Together with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center has been awarded a research grant from the British Council in the USA to examine LGBTQ rights alongside Eastern Orthodox identity.

As part of the British Council’s Bridging Voices project, the grant will bring together diverging voices from both sides of the Atlantic to Fordham for a seminar in June 2019 titled, “Contemporary Eastern Orthodox Identity and the Challenges of Pluralism and Sexual Diversity in a Secular Age.”

The seminar, research, and resulting papers, will facilitate discussion on issues related to sexual diversity within Eastern Orthodoxy and how policymakers in Europe and the U.S. can respond in a measured manner, said Aristotle Papanikolaou, Ph.D., the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture and co-director of the Center.

Papanikolaou and co-director George Demacopoulos, Ph.D., will be working on the project with Brandon Gallaher, Ph.D., and Edward Skidelsky Ph.D., from the University of Exeter.

“Eastern Orthodoxy has many challenges that it needs to face in the contemporary world including sexual diversity, the role of women in the church in a democratic and secular age,” said Gallaher. “I see this project as part of a larger cooperation of Fordham and Exeter to study the place and role of the pre-modern Eastern Orthodox Church in the modern West.”

“We’d like a public discussion about religion and LGBTQ rights where there’s not a standoff,” said Papanikolaou, adding that, all too often, dialogues delving into sexual ideologies and religious traditions leave participants “butting heads.”

“We hope this discussion will help educate public policy and open conversation to more nuanced ways to address the issue in the wider public sphere, rather than there being a reactionary approach from both sides,” he said.

This is not the first time that the Center has delved into touchy subjects often avoided in Orthodox ecclesiastical circles. For their part, Exeter brings expertise in LGBTQ Studies, as well as Eastern Christianity, said Gallaher.

“We are one of the only—if not the only—place where these issues can be addressed and that’s sort of our MO,” said Papanikolaou. “Most of these issues can’t be addressed in a parish setting the way they can be in an academic environment.”


Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.