Orthodoxy and Homosexuality

From a new posting on Fr. Peter-Michael Preble’s blog.

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

The past few weeks have seen the number of young people being targeted for their homosexual identity then it has in years past. Recently TV personality Ellen Degeneris, herself a lesbian, posted a video about the bullying of people who are different then the rest of us. I posted this video to my Facebook page and received a variety of responses. I thought it would be helpful to review the Orthodox Christian position on homosexuality.

I know this will be hurtful to many of my readers and please know that I do not wish to cause you any harm but the truth of the teachings of the Orthodox Church are time tested. The Church does not nor should not, conform to society. It is the Church’s role to conform society to the way of Jesus Christ. It is also the Church’s role and responsibility to point out sin and make a way for reconciliation with people to Christ and His Church. Jesus loves everyone regardless of their sin, but our sin separates from Him and His desire is that all be reconciled to Him and His Church.

As I have said before, since there is no one single head that speaks for the Orthodox Church it is difficult to come up with a clear statement one way or the other. Also, I do not speak for the Orthodox Church or even my Archdiocese; these words are my interpretation of church teaching. These are also the words of the Orthodox Christian Priest. I make no reference to what other churches believe or do not believe. If you wish further clarification I suggest you seek out your own priest.

The bulk of this will come from the book, Contemporary Moral Issues Facing the Orthodox Christian by Fr. Stanley Harakas.

A distinction needs to be made between the homosexual person and homosexual acts. The Orthodox Church has a long and clearly articulated position on homosexual acts but a position on homosexuality is difficult to come by. From the Encyclopedia of Bioethics Vol. 2 p. 671 comes this definition of the homosexual person that will aide us in our conversation.

Homosexuality is… a predominant, persistent, and exclusive psychosexual attraction toward members of the same sex. A homosexual person is one who feels sexual desire for and a sexual responsiveness to persons of the same sex and who seeks or would like to seek actual sexual fulfillment of this desire by sexual acts with a person of the same sex.

The Orthodox Church considers the homosexual act morally wrong. Homosexual acts, along with all other expressions of wrongful sexual expression, to include fornication, adultery, prostitution, incest, bestiality, masturbation would be considered the wrongful expression of sex and therefore morally wrong. The only proper place for sexual expression is in marriage.

The evidence from Old and New Testaments as well as the writing of the Church Fathers and Mothers clearly state that homosexual acts are morally wrong.

If there is a man that lies with males as those be with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act. (Leviticus 20:13)
Their women exchanged the natural functions for that which is unnatural, and in the same way the men abandoned the natural function of women and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men, committing indecent acts… (Romans 1:24-28)

All of this points towards the fallen nature of man and the depraved passions of man in the fallen state. We must work to turn away from the passions and configure our life towards Christ.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

The patristic tradition is also clear in the judgment. From the Didache of the Twelve Apostles in the 2nd century, through the writings of St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, Blessed Augustine, St Gregory of Nyssa. The 6th century Code of Justinian, the cannons of St. John the Faster to the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America in March of 1978, the teaching of the Orthodox Church is consistent and unvarying, homosexual acts are immoral and wrong.

In the terminology of the Church the attraction of one person to another person of the same sex is called a passion. It is a wrongful orientation of our desires. Passions come in many forms and are directed away from many things. Self – pride, money – greed, food – gluttony, extra marital sex partners – lust, others property – theft to name a few. It is our common spiritual and moral struggle against sin in all forms that we work together to fight temptation and overcome the passions.

The Church offers many spiritual tools in fighting the passions to include, worship, fasting, the Sacrament of Confession, reading of Scripture and Patristic works and spiritual counseling. This passion of homosexuality is no different then the other passions and the church need to exercise care and concern for all those who are battling the passions no matter what the passion.

With all of this said, and in light of my opening statement the Orthodox Church supports the guarantees to the basic rights due all persons, life and dignity, liberty, basic needs and access to them. However the Orthodox Church cannot support any action that would allow for the public display of homosexuality to include marriage. “The overt practice of homosexuality, its public acceptance as an ‘alternative life-style’, the effort to make prideful that which is shameful are condemned by the Orthodox Church and seen as a severe attack on the family. (Harakas 95)

The general position then of the Orthodox Church can be summed up in the statement from SCOBA issued on March 7, 1978:

The Christian family is currently subject to serious negative pressures from secular elements in our society. Such are the extensive campaigns of self-proclaimed homosexuals, both individually and collectively, to obtain recognition of their life-styles as being of equal worth with marriage and the home. Without wishing to penalize anyone who deserves sympathy and pastoral assistance from the Christian community because of physical or emotional personality states over which they have no control, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas reiterates the clear directives of scriptures and tradition which condemn voluntary homosexual acts as sinful and forbidden and detrimental to the existence of the Christian home. Persons who embrace homosexual life-styles are not qualified to teach children or act as spiritual leaders.


  1. alexis banias :

    Way to go, Father Preble! Beautifully substantiated from a perspective of tough love and stern reality as seen through the eyes of the Holy Scriptures and the Early Church Fathers. It is what it is, so we can either accept it or reject it. The late Rutgers student who had flung himself from the GW Bridge is quite disturbing.

    • Thanks for addressing the issue. However, I think there is a major flaw in the blog article. I don’t believe it truly address the issue of same-sex-attraction within the context of the Orthodox Faith, entirely. Instead it just uses rulings from church councils and quotes Holy Scripture not in their entire context. Correct, the Orthodox Church states homosexual acts are a sin.

      However, we live in a society that has no regard for Holy Scripture nor councils of bishops. My impression that the article is just confusing moralism with Orthodoxy. It doesn’t mention the Church’s understanding of sin in the Light of Christ’s Holy Passion and Resurrection. You cannot witness the faith out the context of Christ Crucified! The beauty and power of the liberation of the Cross and Resurrection must be first and foremost when addressing passions. A statement, argument, or pastoral advise addressing this issue must be Christ centered.

      If you do not witness the hope and love radiating from Christ crucified your moral belief or encouragement will be just dry moralism. It is easy to hide behind a scripture versus or councils’ decrees without having to face the truly demonic battle raging today within the Orthodox Church and the public. The martyrs converted many to the faith based on their sincere love and deeds which proved there is a higher level of living, a life worth living by uniting oneself with Christ. This must be the main point when addressing the errors of sins and passions, voluntary or involuntary.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        In order to provide the pastoral praxis you are asking for, it first has to be clear what the moral commandment actually says. Muddling the clarity of the commandment doesn’t do anyone anyone any favors. Once we know what is right and what is wrong, we can start dealing with those drives within us (the “passions”) that are attracted to the wrongs.

        This is not the same thing as being “moralistic.” Yes, tone and such matter, but those things take care of themselves if one indeed loves the neighbor. I think Fr. Peter accomplished that. His tone is irenic, he gives the reader his reasons for writing the essay, he even indicates that some might be offended by it. If they are offended, it is not by his manner, but by the content of the teaching.

        I’m not so sure either if your implicit assumption that the moral commandment no longer carries any moral force in the culture is a true as you think. If it were, the assault against Christians by the homosexual lobby would not be as strong. Remember, the real authority of the commandment doesn’t draw from the person who teaches it, but that it commends itself to the conscience.

        I think some of your reaction might be shaped by a perception about homosexuality that sooner or later will fall: homosexuality mirrors heterosexuality in morality and manner except the object of the attraction and activity is a member of the same sex. Many people believe this and thus the prohibition is strikes them as anachronistic.

        But this perception will erode as homosexuality becomes more prevalent since a homosexualized culture cannot bind itself internally. Cultural cohesion cannot exist once a society has been homosexualized although it appears our society will have to experience that first hand to some measure before they believe it again. At that point the ears will be unstopped and the teaching heard because people like Fr. Peter are not afraid to teach it.

        As for the pastoral dimension, I recommend the book Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic. Moberly (the author) is Orthodox and her book offers a compassionate and sensitive treatment of the person struggling with homosexual desire. I’ve given it to people struggling with this passion and it has brought them some comfort and enlightenment.

        • Fr. Jacobse,

          Thanks for the reply and the thoughtful comments. My initial reply was based on context of experience explaining Orthodoxy to those of the GBLT community who ask me about the faith. My reply was not based on perception of current trends within popular culture but by day to day experienced interaction with people in real time and social networking.

          For them, scriptural verses and edicts from councils hold no relevance or meaning. They only find their meaning from their own conscience, thoughts, and feelings in light of scientific inquiry. To them and a growing number of generation X & Y within the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and mainline Protestant traditions hold such things as being anachronistic as well.

          In fact it is ironic, the GBLT inquirers are more sympathetic to the Orthodox Faith once everything is explained in light of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. While, I’ve experienced cradle Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants from generation X & Y who mock Scripture and have no sympathy for Holy Tradition even in light of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. Some of them even look forward to the death of their grandparents, parents, and the older generations to die, so they can remake the church in their image according to their will in light of scientific inquiry.

          My point being, that we can only witness to others of the faith within the context of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. For some reason, this only seems to be the only thing that can hit home for folks these days. I felt the article wasn’t strongly written around that cornerstone. I’m afraid only a remanent will embrace this fact in future generations, while the popular cultural will be so drastically changed. It is important to preach in light of Christ crucified, St. Paul did it, and St. Kosmas of Aetolia did it. This will be the only way for the future. Thank you for your kind reply and feedback.

  2. In a free society a person needs to be very, very careful about being part of anything that limits what others agree to do among themselves– because doing that is an invitation someday to have something you are doing that others don’t like stomped as well. But this gay marriage is not that. They are not asking for the right to be let alone to do what they agree to do among themselves, they are pressing to impose the obligation upon everyone else to call it what they prefer and to have it be thought with force of law to be ‘the same’ as marriage in all societal and legal respects. And to bring fines and penalties and force upon those who decline to accept that imposition.

    Stories abound from early education teachers about the big problems children have who come to understand one of their parents by choice lives in that way. Problems not seen in single parent situations or divorce-remarrage situations.

    Until there is hard, repeatable experimental science and not politically mailliable consensus-of-psychologist science that shows sexual orientation is properly to be classifed in the same categories of sex, race or ethnic group legislating as if risks greater harm. Better to simply not interfere in what people who agree do, without imposing definitions reordering society as known for these many centuries on the vast majority.

    • Interesting study. The truth will prevail despite all efforts of the LGBT coalition.

      J Biosoc Sci. 2010 Nov;42(6):721-42. Epub 2010 Jul 20.
      Children of homosexuals more apt to be homosexuals? A reply to Morrison and to Cameron based on an examination of multiple sources of data.
      Schumm WR.

      Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA.
      Comment on:

      J Biosoc Sci. 2007 Jan;39(1):153-4; discussion 155-6.
      J Biosoc Sci. 2006 May;38(3):413-8.
      Ten narrative studies involving family histories of 262 children of gay fathers and lesbian mothers were evaluated statistically in response to Morrison’s (2007) concerns about Cameron’s (2006) research that had involved three narrative studies. Despite numerous attempts to bias the results in favour of the null hypothesis and allowing for up to 20 (of 63, 32%) coding errors, Cameron’s (2006) hypothesis that gay and lesbian parents would be more likely to have gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure (of sexual orientation) sons and daughters was confirmed. Percentages of children of gay and lesbian parents who adopted non-heterosexual identities ranged between 16% and 57%, with odds ratios of 1.7 to 12.1, depending on the mix of child and parent genders. Daughters of lesbian mothers were most likely (33% to 57%; odds ratios from 4.5 to 12.1) to report non-heterosexual identities. Data from ethnographic sources and from previous studies on gay and lesbian parenting were re-examined and found to support the hypothesis that social and parental influences may influence the expression of non-heterosexual identities and/or behaviour. Thus, evidence is presented from three different sources, contrary to most previous scientific opinion, even most previous scientific consensus, that suggests intergenerational transfer of sexual orientation can occur at statistically significant and substantial rates, especially for female parents or female children. In some analyses for sons, intergenerational transfer was not significant. Further research is needed with respect to pathways by which intergenerational transfer of sexual orientation may occur. The results confirm an evolving tendency among scholars to cite the possibility of some degree of intergenerational crossover of sexual orientation.

      PMID: 20642872 [PubMed – in process]

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