December 9, 2012

The opening of a Gay friendly mosque in Paris has made international headline news. The first inclusive mosque which welcomes LGBT people as well as offering women non-traditional roles in worship was opened on November 30, 2012. The mosque is the conception of the association of Gay Muslims in France (HM2F) – (http://www.homosexuels-musulmans.org/) Their unique idea combines a welcoming and safe sanctuary for Muslim LGBTQ people, as well as a place for women to freely worship inside the mosque without having to comply with the customary head coverings or sit in the “back seats”.  The founder of the group stated that “many Muslims feel frustrated with the conservative and intolerant views expressed in mosques towards women, marriage issues, or homophobic abuse. Many Muslims simply feel they can’t have an open dialogue let alone consulting the imam without fearing condemnation.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20547335)

 

The new mosque in Paris will conduct Friday prayers in a Buddhist temple which can accommodate 200 worshippers.  The HM2F already has 320 members.  Three imams are currently training to serve the mosque which aside from regular Friday services will also bless same-sex marriages and provide funeral rites to those denied traditional Islamic burials because of their sexual orientation.

 

This website orthodoxandgay.com receives numerous emails and contacts from LGBTQ Orthodox people who are seeking to consult with a compassionate and understanding Orthodox priest, or have their same-sex unions blessed by an Orthodox priest or even people looking for a gay friendly Orthodox parish.  Some have even asked if I would consider opening a LGBT friendly Orthodox church. What this demonstrates to me is that there are Orthodox faithful who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning their sexual orientation, who desire to be full members of the Church without denying who God made them to be, or rejecting their God given desire to love and be loved by someone of the same gender. While I understand and support the gay Muslim community in France, their motives and achievements, creating a separate Orthodox parish or groups of churches that would serve the LGBTQ community is not something that I would encourage or support. Orthodox Christians need more unity, not less. Parishes must be centers of love and compassion no matter who comes to church.

 

Orthodox parishes must be Christ-centered and our Lord, Jesus Christ spoke about unity very often. Perhaps the most moving is the prayer of Christ to His Heavenly Father found in John 17. “That they all may be one” was the prayer of Christ to His Heavenly Father before His crucifixion. And yet Christianity, and indeed the Orthodox Church frequently is a very segregated institution. Furthermore, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., once said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is on Sunday morning”.  This can certainly apply to Orthodox Christians in the United States who still find themselves attending the “Greek” Church or the “Russian” Church as opposed to simply an “Orthodox Church”. Searching for a local Orthodox parish to attend involves several questions: new calendar or old, Slavonic, Greek or English Liturgy, on top of the ethnic jurisdictional question.  Indeed there is very little unity in Orthodox in America.  In countries where Orthodox Christians are in the majority, there are numerous other jurisdictional divides based on calendar, theological, political, national and a host of other issues that divide. The lack of unity is indeed a crime that has been committed primarily by the bishops of the Orthodox Church. It is a direct affront to the teaching of Christ that “all may be one.”

 

This week I received a very troubling and sad email from an Orthodox Christian who had recently moved with his husband of 15 years to a new city.  The man went to see the priest in his office to introduce himself as a possible new member of the congregation. Once the priest found out that this man was gay and in a committed relationship, the priest not only told the man never to come back to the church, but that he would publically denounce the man if he ever dared to approach the chalice. The actions of the priest were certainly disgraceful and do not image Christ.

 

Frequently I hear stories like this from other LGBTQ Orthodox Christians and I think for a moment that maybe we do need a Gay friendly Orthodox Church.  A church where LGBTQ faithful Orthodox Christians could pray, confess and commune without fear of being rejected simply for who God made them to be. A church where same-sex marriages might be celebrated with great solemnity and joy.  A church where one would not be afraid to speak of their same sex spouse during coffee hour. There are times that I think that such parishes are needed.  And then I remember the words of our Lord and realize that what is really needed is for the bishops to listen to the message of Christ and the voices of LGBTQ Orthodox Christians.  If they did that they would begin to heal the Church and stop throwing souls away, but welcome all with the loving embrace of the Heavenly Father.

  1. Vladimir Vandalov Said,

    “The criterion by which the Church is to be judged, is not by the forms of its doctrine or ritual, but by the reality of the love which it manifests.” – Bede Griffiths

  2. Antoinette H. Said,

    Father Andre: since finding this site, I have made a point of coming back and rereading your articles. They’re honest, poignant, and refreshingly free of cant and jargon.

    If ever an Orthodox parish did emerge, which was gay-friendly, I would be delighted. I do love my home parish, and I am out to a person or two there…but I have yet to speak of my sexuality to my parish priest. And I think he would probably recommend that I remain celibate, but…

    Again, thanks. Truly.

  3. andre Said,

    Vladimir,
    Thank you for your comment. Although I might not agree with everything that Bede Griffiths has taught, the quote that you provided is directly on target. No doctrine can be professed or adhered to unless it emanates from love and compassion. Certainly everything that our Lord Jesus Christ taught was based on love; the love of and for God and the love of neighbor.
    I bid you peace. Andriy

  4. Rachel Said,

    I was really glad to hear about that mosque, and would love to go to a church like that, though I do totally understand why you think unity is so important. And I do agree. Perhaps it is childish and selfish of me, but I can’t help but feel “I think we need unity, but why is it us who have to suffer in the shadows for unity, while others deny it to us?”
    Ah well. God’s Will will be done, as it is in all things.
    God bless!

  5. andre Said,

    Antoinette,
    Thank you for your very kind words and support of this website. If there are any topics that you would like me to address please let me know. I understand your thoughts about a gay-friendly parish, but that is different than a gay parish, or a parish exclusively for LGBTQ people. I also want every Orthodox parish to be LGBTQ friendly just as I want every parish to be friendly and welcoming to people of all races, ethnicities and capabilities. Many of us, if not most of us, are not called to celibacy and so to require that all LGBT people remain celibate for their entire lives is not something that is possible because God did not make us that way.
    I bid you peace,
    Andriy

  6. andre Said,

    Rachel,
    Thank you for your comment and thoughts as well as your support of this website. Of course, I also understand your sentiments about being totally welcomed and supported in a local, unified Orthodox Church. As LGBTQ we do suffer in our Orthodox Churches because we can not be honest about who God made us to be. Your desires are not childish at all, they are natural. My hope is that some very small progress can be made towards acceptance, honesty and ultimately Christ’s desire for love and compassion among His followers. That will take our prayers, our faithfulness as well as living our lives as honestly as possible.
    I bid you peace,
    Andriy

  7. Anonpriest Said,

    I agree w/ what you say, about the Church needing more , not less unity, to a point. We decry the lack of unity regarding: jurisdictions, calendar, languages, etc, etc. … yet we are willling to live with them. So in regard to establishing a gay parish: how much more disunifying is this than anything else. Granted, there will be Orthodox who decry and condemn such a parish, the priest involved would probably be suspended, the parish would be considered schismatic. …. And yet; a STAND will have been taken– that gay Orthodox Christians may be who they are and still participate in the fullness of the Church.

    Would I be willing to minister such a parish? I’m still struggling with that one.

    ps. just discovered this website today and have to say, am ecstatic to know that it exists !

  8. Anonpriest Said,

    I agree w/ what you say, about the Church needing more , not less unity, to a point. We decry the lack of unity regarding: jurisdictions, calendar, languages, etc, etc. … yet we are willling to live with them. So in regard to establishing a gay parish: how much more disunifying is this than anything else. Granted, there will be Orthodox who decry and condemn such a parish, the priest involved would probably be suspended, the parish would be considered schismatic. …. And yet; a STAND will have been taken– that gay Orthodox Christians may be who they are and still participate in the fullness of the Church.

    Would I be willing to minister such a parish? I’m still struggling with that one. …

    ps. I just discovered this website today and have to say, am ecstatic to know that it exists !

  9. andre Said,

    Father,
    Thank you for your comment and support. Concerning your point about an Orthodox parish that served primarily the LGBTQ community, I understand your desires. An Orthodox MCC might be the answer. However, what priest would serve it and under what bishop would it fall? I know that there are smaller Orthodox jurisdictions out there, outside of mainstream Orthodoxy, that accept openly gay clergy, but there needs to be a change within the larger Orthodox Church. One can also not forget our LGBT brothers and sisters in countries where the Orthodox Church is predominant.
    I wish you well in the New Year. Please stay in touch.
    Andriy

  10. AnonPriest Said,

    Dear Andriy,

    thanks for your response. I think we could converse for hours (and I’d like that!) but one comment I’d make here is that I find your comment about an ‘Orthodox MCC” interesting. Do you mean setting up an Orthodox oriented parish within the MCC? This might be a ‘solution’ for some; but it would certainly mean a break with mainstream Orthodoxy. As to you question: “what priest, what bishop? …” … as for the priest — maybe me (or you); Bishop? none that I can think of would go for this. i guess it would be an MCC Bishop (do they have them?).
    I guess what I’m saying here is that I don’t see any possibility for a gay oriented Orthodox parish within ANY mainstream jurisdiction. Any priest who came out as gay and/or was ministering to/giving the Mysteries to gay couples would be immediately suspended, I think. The only answer seems to be setting up a gay parish within one of the non-mainstream Orthodox jurisdictions you speak of; or indeed; within the MCC (which I’ve looked into some; and my overall impression of MCC is that there is something “off” about it. …. Well; sorry for such a rambling and “all over the place” message. I’d really like to keep this dialogue going.

  11. andre Said,

    Father,
    Perhaps I did not express myself correctly regarding setting up an Orthodox parish. What I meant that the MCC was originally set up to serve LGBT Christians who were unwelcomed in other churches. Over time the Church became a greater refuge for supporters of LGBT rights and others who did not feel welcome in traditional parishes. This is NOT something that I would support for the Orthodox Church. I would rather the Orthodox Church, from the hierarchy to the laity begin to fully accept LGBT Orthodox Christians, fully welcome them into the parishes, and provide the mysteries to them including the service of crowning. Therefore I agree with you that the possibility of a gay oriented Orthodox parish within a mainstream jurisdiction would not be realistic or even desired. I do know of priests that have ministered to the few AXIOS groups. They either functioned in complete anonymity or were priests from non-traditional Orthodox jurisdictions. While I recognize that such groups are vital, as support groups, I would not welcome them becoming their own parishes.
    Andriy

  12. Seraphim Said,

    I’m not really into the idea of a “gay” parish. I would like to see a Priest and/or Bishop make a stand and start an inclusive parish or diocese. I’ve said before that I’m willing to be ordained in secret by an inclusive Bishop and start the work myself.

  13. andre Said,

    Fr. Andre
    Tobdlindquist@gmail.com

    Seraphim,
    Thank you for your comment. Indeed, it would be great to have more priests and at least one bishop take a stand in support of LGBT Orthodox Christians. We know that there are priests and bishops who are gay and are in relationships with other men. The mental gymnastics that it takes to sign encyclicals against equality in marriage while being in a relationship is something that I can’t fathom. While I understand that not everyone who is “paid by the church” can be open, it is the hypocritical ones that are the most worrisome.
    There are of course priests who are supporting of LGBT parishioners, but feel that they can’t be public about their support. They also have to make a wage and take care of their families. If they had the support of their hierarch, it would go a long way in supporting those brave priests who would be willing to take a public stand.
    While starting an inclusive, non-judgmental parish is a great idea – all of our parishes should be inclusive and non-judgmental.
    I commend you in your quest to seek ordination. I know that there are bishops who visit the website, perhaps one will contact you.
    I wish you well,
    Andriy

  14. Seraphim Said,

    So then what are LGBT members to do? Do we have to sit around and wait for however long it takes to get the church to make a move? This is not a viable solution. There needs to be Priests and Bishops that are willing to create a movement that is all inclusive. Since no one seems to be brave enough, I will do it if a Bishop ordains me. I would keep this secret if asked. I will be the one to start a home church to grow into a parish, to grow into a diocese. Are there others brave enough to join me?

  15. andre Said,

    Seraphim,
    I agree with you that bishops and priests, especially the ones who self identify as gay, need to create a movement. We also need to hear from those “straight” bishops and priests who support the protection and inclusion of LGBT Orthodox in the parishes. Until a bishop or two speaks out or a group of priests are willing to be removed from the ranks of the clergy over defending their flock, the struggle will be difficult. I would shout AXIOS from the rooftops at your ordination and support your endeavor. However, you must first find a bishop, with credibility and a viable diocese to ordain you with the understanding that you would not be silent on your support for LGBT inclusion in the parish. That might prove more than difficult in the current climate. You have my support.
    May God bless and guide your steps,
    Andriy

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