Thursday, June 23, 2016

The OCA, her properties, and "sincerely held religious beliefs"

My worry is that the use of this directive will be unevenly applied. Will those parishes that rent their halls to non-Orthodox wedding receptions be unable to do so? What about those that rent them out for things like yoga or bingo? If the OCA is to defend itself against militant secularists or thumb-in-your-eye same-sex marriage advocates, the line must be clear, uniform, and defensible. No one in their right mind puts on sunblock and only does one shoulder. So no cut-out exclusions for parish events (because they happen to make a lot of money) should be permitted if they wish to not get burned.

(OCA) - The following statement was approved by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America during a session of the Holy Synod on June 16, 2016 at Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery in Rives Junction, MI. It is approved for posting and use by all dioceses, parishes, institutions and monasteries of the Orthodox Church in America.

General Standard

The Orthodox Church in America teaches and maintains as a sincerely held religious belief that God has established marriage as a lifelong, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, and that all intimate sexual activity outside the marriage relationship, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise, is immoral, and therefore sin (Genesis 2:24-25; Exodus 20:14, 17, 22:19; Leviticus 18:22-23, 20:13, 15-16; Matthew 19:4-6, 9; Romans 1:18-31; I Corinthians 6:9-10, 15-20; I Timothy 1:8-11; Jude 7). This principle undergirds the teaching of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America that Marriage is the most perfect realization of love between a man and a woman in which two become one and in which love unites in such a way that two lives become one life in perfect harmony. We believe that God created the human race male and female and that all conduct with the intent to adopt a gender other than one’s birth gender is immoral and therefore sin (Genesis 1:27; Deuteronomy 22:5). Marriage can only be between two people whose birth sex is male and female. The Orthodox Church’s marriage service specifically states, “Establish them in the holy union which is from Thee. For in the beginning Thou didst make them male and female, and by Thee the woman is joined unto the man as a helper and for the procreation of the human race.” Again the service states explicitly, “For by Thee is the husband joined unto the wife. Unite them in one mind; wed them into one flesh, granting to them of the fruit of the body, and the procreation of fair children.”

The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America upholds and reaffirms such statements such as the July 2, 2013 Synodal Affirmation of Marriage; the July, 1992 Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family Life, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life; and other such statements and pastoral letters including the June 28, 2015 Statement on US Supreme Court Decision by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon.

Facilities Use

The Orthodox Church in America teaches and maintains as a sincerely held religious belief “that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1). The Church rejects the notion that there is a division between the material and spiritual world and that the two are somehow subject to separate and distinct moral and religious standards. It is for this reason that the resources of the Church – its property, its financial assets, and all that belongs to it of a material nature – may be used only for purposes and in ways consistent with the Church’s sincerely held religious beliefs and doctrines as reflected in Holy Scripture, the Tradition of the Church, the Holy Canons of the Church, and the encyclicals of our Holy Synod defining our faith, morals, and doctrines. The facilities of the Church may, in the sole discretion of the Church, be made available for use by other parties for activities consistent with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the Church and upon terms and conditions established by the Parish Council under guidelines approved by the diocesan bishop. Under no circumstances will such activities include those contrary to and incompatible with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the Church, including, but not limited to, events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox sacraments (including weddings between persons of the same sex and related receptions), non-Orthodox worship services, and partisan political activities.

The following is an example of a statement that will be adopted by each diocese, parish, institution and monastery of the Orthodox Church in America. The Diocesan Hierarch can adjust the statement in conjunction with the considered needs and circumstances. PDF available here.

The (Name of the Parish/Hall/Facility) is the property of the (Name of the Parish/Institution/Monastery), a non-profit church organization located in (Location). Due to sincerely held religious beliefs, documented in the Biblical, dogmatic and canonical documents of the Orthodox Church, we do not permit the (Name of the Parish/Hall/Facility) to be used for the following purposes: events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox sacraments (including, but not limited to, baptisms, weddings or funerals); non-Orthodox worship services; and partisan political or social rallies.”


  1. Wow! Let me say that again, Wow! This is the might be the wisest and morally clear statement to come out of this synod since...well since I don't know when. I confess, I had sort of written this synod off when it comes to THE theological and cultural conundrum of the day, our (theological) anthropology. If they are not careful, they are going to have the wise "theologians" at Fordham calling them out for what they are: "fundamentalists" ;)

    Josephus, I am not sure what to say to your qualified worries except that yes it will probably be "messy" for some parishes to change their practices/habits. That said, I don't believe they have a choice. At least in NA, the culture/government/legal "facts" have fundamentally changed and no traditional (let alone Orthodox) Church can carry on like this change has not taken place.

    Without looking for a reason to get cynical, this full throated defense of the traditional moral and even "ontological' facts of our created male and femaleness coming from this synod who, for example provide cover for the likes of Fr. Robert Arida? All I can say is Wow!


  2. I wonder how our parish will apply this because we allow two 12-step groups to meet in our basement social hall. It affects those types of groups who are looking to do good work but are 'non-religious'. It is a sticky wicket indeed

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  4. Totally agree that this should be applied to all secular activity equally if we are going to take this line. Otherwise it's quite discriminatory. Why is sex the only thing that matters....

    I have had a problem with businesses masquerading as churches for quite some time. If the hall is going to be rented out regularly for money/gambling then it should be a separate business that happens to be owned by a church. (Which is given preferential use as owner) And taxed if it doesn't have a social enterprise component or social mission... gasp!!

    With respect to Athanasia, hopefully 12 step program's mission to help the addicted is fitting with theological mission of the church.

  5. "Why is sex the only thing that matters"

    You will have to ask the secular culture and their willingness to push their modernist religion unto everyone else through the power of the sword (via "non discrimination" laws and policy) that question. Actually, they will not be able to tell you (modernism being perhaps the most unreflective philosophy ever invented by man) so here you go: In modernism, the Self is god. Push this just a little bit and you quickly arrive at a self willed, pleasure/pain epicurean philosophy. Sex is a very powerful pleasure center in our biological lives, so it naturally arises to the fore in personal identity/fulfillment within modernism - it is VERY important. It is difficult to be reminded about philosophies that don't agree yours (it takes discipline and selflessness to be tolerant of others) thus they are very intolerant of Christians/Muslims/Jews and anyone else who do not agree with them - thus the focus on sex and what we as Christians think and do about it. Anthropology (our sexual existence being a large aspect of what and who we are - male and female He created them) is THE difference between Modernism and everyone else (at least politically).

    Also, we don't want to necessarily agree with secularism that there is "sacred" and "secular" activity (such as commerce) because God is "everywhere present and fillest all things", but in this case they have the power and are forcing us into making these distinctions, but this is a prudential stance on our part.

    Since AA does not force the Church into celebrating an unholy liturgy like a "same sex" wedding, I don't see how it is contrary to our beliefs and mission. That said, if the modernists define AA as "secular" and impose a strictly all-or-nothing legalism on us, they may force us into a corner here as well...

    1. Jake, agree completely that sex is important, but there are a bunch of other broken things in the world that the church should take a consistent stand or risk being dismissed as hypocritical by even its own arguments.

    2. Jake, agree completely that sex is important, but there are a bunch of other broken things in the world that the church should take a consistent stand or risk being dismissed as hypocritical by even its own arguments.

  6. Why is sex the only thing that matters....

    If you read the policy, it also bans inter alia political events and non-Orthodox worship, so it seems the answer to your question is "It isn't the only thing that matters."

    1. Exactly, was agreeing with the blogger of hope for consistent application of this document.

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  7. For some years now the Church has used a political/geographical term "diocese" to define a bishop's territory. It hasn't hurt anyone to utilize that jargon, it protects the Church in this context to use the legal formula of "sincerely held" values even though we've known that for 2000 years. The uneducated unbelieving mass of Americans will otherwise think the Church invented this idea in the last 5 years or less. It save a few days in an idiotic lawsuit.

  8. Micheal, I am not really following your concern. The fact that “there are a bunch of other broken things in the world” is a truism and (to be blunt but not intentionally confrontational) is quite besides the point. If you are looking for perfection in Doctrinal expression and application, you will have to wait until the Eschaton because in this world the Church is made up of sinful men and women. Also, Holy Doctrine (i.e. truth or rather Truth) is not an “argument” per se, but rather a principal or presupposition of a way of life, though it can be “used” as a basis for an argument with someone (or a culture) that disagrees with that Truth.

    Right now in NA - today, June 2016 – the “problem”, “concern”, and “question” of the Faithful and the culture centers around anthropology (i.e. the question “what is man [anthropos]”) in general and our sexual ontology in particular. This directive from the OCA synod is very very timely and important to what is a pressing and present concern for everyone.

    If you are unaware of what is happening around sexual “identity”, homosexualism, and religious freedom in our present cultural and legal environment I would encourage you to look up the blog of Rod Dreher, who is an Orthodox layperson and social/political commentator. He can be a bit histrionic at times, but he is doing excellent work tracking our current situation and commenting on it from a non-modernist point of view...