Regarding my being a Board Member of Equality Armenia

Recently an article appeared in Asbarez proclaiming me a Board Member of the newly formed Equality Armenia organization. The article was predicated on an interview I gave to Cary Harrison on KPFK radio. Unfortunately, some of the information in the article might be misconstrued to mean something different than what was intended.
To be certain, according to the canons of the Armenian Church marriage is between a man and woman. Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. Pure and simple, this is the definition of marriage as accepted by the Armenian Church. I have not stated anything to the contrary and even more, it is not the place of a priest to change canon law. The underlying reasons for this definition stems from the understanding that marriage is the vessel in which procreation takes place and gives structure to the family. This is the stand of the Armenian Church. Therefore, I cannot be a Board member of any organization whose mission contradicts the stance and doctrines of the Church.
There is also a pastoral dimension to our work as priests that is predicated on the call by Jesus Christ. In the radio spot (it can be heard at I was interviewed with Armen Abelyan of Equality Armenia. He is an openly gay man and I sat with him to share in a conversation. In the interview I expressed the orthodox teaching of the Armenian Church, namely that we are called to a life where love is the motivating force in all that we do. Love, as we know, has many dimensions and manifestations, not all of which are about physical love. Love is articulated in a life of compassion, care and understanding.  This is expressed throughout the writings and teachings of the Church Fathers, including the greats such as St. Nersess Shnorhali who reminds us that the “name of love is Jesus.” As an Apostolic Church we take our cues from Jesus who accepted all. The cliché “love the sinner but not the sin” is fine to remember as long as at the same time we accept that we are all sinners, in other words, we all miss the mark of perfection. This is not to set up a value system, rather it is to acknowledge our humanity. Judgement is left to God alone. Ours is not to judge but to live the Gospel message in our lives. As a priest my approach with the homosexual community – as with any community – is pastoral, highlighted by our compassion, understanding and acceptance. It only follows then that we approach one another with respect and we love one another for the common union we share in humanity. This is why Jesus Christ does not place a condition on his command to love one another. This is the challenge before all of us to rise above our differences, thereby allowing God to be God and us to be human. I am no different than any other priest: The call we receive to the ministry has as its foundation the call to compassion.
In the scope of our humanity we have to inevitably talk about human rights. Every Armenian should be concerned with human rights because we exist today, especially in the Diaspora, because at one time we were the target of human rights’ violations of the extreme type. Let us not forget that our most recent history marks a Genocide where we were targeted as less-than-human. As Gregory Stanton outlines in his “Eight Stages of Genocide” document, the most violent acts against humanity begin with the simple classification and dehumanization of the target groups. If there is anything that we have learned as victims of Genocide it is that today we cannot tolerate intolerance. Name calling, chastising, irreverence toward God’s creation cannot exist in a loving and caring environment. Therefore, as the Church we follow the highest ideals of humanity as expressed by Jesus Christ, to love one another without exceptions. It was for this reason that we are ordained into priesthood of the Armenian Church.
My calling as a priest has given me an opportunity to sit with many communities that have suffered persecution. My reference to the Armenian Genocide is in the context that if we have survived the suffering of the most horrific of all persecutions, we have a unique vantage point in the world and history. This is not to equate all suffering with the Armenian Genocide. I do not make that comparison, nor can it be made.
Christianity, as expressed through the ancient Armenian Church, works for me. It presents to me a model for living where love and compassion pave the way for the possibility of peace. At Jesus’ Birth, the angels proclaimed, “Peace on Earth, good will toward all.” This was not a declaration about a time to come but a time that has arrived. When we leave judgement to God, and God alone, we then have an opportunity to focus on our own lives, to understand how we can and must be part of the equation for peace.


While I cannot accept a position on the Board of Equality Armenia, it is my hope that we can be called upon for spiritual counsel and direction. All priests are open for this dialogue and the offering of prayer and the sharing of faith.
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