Married Bishops

There has been much controversy about married bishops in the Eastern and Western Churches. In the early church even popes were married and reared children.  This  todays in both churches is a major issue. We are presenting several articles for your digestion from many different individuals written in the media. Hopefully this will bring some insights about this topic. There are several open spaces in the article, please scroll downwards for the continuation of the article while we try and correct the error.

Apostolic Doctrine


“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…”

from Saint Paul’s Epistle to Timothy

Icons of St. Peter and “Champion of Orthodoxy” St. Gregory Bishop of Nyssa

“…hold fast to the Traditions you have been taught…let him who is without sin, cast the first stone…”

At least a few times each year I receive inquiries regarding married bishops in the Orthodox Church.

Although you may not agree with my reply, let me preface by saying that the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, since its Sobor in 1921, has found no “problem” with married priests being consecrated to the Sacred Episcopacy. I have often wondered if those asking the question have the real “problem?”

Would it surprise you to know that I followed the example of my Spiritual Fathers who consecrated me? Although the “facts” are usually not discussed (to protect the wife and family members) all three of my Consecrators were married priests who were consecrated as bishops! All three knew, as St. Paul says, “it is better to marry then to burn.”

Yes, Metropolitan +PETER (Zhurawetzky), Metropolitan +NIKOLAUS (Ilnyckyj) and Archbishop +DAVID (Baxter) were all married bishops with wonderful, loving Matushkas who supported them in their ministries. Being married DID NOT prevent them from the great missionary work they did throughout North and South America. Many have received their lines of the Valid Apostolic Succession through the “laying on of hands” of these devoted Servants of the Lord! I was honoured to be consecrated by these men…to know them… to visit them in their homes…to know their families. I welcome the opportunity to visit with you…to share their sorrows and their joys!

No pope, no patriarch, no Ecumenical Council, Canon Law or “Rudder” is above what Christ and The Twelve taught. Yes, the “free election” of clerical celibacy can be a good thing; however, there was never “forced” celibacy in the Early Church of the Apostles…you will NOT find it in Sacred Scripture or in the Didache (Apostolic Teachings from the Council of Jerusalem). Why would anyone put men, who begin well-intentioned ministries to serve the Lord, in a position to fall into sinful acts of cohabitation, homosexuality or worse? I remember the words of the Nuns in grade school…that, “God does not contradict Himself!”

Remember, we are speaking about a discipline within the Church. Marriage has never been an impediment to ordination. Not everyone can live a celibate life. It WAS and MUST BE a “freely elected” option. This WAS and IS the Apostolic Doctrine of the Orthodox Church!

Most recently, His Eminence Metropolitan +PHILIP of the Antiochian Archdiocese publicly stated his support for the return of a married episcopacy. And, a little over 10 years ago, Archbishop +IAKOVOS and the Greek Archdiocese (see Newspaper Articles below & excellent article from The Greek Orthodox Theological Review) petitioned Constantinople to allow it and even printed in their publications “that ‘technically’ individual churches have the right to introduce this change of discipline.”

Do not be fooled…Holy Matrimony has never been an impediment to Holy Orders!  Even today, the Church of Rome accepts the validity of married bishops in the Polish National Catholic Church and in the Old Catholic Churches of Utrecht which have maintained the Valid Apostolic Succession. Does it make sense to condemn a clergyman for having a natural relationship with a woman or fostering children (although being immoral and sinful), yet, quietly overlook priests having “particular” friendships with altar boys or bishops living with their “boy friends” unless it comes out in the news? When does one stop courting the Devil?

Certainly, a lot of so-called “problems” could be avoided if the example of Sacred Scripture were followed. Our Lord chose married men for The Twelve. Can we do anything less than to follow Him? Allowing married men to be bishops was began by Our Blessed Lord, Himself. If you want to ridicule or condemn me then you may as well ridicule and condemn Christ!

As difficult and “odd” as it may sound, reality must be faced in the world today. I can remember saying to my congregation as a married priest nearly 30 years ago, that at least they knew who was in bed with their priest at night! This is a bitter reality for many to face; however, human nature and human needs do not “halt” simply because of ordination. Why do you think their is “oikonomia” in the Church?

You rightly question me because I openly share our disciplines with the general public; and, if you do not know, then you should know, that this “situation” exists in many canonical Orthodox jurisdictions: married bishops…be it within the Mystery of Marriage or some form of “rationalized” cohabitation or civil marriage.

Similarly, in particular cases and circumstances, priests ARE permitted to marry after ordination and continue their ministry; furthermore, married priests who loose their presbyteras in death are permitted to remarry within the Church…don’t believe otherwise…fact is, you will find this in every Orthodox jurisdiction.

In conclusion, many things are allowed by Almighty God to test our charity, be it denominations, disciplines, etc. Each of us has the opportunity to “judge not” and to be charitable. I ask you, do you accept those opportunities and act correctly upon them?

Finally, regarding married bishops…if you really want to hear about love and compassion in the Church…speak to the wife of a bishop and hear what they have to say about it…how their Faith is tested and how they have to endure! Then, you will truly see how the Gospel is followed or how it continues to be perverted…for, “by their fruits you will know them” and “you will know they are Christians by their love.”

Nothing more can be said…


Married Bishops…we are NOT alone!

The Christian communities, living as they did with the memory of the Apostles wtill fresh in their hearts and minds, whether in the East or in the West, say the elevation of manogamous men to the ranks of the episcopacy as consistent with a proper regard for the dignity of marriage, as well as the Lord’s decision to call Simon Peter, and other family men, to follow Him!

Listed below are just a few of the Married Bishops…from declared Saints to  Popes and Patriarchs…as confirmed and taken from the ecclesiastical histories, for the Greeks: Eusebius of Caesarea, Socrates, Soyomenes and Theodore of Cyprus; and, for the Latins: Rufinus of Aquilea, Sulpicius Servus, Gregory of Tours, Isidore of Seville and Bede the Venerable….

THIRD CENTURY MARRIED BISHOPS +CEREMAN, Bishop of Nilopolis; +DEMETRIAN, Bishop of Antioch; +DEMETRIUS, Patriarch of Alexandria; +IRENAEUS, Bishop of Sirmium; +MARTIAL, Bishop of Merida.

FOURTH CENTURY MARRIED BISHOPS  +AJAX, Bishop of Botolous, Syria; +ANASTASIUS I, Pope of Rome and Father of Pope Innocent); +ANTONIUS, Bishop of Ephesus; +ANTONIUS, Bishop of suburban diocese of Rome; +ARTEMIUS, Bishop of Auvergne; +ASRUG, Bishop of Pakravant, Armenia; +CARTERIUS, Spanish Bishop; +EULALIUS, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia; St. +GREGORY, Bishop of Nyssa; +GREGORY the Elder, Bishop of Nazianzea; +GREGORY the Illuminator, First Armenian Katholikos; +HILARY, Bishop of Poitiers, France; +KHAT, Bishop of Pakravant, Armenia; +LEO, Bishop in Italy; +LEONTIUS, Bishop of Tripoli; +MARCELLUS, Bishop of Apamea, Syria; +MEMORIUS, Bishop of Southern Italy; +NERSES the Great, Armenian Katholikos; +PACIAN, Bishop of Barcelona, Spain; +PELAGIUS, Bishop of Laodicea; +PHAREN, Armenian Patriarch; +PHILIEAS, Bishop of Thmuis, Egypt; +PHILOGONIUS, Bishop of Antioch; +RETICIUS, Bishop of Autun; +SEVERUS, Archbishop of Ravenna; +SPIRIDON, Bishop of Trimithus, Cyprus; +SYMPOSIUS, Bishop of Astorga, Spain; +URBICUS, Bishop of Clermont; +VERTHANES, Armenian Katholikos; +VICTOR, Bishop of Veresium, Nunidia; +YUSIK, Arminian Katholikos.

FIFTH CENTURY MARRIED BISHOPS  +AMATOR, Bishop of Auxere; +APOLLINARIS Sidonius, Bishop of Clermont; +AVITIUS, Bishop of Plaisance; +BONOSUS, Bishop of Narbonne; +CELIDONIUS, Bishop of Basancon; +DIOGENES, Bishop of Antioch; +DOMNINUS, Bishop of Caesarea; +EUCHERUS, Bishop of Lyon; +EULOGIUS, Bishop of Bourges; +EUTOPUS, Bishop of Orange; +FELIX III, Pope of Rome; +GERMANUS, Bishop of Auxerre; +GERMANUS, African Bishop; +HESYCHIUS, Bishop of Vienna; +IRENAEUS, Bishop of Tyre; +JULIAN, Bishop of Eclanum; +LUPUS, Bishop of Troyes; +NAMATIUS, Bishop of Auvergne; +PALLADIUS, Bishop of Bourges; +PANCRATIUS, Bishop of Umbria; +PAULINUS, Bishop of Nola; ++PRINCIPE, Bishop of Soissons, +RURICIUS, Bishop of Limoges; +ISAAC the Great, Armenian Katholikos; +SIMPLICIUS, Bishop of Bourges; +SYNESIUS of Cyrene, Bishop of Ptolemais; +VOLUSIAN, Bishop of Tours.

SIXTH CENTURY MARRIED BISHOPS  +APOLLINARIS, Bishop of Auvergene; +ARTEMIUS, Bishop of Sens; +ASTIDIUS, Bishop of Limoges; +AUTIUS, Bishop of Vienna; +BADEGISIL, Bishop of Le Mans; +BAUDIN, Bishop of Tours; +BLANDUS, Bishop of Ortona; +CASSIUS, Bishop of Narni, Provinced of Perusia; +DESIDERATUS, Bishop of Verdun; +ENNODIUS, Bishop of Pavic; +EUPHRONIUS, Bishop of Tours; +EUSANIUS, Bishop of Agrigentia, Sicily; +FIRMINUS, Bishop of Vivens; +FRANCILLON, Bishop of Tours; +GALLOMAGUUS, Bishop of Troyes; +GENEBAUD, Bishop of Laon; +GREGORY, Bishop of Langres; +GREGORY, Spanish Bishop; +HORMISDAS, Pope of Rome; +LEONTIUS, Bishop of Bordeaux; +LUCILLUS, Bishop of Malta, Father of Pope Gregory the Great; +MACLOU, Bishop of Vannes; +NAMATIUS, Bishop of Vienna; +NONNICHIUS, Bishop of Nantes; +PANTOGATHE, Bishop of Vienna; +PASSIUUS, Bishop of Fermo; +PAUL, Bishop of Trois Chateaux; +PRISCUS, Bishop of Lyon; +SALVIUS, Bishop of Albi; +VICTOR, Bishop of Rennes.

SEVENTH CENTURY MARRIED BISHOPS  +AETHERIUS, Bishop opf Vienna; +AQUILINUS, Bishop of Evreux; +ARNULFUS, Bishop of Metz; +FARON, Bishop of Meaux; +FILIBAUD, Bishop of Aure-sur-l’Adour; +JOHN the Almoner, Patriarch of Alexandria; +LEUDINES, Bishop of Toul; +MAGNUS, Bishop of Avignon; +MEDOALD, Bishop of Trier; +PELLADIUS,Bishop of Eauze; +REOLUS, Bishop of Rheims; +SIGILAICUS, Bishop of Tours; +THEODORE, Bishop in Jerusalem.

The Married Episcopacy

“If a man desire the office of a Bishop, he desires a good work. A Bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, …ruling well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.”  [1 Timothy 3:1-4.

“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city as I had appointed you; If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.” [Titus 1:5,6]

“Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever.”  [Matthew 8:14]

“But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once.” [Mark 1:30]

“Now He arose from the Synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.” [Luke 4:38]

Introduction: First, we must establish the Biblical and thus traditional position of the Orthodox Church regarding the issue of married clergy. Secondly, we must be against the allegations made by (some) Orthodox that the consecration of married men to the office of bishop is supposedly “uncanonical”, somehow “unorthodox”, or even worse, “heretical”.

St Peter the Apostle: Undoubtedly, St. Peter and virtually all Apostles were married. Their marriage clearly did not nullify being chosen as Apostles by Christ. There is no reference to any children of the marriage, before or after the call as an Apostle. There is a clear Orthodox tradition that St Peter dedicated himself completely (lived celibate from that time on) to Christ from the time of his call. This can be seen in the following words of St Clement of Alexandria: They say,accordingly, that the blessed Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of her call and conveyance home, and called very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, ‘Remember the Lord’.

Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition towards those dearest to them. Thus also the Apostle says, ‘That he who marries should be as though he married not’, and deem his marriage free of inordinate affection, and inseparable from love to the Lord; to which the true husband exhorted his wife to cling on her departure out of this life to the Lord. [p.541, Book 7, The Stromata, Clement of Alexandria, Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol.2]

Evidence of Married Bishops in the early Church: The father of the Cappodacian Saints was a Married Bishop. The elder Gregory was converted by the influence of his wife, Nonna; and soon after his conversion was consecrated to the bishopric of Nazianzus [p.187, Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7] (Note: This is Gregory the elder, not his son St Gregory Nazianzus). Note that, There are two lines in his poem of St Gregory Nazienzan on his own life which seem to indicate clearly that his birth took place after his father’s elevation to the Episcopate… [p.188, Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Vol 7].

Basil left before him and returned to Cappadocia; and as soon as he could follow he went to Constantinople, where he met his brother, who had just come there to practice and return with his brother to Nazianzus. They found their parents still living and their father occupying the Episcopal Throne. From this time onward Gregory divided his time between his parents and his friend; living partly at Arianzus, and partly with Basil in Pontus, in monastic seclusion. [p.191, Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Vol. 7].

Gregory,…felt very strongly drawn to the monastic life; but as retirement from the world did not seem to him to be his vocation, he resolved to continue to live in the world, and to be a help and support to his now aged parents, and especially to his father in the duties of his Episcopate, but at the same time to live under the strictest ascetic rule. [ibid.] In 374, Gregory the elder died, and his wife also, and thus our saint was set free from the charge of the diocese. [p.195, ibid.]

Early Tradition on the marriage of St Gregory of Nyssa: Here it is usual to place the marriage of Gregory with Theosebeia, said to have been a sister of Gregory Nazianzus. Certainly the tradition of Gregory’s (Nyssa) marriage received such credit as to be made in after times a proof of the non-celibacy of the Bishops of his age. [p.3, A Sketch of the Life of St Gregory of Nyssa, Second Series, Vol. 5]

St John Chrysostom on married Hierarchs: ‘A Bishop then,’ he says, ‘must be blameless the husband of one wife.’ This he does not lay down as a rule, as if he must not be without one, but as prohibiting his having more than one. [p.438, First Series, Vol. 13, St John Chrysostom, Homily X, Homilies on Timothy]

If then ‘he who is married cares for the things of the world’ (1 Cor. 7:33), and a bishop ought not to care for the things of the world, why does he say ‘the husband of one wife’? Some indeed think that he says this with reference to one who remains free from a wife. But if otherwise, he that has a wife may be as though he had none (1 Cor. 7:29). For that liberty was then properly granted, as suited to the nature of the circumstances then existing. And it is very possible, if a man will, to regulate his conduct. [p. 438, ibid.] ‘Having his children in subjection with all gravity.’ This is necessary, that an example might be exhibited in his own house. [p.439. ibid.]

Verse 6: ‘If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.’ Why does he bring forward such a one? To stop the mouths of those heretics who condemned marriage, showing that it is not an unholy thing in itself, but so far honorable, that a married man might ascend the holy throne; and at the same reproving the wanton, and not permitting their admission into this high office who contracted a second marriage. For he who retains no kind regard for her who is departed, how shall he be a good presider? [p.524, Works of St John Chrysostomos, Homily on Titus, Homily 2, First Series, Vol. 13].

‘Having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.’ We should observe what care he bestows upon children. For he who cannot be the instructor of his own children, how should he be the Teacher of others?…But, if occupied in the pursuit of wealth, he has made his children a secondary concern, and not bestowed much care upon them, even so he is unworthy. For if when nature prompted, he was so void of affection or so senseless, that he thought more of his wealth than of his children, how should he be raised to the episcopal throne, and so great a rule? [pp. 524/5, ibid.]

St Athanasius the Apostolic:  But I have also thought it necessary to inform you of the fact, that Bishops have succeeded those who have fallen asleep. In Tanis, in the stead of Elias, is Theodorus. In Arsenoitis, Silvanus instead of Nonnus. In Bucolia is Heraclius. In Tentyra, Andronicus is instead of Saprion, his father. In Thebes, Philon instead of Philon, etc. [pp.538/9, Letter 12, Sect. 2, Letters of St Athanasius, Second Series, Vol. IV, Athanasius]

For we know both bishops who fast, and monks who eat. We know bishops that drink no wine, as well as monks who do. We know bishops who work wonders, as well as monks who do not. Many also of the bishops have not even married, while monks have been fathers of children; just as conversely we know bishops who are fathers of children and monks ‘of the completest kind’. [p.560, Letter 49, Sect. 9, ibid.]

St Ambrose of Milan: And so the Apostle have given a pattern, saying that a bishop ‘must be blameless’, and in another place: ‘A bishop must be without offence, as a steward of God, not proud, not soon angry, not given to wine, not a striker, not greedy of filthy lucre.’ For how can the compassion of a dispenser of alms and the avarice of a covetous man agree together? I have set down these things which I have been told are to be avoided, but the apostle is the master of virtues, and he teaches that gainsayers are to be convicted with patience, who lays down that one should be the husband of a single wife, not in order to exclude him from the right of marriage (for this is beyond the force of the precept), but that by conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of his baptismal washing; nor again that he may be induced by the Apostle’s authority to beget children in the priesthood; for he speaks of having children, not of begetting them, or marrying again. [p.465, Chapters 61 & 62, Letter 63, St Ambrose, Second Series,Vol. 10]

Origen: The Marriage of Church Dignitaries: But, while dealing with the passage, I would say that we will be able perhaps now to understand and clearly set forth a question which is hard to grasp and see into, with regard to the legislation of the Apostle concerning ecclesiastical matters; for Paul wishes no one of those of the church, who has attained to any eminence beyond the many, as is attained in the administration of the sacraments, to make trial of a second marriage. For laying down the law in regard to bishops in the first Epistle to Timothy, he says, ‘If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop, therefore, must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded,’ etc.; and, in regard to deacons, ‘Let the deacons,’ he says, ‘be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well,’ etc.

… And, in the Epistle to Titus: ‘For this cause,’ he says, ‘I left thee in Crete that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city as I gave thee charge. If any one is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children, that believe’. Now, when we saw that some who have been married twice may be much better than those who have been married once, we were perplexed why Paul does not at all permit those who have been twice married to be appointed to ecclesiastical dignities; for also it seemed to me that such a thing was worthy of examination, as it was possible that a man, who had been unfortunate in two marriages, and had lost his second wife while he was yet young, mighthave lived for the rest of his years up to old age in the greatest self-control and chastity.

Who, then, would not naturally be perplexed why at all, when a ruler of the church is being sought for, we do not appoint such a man, though he has been twice married, because of the expressions about marriage, but lay hold of the man who has been once married as our ruler, even if he chance to have lived to old age with his wife, and sometimes may not have been disciplined in chastity and temperance? But, from what is said in the law about the bill of divorcement, I reflect whether, seeing that the bishop and the presbyter and the deacon are a symbol of things that truly exist in accordance with these names, he wished to appoint those who were figuratively once married. [pp.509/10, Book XIV, Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, Vol. X, Ante Nicene Fathers]

Councils of the Church:

Canon V of the Canons of the Twelve Apostles (Apostolic Canons): Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists, let him be deposed.

Canon LI of the Apostolic Canons:  If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman.

In conclusion, the Apostolic Canons represent the very early Canon Law of the Church, that the Canons which make up the collection are of various dates, but that most of them are earlier than the year 300, and that while it is not possible to say exactly when the collection, as we now have it, was made, there is good reason for assigning it a date not later than the middle of the fourth century…. There can be no question that in the East the Apostolic Canons were very generally looked upon as a genuine work prepared by the HolyApostles. [p. 592, Vol.XIV, The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church Quinisext Council (Fifth-Sixth) [sometimes called the “Trullon Synod”]

Canon XII: Moreover, this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa and Libya, and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration, thereby giving scandal and offence to the people. Since, therefore, it is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock placed in our hands and committed to us – it has seemed good that henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur. And we say this, not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by Apostolic authority, but as caring for the health of the people and their advance to better things, and lest the ecclesiastical state should suffer any reproach…But if any shall have been observed to do such a thing, let him be deposed.

Commentary by Aristenus:  The fifth Apostolic canon allows neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacons to cast forth his wife under pretext of piety; and assigns penalties for any that shall do so, and if he will not amend he is to be deposed. But this canon on the other hand does not permit a bishop even to live with his wife after his consecration. But by this change no contempt is meant to be poured out upon what had been established by Apostolic authority, but it was made through care for the people’s health and for leading on to better things, and for fear that the sacerdotal estate might suffer some wrong.

Van Espen: In the time of this Canon (of the Apostles) not only presbyters and deacons, but bishops also, it is clear, were allowed by Eastern custom to have their wives; and Zonaras and Balsamon note that even until the Sixth Council, commonly called in Trullo, bishops were allowed to have their wives.

Canon XLVII: The wife of him who is advanced to hierarchical dignity, shall be seperated from her husband by their mutual consent, and after his ordination and consecration to the episcopate she shall enter a monastery situated at a distance from the abode of the bishop, and there let her enjoy the bishop’s provision. And if she is deemed worthy she may be advanced to the dignity of a deaconess.

On the Marriage of the Clergy: The doctrine and practice of the ancient Church in the East can be fittingly quoted in the words of the Rev. John Fulton in the introduction to the Third Edition of his Index Canonum [p.29, NY, 1892]. He says, Marriage was no impediment to ordination even as a Bishop; and bishops, Priests and Deacons, equally with other men, were forbidden to put away their wives under pretext of religion. The case was different when a man was unmarried at the time of his ordination. Then he was held to have given himself wholly to God in the office of the Holy Ministry, and he was forbidden to take back from his offering that measure of his cares and his affections which must necessarily be given to themaintenance and nurture of his family. [p.365, Vol. XIV, The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church.

St. Demetrius the Vine Dresser (Egyptian Patriarch): The Coptic Orthodox Synaxarian records one of the early Patriarchs of the Church of Alexandria as being a married man. The record states he had lived a celibate life since the beginning of marriage and it is not known whether this is a later redaction to cover the obvious conflict that would ensue otherwise. In any case, the fact of his enthronement again confirms that the tradition of the Church at that time did not consider marriage to be a bar to even hold the highest office of the Orthodox Church.

The Byzantine Church: In 1990, an article from The Orthodox Observer, a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America publication, states: At the 1992 meeting of the clergy-laity conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (Archbishop Iakovos),held in New Orleans, a formal resolution was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople ‘to consider returning to the practice of ordaining married priests as bishops as was done in the early church.’ … Earlier in December 1991, the Greek Archdiocese stated that it was the original practice of the Church for a married Episcopate. Please also note that Archbishop Iakovos promoted the return of married bishops to worldwide Orthodoxy and agreed that individual jurisdictions could retain the Apostolic tradition of the Early Church.

Various Practices Regarding the Episcopacy:

[1] Celibate/Monastics Only: The majority position amongst the Eastern Orthodox which has a large well of monastics to draw from. Also the position amongst the Oriental Orthodox, who, like their Eastern brethren, have a vibrant monastic community. Many of these Churches, having had married bishops in the early Church, did however draw from their monastics for over one thousand years (Armenians seemingly being the exception). However, it is noted that even amongst the Eastern Orthodox it is not unusual to elect a Priest to the Episcopacy whose wife has reposed first. Evidence is overwhelming that in the Orthodox Tradition marriage is not a bar to consecration. Economia and the will of the Orthodox Christians in the traditional homelands do not lend themselves to changing this current practice, which has served theirchurches very well for centuries.

[2] Married but dedicated Celibacy:  The traditional position regarding the Apostles (St Peter, for example) and many of the married men that have been elevated in times past (St Demetrius the Vinedresser amongst the Coptic Orthodox, for instance) is supported by the Canonical authority of the Fifth-Sixth Council (Canons 12 and 47-see above). However, if the dedicated celibacy was due to the heretical view that marital relations were not honorable (sinful) then a clear rejection of the fifth and fifty-first canons of the Apostolic Canons would apply placing the rejector under anathema. This is an acceptable position when the Church is in a missionary situation as it was in the days of the Apostles and early centuries (and currently amongst the Western hemispherre), but is not as needed when a large pool of spiritual monastics is granted to the Church by God. The practice is that the married couple live celibate from the time of dedication or consecration, usually with the wife also entering into monastic lifestyle or a community and frequently being received as a dedicated Deaconness.

[3] Married but not dedicated Celibacy:  Perhaps the least controversial position due to the fact that the Bishop has not lived or promised to live a celibate life from consecration. Those who reject this position outright often bring the following verse to bear: “He who is married is concerned for his wife and the

affairs of the world”, alongside St Paul’s words that it is ‘better’ to remain as he was, i.e. celibate. There are also references (see above) of married bishopes that bore children in lawful Christian marriage after their consecration (although far less frequently and often alongside later attempts by writers to re-write the facts of the matter). The Biblical references relating to the bishop being married and having in submission his children does not imply that the children came after the elevation to the Episcopate. However, the lawful Christian state of marriage itself determines that the married but not celibate Episcopate has not committed any sin that would prevent him from consecration. Of course not all things that are ‘lawful are also expedient’ and thus, this third position causes much confusion and consternation amongst some Orthodox. The Canons of the Fifth-Sixth Council direct all married bishopes to seperate from their wives and live a dedicated life and these are often quoted by those who deny the correctness of this position. However, the earlier Apostolic Canons direct the exact opposite that one was not allowed to put away ones wife. Obviously this matter falls well within the oiconomia of the bishops in a particular Synod to determine the married epicopate for their jurisdiction.

Various Objections Raised Regarding a Married Episcopacy: The Church decided in later centuries to change to monastic bishops only. At a number of question forums where the laity have a chance to ask various Bishops for their response to why the Church no longer has married Bishops (as Holy Scriptures allow and the Church Fathers attest to) we found that the common answer is often: The whole church decided to change the practice in the third century. The response from the blessed bishops is somewhat ill-informed and assumed to be the case, rather than defacto is the case:

[1] The Universal Church made no such declaration in the 3rd century nor the centuries immediately following that time.

[2] The exact opposite actually occurred. At the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the Western (Roman) legates attempted force Canons requiring celibacy of all clergy. These attempted amendments however failed, and a large part of their failure were the words of St Paphnutius of the Church of Alexandria, a Saint and miracle worker who was famed and respected across the empire, even receiving admiration from the Emperor himself. What made St Paphnutius’ words even more immpressive is that he himself had been a celibate monastic since entering the life as a teenager. Here a strictly ascetic monastic argued against the enforced celibacy of any rank of the Church’s offices (cf. Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Volume 14, The Seven Ecumenical Councils:”Proposed Action on Celibacy”): that too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy; that marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honorable and undefiled; that the Church ought not to be injured by an extreme severity, for all could not live in absolute continency. In this way (by not prohibiting marital relations) the virtue of the wife would be much more certainly preserved (viz. the wife of a clergyman, because she might find injury elsewhere, if her husband withdrew from the marriage). The intercourse of a man with his lawful wife may also be a chaste intercourse. It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those clergymen who had been married only once as laymen, were not to be separated from their wives.

This discourse of St. Paphnutius made so much more of an impression, since he had never lived in matrimony himself, and had had no conjugal intercourse. St. Paphnutius had been brought up in a monastery, and his great purity of manners had rendered him especially celebrated. Therefore the Council took the serious words of the Egyptian bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would. We must conclude that a law was proposed at the Council of Nicaea in the same way as the one which had been carried twenty years previously at Elvira, Spain. This coincidence would lead us to believe that it was the Spaniard Hosius who proposed the law respecting celibacy at Nicaea. The discourse ascribed to St. Paphnutius, and the consequent decision of the Synod, agree very well with the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, and with the whole practice of the Greek Church in respect to celibacy. Both, the Greek Church as well as the Latin one accepted this principle, that whoever had taken holy orders before marriage, ought not to be married afterwards. In the Latin Church, bishops, priests, deacons. and even subdeacons, were considered to be subject to this law, because the latter were at a very early period reckoned among the higher servants of the Church, which was not the case in the Greek Church. The Greek Church went so far as to allow deacons to marry after their ordination, if they had obtained permission from their bishop to do so. The Council of Ancyra affirms this (Canon 10). We see that the Greek Church wishes to leave the bishop free to decide the matter; but, in reference to priests, it also prohibited them from marrying after their ordination. While the Latin Church exacted of those presenting themselves for ordination, even as subdeacons, that they should not continue to live with their wives (if they were married), the Greek Church gave no such prohibition; but if the wife of an ordained clergyman died, the Greek Church allowed no second marriage. The Apostolic Constitutions decided this point in the same way. To leave their wives from a pretext of piety was also forbidden to Greek priests; and the Synod of Gangra (Canon 4) took up the defence of married priests against the Eustathians. Eustathius, however, was not alone among the Greeks opposing the marriage of all clerics, and in desiring to introduce into the Greek Church the Latin discipline regarding this matter. St. Epiphanius also inclined towards this side. The Greek Church did not, however, adopt this rigour in reference to priests, deacons, and subdeacons, but by degrees it came to be required of bishops and of the higher order of clergy in general, that they should live in celibacy. Yet this was not until after the compilation of the Apostolic Canons (Canon 5) and of the Constitutions; for in those documents mention is made of bishops living in wedlock, and Church history shows that there were married bishops (for instance, Bishop Synesius in the fifth century). But it is fair to remark, even as to Synesius, that he made it an express condition of his election to the episcopate, that he might continue to live the married life. Thomassin believes that Synesius did not seriously require this condition, and only spoke thus for the sake of escaping the episcopal office; which would seem to imply that in his time Greek bishops had already begun to live in celibacy. At the Trullan Synod (Canon 13) the Greek Church finally settled the question of the marriage of priests (First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, Proposed Action on Clerical Celibacy, Second Series, Vol. XIV, pp. 51/2)

[3] The Church enforced celibate Bishops to stop Nepotism: This explanation perhaps gives us the clearest reason why the Church moved away from married bishops. Nepotism is where the ecclesiastical dignity is passed down from father to son and becomes a sort of family empire, something that the Church can never be. This phenomen can be seen today, for instance in the Billy Graham and Pat Robertson enterprises and other ministries where the sons are effectively taking over as the inheritors to their fathers. While this may not always be a bad thing or necessarily against the will of God, it does lead to the confusion of the laity who would begin to see an element of family empire building in the making. In order to end the passing of ecclesiastical properties as inheritance to sons, the Church began to choose men who were never married, and thus no claims for inheritance could be levelled. This perhaps was valid during the days when the bishops held all property and legal deeds, and incorpartions did not exist. Nowadays, at an age of public disclosure of banking and financial accounts, with lay treasurers and financial committees etc, there is little to no chance of such to occur.

[4] The need of an Ecumenical Council to change back: This is seemingly a valid statement made by those who reject the married Episcopate. They assert that since an Ecumenical council declared the matter closed, then it requires another Ecumenical Council to change that. This argument is flawed in a number of points: First, an ecumenical council did NOT declare the matter closed. On the contrary, The Council of Nicea refused to implement this discipline.

Secondly, the Fifth-sixth Council did NOT ban married bishops, but implemented a set discipline upon them. Thirdly, there has not been an Ecumenical Council since the schism of the Church and there is not likely to be one in any foreseeable future. We no longer have Christian Emperors who can call an Ecumenical Council, let alone the fact that the whole Roman Church would obviously fail to attend any Council called by the East. Amusingly, the answer (of needing another Ecumenical Council to settle the matter) really does not deal with the issue but ‘passes the buck’ to some indefinite, improbable future event. Such would not be acceptable from a theological or cannonically viewpoint, since oiconomia has always allowed the bishops to determine how to enforce or interpret the Canons in their particular circumstances. Recently allowances in matters of ecclesiastical discipline have been observed in a number of jurisdictions, including priest’s being able to remarry, bishops being transferred to other dioceses, “Coadjutor” type bishops in dioceses that are not under their authority, monks leaving their vows being allowed to marry, more than one bishop in one city, etc. – Yet none of these recent matters were left to a futuristic Ecumenical Council.

Summary: We believe the above information and the facts of history stand for themselves and do not need a defence. It is rather the other side in need of defence, from a Scriptural, Patristic and canonical point of view. Additionally, the western hemnisphere is not like the homelands of Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy which had two thousand years of resources to draw from suitable monastics availble for consecration. Though the earlier Canons are believed by Orthodox tradition to come directly via Apostolic authority, the later ones by an assumed one-size-fits-all decision by the Fifth-sixth Council. Canonical commentators have not been able to resolve the obvious differences other than simply to note them. Oiconomia is the only way this issue should be resolved in the Orthodox faith, as it always has. For one jurisdiction to use one set of Canons against another jurisdiction’s interpretation or oikonomia is neither appropriate nor Orthodox!

[This same article appears on Orthodox websites all over the world]

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese – “IT IS POSSIBLE”…from “The Greek Orthodox Theological Review”








Greek Orthodox Petitioned the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to Accept Married Priests as Bishops & Return to Apostolic Doctrine




Again, Married Bishops were recognized in the Western Church…

Saint Hilary of Poitiers (315–68), a Doctor of the Church, was a married bishop and had a daughter named Apra, who was baptized together with her father, when he and his wife became Christians. Among Popes of the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, the father of Pope Damasus I (366–84) was a bishop. Pope Felix III (483–92), whose father was almost certainly a priest, was the great-great-grandfather of Pope Gregory I the Great (590–604). Pope Hormisdas (514–23) was the father of Pope Silverius (536–37).  No statement is given on whether, among these, the children in question were born when their fathers were still laymen.


Understandings and Misunderstandings Regarding Reverting Back to Married Bishops…edited from annonymous sources…

* * * * * * First, this is not a new idea. Eighteen years ago, the New York Times reported that “Representatives of the clergy and the laity of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Western hemisphere have recommended that the church allow married priests to become bishops. The proposal, which would alter 1,300 years of Eastern Orthodox practice, would require an unusual consensus among Orthodox Christian bishops. The action by the Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America came Thursday in Washington. The congress was presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios  I of Constantinople…” “Orthodox theologians agree that the restriction on married bishops is a matter of church discipline rather than doctrine and therefore could be changed. But changing such a practice would require a consensus among all the self-governing Orthodox churches, said the Rev. John Meyendorf of the one-million member Orthodox Church in America.” “Father Stephanopoulos said that technically a case could be made that the bishops of a self-governing Orthodox church like the Greek Orthodox had the right to institute such a change. ”But it would almost have to be settled at the pan-Orthodox level without risking serious schism,” he said.” ”But there is ferment on the question, even in very conservative churches,” and the idea is already on the agenda for discussions at the pan-Orthodox level, Father Stephanopoulos said.” The second misconception is regarding how we can revert back to a mixture of single and married bishops. It is commonly held that we must have an ecumenical council. This is not canonically true, as the applicable canon was adopted by the Trullan Council, which was accepted as a supplement to the 5th and 6th Ecumenical Councils but which nonetheless was not technically an ecumenical council. As Father Stephanopoulos implied, a self-governing local church can technically revert back to the earlier Apostolic Canons. However, as both Father Meyendorff and Stephanopoulos said, this may indeed result in “serious schism.” It is also instructive to actually read the 12th canon: “Moreover this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa and Libya and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration, thereby giving scandal and offense to the people. Since, therefore, it is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock placed in our hands and committed to us,— it has seemed good that henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur. And we say this, not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by Apostolic authority, but as caring for the health of the people and their advance to better things, and lest the ecclesiastical state should suffer any reproach. For the divine Apostle says: Do all to the glory of God, give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the Church of God, even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ. But if any shall have been observed to do such a thing, let him be deposed.” Some important things may be discerned. First, the canon was imposed because of the exercise of economy–to prevent scandal and offense to the believers. Second, married men were consecrated as bishops but they had to separate themselves from their spouses. Third, the canon explicitly confirms the validity of the Apostolic canons that reiterate Paul’s epistle to Timothy. The bottom line: Theologically and canonically any Orthodox jurisdiction can revert back to married bishops. Almost a generation has passed since the bold proposal by the Greek Archdiocese. What does a jurisdiction have to lose? It may be God’s will for to rise from the ashes of recent scandals and become a beacon to the world by a true renaissance, which is marked in part by reverting back to married bishops.

* * * * * * Metropolitan +Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese is in favor of married bishops and has written on the subject. If the Greeks proposed it and the Antiochians are in agreement, perhaps now is the time to get it done. Christ chose married apostles!

* * * * * * The Greeks weren’t the first to bring this proposal up. In fact, there HAVE BEEN married bishops for many centuries among the Greeks & Russians, but kept quiet. The so called “housekeepers” did a little more than keep house. In Russia, some bishops just kept their wives secretly out of site. Again, THERE IS NO IMPEDIMENT IN MARRIAGE FOR PRIESTS OR BISHOPS. Fr. Meyendorff was a big proponent of married bishops and Archbiship +Iakavos & Metropolitan +Philip spoke positively about re-instituting it. However, now is the time! * * * * * * There will not be any “Great Council” to discuss this or other canonical issues. The Patriarch of Constantinople has put a kabosh on any such efforts knowing the Russians would rule. It is time for the Orthodox Churches inAmerica to take a bold stand and move forward with our own tradition. Schism you say? For doing what – following our own Orthodox Tradition? Schism maybe from the uneducated and those who have “self-interest” in wanting to keep only celibate and many times, psychologically maladjusted clerics.

* * * * * * The point of extending the episcopacy to include senior, proven, married clerics is to cause the number of bishops to increase to the point they are able to actually police their own ranks and to connect with the people. The futher point of including such married priests as bishops is that doing so was precisely what the church did many years ago. Wake up to the fact that wives died young and in great numbers years ago. Now women live longer than men by a little bit and so we have no widower clegy who haven’t retired as once we had. Those among the only ordained young and never married who have strange needs for security and authority of office appear to rather like the present arrangement. Now it is time for the entire group of them to look within to decide whether they prefer their personal comfort zone and personal situation and personal issues more or less than the future of the church. I suppose the question right at the center of all of this is the one Christ asked of the long-time sick man: Do you want to be well?

Actually, in my personal opinion, I think that the married priesthood is the more ‘normal’ way to go. My above comments were just to share my experience as a confessor to priests. That experience seemed to point out that there are serious difficulties for a married priest trying to fulfill all his duties and responsibilities…and this would certainly point to the possibility of a bishop having an even MORE difficult time to fulfill his ministry IF he is being a good bishop. * * * * * * In my experience as a monastic (43 years), it seems that whenever the Church has discontinued a practice (married bishops, communion in the hand, marriage after ordination, etc.) there is ALWAYS a good a sound reason for it…which may have escaped us in the course of history, but which we can recover through study and the teaching of the Fathers. Perhaps, the time has come for the Church to discontinue another practice or two, for good and sound reasons. Since the married episcopate is demonstrably biblical, reverting to that practice of the most ancient Church could hardly be seen as an innovation, could it?

I would be more comfortable with this idea if it could be shown why the Church abandoned a married episcopate to begin with? It didn’t work once…why should we believe that it will work again. Marriage is NOT the solution to ministry’s problems.  The married episcopate diminished primarily because the civil laws of the Roman/Byzantine Empire gave the progeny of the bishop the right to inherit the church property of the bishop. In other words, a bishop of a church or diocese actually owned the property, money, etc. When he died, if his children wanted to sell it all, so be it. So, because of civil laws, monastics were chosen. The monasteries were filled with orphans from wars who were raised in the monasteries and EDUCATED (the libraries were in the monasteries) and who’s main focus was the church. Most parish clerics were uneducated, country bumpkins. So, it was logical that monastics were chosen as bishops. Also, a single man could move freely and his main responsibility (in theory) would be the diocese. These reasons do not exist today. The bishop does not own the church property. Many times these celibates are not well-educated and many have a jaded past. Turning to a married episcopate is logical and needed NOW. We can have many more bishops covering smaller areas so they can manage their families and church affairs. And, since most married clerics are more psychologically “well-adjusted,” the Church becomes healthier!


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