Currently in Orthodoxy, we have churches divided over which hierarch has jurisdiction over which country. We have issues of whether a calendar devised or approved of by a Roman Pope could be acceptable or adjusted for calculating feasts and fasts. The issues which divide jurisdictions and arguments between so-called Traditionalists and so-called Modernists are matters of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
The Orthodox Church as well as all Christians worldwide have been brought face-to-face with challenges to the fundamental concepts of life and the very nature of the family. I would suggest that these challenges are at least as significant and perhaps of farther reaching implications than the doctrinal challenges facing the Church of the first eight centuries.
Both of these go straight to the heart of who we are as humans. Both of these are at the foundation of the created order.
The Councils of the Church debated much finer details than these. That the matters facing the Church today even raise questions would have been unthinkable to the Church Fathers. Neither the Arians, nor the Monothelites, nor the Monophysites, nor the Nestorians, nor the Docetists, nor the Donatists, nor the Pelagians, et al., ad nauseum, would have considered, not to mention condoned, abortion or same-sex “marriage”.
This can be put into Christological terms. If we condone abortion because we say the unborn child is not human, we deny the humanity of Christ in the womb of Mary. To condone abortion is to deny the Incarnation. That is heresy.
If we say affirm the humanity of the unborn, but say it is permissible to wilfully take the life of an innocent human – neither a military combatant nor a criminal – we condone murder. To say that murder is not a sin is heresy.
Any Christian who says that either the unborn child is not human or that it is okay to willfully take the life of an unborn human is heretic. Any priest, bishop, archbishop, metropolitan, or patriarch who says that either the unborn child is not human or that it is okay to wilfully take the life of an unborn human is heretic.
So if a hierarch says that Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, “generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,”but that the church also “respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples,” and further that “We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples. We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion,” is this heresy?
Any layman or deacon or priest who is under the omophorion of a bishop and any bishop who is under obedience to a hierarch that is a heretic should take appropriate action. Any bishop who is in communion with a heretical bishop should take appropriate action. It could be argued that any heretical bishop is not in the Church. It could be argued that any priest who is obedience to any bishop not in the Church is also not in the Church.
I leave this for you to ponder and/or comment.
With regard to purported same-sex marriage, there is also a Christological issue. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” Marriage is based in the relationship of Christ to the Church. Just as the Church cannot have two heads, neither can the marriage. To allege that a marriage can have two husbands or two wives is to deny that Christ alone is the head of the Church. It is to deny the very nature of the Church. It is heresy.
It is also a denial of the image of God. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’ ” God’s blessing of His image is based in His command to be fruitful and multiply. It is not based in heterosexuality – rather is it impossible without heterosexuality. The sexual aspect is such a given that it need not even be mentioned. To deny it is to deny man as the image of God.
So if a bishop is asked if same-sex unions are a threat to the traditional family, and he says, “Absolutely not. I don’t see that at all…. I would say God bless you,” is this heresy?
I also leave this for you to ponder and/or comment.