Canons are imperative for the well-functioning of the church, its communities and ministries. Questions about these Canons are to be addressed to the bishop, in whom rests the final authority of establishing, amending and interpreting these Canons.
Candidates, who have petitioned to enter the church, must direct their biographical details to the local bishop or his representative, including supporting documents and paperwork. This may either be completed in hard copy format and via electronic means. Upon review by the bishop or his delegate, who may request additional details, the candidate can be accepted as clergy of any rank; or the bishop may postpone the beginning of incardination pending further conditions, such as the removal of canonical impediments. Alternatively, the bishop may reject the Application. The bishop, in whom rests all final authority, is not obligated to state reasons for his decision.
Every candidate is received on a probationary period of time of no less than three months. The bishop may extend this time period or terminate the candidate without stating reasons.
Ordination cannot be given or accepted (if determined as validly ordained), when a candidate has not completed the appropriate training or obtained the respective theological or ministerial credentials. The bishop or his delegate may make accommodations depending on the individual’s background, spiritual formation and achievements.
All clergy shall uphold the integrity of the church and its ministry at large. Confusion shall be avoided by referencing church publications, such the church website and the content therein, as representing the diocese rather than third-party hearsay or assumptions.
Everyone subject to these Canons shall endeavor to treat others, whether they are members or not, with utmost respect in regards to their personal arrangements and relations as consistent with the stated policies of each Diocese, its spiritual practice as set forth in the Articles of Incorporation or as contained within the By-Laws on The Eastern Apostolic Church.
Right of privacy encourages fearless confession and therefore personal growth. Clergy may never reveal the confidence of their spiritual children or community members, shared within the Seal of Confession, except where these disclosures are authorized by the person involved. Confidences are those personal details of life and relationship that are revealed in one-to-one session in a private environment or specifically protected space, such as the Confessional. Disclosures that are discussed by the parties in other, non-privileged circumstances (i.e. outside the Seal of Confession) are not privileged in the ethical sense, but any communication should still be treated with discretion.
(a) Priests and Deacons are permitted to administer the Sacraments to others upon request and under their respective canonical guidelines. Unless there are special circumstances, the format as approved by the bishop is to be used. The bishop will give further details and directions, if need be.
(b) Clergy are not permitted to administer the Sacraments outside their diocese’s boundaries without prior consent of the bishop. A Celebret can be issued to a priest who may be on travel or elsewhere outside this jurisdiction, allowing him to temporarily celebrate the Liturgy at a place of worship outside this jurisdiction.
No parishioner or spiritual child may ever be required to give money or services to our clergy for receiving the Sacraments. No Parishioner or spiritual child shall be required to give time or labor that he or she deems to be detrimental to his or her well-being. This does not prohibit the exchange of money or services for value received (i.e., professional services provided by one member to another, payment for retreats, rent and such); nor does it prohibit the voluntary, free-will offering for services received.
The church shall never be held liable for any services provided by any of its clergy or lay members.
A sexual relationship is never appropriate between clergy and those in their care. Hence, it is prohibited for all members of the church. During retreats, formal teaching and pastoral care, any intimation by the clergy of romantic or sexual nature is therefore inappropriate and in violation of our Ethical Guidelines (Code Of Conduct).
All members of the Church are held to discuss possible breaches of these Canons promptly and directly:
(a) If the complaint is about a member of a diocese, who is not clergy or other position of authority, the individual should try to resolve it with the fellow member first. If the complaint cannot be resolved at this level, the matter should be brought to the attention of the immediate superior or the bishop, who will attempt to deal appropriately and reasonably with the issue or concern. The immediate superior will make a decision after either reviewing pertinent data and/or meeting with the parties involved.
(b) If the complaint is about a superior, and direct communication has not achieved a resolution, the matter will be brought to the bishop, who will establish the complaint procedure and make a final decision upon careful investigation.
Code of Conduct For All Clergy
1) All clergy are deemed to visit the OCE web site regularly, in order to remain updated about pertinent information. As a representative of their respective diocese all clergy will be expected by others to answer questions about the church.
2) Clergy will avoid mixing the clerical office with organizations, entities or agendas that are incompatible with spiritual aims and those of the OCE in particular. Clergy may not use their credentials and status for monetary gain or to solicit funds of an entity, whose purposes are different from those of the church.
3) Clergy should maintain regular contact with the bishop, who is available to support spiritual life by addressing any concerns and ministerial matters. If questions of starting a new ministry or leading a community arise, the bishop will direct.
4) Every member is advised to be very mindful when working with people. There may be serious liability issues to be concerned about when and if one gives life-altering advice. For instance: (a) Clergy never suggest to anyone to divorce their partner or to resign from employment; (b) Clergy never give advice that is reserved to other professions (beyond suggesting someone may wish to seek professional counseling, medical or legal advice).
5) Clergy should purchase clerical insurance, if they work with a high-risk group of people. There are several companies that handle this type of insurance.
6) Clergy are expected to attend to their postal as well as electronic emails, weighing carefully what to say or how to respond. They keep in mind that written words can be misleading and easily misunderstood. Different people may interpret the tone of an email in various ways. Clergy therefore should never write when struggling with anger, but meditate and pray until the mind is clear or calm. Additionally, clergy should refrain from using gadgets like texting, messenger and other apps, deemed unsuitable for conducting business or professional and pastoral work.
7) Clergy will keep their daily practice faithfully according to the Canons and other Guidelines of the OCE. Each clergy person must keep a beneficial spiritual balance towards others, who are in their care, as well as to the respective environment of all people.
8) Clergy will not engage in politics. This does not mean they should not vote, but rather they are required to never mix their religious status with any form of political agenda.
9) Clergy are expected not to affiliate with another religious entity that is incompatible with the tenets, Canons and Guidelines of the OCE. There is no need to contrast our faith with that of another. They may adhere to different Bible interpretations or heterodox theology, which needs to be respected as such, but it is not appropriate to criticize or demean other people's belief system. This applies to all Christian branches and even other religions.
10) Sometimes, concerns may arise within the Church as to the activities or behavior of other clergy. They will bring such issues directly to the bishop and refrain from discussing matters with other clergy or individuals inside or outside the jurisdiction.
11) Any congregation or ministry may choose to form their own legal entity in the State, where they reside as a charitable, nonprofit, religious organization. This may give better means in recruiting tax-deductible donations to support their local congregation or ministry. It may also help to obtain licenses for performing weddings, funeral services or operating ministries, such as in prison or hospitals. Clergy are asked to reference their respective local and State laws for detailed information on how to set up a religious non-profit organization. Clergy are held to consult with the bishop for resources and assistance before making an Application.
(12) The OCE has taken the following steps to reduce the chances of abuse and to lessen its impact on survivors.
(a) We insist that both, our married and monastic clergy, receive proper education. In our mobile society this is an important opportunity to vet candidates for ordination.
(b) We support the implementation of programs in our educational venues that are designed to teach candidates how to maintain appropriate boundaries and how to minister effectively to community members who have been abused.
(c) We ensure that complete background checks are conducted, before candidates are ordained or before clergy from other jurisdictions are received.
(d) We support educational programs that address abuse for clergy, who are already serving.
(e) We educate parishioners and their children about the importance of appropriate boundaries, as well as how to maintain them. This is particularly important for those who have already been abused, wherever the harm may have occurred.
(f) We encourage discernment by listening to your inner voice. If something makes you uncomfortable or seems odd, pay attention to your feeling. Ask questions, and if you are not satisfied with the answers, bring it to the attention of the bishop.
(g) We ensure that children in a community are adequately supervised at all times when they are on the premises.
(h) We require mandatory background checks for those, who will be working with children, including volunteers.
(i) We remove or put under disciplinary action anyone, who is found engaging in physical, verbal or psychological abuse.
(j) Clergy have no choice but to immediately report sexual abuse to the authorities and the bishop.
(13) All clergy are expected to conduct themselves in a manner conducive to their office keeping in mind that their ministerial duties and availability can be beyond regular working hours. This includes proper attire when in public and professional clergy attire in carrying out pastoral functions. While there is no particular day-to-day “dress code”, priests are expected to wear more formal clothing, preferably of darker hue while in public. However, when in their pastoral capacity, all clergy are held to wear appropriate clericals. See Guidelines For Clergy Attire (below).
The following is a guide for properly addressing Orthodox clergy. Most of the titles do not exactly correspond to the terms used in Greek, Russian or other native languages of various national Orthodox Churches, but they have been widely accepted for standard English usage.
Greeting Clergy In Person
When we address Deacons or Priests, we should use the title "Father". We should address bishops as "Your Grace". Though all bishops (including patriarchs) are equal in the Orthodox Church, they do have different administrative duties and honors that accrue to their rank in this sense. Thus, "Your Eminence" is the proper title for bishops with suffragans or assistant bishops; Metropolitans and most Archbishops: "Your Beatitude". "Your Holiness" is the proper title for patriarchs (except for the Œcumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, who is addressed as "Your All-Holiness"). When we approach an Orthodox presbyter or bishop (but not a deacon), we make a bow by reaching down and touching the floor with our right hand, place our right hand over the left (palms upward) and say: "Bless, Father" (or "Bless, Your Grace" or "Bless, Your Eminence", etc.). The priest or bishop then answers, "May the Lord bless you", as he blesses with the Sign of the Cross, and places his right hand in our hands. We then kiss his hand.
We should understand that when the priest or bishop blesses us, he forms his fingers to represent the Christogram "ICXC", a traditional abbreviation of the Greek words for "Jesus Christ" (i.e., the first and last letters of each of the words "IHCOYC XRICTOC"). Thus, the priest's blessing is in the name of Christ, as he emphasizes in his response to the believer's request for a blessing. Other responses to this request are used by many clergy, but the antiquity and symbolism of the tradition, which we have presented, are compelling arguments for its use. We should also note the reason for a lay person kissing the hand of a priest or bishop is to show respect to his apostolic office. More importantly, however, since both hold the Holy Mysteries in their hands during the Divine Liturgy, we show respect to the Holy Eucharist when we kiss their hands. In fact, Saint John Chrysostomos once said that if one were to meet an Orthodox priest walking along with an angel, that he should greet the priest first and kiss his hand, since that hand has touched the Body and Blood of our Lord. For this latter reason, we do not normally kiss the hand of a deacon. While a deacon in the Orthodox Church holds the first level of the priesthood (deacon, presbyter, bishop), his service does not entail blessing the Mysteries. - When we take leave of a priest or bishop, we should again ask for a blessing, just as we did when we first greeted him.
In the case of married clergy, the wife of a priest or deacon is also informally addressed with a title. Since the Mystery of Marriage binds a Priest and his wife together as "one flesh", the wife shares in a sense her husband's priesthood. This does not constitute of course that she has the very grace of the priesthood or its office; but the dignity of her husband's service certainly accrues to her. The various titles used by the national churches are listed below. The Greek titles, since they have English correspondents, are perhaps the easiest to remember here in the West:
Greek: Presbytera (Pres—vee—té—ra)
Russian: Matushka (Má—toosh—ka)
Serbian: Papadiya (Pa—pá—dee—ya)
Ukrainian: Panimatushka (Pa—nee—má—toosh—ka) or Panimatka (Pa—nee—mát—ka)
The wife of a deacon is called "Diakonissa" [Dee-a-kó-nees-sa] in Greek. The Slavic Churches commonly use the same title for the wife of a deacon as they do for the wife of a priest. In any case, the wife of a priest should normally be addressed with both her title and her name (e.g., "Presbytera Mary", "Diakonissa/Presbytera Sophia", etc.).
Whenever speaking to lergy of priestly rank on the telephone, one should always begin the conversation by asking for a blessing: "Father, bless". When speaking with a bishop, one should say "Bless, Despota [Thés—po—ta]" (or "Vladika [Vlá—dee—ka]" in Slavonic, "Master" in English). It is also appropriate to say, "Bless, Your Grace" (or "Your Eminence," etc.). You should end your conversation by asking for a blessing again.
When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, "Bless, Father". At the end of the letter, it is customary to close with the following line: "Kissing your right hand...." It is not appropriate to invoke a blessing on a clergyman, as many do: "May God bless you". Not only does this show a certain spiritual arrogance before the image of the cleric, but laymen do not have the grace of the priesthood and the prerogative to bless in their stead. Even a priest properly introduces his letters with the words, "The blessing of the Lord" or "May God bless you", rather than offering his own blessing. Though he can do the latter, humility prevails in his behavior, too. Needless to say, when a clergyman writes to his ecclesiastical superior, he should ask for a blessing and not bestow one.
Deacons are referred to as "The Reverend Deacon", if they are married deacons. If they are deacons who are also monks, they are referred to as "The Reverend Hierodeacon". If a deacon holds the honor of Archdeacon or Protodeacon, he is referred to as "The Reverend Archdeacon" or "The Reverend Protodeacon". Deacons hold a rank in the priesthood and are therefore not laymen. As members of the priesthood, deacons must be addressed as "Father Deacon". A deaconess in the Orthodox Church is referred to as "Reverend Deaconess", if she is a married deaconess. If she is monastic, she is referred to as "Reverend Sister/Mother". A non-monastic deaconess is usually addressed as “Deaconess (first name)”.
Orthodox priests are referred to as "The Reverend Father, if they are married priests. If they are Hieromonks (monks who are also priests), they are referred to as "The Reverend Hieromonk". Priests with special honors are referred to in this manner: an Archimandrite (the highest monastic rank below that of bishop), "The Very Reverend Archimandrite" (or, in the Slavic jurisdictions, "The Right Reverend Archimandrite"); and Proto-presbyters: "The Very Reverend Protopresbyter".
In personal addressing, as noted above, all priests are called "Father", usually followed by their first names (e.g., "Father John").
Bishops are referred to as "The Right Reverend (Bishop)", followed by their first name (e.g., "The Right Reverend Bishop John"). Archbishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs are addressed as "The Most Reverend Archbishop" ("Metropolitan" or "Patriarch"), because they are usually monastics, all ranks of Archpastors (Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans or Patriarchs) are addressed by their first name or and See (e.g., "Bishop John of San Francisco"). It is not correct to use the family name of a bishop — or any monastic for that matter. Though some monastics and bishops may use their family name, even in Orthodox countries (like Russia and Greece), this is against ancient custom.
All male monastics in the Orthodox Church are called "Father", whether they hold the priesthood or not, and are formally addressed as "Monk (name)", if they do not have a priestly rank. If they are of priestly rank, they are formally addressed as "Hieromonk" or "Hierodeacon" (see above). Monastics are sometimes addressed according to their monastic rank; for example, "Rasophore-monk (name)", "Stavrophore-monk (name)", or "Schemamonk (name)". The Abbot of a monastery is addressed as "The Very Reverend Abbot", whether or not he holds priestly rank and whether or not he is an Archimandrite by rank. Under no circumstances whatsoever is an Orthodox monk addressed by laymen as "Brother". This is a Latin custom. The term "Brother" is used in Orthodox monasteries in two instances only: first, to designate beginners in the monastic life (novices or, in Greek, dokimoi ["those being tested"]), who are given a blessing, in the strictest tradition, to wear only the inner cassock and a monastic cap; and second, as an occasional, informal form of address between monastics themselves (including bishops).
A monk should never use his last name. This reflects the Orthodox understanding of monasticism, in which the monastic dies to his former self and abandons all that identified him in the world. Lay people are also called to respect a monk's death to his past. (In Greek practice, a monk sometimes forms a new last name from the name of his monastery. Thus, a monk from the Saint Gregory Palamas Monastery [Mone Agiou Gregoriou Palama, in Greek] may take the name Agiogregorites.)
The titles, which we have used for male monastics, also apply to female monastics. In fact, a community of female monastics is called a "monastery" as well (not a "convent" as often used in America). Women monastics are formally referred to as "Nun (name)" or "Rasophore-nun (name)", etc. - The Abbess of a monastery is referred to as "The Very Reverend Abbess".
Though traditions for informal address may vary, in most places Rasophore nuns are called "Sister", while any monastic above the rank of Rasophore is called "Mother". Novices are always addressed as "Sister".
General Liturgical Guidelines
I. Latin (Western Rite)
1.1 In the Western (Latin) tradition, we follow the Catholic Calendar
1.2 Observance of fasting days according to Calendar.
1.3 Vestment color according to Calendar.
1.4 Color for Requiem Mass and Funeral is black or purple
1.5 Color for Marian feasts is blue.
II. Eastern (Byzantine and Oriental Rites)
2.1 In the Eastern tradition, we follow the Orthodox Calendar.
2.2 Observance of fasting days according to Calendar.
2.3 Vestment color according to Calendar and Style: Slavic or Greek.
2.4 Color for Panikhida and Requiem Liturgy and Funeral is black or purple.
III. All Rites
3.1 Fasting from food and drink is advised one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion.
3.2 Communion is given in two species, either separately or by intinction.
3.3 Persons in Holy Orders are held to pray at least Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayers (Vespers) of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours or Breviary) to the best of their ability on a daily basis. No particular style or book is mandated, but the liturgical publications by the diocese are recommended.
Approved Liturgical Books for the celebration of Holy Liturgy
WESTERN (LATIN) RITE
We use the Liturgy of St. Gregory (Tridentine Style Mass) in either Latin or English (or a combination thereof).
We use the Catholic Ritual (Rituale Romanum) for administering the Sacraments and Sacramentals. Appropriate changes for individual situations are permitted.
EASTERN (BYZANTINE AND ORIENTAL) RITES
Byzantine Rite Liturgy
Our Eastern (Byzantine) Liturgy in English has been formatted to foster congregational participation and easier understanding. It contains less repetition and a more easy-to-follow outline.
The Qurbana (Liturgy of the Holy Apostles)
A complete list of liturgical books is listed on the church publication page.
Guidelines For Clergy Compensation And Employment
(1) All parish clergy are compensated by their respective congregation, not by the diocese or any other jurisdictional entity.
(2) Administrative clergy are not compensated or compensated on a case by case basis as funds are available. Most of the administrative positions are honorary assignments.
(3) Each clergy person is required to give an account of his or her income and to pay income taxes according to local, State and federal law.
(4) Full-time and part-time paid clergy may ask their congregation to provide benefits, but the parish is not required to provide such, unless so required by applicable law.
(5) Clergy may seek secular employment, but it must be:
(a) compatible with the office, faith and honor of an Orthodox clergy person;
(b) free from interference with the duties and obligations of their pastoral position;
(c) an income that solely provides for living expenses, i.e. not for luxurious gain or profit;
(d) approved by the bishop.
NOTE: Where possible, the bishop will assist in finding suitable employment. As so many small churches, which cannot afford to pay their priest, many of our clergy reflect more the biblical example, where even the holy apostles had to earn a living.
Clergy are asked to view earning their livelihood in terms of ministry. Thus, a teaching job or employment in the social or medical fields, for example, may well become part of a priest’s ministry in the secular world.
(6) Clergy are prohibited to engage in the following:
Gambling of any kind
Bearing or use of weapons
Activities that may be legal, but are incompatible with Orthodox teaching, practice and Holy Scriptures; e.g. adultery, abortion, homosexual acts, pornography, etc.
Violent sports of any kind
Public theatrical performances
Any form of behavior that can be perceived as abuse of humans and animals
Use of illegal drugs and abuse of any substance
Wearing of secular clothing, especially casual or sports clothes in public.
Any violation of these prohibitions, found to be true, will result in suspension or defrockment.
Guidelines For Clerical Attire
We distinguish between two situations: (a) a priest or deacon working only in the church, i.e. being supported by his parish; and (b) a priest or deacon who needs to support himself with secular employment.
I. In General
The traditional appearance of an Orthodox priest, both in public and in private, is a matter of canonical regulation. Holy Canons reflect the proper functioning and life of the Church. They are not simply laws and rules, but guides to the life in Christ and patterns by which to accommodate the action of the Holy Spirit to our daily activities. Hence they are binding on all who live in spiritual sobriety and uprightness. Orthodox Canons are also an integral part of Holy Tradition, which together with Holy Scripture forms the ground of administrative authority, upon which our faith is built.
The inner and outer cassocks traditionally worn by Orthodox clergy are to the pious objects of tremendous respect and veneration. Ignorance or simple bigotry account for instances, in which clergymen are ridiculed for dressing in a traditional manner. However, the treatment for ignorance and bigotry is not the abandonment of Orthodox customs, but the enlightenment of those who are ignorant. Traditional Orthodox clerical attire is an outward witness to the grace of the priesthood.
II. Clergy who are not employed outside the church
A priest or deacon, who is fully supported by his parish and given the privilege not to work a secular job, should have the appearance of an Orthodox clergyman, i.e. he should have longer hair, a beard, wear his Rasson (Podrashnik, cassock) and outer Rasson (Riassa) as needed, his pectoral cross (as approved by the bishop for priests) and a Skufos (Skufia) or Kamilafkion (Kamilafka) always outdoors but indoors as customary.
Aside of church related functions*, clergy should wear only black (or dark grey) clothing. Orthodox clergy never wear shorts and casual or sports clothing in public.
III. Clergy working in secular employment
Clergy must wear black clothing at all times while not working in church related functions*. Clergy should never wear shorts and casual or sports clothing in public.
Guidelines of acceptable employment for Orthodox clergy are found in the Guidelines for Clergy Employment. Work clothing, if required by an employer, is acceptable to wear; including to and from work, if necessary. In any case, all secular employment must be approved by the bishop, before a priest can accept an offer.
*Services, pastoral counseling, pastoral and ecumenical meetings, visiting other churches or Services, public appearance and speaking
Canonical Requirements Of Clergy Status
There are two kinds of clergy in the Orthodox Church: Married and monastic, i.e. there is no such thing as a celibate or single clergyman outside the monastic Order.
Parish priests (pastors) and deacons must be married.
Monastic priests (and deacons) may serve or help out temporarily in parishes, but cannot become pastors.
Marriage in the Orthodox Church is only recognized when both husband and wife have been married by an Orthodox priest.
Heterodox married clergy, who are in the process of incardination, must first regularize their marriage by an Orthodox priest before final incardination.
Marriage after ordination is prohibited and subject to suspension, if not approved by the bishop based on special circumstances under the rule of Oikonomia.
Holy Myron (Chrism)
Holy Chrism is given for use in each dependency and remains property of the diocese. However, the Holy Chrism is in care of the main clergyman (superior, pastor) assigned to the dependency. A dependency constitutes a parish, mission or ministry, an institution or monastic community of the diocese as approved by the bishop. Holy Chrism is to be kept either in the Artophorion (Tabernacle). Holy Chrism is to be used for Chrismation exclusively. No other person than a priest in good standing of the diocese is allowed to handle or administer Holy Chrism. Upon the dissolution of a dependency or by request of the bishop, the Holy Chrism is to be returned to the diocesan offices preferably in person or, if not possible, via certified, special delivery.
An Antimension is given to each dependency, not personally to each clergyman. Therefore, it remains property of the church. However, the Antimension is in care of the priest assigned to the dependency.
A dependency is a parish, mission or ministry, an institution or monastic community of the Exarchate as approved by the bishop.
The Antimension, in lieu of a consecrated alter, is to be permanently placed on top of the table where the Holy Eucharist is regularly celebrated. It is not allowed to be kept elsewhere.
The Holy Mysteries (Eucharist) are to be celebrated on the unfolded Antimension, which is folded up again (respective to rubrics) towards the end of Divine Liturgy and then kept in its proper place under the Gospel Book. A small sponge may be kept in the Antimension for the purpose of cleaning the Diskos.
The Antimension is to be returned to the bishop either in person or by certified mail upon request by the bishop or upon dissolution of a dependency.
Professional Communication Means
In addressing our mode of daily correspondence, we wish to clarify the means with which our clergy and we are held to conduct business and handle individual correspondence.
Internet Applications, such as WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, among others, as well as any kind of text messaging are not deemed appropriate channels of professional communication, as they are intended for social and casual chats. Additionally, communication via such media is often awkward to use and more of a teenage-type gadget than to convey mature and serious information. As every reputable organization communicates via email or, in some cases, via postal letters, we hereby make it clear that so-called Apps will not be used for church related communication, nor will church-related messages to those Apps be attended to.
We realize that many are stepping up to a more professional and ultimately successful level, which require some to be less guided by their cell phones in adopting real means of adult communication. We pray that everyone will understand that our church and its clergy are eager to maintain professional and secure communication standards.
In this effort, we have established various ways of communication, including the use of convenient email access and a business postal address. Please be assured that all correspondence will be handled with utmost care, timeliness and confidentiality.
For the sacramental union of a man and a woman to be proper in the eyes of the church, the marriage must be performed in the Orthodox Church. For such a marriage to be valid, the following must be in place:
No impediment to the marriage may exist, or the necessary dispensations must be obtained beforehand from the hierarch of the diocese.
A civil marriage license must be obtained from appropriate civil authorities.
The sacrament of marriage should be performed by an Orthodox priest in the church of the bride’s parish in accordance with the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church.
The pastor must receive necessary dispensations (from his bishop), if they are required for the marriage.
Before proceeding with arrangements for a marriage ceremony, the pastor must verify:
That the parties in question are not already married either in this country or elsewhere.
Those desiring marriage must be members in good standing both from a spiritual and temporal perspective in the parish for at least one year prior to the marriage date.
If either or both parties are widowed, they must present the death certificate of the deceased spouse.
If either or both of the parties have been civilly divorced and have civilly remarried, determination is made that civil marriages bear no validity.
No more than a total of three valid (i.e. Orthodox) marriages are permitted by the Church.
When one or both parties is divorced, they must obtain a decree of annulment of their former marriage from the bishop.
In the case of mixed marriage, the non-Orthodox party must be a Christian who is baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. A marriage cannot be solemnized between an Orthodox Christian and a non-baptized person.
In the case of a mixed marriage between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Orthodox Christian, the marriage must be celebrated by an Orthodox priest in the Orthodox Church according to Orthodox liturgical tradition. The parties must promise solemnly and in writing that any children born of the marriage will be reared and raised in the Orthodox Church.
Mixed marriages can be celebrated only in the Orthodox Church. Double ceremonies are not permitted to believers, since the Orthodox ceremony is alone sufficient for sacramental grace. In cases where dual ceremonies are planned, the marriage cannot take place in the Orthodox Church.
Since two witnesses are required by law, ideally they should both be Orthodox. However, for the validity of the sacrament, only one is necessary. This witness must be a practicing Orthodox Christian. A person who does not belong to an Orthodox parish, does not receive the sacraments regularly, or who, if married, is not married in an Orthodox Church, cannot enjoy the dignity of a marriage witness. Non-Orthodox members may comprise the remainder of the wedding party since they serve no spiritual or religious purpose.
The couple contemplating marriage cannot compose their own marriage ceremony. The Service of Holy Matrimony in the Service book is to be used. No music, other than that which is part of our sacred musical tradition, is permitted to be sung.
If the couple requests the special presence of a priest of another canonical Orthodox diocese, the invitation must be extended to him through the officiating priest. If the couple requests the special presence of a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, the invitation must be extended to him through the officiating priest. Since no priesthood exists in the Protestant tradition, and no sacrament is acknowledged in contracting the marriage, participation by a Protestant minister would be a moot point.
Days When Marriage Ceremonies Are Not Permitted:
Nativity Fast (Orthodox Advent)
Great Lent and Holy Week
Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Feast of the Elevation of the Cross
On Wednesday and Friday
Marriages may be performed on these days only if absolutely necessary and for reasons of urgent importance with special dispensation from the diocesan hierarch.
It is a fact that more things which the proposed couple have in common, particularly their common faith and spiritual life, the more likely it will be that they live their married life in sacramental grace, peace and harmony. Shared faith and traditions spare newlyweds and their children many serious problems and strengthen the bond between them. However, Orthodoxy does solemnize mixed marriages under the following conditions:
Necessary dispensations must be secured by the pastor regarding permission for an Orthodox Christian to marry a non-Orthodox Christian.
The non-Orthodox party must have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The couple must be willing and able to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church and nurture them in accordance with the Orthodox faith.
If these conditions are not met, the pastor is not free to solemnize the marriage. If the Orthodox party enters an attempted marriage in a non-Orthodox setting, the marriage is not valid in the eyes of the Church. The Orthodox party must then bear in mind that a married Orthodox Christian, whose marriage has not been solemnized in the Orthodox Church, is no longer in good standing with the Church and consequently does not have the right to receive the Sacraments of the Church or to be eligible to become a witness or sponsor at another marriage, baptism or Chrismation. They are also excluded from Orthodox burial unless they repent and return to the unity of the Church. An Orthodox Christian who has attempted marriage outside of Orthodoxy and wishes to be reconciled with the Church is encouraged to request such from the local Orthodox priest so that the necessary remedies might be applied and integration into the salutary life of the Church take place.
A non-Orthodox Christian who marries an Orthodox Christian does not automatically become a member of the Church and is therefore not admitted to the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.
Prohibited Marriages Among Believers:
1. First Group: Parents with their own children, grandparents or great-grandchildren.
2. Second Group: Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
3. Third Group: Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
4. Fourth Group: First cousins with each other and second cousins with each other.
5. Fifth Group: Foster parents with foster children or foster children with other children of common foster parents.
6. Sixth Group: Godparents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of godchildren.
Marriage Celebration Outside The Parish Church
Heterodox chapels, seminary chapels, college chapels – all need the express approval of the diocesan hierarch to be used as a location for a marriage celebration. Circumstances will be taken into consideration before a blessing is bestowed. It should also be remembered that the holy temple (Orthodox church building) is the normal location for the wedding. The Sacrament of Marriage cannot be celebrated in a garden, poolside, parks, in vehicles of public transportation, etc.
Divorce, Annulment Of Marriage
An ecclesiastical annulment (or Decree of Spiritual Death) may be granted only after a civil decree has been obtained. However, the spiritual father or parish pastor must exert every effort to reconcile the couple and avert a divorce, if this is spiritually and humanly possible. Should the pastor fail to effect reconciliation, he will undergo the necessary direction and assist the party or parties in seeking an ecclesiastical annulment of the marriage. Full particulars may be obtained by writing to the diocesan Chancellery Office. No priest is free to solemnize a marriage, even if a need is apparent, before the necessary decrees are issued by the bishop. No date of a proposed marriage may be set until such decree is obtained.
Both sponsors for a baptized Orthodox child should be Orthodox. Though it is difficult to imagine why faithful Orthodox parents would think of asking a non-Orthodox party to sponsor their child for this sacrament, our pluralistic society makes many demands upon us. However, at least one of the sponsors at Baptism and Chrismation must be Orthodox. A person who has been excommunicated or anathematized by the Church; or who, if married, has married outside the Orthodox Church, may not become a godparent. People living together in a common law relationship may not serve as godparents.
Sponsors In Non-Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholic and Byzantine Catholic Churches require at least one sponsor at Baptism who is of their faith. Many times our faithful are asked to sponsor a child in their church. We cannot encourage our faithful to become sponsors for other communions, because of the theological variance, which exists between our churches. Orthodox believers should simply respond when called upon that our Orthodox Church does not permit our participation in the faith practices of other churches.
Requiem Liturgy and Funeral Services are permitted any day of the year, except on Sundays and on the 12 Great Feastdays, unless it is most urgent and absolutely necessary while specific permission is secured from the bishop.
Requiem Services may not be held on the following days:
From Lazarus Saturday (day before Palm Sunday) through the Sunday of St. Thomas (Sunday after Pascha)
Nativity (Christmas) and the Feast of the Resurrection (Pascha).
Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos
It is highly recommended that Orthodox Christians offer and request memorials and liturgies for the souls of their beloved departed and participate in the universal remembrance of departed souls on the five Soul Saturdays.