Bishop Thomas on the Manhattan Declaration

Thomas, Bishop of Charleston/Oakland and Assistant to Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, posted an informational item on the Manhattan Declaration and included links to educational resources on the sanctity of life and marriage. Bishop Thomas encouraged his flock to share his message with parishioners in the diocese. Key paragraphs:

Bishop Thomas of Charleston (AOA)

Bishop Thomas of Charleston (AOA)

1. With regard to abortion, the Orthodox Church forbids it. We do everything we can to align ourselves with the mind and teachings of the Church.

2. With regard to marriage, we obviously only bless marriages between one man and one woman. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Having said this, it is also important for us to understand that the union between a man and a woman should exist within the Mystery of Holy Matrimony.

3. The Scripture clearly forbids homosexuality. It is not necessary for me to direct you to Scriptural passages that deal with this issue. The Tradition of the Church speaks with one voice concerning the expression of sexuality as proper only between a man and a woman who have been united as husband and wife. Homosexuality is clearly outside of the proper, blessed, and life-nurturing context of Holy Matrimony.

4. With regard to the freedom of religion, we, of course, support the freedom of each person to make a choice concerning religion. Orthodox Christians likewise possess the freedom to reject the teachings and practices of all non-Orthodox religions and secular ideologies. Love and tolerance for others do not imply agreement or consent. We reject such “political correctness.” As Orthodox Christians, we must reject and respond to attempts by non-Orthodox groups to inhibit us from speaking, teaching, and living the inalterable Tradition. Since the days that immediately followed Pentecost, Christians have lived up to their responsibility to say “yes” to Christ and “no” to false gods and ideologies that contradict the true Faith.

We recognize the authority of the state, endeavor to obey the civil laws established to preserve order in society, pray for our leaders, and prefer to work in cooperation with the state (symphonia) for the good of men. Christ taught us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17, NKJV). When edicts of the government conflict with the divinely revealed Orthodox Faith, we are obliged to disregard such edicts, insofar as they contradict the Faith, and continue to live according to the Tradition as our sainted Fathers and Mothers have done throughout the generations before us. When the temporal state attempts to usurp the divinely-rooted authority of the Church, our obedience to God and loyalty to His Kingdom must prevail. As the Holy Apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, NKJV).

Read Bishop THOMAS on the Manhattan Declaration on the Antiochian Web site.

Sign the Declaration here.


  1. To be exclusive, you are either Orthodox or you are not. To be inclusive, you are either a Christian or you are not. Either way, except for some neo-ambiguous-Anglicans and some neo-politically-correct-Reformed, you believe that abortion and euthanasia are wrong and against the teaching of the Church. Either way, it is time that we start engaging in this cultural war. God bless those who signed the Manhattan Declaration. God have mercy on those that did not, particularly those of my Orthodox brethren.

    I am sick and tired of our ethnicity. I remember when Melissa Bean ran for Congress from the north Chicago suburbs. I got calls from Serbians who wanted me to contribute to her campaign. I said she’s a liberal, I can’t. I got called a bunch of names, including anti-Serbian. The same happened when Rod Blagojevich ran for governor of Illinois. I said he is a fool. They said, but he is Serbian. Who turned out to be a fool on that one.

    It is time that we forget our ethnicity and remember our Orthodoxy. You either believe or you don’t. When one of our politicians speaks in favor of issues that are wrong, based on our beliefs, we need to call them on the issue and oppose them to their face. When one of them approaches the Chalice, we need to learn to speak out, even IN THE CHURCH.

    Enough is Enough.

  2. Bravo, Bishop Thomas!

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Bravo Nick! I too am sick and tired of these extreme leftist Congressmen who happen to be Greek. I don’t owe them anything.

    And bravo to Bishop Thomas. By my count, there are 51 Orthodox bishops in America. That means 3 out of 51 so far are brave enough to sign this declaration and inform their flocks to do so as well.

    It’s a start.

  4. God bless Bishop Thomas for his public support of these key moral issues! Axios!

  5. I generally agree with what the Manhattan Declaration says, but I would like to point out that though Bishop Thomas is very firm in the faith and does not hesitate in stating what the Orthodox Church has always affirmed and professed, he did not actually sign the document. It might do us well to ponder why he did not lend his name to a joint theological statement such as this before we start judging our Orthodox brothers and sisters as being less than orthodox for not signing it. After all, there were many Orthodox saints and martyrs who have proved themselves worthy before the eyes of God before it was found necessary to sign documents with people of the likes of Gary Bauer and Chuck Colson to prove our commitment to Christ.

    God bless,

    • Anthony: If those that pander to ethnicity in politics, overlooking the dictates of their faith, were martyrs or willing to become martyrs, perhaps. But they are not martyrs nor, I venture to guess, would they become such if the opportunity arose. Their concerns are “this worldly”. They are prominent in the New Testament. They were called Pharisees. Outwordly, they looked most pious. Inwardly, they had two goals: (1) lord over their brethern and (2) appease the pagan Roman Empire. Sound familiar?

    • While he may not have been one of the initial signers, I have not been able to find a list anywhere that would show all of the signatories. So, we do not know who has – or has not – signed it since. I would not want to read too much into it since we just do not know. If his statement on the website is any indication, he may well have signed it – but, again, we do not know.

      It’s also a bit anachronistic to conflate the historic witness of the saints and martyrs elsewhere with the signing of this document, though I believe that this is a least a form of witness appropriate to the need of the moment. Like others here, I have signed it as well.
      As I see it, the document is taking an important stand against very destructive trends that, if left unchallenged, will foster a very hostile environment for the faith.

      As an aside, has anyone noticed that “multi-culturalism” is nothing of the sort? Actual “diversity” is not permitted. Any meaningful departures from prevailing politically-correct notions are rejected as unenlightened. The only “permissible” expressions of diversity are those that essentially support and certainly do not challenge the dominant agenda.

      As an example, my teen-aged son recently participated in a group discussion about the (character) differences between the boys and girls. My son shared that what made them the same was they they were made in the image of God. Hardly earth-shaking or sectarian. Yet, in the name of “tolerance,” he was told that this was NOT acceptable to share. (I made the point in a subsequent discussion with the teacher that while the institution could impose restrictions on the employees, it was hardly suitable or right to demand this of the students.) My question is: what kind of diversity do we have if we are only permitted to express those views that reflect the very lowest common denominator?

      This, it seems to me, is very much where we are headed. Expressions of faith that place God above this agenda are a threat and not acceptable; the only acceptable forms of religious expression are those that accept subservience to the dominant agenda; these, however, are thus compromised at best and idolatrous at worst. The agenda thereby shows that its real intention is to destroy real diversity in the name of diversity; in practice, it demands that we genuflect to its cultural hegemony. (As I have noted previously, we appear to be doing retail what the Soviet Union did wholesale.) For this reason and others, I view the witness and challenge of the Manhattan Declaration as important.

      Beneath the current cultural agenda, beneath ALL such movements, there are deeply held notions about what it means to be human. As Michael has noted elsewhere, the document is essentially challenging a deeply flawed anthropology that – like any distorted or heretical notion – is destructive to those who live by it. While we may honestly and deeply disagree with Evangelical or (some types of) Catholic solutions to these problems, I think it is terrific that we are working together to address issues over which we have common concern. More important, if we are witnessing the beginnings of social forces that might eventually lead to persecution, it is incumbent upon us to stand up in a clear and timely manner – both as a witness and out of love for our neighbor.

  6. I signed the Declaration, but I’m glad that Bishop Thomas added the last paragraph.

    Where is his diocese? Charleston SC and Oakland CA? A bicoastal Bishop?

    • Bishop Thomas’s diocese is PA, VA, WV, MD, and DE (excepting the parishes in the metropolitan DC area). The Charleston and Oakland in his title are in West Virginia and Pennsylvania (the latter as a borough of Pittsburgh), respectively.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    I just now realized that this is posted on the Antiochian website. Bravo to them for doing so. I’m gonna check out the other websites in the meantime.

  8. Bravo to His Grace Bishop Thomas for showing us leadership.

    Bravo to Nick for standing up for what is right. You are correct Nick we need to engage the culture at every level. We also need to write to our bishops and urge them to have the courage to sign on.

  9. I just found the GOA Response to the Manhattan Declaration and its important social and pastoral issues:


  10. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, you had me going there! I thought it was serious! Curious, has Bishop Savas commented upon this cultural development?

    • Humor and satire is a powerful tool in helping people see the truth of a matter. I may be wrong but there is nothing in the Tradition of the Church that looks down on humor and satire when practiced with virtue. Virtue being the key word here.

      Now if only we had an editorial cartoonist here at AOI……

      • Andrew, satire is a powerful tool–but anything can be satrized. Satire is destructive in nature as it concentrates on the negative in people and institutions. It doesn’t exactly follow our Lord’s teachings and the instruction in the NT that we should love our enemies and state the reason for our faith with gentleness and respect while being conscious of our own sins first. I’m not sure if satire can really be used with virtue. The continual use of satire tends to harden our hearts.

        Humor is too broad a term in and of itself. Certainly, genuine laughter is healing,e.g.,when we laugh at our own foibles, mistakes and awkwardness. Keep in mind that much of what we call humor is based upon a voyeristic recognition of another’s pain–we laugh to avoid real empathy.

        Laughter can also be created by a simple use of juxtapostion and timing. Comics rely on these techniques all the time to induce laughter in us, e.g Jeff Dunham’s character, Akmed-The Dead Terrorist.

        At its best, humor can help us see our own sin in a cathartic manner and a lack of a sense of humor often marks a person who is refusing to look at their own situation.

        Your emphasis on virtue is quite relevant here.

        • Laughter and humor is unique to the human person. It would appear to be that laughter, humor and the ability to satirize are part of the gift of human freedom and love and have the ability to be used to illuminate or obscure truth. Hence the need for virtue. We can go too far and lose our way. I cannot say for certain but I suspect many a fool-for-Christ employed a virtuous sense of humor. Fr. Alexander Schmemann could also take an excess he saw in the Church and use satire to illuminate an important point. How many “Schmemannisms” -passed on by those who knew him- make us laugh?

  11. cynthia curran :

    Chuck Colson is not anti-Roman Catholic or Orthodox. He is one of the few conservative Protestants that has respect for Catholics or the Orthodox. In one story Colson wrote about a Russian woman name Irina that grew up during the Soviet Era and received the typical communists progandra in school. She founded Christ and God and became Orthodox and spent time in Prison and the psych wards. And Colson mention about Western Christians helped her out of that situation. Its not Oakland Ca is a Oakland in the midwest,somewhere where his diocese is.

  12. Very good Andrew. After watching the video, I stummbled across the following poem, to the rough meter of Poe’s “Raven”. I thought you might enjoy:

    Once upon a midnight sleeping, as I lay my head a dreaming,
    And my features had all the seeming of a person who’s about to snore;
    When then a breathing, turning, yawning heard I the sound of chirping,
    A loud, tumultuous chirping: outside my bedroom door.
    “It’s the kiddies” I muttered “this it is and nothing more”;
    “It must only be the kiddies, awake too early: no more.”

    Ah, I remember ’twas in the Month of August (near September),
    When each and every family member slept (because it was four);
    Yet this infernal blasted chirping, as if some small twerp or bug thing
    Had managed an orchestra to implore,
    And to play Beethoven’s Ninth outside my chamber door.
    The evil of this chirping occurring out my door.

    Suddenly that blasted chirping, my senses full alerting,
    Ripped me from my dreams of flirting on distant sandy shores;
    “What” said I, “is that bleating? some creature that is repeating
    a sound that is teeming with sleeping nevermore.
    A blasted evil chirping outside my chamber door;
    A blasted evil chirping right outside my door.”

    Quickly out I fumbled, from my bed I suddenly tumbled,
    stumbled and with a groaning rumble, I tore open my bedroom door.
    And on the floor before me hopping, a small insect (it’s sound not stopping),
    A tiny cricket gone a-hopping tearing across my bedroom floor.
    It ran beneath my bed-frame, hiding there upon the floor.

    Turning I did mutter, my robes a flagrant flutter,
    as I turned with a shudder away from my chamber door.
    The mystics will respect me, the heavens I’ll implore
    As with patience (to the saints befitting) this foul creature I’ll ignore.
    Yes, thought I, back to bed and this creature I’ll ignore.

    Chirp, it said, Chirp (repeating)
    Chirp the chirping from the shadows the sound soared.
    Chirping Chirp and Chirping Chirping and for-chirping still (and more!).
    Chirping Chirp chirp blasted Chirping
    And my dreams (then promised) to be returned nevermore.
    Yes my poor sleep and dreaming (Chirp) to return, nevermore.
    “Thing of Evil (Chirp)be you prophet (chirp) or devil!
    By that heaven that bends (chirp) us – by that (chirp) we both adore;
    Tell this (chirp) with sleepy laden, if with(chirp) the distant (chirping)
    It shall (chirp) a sainted (chirping) whom the (chirp-chirp) named (chirp chirp)!
    “Stop (chirp)iterrupitng when I’m rhyming (Chirp), I implore”
    And the Cricket chirps some more.

    “Be that (chirp) our sign of (chirp)ing; bug or fiend!” I shrieked (chirp)ing,Get thee out of my bedroom and into the (chirp chirp chirp chirp) door.
    Leave no (chirp chirp chirp) of that (chirp) that soul has (chirp);
    Blast, quit interrupting me: I said no more!
    Quoth the cricket as it chirped along some more.

    And the cricket, never flitting, still is chirping and its sitting
    Beneath the frame of my bed upon my chamber floor.
    And his antennae have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming
    And the shadows over him streaming as his orchestra he performs
    And my head from down at the sofa, outside my chamber door
    With the pillows a lifting from my head: nevermore.

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