|Fr. Alexey Chumakov, Rector of the Protection of the Virgin Church, Los Angeles, California.|
US President Barak Obama recently openly supported same-sex unions, stating that homosexual couples should have the opportunity to wed. What prompted this statement by Obama? How much of a problem is this for Orthodox Christians living in America? What is a priest to do if a homosexual couple approaches him to marry them? What if they ask that a child be baptized?
Priest Alexey Chumakov, Rector of Protection of the Holy Virgin Church in Los Angeles, CA, comments:
President Barak Obama’s recent statement on homosexuals was most likely prompted by his reelection campaign. Not long before, Vice President Biden made a similar comment. Both statements were likely aimed at consolidating and heightening the enthusiasm of liberal Democrats during the coming presidential elections.
Various commentators I heard on the radio agree that the effect of such a statement will hardly be significant, since the positions of opposition Republicans on social issues is well known. Some even noted the riskiness of President Obama making such a declaration, since he stands to lose some black and Hispanic voters, both groups mostly adhering to significantly more conservative viewpoints in social issues than white voters.
Parishioners sometimes ask me: how are we to react to such events? How are we to view same-sex marriage? We have weekly discussions on Scripture and the Christian faith in general, and questions on various social currents and marriage are often raised. Over the last century, such dramatic changes have occurred in society, economics and science, that social changes of such scope must be examined in the light of the Gospel.
We often hide our heads in the sand, refusing to acknowledge change, and dismiss everything as though we still live in a society that no longer exists. That is why answering the challenges of the times might seem unconvincing to those outside of the Church, and often evoke anger and mockery.
Every priest has the obligation to determine the propriety of matrimony between two Orthodox Christians who ask to marry, and we always make a decision as to whether it is possible. For instance, if someone had already been married three times, church law forbids marrying again.
If someone does not follow the teachings of Christ, as preserved by the Church, the same applies. And since homosexuality is seen as a grave sin, its legalization under the form of “marriage” is also impossible for the Church. There have been attempts at legalization of such unions under the strange medieval Balkan custom of “fraternization,” but this is rejected by all Orthodox churches except for the most marginal of them.
In addition, most states of the US have made constitutional amendments which reject the possibility of same-sex marriage. On the eve of President Obama’s statement, North Carolina became the thirtieth state where an amendment was passed by an overwhelming number of votes banning not only same-sex marriage, but even what is known as “domestic partnership.”
If a homosexual couple asks me to baptize a child, what shall I do? This is a more complicated issue. Usually infant baptism is justified in that they will be reared in a Christian family and will grow up to be Christians, having the example and support of their parents and godparents who will teach them the Christian faith. So the baptism of an infant can be determined by the faith and piety of his parents and godparents. Since a homosexual couple separates itself from the Mysteries of the Church, then baptizing an infant would be unjustified before their repentance and correction.
The difficulty of this situation is that in practice, we baptize the children of single or unmarried mothers, we baptize children if their parents are not properly wed, we baptize children if only one of their parents is a believing Orthodox Christian while the other is an atheist or of another religion. We baptize children of such parents who know little and practice little of their faith. So in practice, it would be difficult to discern and clarify what type of relationship binds one of the parents at a baptism, if it is not openly stated.
original source: Official website of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad