Does The Orthodox Church Accept LGBTQ+ People?

LGBTQ+ flag

Homosexuality and transgenderism have become prevalent issues in our society today, especially with the Roman Catholic Pope’s recent declarations regarding the blessing of same-sex couples. In searching for a religion, many who identify as LBGTQ+ gravitate away from Christianity. Why? Because they mistakenly accuse Christians of homophobia, believing they hate LGBTQ+ people. This belief stems from traditional Christian teachings regarding sexuality: that any sexual acts that go against God’s design for humankind are sinful in His sight.

Acknowledging and working to eradicate sin does not equal hatred toward the person committing that sin. We can accept someone and welcome them into our midst without simultaneously condoning their sinful actions, or in the Pope’s case, “blessing” them. In that sense, the Eastern Orthodox Church does accept people who identify as LGBTQ+. She accepts them as fellow sinners in need of healing, human beings struggling to fight against the passions and deny themselves.

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What does it mean to “accept” someone who is LGBTQ+?

Naturally, there are several definitions of the word accept. The LGBTQ+ movement tends to view acceptance as approval. In other words, in order to accept someone who is LGBTQ+, we must regard his/her actions as proper and/or normal. In fact, if we do not consider changing the Church’s dogma to accommodate his/her lifestyle, this makes us homophobic.

The rest of society – and the Orthodox Church in particular – use an entirely different definition. Outside the LGBTQ+ movement, accept means to receive willingly. The Orthodox Church will accept you in that sense, welcoming you home into the Body of Christ. However, this kind of acceptance does not (and should never) mean approval of the person’s actions.

The Orthodox Church’s position on LGBTQ+

According to Orthodox teachings, God created mankind with two modes of being: male and female (Genesis 1:27). Moreover, He created male and female as perfect companions for one another in marriage (Genesis 2:24). As God’s creation, we must exercise our love and sexuality within these parameters. Anything outside those parameters (homosexuality, rape, fornication, transgenderism, pornography, etc.) are sinful.

However, acknowledging the sinful nature of homosexual acts does not make the Church hateful or homophobic. Sin is the natural result of our fallen human nature, not a crime in need of punishment. Therefore, the Church approaches all sins with compassion and empathy, not hatred.

St. Symeon the New Theologian summarizes our duty as Christians beautifully:

We need to regard all the faithful as one and think that each one of them is Christ. We need to have such love for each individual that we are ready to sacrifice our very life for him. Because we ought never to say or think that any person is evil, but rather to regard all as good. And if you see a brother troubled by passions, do not hate him. Hate rather the passions that are assailing him. And if you see that he is being tormented by desires and habits from former sins, have even greater compassion on him, lest you also fall into temptation […] Love for your brother prepares you to love God more. Accordingly, the secret of love for God is love for your brother. Because if you don’t love your brother whom you see, how can you possibly love God whom you don’t see?

(emphasis added)

Can someone who is LGBTQ+ be an Orthodox Christian?

There are millions of Orthodox Christians who have struggled with same sex attraction, gender dysphoria, etc. Through the healing presence of Christ in His Church, many of them have married (someone of the opposite gender, in accordance with God’s design) or entered monasteries and remained celibate.

If an LGBTQ+ individual intends to follow Christ in the Orthodox Church, he/she will need to face the issue of his/her sexuality. While Christ welcomes us as we are, He does not want us to stay in that same condition. Instead, He wants us to become Him. In the process of becoming like Christ, we must confront our sins and repent and turn away from them, turning instead toward a chaste lifestyle that honors God. Our priest and community of faithful in our local parish are there to help us do this, through prayer, counseling, and emotional support.

Anyone who comes to the Orthodox Church with a repentant heart that acknowledges the sin of homosexual behavior will be lovingly accepted. LGBTQ+ individuals who instead insist on their right to such behavior and choose to live an actively sinful lifestyle without repentance, voluntarily remove themselves from communion with the rest of the Body of Christ.

Deny yourself, take up your cross…

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore, the Orthodox Church accepts (read: welcomes) all LGBTQ+ individuals with open arms, because we are all made in the image of God. Orthodox Christianity challenges us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24). In denying ourselves and confronting the passions, Christ’s love and mercy utterly transform us.

Christ calls us to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22). It is a difficult thing to take up our cross and follow Him, but once we do, we often find that Christ’s words are true: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Seek spiritual counsel

If you are struggling against LGBTQ+ temptations and want to accept the Orthodox Church and her Faith, we highly recommend reading Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works. We also recommend attending the nearest Orthodox parish. Speak with the priest; he can offer you spiritual guidance and help you on your path to repentance.

Keep Reading: The Truth About Heaven And Hell

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