The Greek Orthodox Church is hitting back at claims it has a prayer for people undergoing gender transition while strictly opposing any liberalising of the LGBT-rights laws.
Reports last week suggested a prayer, written by a senior Orthodox bishop in the 1980s and published in a book of prayer endorsed by the Church's synod, affirmed and asked for God's blessing on gender reassignment surgery.
Titled 'A Prayer at the Giving of a New Name Upon Modification of Gender', it asks God's blessing on the person undergoing transition and says, 'for the biological alteration of nature is a wondrous work of Your all-powerful right hand and Your inscrutable will'.
But senior Orthodox officials are rejecting claims it applies to transgender, saying the prayer refers to rare cases when children who were born without complete gender organs or for those born hermaphrodites. It was not, a number of critics claimed, a prayer for transgender people undergoing transition.
Father Peter Heers, a professor at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in New York, said the prayer was 'composed to address children born bisex or confusion as to the sexual organs and following a medical assessment they were deemed to have been incorrectly diagnosed and were medically "corrected" to their most dominant of two genders'.
He told Christian Today: 'If a person had the wrong organ removed at birth and was raised as the wrong gender by their family, it is not inappropriate to have a prayer that not only mentions the success of the reparatory surgery, but also the psychological impact of "switching" back to their biological gender and birth identity.
'If this is the intention, there is no problem. Indeed, it would be the opposite of what the gender change proponents are working.'
Archimandrite Georgios Chrysostomos, the current metropolitan of Kitros, Katerini, and Platamon, also wrote on the official Greek Orthodox Church website that the prayer concerned was for 'the very rare cases of children born with organic sex confusion, with incomplete or dual-developed sex organs,' and 'only concerns infants after the rehabilitation of a sexual complication', according to another blog, Orthodox Christian.
It comes after the prayer was highlighted by the Pappas Post blog which suggested it was in support of gender transition therapy.
The current Greek Orthodox Church leadership is outspoken in their opposition to Greece's new legislation to allow people to legally change their gender on all official documents.
Greek Orthodox leaders have urged churches to ring funeral bells every day to mourn the new policies and clergy have threatened excommunication in light of the laws. The Bishop of Piraeus said: 'Anyone who votes for the law need not set foot in the Greek Orthodox Church again,' according to the Pappas Post.
An English translation of the prayer reads:
All-good and greatly compassionate Lord, above [all conceptions of] being and divinity, Who alone exists eternally and without change: "He who is" unto the ages; Whose glory is incomprehensible and Whose mercy is immeasurable; Who created the entire human race to dwell over the entire face of the earth; and Who honored the human being with Your image, newly shaped in form and beauty from a rational soul and dignified body; Who made male and female and gave to each its own appearance and substance; Who knows the weakness of our nature and knows the name and age of each; Who gives each a name to be distinct, distinguished in their own appropriate gender, personality and worth.
Master, Yourself acquiring our infirm and impoverished blend [of soul and body] in Your saving dispensation, accept at this time Your servant (new name, if applicable) as You accepted Peter the first Chief [of the Apostles], formerly Cephas, son of Iona, to whom You gave the keys to the Kingdom of the Heavens; [as You accepted] Paul the Renown, formerly Saul, whom You showed to be the Herald of the Gospel by a revelation and a chosen vessel.
Likewise, send down upon [Your servant] Your heavenly grace upon undergoing the organic modification of gender, for the biological alteration of nature is a wondrous work of Your all-powerful right hand and Your inscrutable will, and amazed by this new and astounding work, we confess Your grace, we herald Your mercy and, declaring Your magnificence, we glorify Your indescribable love for humanity.
Grace Your servant (name) in Your sanctification and make HIM (or "HER") worthy to keep HIS (or "HER") own vessel without stain and blameless, likewise guarding the pledge of baptism inviolate and undefiled, and as a child of light, advancing in Your precepts and completing HIS (or "HER") remaining years, ascribing glory to You all the days of HIS (or HER) life.
By the intercessions of Your All-pure Mother, the radiant Archangels, the Honourable Forerunner and Baptist John; the holy glorious and all-famed Apostles, and all Your saints. Amen.