The following response to OCA Synod of Bishops Slams Door Shut on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Orthodox Christians was sent to the individual members of the OCA Synod of Bishops on July 27, 2022. Other LGBTQ Orthodox Christians and their allies are invited to share the spiritually devastating impact of the Synod’s “Statement on Same-Sex Relationships and Sexual Identity” in an article, open letter, or letter to the editors. Contrary to what the bishops may imagine, theirs has never been the final word in the history of the Orthodox Church.
To His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All American and Canada
And to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America,
Grace to you and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ.
As someone who is both orthodox and queer, I have a request for you in light of the recent statement of the OCA Synod. Living as a layman who is also queer has been a central question my entire life. Nearly every moment is filled with thoughts of how to be thoroughly authentic, pious, and orthodox while acknowledging I am homosexual. My request comes from decades of study and prayer and is presented to you with pain in my heart as I pray for the salvation of our souls.
My request is that you address the heterosexual sins in the church with the same rigor which you give the LGBTQIA+ community. In your statement you assert, “marriage is by this reflection monogamous and heterosexual…and such remains his plan for all time. Any other form of sexual expression is by its nature disordered, and cannot be blessed by the Church in any way, whether directly or indirectly.” Scripture clearly teaches that God is no respecter of persons and your statement urges us to live in “chastity and repentance” regardless of sexual orientation. Therefore, remarriage of divorced persons should be held to the same standard. It is, in the words of Christ, adultery and it violates the Synod’s assertion that marriage is monogamous. To allow remarriage after divorce is to directly bless adultery.
There is a difference between humility and humiliation. We can accept celibacy with humility if there is support and guidance from our pastors. But to be held to strict standards of celibacy while our heterosexual brothers and sisters are allowed to indulge in adultery is humiliation. It is “hurting the little ones” and it would be better for stones to be tied around your neck and thrown in the sea. The statement quotes a previous address by Metropolitan Tikhon in which he states, “… the Orthodox Church must continue to proclaim what she has always taught: that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and the Orthodox Church in America can in no way deviate from this teaching…” If the church can in no way deviate from this teaching, then it must follow this teaching to its natural conclusion and forbid remarriage from this moment on. The Q&A on the OCA website notes that “Second or third marriages are performed by “economy”—that is, out of concern for the spiritual well being of the parties involved and as an exception to the rule, so to speak.” If an exception by economy cannot be granted to homosexuals, why does the same logic not apply to heterosexuals in remarriage?
St. Paul’s admonishment of the church in Rome is particularly fitting for the Synod: the first chapter is a common reference when discussing homosexuality, but the second chapter begins, “Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” You, as the shepherds of this flock, are responsible for the sheep you lose and the sins you allow in your churches. Our Savior said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” In your refusal to commune LGBTQIA+ persons while allowing divorced and remarried persons to partake in the Eucharist, you judge yourself.
N. Elijah Turrell
Elijah Turrell converted to Orthodoxy while attending The Moody Bible Institute in Chicago IL. He holds a BA with an emphasis in sociology from Oklahoma University, where his senior thesis focused on systemic violence against the LGBTQIA+ community. He is currently attending The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London UK where he is studying Orthodox Iconography.