Stephen Morris

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Exploring the History of Same-Sex Relationships in Christianity

Were men joined in a matrimonial “brotherhood” by the Orthodox Church?

The question of LGBT relationships is a growing concern for all Christian churches, not just Orthodox. Beyond the question of whether and how churches, clergy and laypeople can accept same-sex relationships and marriages, LGBT Christians everywhere also personally struggle with how to reconcile their way of life with their beliefs.

Author and former Orthodox Christian priest Stephen Morris has written a groundbreaking new work of profound historical significance that addresses the concerns of all Christians struggling with these issues. His book, “When Brothers Dwell in Unity: Byszantine Christianity and Homosexuality,” launched in January 2016 to rave reviews, quickly becoming an Amazon #1 bestseller.

One of the world’s leading early Christian historians, Wendy Mayer of the Centre for Early Christian Studies says Morris’s book “fearlessly and unprejudiciously delves into not just histprical approaches to homosexuality, but a much wider range of sexual relations and unions within the Orthodox Christian past. [stephen morris] engages the topic with objectivity, courage and grace; a timely book in light of current debate about marriage equality.”

Degrees of Penance and Acceptance

As we examine the best way forward personally and religiously around LGBT issues, Stephen Morris invites us to consider the reality of early Byzantine Christian penance and acceptance traditions.

Bankers? They were to be forbidden communion, socially shunned, denied church funerals and not commemorated during prayers for the dead.

Men and women who committed fornication or adultery? They were forbidden communion for years.

Men and women who remarried after divorce or widowhood? They were to be forbidden communion for years and then only allowed communion on a few holy days and even then only after weeks of sexual abstinence.

Men who had sex with other men? They were to be denied communion for either 7 or 80 days.

Penances traditionally attached to heterosexual sins—including remarriage after divorce or widowhood—have always been much more severe than those for a variety of homosexual acts or relationships. With this in mind, Morris asserts that just as Byzantine churches have found ways to accommodate sequential marriages and other behavior once stridently condemned, it is possible for Byzantine Christianity to make pastoral accommodations for gay relationships and same-sex marriage.

Adelphopoiia – “Brother-Making”

In the Byzantine liturgical practice, the service for adelphopoiia (“brother-making”) was used to unite two men and was considered the functional equivalent of marriage if performed for a man and woman. In practice, it was similar to the service offered for a 2nd or 3rd marriage. The existence of such a ceremony suggests a rough equivalence between the two sexual relationships—remarriage and same-sex partnerships—that were “less than ideal” but could nevertheless be blessed by the church. The few medieval complaints against the use of adelphopoiia as a marriage service between men is testimony that it was used in this way and that most people found it unobjectionable.

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