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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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Orthodox Church in America issues strong statement on marriage to guard against lawsuits

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

SYOSSET, New York, June 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) hopes an official statement of "Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Regarding Marriage" protects the institution lawsuits by homosexual activists, and some clergymen are advocating all Christian churches follow suit with their own official public statement.

Last week, the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops approved an unambiguous document supporting natural marriage "in terms which could be understood and applied by federal, state, and local governmental officials without the necessity of any probing inquiry or interpretation." 

Significantly, the statement "establishes guidelines regarding the usage of church property," according to the OCA website.

The statement outlines the Orthodox Church's "sincerely held religious belief" that marriage is "a lifelong, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman," and therefore any sexual relations outside of natural marriage "is immoral, and therefore sin."  The bishops then list Bible verses that reveal the ancient Christian stance on marriage (Genesis 2:24-25; Exodus 20:14, 17, 22:19; Leviticus 18:22-23, 20:13, 15-16; Matthew 19:4-6, 9; Romans 1:18-31; I Corinthians 6:9-10, 15-20; I Timothy 1:8-11; Jude 7).

The encyclical continues, "We believe that God created the human race, male and female, and that all conduct with the intent to adopt a gender other than one’s birth gender is immoral and therefore sin (Genesis 1:27; Deuteronomy 22:5)."

Even more explicitly, the document states, "Marriage can only be between two people whose birth sex is male and female." The bishops cite the ancient Orthodox marriage service to show the prayers of the church reveal "In the beginning, Thou didst make them male and female."

After delineating in clear terms the Christian perspective of marriage, the bishops' statement then applies that sincerely held religious belief to the use of any church property.

"The resources of the Church -- its property, its financial assets, and all that belongs to it of a material nature -- may be used only for purposes and in ways consistent with the Church’s sincerely held religious beliefs and doctrines," the hierarchs explain. “While a parish may rent out its facilities for non-church use, the statement says, any such use must be "consistent with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the Church."

Then the bishops make doubly clear what they mean, to assure no misunderstanding. 

"Under no circumstances will such activities include those contrary to and incompatible with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the Church, including, but not limited to, events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox sacraments (including weddings between persons of the same sex and related receptions), non-Orthodox worship services, and partisan political activities."

The document concludes with a prototype statement to be publicly posted by all Orthodox parishes, which explains that "Due to sincerely held religious beliefs," the facilities of the parish may not be used for "events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox sacraments (including, but not limited to, baptisms, weddings or funerals)."

"According to this directive, the same moral consensus which binds the rites of the Church also operates in the business sphere as well," said Orthodox Christian lay leader George Michalopulos, who hosts a popular Orthodox website.  "Namely, that parish property cannot -- repeat -- not, be used for receptions for homosexuals who wish to celebrate their sin."

"It is my fervent hope that all other Orthodox jurisdictions in America execute similar letters, otherwise they will be visited by provocateurs who will then sue them in civil court," Michalopulos added.

The American Orthodox Institute's Fr. Johannes Jacobse told LifeSiteNews, "It’s always good when Church leadership clarifies the teaching that natural marriage is only between one male and female. ... The instructions about using Church property to avoid confrontation with activists who seek to use the machinery of the state to compel the Church to conform to non-natural definitions of marriage is a sad necessity is our time."

The Orthodox Church in America makes up only one “jurisdiction” of Orthodox in the Western Hemisphere. Another Orthodox Christian jurisdiction, the Antiochian (Syrian) Orthodox Church, already spoke even more clearly on marriage in October 2015.

Metropolitan Joseph issued an encyclical stating not only that the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision on same-sex "marriage" was "unacceptable" and "a dead letter," but that any union other than marriage between "one man and one woman," "including so-called 'same-sex marriage,' is a forgery and death-dealing sterile and doomed to frustration and the ruin of body and soul of its participants."

The hierarch's encyclical went on to direct that "No clergyman may stand present in any so-called 'same-sex marriage' ceremony, even as a non-participating guest," and, "Nor may he attend a reception for such, since his presence at this event or others like it, will appear to condone or even bless the event."

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