'Gay people are children of God': Orthodox bishop urges tolerance after Greece allows civil unions

We must remember that gay people are children of God, a Greek Orthodox bishop has urged in the aftermath of Greece allowing civil unions for same-sex couples.

The Orthodox Church's official position is that it considers homosexual activity a sinReuters

Chrysostomos Savvatos, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Messinia made the comments in an interview with Tharros News where he encouraged Christians to be tolerant.

"Homosexuals, like all humans, are a creation of God and they deserve the same respect and honor, and not violence and rejection," Metropolitan Chrysostomos said.

"We shouldn't forget the way Christ responded to the sinful woman, according to the gospels, which became his word: 'he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.'

"That canon should be our guiding principle for the way in which we should handle every person and fellow human, regardless of their otherness or differences. The Church doesn't reject people."

Chrysostomos' comments mark a sharp contrast to those of his fellow Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan Ambrosios of Kalavryta, who reacted to the law recognising same-sex couples by encouraging violence.

"Spit on them, beat them up, they are not human," Metropolitan Ambrosios said in December.

Later in a follow up article, Chrysostomos warned against "the moralistic approach to the ethics of relationships – those who judge, criticize, blame and stigmatize everyone else except themselves."

"They consider themselves as judges of the people and try to criminalize all forms of sin, to confirm the supposed "purity" of their lives and their own sinlessness, and forget that... we are all in one way or another people of sin and of the fall."

He did however reiterate the Greek church's position on homosexuality and said he had a "pastoral obligation to indicate its opposition to any form of cohabitation which contradicts or weakens the standard of living and co-experiencing of the functionality of the family while alienating and tarnishing the sacramental character of marriage."

Chrysostomos' remarks serve as a reminder of the division churches face around the world over the issue of human sexuality. This week, Anglican primates from around the world have gathered in Canterbury to discuss the future of the Communion in light of their vast disagreements on homosexuality.

Justin Welby acknowledged that while "not a disaster," a split in the Anglican Communion would be a "failure".