Bp. Michael (OCA) Defends Traditional Marriage

The letter by Bishop Michael (Orthodox Church in America) defending traditional marriage responds to the legislation passed in New York allowing same-sex marriage. The bill contained religious exemptions, but if these will hold up is anyone’s guess (probably not). Still, the bill should not have been passed at all. Does anyone know if the GOA made any kind of statement beforehand? I can’t find anything. I’m not sure if the AOA offered any statement either. We need to take a page from the Catholics: NY Catholic Bishop Says We Should Speak ‘Forcefully And Clearly’ Against Gay Marriage.

Source: OCA HT: Byzantine, TX

Download the pastoral letter (.pdf).


June 24, 2011 Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Beloved Fathers and Mothers, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

Christ is in our midst! – He is and ever shall be!

On this very day, we have witnessed the successful efforts of public officials in the State of New York to legally re-define the meaning of marriage to include unions between two persons of the same gender. It is important for us, as Christians of the Orthodox Church, preserving the Tradition of teaching the truth handed down by the Lord Himself, “the faith which was once for all delivered to the Saints” (Jude 3), to re-affirm the meaning of marriage given to us in His Sacred Scripture.

In the document, Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctify of Life, written and adopted by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America in 1992, we read (in part) the following summary of the teaching of our Faith on this matter:

1) God wills that men and women marry, becoming husbands and wives. He commands them to increase and multiply in the procreation of children, being joined into “one flesh” by His divine grace and love. He wills that human beings live within families (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-24; Orthodox Marriage Service).

2) The Lord went even further to declare that people who look at others to lust after them in their hearts have “committed adultery” (cf. Matthew 5:27-30).

3) Christ’s apostles repeat the teachings of their Master, likening the unique marriage between one man and one woman to the union between Christ and His Church which they experience as the Lord’s very body and His bride (Ephesians 5:21-33; 2 Corinthians 11:2).

4) Marriage and family life are to be defended and protected against every open and subtle attack and ridicule.

5) Sexual intercourse is to be protected as a sacred expression of love within the community of heterosexual monogamous marriage in which alone it can be that for which God has given it to human beings for their sanctification.

As children of God, we are called to conform our sexual behavior to the commandments of Christ. As Christians, whether single or married, we are called to a life of chastity, pleasing to the Lord. This means struggling against those passions that incline us to “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) – fornication, homosexual activity, or adultery. A heterosexual person has to overcome his or her inclination toward multiple partners of the opposite sex outside of the blessed union of marriage; a homosexual person has to overcome his or her inclination toward others of the same sex. We are all called to live our lives according to the will of God and thereby partake of the way of salvation.

No matter what the prevailing pressure of the culture or the legislation of the state may proclaim, the timeless teaching of the Church echoes the rule of marriage revealed to us by the Lord, written in the Scripture, and re-affirmed by the wisdom and examples of the Saints. Gay marriage or any other unblessed sexual activity is not the love that the Lord extols. Because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), no matter what the government or society may say, like St. Peter and the Apostles, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We need not be afraid to stand in opposition to prevailing trends, as the early Christians stood bravely and boldy, upholding heterosexual monogamous marriage in the non-Christian empire of their time.

Having said this, we must never forget the Lord’s greatest commandment of love, which includes, after loving God above all else, the imperative, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This means we must never condemn anyone, but reach out to everyone with the living, healing, saving love of God in Christ Jesus. It means to walk in truth toward all, to do what is right for all, and to affirm what is good and holy on behalf of all.

Let us bear witness to the truth taught by Our Lord, and lived by His Saints, in our daily conversations with our families, our fellow Christians, our neighbors and co-workers. Let us teach the Orthodox Christian vision of marriage, as a path to salvation shared by husband and wife, to our children, godchildren, and all those who come under our care as parents, godparents, pastors, and Christian educators.

Let us join in prayer that the people of faith across the states of New York and New Jersey will continue to stand fast in the divinely revealed truth of what marriage means. And let us by our example witness to the life of chastity to which every human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is called.

With my humble prayers and love in Christ, I remain

Devotedly yours in His service,

+ M I C H A E L
Bishop of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey


  1. George Michalopulos :

    AXIOS!!! What makes him worthy is not merely the content (which is superb), or the fact that he is the only NY-based bishop to speak out, but that he is speaking out on his own authority as a Teacher of the Church. In doing so, he is repudiating the Stokovite heresy which states that a bishop must clear his schedule with the Lesser Synod, the Metropolitan Council and the janitor in Syosset.

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

      Now if we can just get a bishop to tell us what to do about the openly gay couples communing in our churches. (Or maybe +Michael’s line about not condemning anyone means they get a pass.)

    • Wait, shoudn’t he have asked permission of the Synod, or at LEAST the Metropolitan Council, before making any public proclamation of any kind?

      Oh wait, I forgot – he isn’t Jonah.

      Good Job, Bishop Michael.

  2. The voice of the GOA? At the time this was being debated we had this from GOA’s Bishop Andonios:

    GOA Bishop Andonios: clergy gay truckstop trysts not necessarily unethical

    TNH Reporter Asks: Why he has [Fr. Recachinas, caught doing and soliciting for
    gay sex at truck stops] requested to resign?

    Bishop Andonios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese: For personal reasons.

    TNH: Did he tell what are those personal reasons?

    Andonios: I am not going to tell you anything more. The only thing I tell is
    that he has not done anything illegal.

    TNH: Has he done anything unethical?

    Andonios: Not necessarily.

    What was he thinking!! “Not Necessarily” unethical? Please now!


    Parishioners Say Their Priest Cruised Truck Stops for Sex

    Critical Moment For The Church

    • George Michalopulos :

      Un-bloody-believable. I guess he does understand the moral impact of these actions at least.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      It’s hard to comprehend the depth of the compulsion driving this priest. I hope the man finds healing but the road back is going to be difficult considering how far he traveled down it.

      Still, the obtuse response about illegal and unethical behavior shows something is seriously wrong. It’s defensive. There is no moral clarity. What does it say to the priest caught up in these sins and the parish reeling from the revelations of his behavior? Not much.

      Secondly, why did it take a group of laypeople hiring a lawyer to bring the actions of a troubled priest to light? Hiring private investigators is an extreme response but in this case it appears to be the necessary one. Certainly the behavior was reported to the bishop earlier. Why wasn’t any action taken then?

      Harry’s implicit point that the silence from the GOA hierarchy is due to internal problems seems sound. I used to puzzle over the silence from the hierarchy about the crucial moral issues tearing the culture apart. I always thought it exhibited an unwillingness to risk political capital (Sarbannes, Snowe, etc.). Now I wonder if the problem is not that they are unwilling, but that internal conditions render them incapable of the necessary and proper responses.

      • The only moral clarity visibly affirmed follows from just one thing, synonymous in that world: disobedience / disloyalty. To whom does a Christian owe obedience and loyalty first?

        ‘Obedience to wrongdoing is disobedience to Christ’ – G. Diogenes Jones.

        Now I challenge those who are shocked at this clergy misconduct and the obvious overlooking of it for so many years: what of the priest’s family? What of their future?

  3. Michael Bauman :

    AFTER THE FACT. Real easy to do. How about the heavy lifting of teaching it in the parishes and applying liturgical discipline to those who disagree and the pastoral guidance and support of a real confessor to bring help and healing to those suffering from the affliction. The strategy seems to be ignore and pontificate. Lay folks quickly see through that as the hypocrisy that it is. Sorry. No kudos here at all from me. If he sent out a pastoral letter to his priests instructing them on how to deal with the issues at a parish level in a pastoral manner, that I could believe. Absent that he is saying he believes in green cheese.

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

      It’s not nothing, but as Michael says, it’s not nearly enough. What are we going to do about the gay marriages in our midst? How long will we scandalize the faithful by allowing the openly faithless to “eat and drink damnation” to themselves?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Michael it’s a start. And given the attacks on Met. Jonah recently for his unequivocal defense of the moral tradition, it’s courageous too.

      Every church is afflicted with homosexuality in some way or another. We either deal with it or we don’t. The Catholics for example, were forced to deal with it because of the pedophile scandal. The Episcopalians gave themselves over to it. Our time is coming (actually it is already here, we just don’t want to admit it yet).

      The way to begin dealing with it is to be clear about what the moral tradition teaches. Bp. Michael is doing that as is Met. Jonah. The only other recent and unequivocal voice was Met. Isaiah (Met. Isaiah speaks out against same-sex marriage).

      Give the man the credit that is due, even if more should be done.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Father, I’ll give the statement from which he is quoting (from 1992) its just due. I disagree strongly that +Michael’s statement is a start at all, irrespective of what is happening to Met. Jonah. The statement in 1992 was a start. Its apparently been on permanent pause ever since. It means less than nothing until there is actual action similar to the type Hieromonk Mark suggested on the CDC thread.

        What is he doing in his diocese to build and strengthen Orthodox practice and belief at the lay level? What is he doing to strengthen and support the priest under him to carry out there pastoral and teaching role regarding the faith (not general theology, but in matters such as the homosexual situation)? Are they able and willing to proactive teach and minister in these areas or are they too afraid or unprepared or worse in disagreement with the principals of the Synodal statement and the teachings of the Church?

        Way too easy, especially after the fact, to say ‘piously’ that the action was wrong, but frankly, so what? What was done in the New York parishes prior to the action? I’d guess absolutely nothing. That’s either apathy or cowardice.

        I can understand not wanting to get involved in the public political debates, but that is no reason that there cannot be strong, unequivocable teaching at the parish level at every opportunity. If folks don’t like it, they have two options: change or leave. Unfortunately, many will attempt the ‘third way’, i.e, the overhaul of Church teachings to match the degradation of the culture. That should not be tolerated.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Michael, it’s a start, it really is. I don’t don’t think it ends here. We are not the only people frustrated with the lack of moral leadership.


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