OCA Statement on Marriage

oca-logo-thumbThis is significant in my estimation.

As even cursory readers of this blog know, we have been incessant critics of much of institutional Orthodoxy, particularly of Syossett in many instances too numerous to mention here.

But I got to give credit where credit is due.

Just last week, the Holy Synod released a communique to all OCA parishes reaffirming the Orthodox Church’s traditional stance on marriage and why it can never accommodate the present illicit regime regarding “gay marriage.” That’s all to the good.

However, the Synod went one step further and laid down the law regarding all parish property, including parish halls. According to this directive, the same moral consensus which binds the rites of the Church also operates in the business sphere as well. Namely, that parish property cannot –repeat–not, be used for receptions for homosexuals who wish to celebrate their sin.

Clearly much thought went into the crafting of this letter and one can discern the hand of a competent legal staff. Good. For what it’s worth, I imagine this necessary step was made easier thanks to the self-removal of certain long-time apparatchiks within the Syossett regime.

Regardless, it was the right thing to do and gives all pastors and parish councils clear direction as to what is expected of them and more importantly, what is forbidden. It is my fervent hope that all other Orthodox jurisdictions in America execute similar letters, otherwise they will be visited by provocateurs who will then sue them in civil court.

[gview file=”https://www.monomakhos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/OCA-Statement-on-Marriage.pdf” height=”850″]


  1. George,

    Was this statement emailed to parish priests? Or published on OCA.org? I’m having a hard time finding it.

    Thanks for posting it!

    • There’s a link to it on the homepage of oca.org right now (Thursday 23 June). Maybe that page will remain unchanged for a few days.

  2. Tim R. Mortiss says

    Most excellent. Timely and very up-to-date with regard to the legal issues, too, as you say.

  3. I like it! It’s clear, concise, and theologically correct.
    But what does it do to our missions who are borrowing space from non-Orthodox congregations? Perhaps it’s time they packed up and found a place of their own?

  4. Michael Kinsey says

    Lovely, now they can clean out any professing gay cleric’s, monks or priests next. Holy things are for the Holy. The angels are jumping for joy. I DO DEEPLY, esteem righteous Christian doctrine, which gladdens the heart. If gays are not willing to believe the Truth, of being created natural male and female, Orthodoxy cannot help them. They consider Truth foolishness. Truth IS Truth.

  5. Jesse Cone says

    Glory to God! This is the sort of leadership we need and (I’m convinced) pleases God. Thank you synod of the OCA.

    Let’s hope the Fr. Robert Aridas and David Dunns of the world are listening.

  6. George, it is curious to me that you fall into the fallacy that the Church has a spiritual and a business realm when you state “operates in the business sphere as well.” The life of the Church, as well as the life of the induvial Christian, is not marked by spiritual and profane, or as you put it, business. All aspects of a Christian’s life, and the Church’s existence, are meant to be spiritual. Jesus spoke more about money that He did about prayer. Over 2,450 passages in the scriptures are dedicated to money, more than salvation, heaven, hell and fasting. That is why the apostle Paul writes to the Church of Corinth “whatever you do, do it the glory of God.” If I am not mistaken, and I am not a Greek scholar, the word whatever comes from a Greek word that means whatever.
    Secularism has many faces and one of the more common, and most insidious, is this separation of spiritual and profane, or business as you put it. The result is we have parish councils telling priests, you handle the spiritual we will handle the rest. Every aspect of the life of the Church should be under the Lordship of Christ.

  7. This may be as good an opportunity as I will have to ask this question, so…. The text in the guidance document states:
    “Due to sincerely held religious beliefs…of the Orthodox Church, we do not permit the [parish facilities] to be used for the following purposes: events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox sacraments (including, but not limited to, baptisms, weddings or funerals); non-Orthodox worship services; and partisan political or social rallies.”
    Technically, the last clause should be introduced with “or” vs. “and”; the logic of exclusion would then be stricter regarding prohibited activities.
    But that’s grammar (and maybe logic).
    When I was a girl, I was very active in Girl Scouts, maybe for six or seven years. We occasionally met in the social halls of churches. My husband was an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts; he tells me that many Boy Scout troups met in church social halls, too.
    1) Does this guidance document mean that scout troups cannot meet in Orthodox social halls?
    2) Could community service projects make use of an Orthodox social hall (e.g., get-togethers for making knit or crocheted hats for chemo patients, making quilts for domestic or international relief organizations), or would the neutrality itself of such groups disqualify them from the facility?
    3) If a neighborhood question arose (e.g., a zoning change or very large business close to the church being built), would the Orthodox social hall be available for neighborhood panel discussion on this specific point?
    I don’t *think* the guidance document forbids these things, but I’m not a “culturally aware” Orthodox person, having rather recently joined the Church.
    Thank you–anyone!–for enlightenment on these points.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      A major point of this aspect of the document is the concern that if parish halls are held out for rental (or free) for non-Church related activities (which often happens with “parish halls” of many sorts of churches), then they become places of “public accommodation” and are subject to “anti-discrimination” laws.

      The point being that now all churches must be much more watchful concerning the offering for use of their facilities for non-church-related purposes: such use will be the wedge that will be used to bring the Church under the ambit of civil non-discrimination law, at least with respect to their non-sanctuary properties.

      The document is directly addressing this concern; as George says, the hand of the lawyers is visible; all to the good in this instance.

      • There’s a big problem, though, in that a number of churches were built with “outsized” halls, if you will, for the express purpose of bringing extra income in through hall rentals in the face of stagnating attendance and donations. If this is what the OCA is going to enforce without helping those parishes transition to new sources of income, I’m certain that we will see parishes fold. (I’m thinking specifically of one Chicago-area parish right now, but I’m sure it can’t be the only one.)

        Secondly, I suppose, there’s the issue of “community events” versus “sacramental” or “political”. While not an OCA church, St. Mary, in Iron Mountain, Michigan, built a soccer field specifically for shared use with the community because the town doesn’t have one, and the parish thought it was important to offer kids more constructive options to just “hanging around” in their free time. Soccer itself isn’t against the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, but depending on shenanigans people wanted to pull while out there, you’re just never out of legal trouble until you’re dead.

      • Thank you. You have a good point in protecting church facilities from being defined as places of public accommodation!

  8. Gail Sheppard says

    I guess (glad, is a better word) that Mark was being straight (yes, I just used that word) with me. Thanks to Carl for reminding me that Mark spoke with integrity when he said the OCA was not pushing for gay marriage.

  9. Overall the document was clear and concise. However I had a problem with the phrase “deeply held religious belief” regarding the Church’s teaching regarding these issues. Many people have “deeply held religious beliefs” that are sincerely wrong. I would have preferred language such as “we hold as REAVEALED BY ALMIGHTY GOD AND TAUGHT BY HIS CHURCH….” The language used makes the issue seem subjective.

    • The phrase “deeply held religious belief” rings the bell for the Supreme Court and moves the action out of the realm of discrimination and into that of protection by the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment. Without it, the OCA opens itself up to frivolous litigation, having to spend money on lawyers so that a court can determine whether it’s a “deeply held religious belief.” By issuing a public statement with that exact wording beforehand, the OCA is protected in advance from any problems that may arise in the future.

      I suggest reading some of the more recent Supreme Court decisions, as you’ll see that phrase pop up over and over. If I remember correctly, it really started getting used in the 1960s with conscientious objector cases.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      “Sincerely held religious belief” is specific legal language relating to exemption from secular anti-discrimination laws. This is the obvious purpose of the phraseology in this document.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      Steven–I am guessing that that phrase is legalese and was part of a legal opinion that allows churches to restrict the use of its hall. Normally, that cannot be done with public accommodations.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you, Steven.

      However, it is clear from the language that this statement and the directive to implement it in all parishes is intended primarily as legal cover (and wisely so, IMHO). Under current SCOTUS rulings “Deeply held religious belief,” especially when clearly proclaimed and defined as a dogma of a recognizable religious body, places an almost insurmountable burden on governments or individual litigants who may seek to claim rights under anti-discrimination laws that are in opposition to the free exercise of the religion of religious groups. The first section defines the religious belief. The policies set forth in the last paragraph define the religious practice and distinguish it as a specifically religious practice. In total, it is a fairly shrewd firewall against possible litigation.

      Thus, although it is impoverished (and even silly) language in terms of the substance of our faith, it is the language of current civil law. And its use in this case is obviously intended to preclude the trouble and expense that will surely be visited upon Christ-loving peoples who are naïve enough to believe that they will left to live in peace or that such things could never happen in America.

      These SCOTUS rulings were very closely split, BTW. God only knows what promises Mr. Trump would find it convenient to keep, but it is quite clear what sort of nominees his opponent WILL choose. I personally find little or nothing to vote FOR in this upcoming election. I have always felt a duty to vote, in vain though it usually is. I have never looked to political candidates with much hope of them actually doing anything good. My only hope in voting is the possibility that some may stem the rising tide of evil while others declare their intent of opening the floodgates. This is the first election ever that I have actually considered sitting out. It is only the hope (however faint) of tilting the balance of the court that will likely compel me to participate.

    • Imagine a “sincerely held belief in the Holy Trinity” and a “sincerely held belief in the Resurrection.” Just does not reach that Dogmatic-Doctrinal level.

    • Thank you everybody for explaining that to me. I had not considered the legal reasons for using such language.

  10. So, the parish halls cannot be used for any wedding receptions that are not Orthodox (straight or deviant), or baptisms or funerals. By banning the use of the facilities for receptions of all non-Orthodox “sacramental activities”, the parish is protected from lawsuits as there is no discrimination. For many parishes, this is going to cut down on the income that hall rentals bring in. I visited a parish this past weekend where the hall is rented out every weekend for wedding or funeral receptions, most of which are not Orthodox.

    • Anonymous says


      Read the statement. Orthodox only. If you rent to others; expect consequences when a gay couple tries to rent from you and you tell them no.

      The OCA’s prior statement on marriage missed this critical piece and was alluded to by persons on the internet.

      This letter covers that piece.

      But if you enjoy it, jump up and down three times.

  11. Michael Bauman says

    Steven such language is legalese meant to conform the statement to current legal wording

  12. so the parish halls can not be used for protestant or catholic weddings or any non-orthodox wedding?

  13. Kuddos to the OCA for getting it right for a change. Now let’s see if the other Orthodox jurisdictions in America will follow suit. I don’t hold out any hope for the GOA to do something so radical but there is hope for the Antiochians. However, given the fact that their primate in America didn’t even offer a mention, let alone a condolence, to the victims of the terrorist attack in Florida, I won’t hold my breath.

  14. I hope this means God has answered my daily prayer for the OCA bishops. I hope this means better things for the faithful of the OCA. I hope, I hope…

    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

      Reminds me of the last line in the Hollywood film, The Shawshank Redemption–spoken by the Morgan Freeman character as the narrator in the film as he approaches his former (innocent) prison buddy on the beach in Mexico.

  15. M. Stankovich says

    Personally, I am not exactly sure the reason for the excitement and hyperventilation at the release of this particular statement, as I believe it simply reflects the previous historical statements of the Holy Synod regarding this matter dating back many years. And while I can appreciate the sentiment that motivates the carefully worded legalese that would attempt to keep the provocateurs at bay by satisfying the strict parameters of the SCOTUS, it strikes me as rather cowardly and disconcerting; all as if to say “Let someone else deal with the hassle and the expense, if they wish.” Deeply held religious belief, especially when clearly proclaimed and defined as a dogma of a recognizable religious body? “For whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Lk. 9:26) How can we not imagine why we have no moral authority when we resort to the convoluted “legalsim” of the world to address the rejection of morality in the world? I find nothing to celebrate.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I disagree. It can’t be said too often; yearly would hardly be enough in today’s world.

      Especially important is the clear statement that “all conduct with the intent to adopt a gender other than one’s birth gender is immoral and therefore sin.” One can hardly keep up with this stuff fast enough. Indeed, this may prove to be the most important phrase in the document given the current atmosphere.

      • George Michalopulos says

        I wonder how our favorite Bolshie trannie is going to take that one?

    • I’m not sure how you construe that quote from Our Lord to lacking moral authority.

      I mean, a clearer argument would be to simply not play ball at all and forego the trappings of 501(c)3 status. Then we could operate completely as a private, members-only organization—which the Church is—, and have no limits on free speech or association.

      But then we’d have to pay taxes, and I don’t know if the people in the pews want to shell out 10% more each week for it. Maybe someday they will, under real persecution, but alas.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        RE: ” . . . simply not play ball at all and forego the trappings of 501(c)3 status.”

        This is the way it’s going to have to be unless we want to pay out millions in lawsuits. It started happening as early as 2008 (perhaps earlier, see below). Now, it’s inevitable. 10% is a bargain.


        • If you think giving up tax exempt status will save you, I have some florists and cake bakers you should meet.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            I hear you, Edward, but shop owners are appetizers. The church, specifically THE Church, is the entree.

            If I were a shop owner, I’d bake a cake or provide flowers for any venue, because a business caters to the public and the way the public conducts itself does not impact the business. Shop owners need to take a step back if they refuse to serve the public, because their customers don’t share their values. In this case, it IS discrimination, in my opinion.

            However, when it comes to accommodating those who traverse on a church’s sacraments (the very way it does things), that’s a whole different matter. It would be like going into a bakery or flower shop and demanding that they change their business. For example, saying, “You normally create cakes from your catalog, but I want you to make beef wellington in the shape of Mt Rushmore.” Or, “You normally arrange flowers, but I want you to import a rare tree from India and make the flowers pink instead of red!” This would be an infringement on the way the establishment does their business. They have a right to say, “This is what we provide and this is all we provide.”

            A Church should have the same rights: “We provide Christian weddings in our facilities, between men and women, who are Orthodox and have received a blessing from their parish priest. Anyone who would like to receive what we provide is welcome.”

            • You really didn’t answer my implied question. How will giving up non profit status voluntarily protect us from intrusion by the government? Give me, for instance, an example of any institution that did this and was thereby protected from lawsuits over discrimination. They may well exist, I am just skeptical about a proactive strategy. I think we will actually be better off if we fight them tooth and nail and make them take tax exempt status from us. It will make them feel more righteous that way, and they might leave us alone for a little while.

              • I am no fan of Donald Trump. However, those who participated in a meeting with (I believe it was primarily evangelical) Christian leaders report that he listened carefully to their many concerns over religious liberty and quickly put his ‘finger’ on one of the primary (and perhaps unconstitutional) impediments to free exercise without any prompting from the participants: the Johnson Amendment. He indicated that repealing that law, which he said should be repealed, would solve most, although not all, of their concerns.

                Interesting. Perhaps (and I certainly hope) he is not the erratic buffoon that he often appears to be.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                I don’t know of anything, other than God, who can protect us, Edward. I DO know that with money comes expectations. If we did not receive government funding, it would be more difficult for them to insist we open ourselves up to LGBTQ marriages, just because the government decided to legitimize them.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Actually the real threat as churches are find out in Iowa is that if ANYONE who is not already a Christian is invited to a service Iowa’s civil rights considers the church a public accommodation enterprise and thus subject to bans on any criticism of same sex activities plus they are required to open their bathrooms to anyone who wants to use them regardless of sex. The threat to remove tax exempt status is really minor compared to this approach.

          The “civil rights” approach shows what “freedom of worship” means. It means we will be forced into ghettos that no one else can attend unless we want to go bankrupt.

          Somehow this is not a violation of the Constitution but a fulfillment if it.

  16. M. Stankovich says

    Mr. Mortiss,


    And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves. (Matt. 21:12-13)

    There is no substitute for speaking the Truth. I suggested on Fr. Han’ site that one concrete action we could take was to conclude the Marriage service with a short, but definitive prepared statement read by every priest at every Orthodox wedding; those that will be offended will be offended, and those that will be edified will be edified. No one, however, can deny having not heard the the Truth that is the Patristic Faith of the Orthodox Church. And that was exactly my the point in my post above, such that while there are kind, even gentle was to present and “frame” the Truth, eventually, there is always a price to pay for avoiding it; for putting anything before the “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:46).

    You will also recall the story of the “young rich man” who approached the Lord and told Him the extent of his good deeds & charity, “kept from my youth,” then asked what he must do to gain eternal life. The account of this interaction is unique in that St. Mark qualifies the Lord’s response by first noting, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him [ἠγάπησεν αὐτόν], then said to him…” Obviously, the Evangelist wanted us to understand that Jesus was neither scolding nor scorning him by saying, “One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” The “intervention” was not successful in that the young man was “sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” I tend to believe it was to his eventual salvation, but it is my opinion. Again, those who will be offended will be offended, and those that will be edified will be edified; we have absolutely no control ever.

    Many argue that “confrontation drives people away, and it may be your only chance to ever reach them.” I believe that the point is not “confrontation” at all. For some, the Truth itself is “confrontation.” The task, it seems to me, is to make the Faith what is by nature: so attractive that it is irresistible, a fountain in a desert, a port in a raging ocean storm. Further, it seems obvious to me that the only zeal to be found is either the nuts on the internet or among the converts, in my mind making the future of the Church in America quite obvious: nurture and cultivate those whose hearts are touched and leap at the glory of the theology of Christian Marriage, expressed by the Scripture and the Holy Fathers, served before them in a Tradition held unchanged for centuries. Having “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” (Eph. 6:11), say without hesitation and as often as possible, Mr. Mortiss, but don’t say it like you are also saying, “I really didn’t mean to offend you personally by exercising our 1st Amendment right to freedom of expression and Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 that guarantees our constitutional right to freedom of association.” Disingenuous on the first count, hen-house crap on the second.

    • I suggested on Fr. Han’ site that one concrete action we could take was to conclude the Marriage service with a short, but definitive prepared statement read by every priest at every Orthodox wedding; those that will be offended will be offended, and those that will be edified will be edified.

      I like this idea. Can you offer an example of such a statement?