Fr. Michael Courey: Orthodox Church Must be More Inclusive, Welcome Same-Sex Couples

Fr. Michael Courey: Orthodox Church Must be More Inclusive, Welcome Same-Sex Couples On March 12, 2016, as a featured speaker at the Christian Family Life and the Challenges of Faithfulness symposium organized and sponsored by Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in California, Fr. Michael Courey called on the Orthodox Church to be more inclusive and welcome same-sex couples into her sacramental life.

While admonishing those who “place too much emphasis on our sacramental life on exclusiveness rather than inclusiveness,” and bemoaning that “the Church is so oriented towards the traditional conservative view of marriage and the family” that young and old singles “feel there is no place for them in the pews,” Fr. Michael challenged the Church to “embrace and welcome all who seek shelter from the stormy seas of life, traditional and non-traditional families, with open arms and open minds.”

Fr. Michael Courey, is a Greek Orthodox priest serving St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Redondo Beach, California. The Huffington Ecumenical Institute (HEI) was originally funded by a $5 million dollar donation by openly homosexual and LGBT activist millionaire Michael Huffington who also supports same-sex marriage. The Institute is run by Dcn. Nicholas Denysenko, Ph.D. who is the Director of HEI.

Here are some additional excerpts from Fr. Michael Courey’s presentation in “Session 1: Christian Perspectives on Contemporary Family Life” at the March 2016 symposium:

  • “Does the couple living together outside of marriage belong to the Church family? Does the same-sex couple belong to the Church family?” (from clip at 2:07:22 in video)
  • “In our church community today how do we remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ if we place too much emphasis on our sacramental life on exclusiveness rather than inclusiveness. I have heard countless times from singles, young and old alike, that the Church is so oriented towards the traditional conservative view of marriage and the family that they feel there is no place for them in the pews.” (from clip at 2:08:58 in video)
  • “Our Church needs to welcome and minister with greater urgency to singles, divorced, widowed, and to all couples regardless of their sexual orientation who are yearning to be part of the Christian family they grew up in and love from the very depths of their soul.” (from clip at 2:10:03 in video)
  • “The Orthodox bishops in America issued a joint statement after the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage confirming the traditional definition of matrimony as one male and one female with the potential to raise children. And I am obedient to that teaching. Nevertheless, we are admonished as priests by our bishops, the very same bishops, to minister to those in our congregations who have same-sex attractions with mercy and compassion. And not with exclusion or condemnation.” (from clip at 2:09:26 in video)

The video from the HEI symposium along with a detailed transcript of the later part of Fr. Michael Courey’s talk are available below. Video time codes are included for reference. Transcript does not include the introductory comments (approx 1.5 min) from the beginning of the presentation.

@ 1:59:04 – “At the national level in the United States with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing for the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The Christian family and local parish community is struggling with the spiritual issues that result from such a monumental, fundamental, and historic change in our society. In contemporary American culture the Christian family is faced with many uncertainties, not only living up to the high standard of faithfulness to Christ and his Gospel, but simply living and surviving.”

@ 2:00:33 – “Uncertainty among Christians as to the proper response to the legalization of same-sex marriage is a particular pastoral concern, with a great challenge to the Christian community. In her paper, Accept Their Crowns in Your Kingdom, Dr. Carrie Frost states “as with the sacrament of baptism there is no certainty that the new illumined will live a life growing in Christ, there is no certainty that a particular marriage will grow in Christ.”

@ 2:01:03 – “In my 30 years of pastoral care of Orthodox Christian families and as a married priest, father, and grandfather, I have observed that there is no certainty that children that have been baptized and raised in the Church, who attend Divine Liturgy, Sunday School, Youth Groups, and Bible Study on a regular basis will grow up to embrace, accept, and live the ideal definition of family from the traditional conservative perspective. I have witnessed this uncertainty unfold in the practical administration of the sacraments of marriage and baptism.”

@ 2:01:42 – “When I first began my ministry as a Greek Orthodox priest 30 years ago, a couple was required to be in good spiritual standing with the Church, meaning that they must have been married both civilly and ecclesiastically in order to baptize their children. And the same standard was required to serve as a married godparent. A promise to raise the children in the faith was also expected.”

@ 2:02:03 – “With recent statistics revealing a dramatic decline in the number of baptisms, these requirements are no longer being strictly enforced. Many parents seeking the grace of baptism for their children are married civilly but not ecclesiastically or simply not married at all. The strict canonical rule that an Orthodox Christian must marry an Orthodox Christian or by dispensation (or economia) a Christian baptized in the name of the Trinity, has not changed. Nevertheless in the context and culture of a diverse contemporary community the Church has responded by opening the grace of the waters of baptism to all children whose parents seek this sacrament, provided that the godparents are in good standing. As a result, speaking from my own pastoral experience, I have seen parents married outside the Church and unwed parents as well, truly respond to this open door policy by remaining faithful to the promise still required of them to raise their child in the faith.”

@ 2:03:35 – “While divorce and remarriage is certainly a challenge of faithfulness of all Christians, I’m in full agreement with Dr. Sarah Wilson’s view that it is no secret that marriage at all, much less married for life, is getting harder for Americans. In my parish the number of divorces has been in decline, yet the number of weddings has also been in decline. Another trend that I have been observing is that the overwhelming majority of young adult couples who seek to be married for the first time in the Church already live together. Furthermore, with the increase in life expectancy many people who have been divorced or widowed and are now senior citizens and active in the worshiping community choose to live together with a new partner rather than to remarry. Indeed, the very definition of the family may be one of the greatest challenges facing Christianity today in the United States.”

@ 2:04:51 – “A brief review of the biblical record reveals that the traditional conservative and ideal definition of the Christian family as one husband one wife, married for life, and raising children in the Church based on the prototype of Adam and Eve, stands in contrast to the witness, another witness. The family life is described in the Hebrew scriptures of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon tell us a story of polygamy, infidelity, and adultery. In spite of this reality the God of Israel revealed himself to his chosen people to these very patriarchs and kings.”

@ 2:05:36 – “Moving forward to the Greek Scriptures in the predominantly patriarchal genealogy of Jesus Christ, only four matriarchs are mentioned. These are Rahab a prostitute, Ruth a Moabite, not a Jew, Bathsheba who was married to Uriah —who David had killed to take her as his wife after they committed adultery. And, of course, Mary the mother of Jesus who was pregnant outside of wedlock and whose fiancé Joseph was a widower and who, according to tradition had children from his first marriage. These couples all fall outside of the one husband one wife for life ideal yet God chose them as the ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

@ 2:06:24 – “The very identity of the family is challenged by Christ himself. In the familiar story in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus in the midst of his healing and teaching ministry was told that his mother and his brothers were just outside and wish to speak to him. He answered with the question: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Pointing his hand to his disciples he said: “Behold my mother, and my sisters, and my brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother, and sister, and mother.”

@ 2:07:02 – “From his teaching it is possible also to say that the Church is a type of family, the Church family. Seeking to do the will of God even when her children fall short of her glory. It is an extended family in Christ.”

@ 2:07:22 – “Is the Church family limited to traditional family? Does the couple living together outside of marriage belong to the Church family? Does the same-sex couple belong to the Church family? Does the divorced and remarried couple belong to the Church family? Is the Church family inclusive or exclusive of everyone seeking salvation through Christ Jesus?”

@ 2:07:50 – “Regarding Church discipline required to be a disciple and do the will of God the Father, Scriptures and Tradition present two parallel paths. One paved on the hard ground of strictness and another paved by the softer soil of mercy, the path of economia or dispensation. John the Baptist took the hard road condemning Herod for adultery and justifiably so. Jesus hard teaching on divorce and remarriage, with the exception of adultery, continued on the straight way of the Forerunner. Jesus sanctified traditional marriage by his presence and miracle in Cana in Galilee.”

@ 2:08:31 – “Yet Jesus also displayed deep compassion by protecting the woman from being stoned when she was caught in the very act of adultery. The example of Jesus revealing his divinity to the Samaritan woman at the well who was married five times and living with a man gives us a picture of Christ’s inclusiveness of ministry to outcasts and sinners, I being the chief among them.”

@ 2:08:58 – “In our church community today how do we remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ if we place too much emphasis on our sacramental life on exclusiveness rather than inclusiveness. I have heard countless times from singles, young and old alike, that the Church is so oriented towards the traditional conservative view of marriage and the family that they feel there is no place for them in the pews.”

@ 2:09:26 – “The Orthodox bishops in America issued a joint statement after the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage confirming the traditional definition of matrimony as one male and one female with the potential to raise children. And I am obedient to that teaching. Nevertheless, we are admonished as priests by our bishops, the very same bishops, to minister to those in our congregations who have same-sex attractions with mercy and compassion. And not with exclusion or condemnation.”

@ 2:10:03 – “Ought not the same principle of mercy be applied to all those who wish to do the good will of God, seek salvation as a disciple of Jesus Christ yet fall outside of the traditional definition the ideal family. Our Church needs to welcome and minister with greater urgency to singles, divorced, widowed, and to all couples regardless of their sexual orientation who are yearning to be part of the Christian family they grew up in and love from the very depths of their soul.”

@ 2:10:44 – “In the midst of all the uncertainty mentioned above, one thing I am certain of is the celebration of same-sex marriage will never be embraced by the Orthodox Christian or Roman Catholic Church. And I agree with that. Nevertheless, we Orthodox and Catholics while remaining sacramentally faithful to the traditional view of marriage and family must recognize that it is not only the divorced and remarried who need to be welcomed and embraced with love and compassion. But all those people who walk outside of our accepted ideal of family who truly seek Christ, as Pope Francis says, in our holy Catholic and Apostolic Church who seek to be his disciples.”

@ 2:11:34 – “To be faithful to the Gospel of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and the extended family of his disciples there needs to be not only a place in the pews for everyone but in our hearts for all who leave the pews and dare to come forward to the call of Holy Communion, to draw near to Christ to receive the Holy Eucharist with deep reverence for God, with faith, and with love.”

@ 2:12:02 – “Every family and every home experiences conflict and uncertainty. The Church is one diverse extended family, the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We are all his disciples if we seek to do the will of God even when we fall short of the ideal. Like the refugees seeking shelter on the Greek islands the majority of whom being Muslim and the Greeks who embraced their arrival with love and mercy the majority of whom being Christian. May we the extended family of the Church embrace and welcome all who seek shelter from the stormy seas of life, traditional and non-traditional families, with open arms and open minds and hearts overflowing with love.”

15 thoughts on “Fr. Michael Courey: Orthodox Church Must be More Inclusive, Welcome Same-Sex Couples

  1. Noticeably absent in Fr. Michael Courey’s presentation is the word REPENTANCE (as a necessary precondition of following Christ and participating in the sacramental life of the Church), whether talking about the faithful in the pews or retelling the Gospel’s accounts of Christ’s interactions with sinners.

    He also fails to mention Christ’s admonishment to “Go and sin NO more!” at the end of His encounter with the adulteress whom Jesus saved from being stoned.

  2. I’m a convert to the Greek Orthodox Church, fully Chrismated and devoted to the Church.

    As far as I’m concerned, Sodomites will NEVER be accepted into Christ’s Church. We, as Christians, are already showing them mercy by not carrying out God’s command.

    Any move towards forcing them into our Church is likely to run our mercy to and end.

  3. The next step is to welcome liars and thieves who openly and shamelessly declare their intention to continue lying and stealing.

    There is a great difference between those who want to stop sinning (just about all of us), and those who defiantly state “I will do as I please, and I demand that you say nothing negative about it!”

  4. True inclusion means that it is the same gospel for everyone–a gospel of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again that calls for repentance and offers transformation for everyone, including those who identify as GLBT. The father’s apparent compassion creates an unfortunate and condescending second tier for those whom he thinks are unable to live the Christian life. Since when have Christians said “uncle” to the passions? We know that our Lord trampled down death by death that we might share in His glory.

  5. Clifton Palmer McLendon hit the nail on the head. It is one thing to be a sinner, which we all are. Christ welcomes sinners who come to him. The way you come to Christ, however, is turning from sin. Are we, as a church, REALLY supposed to be in the business of deceiving sinners? We must answer at the judgment seat for every sinner we deceived into thinking they were right with God while embracing sin.

  6. Dear Father,
    You got to be kidding! Excusing sin in the name of “inclusiveness”? My only thoughts about that kind of evil is “social and political cowardice”. For shame! You need to resign or be defrocked.

  7. Thank you for this welcoming breath of fresh air and for having the courage to ask questions! I often wonder how the church intends to keep its members that are baptized as babies (not of their own volition) and excommunicated as adults for falling in love and marrying someone who is Buddhist, Atheist, Jewish or of the same gender as themselves. It gives newfound meaning and beauty to the Kontakion: “The Church is revealed to all as a brilliantly lit heaven, leading the faithful in the way of light. Standing therein, we cry aloud: Make firm the foundation of this house, O Lord!” May we all grow in wisdom and love to see all of God’s creation as wonderfully and perfectly made and that we rejoice when our brothers and sisters find their suitable helpers that He has made for them!

    • The Church keeps her members the same way she always has: by calling them to repentance and to salvation and eternal life within the only framework that God has revealed to mankind.

  8. This attitude worked so well in my former religious confession, the episcopal church. Really, “episcopalianism” should be the name for a specific heresy. Deadly, deadly, deadly!

  9. Yes, to be faithful to our Holy Orthodox Tradition, we must welcome all who come to us, while at the same time maintaining the traditional moral/ethical standards that our Saints and Father and Mothers have kept with one voice through the centuries. All those struggling against specific sins and addictions need encouragement to keep fighting against them, with our LORD’s help and with ongoing repentance. To allow those dealing with any kind of sexual temptation to remain unrepentant only reinforces the tendency to give in to such temptations, rather than offering hope that the temptations can be withstood and overcome with GOD’s help.

  10. Anathema! Loving the sinner is not allowing wolves in sheeps clothing to hijack Christ’s Church. I am a convert myself to Orthodoxy, but Michael Huffington has deliberately infiltrated, and attempting to undermine the GOC. He is using his money and influence to do it. He is another George Soros, the only difference is he wrecks churches instead of nations. Was he not content in the Episcopal Church? They welcome, and even marry same sex couples. They ordain gay, and female clergy what more could he ask for?

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