Orthodox Christians Respond to LGBT Protest With Joint Prayer of Clergy and Laity

The Patriarchal Parishes in the USA and the Russian Church Abroad

View pictures of the protest.

Source: Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

protestClergymen and laity of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia responded to an LGBT protest with joint prayers.

On Sunday, August 25, 2013, a protest was held before St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in San Francisco, CA, by local LGBT members against legislation passed in Russia last June banning the propagandizing of homosexuality to children. The day before, blogs on the internet called for supporters of the LGBT community to gather at San Francisco’s Patriarchal cathedral during Divine Liturgy with anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian placards.

With the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, clergymen Protopriest Georgy Roshchin, Representative of the International Russian People’s Council to the United Nations, and Hegumen Nikodim (Balyasnikov), both of St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York City, traveled to San Francisco to support the local parishioners.

On August 25, Archbishop Justinian spoke via telephone to His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America of ROCOR. The archpastors discussed the unfolding situation, after which they came to the decision to hold joint prayers the next day in the Patriarchal cathedral. Priest Leonid Kazakov, Rector of St Nicholas Cathedral, gave advance notice to the planned action to the local police and to Mr Sergei Petrov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco.

On the morning of August 25, Archbishop Kyrill and His Grace Bishop Theodosius of Seattle, Vicar Bishop of the Western American Diocese, arrived for the beginning of Divine Liturgy, where they prayed and partook of the Holy Gifts of Christ. For the edification of the worshipers, the archpastors brought with them a reliquary with portions of the relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco from the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco.

Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Fr Leonid and Hegumen Nikodim. Praying at the service were parishioners of St Nicholas and laity of ROCOR.

After partaking of the Holy Gifts, Archbishop Kyrill and Bishop Theodosius performed a moleben with the other clergymen, during which litanies and supplications from the rite of the Triumph of Orthodoxy were intoned.

Bishop Theodosius then read a sermon. Fr Leonid welcomed the archpastors on behalf of his parishioners, thanking them for their prayerful support and words of guidance. Protopriest Georgy and Hegumen Nikodim then thanked the hierarchs on behalf of Archbishop Justinian.

By Divine mercy, neither the cathedral nor any parishioners suffered any violence from the protesters. Member of the police secured the protest area and did not permit the breaking of any laws. The clergy and parishioners of St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral of San Francisco expressed thanks to Archbishop Justinian and Archbishop Kyrill, Bishop Theodosius, the clergymen from New York’s St Nicholas Cathedral, as well as all the other clergymen and laypersons who supported them that day.


  1. M. Stankovich says

    In the interest of fair reporting.

    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

      Dr. S., you have some nerve to label as “fair reporting” your self-important, arrogant, nasty rant. “Shame” on you, Dr. S.! You owe a public apology to all three of the Russian Orthodox bishops whom you denounce by name for not meeting your own twisted standard of hospitality toward confrontational extremist political agitators who descended upon a little Russian Orthodox Church on a Sunday morning in a “picket line” armed, like the early Bolsheviks, with banners, megaphones, and ideological chants. You lament, as if it’s all about you, “I am embarrassed.” No, sir: you are an embarrassment to your fellow Orthodox Christians in America. Take your own frequent, unsolicited advice for once and demonstrate a smidgen of humility and repentance by begging forgiveness from the three bishops.

      • M. Stankovich says

        Fr. Alexander,

        εὐλόγειte ὁ κύριος!

        For the record, your representation of my article as a “self-important, arrogant, nasty rant,” and that my “lament, as if it’s all about [me]” is inaccurate and unfounded. Before I posted, I submitted my original post on this site; my communications with Mr. Petrelis and another activist attempting to distinguish the Orthodox Church, its clergy & faithful, from the Russian authorities and its president:

        Russians, in general, can be racist, anti-Semitic, hate homosexuality, and are extraordinarily xenophobic. This is their history for many complex reasons. This cannot be said of the faithful of the Orthodox Christians, however, and I emphasize “the faithful” over many of the historical hierarchs and leaders. These are people of astonishing faith in the presence of horrible persecution and martyrdom – touching the most benign, most insignificant individuals in society. As an example, the Russians in San Francisco, unlike the Russians on the East coast who escaped through Europe, came across Siberia and were tortured in encampments, threatened by the Chinese of forced return to the Soviets and certain death, until intervention by the West. From 1917 until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, the Russian Orthodox Church sustained itself by faith – they had no voice, no defense, no means of propagation or protest – only faith.

        So, what is my point? I would suggest to you that it is incorrect to say that the Russian Orthodox Church “supports” President Putin. What the Church expresses is its centuries old theology and anthropology in a nonjudgmental, non-confrontive manner. You might well disagree with their opinion, or see their opinion as archaic and unenlightened, nevertheless, they deserve the respect to be heard. I will say this to you in regard to the Orthodox Church – and you will find three “jurisdictions” of the Russian variety in San Francisco – the need for dialog is essential and I commend you. I also personally believe that it is incumbent upon the Orthodox Church to articulate, re-articulate, and articulate again its teachings and positions until there is no confusion or question in your mind. If you disagree, no one will hate you.

        and my proposed blog post regarding what transpired to two Orthodox Bishops and three priests. I specifically noted that I was not seeking “endorsement,” but frank criticism as to my authority as an Orthodox Christian to make such a statement; whether my assertions were in conflict with the Scripture, the Canons, or our Tradition; and whether it was disrespectful. I did not post it until all five indicated I had met these criteria. One of the Bishops offered several changes which I incorporated.

        I have been receiving links from at least ten different religious media services in Russia that have been carrying this story of the “vanquishing” of the “homosexual mob” by the unity and prayers of the Russian Orthodox in San Francisco, “and thanks to God the cathedral and the faithful were spared from violence.” Whom do you imagine is responsible for this? Less than thirty people (and I’m sure they will pardon me for saying, kind of middle-aged, kind of scruffy, kind of over-weight) who tried for weeks to speak with someone at the cathedral by phone, email, and message at their website – as they are truly ignorant regarding the Orthodox Church – and were ignored. They promised to arrive after the liturgy had ended, they promised to be peaceful & non-disruptive. When they arrived, they were confronted with police cars and vans and officers circling the area on bicycles, only to be told that, earlier, the priest and parishioners left in a “caravan” of cars. They posed for the media, sang “Over the Rainbow, ” and left. This was the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” over “confrontational extremist political agitators” who are “like the early Bolsheviks, with banners, megaphones, and ideological chants?”

        The issue, as I see it, begins with a fundamental lack of charity and respect – regardless of how despicable or loathsome I may determine your beahaviour or sinfulness be. I have sat face-to-face in state prison with men whose crimes are so abhorrent, so disgusting, that I keep the prayer rope in my right hand pocket, that by touching it it, I can remind myself “there is no man who lives, that does not sin,” and that as long as this person, created in the image & likeness of God like me, can draw breath, they are capable of repentance.

        Secondly, this “little Russian Orthodox Church” sits, as Mr. Petrelis noted on this forum, “right in the middle of the queerest neighborhood in the world, the Castro.” Put it wherever you like: Harlem, El Barrio, Chinatown, Little Italy. “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” (Jn. 14:2) but apparently not for you. Xenophobia is one thing, but the disregard for the instruction of the Lord Himself to “teach all nations” (Mt. 28:19) is shameful. Who is my brother? My “twisted standard of hospitality” is not coffee, but that the bishops speak as to the Samaritan woman, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (Jn. 4:14)

        But finally, what deeply, deeply saddens me is that I have received a great deal of private email at my site from individuals & family members struggling with same-sex attraction; many confused, many fearful of revealing themselves even to their most trusted confessors and spiritual fathers. Likewise, I have also heard from individuals and clergy who are same-sex attracted and are living a life of chastity, purity, obedience, and singlemindedness to which we are all called, with wonderful & supportive confessors & spiritual fathers, but their greatest underlying anxiety and fear is that they will be “outed.” And once outed, all of their relationships within their parishes will change subtly: concerns around children/God-children, “saying” the wrong thing, etc. After this past weekend, what could it have been like to be same-sex attracted, living in celibacy & chastity, and a member of St. Nicholas Cathedral? What was the message delivered about the Orthodox Church to the Castro & to San Francisco?

        I stand by my statement.

      • geo michalopulos says

        very well said, Fr.

      • Father,

        I find it all too ironic that certain people will try to conflate and obfuscate to shout down the conversation about the Orthodox Church being involved with influencing politics in our nation but in the same breath go on craven rants on how Far Left politics should be allowed free reign in their assault upon the Church and Christian morality.

        A very Soviet standard indeed.

  2. cynthia curran says

    Boycott Russian Vodka how dumb is that. Russia is not putting anyone to death for being gay like Uganda. Its a part of the left that thinks everyone in every country should think the way they do.

    • Learn Russian and see what this law has led to – increase in attacks on individual LGBTs, hoodlooms (some of them children of prominent people) attacking young kids who identify as gay and posting videos of the attacks on social networking sites (like VKontakte) – and the police not doing much to stop these neo-Nazi bands. And the Russian church is fully complicit in this. (Including with this “reporting” of being saved from violence by the force of prayer – it has already been translated into Russian, in fact, that’s how I came to this site, to check how honest were the translators.) I am very disappointed, but I guess it was inevitable that by joining up with a KGB agent the ROCOR would also fall prey to the KGB methods.

      • Well, I am Russian, read, speak and write Russian, and I have never read of such incidents although I am sure some Far Left press with an EU agenda will definitely report them. What I have read about, however, were accounts of instances of gay rapes in the military and in prisons specifically because the law was not enforced, of gay civil disorders and vandalism.

        In general, homosexuality is an imported concern in Russia. There aren’t enough professed, native homosexuals in the few Far Left salons in St. Petersburg and Moscow to outnumber the Hare Krishnas. And the Hare Krishnas are not a significant minority.

        No, the Church does not espouse violence or bullying or bashing.

        Be that as it may. The Russian Orthodox Church is not a forum in which to air Far Left grievances. If you have issues with the Russian government, take it to the consulate or the embassy, but do not accost the Orthodox Church. We saw enough of this political activism during the Soviet pogrom so we do not appreciate religious persecution and komsomol tactics to push your agenda. The church is a place to pray and be saved in CHRIST JESUS, overcoming the GRAVE SIN of homosexuality.

  3. geo michalopulos says

    Well, well, well. I thought the liberals on my site would say that nothing like this would happen.

    • James Bradshaw says

      What constitutes “propaganda”? There are numerous things that could fall under that umbrella. We’ve had Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons come to our door who were actively looking to recruit new members into their respective ideologies. Say what you will about public demonstrations. Knocking on someone’s door while they’re at home is pretty bold, I think. If you really believe that these are dangerous, heretical cults whose members stand condemned before God, should such activities be illegal in the US or anywhere?

      If not, why is interrupting someone’s dinner to hand out tracts more acceptable than saying something or waving a flag in a public venue such as a street corner?

      • Michael Bauman says

        Door-to-door selling whether it be products or religion is as old as the U.S. At least there, one can enter into a dialog, ask questions, that sort of thing or simply turn them away.

        The last time some young Morman men came to my door, my wife invited them to come back when I got home to keep them away from other folks. They came twice even after my wife politely and sweetly reminded them that their faith was started by a liar and a con-man.

        The classic approach to such folk comes from Rev. Peter Gilquist of blessed memory: “I’ll be glad to listen to you if you give me the courtesy of listening to me afterwards.”

        Public demonstrations also have a long history in the U.S. They are, after all, one of the important moments in the beginning of the American Revolution.

        Both the door-to-door and public demonstrations have a place in the U.S. although the Constitutional protection of the people’s right to peaceably assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances has been stretched to the breaking point, IMO.

        The fundamental meaning of propaganda is to propagate a belief and to bring others into that belief. The tyrants of the 20th century developed it into a art form of lying however. As ideologies have become more and more structured and designed to not include people (to demonize them actually) propaganda has become more and more toxic. It is the tool of the demagogue. It is used in our public school systems, by our government and by media to attempt to condition people’s minds to untruth so that those in power can prosper and have their way.

        The anti-Christian demagogues have been very effective because they have a power advantage, they are not ethically bound to tell the truth, and they don’t. It is the basic Big Lie technique articulated and effectively used by Goebbels and the Nazi propaganda machine.

        Homosexual activists are using it that way against Christians. As I understand the Russian law, it makes illegal homosexual PR that is directed at minors, disallows public demonstrations by homosexual activists and probably a few other items. It does not criminalize homosexual behavior itself I don’t believe.

        Russia has every right to regulate the behavior of its citizens and guests in accord with the Christian principals. This is after all about Russian law not U.S. law.

        Here is how I feel: The homosexual activists have come out of the closet and want Christians to enter it so they can slam the door on us and not be challenged. I see no evidence that the homosexual activists wish to listen to anything anyone else has to say. (They want their way and they want it NOW!) Let alone actually be prepared to change their minds in the face of reality. Why should such unprincipled attempts to intimidate be allowed? These people had no real grievance with St. Nicholas’ or their people. They just don’t like it when they are called to task.

        The whole thing is a classic example of Nietzsche’s “Transvaluation of All Values” which leads to the supremacy of the ruling elite and the suppression of the rest, the “herd”.

        The Orthodox understanding on all matters of sexuality is quite easy to understand. It does not discriminate against anyone: Celibacy and chastity before marriage; faithfulness and chastity after marriage.

        Some modern elders maintain that everyone should be married: either to Christ in monasticism or to a partner of the opposite sex in order to fulfill our created purpose. That’s a lot to chew on but I think I understand what they are getting at.

        In our culture that is difficult and considered unreasonably archaic. However, it is a key to conforming ourselves to the will of God and participating in His life of grace.

        • James Bradshaw says

          Michael, what I think you’re saying is that contrary opinions should only be permitted in society if they’re expressed in a civil fashion and if the people expressing those opinions have shown themselves willing to be swayed to a contrary opinion. At least that’s what I’m reading.

          The problem with that is that people often express opinions in what appears to be a hostile manner only to reverse those opinions later in life for one reason or another. Without being a fortune teller, it’s difficult to know whether someone’s mind is going to change, isn’t it?

          People often don’t like having their deeply held beliefs up for ridicule or even critique, sometimes, so they react in anger. Even on this blog, I’ve seen some attitudes I’d consider uncharitable, even between Orthodox believers.

          I’ve continually opposed hate speech laws (whether in the US or abroad). Society is best served when it permits a free range of ideas and opinions, even those it considers unpleasant or difficult to hear.

          If you’re going to restrict these rights, don’t complain when those you silenced seek to do likewise when power switches hands.

          • Michael Bauman says

            James, While I understand how you might reach the conclusion you did, you are not correct. I am making no policy recommendations on what laws ought to be. Virtuous people make good laws and administer justice; corrupt people make corrupt laws and live in injustice.

            The object is to seek Jesus Christ and glory in Him. The more who do that, the better more just laws we will have. Those cultures and societies who ignore God and/or despise Him will be tyrannical and destructive. Those cultures which are based more upon God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ and His saints, will be more just, productive and protective of life.

            Theocracy for those just waiting to jump is not indicative of a such a culture. Theocracy is simply the lust of power justified by religious sentiment

            When law attempts to replace personal virtue, community and the quest for holiness as has happened in our culture, then all laws will turn bad and become worse as they proliferate.

            It is impossible to accurately define and control human behavior with law alone. Evil becomes good and good becomes evil when that is attempted because the will of man ruled by lust of power predominates. Such an approach is the foundation for persecution by the state of anyone or any entity the powerful dislike. Frequently, the Church and her members are chosen to bear the brunt.

            That being said, there are certain types of behavior that simply cannot be allowed as the Ten Commandments demonstrates. For one instance, socially approved expressions of sexuality are usually quite narrow in healthy societies. They broaden and become more depraved as the culture deteriorates. Of course, the non-approved expressions still occur, but they are restricted less by law than by social disapproval and the general unwillingness of the people to participate, although law will certainly follow.

            Law is always a trailing indicator of the spiritual health of a particular culture.

            If the Russian Orthodox Church gets lazy by attempting to use the state to do her job, she will fail. If she uses the protection of the state to hold the darkness at bay a bit and works vigorously to restore a sacramental life to the Russian people, then grace will abound. The laws will be moot because no one will desire those things any more. Sin will still be, but it will be much less virulent and more susceptible to the healing of Christ.

            The same holds true for we Orthodox in the U.S.

            But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Mt 6:33

          • geo michalopulos says

            Mr Bradshaw, why the twisted legedermain to denigrate a great civilization by supporting homosexual jihadists?

            • James Bradshaw says

              Which jihadists are you referring to? I don’t know any of those folks personally. As far as I know, they’re not flying planes into buildings, though. I don’t even think they’re calling for anyone’s blood, are they?

              As such, I support their freedom of speech and assembly (as I do for Christians, Jews, Mormons and even groups like the KKK).

  4. St Nicholas is located in the Castro, which is essentially a “gay” neighborhood. The fact that a small and frankly somewhat good natured protest might occur in this area in light of their perception of Russian Orthodox intolerance is not surprising. The response of our hierarchy – insular, condemning, appearing like frightened pharisees, is shocking to see. Here is an opportunity to engage the surrounding world and show for the light of Christ, not hide and issue triumphalist and misleading press releases. If we were acting like Christians we would be inviting people to talk, to see our worship, to learn why we believe what we believe. If anyone needs Christ it is this community – he came to save sinners, not the righteous. He kept the company of prostitutes and tax collectors. He protected sinners under condemnation of the religious leaders.

    The hierarchy should be looking for ways to minister to the community, independent of who they are or what they believe. This is what Christians do – it is what our Lord commands, it is what the Saints instruct us to do. Regrettably, we have shown that it is not what Orthodox do: can we even call ourselves Christians in San Francisco now? Listen to St Isaac:

    “Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.

    Be crucified, but do not crucify others.

    Se slandered, but do not slander others.

    Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.

    Suffer with the sick.

    Be afflicted with sinners.

    Exult with those who repent.

    Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.

    Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.

    Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.

    Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.

    And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.

    What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.”

    • geo michalopulos says

      What you’ve written is absurd. I seriously doubt that you would expect an honest engagement by the ROC towards the homosexual activists.

      • “Absurd”, yes, even foolishness, certainly a stumbling block – yet, that is the way of our Lord.

        My expectation is that the Bishops follow the example of our Lord, nothing less or more. I know from personal experience that both Archbishops Justinian and Kirill desire to be sincere icons of Christ and to open the doors of repentance to all.

    • For the record, people who have come to the Russian Orthodox churches in San Francisco afflicted with homosexuality have never been turned asided, but shown love. They have been counseled, cared for, included and even allowed to rise in the administration of the Church. Jurisdiction here is immaterial – ROCOR, MP, OCA.

      Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina, respected in all the Russian jurisdictions in San Francisco, came from a homosexual background and overcame this grievous sin. He was never unwelcome in any Russian jurisdiction during an era which still reflected a more traditional morality. Today, he would experience even more of a welcome.

      But that isn’t the issue here, is it? The issue is that the Russian Orthodox church is not a welcome place for LGBT clubs and “pride organizations,” that it refuses to be an Eastern Rite Episcopalian church?! If the Russian church (and I speak of my own OCA in this context knowing full well of aberrations in certain places) ever moves to offer acceptance and a place for gay pride in the place of love and treatment of homosexuality, it will cease to be an Orthodox organism.

      If the Church ceases to speak out against sin and war with it and act to save the People of GOD from it, it will betray the Cross and turn its back on CHRIST.

      Should there be a ministry to show homosexuals love and a place in CHRIST’s Church where they can be guided to overcome their sins and achieve salvation in CHRIST JESUS? I would posit that there already is. One goes to a Priest and receives counseling, struggles, enters the Church and acts to acquire the grace of the HOLY SPIRIT.

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