Epistle of the Pastoral Conference of the
Western American Diocese
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Regarding "Same-Gender"
"What is most important for us, what is
what is the greatest?
It is holiness."
St. John of San Francisco
with profound sorrow and great concern for the future that we, the
clergy of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia, with our archpastor, His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop
of San Francisco and Western America, view the flagrant disregard
for the laws of God and the state with the granting of what are
purported to be licenses for marriage to persons of the same sex,
and the performing of ceremonies which claim to establish a union
that is marriage for these persons. We cannot condone or ignore
the defiance of the law in San Francisco, or in municipalities in
Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, and New Mexico; nor remain silent,
and thereby give implicit consent to this practice.
the duty of the Church to direct Her children to obedience to the
laws of the state when these do not conflict with the law of God.
When the law of the state deviates from the way of righteousness
appointed by God, the Church must call attention to the dangers
such a departure presents. We are compelled to address our flocks
concerning the nature of Holy Matrimony, otherwise known as marriage.
"We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
Matrimony consists of the union of two persons into one, through
the union of their souls and bodies, through mutual submission and
obedience, and, most importantly, through the action of God's grace.
It is a holy mystery, a sacrament, an avenue of the Grace of God
given to us not for the indulgence of our passions, but for the
working out of our salvation. For this reason, it cannot be merely
a social or civil contract entered into by two persons. Marriage
is the God-ordained union of a man and a woman, for the purpose
of creating a home, a "little Church," in which the couple,
and the children which are their progeny (being the product of the
physical affection for one another), are able to work out their
salvation. Marriage is a sacrament that is not created by the husband
and wife out of their love for one another, or by their pledge of
loyalty and mutual submission to one another; marriage is a mystery
bestowed by God through the action of the Church upon those who
are made one thereby. The estate of marriage cannot be established
by human action alone: it must be bestowed by God alone. Nor can
this (or any) grace be bestowed by the state, for it is the gift
of God given within the confines of, and subject to the discipline
of, the Holy Mother Church. Although the state chooses to recognize
this union as beneficial to the stability of society, and so bestows
certain benefits under law through licensure of this action, marriage
is not now, nor has it ever been, an action of the state. The sacrament
of Marriage is a divine action subject only to the grace and will
of God, which is expressed in the unbroken and pure tradition of
the Orthodox Church.
In addition to the salvation of the souls of the husband and wife
and of their children, the sacrament of marriage also serves as
a guardian and standard of moral behavior. Any lustful activity
outside of the bounds of sacramental marriage is damaging to the
soul and creates a barrier between man and God. The sacrament defines
the limits of physical and emotional intimacy between two persons.
These limits include (but are not limited to) the fact, that marital
relations are only possible between a man and a woman, that the
conception, bearing and raising of children is the natural and desired
product of marital relations, and that such relations are only permitted
within the sanctified bounds of marriage. Any type of intimacy outside
of these boundaries is considered to be sinful and constitutes a
barrier to the spiritual life and communion with God.
is created for the purpose of communion with God. To that end, we
are endowed with the image and likeness of God, and any barrier
to the fulfillment of that image and likeness runs counter to our
created purpose. When we do not act in accordance with God's will,
engaging in behavior which is sinful – that is, behavior which prevents
the realization of God's image and likeness in us – then we suffer
the eternal consequences of those actions.
modern culture, much emphasis has been placed on the "culture
of the flesh" and the eternal and spiritual nature of man has
been minimized. Self-indulgence has become the primary value and
is protected by our modern society under the pretext of individual
"civil rights." Personal gratification and fulfillment
in this world has supplanted the spiritual striving for purity and
holiness, which is the true source of joy. The love of God has been
replaced by love of self. The desire of eternal bliss has been replaced
by the desire for worldly bliss. The fear of eternal punishment
has been replaced by the fear of worldly discomfort and condemnation.
Man has supplanted God as the measure of all things.
said by some that there is no difference between the ban that once
made interracial marriages illegal and the prohibition now in law
against allowing same-sex marriages. We do not accept that this
is an issue of civil rights, or the protection of a minority. The
decision by a state to extend the provisions of law covering civil
marriage to include same-sex unions is irrelevant in God's eyes.
Within the Church, the mystery of Holy Matrimony is not a right;
it is a calling, intended by God for a specific purpose, and not
merely the fulfilling of earthly lusts, or the comfort of a life
shared together. The argument that same-sex unions is "natural,"
while apparently a powerful argument, ignores the truth that our
human nature is fallen and corrupted by death, and driven to the
satisfaction of the desires of the flesh. The expression of sexual
desires without the blessing of the grace of God is not directed
to a life that is natural, but is an extension of a death-directed
existence. Only by striving to live the life of Jesus Christ, Who
rose from the dead, can we begin to understand and achieve a life
which is truly "natural."
the clergy of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia, having concluded our conference with the
celebration of the pre-sanctified Divine Liturgy of the Precious
Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which we pray for the
"purification of souls and bodies, and for the restraint of
the passions," reject and decry this erosion of eternal and
spiritual values and truths. We affirm that the sacrament of marriage
is only obtained from God and within the confines of the One, Holy,
Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We affirm that this marriage is
limited to the union of one man and one woman and that the conception,
bearing and rearing of children is a normal and desired part of
the marital union. We affirm that any other "marital"
relationship, even though it may bear the sanction of the state
or the society at large, cannot be considered marriage and that
it is sinful and creates a barrier between God and man and frustrates
the purpose of man to enter into union with God.
brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been
taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thes. 2:15).