Holy Synod of Bishops issues “Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Regarding Marriage” document

Source: The Orthodox Church in America

Syosset, NY, June 23, 2016

On June 16, 2016, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the
Orthodox Church in America approved a statement entitled
“Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Regarding
Marriage.” The purpose of that statement was to
articulate the basic and fundamental beliefs of the
Orthodox Church in America regarding marriage and to do so
in terms which could be understood and applied by federal,
state, and local governmental officials without the
necessity of any probing inquiry or interpretation which
might require them to transgress limitations imposed on
them by the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution and by related federal or state legislation
such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The
document is descriptive of marriage in the Orthodox
understanding and also establishes guidelines regarding
the usage of church property in related respects.

The text of the document is given below:

General Standard

The Orthodox Church in America teaches and maintains as a
sincerely held religious belief that God has established
marriage as a lifelong, exclusive relationship between one
man and one woman, and that all intimate sexual activity
outside the marriage relationship, whether heterosexual,
homosexual, or otherwise, is immoral, and therefore sin
(Genesis 2:24-25; Exodus 20:14, 17, 22:19; Leviticus
18:22-23, 20:13, 15-16; Matthew 19:4-6, 9; Romans 1:18-31;
I Corinthians 6:9-10, 15-20; I Timothy 1:8-11; Jude 7).
This principle undergirds the teaching of the Holy Synod
of the Orthodox Church in America that Marriage is the
most perfect realization of love between a man and a woman
in which two become one and in which love unites in such a
way that two lives become one life in perfect harmony. We
believe that God created the human race male and female
and that all conduct with the intent to adopt a gender
other than one’s birth gender is immoral and
therefore sin (Genesis 1:27; Deuteronomy 22:5). Marriage
can only be between two people whose birth sex is male and
female. The Orthodox Church’s marriage service
specifically states, “Establish them in the holy
union which is from Thee. For in the beginning Thou didst
make them male and female, and by Thee the woman is joined
unto the man as a helper and for the procreation of the
human race.” Again the service states explicitly,
“For by Thee is the husband joined unto the wife.
Unite them in one mind; wed them into one flesh, granting
to them of the fruit of the body, and the procreation of
fair children.”

The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America upholds
and reaffirms such statements such as the July 2, 2013
Synodal Affirmation of
Marriage
; the July, 1992 Synodal Affirmations on Marriage,
Family Life, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life;
and other such statements and pastoral letters
including the June 28, 2015 Statement on US Supreme
Court Decision by His Beatitude Metropolitan
Tikhon.

Facilities Use

The Orthodox Church in America teaches and maintains as a
sincerely held religious belief “that the earth is
the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and
those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1). The Church
rejects the notion that there is a division between the
material and spiritual world and that the two are somehow
subject to separate and distinct moral and religious
standards. It is for this reason that the resources of the
Church – its property, its financial assets, and all
that belongs to it of a material nature – may be
used only for purposes and in ways consistent with the
Church’s sincerely held religious beliefs and
doctrines as reflected in Holy Scripture, the Tradition of
the Church, the Holy Canons of the Church, and the
encyclicals of our Holy Synod defining our faith, morals,
and doctrines. The facilities of the Church may, in the
sole discretion of the Church, be made available for use
by other parties for activities consistent with the
sincerely held religious beliefs of the Church and upon
terms and conditions established by the Parish Council
under guidelines approved by the diocesan bishop. Under no
circumstances will such activities include those contrary
to and incompatible with the sincerely held religious
beliefs of the Church, including, but not limited to,
events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox
sacraments (including weddings between persons of the same
sex and related receptions), non-Orthodox worship
services, and partisan political activities.


The following is an example of a statement that
will be adopted by each diocese, parish, institution and
monastery of the Orthodox Church in America. The Diocesan
Hierarch can adjust the statement in conjunction with the
considered needs and circumstances.

The (Name of the Parish/Hall/Facility) is the
property of the (Name of the
Parish/Institution/Monastery)
, a non-profit church
organization located in (Location). Due to
sincerely held religious beliefs, documented in the
Biblical, dogmatic and canonical documents of the Orthodox
Church, we do not permit the (Name of the
Parish/Hall/Facility)
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.”

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