Ecumenism and "Baptismal Theology"
The Protestant "Branch Theory" of the Church in a New Form
IN A PREVIOUS ISSUE of the periodical Orthodoxos Enstasis kai Martyria (Nos. 22-23
[January-June 1991], pp. 266-267), in exposing what occurred at the Seventh
General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra, we made reference
to the presentation by Metropolitan John of Pergamon [who
belongs to the Holy Synod of the cumenical PatriarchateTranslators]
characterizing it as "mediocre, poor, timorous, and in many ways
unclear," we concluded our observations as follows: "Having some years
ago branded the Immaculate Bride of Christ, the Holy Orthodox Church, as narcissistic,
referring to the Church of
Christ in her totality
and no longer [to] Orthodoxy alone,
John thereby sinned very gravely and grieved the Holy Spirit. Naturally,
as a result of this, he is incapable of giving an Orthodox witness."
But the views of Metropolitan John
concerning an "inclusive" ecclesiology and a "Church"
broader than the boundaries of the Orthodox Church are certainly nothing new to
On February 13, 1985, while he was
still a layman, he addressed a joint audience of Orthodox and Anglicans at St.
Basils House, in London, on the subject of Orthodox ecclesiology and the
We will neither analyze this speech nor recount it in detail. A brief
citation therefrom is sufficient, for now, to demonstrate that His Eminence is
truly a "veteran ecumenist," a stranger to Patristic Orthodoxy.
The speaker examines the extent to which participation by the Orthodox Church
in the ecumenical movement is consistent with Her ecclesiology, and concludes:
"And yet, in spite of what some very conservative Orthodox would say, I
think that the Orthodox Church cannot drop out of the ecumenical movement without
betraying its own fundamental ecclesiological principles"!
The speaker makes reference to the "boundaries" of the Church and
confronts the "dilemma" of choosing between the rigid ecclesiology of
St. Cyprian of Carthage (the Holy Spirit is present only within the bounds of a
canonical communitythe Orthodox Catholic Church) and the differentand more
novelecclesiology of St. Augustine (the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Holy
Mysteries exist also outside the Church).
Indeed, Metropolitan John appears to accept the [subsequently disavowed]
opinion of Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky, that "there
are saints outside the Orthodox Church" and
that the canonical boundaries of the Church "are
important, but at the same time, are not absolute."3
And in finding a "balance" in understanding these
"boundaries" as not constituting impediments or divisions between the
Church and the rest of the worldand, in particular, the heterodox,
Metropolitan John proposes a theology of "baptismal unity."
What does "baptismal theology" confess?
"Baptism does create a limit to the Church." Baptism, Orthodox or
otherwise, delimits the "Church," which includes Orthodox and
heterodox. There exist "baptismal limits in the Church," and
"outside baptism there is no Church." On the contrary, "within
baptism, even if there is a break, a division, a schism, you can still speak of
On this point, Metropolitan John, desiring heretics to be within the Church,
shows himself to be more daring than Father Florovsky, who wrote: "Perhaps
we should not say that schismatics are still within the Church; in any case,
such an expression would not be precise and would sound ambiguous."4
[The Greek translation, here, does
not precisely render, in secondary translation, the original English text (see
note 3), which reads: "It may not follow, perhaps, that we should say that
schismatics are still in the Church. In any case, this would not be precise and
According to "baptismal theology," heresy, as a falling-away from
the catholicity of the Faith handed down by the Apostles, is simply and solely
"a break in communion," which "does not mean that one falls
outside the realm of the Church."
In the past, this "state of division" between Orthodox and heretics
or schismatics, between "baptized Christians," occurred "because
of a lack of love which is now, thank God, disappearing"!
+ + +
The "baptismal theology" of the Metropolitan of Pergamonhow far,
we wonder, is this from the "branch theory" of the Church?literally
overturns Orthodox Patristic ecclesiology: it greatly pleases the heterodox,
because it recognizes their non-existent baptism and, at the same time, confirms
them in their heresies, since it regards these as a matter of simple division
arising from a lack of love.
However, the reception of heretics by oeconomy and without Baptism never
betokened acceptance by the Orthodox of heterodox baptism. As long as the
correct form is maintained in a baptism performed outside the Orthodox Catholic
Church, and as long as heretics
come in repentance to the One, True Church, She
"perfects and vivifies" the "ineffectual and invalid"
mysteries that were "not inculpably performed" outside Her, and
"frees them from every deficiency and culpability through the
bestowal of Chrismation and the gifts of the Spirit that are imparted
There is, therefore, a "correction" when heretics return to the
Church, and it is presupposed that those who return have "preserved the
form and substance of Baptism indistinguishably from that of the Orthodox and
were Baptized according to the formula of the Catholic Church,"6
if, we emphasize again, oeconomy is
to be applied.
Metropolitan John obviously does not
speak in the manner of the Fathers. The Saints of the Church instruct us in a
different way. The question is: Do heretics have Baptism, the Eucharist, and
Priesthood? For these three Mysteries cannot be thought of separately, and
certainly not outside a correct ecclesiological context.
Since, in the case of schismatics and
heretics, we have a break in love, unity, and catholicity, and consequently a
"departure" from the "observable limits of the Church,"
outside which Divine Grace cannot generate "living flames," how is it
possible for us to talk about Mysteries and Saints outside the Church?
If it is the Great High Priest Who
celebrates the Mysteries in the Church, is it possible for the Same to celebrate
the mysteries of those who have fallen away from love, unity, and Catholicity?
It is, assuredly, impossible for us to speak about salvation through the
mysteries of heretics, thereby violating a basic ecclesiological principle: that
salvation is accomplished within
the context of communion in Christ, that
is, within the Body of the Church as a charismatic and therapeutic organism, in
which the HeadChristfinds fullness in the entire Body and the entire Body
finds fullness in the Head: "The fullness of Christ is the Church. And
rightly, for the complement of the head is the body, and the complement of the
body is the head."7
If the isolation of some member of any organism whatever spells doom for that
member, how can we speak about the Church if, in the end, one does not
experience, either as an individual or as a community, this unique life of the
Theanthropic Body, with its complementary relationship of Head and Body?8
Let it be clearly established that
"Grace in truth acts, but is not salvific outside catholicity";9
though it acts, it does so not by
effecting Mysteries and producing Saints, but by mystically prompting those
outside the Church to repent and return to the Truth and catholicity of the One
In conclusion, there really is an indisputable "boundary" whereby
the "definitive contour" of the Body of the Church is delineated and which
reveals the "ultimate limits" of the Church: the
correctness of Faith, of which the Mysteries are an expression.
The Holy Hieromartyr Hippolytos of Rome is quite clear in stating that
"the Apostles, having received the Holy Spirit bequeathed to the Church,
have transmitted Him to those who rightly believe."10
The Holy Spirit "was
bequeathed" to the Apostolic Church at Pentecost, and since then "has
been transmitted to those who rightly believe."
+ + +
Let us see in brief what the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox has to say:
Heretics are "alien
"Those who have been baptized or ordained by such (heretics) can
be neither members of the
Faithful nor of the
"Heretics do not have Priesthood, and so the rites performed by them
are profane and devoid of
"Quite simply, the baptisms of all heretics are impious
and blasphemous and have
nothing in common with the Baptisms of the Orthodox."14
If, in general, "those supremely Divine Names (Baptizing them in
the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [St. Matthew
are idle and inefficacious when
uttered by the mouths of heretics,"15
how much more are they "idle
and inefficacious" for the polyonymous heretics of the West, who have "distorted,
or rather, totally
corrupted the Tradition"
and theology "regarding Baptism"?16
The Saints of our Church reject the baptism of heretics, since
"consecrating Grace has left them"; they characterize it as
"completely useless and vain"; they consider it, rather, a
"drowning," because heretics "have
baptism, but not illumination."17
In the Constitutions
of the Apostles the following
strict commandment is given:
Be ye likewise contented with one Baptism alone, that which is into the
death of the Lord; not that
which is conferred by wicked heretics, but
that which is conferred by blameless priests, "in the Name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"; and
let not that which comes from the ungodly be received by you, for those
that receive polluted baptism from the ungodly will become partners in their
opinions. Indeed, they are not Priests; nor are those that are baptized
by them initiated, but are polluted, not receiving the remission of sins, but
the bond of impiety. 18
At the Seventh cumenical Synod, "John, the Right Reverend Legate
of the Apostolic Throne of the East, said: Heresy separates every man from
the Church. The Holy Synod declared: This is abundantly clear."19
St. Theodore the Studite, writing about a heretical bishop, says that
"it is impossible for those whom he ordains to be truly ministers of
Metropolitan John of Pergamon stands
condemned and guilty of accepting the baptism of heretics, for "not making
a distinction between true and false Priests,"21
and for failing to apply the
Patristic injunction that: "Heretics should be reproved and admonished by
Bishops and Presbyters, in the hope that they might understand and return from
This "veteran ecumenist," Metropolitan John, is a classic example
of an Orthodox Christian whose ecclesiology has been corrupted by his
participation in the so-called ecumenical movement and who has, for this reason,
forgotten that heresy means "a
cessation of communion with the Church and is alien to the Heavens,"23
is hateful to God,"24 and
that it entails "the
ultimate fall of the soul."25
When, then, does one betray the
"fundamental ecclesiological principles" of the Orthodox Church? The
case of Metropolitan John of Pergamon demonstrates incontrovertibly that this
comes about by way of active participation in the ecumenical movement, despite
what the fallen Metropolitan says to the contrary.
Metropolitan John of Pergamon far exceeds the heretical Anglicans in dogmatic
syncretism and minimalism, since they, on the basis of the "Lambeth
Quadrilateral" (1888), restrict the "essential signs of the
Church" to four (Vestigia
Ecclesi: Holy Scripture, the
Symbol of Faith, Baptism and the Eucharist, and the Episcopacy)25a
, while he reduces them to one, and
only one: Baptism!
* * *
In the meantime, the doctrines of so-called "baptismal unity" and
"baptismal theology" are gaining ground and have become officially
accepted by the World Council of Churches (WCC).
I. The "Final Assembly
Report" at Canberra asserts that "as members of the body of Christ, we
are already united by our common baptism, and
the Holy Spirit is leading us to a communion founded on the life of the Holy
II. In addition, the Anglican
Primate, Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury, during...[an]...official visit
to the headquarters of the WCC in
Geneva (June 2-3, 1992), said in his address, there, that "the theology of
baptism is what unites us" and that "in our search for visible unity
we have taken too little from that common baptism in which we all share."
The Anglican Primate then continued: "It is my strong conviction that, as
churches, we still have to face up to the implications of baptismal theology. If
we believe that baptism in the
name of the Trinity unites us with God himself and makes us members of his family,
what does this mean for the
churches separated eucharistically?"27
III. It is also well known that Roman
Catholics have fully accepted the doctrines of St. Augustine concerning the
validity of mysteries performed outside the Church, doctrines which were
subsequently developed by Scholastic theology.
The Papists teach that those in heresy who have been baptized by heretics
according to the correct formula have received the Baptism of the true Church,
in line with the decision of the Council of Trent, which decrees: "Baptismum
ab hreticis datum cum intentione faciendi quod facit Ecclesia, esse verum
Baptism which is administered by heretics, with the intention of doing what the
Church does, is a true Baptism") (First Period of the Council, Session VII,
However, these doctrines of St. Augustine, and subsequently those of the
Papists, "place excessive emphasis on the external form of the mystery at
the expense of the right Faith that endows it with life, of which this form must
always be the practical expression, and run the risk of lending a
kind of magical efficacy to the
formal celebration of the mystery,"29
and for this reason, "the
sacramental theology of St. Augustine was not adopted either by the Eastern
Church in antiquity or by Byzantine theology."30
Indeed, St. Athanasios the Great is
very clear on this subject, for he regards right Faith as a sine
qua non for the performance of
a genuine and salvific Mystery:
On this account, therefore, the
Savior also did not simply
command to Baptize, but first
says, Teach; then
thus: Baptize in the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit; that
the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come
the consecration of Baptism. There are many other heresies too, which
use the names only, but not in
a right sense, as I have
said, nor with sound faith,
and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as
deficient in piety, so that
he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed.31
+ + +
The indirect exhortation by the General Secretary of the WCC,
that the Orthodox "take the
risk of being more deeply influenced by the ecumenical encounter,"32
finds a full response in
Metropolitan John of Pergamon, even though the basic preconditions for the
participation of the Orthodox Church in ecumenical dialogue are always violated
by the ecumenists.
What are these preconditions?33 On
the one hand, that the content of the Orthodox Faith be made known to the
heterodox, that they might be aided in the discovery of their own identity; and,
on the other hand, that the self-identity of Orthodoxy should be preserved.
Rather, the opposite occurs: our
Church comes to as much harm as the heterodox, who are supposedly searching for
the genuine Apostolic Faith.
It is all too obvious that the self-identity of Orthodoxy is corrupted by
so-called "baptismal theology," which is generally accepted by
Orthodox ecumenists as a natural consequence of their "being more deeply
influenced" by "the ecumenical encounter."
Indeed, the depth of this "influence" is so great that another
"veteran ecumenist," who also departs from Patristic theology,
The Church is one and unique and
united before the Triune God, in
Whose name all her members are baptized, thus
attaining their justification, independently
of which Confession they belong to, united with Christ and with each other in
one body, which cannot be
divided into a plurality of bodies!34
The fall goes on:
The division that now exists between churches derives from external and
earthly factors and not from internal and heavenly ones;
derives from human beings, from their imperfections and sins. It
diminishes as we ascend higher and practically disappears in the sight of God,
Whom, conversely, derives the internal mystical unity of the Church!34
And to cap it all:
of us Christians are sacramentally and ineffably united with Christ and with
each other through the sacramental Grace of Holy Baptism, and
subsequently through the communion of the Divine Eucharist!34A
Such is the significance of "baptismal theology" for ecumenists, that
the anti-Orthodox Patriarchal Encyclical of 1920 takes it as one of its
For this reason the cumenical Patriarchate did not hesitate to address
its famous proclamation of 1920 to the Churches of Christ everywhere, characterizing
the Christian confessions as Churches, and
emphasizing that it is above all imperative that love between the Churches
be rekindled and strengthened, and
that they not regard each other as foreign or distant, but as kith and kin in
Christ, as fellow-heirs and of the same body, [and partakers of] the promise
of God in Christ (cf. Ephesians
Unfortunately this Encyclical, which the ecumenists never cease to praise as
a bedrock and the "Founding Charter" of the so-called ecumenical
movement, is reckoned a "Dogmatic and Credal Monument of the Orthodox
Catholic Church"! What a
1. Ekklesia [in Greek], No. 7
(May 1, 1988), p. 267a. Metropolitan John spoke thusly as the speaker of the day
appointed by the Holy Synod (of the cumenical Patriarchate) at Vespers in the
Stavrodromion Church of the Entry of the Theotokos (in Constantinople),
on the occasion of the celebration of the millennium of the Christianization
of Russia, February 27, 1988, in the presence of cumenical Patriarch Demetrios,
the Synod of Metropolitans of the cumenical Throne, pan-Orthodox
representatives, a delegation from the Holy Mountain, and official
representatives from the entire spectrum of the heterodox. How could the
Athonites have tolerated this blasphemy? "Silence is, indeed, in part
assent" (St. Theodore the Studite, Patrologia
Græca, Vol. XCIX, col. 1121A).
See, in this regard, Professor Andreas Theodorou, "Narcissism or Love
of Orthodoxy?" [in Greek], Orthodoxos
Enstasis kai Martyria, Nos.
24-25 (July-December 1991), pp. 319ff.
2. "Orthodox Ecclesiology and the
Ecumenical Movement," Sourozh, No. 21 (August 1985), pp. 16-27.
For a fuller grasp of this talk by the Metropolitan of Pergamon, we should add
by way of clarification that St. Basils House is the center of the Fellowship
of St. Alban and St. Sergius, which was founded in 1928 by Russian Orthodox and
Anglicans; it has proved to be "an important unofficial forum for relations
between Orthodox and Western Christians" and has had wide influence on
ecumenical activities. By means of this inter-confessional fellowship, a climate
of "mutual trust" has been fostered, while "a spirit of true
friendship and respect has been the fruit
of the Eucharistic union which
the members of the Fellowship discovered"! (See N. Zernov, The Russians
and Their Church [in Greek] [Athens: Astir Publications, 1972], pp. 193-194.
Also see The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, No. 2 , p. 65:
"The Ecumenical Movement and the Russian Orthodox Church Before She Joined
3. These paradoxical ideas of Father
Georges Florovsky are developed in his article, "The Limits of the
Church," in [Protopresbyter] Georges Florovsky, The
Body of the Living Christ: An Orthodox Interpretation of the Church [in
Greek], trans. J.K. Papadopoulos, 2nd ed., in Theological Essays, Vol.
III (Thessaloniki: Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, 1981), pp.
129-148. The article was...[originally written in English and]...published in
Russian...and French, and the [Greek] translation was made from the French
version, entitled "Les limites de lglise," which appeared in the Messenger
of the Exarchate of the Russian Patriarchate in Western Europe, Vol. X,
No. 37 (1961), pp. 28-40.
4. Florovsky, The Body of the Living
Christ, op. cit., p. 144.
5. P.N. Trembelas, Dogmatic Theology
of the Orthodox Catholic Church [in Greek], Vol. III [Athens: 1961), p.
6. St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, The
Rudder [in Greek], p. 54.
7. St. John Chrysostomos, Patrologia
Græca, Vol. LXII, col. 26 (Commentary
on the Epistle to the Ephesians, Homily
8. Cf. N.A. Matsoukas, Dogmatic and
Credal Theology [in Greek], Vol. II (Thessaloniki: P. Pournaras
Publications, 1985), p. 428. Worthy of study with regard to the subject under
discussion are pp. 425-428.
9. Florovsky, The Body of the Living
Christ, op. cit., p. 145.
10. St. Hippolytos, Bibliotheke
ton Ellenon Pateron kai Ekklesiastikon Syngrapheon, Vol.
V, p. 199, ll. 15-17 (Refutation of All Heresies, Book I,
11. Canon XXXIV of the Council of
12. Canon LXVIII of the Holy Apostles.
13. St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, The
Rudder, p. 91.
14. Ibid., p. 305.
15. Ibid., p. 56.
16. Ibid., p. 589.
17. Ibid., p. 52, note on Canon
XLVI of the Holy Apostles, with references to St. Basil the Great, St.
Athanasios the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. John Chrysostomos, St.
Leo, and St. Ambrose.
18. Patrologia Græca, Vol. I,
col. 948AB (Book VI, ch. 15: "That we ought not to re-Baptize or to receive
that baptism which is given by the ungodly, which is not Baptism but a
19. SMPS, Vol. II, p. 733a
20. St. Theodore the Studite, Patrologia
Græca, Vol. XCIX, col. 1057A (Epistle
I.40: "To Navkratios, His
21. Canon XLVII of the Holy Apostles.
22. St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, The
Rudder, p. 51.
23. St. Athanasios the Great, Patrologia
Græca, Vol. XXV, col. 689A (Epistle
to Serapion); Bibliotheke ton Ellenon Pateron kai Ekklesiastikon Syngrapheon, Vol.
XXXIII, p. 178, ll. 38-39.
24. St. Athanasios the Great, Bibliotheke
ton Ellenon Pateron kai Ekklesiastikon Syngrapheon, Vol.
XXXI, p. 241, l. 22 (Epistle to Monks). Concerning the "heresiology"
of St. Athanasios, see the marvellous article by Barbara
Kalogeropoulou-Metallinos, "Heresy and How to Deal with It on the Basis of
the Discourses Against the Arians
by St. Athanasios the
Great" [in Greek], Koinonia, Vol. XXX, No. 2 (April-June 1987), pp.
183-208. Also very illuminating with regard to the Baptism of heretics is
the work by Protopresbyter George D. Metallinos, "I
Confess One Baptism...": An Interpretation and Application of the Seventh
Canon of the Second cumenical Synod by the Kollyvades
and Constantine Oikonomos
(Contribution to the Historico-Canonical Evaluation of the Problem of the
Validity of Western Baptism) [in
Greek] (Athens: 1983). The Kollyvades to whom the work refers are
Neophytos Kavsokalyvites, St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, and Athanasios Parios.
25. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Patrologia
Græca, Vol. XLIV, col. 504A (On
the Titles of the Psalms, Book
II, ch. 5).
25a. See P.N. Trembelas, Semi-Official
Documents on the Ecumenical Movement and Theological Dialogues (Athens:
Ho Soter Publications, 1972), p. 30.
26. "Final Report," in The
Seventh General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Canberra, February
1991: Chronicle, Texts, Remarks [in
Greek], ed. George N. Laimopoulos (Katerine: Tertios Publications, 1992), p.
27. Ecumenical Press Service, No.
16 (92.06.04): "Anglican Leader Visits WCC, Meets Leaders of Ecumenical
Bodies" [emphasis ours]. See also Enemerosis, 8-1992/6, pp.
3-4. Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury was accompanied, apart from others,
by his wife, Lady Carey.
28. Trembelas, Dogmatic Theology,
op. cit., Vol. II, p. 333, n. 54. The Papist Council of Trent (Tyrol,
Northern Italy, 1545-1563) is regarded by the Latins as the Nineteenth cumenical
Synod and was anti-Protestant in nature.
29. Trembelas, Dogmatic Theology,
op. cit., Vol. III, p. 48, n. 42 [emphasis
30. Florovsky, The Body of the
Living Christ, op. cit., p. 145.
31. St. Athanasios the Great, Patrologia
Græca, Vol. XXVI, col. 237B (Second
Discourse Against the Arians,
32. Episkepsis, No. 332 (March
15, 1985) p. 9 [in Greek] [emphasis ours]. Cf. Ho
Soter, No. 1140 (April 24,
1985), p. 249 [in Greek]: "Where is the WCC Going to Lead Us?"
This concerns statements by the then new General Secretary of the WCC, Dr.
Emilio Castro, in the newspaper The Orthodox Church, in the USA. The
General Secretary, among other things, said the following: "In
the framework of the WCC, the Orthodox Churches must be recognized as one of the
main branches of the Christian Church as a whole. It
is true that they represent a family, a spiritual outlook, and a separate set of
teachings." He put forward similar views during his visit to the Church of
Greece (February 1, 1985). Are the views of Pastor Castro indeed very far
removed from those of Metropolitan John?
33. See Apostolos B. Nicolaides, Interpretations
and Misinterpretations in the Realm of Theology: Credal Theology and its
Apologetic Aspects [in Greek]
(Athens: 1990), pp. 234-238.
34. John N. Karmiris, Dogmatic
Theology, Part V, "Orthodox Ecclesiology" [in Greek] (Athens:
1973), pp. 241, 242, 243 [emphasis
35. Ibid., p. 243 (note) [emphasis
ours]. In a detailed study, Professor Basil N. Giannopoulos endeavors to
provide a foundation for these erroneous views of John Karmiris by appealing to
the Seventh cumenical Synod, in an attempt, indeed, to refute what Father
George Metallinos correctly put forth in his aforementioned work, "I
Confess One Baptism...." (See
B.N. Giannopoulos, "The Reception of Heretics According to the Seventh cumenical
Synod: How Those Coming from Heresies Are To Be Received," Theologia,
No. 3 [July-September 1988], pp. 530-579). Basil Giannopoulos
conclusions, especially regarding the Ordination of heretics (see especially pp.
574ff. and footnotes 85 and 76), demonstrate confusion and an inability to
understand the prism through which the Holy Synod examined the whole issue. It
is truly a very distressing phenomenon that academic theology should attempt, in
a variety of ways, to present the Seventh Holy cumenical Synod as concurring
with its errors, to say nothing of "baptismal theology."
From Orthodox Tradition, Vol.
1, No. 1 (2000), pp. 2-11. Translated from Orthodoxos
Enstasis kai Martyria (Nos. 26-29 [January-December 1992], pp. 34-43).