Met. Joseph: Archpastoral Directive On So-Called Same-Sex Marriage

Metropolitan Joseph - Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

Source: Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America


Based…upon natural creation, even as our Lord Jesus Christ did as reported in the holy Gospels…the Church recognizes the word, “marriage,” as designating only one datum: the fleshly union of one man and one woman, “just as Adam and Eve in the beginning of the world” (ancient betrothal, Service of Matrimony) in an exclusive way, allowing no others.

It is this exclusive union of love which alone is fertile and thus the nursery of the human race until the end of time. Any other so-called “marriage,” including socalled “same-sex marriage,” is a forgery and death-dealing, sterile and doomed to frustration and the ruin of body and soul of its participants.

Therefore, the Church cannot recognize or countenance any other definition of marriage by any human law, since any such “law” contrary to God’s own created ordinance cannot stand as law, but is and will be a dead letter. “There is a way which seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof is death.” This, then, is the Church’s word to our North American people.

Met. Joseph is the Archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Church of North America.

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  1. Axios!

  2. The faithful will be so encouraged by this clear, truthful, and compassionate statement. I am grateful to belong to the Church, especially when she speaks like this. Those of us who live and work in difficult situations are helped enormously by pastoral directives that are well informed and that do not compromise the truth. Thank you, and MANY YEARS, Master!

  3. James Bradshaw says

    Priests and pastors are not employees of the state, they only act as its agents when issuing a civil marriage license. They can decide to act on the state’s behalf … or not. If Orthodox priests can refuse civil marriage licenses to couples who are outside the Orthodox faith currently, I don’t see why this freedom wouldn’t extend to them should a gay couple seek their services (assuming any would, which I doubt).

    However, it’s understandable if some pastors decide to refrain from signing civil marriage licenses entirely.

    The issue of whether this freedom should extend to civil employees is another matter altogether.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      James, the juggernaut succeeds through local zoning. Look at the bakery owners driven out of business. As for civil employees, as states grow weary of federal overreach, nullification becomes an increasing possibility.

      • James Bradshaw says

        “Look at the bakery owners driven out of business. ”

        My statement was about the ability of pastors and priests to decline wedding services, not for-profit, public entities like bakeries. These aren’t the same things in the eyes of the law (nor in the eyes of the most customers, I’d think). Plus, some of these small businesses may end up getting shut down through consumer boycotts, not through any government action, per se, and there’s little you can do about that.

        For the record, I think some exemptions should apply even to small businesses, but they must be limited and very specific. For example, if you sell customized wedding cakes, you should not be forced to put two grooms on it. However, if you sell cakes off the shelf, you can’t refuse to sell one to a customer who happens to be gay. The protection then becomes a matter of freedom of speech. It’s the same type of freedom extended to print shops who don’t want to print posters for a KKK rally.

        I also think it’s pig-headed to sue a small business who tactfully and respectfully expresses qualms about being involved due to reasons of conscience. Folks need to find another person or store who wants their business. Who wants someone to be involved with something like a wedding if it’s under compulsion, anyhow? I wouldn’t.

        • Mr. Bradshaw,

          Your argument immediately above is eminently reasonable. I hope for, but do not expect, such reason to prevail. Compulsion is exactly what the extremists desire (although, most certainly, not all homosexuals are extremists). If reason were at work there would be no concern. But hatred, not reason, is what is at work in this – a hatred that desires all citizens to be forced not only into submission, but complicity with evil. And to be fair, it is not primarily homosexuals who relentlessly press this agenda; it is the Progressive Left, both ‘gay’ and straight. Witness the heavy hand of Progressive Leftist government in demanding enforcement of the ‘right’ of a male who ‘identifies’ (whatever that means) as female to shower with high school girls in Schaumburg, IL. Witness The Little Sisters of the Poor who are otherwise obedient the the laws of the land and have always provided healthcare coverage for their employees without complaint being compelled to pay for so-called ‘healthcare services’ to which they object on moral grounds. The list goes on and increases by the day.

          Would that reason were at work, in which case both the godly and the ungodly could live and let live as has largely been the case until recent history. But what is at work in the Progressive Left is hatred of God and everything godly. They will not be satisfied until all hands have been sullied (although they themselves don’t realize it). What we are witnessing is the manifestation of what is primarily an unseen spiritual war, and the principalities and powers behind it will never give place to reason.

  4. Douglas Johnson says

    I wish I could be as sanguine as some other commenters about the Metropolitan’s directive. Nearly all of it is very good, and I wish he had issued it immediately following (or before) the Obergefell decision. My question is why did the Metropolitan’s lawyers include the following in the directive:

    To be precise, the Supreme Court’s decision does not make any new law. However, it rules as non-
    binding any law which limits the legal definition of marriage to that of an exclusive union of one man to one woman. In the light of these facts, we issue this Archiepiscopal Directive in order to underscore the natural definition of marriage as a word to our ‘parish’…

    In short, the directive asserts that there’s no new law here, and regardless, everything will remain the same as it ever was inside the confines of our parishes. But the marriage certificate a couple is required to sign for various benefits and legal protections isn’t signed inside the parish, but in City Hall.

    And if there’s one thing that all sides agree upon, it’s that Obergefell imposes a “deep transformation” in marriage law “affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential.” “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but [it is inconsistent] with the central meaning.” I’m quoting Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion here. Suffice it to say that the minority opinions are far more adamant in asserting that Obergefell creates new law out of thin air.

    The directive bans Antiochian priests from refusing to sign government marriage certificates, but I do not know how, as a parishioner planning to marry, I could reconcile signing my name to a government “marriage” certificate that legally affirms that marriage has no particular connection to the sexual relationship that brings new life into the world.

    And, like the same-sex litigants in Windsor who sued for their social security benefits on the grounds that the government should redefine marriage, I and other Antiochian Orthodox parishioners may very well one day have to sue the government for benefits denied to us when, for religious reasons, we refused to sign our names to a government marriage certificate that affirms this redefinition.

    When that day comes, I have little doubt the government will deny my religious claim and put the Metropolitan’s directive in front of me to demonstrate that I had no basis for taking such a stand, seeing that the highest authority within my church makes clear that Obergefell did not make any new law.

    I have to believe that the Metropolitan’s attorneys think they have found some legally neutral ground that will satisfy our enemies, while allowing us to hold fast to our religious freedoms. But there is no such neutral ground, and our enemies won’t be satisfied. I am reminded of the question Abraham Lincoln put to his audience at Cooper Union in the run-up to the American Civil War. What, Lincoln asked, can the Free States do to satisfy the Confederacy? Here was Lincoln’s answer:

    What will convince them? This and this only: cease to call slavery wrong and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly–done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated–we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas’ new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with guilty pleasure. We must pull down our free state constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

    I hope the Metropolitan will revisit this directive and remove these three sentences that undermine an otherwise worthy statement of faith.

  5. James Bradshaw says

    Douglas, so you’re saying that you will likely refuse a civil marriage license as a form of personal protest, but you then want to sue the federal government for not granting you the very license you willfully rejected?

    Good luck with that.

    By the way, given the clear parameters the Metropolitan provided on what constitutes a valid Orthodox marriage, why are you just now deciding to protest the legal definition of marriage given the multitude of ways the law has violated these parameters over the decades?

    • Douglas Johnson says

      No, James. I am saying that as a matter of religious conscience I cannot sign my name to a document that legally affirms a lie about a sacrament of the church. But when I died, my wife would be entitled to my social security benefits, into which I paid more than I will ever get back. And someone who is actually married should have access to those benefits.

      • James Bradshaw says

        Douglas writes: “I am saying that as a matter of religious conscience I cannot sign my name to a document that legally affirms a lie about a sacrament of the church.”

        So don’t sign it. Without that little piece of paper, though, how are you going to demand spousal benefits from the federal government for some unrelated woman? I’m really sorry to tell you this, but it’s not going to happen (unless the law eventually recognizes your marriage through some sort of common law arrangement).

        Seriously, though: why do you care who the government declares as “married” or not? If someone wants to marry their pet rock, so what? It’s really none of your concern (or mine). Religious liberty issues, I understand, but some of you guys spend so much time fretting over things that have zero impact on your own lives and over the arrangements of people who you care nothing about. It doesn’t make any sense.

        • Douglas Johnson says

          James writes: “how are you going to demand spousal benefits from the federal government for some unrelated woman”

          Why would you describe my wife as “unrelated”? I assume you will answer that she’s unrelated to me in the eyes of the state, even if we were actually married in our church. I certainly hope you’d agree that we’d be actually married, no?

          In Windsor, a two women went to the Supreme Court and demanded spousal benefits on the grounds that they were married, and the court took the first step toward redefining marriage to award them those benefits. Someday, there will be a couple that cannot, as a matter of religious conscience, sign their name to a “little piece of paper” that affirms a lie about a sacrament of the church. To get their spousal benefits they, just like the litigants in Windsor, would have to continue their fight all the way to the Supreme Court and argue that making them lie about a sacrament of the church in order to get their spousal benefits (which is their money) places an undue burden upon them and violates their religious freedom.

          Are you arguing that they should have no religious qualms about signing their names to a document that affirms a legal lie about a sacrament of the church? If so, I’d like to hear you make that argument. But I don’t think that’s what you are saying. Instead I hear you saying that if the couple takes a stand for their religious conscience, they will lose their spousal benefits, and therefore, if they want spousal benefits, they should ignore their religious conscience.

          Seriously, though: why do you care who the government declares as “married” or not? If someone wants to marry their pet rock, so what?

          Marriage has always acted as a constraint upon the state. Rather than write out how and why that is, I’ll refer you to this drawing I did which is my attempt to explain Douglas Farrow’s brilliant Touchstone article on this topic: Please read that article.

          You seems to be of the opinion that the government redefinition of marriage is no big deal. Think about the following for a moment. Our government is now teaching all boys from grades K-12 that it is morally wrong for them to see any particular connection between marriage and the fathering of a child. Yes, if you are one of the few that can afford it, you can pull your kids out of public school. But they will be living in nation of barbaric men who have been taught otherwise. Inner-city black Americans have already lived through the nightmare of that social experiment with out-of-wedlock births now accounting for about 72% of all births. It is no surprise to me at all that this group has opposed the redefinition of marriage more than any other demographic, God bless them.

          Or, if you prefer, here is an exchange between a well-educated young man, who, like you, thinks the government redefinition of marriage is no big deal, and a woman who thinks otherwise. Pay attention to where the young man’s logic inevitably leads:

          Finally, James, I want to refer to you arguments made during Obergefell. The Court asked the attorney representing the litigants if a ruling in her favor could violate someone’s religious freedom. The attorney was unequivocal, she said it definitely could. Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion said that religious freedom is henceforth limited to what you teach. Justice Roberts said the decision ends the free exercise of religion. So James, when all sides agree that the Constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom is now dead or close to it, I think it’s a very big deal. For more on this last paragraph, I’ll ask you to read the following before responding:

          • James Bradshaw says


            In terms of how redefining marriage will impact the family, what you’re arguing against is not gay marriage but gay adoption (as well as single parenthood and single-parent adoption, for that matter).

            By all means, society should encourage men and women to take responsibility for and love the children they conceive (and to not abuse, abort or abandon them).

            The unfortunate reality is that heterosexual couples have been failing miserably in terms of rearing their own children. Look at the number of kids in adoption agencies. Who conceived these kids and bore them? It wasn’t those having non-procreative sex, I can assure you (barring a miracle). Where did the parents of these children get the idea to abandon their own kids, anyhow? It’s not going to be from the gay couples willing to accept the sacrifice and cost of raising some of these kids themselves.

            “Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion said that religious freedom is henceforth limited to what you teach”

            That’s not what he said. He said that both religious organizations and individuals who hold more traditional ideals about marriage (whether it’s a rejection of gay marriage or even divorce) deserve protection under the law. He just didn’t go into detail. This court has found in favor of religious freedom in almost every instance (including its declaration that Hobby Lobby as an institution was entitled to exemptions from the laws requiring contraception coverage). Don’t be an alarmist when it isn’t warranted.

            If you want broader legal protections for religious universities, folks such as yourself will have to work to overturn “Bob Jones U vs the United States”. While I tend to be sympathetic to this, you’re going to have a hard time overturning that particular decision because any group seeking to do so will probably be tarred as racist (even if the underlying reasons for seeking it have nothing to do with race).

            • Douglas Johnson says

              James Bradshaw, I’ve been reading the arguments you’ve presented here from advocates for the redefinition of marriage for many years. I find them both sad and weak, but especially when appearing on this website.

              Yes, I believe it is in the best interest of all children to have a mother and father. While redefinition of marriage–what you refer to as “gay marriage”–will place many children in motherless and fatherless homes who would otherwise have a mother and father, that is hardly the limit of what I am discussing. For instance, as I stated previously, when all our nation’s public schools will have finished teaching this generation of boys that there is no particular connection between marriage and fathering a child, we should have every expectation that the percentage of children born out of wedlock will continue to rise (this has been going on at least since the 2003 Mass Supreme Court decision in some states). And when it is the legal opinion of both sides of this debate–which it is–that the government redefinition of marriage may or will lead to the redefinition/end of our religious freedom, it’s time to stop hitting the snooze alarm.

              You term such talk as “alarmist.” Well I should certainly hope so.

  6. Douglas Johnson says

    Let me revisit the sentences I’ve discussed above one more time. The directive says:

    To be precise, the Supreme Court’s decision does not make any new law. However, it rules as non-
    binding any law which limits the legal definition of marriage to that of an exclusive union of one man to one woman.

    In disagreeing with the Obergefell ruling, the Metropolitan’s wording may unwittingly fall into a common language trap used by advocates of marriage redefinition. But before getting into all of that, some background first.

    Early on in this debate, opponents to redefinition would make a major concession every time they uttered the words “I am against gay marriage.” Supporters of redefinition were happy to hear him say it. Why? Because the statement affirms that “gay marriage” is a type of marriage–it’s just a type of marriage the speaker just happens to be against. Why was he against this particular type of marriage? In his Windsor ruling, Justice Kennedy ascribed this to “animus.” And anyone can see how if one supports marriage for some but not for all, how such an individual can be framed as a bigot.

    Do you see the trap? The moment one says that “gay marriage should be banned” he has admitted that that two people of the same sex could enter into matrimony. But of course they cannot. Matrimony comes from the Latin matrimonium “wedlock, marriage,” and from matrem (nominative mater), or “mother.” Simply put, the word marriage wouldn’t even exist if men and women didn’t reproduce sexually (note this has nothing to do with whether an individual couple does in fact reproduce).

    The second trap was when redefinition opponents made the mistake of using the phrase “the ban on gay marriage.” It is understandable why a man with same-sex attraction might choose not to marry, but no one ever said he should be banned from marrying.

    It was with these traps in mind that opponents of so-called “gay marriage” (I love Douglas Wilson’s term here: gay mirage), started using the phrase “the government redefinition of marriage.” Marriage is a sexual relationship that creates a home for the children that typically result from that relationship. There is nothing in history, language, or personal experience that contradicted that before the invention of the marriage redefinition movement. But this movement never would have gotten out of the gates if they had said they were about the government redefinition of marriage. It’s much more effective to play the victim, and claim that you are being banned from marriage, even when you’re not.

    Jonathan Rauch, who has proven himself one of the more formidable advocates for marriage redefinition, was the first to notice the problem if Americans started referring to “the government redefinition of marriage” on a large scale. And this is why Rauch, in a 2012 Washington Post column, put use of the phrase “redefinition of marriage” as the first of “five myths” he targeted for attack.

    Now, what does this all have to do with the Metropolitan’s directive? The Metropolitan’s statement uses the words “…any law which limits the legal definition of marriage to that of an exclusive union of one man to one woman.” Jonathan Rauch would be fine with this phrasing. Why? Because by his use of the word “limits,” the Metropolitan’s statement inadvertently admits it there are two kinds of marriage–the limited Antiochian marriage, and the less limited Obergefell marriage. But there aren’t two kinds of marriage. I think the Metropolitan could better steer clear of Rauch’s language trap by simply stating “However, it rules as non-binding any law which does not conform to the government’s redefinition of marriage.”

    (I do not think the statement should use the phrasing “rules as non-binding” but that was covered in my previous comment.)

  7. Douglas Johnson says

    It was pointed out to me yesterday that points #4 and #5 in the directive contradict each other. I was so focused on other parts of this directive that I hadn’t noticed this before, but they certainly do.

    Point #4 reads in full:

    Any couple which is eligible to receive the Mystery of Holy Matrimony in the Orthodox Church and who have availed themselves of a civil marriage (that is, solemnized by the secular state authority) and who express their desire for the Sacrament itself (“crowning”) must be carefully screened. The priest must secure a copy of their marriage license and/or certificate. This must be reviewed and a copy maintained within the parish marriage records. Only after the pastor is satisfied that all civil laws (in agreement with the Church’s doctrine) have been complied with may he then consider the couple for the great blessing of marriage crowning in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

    Point #5 reads in part:

    Any Orthodox Christian who chooses to undergo marriage solemnities of any kind outside of the Orthodox Church voluntarily separates himself (herself) from communion with the holy Orthodox Church.

    The parenthetical in point #4 acknowledges that the state can solemnize a marriage. Point #5 states that any couple who undergo solemnities of any kind outside the church separate themselves from communion with the Holy Orthodox Church. This makes it clear that any couple who has entered into a civil marriage has separated themselves from the Orthodox Communion.

    But then point #4 says that a couple who has undergone a civil marriage must present their priest with a copy of their civil marriage license and/or certificate and confirm that the couple is in compliance with all state laws. In fact, the directive states that such a couple can be crowned in the Orthodox Church only after they have demonstrated that they are in compliance with all civil laws. How can a priest marry a couple who has separated themselves from Orthodox Communion?

    And then there’s that parenthetical in point #4 that says, “in agreement with the Church’s doctrine.” But the government’s redefinition of marriage has no agreement whatsoever with Church doctrine. To repeat what I said in an earlier comment, the only thing the government has redefined about marriage is that henceforth it has no particular connection with the one-woman, one-man sexual relationship that brings new life into this world.

    The government wants to assert that marriage can maintain two contradictory meanings, which of course it cannot. This directive as currently written asserts the exact same thing.

  8. Douglas,

    Have you considered the fact that point #4 allows for the marriages of converts to be recognized (as has been the case from the very beginning of the Church)? I take “in agreement with the Church’s doctrine” to mean that it is a marriage that doesn’t conflict with the teaching of the Church (i.e, we do not recognize same-sex “marriages” or any other perversion of marriage that may be performed by the state). We do not demand (nor has the Church ever demanded) that such couples be separated and re-marry in the Church. We do, however avail them the opportunity to have their marriages transfigured by the Grace of the crowning of Holy Matrimony.

    This is not a contradiction of point #5 which applies to those already in the Church. Those within the Church should know that the reality marriage is an ecclesial act that is related to the whole community of the people God and not merely a private or civil matter (although it has civil implications as well).

    Relax, my brother. I understand your concerns, but you are overthinking this.

    • William Rudolph says

      Brian, Paragraph number four is not limiting itself to converts of the Orthodox Church who were married BEFORE they joined the Orthodox Church. It specifically says “ANY couple which is eligible to receive the Mystery of Holy Matrimony in the Orthodox Church and who have availed themselves of a civil marriage.” And in paragraph number two it defines who is qualified for marriage in the Orthodox Church as “… Only one male and one female both likewise meeting the canonical requirements; namely, at least one of them being an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the church, and the other being a recognized Christian according to the terms of baptism may be married canonically.” This language includes the members of the Orthodox Church in good standing who decided to “avail themselves of a civil marriage.” There’s nothing here that limits the partners to those who have avail themselves of civil marriage before they join the Orthodox Church. Secondly, I can’t believe that the parenthetical phrase “in agreement with the churches doctrine” can be regarded as a statement that all the civil laws of marriage are in agreement with church doctrine. What they do mean in relationship to the pastor who must satisfy himself that all the civil laws have been complied with his confusing. It only seems to make sense without that parenthesis. Therefore paragraph number five is directly contradictory to number four, where it states in the Orthodox Christian who chooses to undergo marriage solemnities of any kind outside of the Orthodox Church voluntarily separates himself from communion with the holy Orthodox Church.”

      • Respectfully, William, you are reading this as though it is a legal document. It is not. It is a pastoral directive. The Metropolitan trusts (and has every reason to trust) his clergy. Any clergyman who may find himself confused is instructed to consult their diocesan bishop, all of whom are also trustworthy in regard to holding to the Tradition. If you don’t believe me, ask them directly.

  9. Douglas Johnson says


    I concur with William Rudolph’s comments above, which I think are straightforward and clear.

    Also, it strikes me as a bit odd for you to write a rather technical response to my comment, and then turn turn around and criticize William Rudolph’s response being too legalistic. The rest of your comments to William Rudolph were condescending, and not worthy of further comment.

  10. So very proud of our good Metropolitan Joseph for his courageous defense of the truth! Shared this wonderful news with everyone at my church today! Many years, Master!

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