A Slow Positive Change or Hypocrisy?
July 15, 2023
A major announcement was made at the end of June 2023 by Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC), the higher education institution of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. Reverend Dr. John Chryssavgis was chosen to head the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at HCHC. The mission of the schools “is the formation and the education of the person within the life of an Orthodox Christian community… it educates men preparing for the holy priesthood…as well as men and women for leadership roles within the Church.” The vision of the schools is “to be the intellectual, education and spiritual formation center of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, stimulating, developing, and sustaining ordained and lay vocations for service to Church and society, based on faith.”
It is quite laudable that the major educational institution of the Greek Orthodox Church wants to engage in ecumenical studies which has as its mission “to foster dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches through programs, events, and other channels. For far too long much of the Orthodox Church has been content to exist in its ethnic and isolated conclaves, instead of consistently opening wide its doors to let all of humanity witness the beauty and truth of the Orthodox Church. The Church has also been quite reluctant, except at the highest scholarly levels, to engage fully with other Christian communities. Personally, I welcome this grand endeavor and entrusting it to someone so renowned as Father Chryssavgis. What puzzles me is the acceptance of the source of the money grant which created this new institution, Michael Huffington.
Michael Huffington has had quite an impressive career in politics, the arts as well as business, “earning his first million dollars by the time he was 29” and a former US representative from California. Mr. Huffington was brought up as a Presbyterian and later joined the Episcopal Church. Michael Huffington married Arianna Stassinopoulos, the Greek American author and businesswoman, in 1986 and subsequently, he converted to Orthodoxy and joined the Greek Orthodox Church.
In 1998, Michael revealed that he is bisexual and made several substantial donations to LGBT causes including establishing a fellowship for LGBT students at Stanford University. Notably, he was one of the signatories to an amicus curiae brief in support of same-sex marriage that was submitted to the Supreme Court in 2013. He was an executive producer of the documentary movie “For the Bible Tells Me So” which is quite critical of the standard Christian, and to be sure, Orthodox view, of homosexuality. He has produced other LGBT-themed movies including the acclaimed Geography Club and Bi the Way.
To be certain, I do not know Michael Huffington personally. He appears to be quite a sincere man who has put his money where his heart, and beliefs reside, contributing to and creating endeavors that have changed lives for the positive, including his recent substantial donation ($2.5 million) to the Greek Orthodox Church to create the Ecumenical Institute at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. My question is to His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros and the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church. Do you find it at all hypocritical to accept such a considerable donation from someone who has publicly announced his bisexuality and widely promotes LGBT causes? Or is this acceptance of such a sizeable donation from an “activist member” of the LGBT community, a slow, but positive step forward by the Greek Orthodox Church to soften its stance towards LGBT individuals, similar to the baptisms the Archbishop celebrated for the children of a gay couple in 2022? As an Orthodox Christian, who happens to be gay and in a same-sex marriage, I sincerely hope that this is indeed a slow positive step in the right direction, and not simply two cases of “money can buy you anything”, including the mysteries of Christ in the Church.
 The baptisms were widely reported in the Greek, US, and world news. https://religionnews.com/2022/07/19/greek-church-protests-baptism-for-celebrity-same-sex-parents/
 The position of the Greek Orthodox Church on LGBT individuals is well documented. One such statement: Homosexuals “need help and love to encourage and assist them to change their lives to bring them back into proper balance.” https://www.thyateira.org.uk/chapel/articles/the-challenge-of-contemporary-homosexual-culture-to-the-orthodox-church/