SEXUALITY & GENDER: OPEN LETTER TO THE ASSEMBLY OF CANONICAL ORTHODOX BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Two weeks from now, October 2-4, 2018, the ninth annual meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America is scheduled to take place in Cleveland, Ohio. We put forward the following proposals for the Assembly’s consideration. 
If you wish to sign this Open Letter, send an email to editors@orthodoxyindialogue.com with your name and city, state/province, and country of residence. If you are a bishop, priest, or deacon, include your ecclesiastical title and the jurisdiction to which you belong.
Concerned individuals who are not members of the Orthodox Church are also welcome to add their names. 
Please disseminate this Letter widely on social media.
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To the Member Hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America:

Masters, bless. 

As you gather in prayer and brotherhood during the first week of October, we the undersigned respectfully propose that the Assembly, its individual member bishops, and their respective jurisdictions and dioceses consider taking the following steps:

1). Cease issuing condemnations of abortion, participating in the March for Life, and advocating for the elimination of legal, accessible abortion. 

Instead, create a committee of clergy, laypersons, and especially women to explore options for a pan-Orthodox initiative to offer financial, material, emotional, spiritual, and social support to pregnant women in need and to their children after birth.

The reality of the world in which we live also requires the Church’s support for the surest means to reduce the incidence of abortion: universal access to contraception and to accurate, scientifically based sex education.

Finally, it is important to listen to women’s reasons for having an abortion and to work with them to mitigate those reasons when they are open to doing so. Judging, condemning, marching in parades, and attending Rose Dinners accomplish nothing and don’t save a single child’s or woman’s life.

2). Cease issuing condemnations of same-sex orientation.

These condemnations inflict lasting emotional and spiritual harm on Orthodox children, teens, and adults who regard their orientation as a good and natural part of their personal identity. They seek from their Church, not a cover for sexual permissiveness, but a profound and affirmative theological articulation of how their orientation reflects the divine image and participates in the acquisition of the divine likeness through the collaboration of human ascesis with uncreated grace.

Instead, create a committee of clergy, theologians, psychologists, therapists, laypersons, and especially Orthodox individuals who identify as same-sex oriented to study questions of sexual orientation in all their complexity.

The committee should be open to examining possibilities for blessing Orthodox same-sex couples who wish to make a monogamous, lifelong commitment to each other.

The committee should also be tasked with formulating pastoral guidelines to present for the Assembly’s consideration.

The blanket excommunication of Orthodox Christians who present as same-sex oriented must cease. Read More


MEETING WITH THE EXARCHS OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE: OFFICIAL REPORT FROM THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE

This report appeared earlier today on the Official Website of President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.

President Poroshenko (centre left), Archbishop Daniel (front right), Bishop Ilarion (rear right)

President Petro Poroshenko had a meeting with the Exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine—Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy of the UOC [Ukrainian Orthodox Church] in Canada and Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia and the Western Eparchy of the UOC in the United States of America.

The Head of State emphasized that the beginning of the mission of the Exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Ilarion, is an extremely important event for all Orthodox people in Ukraine.

Read More


THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT IS LOOKING TO PUTIN’S RUSSIA TO SAVE CHRISTIANITY FROM THE GODLESS WEST by Tom Porter

It is no secret that America’s “Christian right” includes a great many Orthodox Christians in the US, especially certain kinds of converts to Orthodoxy. In drawing this Newsweek article to our readers’ attention Orthodoxy in Dialogue invites one or more qualified individuals to write a thoughtful, analytical response.

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At a gathering of some of the world’s most virulent opponents of LGBT equality, Russian conservative activist Dmitry Komov warned of the destructive agenda underlying the spread of liberal values.

The West, he told a far-right French TV station in December, was committed to the “destruction of all of our collective identities: national identity, religious identity, gender identity,” and warned it would result in  “the destruction of human identity.”

Komov was in Chisinau, Moldova, for the Eurasian colloquium, where Russian Orthodox ideologues and European far-right activists rubbed shoulders. Between 13 and 16 September they are also joined by members of a U.S. conservative Christian groups in the city for the World Congress of Families [designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center]. The unlikely allies feel that after decades of struggle, the time has come to topple Western liberal hegemony.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have been strained over allegations that Russia influenced the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, but religious conservatives in both nations have recently found common cause.

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia and parts of the U.S. Christian right have formed an alliance that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago, when American evangelical leaders railed against “godless communism.”

Russia has reinvented itself as a bastion of Christian values in a world beset by relativism and godlessness. As a result, conservative Christians gathering at the World Congress of Families are looking to Putin to protect Christianity from the West. Read More


UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALY: ECCLESIOLOGY, ECUMENISM, POLITICS by Andrew Sorokowski

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In the western Ukrainian city of Lviv in the spring of 1990, one could sometimes hear the phrase katafal’na tserkva—катафальна церква, “catafalque church”—a folk rendering of avtokefal’na tserkva or “autocephalous church”—автокефальна церква. Indeed, the concept of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church was thought to have died at the end of World War II, except in the Ukrainian diaspora.

But in August 1989, the Russian Orthodox parish of SS. Peter and Paul had opted for Ukrainian autocephaly, and in November 1991 the Russian Orthodox Exarchate of Ukraine, now rebranded as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP), declared itself autocephalous. The Moscow Patriarchate reacted swiftly, forcing Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko) to resign the following year, and eventually laicizing and anathematizing him. The UOC returned to the Russian fold. But within a few years two new autocephalous churches—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)—had sprung up.

Today, neither the UOC-KP nor the UAOC is recognized as canonical in the Orthodox world, and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) as well as the UOC-MP regards them as schismatic. But according to a Kyiv International Institute of Sociology survey taken last May and June, 43% of Ukrainians identify with one or the other of these autocephalous churches, while only 17% adhere to the canonical UOC-MP. Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its war in the Donbas have alienated many Orthodox believers in Ukraine, and entire parishes have defected to the autocephalous Churches. Read More



THE WILL OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS IN UKRAINE: METROPOLITAN HILARION (ALFEYEV) vs. THE STATISTICS

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Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

On September 8, 2018 the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations published Metropolitan Hilarion’s “Patriarch Bartholomew Will Bear Personal Responsibility before the Judgment of God and the Judgment of History.” In it His Beatitude responds to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s moves to normalize the canonical status of the Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate as the autocephalous (i.e., fully self-administered) Orthodox Church for Ukraine.

Metropolitan Hilarion’s statement is very brief. We recommend that you take the two or three minutes to read it. For our purposes we draw attention to the following assertion by His Beatitude:

…[The] Ukrainian Church [of the Moscow Patriarchate], which unites a majority of the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine (over 12 thousand parishes, over 200 monasteries) has not asked for any autocephaly, for any independence. […] Thus the Patriarchate of Constantinople is now openly on the warpath. And it is a war not only against the Russian Church, not only against the Ukrainian Orthodox people….

It seems significant that Metropolitan Hilarion should cite the total number of parishes and monasteries rather than actual people. On page 78 of the periodic Public Opinion Survey of Residents of Ukraine—this one conducted March 15-31, 2018 and published on May 21—we find that the Kyiv Patriarchate holds the allegiance of precisely twice as many Orthodox Christians in Ukraine as the Moscow Patriarchate: 39% and 19% respectively of the total population of Ukraine. These figures have remained remarkably consistent over the course of consecutive releases of the same survey. Read More


POINT-COUNTERPOINT: CONSTANTINOPLE vs. MOSCOW ON THE AUTOCEPHALY OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (L) and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (R)

Announcement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

September 7, 2018

Within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed as its Exarchs in Kiev [Kyiv] His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon from the United States, and His Grace Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada, both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 7th of September, 2018

From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod

From the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

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Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church

September 8, 2018

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church expresses its resolute protest against and deep indignation at the communique published on September 7, 2018, by the Chief Secretariat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Holy Synod announcing the appointment of two hierarchs of this Church – Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon (USA) and Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton (Canada) as ‘exarchs’ of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for Kiev. Read More