Greek Archbishop of America declares open Communion for non-Orthodox spouses

Palm Beach, Florida, February 21, 2020
Updated 2/22/20, 12:10 AM

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Archbishop Elpidophoros, the primate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, caused a stir yesterday at the opening of the 29th annual Leadership 100 Conference at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Fund Incorporated is a corporation that supports the National Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in advancement of Orthodoxy and Hellenism.

As multiple participants in the conference, who wish to remain anonymous, are reporting, in front of dozens of participants, Abp. Elpidophoros declared that anyone who was married in the Orthodox Church can receive Communion in the Orthodox Church, regardless of whether they are Orthodox or not.

His statement came during the question and answer portion of his talk.

As the Orthodox Church firmly teaches that only baptized and chrismated members of the Church can commune, the Archbishop’s statement upset many people.

He previously addressed the issue of mixed marriages at the Archdiocesan Council meeting in October, hinting at what he openly declared yesterday. After noting that nearly 50% of all Orthodox Christians in America are converts, including 25% in the Greek Archdiocese, the Archbishop stated:

With this in mind, I would make this suggestion: instead of calling marriages with non-Orthodox spouses “mixed marriages,” might we not better refer to them as “miracle marriages?” For these marriages are the main road that ushers converts to the Faith. As the Apostle Paul says: 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).

While speaking above about marriage leading to spouses converting to holy Orthodoxy, Abp. Elpidophoros went on say:

Every faithful marriage is a miracle marriage—a miracle of God’s love and a Mystery to be celebrated with joy and embraced with thanksgiving. 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. If we are to be a Church that truly serves and embraces our young people who live in a technologically advanced and pluralistic world, we must embrace the strangers in our midst—make them strangers no more, and embrace all the members of our community and our Country.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople previously made waves when it announced that it would allow priests whose wives died or abandoned them to enter into second marriages, thereby contradicting the long-standing canonical Tradition of the Church.

In October, the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Archdiocese in America announced that it was petitioning Constantinople to allow three clergymen to remarry.

Article updated to note that the statement came during the question and answer session.

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2/21/2020

See also
Greek Archdiocese requesting Constantinople to consider second marriages for several priests Greek Archdiocese requesting Constantinople to consider second marriages for several priests Greek Archdiocese requesting Constantinople to consider second marriages for several priests Greek Archdiocese requesting Constantinople to consider second marriages for several priests
According to the official communiqué published by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Synod “Examined the petitions of three clergymen who have requested to enter into holy matrimony in the second instance and decided to formally extend a request to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America meets with President Trump Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America meets with President Trump Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America meets with President Trump Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America meets with President Trump
Commenting after the meeting, Abp. Elpidophoros said that President Trump “was very friendly and cordial. The President was extremely happy and expressed his satisfaction that we met. I thanked him for his support for the Christians all over the world and especially for his support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Deciding to Enter into Marriage Deciding to Enter into Marriage
Archpriest Pavel Gumerov
Deciding to Enter into Marriage Deciding to Enter into Marriage
The Grammar of Family Life, Part 1
Archpriest Pavel Gumerov
The first conversation in the cycle is devoted to problems that young men and women ask themselves as they consider marriage: what is the purpose of marriage from the point of view of a Christian, how to choose a partner in life, whether to blindly succumb to the feeling of infatuation, whether they should necessarily get married, and whether marriage with the heterodox and others is possible for an Orthodox Christian.
Comments
Vassili2/25/2020 4:27 am
John Tsumas… you are treading on a very fine line with your comments.   It is indeed up to our creator Christ, to decide whether or not a non-Orthodox who confesses to be a Christian will attain salvation in the next life. But as long as we are on this earth, no Orthodox layperson, no Orthodox priest, no Orthodox bishop and/or Patriarch can declare that a non-Orthodox is on the path of salvation as a Protestant, or as a Roman Catholic, etc.   Christ made it extremely clear that salvation can only be achieved through Him. What’s more, the Holy Church Fathers, throughout history, also taught that salvation can only be achieved through Christ’s one True and ONLY Church, the Orthodox Church.   You asked whether or not Christ would ask for a ‘’membership‘’ card when a person approaches Holy Communion? With all the Church history and tradition that has been passed down to us by our Theotokos and the Church Fathers, then I would answer…. why wouldn’t He?   According to Church saints, if an Orthodox Christian is unprepared when partaking of Holy Communion, then this can actually have negative spiritual consequences on him or her. Having said that, why would Christ then permit/allow/encourage a non-Orthodox to partake of Holy Communion?   Some of the comments on this board are from people who are trying to preserve the Faith as it was passed down to us by Christ, the Theotokos, the Apostles and the Holy Fathers. Yet you categorized these people as potentially being under demonic influence.   How would you categorize the Theotokos appearing in 1282 to a monk of the Athonite monastery of Zographou warning him that Her and Her Son’s enemies (the Latins) were approaching the monastery to attack it?? The martyric death of these 26 monks is commemorated by our Orthodox Church ‪on October 10th.‬ https://www.diaforetiko.gr/i-panagia-proidopii-agioriti-monacho-pou-apingile-synechos-tous-cheretismous-oti-erchonte-i-echthri-tou-yiou-tis/   How would you categorize the Theotokos (through a revelation in the 1950s) telling Saint Paisios that he was to go to the Monastary of Stomio in Konitsa because ‘’eighty Orthodox families there had become Protestant, and needed assistance to convert back to Orthodoxy?‘’ (from the book, Saint Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac, 2nd edition, page 90)   If the Theotokos (the Mother of God) has historically protected the Church from the enemies of her Son, then why wouldn’t Christ do the same? Christ does indeed desire for ALL to partake of His Blood and Body. But at a minimum, as Church tradition has taught, you need to confess THE Faith and be an active member of His Body, the Church. Anyone suggesting otherwise is in fact endangering the souls of innocent people.
Maximus2/24/2020 10:11 pm
https://www.goarch.org/-/why-non-orthodox-are-excluded-from-the-sacrament-of-holy-communion https://www.oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/why-not-open-communion
Mikhail2/24/2020 10:08 pm
Are you protestant Mr. Tsumas? You sound like every protestant that I know. Stop your silly nonsense about membership cards and try to learn about the holy Orthodox faith.
Ioan2/24/2020 9:13 pm
....and before long look (Look out!) for this Archbishop to declare “Open Season” on Orthodox Christians within his own jurisdiction who do not obey him whilst opening new fronts (read: fissures) against the Body of Christ worldwide. ‘2025 Nicaea’ does not leave him and Bartholomew much time to cobble together a church-like body which they will try to offer to Rome as “THE Orthodox Church” for union so look for more and more of these offenses to come.
Stan2/24/2020 8:55 pm
@John Tsumas Spoken like a true ecumenist.
Ioan2/24/2020 8:20 pm
Lord, have mercy! Back to Sunday School to you John Tsumas Why Non-Orthodox are Excluded from the Sacrament of Holy Communion By Fr. Charles Bell, Ph.D In the light of Church history, the question might better be asked, "Why does anyone allow for 'open communion'" The fact is, from the very beginning the Eucharist was offered only to baptized and chrismated believers. The second century writing known as The Didache instructs believers to "let no one eat or drink from your Eucharist except those who are baptized in the Lord's Name." So restricted were the Eucharistic meetings of Christians in the first centuries that rumors arose among the pagans that they were actually involved in human sacrifice and cannibalism. Even reformed churches practice closed communion. Only baptized believers who had undergone examination by the leaders of the churches were admitted to the Lord's Supper. In times past, communion tokens were used to gain admission to the sacrament as, for example in the Church of Scotland and also in Methodist churches. The Orthodox Church does not consider it sufficient to express belief in Jesus in order to be admitted to the sacrament. Many heretics believe in Jesus. Arius, the fourth century heretic, believed in Jesus. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons believe in Jesus. Hindus believe in Jesus. But none of these individuals or groups believes in the One Lord Jesus Christ known and proclaimed by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the historic understanding of the Church, Communion has always been understood as the goal, the climax and expression of our unity in Christ. Today there are over 25,000 denominations worldwide and among them are many different views of Jesus. The Orthodox practice closed communion, not for triumphalistic reasons, but for very important theological reasons. In doing so they follow the practice of the ancient Church; a practice that was retained by the Reformers. "Open communion" was a relatively recent innovation and an exception to the practice of the Church beginning in the New Testament period. In our pluralistic American culture, we object to anything that excludes individuals. We have been taught that all faiths are relative in their claims. One denomination is as good as another to the average American; the Orthodox Church appears to be just one more "denomination." However, the Orthodox Church pre-dates denominations, and the practice of the Orthodox Church pre-dates the practices of later Christian denominations by at least 1500 years. Courtesy of the “old” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America https://www.goarch.org/-/why-non-orthodox-are-excluded-from-the-sacrament-of-holy-communion
John Tsumas2/24/2020 7:23 am
Many of the statements on this board are ridiculous. It’s almost as if Satan is controlling your words, so that the evil one can stir trouble where someone is trying to do our Lord’s work. What his Eminence is trying to do is spread the love and understanding that our Savior himself would have done. I will ask you one question, that any sane person could never disagree with: If Jesus Christ himself was standing in front of HIS altar offering HIS body and blood to those who believe in him, do you think he would deny ANYONE that loved and followed him?!?! Or do you think that Jesus would ask to see each person’s Church “membership” card, and unless it said Orthodox he would deny them. Jesus is way more likely to be furious that all the various denominations even exist as a result of centuries and centuries of fighting between various groups of Christians. He doesn’t care what you call yourself, only that you believe in Him.
Maximus 2/24/2020 3:30 am
Should we really be publishing this article without substantial evidence in the form of quotes and clarifications? I certainly don't put it past ecumenists, but to rely on rumor and the Pappas Post (!!) in order to hurriedly get the story out is irresponsible. Is there any theological justification for how we allowed the heterodox to partake of the Mystery of Holy Matrimony in the first place? No one here seems bothered but this issue, but once you allow them to partake in one Mystery others will follow as we incrementally progress away from the Orthodox Tradition. If this is true, it's horrible and a sign of grace departing. But it's not necessarily a sign of the end as many biased brethren who frequent this site believe. The Russian Church tried something similar in 1970: https://www.nytimes.com/1970/02/21/archives/russian-priests-may-minister-to-roman-catholics.html In his Notes on Ecumenism St. Justin Popovich wrote: "The whole Russian Church became Uniate," And ROCOR at the time thought that this move was the sign that the MP was completely apostate. And now the Russians are considered to be the vanguard of Orthodoxy. So we need to pray for our hierarchs and brethren.
Tom X2/23/2020 5:05 pm
(It was during the Q&A that he mentioned non-greek spouses can begin receiving communion. In fact, two different questions were posed by two couples (mixed religions) and he reiterated that non Greek Orthodox spouse can in fact receive. It’s not in his speech.) This is what say a person who is a part of L100 and it was over there at this moment !!!
Vassili 2/23/2020 2:28 pm
I’m Greek Orthodox ... and whether or not the Archbishop did make such an unacceptable declaration... it saddens me to realize that the faith of some of our fellow Orthodox has been corrupted. I can’t believe my eyes, reading the comments from some of the people here who are actually praising such an innovation of our Faith. How and when did we become so theologically handicapped to actually believe that’s it’s Ok for a non-Orthodox to partake of Holy Communion. Since when did we start wanting Orthodoxy to conform to our ego, our pride, our wants and needs? Since when did we stop wanting to carry our Cross? It is we that need to adjust our lives, to change, to repent, and not our Church. It is also a sad fact that those few traditional Orthodox people who are trying to maintain the Faith are being criticized/crucified by modernist Orthodox, accusing the traditional Orthodox of not “loving”, of being “zealots”. May Christ, our Panagia, the Apostles, and all the Holy Fathers forgive us for trying to change/innovate/modernize the Orthodox Faith in the name of this fake “love”.
PoppaG2/23/2020 10:27 am
The office of the Greek archbishop needs to issue a clarifying statement, with the knowledge that the comments of the archbishop may well have been recorded, and could emerge in video format at a later date. An official public statement will erase any doubt. If he misspoke, he should clarify his meaning, hopefully confirming the universal teaching of the Orthodox Church that only those who are Orthodox Christians may receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church. If his statement on the matter teaches something else, however...
sherlock_holmes2/23/2020 8:04 am
Just as people do not enter a war in order to enjoy war, but in order to be saved from war, so we do not enter this world in order to enjoy this world, but in order to be saved from it. People go to war for the sake of something greater than war. So we also enter this temporal life for the sake of something greater: for eternal life. And as soldiers think with joy about returning home, so also Christians constantly remember the end of their lives and their return to their heavenly fatherland.” + St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Thoughts on Good and Evil
sherlock_holmes2/23/2020 8:01 am
Trick and treat ! language ( ecumenism,like the whispers of the cunning snake in Eden ). Pretty soon only Hagia Sophia will be left in Istanbul,no idea about the Ecumenical Patriarchate existence.Most likely a. Elpidophoros will be stuck in America if he survives the war. We wish him well.
Fr. John Whiteford2/23/2020 7:13 am
The Pappas Post confirms the story in detail https://www.pappaspost.com/archbishop-elpidophoros-of-america-ok-for-non-orthodox-christian-spouses-to-receive-communion/
Fr. Jams Rosselli2/23/2020 7:03 am
And here, we thought casuistry belonged solely to the Jesuits. Silly us!
SDW2/22/2020 10:40 pm
A regular discipline of confession is part of the regular partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Those who are praising the alleged words of Abp E — that non-Orthodox spouses can and should receive Holy Communion — are not addressing this fact. How on earth do non-Orthodox partake of the sacrament of Holy Confession? It’s completely non-sensical. Unless, that is, Holy Confession is not part of one’s own spiritual life and the Orthodox who’s making such statements doesn’t experience confession him/herself.... I’ve heard that for decades the GOAA never required or encouraged holy confession for its faithful. If so, now we’re seeing the fruits of such terrible practice — “faithful” who believe essentially as a Protestant believes, that the body and blood of Christ does not require any preparation or discipline, and that it doesn’t require a discipline of Holy Confession once a month or once every 2 months or whatever one decides with his/her pastor/spiritual father. If you believe that the holy mysteries of Christ can be partaken of willy-nilly, without any preparation and without engaging in holy confession ever, then please start calling yourself a Protestant. Then, at least, your praising of Abp E’s alleged words will be intellectually consistent and will make sense. From an Orthodox Christian’s perspective, Abp E’s alleged words make absolutely no sense.
JohnP2/22/2020 8:54 pm
“Every faithful marriage is a miracle marriage – a miracle of God’s love and a Mystery to be celebrated with joy and embraced with thanksgiving. 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." ~ Archbishop Elpidophoros (at the Archdiocesan Council Meeting) Being "100% of an Orthodox community" means what exactly then? https://www.gocoos.org/2019/10/17/keynote-address-of-his-eminence-archbishop-elpidophoros-at-the-archdiocesan-council-meeting/
anonymous2/22/2020 8:50 pm
Please you need to show evidence before you start something major like this
Mikhail 2/22/2020 7:47 pm
Dear Tina, Your understanding is mistaken. Be watchful. 1 Cor 11:29,30--For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.
Mikhail⁷2/22/2020 7:41 pm
To all of the Phanariotes who are attacking this blog and saying that the AB did not say this: It is being reported that he said it during a Q & A session in front of dozens of witnesses. Let us see if he denies it.
Michael Jay Strong2/22/2020 7:30 pm
He does not mention communion. Who is trying to stir up dissension? No author attribution. Hmmm. ---------- With this in mind, I would make this suggestion: instead of calling marriages with non-Orthodox spouses “mixed marriages,” might we not better refer to them as “miracle marriages?” For these marriages are the main road that ushers converts to the Faith. As the Apostle Paul says: 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) Every faithful marriage is a miracle marriage – a miracle of God’s love and a Mystery to be celebrated with joy and embraced with thanksgiving. 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. If we are to be a Church that truly serves and embraces our young people who live in a technologically advanced and pluralistic world, we must embrace the strangers in our midst – make them strangers no more, and embrace all the members of our community and our Country. Per Ms. Herron's post, above, the full manuscript here: https://www.gocoos.org/2019/10/17/keynote-address-of-his-eminence-archbishop-elpidophoros-at-the-archdiocesan-council-meeting/?fbclid=IwAR0dejH5IQlhlDrTBzIpHiGFHzN4tRsigqF0PGcimXWEXzFrulNRfP71MQQ
Gregory2/22/2020 5:55 pm
This is a false article, especially the “headline”...Please quit trying to plant and grow seeds of division. Lord have mercy on all of us.
Tina2/22/2020 4:13 pm
My understanding is that if a couple is married in the Orthodox Church then both have been baptized but if only one is Orthodox, the other one no longer needs to be chrismated orthodox to take communion. My husband, who is a man of deep faith, who went to divinity school of his faith, is so happy that he can take communion with me. This is something that has troubled him and we are jubilant over this decision.
G.L.M.2/22/2020 3:32 pm
No where does it say anything about a spouse receiving communion. keynote-address-of-his-eminence-archbishop-elpidophoros-at-the-archdiocesan-council-meeting Maybe the writer of the above article can validate this claim?
Ronan2/22/2020 2:43 pm
@Alexander Leitner - then why say anything at all daaarrrrlllinnngggg. To quote the irish krooner ronan keeting - you say it best. when you say nothing at aaaaalllll
Gary Cox2/22/2020 2:20 pm
If someone is 100% a part of a community then that person can participate in all the functions of the community. The link that Katherine provided shows what he said. Time will tell how hard and fast he will pursue this agenda and other false ideas such as allowing " homosexual marriage". And remember, this is the man many think will be ecumenical patriarch when Bartholomew kicks the bucket.
Ken Jennings2/22/2020 11:41 am
Proof please. And if there is no proof for such a scandalous accusation about a Bishop of Orthodoxy, then an apology to your readers is due. I'm shocked at the sloppiness of this article.
Christina Dogris Mcgrath 2/22/2020 9:57 am
IF HE SAID THIS AND EVEN THINKS IT. HE NEEDS TO BE REMOVED. HE CANNOT CHANGE OUR FAITH FOR NEW MEMBERS. HE WILL HAVE A FIGHT ON HIS HANDS.... MAY I ASK WHO WROTE THIS???? IS THIS TRUE. I AM VERY VERY UPSET. MY HUSBAND IS A CONVERT AND TOOK BECOMING ORTHODOX WITH HIS SOUL. STOP CHEAPENING OUR FAITH.
Svitlana Chaykivska2/22/2020 8:59 am
"Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and ... And who shall stand in his holy place" Alleluia :) Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros Bless. It is truly priceless moment where many married couple will be united in one Holy Communion, baptizing bringing their children, coming and praying in the same church. God Grant You Archbishop Elpidophoros many, many years. Thank you
Faye Louras2/22/2020 8:58 am
Anastasia Zouvelos is correct regarding the keynote address ....at the link posted above by Katherine Herron Nowhere does the Archbishop say spouses of Orthodox Christians can receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church if they are not Orthodox Christians themselves. This is how misinformation travels and misunderstandings begin. If this turns out to be true then our church as James says will quickly become irrelevant .... we are living in very dangerous times and we need to be extra careful.
John2/22/2020 8:52 am
This is silly. Archbishop Elpidophoros is right! If we want to keep the church relevant, we need to embrace other Christians. We need to allow for them to take commission. Stop putting up hurdles people.
seven sisters 2/22/2020 7:49 am
Dear “I tend to trust my eyes more than my ears,” There are, in fact, many marriages in American Orthodox Churches where a non-Orthodox Christian marries an Orthodox Christian in The Church. My husband was raised Methodist, I was raised Orthodox. We were married in the Orthodox Church more than 25 years ago. I have several Aunts, and 2 sisters, who also married non Orthodox spouses. Some of the spouses eventually converted. Others have not.
Gary Cox2/22/2020 7:21 am
Without Baptism AND Chrismation one is NOT 100% part of the Orthodox Church or community as he puts it. Just because dipstick says something does not make it true.
Anastasia Zouvelos2/22/2020 7:00 am
Are you people who are commenting even reading the article. Nowhere does it say anything like this! Do not spread lies. The Archbishop NEVER says that spouses of Orthodox Christians can receive Holy Communion if they are Not themselves Orthodox Christians. Also there is no author listed for this “story” Ridiculous. This website should take responsibility for spreading lies.
I tend to trust my eyes more than my ears. 2/22/2020 6:27 am
When I switched parishes in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese the priest refused to give me communion unless I answered if I was baptized Orthodox. They tend to do it with new faces that come to Church, and I remember an incident last year in my Church when a Roman Catholic attempted to receive Holy Communion and was denied. But as we all know it is not possible for a non-Orthodox to marry an Orthodox within the Orthodox Church, not even in America where there are many mixed marriages.. So the fact that Elpidophoros supposedly made such a statement is beyond comprehension as to the need, because marriages outside the Orthodox Church are not considered valid by any Greek Church.. and technically, they are not spouses. Besides, time will tell if this is true or not.
Eleni2/22/2020 5:32 am
Anathema.
Mikhail2/22/2020 5:31 am
If I am understanding the article correctly, he said this in front of dozens of people and it is being reported by multiple people. If this is false, or it is being twisted in some way, then we will hear about it from his own mouth. But if he truly said this, then he will either admit it openly, or remain silent. We will soon find out.
James2/22/2020 5:26 am
Adios the Greek Orthodox Church. Your are becoming rapidly irrelevant.
Spencer2/22/2020 5:10 am
I suppose we'll know whether it's true or not when they start communing unbaptised spouses.
J.K. 2/22/2020 5:01 am
Prove it! Stop with the malicious propaganda!
Katherine Herron2/22/2020 4:38 am
How about this is what was said? https://www.gocoos.org/2019/10/17/keynote-address-of-his-eminence-archbishop-elpidophoros-at-the-archdiocesan-council-meeting/?fbclid=IwAR0dejH5IQlhlDrTBzIpHiGFHzN4tRsigqF0PGcimXWEXzFrulNRfP71MQQ
Alexander Leitner2/22/2020 3:45 am
Greek New Calendar Church...nothing more to say..
Anastasia Zouvelos2/22/2020 3:35 am
Nowhere does the Archbishop say spouses of Orthodox Christians can receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church if they are not Orthodox Christians themselves.
Deacon Anthony Bridges2/22/2020 3:12 am
No byline, and no quotes that substantiate the headline. A bit irresponsible, don't you think?
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