LGBT recognition or schism: what will Christian denominations choose?

LGBT ideology is increasingly being imposed on Christianity. Photo: UOJ

The topic of LGBT recognition has been sharply raised on the agenda of Christian confessions: the Vatican, the Phanar, the Anglicans… What can it lead to and be done?

The topic of expanding LGBT rights is being pushed more and more insistently in society – both in the West and in Ukraine. Accordingly, there are active attempts to introduce it into Christianity as well. In this article, we try to give an overview of how sodomites are treated in Catholicism, Anglicanism and... Orthodoxy. 

Phanar

Until recently, it has been thought that in the Orthodox Church a discussion on the recognition of LGBT rights is impossible in principle since the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition express a very clear stance on the issue. Sodomy has always been recognised as a sin and changing the teaching of the Church was out of the question. But recently, to be more precise, after the baptism of the children of a gay couple by Archbishop Elpidophoros, the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the question of the attitude towards LGBT has been actively discussed in Orthodoxy at different levels.

Archbishop Elpidophoros may well have performed the baptism without the publicity the event was given. Especially since the Greek journalist Nikos Stamatakis has made it known that this is not the first time that a bishop has baptized children who are related to the gay community and he is generally on friendly terms with LGBT people. Read more about the circumstances of the baptism in the article: "What does the baptism of children from a sodomite 'family' mean for Orthodoxy?"

Later, the Phanar theologian, Deacon John Chryssavgis, published an article: "A tempest over a baptism in Greece raises questions about what we’re trying to protect", in which he actually called for a revision of the Church's teaching on sodomy and LGBT rights recognition. The article was published on the “Religion News Service”, one of the most popular American news resources, and was immediately reposted by Fosfanariou, one of the mouthpieces of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Moreover, the title of the article was changed in such a way as to demonstrate that the Phanar supported its main message, namely: "Archbishop Elpidophoros replies to the Greek Church".

And on 21 and 22 July 2022, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew actually supported Archbishop Elpidophoros, despite sharp criticism from virtually all members of the Holy Synod.

It is fair to say that the topic of LGBT rights recognition is predominantly promoted within one of the Local Churches, the Church of Constantinople. The fact that the baptism of children of a gay couple by Archbishop Elpidophoros took place in Greece has drawn the Greek Church into the debate, but its hierarchs and theologians have generally reacted negatively. The article " Phanar's reaction to the baptism of sodomites’ children" suggested that there is a gay lobby within the Patriarchate of Constantinople that has decided that now is the right moment to try to legalise LGBT people in Orthodoxy. Thus both the baptism of sodomite children and the article by John Chryssavgis demanding a revision of the Church's moral teachings are a kind of coming out of such a lobby, that is, a public disclosure of ideas and sentiments that have previously existed within the Phanar in a latent, i.e. hidden form.

However, for the Pharariots themselves, as well as other initiated persons, the existence in the Patriarchate of Constantinople of the idea of legalizing LGBT people was not a secret. In this regard, a conversation between the head of the OCU (the structure which, according to the Tomos, is dependent on the Phanar) Sergei (Epifaniy) Dumenko and the pranksters who called him back in December 2018 on behalf of the EC member David McAllister is quite remarkable. On the call to soften the church's stance on the LGBT community and to support gay people in Ukraine, Dumenko replied: “This is a difficult issue that we should not raise at the beginning of our journey because you know how Ukrainian society perceives this issue. Now we need to work on this so that Ukrainian society perceives it. It's a long way. Of course, we will look for answers to difficult questions.” In other words, Sergei Dumenko was already, as they say, in the picture.

ДDumenko on homosexuality: "Now we need to work on this so that the Ukrainian society perceives it. It's a long way. Of course, we will look for answers to difficult questions."

Anglican Communion

While in Orthodoxy (where the attitude to sodomy as sin is dominant) there are attempts to legalise this very sodomy, the opposite is happening in the Anglican Church. There, supporters of traditional morality are making an attempt to restore the biblical understanding against the backdrop of LGBT recognition, which has long dominated Anglicanism.

The Anglican Communion is a kind of confederation of Anglican churches based in different countries and with wide autonomy. The symbolic head of the Community is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is currently Justin Welby. The Anglican Church has about 85 million members and is the third Christian denomination after Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Anglicans fully recognise LGBT rights and ordain openly gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. bishops. The U.S. Episcopal Church Resolution of June 23, 2005, states, "Members of the Episcopal Church have recognized the sanctity in same-sex relationships and have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of people to these unions. <...> Their holiness stands in stark contrast to many sinful patterns of sexuality in the world..." I wonder what these "sinful patterns of sexuality" are then?

From 26 July to 8 August 2022, for the first time since 2008, the so-called Lambert Conference is taking place, attended by over 650 bishops from around the world. The draft outcome documents, which were presented before the conference, contain negative attitudes towards same-sex marriage. For example, the document titled "Lambeth Calls" says: "It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-gender marriage is not permissible.” The documents also stated that “legitimizing or blessing same-sex unions” cannot be advised". Naturally, this angered the liberal participants of the conference.

As a result, the document was revised and presented to the Lambert Conference with the following wording: "Many Provinces (local Anglican churches – Ed.) continue to affirm that same-gender marriage is not permissible. Other Provinces have blessed and welcomed same-sex unions/marriages after careful theological reflection and acceptance process. As Bishops, we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues."

Passions ran high. For example, pro-LGBT bishop John Harvey Taylor of Los Angeles put it this way: "It's divisive, hurtful, accusatory and denial." Another representative of the LGBTQ wing in the Church of England, Jayne Ozanne, demanded an apology and an explanation of "why this happened and how it happened". In contrast, African bishops, supporters of traditional morality, have announced that they would refuse communion with bishops who have homosexual partners and also refuse communion with those who support same-sex marriage.

From this, we can conclude that in the Anglican Church, despite all its liberalism and the fairly frequent ordination of sodomites as bishops, there are still some supporters of traditional morality and a biblical attitude to sodomy. There is an opposition between them, which, however, has not yet led to a split in the Anglican Communion itself.

Vatican

Much has already been written about Pope Francis' sympathy for gays and lesbians. Much has also been written about the most progressive part of the Catholic Church in this regard, the Church in Germany, where the so-called "Synodal Way" suggests recognising same-sex marriages, allowing abortions, abolishing celibacy and introducing a female "priesthood". For more on this, see the article: "Will Catholics be able to preserve their Church? Lessons for the Orthodox". It is assumed that the liberal reforms being proposed at the Vatican level by German Catholics threaten to split Catholicism. Pope Francis has now also recognised this threat. On July 21, 2022, he addressed a message to the leadership of the Catholic Church, warning against unilateral changes in moral teaching and canonical order and acknowledging that this could lead to the division of the Catholic Church. The Pope said the changes promoted by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx and other liberal hierarchs would negatively affect Catholics.

"In order to protect the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry, it seems necessary to clarify that the 'Synodal Way' in Germany has no power to force bishops and the faithful to adopt new ways of serving and new approaches to teaching and morality," the RCC head said.

The Pope believes that "Orthodox" Catholics and homosexuals have more things in common than those that divide them.

However, the pontiff did not stop expressing his sympathies for sodomites. On 20 July 2022, he wrote to the LGBT Catholic “Outreach”, noting that "Orthodox" Catholics and homosexuals have more things in common than those that divide them. In the letter, Pope Francis urged LGBT Catholics to work "on the culture of communication that reduces distances and enriches us with differences, as Jesus, who became closer to all, did".

It is tempting to ask: which side is Pope Francis on? On the one hand, he warns that attempts to change church teaching and to acknowledge sodomy as acceptable threaten to split Catholicism, and on the other hand, by his flirtations with LGBT people he does everything to make sure that church teaching is changed.  

If we look at the LGBT situation in general, we can say that in Orthodoxy only the first touchstone has been thrown, in Catholicism the situation is on the verge of changing the moral teaching, while in Anglicanism the turning point has already been made, LGBT rights (like other liberal innovations) have been widely recognized, but the conservative part of the denomination is not leaving any attempt to return to the biblical understanding of the issue. We are not talking about the Protestant denominations because everything there has long been clear: everything is recognised, everything is acceptable, and there is no meaningful discussion.

Secular legislation

The processes and discussions on sodomy that are taking place within Christian denominations exist against the background of the fact that secular legislation in the countries where these denominations are predominantly represented is increasingly changing in favour of LGBT people.

We will not provide a country-by-country analysis of the law on LGBT rights. In general, the European Union is very supportive of LGBT people. In many countries, LGBT rights are protected even better than those of traditional orientation. As a candidate country for EU membership, Ukraine is bound to follow those trends.

It should be noted that there are exceptions among EU countries. For example, Poland has been quite successful in resisting pan-European tendencies in the field of LGBT rights. Article 18 of the Polish Constitution says that "marriage is a union of a man and a woman that is placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland”. Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children. Poland not only does not recognise gay marriages but even same-sex civil unions, although the issue is being discussed. Polish society is for the most part negative about the recognition of LGBT rights. More than a hundred municipalities, which cover about a third of Poland's territory, have unofficially declared themselves "LGBT-free zones" and even put up road signs to that effect. However, Ukraine, apparently, is not going to follow the example of Poland in this regard. This is evident from how easily the Verkhovna Rada ratified the scandalous Istanbul Convention on the eve of obtaining its EU candidate status.

In response to a petition to legalise gay marriage in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on 2 August 2022 that marriage is a family union between a woman and a man under the Constitution, and that the Constitution cannot be changed under martial law. Does this mean that the issue will be put on the agenda after the war? It is difficult to say so far. However, with regard to same-sex partnerships, the President gave the green light: "At the same time, the government has developed options regarding the legalisation of registered civil partnerships in Ukraine as part of the work to establish and ensure human rights and freedoms.” Zelenskyy also instructed Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to look into the issue raised in the petition and to report the results. We dare say that the resolution of this issue will depend, as with the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, on the perseverance of our European and American partners.

Conclusions

Firstly, the topic of sodomy recognition really threatens to split Catholicism now, and Orthodoxy in the distant (or maybe, even in the near) future. The Anglicans have in fact introduced LGBT ideology, and the conservative part of this denomination does not have enough strength and influence to reverse the process.

Secondly, Catholicism is in a far more threatening situation than Orthodoxy. The gay lobby there is much more numerous and powerful. Besides, it is much better organised. In the RCC, where disagreements are traditionally not allowed on any significant issues of dogma or morality, the Anglican version where sodomy is considered a sin by some communities and a norm by others will not work. There it is either yes or no for everyone. And as long as the parties are irreconcilable on this issue, division appears very likely. It seems that Pope Francis, who recently announced that he might resign for health reasons, was guided not only by his body condition but also by his unwillingness to see the schism and everything connected with it take place during his pontificate.

Thirdly, the Local Orthodox Churches will not agree to changes in moral teaching. At most, what is possible in this direction is the proclamation by individual theologians (and perhaps, the hierarchs) of their "homophilic" position, a demonstrative "blessing" of same-sex couples but nothing more. If these processes are seen in the context of ecumenical tendencies between the conditionally liberal parts of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, it can be assumed that LGBT supporters from both faiths will find a way to unite in one form or another.

Fourthly, the OCU, as a structure dependent on the Patriarchate of Constantinople, will take the position on this issue indicated by the "Mother Church".

Fifthly, while Ukrainian law has not yet been changed to enshrine LGBT rights, it is not too late to take the initiative to secure the rights of believers and all people who adhere to traditional views on marriage and family. This seems very relevant as the trend in Europe is to go from equalising rights to persecuting people for calling sodomy a sin and thereby "offending feelings" of sodomites. A recent case in Switzerland, where on 29 July 2022 a court convicted and fined an elderly man for quoting the Bible and denouncing sodomy as an act not pleasing to God, clearly demonstrates the danger to Christians from the legislation.

Barring some miracle, gay marriages or gay partnerships will be legalised in Ukraine in one form or another. But the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can defend its right to freely express and preach the biblical understanding of marriage and family, to protect its children from the promotion of sodomy (especially in schools and other educational institutions) and the right to refuse to hire, to provide services or perform other civil acts with non-traditionalists. This is all part of the right to freedom of conscience and should be ensured by the state.

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