Greek Orthodox Church protests Gay celebrity baptism

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Photo courtesy of George Bousis
Photo courtesy of George Bousis

The Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America, Elpidophoros, touched off an ecclesiastical international incident when he baptized the two children of a Gay couple on July 12.

The couple, Evangelo Bousis and Peter Dundas, are internationally known designers, and being of Greek descent, they wanted their children baptized in a Greek Orthodox church in Greece, where they sometimes reside.

The couple's children, Alexios and Eleni, were baptized in the Panagia Faneromeni Church in the fashionable Athenian suburb of Vouliagmeni.

Because the two parents are Gay — and celebrities at that — what is usually an ordinary event in church life received worldwide media coverage.

As head of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America, Elpidophoros can do pretty much whatever he wants in his own jurisdiction, but protocol requires that he ask permission to administer sacraments like baptism in another bishop's church.

Enter the Metropolitan Bishop of Glyfada, in whose jurisdiction the baptism was performed. Metropolitan Antonios claims that when Elpidophoros wrote for permission to perform a baptism in one of Antonios' churches, he did not disclose that the children were part of a family headed by a same-sex couple.

"[T]he Archbishop of America acted of his own accord, arbitrarily, and uncanonically within my metropolis, inasmuch as, while he was well aware that the children do not belong to a family according to the institutions of the Church, he did not mention anything to me," Antonios wrote in a statement.

The Greek Orthodox Church does not approve of same-sex relationships and does not recognize families of same-sex partners. Many Greek bishops are notoriously homophobic. Consequently Antonios — and by extension, the whole church in Greece — was scandalized by Elpidophoros' action.

As soon as the baptism became public, the Holy Synod, the Greek Church's governing body made up of all its bishops and abbots, announced it would send a letter of protest to Elpidophoros. And, because the American Archbishop is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, not the Church of Greece, the synod also sent a protest letter to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at his headquarters in Istanbul.

Elpidophoros was born in Istanbul and would have to be well connected with high church officials in the Patriarchate to land a plum job in America, so, not unexpectedly, Constantinople defended him.

The Reverend John Chryssavgis, a theological advisor to the Patriarch, published an editorial in Religion News Service in which he argued that no one would expect a cleric to go into detail about the family life of the parents when a child needs to be baptized.

"There should be no controversy over a baptism, to which all children are entitled," Chryssavgis wrote. He did not hesitate to call out by name Greek bishops who criticized the baptism and suggested it was time for "a frank discussion about sex and gender in the church."