Phanar's reaction to the baptism of sodomites’ children

The Phanar has reacted to "LGBT baptism" by Archbishop Elpidophoros. Photo: UOJ

The Phanar has reacted to the baptism of sodomites’ children by Archbishop Elpidophoros. This reaction was unofficial but very revealing.

On July 9, 2022, Archbishop Elpidophoros, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, baptised the children of a gay couple. You can read more about this event in the article "What Does the Baptism of Sodomite ‘Family’ Children Imply for Orthodoxy?". It was suggested that the action taken by Archbishop Elpidophoros was not accidental. It was aimed at opening the notorious Overton window and driven by the desire to legalize gay marriage and the rights of LGBT people in Orthodoxy.

And on July 25, 2022, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, one of the leading Phanar theologians, published an article on the "Religion News Service", in which the Overton window was if not opened wide then made ajar. A few words about the author and his media platform.

What is the “Religion News Service”

An article by John Chryssavgis was published on the “Religion News Service” (RNS), an American news resource. According to its website, the RNS is an independent, non-profit source of global news about religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, founded in 1934 and one of the largest religious news outlets in the world.

A screenshot of religionnews.com

In April 2015. The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that the RNS had received a grant of $120,000 from the Arcus Foundation, a human rights organisation whose focus is LGBT rights. The stated purpose of the grant was as follows: "To recruit and arm LGBT leaders and advocates to counter resentment and antagonism in traditionally conservative Christian churches." Kevin Eckstrom, then editor-in-chief for the RNS, said the grant had no effect on the RNS editorial policy and that the stated purpose of the grant was the internal kitchen of the Arcus Foundation, none of which concerned anyone else.

What is John Chryssavgis

John Chryssavgis is a deacon of the American Archdiocese of the Phanar, an environmental advisor to Patriarch Bartholomew, an honorary doctorate of St Vladimir's Theological Seminary (USA) and an honorary professor of theology at Sydney College of Theology (Australia). In 2012, Patriarch Bartholomew granted him the title of Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Throne. John Chryssavgis is one of the closest Greek Church figures to Patriarch Bartholomew. During the preparations for the 2016 Council of Crete, which the Constantinople Patriarchate persistently calls the "Pan-Orthodox" Council, John Chryssavgis was a secretary of the 5th Pre-Council in Chambesy, as well as a member of the secretariat of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in Chambesy. It was he who was the "face" of the Council to the outside world, publishing a series of videos on the progress and outcome of its work. Chryssavgis is the author of several books and many articles in the fields of religion and ecology, social justice and peace.

One of his works is worth a closer look.

A book about Patriarch Bartholomew

This is a book published in Ukrainian and Russian under the title: "Bartholomew: Apostle and Visionary.”

The book “Bartholomew: Apostle and Visionary" by John Chryssavgis. Photo: Dukh i litera Publishers

Two things are significant in this book: first, the persons whose opinions on Patriarch Bartholomew are given to characterize him. These are:

  • Pope Francis;
  • Pope Benedict XVI;
  • Rabbi David Rosen, Director of International Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee;
  • Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury (Church of England);
  • Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States (at the time of writing);
  • Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States;
  • Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace;
  • George Stephanopoulos, 'ABC News' Chief Anchor (USA).

Not a single authoritative Orthodox hierarch, not a single renowned Orthodox theologian, not a single revered Orthodox clergyman! Only representatives of other faiths, politicians and media personalities.

And secondly, it is the manner Patriarch Bartholomew is described in the book. He is presented as a supporter of ecumenism and a consistent fighter for ecology. Here are some of the titles of the sections of the book:

  • "The Fragile Mosaic. A Builder of Bridges in a Changing World',
  • "A Heart Wide Open. The Advocate of Ecumenism in a Christian World."
  • "A Culture of Communication. A Far-Sighted Mediator of Orthodox Unity",
  • "The Green Patriarch".

In principle, all these correctly describe the figure of Patriarch Bartholomew. The head of the Phanar is engaged in "Orthodox unity" led by himself, promotes ecumenism in its broadest and deepest forms and cares about protecting the environment. Recall Bartholomew is called in the title of the book an "apostle and visionary".

Just for the note is a quote about why the Lord Jesus Christ sent apostles into the world: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Amen" (Matthew 28:19,20).

Analysis of the article by John Chryssavgis 

Before we proceed to the analysis of the article by John Chryssavgis in defence of LGBT rights, it should be noted that, firstly, the author's closeness to the head of the Phanar suggests that the article could not be published without his consent, at least tacit or implied. And secondly, this article, originally published on the Religion News Service resource, was immediately reposted by one of the mouthpieces of the Constantinople Patriarchate news agency “Light of the Phanar” (fosfanariou.gr) with the eloquent title "Archbishop Elpidophoros responded to the Church of Greece", which indicates that the Phanar generally agrees with the ideas set out in the article.

Now, the article itself.

It is built on conscious manipulation and substitution of concepts. We wrote earlier that the baptism by Archbishop Elpidophoros of the gay couple’s children from a surrogate mother might be a deliberate act to introduce sodomite ideology into Orthodoxy. And the baptism of children for this was not chosen by chance. After all, in any case, it can be said that the innocent babies have nothing to do with it, that they are not responsible for the actions of their parents, and it is unacceptable to deprive them of the sacrament of Baptism because they come from the same-sex "family". It can also be argued that baptised babies go straight to heaven in the event of death and that it was worth baptising them for that alone, and so on. This is how John Chryssavgis presents the matter: "There should be no controversy over a baptism, to which all children are entitled. Why then has Elpidophoros’ action caused such contention and accusation?"

This all sounds very much like a substitution of concepts. To make sure of this, here is the following sentence: "What happened was simply another baptism, but what ensued was something everyone in the world of faith is familiar with of late: Another episode in the culture wars." This is about the wave of indignation at the actions of Archbishop Elpidophoros on the part of Greek hierarchs and the public. However, what John Chryssavgis calls "another episode of culture wars" is actually a struggle for the moral teaching of the Church, for the purity of the doctrine and morality. This is the substitution of notions: to present a purely religious problem as a question of culture or tradition.

According to John Chryssavgis, the situation “revealed how out of touch the Orthodox Church is with reality and the world” and “lives in its own bubble" because not only does it not recognize the rights of LGBT people, but it refuses to discuss the topic at all. However, why start a discussion on an issue resolved in the Scripture categorically: "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error" (Romans 1:25-27). The Apostle Paul also makes it quite clear that neither passive nor active homosexuals will inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). There are many more quotes that could be cited to expressly condemn sodomy as a mortal sin. What is there for the Church to debate?

But despite this, one of the leading theologians of the Phanar asks: " Are we afraid of admitting our own discomfort or embarrassment in discussing sexual principles or practices?" And then there is a call: "Could it be time for a frank discussion about sex and gender in the Church?"

Calls for a "frank discussion about sex and gender in the Church" are not being made to reaffirm to the Church that mortal sin is a mortal sin, but to revise Church teaching and recognise sodomy as the "norm" for Christians.

Once again, we see a substitution of concepts, as such calls for a "frank discussion about sex and gender in the Church" are not being made to reaffirm to the Church that mortal sin is a mortal sin, but to revise Church teaching and recognise sodomy as the "norm" for Christians.

In his article, John Chryssavgis asks supposedly rhetorical questions about how Christ would feel about contemporary issues of gender and homosexuality: "What would Jesus do? Who would Jesus censure, and how would Jesus correct someone? Whom would Jesus welcome, and what behaviour would Jesus expect?" And this is also a conscious manipulation, for not only did Christ not condemn people, he testified of himself, "For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47).

Those who like to express a tolerant attitude towards sodomites (including John Chryssavgis) often cite the case of a woman taken in adultery who was brought to Christ. The Lord then said: "Whosoever of you is without sin, cast the first stone upon her" (John 8:7). That is, Christ did not condemn the woman, so by the logic of such lovers of tolerance we should not condemn sodomites either. However, consciously or not, they "forget" the words that Christ then said to that same woman: "Go and do not sin" (John 8:11).

The fact that the Lord did not condemn the woman did not rehabilitate the sin of adultery itself, did not make it permissible or less sinful. If those who support LGBT people could say to them, as Christ did, "go and do not commit the sin of sodomy again", that would be true Christian love for sinners. But for some reason we do not hear such words. We hear, in fact, the opposite: "Go and do what you have been doing, and we will theologically justify that it is permissible.”

If those who support LGBT people could say to them, as Christ did, "go and do not commit the sin of sodomy again", that would be true Christian love for sinners.

At the end of the article John Chryssavgis refers to two documents which he believes express a tolerant attitude towards sodomy: "I am aware of two mainstream texts that dare to consider homosexuality in a sustained, respectful and pastoral manner. The first is a ‘Letter from the Orthodox Bishops in Germany to Young People concerning Love – Sexuality – Marriage’, signed by Metropolitan Augoustinos of Germany in 2017 as chairman on behalf of the Orthodox Bishops’ Conference in Germany. The second is a document entitled ‘For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church’ (2020) formally commissioned by Patriarch Bartholomew and endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

"A Letter from the Orthodox Bishops in Germany to Young People concerning Love – Sexuality – Marriage", published in December 2017, mentions that "in Holy Scripture, both in the Old Testament and also in the New Testament, there are statements against homosexuality".

This "Letter" also contains conscious or unconscious manipulation: "Frank questions relating to homosexual men and women belong in the realm of spiritual welfare and tactful guidance by the Church. For all men are made in the image of God. Therefore, all people are to be accorded that respect which is in keeping with the existence of this divine image in mankind.  This applies also to our parishes, which are requested to show love and respect to all men and women.”

Firstly, questions about homosexuality are not "left unanswered for now". That answer is given in the Scripture, as mentioned above. And secondly, the thesis about respecting the image of God in sodomites can be understood in such a way that supposedly this image extends to this very sodomy, while the opposite is the case – sin is the desecration of the image of God.

As for the second mentioned document ‘For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church’ (2020), it is also very ambiguous on the subject of sodomy.

Quote: "A great many political and social debates in the modern world turn upon the distinct demands and needs of heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and other sexual “identities.” It is true, as a simple physiological and psychological fact, that the nature of individual sexual longing is not simply a consequence of private choice regarding such matters; many of the inclinations and longings of the flesh and the heart to a great extent come into the world with us and are nourished or thwarted—accepted or obstructed—in us at an early age. It must be accounted, moreover, a basic right of any person—which no state or civil authority may presume to violate—to remain free from persecution or legal disadvantage as a result of his or her sexual orientation."

This essentially states that children can be born homo- and bisexual and should not be discriminated against for this but should seek the image of God in them. To what extent is it consistent with the position of the Holy Scripture and holy fathers’ literature? Everyone can answer for themselves. We recall that this document was initiated by Patriarch Bartholomew and expresses the official position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

If we characterise the article by John Chryssavgis as a whole, it actually calls for a revision of the Church's teaching on sodomy.

A statement by the Holy Mount Athos

Nevertheless, we see other statements on homosexuality by representatives of the Church today. On July 28, 2022, Vima Orthodoxias published a statement by the Holy Synod of the Holy Mount Athos, prompted, among other things, by the baptism of the children of same-sex couples. It says in particular: "It is clearly foreign to the teaching of the Gospel and the Orthodox ethos to allow the understanding that a ‘same-sex couple’ can be considered a family with the right to adopt children, as any such form of adoption or foster care is contrary to the teaching of the Gospel, human nature, and also the ethos and traditions of our people, while at the same time it violates the elementary rights of innocent defenceless people, who don’t have the possibility to choose a normal family environment."

Here is an example of a true pastoral attitude towards sin and sinners, where everything is called by its proper names and not done without ambiguous language.

About the meeting of the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople

On July 21-22, 2022, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople met to address problems and scandals in the Archdiocese of America, including the baptism of sodomite children by Archbishop Elpidophoros.

“The National Herald” reported this in the following words: "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, during a meeting of the Holy Synod <...> received a huge number of comments, concerns, revelations and complaints from synodal hierarchs about the Archbishop Elpidophoros’ arbitrariness and actions, which put the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarch personally in a difficult position."

These complaints referred to Archbishop Elpidophoros' attempts to rework the Statute of the Archdiocese of America, to ordain a clergyman who had been defrocked in another Local Church, and other things. In general, the following was said about the current head of the American Archdiocese: "A hierarch well versed in Church affairs in America told the Synod that many priests do not want Elpidophoros but are afraid to speak out because they risk persecution and actions that will affect the well-being of their families."

“The National Herald” reported the following on the discussion at the Holy Synod of the Phanar about Archbishop Elpidophoros' baptism of the children of the same-sex couple: "There was a discussion about what happened with the baptism performed in Glyfada, a suburb of Athens, which led to an official complaint by Metropolitan Antonios of Glyfada, which was сommunicated via the official channel of the Holy Synod of the Greek Church to the Phanar, asking for more information."

Patriarch Bartholomew on Archbishop Elpidophoros: "We cannot change archbishops in America every three years."

In other words, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the members of this body almost unanimously spoke out against Archbishop Elpidophoros and criticised his actions. However, Patriarch Bartholomew still supported his protégé despite this. A quote from “The National Herald”: "Despite the opinion of the Synod members, the Patriarch ignored the issue and did not allow anything about it to be included in the communiqué, making it clear that he was covering for and supporting Archbishop Elpidophoros. The patriarch reportedly said: 'We cannot change archbishops in America every three years'."

Conclusions

Firstly, it is clear that there is a gay lobby (hierarchs and theologians) within the Patriarchate of Constantinople advocating a change in Church teaching and recognition of LGBT rights.

Secondly, this gay lobby has now made an attempt to legalise its views. It can be assumed that this is due to the fact that the struggle between supporters of LGBT and traditional morality has now intensified in various Christian denominations (Catholicism and the Anglican Church) and in the political sphere: one of the points of confrontation between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. is precisely the question of LGBT rights. Accordingly, the Phanar, which is predominantly aligned with the U.S. Democratic Party, cannot but support the Democratic agenda, even though it clearly contradicts the Holy Scriptures. Nor should we forget that Archbishop Elpidophoros is openly in favour of the Democratic Party and that Patriarch Bartholomew is a long-time friend of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Thirdly, the outcome of the struggle for the recognition of sodomy at least within the Constantinople Patriarchate is not yet clear. On one hand, the recent meeting of the Holy Synod showed almost unanimous opposition to Archbishop Elpidophoros’ actions, but on the other hand, the same meeting showed how firmly Patriarch Bartholomew covers for and supports the current head of the Archdiocese of America. He enjoys the same support from leading American politicians and influential members of the Greek diaspora in the U.S. However, in the American Archdiocese itself, he is not, to put it mildly, supported. And the rejection of Elpidophoros' personality will speak in favour of the rejection of the attempts to promote LGBT rights that he does.

We venture to suggest that sodomy legalisation will not pass even in the liberal Constantinople Patriarchate after all. It is, as they say, already "too much" for Orthodoxy.

Finally, even the very discussion in the Constantinople Patriarchate on changing the Church's teaching on sodomy to please public opinion is another argument that this church structure stepped on a slippery slope long ago. And this is further proof that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's break of eucharistic communion with the Phanar was the right decision.

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