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Former Archimandrite John Heropoulos Married a Man and Became a Protestant Pastor

September 29, 2023

BOSTON – The former Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, John Heropoulos, who left the priesthood after twenty years of ministry, surprised everyone when The National Herald revealed that on January 9, 2016, he married a man.

The National Herald now reveals that John Heropoulos became a pastor at a Protestant church in the White Mountains area of New Hampshire.

John Heropoulos was widely known in the Church and the Greek American Community in America as a clergyman with abilities and administrative skills.

He served as Deacon to the late Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America, Assistant Priest in the community of Saint Nicholas in Flushing, presiding priest at Saint Paraskevi parish in Greenlawn, NY, as well as at Saint George in Hartford, CT. He also served as the Director of the Private Office of former Archbishop of Spyridon of America, and as Chancellor of the Metropolis of Detroit.

He became particularly well-known and beloved by the Greek American Community when in May 2003, he donated one of his kidneys, saving a young child’s life. He eventually left the priesthood and requested to be defrocked which was done.

Pastor John Heropoulos with his husband Richard in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. (Photo provided by Pastor John Heropoulos)

In an interview with The National Herald Pastor John Heropoulos said that “the Bartlett Union Congregational Church is a mainstream Congregational Church which is often time found in New England communities which fall under the umbrella of the United Church of Christ.”

He wasn’t re-ordained. He said “I was, I am and I will always be a Greek Orthodox Christian, the beginning and the end. However, living up here far away from Orthodox churches., Rich, my husband, and I were looking for a Christian Community where we could attend worship and be part of that. The little church which is the Varlet Congregational, they didn’t have a pastor and they didn’t need a full-time pastor. They asked me if I could make a commitment to them to do the Sunday Service three – four times a month and help guide them and give them pastoral care and love. I said yes and we began our relationship in March.”

To the questions “Did you become ordained? How does the process work?”, he said “I am not an expert in Protestant Denomination at all. I told them exactly my history of being an educated and ordained Greek Orthodox priest, my twenty years of ministry and my reasons that I needed to leave because I am gay and that is not reconcilable with the Greek Orthodox ethics and morals. So, I told them my entire history and they are very comfortable that I was ordained as a Greek Orthodox priest, that I am Theologically trained and they accepted all of that as the basis of Christian training and teaching. There was no ordination, they accepted who I was and that is enough to them. I told them that I was defrocked, that I am not allowed to do any sacraments, or practice in the Orthodox Church.”

On an average Sunday, between 30 and 40 people attend the church services in person and about 10 people ‘attend’ via ZOOM.

When we asked him what he does he said, “Their basic worship is singing hymns, the reading of Scripture and the preaching of the homily. Three out of four Sundays a month I lead the worship and offer the homily. On the first Sunday of every month there is a Eucharist and I presided over it as a celebrant of the Eucharist in that community. We use bread and wine and the community participates separately from the bread and the wine. They don’t have the invocation but they use the words of institution “take and eat” and “drink of it all of you.”

The church where Pastor Jonh Heropoulos serves, a former prominent Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. (Photo provided by Pastor John Heropoulos)

To the question about how it feels for him to have been a Greek Orthodox high-ranking priest, Archimandrite, for 20 years and now to serve at this Protestant congregation, he answered, “When I left the Greek Orthodox priesthood it was the darkest day of my life. There was no joy in leaving the priesthood and until the day I die I will mourn, that must be always clear. So now since I don’t have ability to preach or teach, or Liturgize within the Church I love, the Greek Orthodox Church, I moved upon to the mounts into the retirement and this struggling community which needed a loving pastor and I said to myself how selfish it would be not to serve them in their moment of need. They are a mainline Christian group. They believe in the Divinity of Christ, in the Holy Trinity, and I don’t see any fundamental conflict with what I believe.”

As to why he moved to the mountains of New Hampshire, he said, “Two reasons: one is that my husband’s family came up here for their entire life for summer vacations and he has a very deep emotional connection to the White Mountains. When we retired, we looked around for what would be a good, peaceful, beautiful, natural place to live and we decided to go to the White Mountains.”

When we asked him about using the term ‘husband’ twice in our conversation and whether he felt comfortable with that expression, Pastor John Heropoulos replied, “I just turned sixty years old and I was raised without that vocabulary. I have to say that because of how I was raised and the social context it does sound strange. This is how I was raised but we are married and I honor the dignity of Richard’s love.”

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