Orthodoxy, homosexuality and hate: Gay-rights activists lament the acquittal of a homophobic Greek bishop
There is little charity in the views of Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta
Erasmus, The Economist, Mar 16th 2018
In many parts of Europe, socially conservative religious leaders complain that they cannot express their faiths’ traditional teaching on homosexuality without running the risk of prosecution under equality or hate-crime legislation.
They cite the case of Ake Green, a Swedish Pentecostalist pastor who was sentenced to a month in jail, later overturned on appeal, after he called homosexuality a “tumour” on society. In Britain, police went through the early stages of a criminal investigation after Sir Iqbal Sacranie, a prominent Muslim leader, called homosexuality “not acceptable” and “harmful”. In 2016, a Christian street preacher in the Scottish town of Irvine spent a night in a police cell, but was later acquitted of all charges, after getting into an argument with a young man about the implication of the Genesis story for sexual behaviour.
In Greece, however, things seem to be moving in the other direction. [In fact, it’s the exact same direction, since a Greek priest was persecuted and prosecuted by the state for being a Christian.] To the intense dismay of secular human-rights campaigners and gay-rights activists, a famously sharp-tongued bishop has just been acquitted on charges of stirring up hatred and prejudice. The charges were prompted by an internet posting in 2015, when Greece’s parliament was in the process of giving legal status to same-sex unions. Among other things, Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta wrote:
“Do not go near them! Do not listen to them! Do not trust them! They are the damned members of society! It is impermissible for some disgraced members of society to defend publicly the passions that touch their souls…Spit on those disgraced people, renounce them! They are monstrosities of nature! They are psychically and spiritually unwell! They are people with a mental disturbance…They are three times worse, and more dangerous, than those who live in mental asylums.”
In a tense hearing lasting nearly nine hours in the small town of Aigion, leading Greek human-rights campaigners and academics gave evidence for the prosecution. Nikos Alivizatos, a constitutional-law professor, said the bishop’s vocabulary was “the language of Hitler…[the language] we encounter in a regime of ayatollahs…” He said the bishop had brought embarrassment to Greece with his extreme positions, for example by saying that non-religious marriage was the moral equivalent of prostitution.
The prosecution was brought at the behest of eight leading gay-rights activists, who testified that the bishop’s attack had compounded their feelings of insecurity and social exclusion.
The bishop himself seemed little concerned by perceptions of bigotry or intemperance. At one point during the hearing he said: “Spitting on them is the least of it, if I had a gun and I was permitted by the law, I would use it and we would finish things off.” He described fellow bishops who had spoken in somewhat more charitable terms about gay people as “betrayers of Orthodoxy”.
But the bishop’s defence team, in between making some anti-gay jibes at the witnesses, insisted that comments by their client that seemed to attack gay people were in fact directed at the politicians who were voting for civil partnerships.
This rather flimsy line of argument was accepted, and a representative of the state prosecution service urged acquittal. The recommendation was followed.
The dismay over the affair went beyond Greece. Another Orthodox [non-] bishop called Ambrosias [a Freemason, Pink Mafia – “One can see a kind of phobia against feminism in the Orthodox world. Women priesthood is something people are afraid of, although this is an open question in the Orthodox church.”], recently retired from the diocese of Helsinki, said he found it “shocking” to hear of his fellow hierarch’s outburst. The Finnish [non-]cleric told Erasmus that the Greek prelate’s “opinions contradict the church’s idealistic view of humanity. In the Orthodox Christian understanding, every human being has been made in the image of God, both gays and heterosexuals, male and female.”
A Tragedy in Finland
We like to report good news. However, sometimes, with profound sadness, we have to report bad news. This is only in the hope that such reports will awaken the conscience of Orthodox and bring prayer and repentance.
The 24 parishes in Finland and 100 chapels and communities, which claim a membership of over 60,000, have had the status of an autonomous Church within the Patriarchate of Constantinople since 1923. Ever since the group’s foundation under Archbishop Herman Aav in 1923, it has been known for certain Lutheran tendencies which have infiltrated among some. Increasingly less traditional since Protestant liturgical innovations were introduced here and there, a few members in the Church seem to wish to renounce the Orthodox Faith completely, in favour of a Scandinavian-style, politically correct, humanist and secularist mishmash, an ‘a la carte pseudo-Orthodoxy’. This is against the wishes of the majority.
The Roman Catholic calendar and paschalia, ecumenism, freemasonry, liberalism, divorced priests and homosexuality, usually brought into the Church from ex-Lutheran converts, isolate a few of the Finnish parishes from the other Local Orthodox Churches. Indeed, many Orthodox clergy refuse to concelebrate with certain priests, pretexting the danger of falling under the Orthodox anathema for serving on the Roman Catholic paschalia. Today in Finland four Russian parishes have been formed. Some Finns prefer to go there rather than to attend certain Finnish parishes.
Over the last few years a few of the Finnish parishes have undergone a crisis which is now breaking into the awareness of Orthodox worldwide. This concerns the homosexuality of some of its members. One Greek website, surely in an exaggerated way, has even referred to ‘a gay mafia’. It is true that it was widely rumoured in the 1920s that the beardless Archbishop German Aav was himself homosexual. Whether this was true or not, we cannot say. And it is also true that homosexual couples are allowed to take communion not only in several Finnish parishes, but also in at least one parish of the Paris Jurisdiction, as they were also in one parish of the old Sourozh jurisdiction of the late Metr Antony Bloom, against the view of Metr Antony himself (nothing to do with the new, Orthodox Sourozh jurisdiction) and, it is said, in certain parishes of the OCA, but these must be exceptions. Obviously, if a bishop or a cleric were himself a practising homosexual, then the rot would spread very quickly.
We have known of the homosexuality scandal in the Finnish parishes for many years. Now a new book has appeared. Written by members of the Finnish Orthodox Church in the moderate and balanced terms one is accustomed to from a Nordic country, it nevertheless states the Orthodox Truth on homosexuality, for all those who wish to hear it. This can be found at:
We would ask all our readers to pray for the many brave souls in the Finnish Orthodox Church, clergy and laity, who are scandalised by the apostasy of a few.
The many Russian Orthodox immigrants in Finland now attend Russian Orthodox parishes in Finland. Thus a division in the country has already occurred. This mirrors the situation in Estonia, England, France, Belgium, North America, where tiny but often powerful and wealthy, Protestant-minded, semi-Orthodox groups exist side by side with large normal Orthodox groups, which follow the universal Orthodox Tradition. We should all pray for the majority in the Finnish Orthodox Church, who are fighting for the integrity of the Orthodox Church and Faith.
Homosexual Debate Complicates Relationship between the Orthodox in Russia and Finland
American Orthodoxy Institute, AOIUSA/, May 17, 2011
Source: Ortodoksinen Sateenkaariseura
Attitudes towards homosexuals is becoming the key issue of Orthodox church politics. The Russian media has presented the gay-liberal outlining of Finnish orthodox priests, which is strictly condemned by the Patriarchate of Moscow.
According to Russian sources, the visibly positive attitude towards homosexuality in the Finnish Orthodox circles might expedite the Patriarchate of Moscow to take the decision to establish a Russian diocese in Finland.
Russian portals ”religio” and ”portal-credo” have especially drawn attention to the statements of father Heikki Huttunen, the General Secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Finland and an orthodox priest. Huttunen is one of the Orthodox activists of Yhteys-liike (‘connection’, ‘bond of unity’), a movement fighting against discrimination of homosexuals in Finnish society and churches and promoting the right of the employees of the churches for civil partnerships.
”Patriarchia”, the official internet portal of the Patriarchate of Moscow released a piece of news in July 2006, telling that neither the head of the Orthodox church in Finland, Archbishop Leo, is not ready to judge homosexuality like the Russian Orthodox church does.
In addition to this, the Patriarchate of Moscow mentioned by name those Finnish Orthodox priests who are involved in the activities of Yhteys-liike.
The attitude towards homosexuality in the Patriarchate of Moscow is absolute. The Holy Synod of Moscow cut off their relationships with the Lutheran Church of Sweden in December 2005, as the Swedish Church had decided to start giving blessing to same-sex unions.
Attitude towards homosexuals dispersing the Orthodox in Finland
Three Orthodox theologians are demanding Archbishop Leo to prohibit Orthodox priests from being involved in the activities of Yhteys-liike. According to the letter of these theologians to Archbishop, the gay-sympathies of the priests are making members of the Orthodox Church in Finland consider moving to other ecclesiastic institutions.
The letter written by Hannu Pöyhönen, lecturer at Valamo Lay Academy, Markus Paavola and Heikki Alex Saulamo also threatens that if the leaders of the church do not demand that the priests dissociate immediately from the aims of Yhteys-liike, ”the conscience of the writers demands them to act in another way in this issue”.
Pöyhönen, Paavola and Saulamo are confirming that homosexuality is a question of church politics. According to them ”it is yet more justified to spread other Orthodox jurisdictions into Finland, if our local church does not hold to the Orthodox teaching”.
Looking forward to sexual-political statement
The question of the attitudes of the Orthodox people towards homosexuals was raised in January 2007 when the Orthodox magazine Aamun Koitto interviewed father Heikki Huttunen and father Timo Lehmuskoski.
In the interview Huttunen and Lehmuskoski encouraged the Orthodox people into open discussion about homosexuality, and to reconsider old interpretations about homosexuality, based on the fear of aberrance and anomaly.
Meanwhile Pöyhönen, Paavola and Saulamo are demanding the Orthodox council of bishops to make strictly condemning statement on homosexuality. They consider the statement of the council of bishops, made 8 years ago, to be inadequate. In that statement, given to the Finnish Parliament on behalf of the Orthodox church, the bishops give their support to the traditional family-institution but they do not condemn homosexuality.
© Jyrki Härkönen, March 2007 (The article of Jyrki Härkönen translated by Ortodoksinen Sateenkaariseura, 20.3.2007)