The Church of Georgia and the WCC

The April-June 1997 issue of "Orthodoxos Enemerosis" ("The Orthodox Informer"), a tri-monthly periodical published in Athens, Greece, by our Synod of Bishops, was devoted entirely to the withdrawal, on May 20, 1997 (New Style), of the autocephalous Church of Georgia from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and, subsequently, from another ecumenical body, the Council of European Churches (CEC). This move was prompted by a popular uprising among clergyman from some of Georgia’s more ancient and revered monastic communities, who, in a now well-known and widely-distributed "Open Letter" to Catholicos Patriarch Ilia, dated April 14, 1997 (Old Style), flatly condemned their Church’s participation in the ecumenical movement, which movement they characterized not only as a "heresy," but, "moreover, as the heresy of heresies," demanding that the Georgian Hierarchy withdraw immediately from the WCC and all other ecumenical organizations.

The editors of "The Orthodox Informer," while expressing "satisfaction, in joy and with thanksgiving to the Divine Founder of the Church," at "being informed of the highly interesting developments in the Church of Georgia," and while noting their great pleasure with any "resistance against the panheresy of ecumenism, by whomever and by whatever means it manifests itself," nonetheless—albeit "optimistically"—advise caution about these events (p. 1). Their cautionary statements, which we shall briefly summarize, are worthy of attention:

First, as the editors point out, Patriarch Ilia, an avid ecumenist and a former President of the World Council of Churches, and the Holy Synod of the Church of Georgia succumbed to the demand that their Church withdraw from the ecumenical movement only to avoid a schism. Their decision entailed no point-by-point disavowal of ecumenism, let alone a careful study of its anti-Orthodox nature, but simply constituted a reaction to the pressure placed on them by the Orthodox anti-ecumenists, as well as a hurried attempt to quell threats by these protesters to cut off communion with the Georgian Hierarchy: "Indeed, a careful reading of the historic synodal decree of May 20, 1997, reveals that ecumenism is not characterized as a heresy...; nor did the Hierarchs or Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia, for a series of years actively involved in the ecumenical movement, show even the slightest regret for their destructive and reprehensible participation, to date, in that movement" (ibid.).

Second, the anti-ecumenical instigators of this protest, instead of being praised and honored, as the Holy Canons would appoint, were, rather, maligned and punished for supposedly courting "schism" in the local Church. To the synodal announcement of the Georgian Church’s withdrawal from the WCC and CEC, in fact, its Hierarchs appended the names of eight Priests, Hieromonks, and monastics, suspending them from Priestly functions or from Holy Communion for their participation in the protests that led to the Georgian Church’s decision in May.

"The Orthodox Informer" pointedly notes that the actual events in Georgia underscore the fact that, the only "effective" and "valid" from of protest against heresy is a "canonical walling-off from heresy and the rupture of ecclesiastical communion with wayward ecclesiastical authorities (Canon Fifteen of the First-Second Holy Synod)" (ibid.). In such a way, its editors opine, we preserve our actual union in the Faith with the Saints and Fathers of the Church, a correct confession, and purity of doctrine (ibid). Only thus do we insure the integrity of our fight against apostasy and wrong doctrine. So it is that our Synod of Bishops, several years ago, received a large group of Orthodox traditionalists in Georgia and established, under its aegis, the Orthodox Eparchy of Gldani (Tbilisi), headed by the zealous and well-known Archimandrite Basili Mkalavishvili, which has walled itself off from the Patriarchate and struggles, in lawful resistance, to preserve the integrity of the ancient Faith of the Georgian people.

It is perhaps worthy of note that, according to "The Orthodox Informer," representatives of both the WCC and the CEC chose to present the "crisis" in the Georgian Church as a dispute occasioned by proselytism among the Orthodox by various Protestant sects. Indeed, this position is that of Archpriest Victor Petlyuchenko, Deputy Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, who noted, in an interview with "Ecumenical News International" shortly after the decision by the Church of Georgia to withdraw from the ecumenical movement, that "the [Orthodox] people are not opposed to the WCC, but to the energetic proselytism which they confront on a daily basis" (ibid., p. 95). Nonetheless, Dr. Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the WCC, admitted in a letter to Patriarch Ilia of Georgia, in the summer of 1997, that, "...the WCC is fully informed with regard to negative attitudes towards the ecumenical movement in the Church of Georgia, as well as other local Orthodox Churches" (informed, that is, not by contacts with us Orthodox anti-ecumenists, but from the slanted reports of those often-hostile Orthodox ecumenists who have made ecumenism their first profession) (ibid., p. 95). The lie—that the dispute in Georgia is over proselytism—and the truth—that the issue is that of the panheresy of ecumenism—stand side-by-side, in this case, coming forth, not from a witness to the truth and an advocate of deception, but from two eminent ecumenists. Let us attend, auribus arrectis.

From Orthodox Tradition. It is a translation from the Greek of an article appearing in "Hagios Kyprianos," the official publication of the Synod of Bishops of the True (Old Calendar) Church of Greece under Metropolitan Cyprian in Fili (near Athens).