain Christians. For some reason, you can't imagine it getting any worse, despite the fact that it has steadily gotten worse for the last 50 years (or is it 500?). I would suggest that something is blocking your imagination from seeing clearly...

      When you explicitly start counseling people to "break communion", it should be a giant red flag to yourself that you really have "no grip"...

      Delete
    5. "As a practical matter, many (most? I am afraid so) priests/parishes in NA simply don't have a local bishop, and to consult him on every jot and tittle has not happened and will not happen."

      How, when, and in what ways one celebrates the sacraments or situations where one changes policy regarding the sacraments is not a small matter. It is that kind of thing that one's bishop should specifically be consulted on... much more than the petty administrative minutiae they are often bothered for.

      "Ask any priest or faithful member of the OCA diocese of the south about their bishop for the last 7 years, to name but one example."

      Yeah, his name was Nikon and he answered his phone when you called him. Now whether people didn't want to call him because he's not monkish enough, libertarian enough, issued enough statements on the gay scourge, etc. Is another story.

      "I suppose I could typecast you as a NE, liberal, ethnic Orthodox person who is (mostly unconsciously) not really faithful to the Church's anthropology and it's ramifications for sexuality, marriage, relations with the state, etc. - but that would be unfair."

      HA! Not really, but that made my day. I'm glad I've internalized the ethos and mindset of the people who've kept the faith alive on these shores for the last 150+ that I now sound like them. Best complement ever.

      "For some reason, you can't imagine it getting any worse, despite the fact that it has steadily gotten worse for the last 50 years (or is it 500?). I would suggest that something is blocking your imagination from seeing clearly..."

      Yeah, the Christian culture really made all the difference in promoting a standard of morality over 500 years ago. Somebody's never read St. John Chrysostom's sermons. Or been to Greece or Russia.

      Delete
    6. Clearly, this issue has you tied up in knots. Fr. Patrick (by refusing to be an agent for the state) did not "change" the sacrament (of marriage). Met. Joseph by instructing his priests to be agents of the state is not "changing" the sacrament, or defending the sacrament from said change, etc. He (at best) is defending himself from the complaints of folks who are inconvenienced that their priest is not a willing agent of the state. I pray it doesn't, but I think it is safe to say this will prove to be naive.

      Oh well, people will see what they want to see. One could say along with the bumper sticker "Denial is not a river in Egypt" but what good does it do. Apparently, many Orthodox have marked the obvious cultural ramifications and legal jeopardy (i.e. our so called "religious freedom" is not what we thought it was) of the changes in civil rights and marriage law as something other than what it is. Thus, it's all scare mongering from those who point it out.

      No, it is not about a "standard of morality", and St. John, Greece, and Russia were not and are not part of the protestant (and thus secular) revolution that is the foundation of our "western civilization". The Russian revolution was diabolical, but to say it was part of the protestant/secular revolution of the west is to fundamentally misunderstand it. Even today, Greece and Russia are only 'influenced" by the west - they are not really part of it. They are not "reformed" countries and cultures.

      Yes, you have "internalized" an ethos and mindset...

      Delete
    7. "our so called "religious freedom" is not what we thought it was"

      https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1067%26context%3Dyjlh&ved=0CC8QFjAFahUKEwil1tuZmfLIAhWFPCYKHZu4B6s&usg=AFQjCNEqpX_TScl67iety7pJHT3BqZDNTg&sig2=YuEigE07iHQmf_v0vUgiDg

      Delete
  4. I have some concerns about #1 and would have left that to the discretion of the local bishop/priest for a number of reasons including legal. Otherwise I think this is a sound set of guidelines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Met. Joseph is the local bishop. The Patrirachate of Antioch followed the example of the Greeks. Only Metropolitans/Archbishops are currently ruling bishops. Therefore, technically, Metropolitan Joseph is the only ruling bishop for the Archdiocese. The other bishops are auxiliaries (there's been some hint that he wants this changed, but that will take the Synod of Antioch).

      Delete
    2. Oops! Forgot to add that technically, the priest doesn't get to really make decisions like this. That's the bishop. The priest is an assistant to the bishop.

      Delete
  5. There is no present indication that, by signing a state marriage license, an Orthodox priest will be legally required to extend the Sacrament to an unholy union. We can cross that bridge when we come to it. The directive is sensible and plain-spoken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is all sorts of "indication". The whole trend of this hijacking of the "civil rights movement" is in this direction. The whole trend of "secularism" is to make everything (including our corporate worship) "public" and subject to "non-discrimination".

      This is like saying "there is no indication I am going to die - I am healthy now"...yea but...

      Delete
    2. For once the Anti-Gnostic and I agree. Someone mark down the date and time.

      Delete
    3. @Jake - yes, that is the trend of secularism. There are also countervailing trends. Let us wait and see how things turn out.

      Delete
    4. As far as the civil rights movement, so called "gay marriage", religious freedom, and the Church's position vis-a-vis these cultural "trends", it's a hurricane blowing in one direction. As far as a more general (the foundation of all the above) thing known as "secularism", it is also in one direction in "western civilization" at least, and has been since at least the beginning of the protestant revolution (actually, it started with Scholasticism but that might be a more academic debate).

      All of this is rather widely acknowledged in and outside of something called "Christianity". I would be interested in what you see as a "countervailing trend"...

      Delete
    5. As one example, the current eruption of feminism means that there will be a lot of childless spinsters 40 years from now at the same time the non-feminists are babysitting their grandkids. So the future America will probably be more Christian (Mormon, Amish, Evangelical, Catholic--Orthodox aren't doing so well), Hasidic and Muslim than presently constituted. Gay marriage and feminism won't be as popular in such a setting.

      Again, since there is no present indication that priests will be required to extend the Sacrament to unholy unions, and since a priest's refusal to sign the state license generates its own set of legal issues, Met. Joseph has wisely decided to wait and see how things turn out.

      Delete
    6. I see your point. The culture of death leads to the death of said culture. Culture(s) of life fill the vacuum. France will be "Francostan" by 2050 or so.

      We will have to disagree about "present indications" and the "wisdom" of priests continuing their partnership/labor with and for the state...

      Delete
  6. *As of right now* the government does not force me as an Orthodox priest to perform a marriage that does not meet Orthodox qualifications. The government does not force me to marry an Orthodox person to a Jew, a Muslim, a Mormon, or atheist, nor is it forcing me to marry two persons of the same sex. This selectivity with regards to who can be married in the Orthodox church has not resulted in any civil penalties. So, as was said above, Metropolitan Joseph's directive makes perfect sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Usually, when folks think about "perfect sense", said sense takes into account certain future "possibilities". For example, when I plan for my retirement, I take into account what my savings and investments might look like in diverse futures. One might be a future where the past growth of the market extends into said future. Another might be a future where the market does not grow at it historic rate, and another might be one where it outperforms it's historic rate.

      Or, when I drive I might consider the possibility of a serious collision, even though I have never been in one and thus I might put on my seat-belt.

      I understand that many Jews walked into the gas chambers really believing they were getting a shower. Obviously, we need to not narrowly focus on our cultural and legal position "today" - which is actually changing so fast that it is not at all clear and definitive as you would have it - and, wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove, evaluate what is happening in the culture in relation to our legal position and our so called "religious freedom".

      I would suggest that Met. Joseph has actually done this to some extant (as #6 indicates) but not nearly well enough (as #1 indicates).

      Delete