A Brief Roundup

Odds and ends: Patriarchal meetings; accusations of Uniatism; clerical sauna baths. What’s it all about?

President Victor Yuschenko of Ukraine met with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Patriarchal Residence in Tarabya, as part of the President’s working visit to Turkey. The Archons site reports that “a cordial and whole-hearted discussion on issues of common concern” took place on May 20.

Discussions were held on a representative office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate opening in Ukraine in the format of a churchyard or a cultural and informational center. The two leaders also addressed ways to step up contacts between Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. President Yuschenko said he wants this dialogue to be intensified at all levels and confirmed his country’s interest in establishing a local Orthodox Church in Ukraine. His Excellency also said he is convinced that “the Ecumenical Church and the personal wisdom and efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarch himself play the most important role in all unification processes.”

The press service said that His All Holiness and President Yuschenko discussed preparations for the All Orthodox Council while meetings between representatives of local Orthodox Churches will take place ahead of the event.

His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and the Very Reverend Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod, were also present at the meeting on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Let us recall that, in the April 29 Kyiv Post, the “Russian patriarch calls for spiritual unification of Ukrainian, Russian people during meeting with Tymoshenko.” That would be Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Patriarch Kirill: “Kyiv for us is Constantinople, the spiritual capital of Russian Orthodoxy.” And: Relations between Ukraine and Russia “are a central, not peripheral task.”

Tymoshenko. Yuschenko. They don’t get along. At least one churchman says that Ukrainian political elites aren’t backing Yuschenko’s scheming with “dissenters and Uniates.”

But things are really ready to heat up. From Interfax:

Helsinki, May 21, Interfax – The clerics of the Finnish Orthodox Church of the Constantinople Patriarchate are going to participate in the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups Conference Courage to Follow the Law of Love which opened Tuesday in Järvenpää and Helsinki, Finland.

The participants will begin every day by attending the Orthodox service, and then going to sauna, the social movement Yhteys (Unity) which is fighting for the rights of sexual minorities, reports.

May 22, Helsinki University will host the open church seminar which will address the issues of homosexual relations. According to a published schedule, General Secretary of the Finnish Ecumenical Council Archpriest Heikki Huttunen will present his paper Homosexuality in the Orthodox theology.

In January issue of Aamun Koitto, this well-known priest of the Finnish Orthodox Church addressed at length his viewpoint on homosexual “marriage” as “the reflection of the Divine power and benign sexual source.”

The clergy of Constantinople Patriarchate also intends to hold a discussion of the issues of spiritual integration of homosexuals into the Church. The subject matter of one session is entitled as Can a male priest fall in love to another man and live with him?

Meanwhile, Patriarch Kirill announces he’s planning to visit the Orthodox Church of Antioch. No date announced.


  1. George Michalopulos :

    I wonder if this will be discussed in Cyprus? Or defended by the Phanar which believes that only it can grant autocephaly. BTW, wasn’t Lambrianides saying that only those eparchies guided by the EP were more “mature”? Looks like the autonomous Church of Finland failed the test.

  2. If there is any truth to what this article says, any
    Orthodox Clerics in Finland that are involved with such
    activities should be defrocked.

    As for Constantinople, I have disagreed with its pro-
    Ecumenical policies but I cannot imagine the Phanar
    permitting any of its clerics to be involved in these
    sorts of gatherings.

    Patriarch Bartholomew told the Archibishop of Canterbury
    a while back that the Anglican Church’s acceptance of same
    sex weddings was something the Orthodox would not accept.


  3. George Michalopulos :

    Then he needs to inform the Finnish Orthodox as well.

  4. Has anyone ever considered how shenanigans like those going on in Finland can affect everyone in the Church including our youth. If some variety of sex outside of marriage is permitted or quietly endorsed then any type of sexual activity is permitted. So much for the spirit of chastity. What message does this send to our youth?

  5. Mark Stokoe :

    RE: The Finnish Orthodox Church

    Since the Republic of Finland authorized same sex marriages a few years ago, the Orthodox Church in Finland has begun a serious and painful discussion inside the Church about how it – as a state church – should respond and address this issue. To focus on one event, like the one mentioned above, is to reduce a long, serious, and thoughtful dialogue to a sound bite, and so distort what is being said. In short, this is not a simple issue, no matter one’s position on homosexuality, because a state church has legitimate obligations both to the state and the Tradition of the Church, legitimate responsibilities to both the society of which it is part, and to that Kingdom which is to Come. It is one reason the Finnish Church has always celebrated Easter with the West, not “Pascha” with the East. Scandal! Yet, the reality in Finland is that Easter has become a recognizable and great Orthodox holiday throughout that country, and a great focus for Orthodox ministry and preaching of the Gospel – although Orthodox are just 2% of the population. And isn’t that the point of missionary activity?

    In America we are free of state-church tension – in Finland they are not. So to take shots at the Finnish Church, and Finnish priests – and especially very fine priests like Fr. Huttunen – is really unworthy for those who do not speak Finnish, and have no understanding of the Finnish culture, society, or its traditions.

    So, too, Finnish traditions concerning sexuality. It is a centuries old Karelian custom (The Orthodox heartland of Finland) for bridal couples to become engaged, move in and set up house, and then be married sometime later – sometimes after the first child. Is this sex outside marriage? For this Orthodox American who lived in Finland for seven years it took a little getting used to – but for Finns, for whom winter can be brutal and long – the custom made sense since only Summer weddings were really possible. Now the need no longer exists – but the custom does. I am not defending it, just explaining it.

    With regard to homosexuality: The Archbishop of Finland has taken the position that the Church cannot bless such same-sex marriages although they are now legal in the eyes of the State – and the Church does not. Period. This does not erase the fact and pain that 6% of the population of Finland is homosexual – and in a small, close-knit, and homogenous society like Finland, one does not cut out 6% of one’s family easily, or lightly. This is even more the case when the vast majority of the Finnish society (Orthodox and Lutheran and Non-Church) considers homosexuality the equivalent of being left-handed in a right-handed world.

    I have no dog in this fight. But I do think that Finland is the canary in the Orthodox mine. We shall all find ourselves confronting these issues shortly, if present trends continue. Rather than calling them ” shenanigans”, we might do better to listen, and watch how the Finns are trying to find the Orthodox way in their particular conditions, and learn from it.

    Finally, as for the message this sends to our youth: as the former youth director of the OCA, and a general secretary of Syndesmos, the world fellowship of Orthodox youth, I can only tell you we have nothing, nothing, nothing, in this country that compares with the depth, scope and influence of the youth ministry the Orthodox Church in Finland has in theirs. Would that we did.

    With all best wishes,

    Mark Stokoe

  6. Mark,

    Thank you for your kind response. I am at times a very jaded person when it comes to Orthodox leaders. I would also like to express my admiration for your work at ocanews.org. The leadership you have shown is extraordinary and has truly shaped the American Church for the better.

    On the subject of the culture and Church in Finland, I certainly can respect your vantage point but I do have serious questions about where the trajectory of the actions you point out lead. This would be a great dicussion for another day when current events are not as heated as they are today.

    In the meantime perhaps the ancient Letter to Diognetus could allow some perspective for such a discussion:

    For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking[9] method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.[10] They have a common table, but not a common bed.[1] They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.[2] They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.[3] They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.[4] They are poor, yet make many rich;[5] they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless;[6] they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

  7. Maintaining relevance to the surrounding culture is a good thing for the Church. I submit, however, that when relevance becomes an end in itself there is a risk of falling in to the paradoxical situation of the Church being so much in tune with the culture that she has nothing worthwhile or significant to say to it.

    Yes, as the issue of homosexuality grows in importance in our society it is necessary for the Church to address it. We need to be careful, however, that in addressing it we do not fall in to obfuscating an issue that is at bottom very simple. Dialogues on the subject run the risk of placing error on the same level as truth, and can even, in a worst case, represent a tactic to wear down the opposition (usually, in my experience, the defenders of the traditional understanding) until the new position is well established.

    Orthodox tradion is clear on this issue: the only place for sexual activity is in a marriage between a man and a woman. Desire for anything else is a temptation that hinders our salvation. I would agree that there is a need for careful consideration of how to articulate this in a given situation. To say anything less, however, would be to betray our duty both to God and to the society around us. The conference mentioned in the article is called “Courage to Follow the Law of Love.” Delivering an Orthodox message on this issue would take courage, and it would be loving; I hope that’s what the Finnish clergy will do.

  8. George Michalopulos :

    My own feelings on this is that this is a battle that I would rather not fight, simply because I am a sinner myself. Nevertheless, fight we must because we cannot let “porneia” (all sexual sin) rise to the level of dialogue.

    I know it’s easy for me to castigate homosexuality as I, like 97% of American men are, am straight. But let’s be honest, the problem is one of continence. We live in a hypersexualized world in which integration between men and women is unprecedented. If we elevate homosexuality to the level of “dialogue” then why should we not elevate adultery as well? Why don’t we sanction polygamy, since this is a legal sanction for the libidinous propensity of straight males? And let’s be honest, the male sexual drive is powerful. Whether one believes in evolution or creation, it is clearly “natural,” and far more productive than homoerotic relations, which are an evolutionary dead-end.

    following these lines, a much better case could be made for the Church engaging in dialogue about the polygamy.

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