Ecumenism as an Ecclesiological Heresy
WE HAVE POINTED OUT and documented the fact
that ecumenism constitutes an absolutely new "ecclesiological
position" and that, since 1920, there has developed a literal "ecclesiological
modernization," provoking a radical change in the theological thought and
consciousness of Orthodox ecumenists in accordance with the thinking of the heterodox
communities and those of other religions.
By way of a variety of theological notions, the ecumenists maintain that the heterodox
are within the "boundaries" of the Church.
The idea of "Baptismal Theology," for example, is that baptismOrthodox
or heterodoxdelimits the Church and brings Christians, independently of origin, into
the so-called "baptismal boundaries" of
"We exhort our faithful, Catholic and Orthodox, to strengthen the spirit of
brotherhood, which derives from a single Baptism and participation in the sacramental
life" ("Joint Communiqué" of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II,
Vatican, June 29, 1995).
Another related theology, that of the "Wider Church," speaks about a "Church
in the broadest sense" and "outside the canonical limits" and "ecclesiastical frontiers" of Orthodoxy:
"We are all (Orthodox and heterodox) members of Christ, a single and unique body,
a single and unique new creation, since our common baptism has freed us from
death" (Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch, Geneva, 1987).
These views, as well as other similar ones, tellingly characterize ecumenism as an
ecclesiological heresy that completely abrogates the ecclesiological foundations of the
One (and Only) Church, that is, the Orthodox Church.
In what follows, we cite earlier statements by distinguished "pioneers" of ecumenism and latermore recentstatements which bear witness to
the "unity of spirit" of the
ecumenists and the astonishing ecclesiological erosion of the Orthodox through their
participation in the ecumenical movement, as well as their steadfast tendency towards the
realization of a "Universal Visible
Church," which already exists
invisibly and which is supposedly comprised
of Orthodoxy, Monophysitism, Papism, and Protestantism.
1. The views of Archpriest Vassily Zenkovsky ( 1963), Professor and Dean of the
St. Sergius Theological School in Paris.
"We should for once and for all forget
and abandon the arrogant opinion that the Spirit of God is only with us and in us (the
Orthodox).... When I am outside of Orthodoxy, I feel that I am inside the Church in every
way. In my understanding, the boundaries of the Church are infinitely broader and
more inclusive than we usually reckon.... Who would dare to assert that outside the walls
of the (Orthodox) Church Christ has neither a Church, nor servants, nor disciples? Is is really possible for us to reject the heterodox, just
because they serve God differently from us? ... I now believe that Protestants are in the Church and work for the Church, perhaps without realizing it and
(without) calling things by their names.... No, the Church of Christ is broader than our limited view of her. She encompasses all
those who believe in God and love Him, however their faith and love may be
(See Messenger of the Russian Student Christian Movement [Paris],
No. 5 [n.d.], pp. 17-18, reprinted in the commentaries of Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of
Bogucharsk: "Should the Russian Orthodox Church Take Part in the Ecumenical
Movement?" [in Proceedings of the
Congress of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches at the Celebration of 500 Years of the
Autocephalous Russian Orthodox Church, July
8-18, 1948 (in French) Vol. II (Moscow: 1952), pp. 376-377].)
[Note: The views expressed in the foregoing proposition, which is very easily extended
to those of other religions, form the basis of interfaith ecumenism, which proclaims that all
the "believers" of different religions are allegedly united by way of a common
inner experience ("mystic realism") at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.]
The views of Anton Kartashev (
1960), Professor of Church History at the same School.
"Even Protestant communities, mercilessly
breaking contact with apostolic hierarchical succession and the living sacred tradition of
the Church, but having preserved the
Sacrament of Baptism in the name of the Holy
Trinity, continue through this mystagogical door to introduce their members into the bosom of the one invisible Church of Christ and
to commune to them that very same Grace of the Holy Spirit. All this gives ground for posing the question of a
unification of churches on the basis of their equal rights in their mystic realism, and
not on the basis of uniatism, i.e. reuniting heretics to Orthodoxy. The reunification of churches should be a manifestation and
a concrete incarnation in visible reality of an already invisibly existing unity of the
(See his article in the collection Christian
Unification: The Ecumenical Problem in Orthodox Consciousness [Paris: YMCA Press, n.d.]; reprinted in Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Selected Essays ["The Church of Christ and the
Contemporary Movement for Unification in
Christianity"] [Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1996], p. 228. Quoted from
the English text in Selected Essays.)
3. The views of Ilya Tsonevsky, Professor of the Theological School in Sofia, Bulgaria.
"The fact that the Orthodox Churches take an active part in the ecumenical
movement is evidence that they have gradually abandoned the archaic idea that Orthodox
Christians are the only true Christians and that only they belong to the Church of
(See The Spiritual Life [July 1947], p. 31, a review of the book by another renowned
ecumenist professor at the same school, Archpriest Stephan Tsankov, The Eastern
Orthodox Church Judged from an Ecumenical
Standpoint [in German] [Zrich: 1946],
reprinted in the commentary by Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Bogucharsk: "Should
the Russian Orthodox Church Take Part in the Ecumenical Movement?" op. cit., p. 378.)
4. The views of Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh (now Metropolitan of Aenos).
"The Holy Spirit is at work at any Christian baptism"; "when we
confess faith in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, we do not mean by that (only)
Orthodox baptism, but any Christian baptism"; the Holy Spirit "is not limited by
human canonical boundaries we have established
for our convenience; we cannot bind the
Spirit, and not allow Him to work with all the other Christians, just because some of us so decided"; "Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the two
sister churches of old, continue to recognize one anothers baptism, as
well as the other sacraments celebrated in these churches"; the rebaptism by Orthodox
of baptized heterodox Christians is inspired by "narrow-mindedness, fanaticism and
bigotry," "is an injustice committed against Christian baptism, and eventually a
blasphemy against Gods Holy Spirit."
(See the journal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Illuminator [Summer 1995],
reprinted in Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 1 , pp. 2-6: "Orthodox Baptism: In Response to The Illuminator." Quoted from the original English text in
5. The views of the "Second European Ecumenical Assembly" in Graz, Austria
(June 23-29, 1997).
Taking part in this much-vaunted "Assembly"
of the "Conference of European Churches" (CEC) was a very broad delegation of
Orthodox ecumenists, whoapart from other
ecumenist deviationsco-signed texts that were clearly ecclesiological in content, of
which the following are representative extracts:
"The gift of reconciliation in Christ inspires us to dedicate ourselves"
"to the unflagging pursuit of the goal of
visible unity; in this framework we will re-examine our divisions, and we will ask
these are the results of diversities that were formerly considered divisive, but
can now be regarded as enriching"; "we should pursue coöperation at all
levels"; "we should continue serious interfaith dialogues" (See Final Text
No. 1, "Final Message," III.8).
"We confess together before God that
we have obscured the unity for which Christ
prayed"; "if the significance of Baptism, as the incorporation of all Baptized
Christians into the Body of Christ,
were seriously taken into account, then all acts of violence against women, as well as against any human being, would have to be
described as wounds in the Body of Christ"; "every
Baptism shows the unique dignity of every human being"; "in the water of baptism, we recognize the presence of the Spirit, which is the source of life and makes us members of
the body of Christ"; "since (Christ) has reconciled us, we are obligated to make every possible effort to
take the requisite
measures for the common celebration of the Eucharist" (Final Text No. 2, "Basic Text," A 14, A 16, A 33).
"We recommend the churches (members of the CEC)...to seek to achieve mutual recognition of Baptism among all
"we recommend the churches to support groups
that are dedicated to interfaith dialogue" (Final
Text No. 3, "Recommendations for Action," 1.1, 2,2).
"Our first and greatest loyalty is to God alone, the Holy Spirit, Who has formed us into one Body of Christ";
"God has always come to us Christians also through other people, their
cultures, and their religions; although we believe that we have received the incomparable revelation of God in Christ Jesus, which is offered to all human beings of every
culture, (nonetheless) we will be enriched by dialogue with others, because it will reveal a new
aspect of the inexhaustible authority of God" ("Background to the
Recommendations for Action," B 6, B 11).
+ + +
Given all of the foregoing un-Orthodox views, the Orthodox in resistance to the
panheresy of ecumenism, abiding on the basis of "sound
and unperverted doctrine," as St. Basil the Great puts it, are fully
justified in avoiding communion with ecumenists, "putting truth and their own firmness in the right Faith before all
From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XVI, No. 2 (1999), pp. 11-14. Translated from the Greek by Hieromonk Patapios and
Archbishop Chrysostomos from the periodical Orthodoxos Enimnerosis, No. 26 (October-December 1997), pp. 103-104.