We have no right to humble and victimize the image of God

We have no right to humble and victimize the image of God

April 2, 2015


Metropolitan John of Pergamon
Metropolitan John of Pergamon

“We have no right to humble and victimize the image of God.”[1] Do you find those words offensive or un-Christian or un-Orthodox? Surprisingly, many bishops of the Orthodox Church do. These words were spoken, according to sources, by the Metropolitan of Pergamon, John Zizioulas, a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, at a February 2015 meeting at the Patriarchal Center of Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was a gathering of the Inter-Orthodox Special Committee established to prepare for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. The Great Council, according to the Synaxis of Primates, will take place in Istanbul in 2016.

In his speech, His Eminence Metropolitan John spoke of the need for sexual minorities to “be protected from any kind of discrimination and injustice.” In his remarks to the group of bishops, the Metropolitan is quoted as further elaborating upon his views on a much neglected topic, homosexuals in the Orthodox Church: “Let us ask ourselves if we need to consider homosexuals scapegoats who deserve to suffer persecution. And if we don’t want to establish that these people must be protected, it means that we want to be punish and imprison them.”[2]

Metropolitan John’s views were supported by professor Vlasios Feidas, dean of the Orthodox Theological Institute in Chambesy, who stated that “there are sexual minorities, but they are just as we, members of the Orthodox Church. They also participate in church life. They are sinners, but we are all sinners. The state recognizes them, as respectable members of society, therefore we, in turn, must not ignore them. Sexual sins are under no circumstance the grievous [sic], so we must face the GL community not by conviction, but with love and respect.”

It was a good thing that I was sitting down while reading these earth-shattering words coming from the mouth of a hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as from a respected professor of an Orthodox theological school who lectures with the blessing of the Patriarch, otherwise I might have fallen down. One would search in vain for any comparable remarks from such an august leader of the Church, ever.

Yet, one would have thought that World War III was about to break out among the bishops present at the meeting, when they heard these words. One of the first to disagree with these words was the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarchate of Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. Given the persecution of LGBT persons in Russia, committed with the complete silence if not at the direction and with the blessings of the Orthodox Church in Russia, the Metropolitan’s negative reaction was not surprising. According to an unofficial, although completely negative, anti-equality report[3], most of the bishops present voiced their fervent opposition to any change in the traditional view of the Church toward sexual minorities. The report referred to the “intense psychological coercion practiced” by Metropolitan John, resulting in a compromise amendment stating that “sexual minorities should not be discriminated against”, but not implying that all of the bishops share the same opinions and principles on this matter. To demonstrate the extreme reaction that the speech had on some bishops, Metropolitan Ignatius (Georgakopoulos) of Demetrias, Greece referred to those who did not support protecting sexual minorities, as Nazis. WOW – intense psychological coercion practiced by Nazis – no wonder the Orthodox Church is in trouble, if this is how the bishops act when called upon to simply speak up (not necessarily act) to protect a persecuted minority. It is a cliché, but the question has to be asked: “what would Jesus do?”

While others might be gloomy about this disagreement, the disparaging words and the vitriolic reactions of the vast majority of bishops who attended the conference, and see only darkness, I see light. Within the darkness, there is a small glimmer of light, of hope, and solace. As one my colleagues said, at least they are talking about us. At least we are on the agenda. That is a major victory. Sad to say, but true, just talking about the LGBT community at a gathering of Orthodox bishops in any positive sense, is a major victory.

How do we react or act upon hearing this discussion and disagreement? Words from the First Epistle of John is the message that we need to live, and express upon hearing the disheartening words, actions and lack of unity emanating from the teachers of the Church on the basic question of loving and respecting all of God’s creation. “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…for whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (I John 4:20) Our bishops need for us to pray for them, love them, show compassion towards them, and educate them.

-To each and every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered Orthodox Christian, I extol you for remaining Orthodox within the face of significant indifference, hatred and even persecution. We need to find the strength to talk to our local bishops and priests and fellow parish members about our lives.

-To those bishops and priests with gay family members and friends, I pray that you find the grace and strength to openly love and defend them and speak up to your fellow bishops and priests when you hear or read words of disrespect or even hatred about your family members and friends.

-To those Orthodox Christians who are heterosexual, and who either have gay family members and/or friends or who despise the notion of a portion of God’s creation being ridiculed and demeaned, may you find the power and wisdom to speak up to the bishops and priests who participate in demeaning actions or use derogatory language when speaking about gay, lesbian and transgendered persons.

-Finally, to my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters, take succor in the fact that you are loved by God, unconditionally and take a moment to thank God for His mercies, especially that He is beginning to open the minds and hearts of those the Church has chosen to lead us.

[1] https://orthodoxword.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/homosexuality-the-bone-of-contention-for-the-orthodox-hierarchs-present-at-chambery-geneva/

Original publication (in Greek) http://www.agioritikovima.gr/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Michael Jovanovich

    Sad to see the promotion of homosexuality by Westernized cradle Orthodox and Convert Infiltrators with their Gay Agenda. Will have to use great discretion when visiting and praying in Orthodox Churches. Hopefully, I will not have to leave the Orthodox Church and pray on my own in the real Orthodox manner in which I was taught. What will be next? Perhaps marriage between humans and dogs? Will we be told that dogs are God’s creatures, too, that deserve love and respect? Will some philosophical explanation in the method of Sartre or Heidegger be given to us to convince us?

    1. andre

      Mr. Jovanovich,

      How is living the life that God created for me, promotion of homosexuality? To equate the marriage between two consenting adults in a loving, long term relationship, with bestiality, is absurd, disgusting and disrespectful.
      I pray that the Lord will grant you love in your heart and the ability to see His creation in all people.
      I bid you peace,

  2. Pillar of Orthodoxy

    “Let us ask ourselves if we need to consider homosexuals scapegoats who deserve to suffer persecution. And if we don’t want to establish that these people must be protected, it means that we want to be punish and imprison them.”

    This statement commits the fallacy of bifurcation, and, ultimately, is false. We are to hate the sin, not the sinner, and to see our own faults and not to judge our brother, yet neither are we to encourage him in sin. While I know that I suffer from the sin of pride far more than the many men who suffer from the sin of sodomy, sodomy is yet a sin, and I am not called to encourage and promote this sin. Moreover, to accept the teaching of St Paul and the Church Fathers and believe that GLBT is ok is impossible and denies the PNC.

    The first step towards repentance is to know that you sin. Know that being GLBT is sinful and repent, and whatever actions you have committed in the past will be forgiven and forgotten. Would that I could hope for such blessedness.

    We come to the church to learn and to be healed, not to change it to conform to our own sinful values. Let us keep that in mind. There is no reform in church teaching: only church practice.

    1. andre

      Dear “Pillar of Orthodoxy”
      Thank you for your comment, although I do believe that some of your ideas are flawed. Allow me to address only a few of them. How is being GLBT sinful other than the understanding that all people are born in sin? If God created us and gave us our sexual orientation, that in itself can not be sinful for gay people any more than God creating you as a heterosexual attracted to the opposite sex. he created me as a gay man with an orientation to other adult males. I did not choose this anymore than I chose my hair color or being right handed.
      Second, the Church has changed numerous times over the centuries. For example, the marriage of bishops, the calendar, the making of the sign of the cross, marriage rules (Orthodox marrying baptized, non-Orthodox) to name only a few. The Church is not blind to science and scholarship, (also creations of God) as well as geographical, political, and sociological changes, and so She has adapted and changed.

      Finally concerning the issue of sodomy, I would love to find a priest who preaches against sodomy for married couples. Where is he? This is rouse brought out only to throw stones as LGBT individuals – well gay men at least.

      I do wish and pray for an increase in your understanding and compassion.

  3. Joseph

    I am Your Melkite Greek Catholic brother. I have always had a great love for Orthodoxy. But my church, too, has a very long way to go to learn acceptance and tolerance. At my age (77) I just tend to ignore any anti-gay rhetoric, and if I am disliked or hated for who I am, it is that persons loss not mine. My faith is in God and not usually in men, especially clergymen. Too many hypocrites wear collars, robes and crowns. Ultimately and in the end God will have the last word, and maybe even the last laugh.

    1. andre

      Thank you brother for your comment. While I understand your skepticism about some clergy, I believe that it is important to have hope and pray for them. The Church has changed its view and approach to numerous issues over the centuries, and its view and treatment of LGBT persons, created in the image of God and given the ability to love, can also change. It is up to us to pray and love and live our life with honesty and in grace.
      I bid you peace,

  4. Maria

    Thanks be to God! What wonderful news 🙂

  5. Joe

    Wonderful news! I hope Metropolitans JOHN and IGNATIUS will continue to bravely speak up amid the unpleasantness.

  6. Elena

    Tis is good news! I have been considering telling my priest during confession that I’m not only gay but, also married to another woman. Do you think I’d be thrown out of the Church? Or maybe, I’d be accepted for who and what I am. That would be a dream come true. Lord have mercy on us sinners.

  7. janet D

    there are sympathetic clergy everywhere in the US

  8. Rick Zajac

    Amazing. Better late than never.

  9. Isaac

    Wow…I’m just surprised by all of this. I have always wondered if there were any sympathetic clergy ANYWHERE in the world. Sometimes I wonder even in the confinements of the Russian Orthodox Church, are there sympathetic clergy there too? There has to be.

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