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A Short Response to Father Thomas Hopko's Defense of Ecumenism

by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna

Father Thomas Hopko, Dean of St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary, an institution under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America, recently "posted" a letter on ecumenism to the seminary's official website on the Internet in defense of the Orthodox Church's participation in the ecumenical movement.

Father Thomas introduces his letter with the now obligatory accusation that misinformation, misunderstanding, slander, and falsehood have caused confusion about the activities of the Orthodox ecumenists. This accusation is the same one made in a symposium of the "official" Orthodox Churches in Thessaloniki, Greece, earlier this year—an accusation repeated widely by ecumenists in defense of their activities—, which issued a statement directly condemning our Synod of Bishops as "schismatics" and, in a bizarre communiquée from one of the chief representatives of the Church of Greece at the symposium, an "Augustinian" cult.

The Greek Old Calendarists, who have for seventy years waged a campaign of resistance against the New Calendarist State Church of Greece, the ecumenical principles that led to the calendar reform in that Church, and ecumenism in worldwide Orthodoxy, have also consistently and responsibly exposed the ecumenists for their excesses, deviations from Orthodox teaching, and violations of the Holy Canons. It is ironic, then, that those who are part of a movement—ecumenism—which spurns and eschews such language as "schismatic" and "heretic" would call us defenders of traditional Orthodoxy "schismatics" and, in some cases, "heretics" outside the Church of Christ.

Moreover, the charge of misinformation and slander in the face of our exposes of the dogmatic and canonical errors of the Orthodox ecumenists, is an astonishing one. Though our documentation of such infractions has, for the most part, been taken, since the establishment of that organization, from documentary films and publications produced and published by the World Council of Churches, we have been accused of misrepresenting the truth in simply reproducing unexpurgated and undoctored materials from these sources. Since the fall of communism, videocassettes and books and pamphlets from our Synod of Bishops have been sent worldwide and have been widely praised by Orthodox traditionalists, including Patriarch Pavle of Serbia and Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem. We have been anything but dishonest and unfair critics of the ills of ecumenism; rather, it is the ecumenists, unable to defend ecumenical excesses that had not seen the light of public exposure, prior to our exposes, who are guilty of slander in their attempts to justify what they fully well know cannot be justified.

The hurling of words like "schismatic and "heretic" by those who claim to court religious toleration and reconciliation convicts the Orthodox ecumenists of sheer hypocrisy and speaks for itself. As for the charge that we have misinformed others, we have the clear witness of our documentary texts and film footage. The words of veteran ecumenists themselves, however, reveal the fear of exposure which motivates them in accusing us so unjustly of disseminating this supposed misinformation. Thus, Metropolitan Anthony of Transylvania, a Hierarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, writing in a publication of the Œcumenical Patriarchate, notes: "The Orthodox people know nothing about the ecumenical movement. ...It is perhaps fortunate for the ecumenical movement that the Orthodox masses do not know what actually goes on in Geneva" ("Ekklesia," No. 13 (Sept. 1-15, 1994), p. 500A).

Writing for "Ecumenical News International," a publication of the World Council of Churches, Vsevolod Chaplin, a staff member of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, gives us even more striking insight into the real reason that the Orthodox ecumenists find it more convenient to condemn us anti-ecumenists as liars and slanderers than to admit that their ecumenical activities do not, in fact, have the approval of the Orthodox Faithful, if only because the People of God have not been adequately informed about those activities: "It becomes more and more difficult for us to participate in ecumenical services, especially because there are some elements in those services which can be a disaster for internal church public opinion in Russia, and probably in some other countries, when people get to know that their priest or bishop has participated in a kind of prayer meeting which is quite different—and probably even offensive and blaspheming—for the religious feelings of some people" (No. 13, July 9, 1997, p. 29).

For those who would misuse the foregoing quotations, let us make it perfectly clear that we find in them no apology for past ecumenical activities, but a simple acknowledgement that increasing awareness by the Faithful of the scope of ecumenism has proved compromising to those among the Church's clergy who have been the primary supporters of, and participants in, ecumenical gatherings. In the expressed fears of these veteran ecumenists about public knowledge of their activities, there is no disavowal whatsoever of things which "certain elements" in the Church consider "offensive" or "blaspheming"; instead, we find a kind of condescendingly arrogant nod towards the sensitivities of those who in fact constitute the Body of Christ but whom the ecumenists have heretofore simply ignored. In Eastern Europe, especially, this arrogance is a virtual tradition, fostered as it was by the notorious collaboration between oppressive communist regimes and the "official" Church Hierarchies.

With regard to Father Thomas' five points about ecumenism, our responses should be understood within the context of these introductory remarks, which effectively and summarily invalidate the very foundations upon which he offers his objections; that is, that we anti-ecumenists are dishonest, liars, and slanderers, or whatever. Let us examine his weak defenses of the ecumenical movement in turn:

1) Assuming that the anti-ecumenists, unlike the heterodox whom the Orthodox ecumenists court, are not Orthodox, then one can argue with some substance, that all Orthodox, as Father Thomas asserts, have participated in the ecumenical movement since the beginning of this century. But if we have an "ecumenical" view of the Church, as that word is understood within the boundaries of Orthodoxy, it is clear that not all Orthodox, and especially the People of God as a whole, have participated in the ecumenical movement. My own family, which traces its Orthodoxy to the missions of St. Paul in Greece, has never been involved in or supported this movement. I suspect that they are not unusual, unless, of course, they have for the last two millennia mistakenly believed themselves to be Orthodox, when in fact they were not.

The Church of Constantinople did indeed take a leading role in the ecumenical movement at the beginning of this century. However, one would be hard-pressed to argue that its contributions—at least as evidenced by the 1920 Encyclical of the Œcumenical Patriarch on the subject of ecclesiology (signed, in fact, not by a Patriarch but by the Patriarchal locum tenens)—are anything but a deviation from the teachings of the Orthodox Church, as we shall argue subsequently. More to the point, those in the Orthodox Church who have supported ecumenical contacts with the heterodox in this century have not always followed the unwise course of Constantinople, but have done so in a responsible manner. St. Tikhon the Confessor of Moscow and St. Nikolai of Zica, whom Father Thomas mentions in his defense of ecumenism, knew nothing of the kinds of ecumenical excesses which we Orthodox anti-ecumenists have exposed today in our efforts to inform the Faithful about the travesty that is contemporary ecumenism. Mentioning these men is neither here nor there.

Ecumenism, in short, is not a monolithic thing. It has transformed itself from a movement for mutual understanding and religious toleration into something quite different; indeed, into something more in the image of ecumenism as the notorious Œcumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis, a rabid innovator and avowed Mason, envisioned it at the beginning of this century. Those holy and responsible Hierarchs of the Church who supported the ecumenical movement at its inception would be aghast at present-day tendencies in the World Council of Churches, for example, which has for some time made claims to an ecclesial status. In 1971, as reported in one of Greece's major religious periodicals, Patriarch German of the Serbian Orthodox Church, one of the presidents of the WCC, co-signed the following "message" of the joint Presidency of the organization: "And the powerful Breath of renewal will blow into the mighty arena of the Church, as well as into each of her communities, for these are not simple administrative units, but they all constitute a part of the One Great Christian Church" ("Orthodoxos Typos," No. 144, June 15, 1971, p. 4). We need not add that the Patriarch is obviously speaking about the member churches of the WCC, not the Orthodox Church.

In reaction to this outrageous direction in the ecumenical movement, one celebrated theologian of the Orthodox Church, the late and Blessed Archimandrite Dr. Justin of Chelije (who received an honorary doctorate from St. Vladimir's Seminary), ceased commemorating the Serbian Patriarch and subsequently condemned the ecumenical movement as a panheresy and the WCC itself as "an heretical, humanistic, man-made, man-worshipping organization" ("Memorandum to the Serbian Synod," Nov. 13/26, 1974; quoted in Archimandrite Cyprian Agiokyprianites, Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement [Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997], p. 110). The late Father Georges Florovsky, too, came in his later years to disavow the changing aims of the ecumenical movement which he, as a co-founder of the World Council of Churches, helped to establish. It is, thus, not sufficient to say that ecumenism has always had the support of the Orthodox Church. This is a misleading and moot point.

All of this is to say nothing of the intense and firm statements against ecumenism by such Church leaders and theologians as Metropolitan Augustine of the State Church of Greece, Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem, Archimandrite Philotheos, also of the State Church of Greece, Bishops Artemije and Daniel of the Serbian Patriarchate, the late Metropolitan John of St. Petersburg, and many others. And, of course, once we pass beyond hypocrisy and sectarianism in the name of "official" Orthodoxy, we have the witness of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco and Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, and the countless other Greek, Bulgarian, and Romanian Old Calendarists, many of whom have given their blood in defending Holy Tradition against the heresy of ecumenism and who now enjoy the martyrdom of being dismissed as schismatics and heretics by the Orthodox ecumenical world.

2) If the purpose of the ecumenical movement is, as Father Thomas contends, that of identifying "doctrinal and liturgical differences among those who claim Christ as Lord, to clarify disagreements, and to work to overcome, if possible, errors and divisions," then it is obvious that Orthodox participants in the movement, in order to conform to the Patristic understanding of our Church, must hold up the Orthodox Faith as the "criterion" of Christianity; must concentrate on liturgical and theological debate; and must demand that the ecumenical movement remain Christocentric. If this is so, then the following pertinent observations call into question Father Thomas' well-known participation in the World of Churches, which has certainly deviated from all of these principles, and which is the major organ of worldwide ecumenism.

a) As we pointed out above, the WCC does not consider the Orthodox Church to be the Church of Christ, but one among many communities which constitute the "One Great Christian Church."

b) Deviation away from debate on liturgical and theological matters in the WCC—again, the foremost ecumenical force in the religious world—is a fact. In 1995, during his visit to the WCC in Geneva, Œcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, admitting that theological dialogue had come to an impasse, said: "This should not discourage us. And even if theological dialogue is, unfortunately, making no progress, it does not in any way prevent member Churches from...envisioning a World Council of Churches aligned for the wonderful cooperation of all Christian powers on the ethical, social, mission, and service front, independently of their basic theological differences..." ("The Informer," official Greek-language publication of the Permanent Delegation of the Œcumenical Patriarchate to the WCC, 11-1995/12. p. 24).

c) The WCC has become increasingly preoccupied with the interfaith movement, moving beyond the Christian communities to dialogue with the non-Orthodox. Hence, Metropolitan Georges Khodr of Mt. Lebanon, speaking at a meeting of the Central Committee of the WCC in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in  January of 1971, made reference to the operation of the Holy Spirit "independently of Jesus Christ and his Church" (see the official Greek-language publication of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, "The Church Beacon," Vol. LIII, No. 2, pp. 232-241). In 1990, in Hong Kong, the WCC organized an Interfaith Consultation which issued the following statement: "We have to learn to recognize in our neighbors the presence of the divine, spoken of in different ways in different traditions: the Shekina in the Jewish tradition, the Holy Spirit of the Triune God to the Christians, the Atman to the Hindus..." ("Ecumenical Press Service," No. 34, 90.10.41). This reflects a statement made in the same year at a meeting organized by the WCC in Switzerland, where the participants affirmed that: "We recognize the need to move beyond a theology which restricts salvation to a particular explicit commitment to Jesus Christ..." (Marlin Vanelderen, "Consultation Speaks on Plurality," in "Ecumenical Press Service," No. 3. 90.01.82).

3) Another aim of the ecumenical movement, Father Thomas further asserts, is that of cooperation "in doing good works where such cooperation for the good of human beings—such as feeding the hungry, aiding the poor, settling refugees—is possible and desirable. In fact, the suffering Orthodox of this century have been greatly aided in many ways by ecumenical philanthropy." Let us make a few observations here, too.

a) No one would object to a coalition of Christians helping those in need, and whether Christian or not. The issue is that these "good works" are done in the context of an organization, the WCC, which compromises the foundational principles of the Orthodox Church. One cannot deny that many good things are done in the name of bad organizations. In such circumstances, good works, however praiseworthy, do not change the nature of the bad organization which undertakes them. As the Lord says, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we thy name done many wonderful works?" And what does the Lord reply? "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (St. Matthew 7: 22-23).

Let us also quote a telling statement from the famous "Desperate Appeal" addressed to Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople in 1966 by the Blessed Elder Philotheos (Zervakos): "Neither say, Your All-Holiness, that we are pursuing [in the ecumenical movement] merely an external rapprochement and unity for the formation of a united front of love against hunger, against misfortune, against atheism, against communism, against war, etc., since union must first be a triumph of truth, and then a triumph of love which springs forth from the unity of Faith" (see "The Orthodox Word," Vol. IV, No. 1, p. 17).

b) The ecumenical movement and the WCC have also separated the Orthodox world, leading to a situation in which I, an anti-ecumenist, am considered to be an un-Baptized heathen, without the Priesthood, and outside the Church. Indeed, the "official" Churches have now removed us traditionalists from the pale of Grace. Thus, two Greek Old Calendarist Bishops, who derived their Apostolic Succession from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, were recently received by Constantinople as "schismatics" and were reportedly re-Baptized, re-Ordained, and re-Consecrated. (Their re-Consecrations, at least, are a matter of public record.) Aside from the canonical issues raised by this perverse act, it flies in the face of a statement by Metropolitan Maximos of Aenos, a Hierarch in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who has said, referring to the heterodox who accept the Trinity, that the Holy Spirit is not "limited by human canonical boundaries we have established for our convenience" and " at work at any Christian Baptism" (see "Orthodox Tradition," Vol. XIII, No.1, p. 2). Apparently the Holy Spirit only avoids Greek Old Calendarists and anti-ecumenists. Such are the fruits of ecumenism in the Orthodox Church.

c) As a consequence of the divisions that the ecumenical movement has introduced into the Orthodox world, spawning hatred and vicious condemnation on all sides, its "good works" fall flat. Where is the desire for dialogue with the anti-ecumenists and the supposed schismatics within Orthodoxy? Rather than calls for dialogue, we see unilateral condemnations and name-calling. We would juxtapose the good works of the Orthodox ecumenists with the good words of the Blessed Philotheos (Zervakos), who, though a clergyman of the State Church of Greece, was a great supporter of the moderate Old Calendarist zealots, that is, those who had not fallen to condemning the New Calendarist innovators as being outside Church, as the ecumenists do the Old Calendarists today. To Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens, under whom the State Church of Greece adopted the New Calendar, he directed the following words: "The fruits of the New Calendar which you introduced thoughtlessly, anticanonically, and unlawfully, are the banishment of love and the generation of malice....It banished peace and brought division, disputes, quarrels, and warfare... The Orthodox Church, which for twenty centuries was one, you divided into two: that of the Old Calendarists and that of the New Calendarists," (Constantine Cavarnos, Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos [Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1993], p. 158). More pointedly, in his aforementioned "Desperate Appeal," the Elder openly chastised the Patriarch for seeking union with the heterodox while spurning the Old Calendarist traditionalists, an act which reveals the rotten fruits of the alleged "good works" of bad organizations.

d) We must assume that cooperation does not exist in a vacuum. Let us turn ecumenical methodology back on to the Orthodox ecumenists. If they seek good works in cooperation with others, and if this cooperation depends on dialogue and mutual understanding, why do they not seek dialogue with us anti-ecumenists, and especially with those of us who have not returned the favor of excluding them from the Church, as they have excluded us? Is it cooperation to forbid us to address them in their own forums or to place our views before the heterodox ecumenists with whom they conduct dialogues? They have, after all, totally silenced us. We have been excluded from the "official" Orthodox representation in their ecumenical organizations. And they have seen to it that our views are not expressed in their periodicals and journals, in which we are not allowed to write.

We know the answers that they have given. First, if we wish to enter the ecumenical movement, we must set aside our anti-ecumenical agenda. This is, of course, illogical. We seek dialogue not accommodation. Second, they claim that we are intransigent, ignorant, and hard-headed individuals who have not studied the ecumenical movement. We have, of course, done our homework, as our many publications indicate. And it was only with the advent of an orchestrated campaign against us anti-ecumenists that we suddenly became stupid. I wrote books and articles for a number of years for the publications of the Holy Cross School of Theology and Hellenic College. Then I was informed by the director of these presses that my works could no longer be published, given my jurisdictional affiliation. One of our monks, then a layman, published a paper in the "St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly." He was invited by the then editor to submit a second paper for publication. Writing on our monastery stationery to inquire about the status and date of publication of this second paper, he was informed by a new editor that his writing lacked profundity, clarity, and academic rigor. The second paper, he was told, would not appear. We will not here  list our academic and professional credentials, since they neither in question nor unknown. It is simply obvious that "good works" and "cooperation" belong to a  realm of ecumenism that does not extend to a toleration of dissenters and to those with anti-ecumenical convictions. We are simply dismissed as morons.

4) Father Thomas state the following: "Never has an Orthodox Christian, and certainly not anyone from St. Vladimir's Seminary, participated in the sacraments of a non-Orthodox service, nor given sacraments to non-Orthodox people."

This statement is astounding. There are, certainly, instances in which Orthodox have given Mysteries to the non-Orthodox and in which Orthodox have availed themselves of non-Orthodox sacraments. Father Thomas must certainly mean that these things have not occurred in OFFICIAL ecumenical gatherings, or that they have not been officially sanctioned. I would not want to respond here anecdotally, since I would simply be called a liar in recounting what all of know are egregious and frequent violations of the Mysteriological boundaries of Orthodoxy. The truth is known to everyone, nevertheless. And I need not point out that, for a short period of time, the Moscow Patriarchate, in an official ruling (admittedly under the communist yoke), agreed to commune Roman Catholics who found themselves bereft of the ministrations of Papist clergy. This is undeniable and was widely reported in the press, even if the policy was subsequently reversed after several years.

The issue, of course, is not whether there takes place a sharing of Mysteries and sacraments, but whether it is proper for the Orthodox to recognize salvific Grace in  the heterodox Christian communities, as the ecumenical movement virtually demands. There is a variety of opinions on this matter, and within this diversity our conservative position is certainly by no means without Patristic support. The fact that we are not heard, not the matter of when and where abuses of canonical order in this regard occur, is the real issue, and it should not be ignored. 

As a corollary to this statement, Father Thomas also claims that no "...Orthodox Christian ever denied that the Orthodox Church is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, or failed to state clearly that the Orthodox [church] considers other Christian churches to be in some ways defective, incomplete and in error. Ecumenical activity in no way means that participants must recognize each other as real 'churches,' or say that all churches are the same, or embrace some sort of 'branch theory' in which the Orthodox are considered to be but one 'branch' of the full, true Church. If this were so, then 'ecumenism' would indeed be a 'heresy.' But it is not. Those who say that it is are either ignorant or mendacious."

Among the ignorant and mendacious, I presume, one finds not only us Orthodox anti-ecumenists, who contend that ecumenism embraces ecclesiological relativism, but, as well, all of those Orthodox ecumenists who have confirmed in us this contention. Let us cite but a few statements by respected Orthodox ecumenists who certainly do seem to believe that the Orthodox Church of not the ONE Church of Christ and who openly affirm the ecclesial reality of the heterodox churches:

a) In the introduction to the 1920 Encyclical of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, "To the Christian Churches of the Whole World," we see references to "the honored Christian [heterodox] Churches" as "co-inheritors, constituting the same body, and...partakers of God's promises in Christ." We are told in this remarkable document that we must set aside the "prejudices" of the past and work beyond the walls of dogma and doctrine.

b) Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch (also the recipient of an honorary degree from St. Vladimir's Seminary), speaking in January 1987 to an ecumenical assembly in Geneva, during the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," said: "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." It takes no great theological expertise, let alone anything more than a superficial reading of the Fathers, to understand that, from an Orthodox standpoint, the Body of believers in Christ, the "New Creation," and those "Baptized" in Christ are none other than Orthodox Christians. These words are never applied by the Fathers to the heterodox, and to do so is to acknowledge the reality of "churches" outside the Church.

c) The "Sister Churches" ecclesiology of the Balamand Agreement, signed in 1993, unequivocally states that both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church cannot claim Apostolic Succession as the "exclusive property of one our churches" (Section XIII; see "The Balamand Union: A Victory of Vatican Diplomacy" [Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1994], p. 10). One might argue that the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are one, and therefore that Balamand does not embrace a "Branch Theory" of the Church, but this argument is one certainly open to dispute.

d) If we set aside the assumption that Orthodoxy and Papism are one, Œcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's following words are nothing less than a restatement, in clear form, of the "Branch Theory" of the Church. We quote from "The Orthodox Church," official publication of the Orthodox Church in America (February 1993, p. 6), his claim that the two Churches "...constitute the two lungs of the Body of Christ." Unless Christ now has two Bodies, a novel theology, we are left with a great dilemma here. No doubt we can substitute a family metaphor for the Church, but this puts us right back with the "Branch Theory," where we started. (Patriarch Bartholomew also received an honorary doctorate from St. Vladimir's Seminary.)*

As for ignorance and maliciousness and the heretical nature of ecumenism, we leave it to the reader to exercise his own judgment in the application of these terms. In essence, I believe the personal slaps intended by the words "malicious" and "ignorant" to be ill-advised, while the characterization of ecumenism as a heresy to be a matter of the greatest importance.

5) Father Thomas concludes his statement on ecumenism with the following encouraging words: "But until the Church herself decides that ecumenical activity is contrary to God, Christ, the Gospel and the Church, we will continue to participate [in the ecumenical movement] as well as we can. We pray to the Lord to guide our way and protect our work, giving us the wisdom and strength to speak and to act according to His holy will."

This is an important statement, since it offers some hope that the ecumenists are beginning to reflect on a movement which they often say they will not abandon under any circumstances, since it operates prima facie according to the Will of God (this is, indeed, the position of the 1920 Encyclical issued by Constantinople). But it is important that we set out guidelines for our ecumenical brothers.

a) The Church does not consist simply of those whom the WCC, the National Council of Churches, or the Standing Conference of ["Canonical"] Orthodox Bishops in America call Orthodox believers. One would think that their ecumenical activities, if nothing else, would have given the Orthodox ecumenists a broader view of the principles of Church membership. The Body of Christ consists of all those who confess Orthodoxy. Even in the face of long periods of separation over matters of Faith and doctrine, Orthodox who condemned each other as errant have often had to reconcile and recognize each other's Orthodoxy on the basis of the decisions of unifying synods and councils. Those who prematurely preach the alienation of believers with whom they disagree are at risk of total condemnation by these unifying synods, and especially if, as the case seems to be with ecumenism, they hold to popular and trendy views that in essence violate the integrity of our Faith.

By expanding our view of the Church, we can see that many in it have already condemned ecumenism, have already exposed the chicanery of this movement, and have spoken out against it as a panheresy. And not just we resisters, who have been marginalized and made the object of vitriol and hatred, but many of the "official" Orthodox have condemned the ecumenical movement. Let us not forget, for example, that the Moscow Patriarchate, along with nine other autocephalous Orthodox Churches meeting in Moscow in 1948, refused to partcipiate in the ecumenical movement on the grounds that the WCC was being transformed into a potential "ecumenical church" (see Basil Stavrides, "History of the Ecumenical Movement" [in Greek] [Thessaloniki, 1984], pp. 111-112).

b) How do we determine what is pleasing to God? By the fruits of a thing. If I were a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian Prelate and were to visit Constantinople, I would be received as a man coming from a body with ecclesial reality and salvific sacraments. I might even be received with a Doxology, as some Papist Prelates have been. However, as an Old Calendarist Hierarch, deriving my Consecration from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, with which the Patriarch of Constantinople established communion shortly after the Russian Revolution, I would be received as an un-Baptized layman. These are the fruits of ecumenism. Need one say more?

I think that my few observations above clearly indicate that the issue of ecumenism is not simple, that we anti-ecumenists have done our homework, and that the Orthodox ecumenists, caught with their "ecclesiological pants down"—if I may be forgiven this crude but apt description—, want matters to be something other than what they are. The ecumenists have compromised themselves, have not fully studied the movement in which they have involved themselves (and which treats them to certain material rewards and worldly respect), and have unjustly dismissed us honest critics of their errors as slanderers and liars.

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Father Hopko's short letter as posted to "News from the Seminary: Pascha 1998)" Web page (old URL:

From the Dean: The Church, the Seminary, and the Ecumenical Movement

Since there is so much confusion about ecumenism, and so much misinformation and misunderstanding, not to say slander and falsehood, I want to make five simple points about this subject for our seminary friends and supporters.

1. All Orthodox Churches have participated in the ecumenical movement since it began at the beginning of this century. The Patriarchate of Constantinople took the lead in the early decades to encourage Christians to meet to discuss their differences and to stop fighting with each other.

Participation in the movement was always difficult and painful, but such great and holy people like St. Tikhon the Confessor of Moscow, St. Philaret of Moscow, St. Nikolai (Velimirovich) of Zica and hosts of other dedicated Orthodox bishops, priests, monks and laypeople have participated.

2. The purpose of the ecumenical movement is basically two-fold. The first goal is to identify doctrinal and liturgical differences among those who claim Christ as Lord, to clarify disagreements, and to work to overcome, if possible, errors and divisions.

The second purpose is to cooperate in doing good works where such cooperation for the good of human beings — such as feeding the hungry, aiding the poor, settling refugees — is possible and desirable. In fact, the suffering Orthodox of this century have been greatly aided in many ways by ecumenical philanthropy.

3. Participation in the ecumenical movement is done officially by churches, not by schools or individuals. There can be ecumenical activities among people on various levels. The professors and students of St. Vladimir’s Seminary participate in formal ecumenical activities because they are assigned to do so by the bishops who are responsible for this work. They participate in other ways, mostly through theological discussions and debates, as part of their theological and spiritual mission.

4. Never has an Orthodox Christian, and certainly not anyone from St. Vladimir’s Seminary, participated in the sacraments of a non-Orthodox service, nor given sacraments to non-Orthodox people.

Nor has an Orthodox Christian ever denied that the Orthodox Church is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, or failed to state clearly that the Orthodox considers other Christian churches to be in some ways defective, incomplete and in error.

Ecumenical activity in no way means that participants must recognize each other as real “churches,” or say that all churches are the same, or embrace some sort of “branch theory” in which the Orthodox are considered to be but one “branch” of the full, true Church. If this were so, then “ecumenism” would indeed be a “heresy.” But it is not. Those who say that it is are either ignorant or mendacious.

5. Following our fathers in the faith and our present church leaders, members of St. Vladimir’s Seminary will continue to participate responsibly in ecumenical activity when asked to do so. We may question many things that are done. And we may make some mistakes ourselves, not being perfect.

But until the Church herself decides that ecumenical activity is contrary to God, Christ, the Gospel and the Church, we will continue to participate as well as we can. We pray to the Lord to guide our way and protect our work, giving us the wisdom and strength to speak and to act according to His holy will.

Fr.Thomas Hopko

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Also worth adding to this list of items is the following. Note that the book is published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press and one of the editors is their Professor of Canon Law and Church History, John Erickson:

Common prayer and participation as far as possible in the prayer life of the other church has also been part of our lives together in dialogue. . . We have responded to the work of the Joint Theological Commission for the dialogue between our two sister churches, the "two lungs" of the one Church of Christ. These two have to synchronize anew their breathing, so that the Church of Christ may begin breathing properly again. (Bishop [now Metropolitan] Maximos of Pittsburgh in his Foreward to The Quest for Unity: Orthodox and Catholics in Dialogue [Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press and Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1996], ed. by John Erickson and John Borelli, p. 3).

This quote, from the official publication of the Œcumenical Patriarchate, "Episkepsis," (No. 520, July 31, 1995, p. 19) is also worth mentioning here:

In a joint communiquée, signed on June 29, 1995, Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew expressed their acceptance of the Balamand principles. Their communiquée includes the following statement: "The Joint Commission [which met at Balamand] was able to proclaim that our Churches are recognized mutually as Sister Churches, responsible together for the preservation of the One Church of God."

St. Vladimir's Seminary Press recently published a book entitled Conversations with the Ecumenical Patriarch, by Olivier Clement, trans. Paul Meyendorff. In this book, which is highly supportive of Patriarch Bartholomew, a number of heretical statements are that certainly support Archbishop Chrysostomos' reply to Fr. Hopko.

See also the following closely related articles from Orthodox Tradition:

It is astounding that Fr. Hopko could make the claims that he does in the face of the evidence presented here and the witness of our modern day Saints!