Saturday, February 20, 2016

Some good and some not so good. . .

Former Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America John Heropoulos, who left the holy priesthood almost nine years ago, was married to a man on Saturday January 9. The civil ceremony took place at The Neighborhood Club of Quincy, MA with relatives and friends in attendance. . .  Heropoulos was a charismatic and able clergyman with excellent administrative ability. He began his Church service as Deacon to the late Archbishop Iakovos. He then became assistant priest at St. Nicholas parish in Flushing NY, presiding priest at St. Paraskevi in Greenlawn, NY, and presiding priest at St. George in Hartford, CT. He also served as director of the office of Archbishop Spyridon and as chancellor of the Metropolis of Detroit. While everything seemed to be going well he informed Archbishop Demetrios that he was leaving the holy priesthood and requested to be defrocked. He went to Boston and worked for six years for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Today he is working in the development office of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. . . Asked if he is concerned that some in the Greek-American Community would be scandalized, he said “I left the Church respectfully. Whether someone agrees or not that ultimately ones has the freedom to make that decision, there is nothing I can do about that.”  Heropoulos revealed to TNH that he goes on Sundays and worships in an Orthodox church and that he receives Holy Communion. He said, “yes of course I go to an Orthodox church and yes I receive Holy Communion.”

This is the report of a former Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and it might have been merely social news except for a couple of things.  The good part of this was that Heropoulos was celibate while a priest and insists that he did not break his vow of celibacy.  The good part of this is that when Heropoulos decided that he was gay and desired to live as a gay man, he resigned from his office and requested to be defrocked.  While to some that might seem harsh, it was the honorable thing to do.  The fact that he could not continue in his priestly role in the hypocrisy of one who stood for one thing and lived another is laudable and worthy of praise.  Would that those who found themselves in moral or doctrinal conflict with their churches did such an honorable and self-sacrificing act for the sake of the church and for the good of others before self.

The not so good thing is that Heropoulos continues to attend Divine Liturgy and to commune regularly in an Orthodox parish.  Clearly he is neither apologetic nor repentant of his present life as a gay man now married to another man.  He lives in violation of the canons of the Greek Church and in contradiction to its public stance.  But what he could not abide in the public role as Archimandrite, he now continues in the private role of communicant.  And therein lies the problem.

Of course there are gay and lesbian folks who commune regularly at the altars of churches that neither affirm nor support the lifestyle.  Yet even when these folks fail in their desire to order their lives according to the unmistakable teaching of the Judea-Christian morality of marriage and family and the clear reference of Scripture, they do so as people who are struggling with their weakness and who fail in temptation as people committed to fight against carnal desire and manifest self-control over their desires.  They come fallen but repentant to the means of grace and they are well received as are all the sinners who come pleading only the merits of Christ and nothing of their own righteousness.  But this is a far different thing that those who insist upon having it both ways -- living in public denial of their church's teaching and Scripture's word but seeking to receive the flesh and blood of Christ without repentance. 

I certainly do not know Heropoulos personally but the account of his service as Archimandrite, his resignation and removal from priestly office, and his marriage and communion as a layman all represent a disconnect.  This is not so much about him as it is how the error becomes tolerated and eventually normative for the churches.  Hardly ever does this happen through the front door but nearly always the departure from solid Christian teaching and Scriptural truth sneaks in the back door, sits in the back pews, and does it often enough to become first tolerated and then acceptable.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do not know the Orthodox ordination service (and I lost my Greek Prayer Book in my last move), but I strongly suspect it includes words like, "thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek." This not not something that one can simply walk away from, like resigning from one job to take another. What God has bound in Heaven we cannot simply undo on earth.

Fr. D+

Paul said...

Speaking at the Redeemer Free Conference a couple years ago, Dr. John Stephenson noted that our naivety about the great apostasy and its profound impact on all corners of Christianity is sometimes embodied by a romantic view of Orthodoxy. His contention was that despite the aesthetic veneer the lie is undoubtedly being spread in their communion too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbAwG96xfAg&list=PLS01A3unCFQib1p5mf45zGRMos5hLdc0h

Kirk Skeptic said...

Paul, if you follow George Michalopolos' blog monomachos you'd see that Orthodoxy has been a haven for sodomites for some time, just as has Anglo-Catholicism. The even sadder part of Pr P's post is that a church claiming to be the One True Church knowingly communes a sodomite; sadder still, this is not so uncommon in an ecclesiastical setting better described as an amphyctyonic league/tribal religion than anything described in Scripture.

Anonymous said...

It is good that he is still attending Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church. What is not good is that he is approaching the Chalice in his unrepentant state. Receiving Holy Communion in that state of rebellion against God and God's moral law will only cause him spiritual damage and hurt. If the priest who is communing him knows that this man has contracted a gay 'marriage', then that priest is obligated by his ordination vows to withold the Eucharist from him until he repents. In this case that would require, at a minimum, a renunciation of the gay 'marriage' and a return to celibacy. If his priest is communing him knowing that this man is an active homosexual in a gay 'marriage' and is just ignoring it, then that priest will have to answer to God for that. In the Orthodox Church, the priest is supposed to be the guardian of the Chalice and prevent those who are not prepared to partake from receiving the Eucharist. To do otherwise is to engage in the damnation, rather than the salvation, of souls. May the Lord open the eyes of this priest to see what is really going on here and to face it bravely, regardless of the consequences. Brother Boris

Jim Davis said...

In the fourth paragraph ("Of course, ..." you are judging this man.
I thank God that I am not responsible for judging any one; I am not nearly smart enough; are you?
Please refrain from judging (or throwing stones) at others.

Anonymous said...

Jim, How exactly is he judging this man since the man married another man and publicly took on a lifestyle not in keeping with the church where he is communing. Isn't the point here that if the man were struggling with his homosexuality he would not marry but, even if he failed, attempt to live a chaste life? Since he is not even trying to deny his desires, there is no judgement involved here whatsoever. We are all taking the man at face value of his words and actions.