The Official Orthodox Christian Position on Marriage Equality

26/6/15 – Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America

The following statement was released by the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) on August 13, 2003. For the sake of anyone unaware of the official, Orthodox stance on same-sex “marriage,” this news release describes the clear and unchanging position.

SCOBA Statement on Moral Crisis in Our Nation

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

As members of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), representing more than 5 million Orthodox Christians in the United States, Canada and Mexico, we are deeply concerned about recent developments regarding “same sex unions.”

The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church. Neither Scripture nor Holy Tradition blesses or sanctions such a union between persons of the same sex.

Holy Scripture attests that God creates man and woman in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27-31), that those called to do so might enjoy a conjugal union that ideally leads to procreation. While not every marriage is blessed with the birth of children, every such union exists to create of a man and a woman a new reality of “one flesh.” This can only involve a relationship based on gender complementarity. “God made them male and female … So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8).

The union between a man and a woman in the Sacrament of Marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). As such, marriage is necessarily monogamous and heterosexual. Within this union, sexual relations between a husband and wife are to be cherished and protected as a sacred expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such was God’s plan for His human creatures from the very beginning. Today, however, this divine purpose is increasingly questioned, challenged or denied, even within some faith communities, as social and political pressures work to normalize, legalize and even sanctify same-sex unions.

The Orthodox Church cannot and will not bless same-sex unions. Whereas marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred institution ordained by God, homosexual union is not. Like adultery and fornication, homosexual acts are condemned by Scripture (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This being said, however, we must stress that persons with a homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed by our Lord Jesus Christ upon all of humanity. All persons are called by God to grow spiritually and morally toward holiness.

As heads of the Orthodox Churches in America and members of SCOBA, we speak with one voice in expressing our deep concern over recent developments. And we pray fervently that the traditional form of marriage, as an enduring and committed union only between a man and a woman, will be honored.

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And below is the 2013 statement released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.

2013 Assembly Statement on Marriage and Sexuality

From the Assembly of Bishops, to our Orthodox Faithful:

1. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, representing millions of Orthodox Christians in the United States of America, Canada and Central America, express our deep concern over recent actions on the part of our respective governments and certain societal trends concerning the status of marriage in our countries, in particular the legalization of same-sex unions.

2. The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, two millennia of Church Tradition, and Canon Law, holds that the sacrament of marriage consists in the union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage reflects the sacred unity that exists between Christ and His Bride, the Church.

3. Persons with homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed on all of humanity by our Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Church is a spiritual hospital, where we all are called to find the healing of our fallen humanity through Jesus Christ, who assumed human nature in order to restore it. All of us struggle with various passions, and it is only within the Church that we find the means of overcoming these passions with the assistance of God’s grace. Acting upon any sexual attraction outside of sacramental marriage, whether the attraction is heterosexual or homosexual, alienates us from God.

4. We exhort the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church to bear witness to the timeless teachings of Christ by striving for purity and holiness in their own lives, by instructing their families and communities in the precepts of the Holy Gospel, and by placing their trust in our Lord, who “has overcome the world.” (John 16.33)

5. Finally, we encourage our faithful to approach their parish priest or spiritual father with any questions or concerns about this statement and its practical repercussions in their daily lives.

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