Unbaptized spouses: welcome to the Church! –Abp. Elpidophoros
Since the publication on February 21st of the article about Archbishop Elpidophoros’s (AbpE) remarks on mixed marriages, the webpage of Orthodox Christianity1 was inundated with comments. Relying on multiple anonymous testimonies, it reported that AbpE “declared that anyone who was married in the Orthodox Church can receive holy Communion, regardless of whether they are Orthodox or not.” His words, however, were not part of a prepared statement, but were made in answering a question.2 Certain commentators objected to reporting what they call unsubstantiated statements, but there is no need, because His Eminence went on record on the same subject in a prepared Keynote Address3 to the Archdiocesan Council Meeting back on Oct. 17, 2019. After reading these accounts, including the comments made, I would like to address this subject and share with you my reflections.
In his October address, AbpE called the marriages of Orthodox with non-Orthodox Christians “miracle marriages,” because, he stated, “these marriages are the main road that ushers converts to the Faith.” To support his claim he appealed to the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (I Cor. 7:16).” However, in order to make his point, he quoted this verse out of context, clearly misinterpreting the Apostle’s message. We bring verses 12 and 13 that precede it:
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
About whom is the Apostle talking? Surely not about Christians marrying non-Christians. Far from it! He talks about “non-Christian couples”, one of whom converted to Christianity. What was the Christian member supposed to do? Divorce? The Apostle says, no, because the good example of the Christian might induce the non-Christian to also convert. St. John Chrysostom offers the following comments on this passage:
Tell me, what harm is there when the duties of piety remain unimpaired and there are good hopes about the unbeliever, that those already joined should abide and not bring in occasions of unnecessary warfare? For the question now is not about those who have never yet come together, but about those who are already joined. He did not say, If any one wish to take an unbelieving wife, but, “if any one has an unbelieving wife.” Which means, If any after marrying or being married have received the word of godliness, and then the other party which had continued in unbelief still yearn for them to dwell together, let not the marriage be broken off. “For,” he said, “the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife.” So great is the superabundance of thy purity.4
But does the Apostle say anything about Christians marrying non-Christians? Yes, he does! In his second letter to the Corinthians he has this to say:
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Cor. 6:14-16)
Based on these scriptural passages, the holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in their 72nd Canon prescribed the following:
Let no Orthodox man be allowed to contract a marriage with a heretical woman, nor moreover let an Orthodox woman be married to a heretical man. But if it should be discovered that any such thing is done by any one of the Christians, no matter who, let the marriage be deemed void, and let the lawless marriage tie be dissolved... If, therefore, anyone violates the rules we have made let him be excommunicated.5
The learned AbpE certainly knows all these things, yet knowingly he sets them aside, “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Think of it: instead of encouraging our young people to marry in the Faith or to be good examples, he expects Church growth to come from spouses who refuse to embrace the Faith!” But there is more. He further adds the following in his Keynote Address:
Whether or not the spouse joins the Church in a formal way through Chrismation, they are still 100% part of our community, and should be embraced as such.
It is this last sentence that is the most troublesome, in which we already see that what was reported to have said in Palm Beach, Florida on February 21st is unfortunately and tragically true. Please follow his words. In the first place, he says that the non-Orthodox spouses not always join the Church the “formal way.” What is the way he calls “formal”?: The reception of non-Orthodox to the Church through Chrismation. Yes, we have reached such level of apostasy that we do not even see what is wrong with being admitted to the Church through Chrismation (which should be the rare exception), and not through baptism (which should be the norm). But isn’t this the way almost every convert is being received by the Church today? Unfortunately, yes – with ROCOR, correct me if I’m wrong, being the only exception. But what is wrong with receiving converts through Chrismation? It’s wrong because it violates the holy Canons of the Church!
Canon 46 of the Holy Apostles (confirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Trullo) states:
“We order any Bishop, or Presbyter, that has accepted any heretics’ Baptism, or sacrifice, to be deposed; for “what consonancy hath Christ with Beliar? or what part hath the believer with an infidel?”6
This canon is strengthened by the one that follows it (No. 47):
“If a Bishop or Presbyter baptize anew anyone that has had a true baptism, or fail to baptize anyone that has been polluted by the impious, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is mocking the Cross and death of the Lord and failing, to distinguish priests, from pseudo-priests.”7
Here we see that the primate of the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in America, in full knowledge, and following faithfully the directives of his superior hierarch, “Ecumenical” Patriarch Bartholomew (EPB), violating these two Canons of the Church. Of course AbpE, along with EPB and all the ecumenists, would retort that they don’t re-baptize those who are already baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, because they have received the “true baptism,” and if they were to re-baptize such people they would violate the Canon. Yes, this is what they say, but they don’t follow what the Church says. True baptism is administered only in the true Church, because the Church, being the Body of Christ, is the source of all the Mysteries (Sacraments).8
So-called “Trinitarian baptisms” have opened the doors of the Orthodox Church to non-Orthodox. The names of our Trinitarian God may be called, but this is not enough. Triple baptism (immersion) by an authorized priest is also required.9 “Mixed marriages” was the first illegitimate child of this concession; the second child, holy Communion for non-Orthodox spouses is already taking place. Preparations are being made for the third child: open doors to all Christians. The final child, open doors to all human beings is fast approaching. Here in America, and elsewhere, ROCOR is the only bastion of the Orthodox Faith and practice today, even after its re-establishment of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. All Orthodox are invited to this oasis.
AbpE, an avid ecumenist, not only violates the first Canon, by accepting the baptism administered by heretics, as long as the name of the triune God is invoked, and receives such people through Chrismation, but he is ready to allow, and already allows, following the practice of Constantinople, those non-Orthodox who entered into matrimony with an Orthodox to have access to the holy Eucharist! Why not, he will say to us. He is right… If someone is admitted to one sacrament (marriage) what is the justification for denying him or her access to another sacrament (divine Eucharist)? Thus we see the slippery slope of how one deviation leads to another, bigger one.
The Orthodox Church, following faithfully her holy Canons, does not recognize, nor does she approve of mixed marriages. How can she, when she does not even allow heretics to step their foot into an Orthodox church,10 according to one of her Canons that is seldom followed, kept only by the schismatic Old Calendarists. The Church has always “economized,” that is, exercised indulgence and compassion, making exceptions wisely to the rule for the good of the Church and for the salvation of the people of God. But these exceptions, in our days, have become the rule, while the rules are ignored. In fact we are at a stage where baptizing heterodox is prohibited. There are cases in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America where even written petitions by candidates to be received through baptism have been denied by the ruling bishops, and the priests who dear to disobey their orders are severely disciplined.
One last word about the statement of AbpE’s, which contains an even more ominous turning of direction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese towards complete apostasy. Following his incredible statement quoted above, somewhat cryptic but still clear, which in so many words assures the non-Orthodox spouses that they are “100% part of our community, and should be embraced as such”, he goes on to unload the ultimate goal of the ecumenists:
“we must… embrace all the members of our community and our Country.”
To decode the statement: As the non-Orthodox spouses are 100% part of our community and should be embraced as such, so also our ultimate goal is to invite the entire country: “come as you are” and join in the Orthodox Church, and partake of whatever we have to offer. We are not there yet, but we – they, that is – are already turning the corner. The plan of the ecumenists is well-orchestrated: to slooowly boil us to death, like the proverbial frog.
What is the plan of us, Orthodox clergy and laity? We should wake up from our lethargy and in a robust voice tell our religious leaders when they enter our churches, and in writing, that we can no longer tolerate their betrayal of our Faith and if they don’t change course we will stop funding our ecumenist bishops, and priest. The corruption is so great, and this will hurt them the most; that’s the only language they understand.
We humbly suggest that all of us, Orthodox clergy and laity, should have a different plan for increasing our membership, and we invite the “Hope-Bearer” (that’s what his name, Elpidophoros means) to reflect upon it. How wonderful it would be, truly miraculous, if 100% of our children, our young adults, boys and girls contemplating marriage, with their strong faith and Christian life would inspire their future spouses to join the Church that saves. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)
- http://orthochristian.com/128712.html. The speech was delivered at the opening of the 29th Annual Leadership 100 Conference at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
- Actually, they were confirmed by another more accurate account in an article posted by the Pappas Post that also appeared on the next morning of the event (Feb. 22), https://www.pappaspost.com/archbishop-elpidophoros-of-america-ok-for-non-orthodox-christian-spouses-to-receive-communion/.
- hom. xix.
- Rudder, p. 376. Two Canons of the Synod of Laodicea (10th and 31st, pp. 555 and 565 of the Rudder) explicitly prohibit intermarriages. A few additional comments on this subject were addressed in our series on, “Marriage ‘in Christ,’” Parts I, II, III and IV.
- Rudder, p. 68. Quoting exactly the passage AbpE left out (2 Corinthians 6:15), here in a different translation. Belial, which means demon, a name of Satan, is rendered Beliar in Greek.
- Please see a few pertinent comments made on the subject in our post, “My desire was to be received through Baptism,” particularly the authoritative words of St. Cyprian of Carthage.
- Canon 50 of the Holy Apostles, Rudder, p. 81.
- Laodicea vi, Rudder, p. 553.