November 24, 2009
Beloved in Christ,
God bless you.
As I promised you a couple of days ago, we are forwarding you information on the Orthodox approach to issues that have been recently addressed in the Manhattan Declaration. Below I offer a few comments on subjects relevant to that document:
- With regard to abortion, the Orthodox Church forbids it. We do everything we can to align ourselves with the mind and teachings of the Church.
- With regard to marriage, we obviously only bless marriages between one man and one woman. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Having said this, it is also important for us to understand that the union between a man and a woman should exist within the Mystery of Holy Matrimony.
- The Scripture clearly forbids homosexuality. It is not necessary for me to direct you to Scriptural passages that deal with this issue. The Tradition of the Church speaks with one voice concerning the expression of sexuality as proper only between a man and a woman who have been united as husband and wife. Homosexuality is clearly outside of the proper, blessed, and life-nurturing context of Holy Matrimony.
- With regard to the freedom of religion, we, of course, support the freedom of each person to make a choice concerning religion. Orthodox Christians likewise possess the freedom to reject the teachings and practices of all non-Orthodox religions and secular ideologies. Love and tolerance for others do not imply agreement or consent. We reject such “political correctness.” As Orthodox Christians, we must reject and respond to attempts by non-Orthodox groups to inhibit us from speaking, teaching, and living the inalterable Tradition. Since the days that immediately followed Pentecost, Christians have lived up to their responsibility to say “yes” to Christ and “no” to false gods and ideologies that contradict the true Faith.
We recognize the authority of the state, endeavor to obey the civil laws established to preserve order in society, pray for our leaders, and prefer to work in cooperation with the state (symphonia) for the good of men. Christ taught us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17, NKJV). When edicts of the government conflict with the divinely revealed Orthodox Faith, we are obliged to disregard such edicts, insofar as they contradict the Faith, and continue to live according to the Tradition as our sainted Fathers and Mothers have done throughout the generations before us. When the temporal state attempts to usurp the divinely-rooted authority of the Church, our obedience to God and loyalty to His Kingdom must prevail. As the Holy Apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, NKJV).
If any parishioners in our Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic would like to know their bishop’s opinion of the contents of the Manhattan Declaration, feel free to share this information with them.
The collection of documents we have prepared for you and attached to this letter (or to which we have provided links for the benefit of those reading this letter on the website) includes the following:
- Selections from What Orthodox Christians Believe , published by Conciliar Press.
- Selections from The Foundations of Christian Bioethics , written by the Reader Herman Engelhardt.
- A “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) brief , submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court that expresses the Orthodox Christian teaching concerning abortion.
- Selections from the “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,”  issued by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
- Selections from The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony  by Fr. John Meyendorff.
- “Pastoral Guidelines: Church Positions Regarding the Sanctity of Human Life”  by Fr. Stanley Harakas.
Yours in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS
Bishop of Charleston/Oakland and Assistant to the Metropolitan