Thursday, July 21, 2022

OCA's Holy Synod on same-sex relationships & sexual identity

No mealy-mouthed prevarications, no soft-serve platitudes, no ignoring an issue and hoping it will go away. The Orthodox Church in America's All-American Council served as the impetus for an unambiguously orthodox statement on the topic of same-sex relationships and sexual identity. Let me make a bet with the readers: not a single other jurisdiction in America is going to say a single thing on the topic. Should I be proved wrong this month, I'll donate $100 to ZOE for Life. At the same time, I will also acknowledge that certain other corners of American Orthodoxy are going to be upset. Such is the way of such forthrightly delivered statements. Instead of avoiding such calls for some form of so-called "progress" on the topic, the synod spoke directly to that academic clique that is constantly hunting for new avenues for change from which to achieve their goals. It seems it was not enough to simply dispute their wayward assertions but to unequivocally state the disciplinary ramifications of such behavior. Again, no other jurisdiction is going to say this.

Frankly, up to this point emails from readers and discussions with clergy have elicited one consistent reaction: frustration. Frustration that it seems you can break from norms, canons, and good taste with no public reprimand or corrective action. While the Church of Greece rages at the primate of the Greek Archdiocese, the Ecumenical Patriarch has yet to respond and, until now, the hierarchs of the Assembly of Bishops have been likewise mute. Who, if anyone, will be next to weigh in?

(OCA) - There was a resolution proposed to affirm the Church’s stance on issues of same-sex relationships and sexual identity. This matter, however, falls outside the competence of the All-American Council, since, in the words of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, “All matters involving doctrine, canonical order, morals, and liturgical practice” are within the competence and jurisdiction of the Holy Synod. Nonetheless, meeting under the presidency of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, the Holy Synod has issued the following statement:

The Orthodox Church teaches that the union between a man and a woman in marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5). As such, marriage is by this reflection monogamous and heterosexual. Within this marriage, sexual relations between a husband and wife are an expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such is God’s plan for male and female, created in his image and likeness, from the beginning, and such remains his plan for all time. Any other form of sexual expression is by its nature disordered, and cannot be blessed by the Church in any way, whether directly or indirectly.

That said, the Holy Synod of Bishops expresses its pastoral concern and paternal love for all who desire to come to Christ and who struggle with their passions, temptations, and besetting sins, whatever those might be. The Church is a hospital for the sick; Our Lord has come as a physician to heal those who are ailing. Imitating our Savior, who stretched his arms wide on the Cross, we welcome with open arms all who desire the life of repentance in Christ.

Over the course of recent years, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America have made numerous pronouncements affirming the Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Metropolitan Tikhon, at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 20, 2015, in his opening address, stated that:

“... the Orthodox Church must continue to proclaim what she has always taught: that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and the Orthodox Church in America can in no way deviate from this teaching…”

Among the Holy Synod’s affirmations of the same teaching are the “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,” from the 10th All-American Council, Miami, Florida, taking place from July 26-31, 1992; the “Synodal Reaffirmation of the SCOBA statement titled ‘On the Moral Crisis in our Nation,’” issued May 17, 2004; and the synodal “Statement concerning the June 26 US Supreme Court decision,” issued June 28, 2015.

Therefore, in accord with the timeless plan of God our Creator, the unchanging teaching of Christ the Savior announced through his holy apostles and their successors, and the consistent witness of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, the Holy Synod affirms what the Scriptures clearly and plainly proclaim and the holy fathers unerringly confess, namely: that God made human beings in two sexes, male and female, in his own image, and that chaste and pure sexual relationships are reserved to one man and one woman in the bond of marriage.

As such, we affirm that sexual relationships are blessed only within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. Motivated by love and out of sincere care for souls, we call those who suffer from the passion of same-sex attraction to a life of steadfast chastity and repentance, the same life of chastity and repentance to which all mankind is called in Christ.

We call upon all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons within the Orthodox Church in America never to contradict these teachings by preaching or teaching against the Church’s clear moral position; by publishing books, magazines, and articles which do the same; or producing or publishing similar content online. We reject any attempt to create a theological framework which would normalize same-sex erotic relationships or distort humanity’s God-given sexual identity. The holy apostle Paul writes that such teachings will “increase to more ungodliness,” and that such a “message will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:16-17), misleading the faithful and inquirers seeking the truth.

Any clergy, theologian, teacher, or lay person who contravenes our directive thus undermines the authority of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America by disregarding the Holy Synod’s consistent and unwavering teaching on these matters. We call on any such persons to cease their disruptive activities, which threaten the peace and tranquility of the Orthodox Church in America, cause scandal and uncertainty, and tempt those who struggle against their disordered passions to stumble. Consequently, those who teach these errors become participants in the sin of those whom they have tempted or whom they have failed to correct, and thus should seek remission of this sin in the mystery of holy confession. Those who refuse correction open themselves to ecclesiastical discipline.

Thus, we, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in Americas, conclude by once again affirming that all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons of the Orthodox Church in America should teach nothing other than the fullness of the Orthodox faith, which is the fullness of the saving truth.

We remind our faithful and clergy that every person of goodwill is welcome to visit our parishes. However, reception into the Church, and continued communion in Christ at the sacred Chalice, is reserved for those who strive to live a life of repentance and humility in light of these God-given truths, conforming themselves to the commandments of God as the only path of salvation in Christ. All of us are sinners, but it is for precisely this reason that Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15).


  1. Reporting on the OCA's site says that Abp. Michael's presentation of the Synod's statement at the All-American Council got a standing ovation.
    I'm hopeful that the statement will encourage other jurisdictions to sign on or make similarly clear statements. And I'll be looking for claims that the statement is "problematic" and noting where they come from.

    1. It's ironic, perhaps, that this same bishop, several years ago, ordained a man who was "married" in legal terms to another man. I can only assume, and hope, that he did not know what he was doing.

  2. Would it be too much to point out that this statement would indicate that Archbishop Elpidophoros is among those who have worked to undermine/contradict the teachings of the Church by normalizing homosexuality via endorsing the baptism of children adopted by a homosexual couple, and is thus in need of repentance? Of course sadly even if they were so bold as to point this out, no one that has the power to hold him accountable will do so at this point. Far worse sins have been covered up and quietly ignored in the GOA.

  3. This is certainly a good statement from the OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops. Yet it doesn’t really say anything particularly new or different from what they’ve already said before. It also fails to directly address the current controversy over the baptism in Greece by Archbishop Elpidophoros of a same-sex couple’s children.

    In Greece, it is illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children. So it is completely understandable that the Church of Greece would be upset that the adopted children of a same-sex couple were baptized in Greece, of all places. It portrays such adoption as being legitimate and in contrast to Greece’s law prohibiting this. It thus sends the completely wrong and inconsistent message that the Church functions outside of secular laws, despite the fact that the children were likely adopted in the U.S. rather than Greece, and Archbishop Elpidophoros probably didn’t actually break any of Greece’s secular laws. (I’m, at least, not aware of any warrant for his arrest by the Greek secular authorities.) As for the baptism itself, it was likely the same as any other Orthodox infant baptism.

    It seems to me the core issue is how the Church responds when same-sex couples are legally allowed by the State to adopt children. In Greece, this isn’t supposed to be an issue, because it’s not legal. However, where it is legal, then the Church has to respond. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that the OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops doesn’t offer more clarity on this with their current statement. However, perhaps that’s also intentional, as any baptism has to be evaluated pastorally on a case by case basis.

    1. "...However, where it is legal, then the Church has to respond..."

      A rite that has the homosexualist "parents" involved in any way similar to the current one would be a compromise theologically (i.e. theological anthropology). It would have to be a narrow one, perhaps only involving the ordained/tonsured, or at least only those who are fully (i.e. communing) Orthodox...

    2. Listen, they didn't simply adopt some children. They hired a surrogate as detailed by Vogue Magazine ( Far from merely endorsing same sex marriage, this event attempts to enshrine novel reproductive technology and human trafficking as acceptable means of begetting children for Orthodox Christians.
      At some point, the Orthodox Church is going to have to address the implications of contraceptive culture as it affects laypeople and stop winking at us with the whole, "Well, we aren't Catholic about it!" And if it does not then complaining about the normalization of homosexuality in the church is utterly pointless because that's where this road leads.

    3. Svetlana, I completely agree with you about how surrogacy is not an acceptable method for Orthodox Christians, especially because it typically involves abortions of weaker embryos. However, this baptism was not blessing surrogacy, and the baptized children weren't guilty of surrogacy either.

      I doubt the surrogate parents are Orthodox Christians, but I could be wrong. The sin is on them, though, not the children. It's a separate moral issue not directly related to the baptism.

      There is an aspect of adoption involved here though, because any child can only have one actual biological father.

    4. "...this baptism was not blessing surrogacy, and the baptized children weren't guilty of surrogacy either...The sin is on them, though, not the children. It's a separate moral issue not directly related to the baptism..."

      I agree with Svetlana Joseph in that the baptism, guilt, sin, morality, and theological anthropology can not be neatly separated as you have done here. For example the "ontology" of the sacrament can not be separated from ontology of the participants - in this case the disordered "parents" of these children. Sacraments are not "magical" or *mere* "free gifts" (e.g. forgiveness) of God that render the ontological morality of the participants irrelevant, if they were then Christianity would be fundamentally antinomian.

      That's just on the moral level, there is also "blood guiltiness" (psalm 50), or as the jews asked our Lord "who sinned that this man was born blind?". Christ's answer (nor His Resurrection) does not *negate* the intergenerational consequences of sin in some grand metaphysical dialectical manner (i.e. as in "poof - the consequences of your sin are nothing!"). It is through sin and it's real consequences - the primary being death - that sin is forgiven, not in a crude antimonial negation of it. Christ, not Kant...

    5. Jake, in Orthodox infant baptisms that I've seen and been part of, the parents (or legal guardians) are not participants. That would instead be the male and female godparent holding the child and taking on that role.

      Even if the godparent or some other family member takes the child to church only once a year, I think that's still better than being raised exclusively in a homosexual household and with no exposure to the Orthodox Church.

      I'm not trying to defend the adoption of children by same-sex couples here, but given that it is already legal in the U.S., there's bound to be situations like the one we're discussing. I highly doubt this is the first time either.

  4. ...and what's with the "threat" to donate $100 to Zoe for Life? It's a good idea, regardless.

  5. AXIOS! The OCA Synod publicly proclaimed what other Orthodox Christian priests and teachers have been preaching for a long time.

    “Do not self-identify with any sin or any passion. You are not your sin. If you are a Christian and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son and Word of the living God, True God of True God, the Redeemer and Saviour of all mankind, then you must reject and abandon the “gay” or “homosexual” identity or label. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

    You are a man or a woman made in the image and likeness of GOD. A creature that must continually cling to Christ and walk the narrow road that leads to salvation. A human being that can become divine and holy through God’s grace, Christ’s love, and the power of the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Saints, and help from prayers and the holy sacraments, worship, and practices of the Holy Orthodox Church.” – Fr. Ioannes Apiarius

    Not Gay or Homosexual, but Men and Women Created in the Image and Likeness of God

  6. "...Consequently, those who teach these errors become participants in the sin of those whom they have tempted or whom they have failed to correct, and thus should seek remission of this sin in the mystery of holy confession. Those who refuse correction open themselves to ecclesiastical discipline....reception into the Church, and continued communion in Christ at the sacred Chalice, is reserved for those who strive to live a life of repentance and humility in light of these God-given truths, conforming themselves to the commandments of God as the only path of salvation in Christ..."

    As others have said, AXIOS! As our host points out, it is unfortunately likely (excepting perhaps the Antiochians who might re-iterate their clear guidance from a few years back perhaps?) the other juridictions will stick with the status quo - a reticence they justify as "pastoral".

    Yet did the OCA ever follow through and prevent Fr. Robert Arida from regularly communing his daughter who is "married" to another women? This fact came to light just after he posted his pro homosexualist essay on the OCA's youth blog (which itself was covered by Met. Tikhon's gaslighting), and to this day he is still priest of the cathedral. The bishop providing cover for him (don't recall the name) has since died, but has the current Archbishop (Nikon) normalized this situation with the above explicit discipline?

    Past behavior suggests that this might be mere "tough talk" from the OCA

    1. Archbishop Nikon was the bishop who died. He was bishop of both the New England and Albanian diocese of the OCA. Neither diocese has been given a new bishop yet. Yes, it appears that Abp. Nikon protected Fr. Arida. Sad.