Ecumenism Awareness: Baptismal Ecclesiology
This page is provides a brief overview of the differences between traditional Orthodox belief and that
which is adhered to by the so-called "Orthodox" ecumenists.
The principles stated in the left column of the chart below are derived from various
articles and books on the Church that can be found listed throughout the
site, but especially on the page containing
articles on Orthodox ecclesiology.
The statements in the right column are derived or taken directly from official documents
written or cited by Orthodox ecumenists, especially the Toronto
Statement (which is continually referred to by these same ecumenists
as one of the foundational ecclesiological statements for their
involvement in the WCC). The reader should know that ecumenists are well-versed
in the art of political rhetoric (what one might call
"double speak"). Therefore, they might easily point to
certain statements, taken out of context from their official documents,
that would make it appear that the sentences in the right column constitute
a "misrepresentation" of their views. However, the accuracy
of these statements, as well as the conclusion of "double
speak," is easily verified by one who conducts a careful study
of the many official documents issued by them. These can be found on the
References and Terms page.
Jesus Christ was declared by the Fourth cumenical Synod to be one
Person in two Natures, which undergo no confusion, no change, no division,
and no separation; and as He is the Head of His Body, which is the
Church (Eph. 1:22-23), the Church is One and cannot be divided.
Church is One and should not be divided. Or, The
Church is One and cannot be divided; but one must realize
that the Church is made up of many churches that are all mystically
one with Christ because of our common Baptism. The Patriarchal Encyclical
of 1920 was addressed to "The Churches of Christ Everywhere."
Christ's High Priestly prayer does not enjoin that the faithful members of His
Body be one with those who have fallen away from Her, nor does He
regard the Faithful and those who have fallen away as one. But He
beseeches the Father to preserve His Church in the God-given unity
which She already experiences in His truth, love, and glory.
High Priestly prayer refers to a union of the
churches that will come about in the future. As the WCC Vision Statement
says, this oneness is both a "gift" and a "calling."
There is oneness already in Christ's mystical Body but we must work
together to make Christ's prayer a reality.
invisible sphere of the Church is the Heavenly (Triumphant) one, in
union, without confusion, with the Earthly (Militant) sphere. The
boundaries of the Earthly sphere are determined by Orthodox Baptism
and fidelity to the Orthodox Faith.
invisible sphere of the Church is the mystical Body of Christ that
contains all those Christians, irrespective of their formal beliefs,
who have received Baptism in their church. It also means the Heavenly
sphere, of course, but it does not only mean that.
the Divine Energies (God's Grace) permeate all of Creation and act
externally upon man to bring him to repentance (aided by his conscience, made
in the image of God), the special or ecclesial Grace which truly
unites man to God is found only in the Church, the "eternal keeper
of Divine Grace" (St. Seraphim of Sarov). Therefore, Holy Baptism
can only be conferred by the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, when heterodox
Baptism is declared "valid" by the Church it means only that the Church recognizes
as valid the proper form (triple immersion and emersion in the name of the Holy Trinity)
of Baptism, and can thus, "by economy," fill this empty form with Her special Grace
without having to repeat the rite.
is very important for our efforts to achieve Christian unity. We believe that BaptismOrthodox or
heterodoxdelimits the Church, establishing Her "baptismal boundaries." In
this way, She includes Orthodox and heterodox (albeit partly and not visibly),
who are held together by the "baptismal unity" of the Church. Application of this
theology requires the "mutual recognition of sacraments"i.e.,
official declaration of the validity of heterodox sacraments per se, as opposed merely to "by economy" when a
person is joined to the Orthodox Church.
traditional term "Sister Church" is reserved solely for
other Orthodox churches in communion with each other. Also, the terms
"brother" and "sister" (in Christ) traditionally
refer only to other Orthodox who are one in Christ's Body: "one
Lord, one Faith, one Baptism."
||"Sister Church" is rightly applied to non-Orthodox churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the various Non-Chalcedonian Churches and perhaps the Anglican Church, for these are historic churches whose priesthood has been recognized by Orthodox churches at various times. This recognition flows from baptismal theology, which recognizes the validity of heterodox Baptism per se, and thus all of their sacraments, for they are inseparable.
Key Related Articles
Theology: by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos). Comments on the agreed
statement on heterodox Baptisms reached in 1999 between the SCOBA and
the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in America.
Ecumenism and "Baptismal
Theology": The Protestant "Branch Theory" of the Church in a New Form.
Translated from the Greek periodical Orthodoxos
Enstasis kai Martyria.
Did St. Cyprian Change the Doctrine of the Church?, by Protopresbyter George Grabbe.
Ecumenist "Double Speak": The Ecclesiological Schizophrenia of the Orthodox Ecumenists, by Patrick Barnes. A survey of Ecumenical texts which prove that Orthodox ecumenists affirm the Branch Theory.
The Mystery of Baptism and the Unity of the
Church: The Idea of "Baptismal Unity" and its Acceptance by Orthodox Ecumenists. By Fr. Peter Heers.
In this paper the author refers to Vatican II theology on ecumenism, especially as it pertains to
Baptism. The "Decree on Ecumenism" he mentions in footnote 32 can be found here on the Vatican's official Web site. This document has heavily influenced the Orthodox ecumenists.
[F]urther discussions on the theme of baptism are urgently necessary. For without mutual recognition of baptism all other ecumenical efforts are literally left hanging in the air: they amount to nothing more than friendly gestures and interchurch diplomacy, and lack theological substance, commitment and consistency. And even mutual recognition of baptism really makes sense only if it is backed by a fundamental common understanding of baptismand its ecclesiological consequences.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, "Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Implications of Baptism"
The Hesychastic and Eucharistic presuppositions of an Orthodox stand critical
of ecumenism make it profoundly clear that the foregoing two forms of
dialogue express two absolutely incompatible spiritualities;
ecumenism is a completely new "ecclesiological stand," and
hence, since 1920, we have literally had an "ecclesiology of innovation,"
which has provoked a radical change in the theological thinking
and conscience of the Orthodox ecumenists, along the lines of the thinking
of the heterodox communions.
Archimandrite Cyprian, Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement, p. 40.
All the heresies distort the [sic] ecclesiology as well. Since the Church is the Body of Christ, every alteration in the teaching about Christ, about the Holy Spirit, about the way to man's salvation also has ecclesiological consequences.
It can be said that if there is a great heresy today, it is the so-called
ecclesiological heresy. And this should be confronted by the Pastors of
the Church. There is great confusion today about what the Church is and
who are its true members. We confuse or identify the Church with other
human Traditions, we think that the Church is fragmented and split up,
and furthermore, we are ignorant of the Church's way of salvation. Thus
it is in confusion about this great theme.
Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (Church of Greece), The
Mind of the Orthodox Church, Chapter I, p. 20.