Statement on the Relationship of the Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches
Orthodox Theological Society in America, June, 1998
Webmaster Remarks. As the reader may be
aware, Orthodox ecumenists have, of late [February, 1999], vehemently proclaimed that they
are critics of the ecumenical movement, that they have distanced themselves from the WCC
and its policies, and that we Orthodox opposed to ecumenism have consistently
misrepresented their views and, to quote one veteran ecumenists, simply lied.
The much-publicized Thessaloniki summit last year and
the limited participation of the Orthodox in the recent congress of the WCC in Harare, as
well as the withdrawal of some local Orthodox Churches from the WCC, are offered as clear
evidence that the Orthodox ecumenists do not endorse the religious syncretism to which we
Orthodox anti-ecumenists have objected over the years. In fact, all of the recent moves by
Orthodox ecumenists, while certainly a step in the right direction in a practical sense,
have not led to positive theoretical realignment with regard to ecumenism. Meeting at the
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, in June of last year, the
Orthodox Theological Society in America (OTSA) put forth its views on ecumenism, in the
light of the Thessaloniki summit and what it calls the current crisis in the
ecumenical movement. Here we clearly see little change in the course of the Orthodox
ecumenism and their faulty thinking about the nature of the Church and the traditional
(Patristic) method for bringing those who deviated from the Faith back into concord with
the consensus of the Faith.
Below are a few observations on the statement by the OTSA. The actual statement follows, interspersed by comments and suggested
1) The statement clearly acknowledges that the ecumenical movement
aims at the unity of the Church. However, the Church has never actually been divided.
There are those who are separated from it, and we have a duty to call them into Orthodoxy,
but for the purpose of increasing those within the Ark of Salvation, not for recapturing
the lost unity of the Church through communion with them. Again, the Church has never been
divided and never will be. Those separated from it are brought back to the truth
through repentance and our loving, uncompromising proclamation of that truth.
2) This statement makes the hackneyed accusation that certain
extremist elements both in and on the fringes of the Orthodox Church have lied, either
intentionally or through ignorance, about the nature of Orthodox participation in the WCC.
This constant accusation is not only unsubstantiated, but represents a contradiction in
the aim of the Orthodox ecumenists. If they wish to restore what they see as the broken
unity of the Church, let them begin by repairing relations with these extremist elements.
While Orthodox ecumenists will fly to any corner of the world to meet with the heterodox,
they not only will not talk to these so-called extremists, but they heap insults and
epithets on them; that is, they call them liars.
3) This statement clearly identifies the praying and worshipping
community as something that exists beyond the boundaries of Orthodoxy. It is this kind of
hyperbole which makes the ecumenical movement so dangerous. There are individual Fathers
of the Church who seem to have toyed with the idea of Grace beyond the boundaries of the
Church (St. Augustine, for example), but their thinking and personal opinions are outside
the consensus of the Fathers and violate the self-identity of the Church as it was
established by the dictates of the cumenical Synods. Notwithstanding the theological
speculation of admittedly sober theologians, such an understanding of the Church should
not be considered normative, Patristic, or efficacious, and especially at a time when
religious syncretism has led many to believe that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church does not exist as a unique body and that the Orthodox Church is not justified in
claiming that status. In our time, we
should, while respecting the wider Christian community, clearly state that the
fullness of the Church has been preserved by and exists in Orthodoxy alone.
A clear example of where this theory of the wider
Church leads is found in the following passage from the statement (point 13):
We offer as an illustration of the way in which the
unity of the churches can be restored the special relationship that has developed between
the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Nurtured by prayer, our churches
have been engaged in theological dialogue for over thirty years. Through this dialogue our
churches have come to see that we share the same Orthodox faith despite centuries of
What would the Fathers of the cumenical Synod of Chalcedon have
said about the assertion that Christians separated for over a thousand years from the
Orthodox Church share the same Orthodox faith with us? And what would we say
to them? Would we ask them to apologize for condemning these people as heretics? Would we
ask them to reformulate those Christological doctrines which clearly distinguish the right
belief of the Orthodox Church from the faulty belief of the Oriental Orthodox
Churches? Such unthinkable eventualities clearly show us how far ecumenism has
deviated from spiritual sobriety. We should be pointing out the errors of the
Non-Chalcedonians, who, except for their heretical Christology, as St. John Damascus
points out, are so much like us in all other things, so as to draw them back to the place
where they belong. Rather, we degrade Orthodoxy and call the Fathers and the cumenical
Synods into question, in order to achieve unity by compromise and through human efforts
rather than Divine precepts and guidance. Where, then, has a theory of a broader Church
led us, if not to a tacit and persistent denial, on the part of the Orthodox ecumenists,
of the primacy of Orthodoxy?
Statement on the Relationship of the Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches
1. The Orthodox Theological Society in America, at its annual
meeting held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline Massachusetts on
June 4-5, 1998, chose to focus its entire attention on the current crisis within the
ecumenical movement and especially on the question of Orthodox participation in the World
Council of Churches.
The Society studied the report of the Inter-Orthodox Meeting on
Evaluation of New Facts in the Relations of Orthodoxy
and the Ecumenical Movement held at Thessaloniki, Greece in April/May 1998, the
Report of the Orthodox Pre-Assembly meeting held at Damascus, Syria in May 1998. The Report of the WCC Orthodox Task Force on
Orthodox-WCC Relations dated 29 January 1998, and the Final Statement of the
Consultation held in Iasi, Romania in April 1998 on The Ecumenical Movement in the
Twentieth Century: The Role of Theology in Ecumenical Thought and Life in Romania,
as well as the WCC Policy Statement: Towards a Common Understanding and Vision
of the World Council of Churches (CUV) dated September 1997, listened to papers
and presentations made by members of the Society involved in the World Council of
Churches, and weighed the issue at hand with sobriety and deep concern.
2. The Orthodox Church has been engaged in the ecumenical movement
from the outset. The unity of the Church is for us not an option but an imperative, in
fact a divine command. The prayer of the Lord to the Father for us: that they may be
one, even as we are one, so that the world might believe, is not simply a pious
desire but reflects an ultimate truth. When Christians are divided, the world is denied
that sign that is a witness to the healing offered by God to a world afflicted by the sin
of separation and alienation. Thus we cannot repudiate this work for Christian unity but
must affirm and embrace it.
Comments: There are two things we must address here. First,
the modern ecumenical movement can in no way be compared with the missionary
endeavors undertaken by the Apostles and their successors. Archimandrite Cyprian makes
this point clear in his masterful expose of the ecumenism, Orthodoxy
and the Ecumenical Movement. He writes:
6. The "Commentary"
from Geneva also asserts that "ecumenism is not an entirely new phenomenon,"
because it has, supposedly, "always been part of the Church's life"
This position of Father George
Tsetsis is generally accepted by the entire spectrum of Orthodox ecumenists,
and, indeed, was given collective expression at the so-called Third Pan-Orthodox
Pre-Synodal Consultation (Chambesy, Geneva, 1986). The attitude of this Consultation
was certainly influenced directly by the findings of a "Symposium"
of some thirty Orthodox ecumenists at the Valamo Monastery in Finland, which
was organized by the WCC's "Orthodox Working Group," under
the presidency of Father Tsetsis.
a. The confusion here, however,
is obvious, when we take into consideration the fundamental truth that the
ecumenical movement is not just a question of "dialogues"; it quite
simply includes "dialogues" which, conducted as they are in
the context of the ecclesiological presuppositions of the ecumenical movement,
are totally unacceptable from an Orthodox standpoint.
Let us explain this
in more detail.
The Holy Fathers, with purely
Orthodox presuppositions, conducted dialogues with the heterodoxcertainly
not, as Father Tsetsis writes, "in order to achieve Christian unity,"
or "to achieve their visible unity," or "to give a common witness
to the world" ( 3 and 4), but in order to return those outside the
Orthodox Church to the "Unity of the Faith." It is dialogues of
precisely this kind that have truly always existed
"at the epicenter of the pastoral concerns of the One, Holy, Catholic,
and Apostolic Church from the very first days of her formation" (
On this account, it is inconceivable
that the charismatic dialogues of the Saints of the Orthodox Church should
be equated with the "dialogues" of the ecumenical movement:
would undoubtedly be rash to assert that
dialogue between the churches today has the same characteristics as it did in times
past.... The external features of contemporary inter-church dialogue are completely new, since contemporary reality presents
new characteristics in a revolutionary way...[and]..., consequently, of necessity today's
dialogue has not only a different form, but also
different theological content.
But there is an additional
reason why the dialogues of old differ from the "dialogues"
of our day:
ecumenical dialogue, perhaps for the first time in the history of Christianity,
is adopting almost the same principles as Greek dialogue, in terms of both
method and goals....
That is to say, it has adopted
the principles of Socratic dialectic and Platonic dialogue; and in this way,
contemporary ecumenical "dialogues" are clearly differentiated
from the preaching and missionary work of the Fathers, that is, their charismatic,
b. Furthermore, at the foundations
of the ecumenical movement lies the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1920, which
proposed, in an unheard-of manneras it has been very correctly observed,
something "without precedent in Church history," since it posits
as a basis for today's dialogues" 1) Baptismal theology; 2) dogmatic
syncretism; and 3) a worldly perspective.
threefold basis, the Church no longer appears to have a missionary orientation
to the heterodox, so as to return them to the charismatic "Unity of the
Faith," but is to retreat into, and to accept organic membership in,
a panheretical organization (both in the WCC and, more broadly, in the "ecumenical
brotherhood"), within which She unexpectedly acquires
a new ecclesiological selfawareness: the dogmatic differences between
Orthodoxy and heterodoxy become legitimate expressions of the same faith.
Orthodoxy and heterodoxy come to have a common baptism and are both inside
the boundaries of the Church. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy have become "Sister
Churches." Orthodox and heterodox can offer a common witness and can,
likewise, serve modern man together, for the salvation of the world
Second, this is an entirely un-Orthodox understanding and use of Christ's prayer
in St. John 17. As Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos points out in his book
Mind of the Orthodox Church:
It is true that today there are
people who speak of the union of the Churches. But this term is worthless theologically.
We cannot speak of union, but of a unity of faith. We cannot speak of Churches which are
separated and struggling to reach the truth and union, but about the Church which is
always united with Christ and has never lost the truth, and about people who have broken
away from it.
Some people who speak of union of
the Churches use to satiety Christ's archpriestly prayer, which is in the Gospel according
to John, and especially the point where Christ asks the Father that the disciples
may be one and that they all may be one (John 17, 20-22). But if
anyone reads the whole text attentively, he will discover that Christ is not referring to
a union of the Churches which will come about in the future, but to the union of the
Disciples which will come about on the day of Pentecost, when they will receive the Holy
Spirit. This text speaks of the glorification of the Apostles which took place at
Pentecost. Actually, at Pentecost the Apostles became members of the Body of Christ, they
saw the glory of God, they reached deification, and so attained unity together in the
single Body of Christ. Anyone who experiences Pentecost in his personal life attains this
unity. The Apostle Paul, although he was not present with the Apostles on the day of
Pentecost, is portrayed by the Church in the icon of Pentecost, because he too reached the
vision of Christ and therefore has unity with the other Apostles.
For more on this see the articles in the Union and
Unity section of the References and Terms page.
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3. Moreover, we affirm the progress made toward Christian unity
especially since the early years of this century, both in the context of the World Council
of Churches and in other fora. This progress is due in no small measure to the courage of
Christians from every tradition to step outside of themselves and greet the other as a
brother or sister in Christ, to take up the cross of Christ in the quest for Christian
unity and to engage the other in a dialogue of love. Differences, schisms and heresies
that caused the divisions among Christians were the result of a long process of growing
alienation. These divisions will not be healed without effort and even some pain. We all
owe much to the ecumenical movement for expressing this process of reconciliation of
Christians and the visible unity of the churches.
Comments: Interestingly, the Thessaloniki Statement, which the OTSA purports to have
studied carefully, makes the following seemingly contradictory remarks:
10. After a century of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement, and fifty years in
the WCC in particular, we do not perceive sufficient progress in the multilateral
theological discussions between Christians. On the contrary, the gap between the Orthodox
and the Protestants is becoming wider as the aforementioned tendencies within certain
Protestant denominations are becoming stronger.
Why is there such a huge discrepancy in these reports? The evidence overwhelmingly
supports point 10 of the Thessaloniki Statement. First: Orthodox ecumenists admit
quite openly that 'theological dialogue' within the WCC has essentially run aground, 'is
making no progress,' and 'has been unable to produce substantial results, capable of
leading to Christian unity'; they also admit that 'the day of Christian unity in the same
faith and the same mysteries does not seem to be near' (Archimandrite Cyprian, Orthodoxy
and the Ecumenical Movement [Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies,
1997], p. 51). Bishop Angelos of Avlona also points out that [t]he Patriarchate of
Constantinople has confirmed in a distinctly official capacity that
'...theological inquiry' has been unable
to produce substantial results, capable of leading to Christian unity. Basic issues '
'have not been handled in the way and to the extent that they should have been, perhaps
because of insurmountable difficulties caused by the lack of theological and
ecclesiological homogeneity among the parties engaging in dialogue in the WCC' (
Ecumenism: A Movement for Union or a Syncretistic Heresy?, p.
We are left wondering how the OTSA could make such claims!
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4. The expectations of the Orthodox Church in this regard were
always modest and realistic. While the hope of visible unity was and remains the goal, the
practical methodology was simply to lay the groundwork for this through theological
dialogue, common life, prayer and working together. We remained patient as long as we were
convinced that we shared this common vision with our Christian partners. But this common
vision has increasingly been replaced in some ecumenical settings by particular social and
political agendas derived solely from human experience and divorced from the Gospel. This
has provoked dissatisfaction among us, thus precipitating the current crisis.
Comments: In the immediate context the visible unity they
claim to seek is among Christians. However, in point 2 they state unity of
the Church is for us not an option but an imperative. There is a world of
difference between these two concepts, as the wholly Orthodox Oberlin
Statement pointed out back in 1957. One can readily discern a decided ecclesiological schizophrenia from even a cursory
examination of the WCC's latest Vision
Statement (see esp. Ch. 3)another document that
the OTSA states they carefully studied. Orthodox Christians should read the Oberlin
Statement to properly understand the nature of the unity that should be sought. The OTSA
statements characteristically presuppose something contrary to this.
With this in mind the recent criticisms of the
ecumenical movement by some Orthodox are put in proper perspective. Though the
Thessaloniki Statement does make reference to tendencies relating to religious
syncretism, it is clear from these various documents that the disagreements do not
stem from a desire to return to a traditional Orthodox ecclesial self-understanding but
rather from the infiltration of social and political agendas and the demand
for restructuring the WCC to allow for better voting rights for the Orthodox. As Christianity
Today recently reported (January 11, 1999):
Hilarion Alfeyev, leader of the scaled-back Russian Orthodox Church
delegation attending the assembly, noted that two Orthodox bodiesthe Georgian and Bulgarian churcheshave quit
in the past two years.
If the structure of the WCC is not radically changed, other
Orthodox churches will also leave the WCC, he said. At the meeting, the WCC voted to
establish a special commission to try to resolve issues of Orthodox participation....
Both Orthodox and mainline evangelicals generally are unhappy with the
liberal Protestant ethos they say dominates WCC debate on issues such as feminism,
inclusive language in Bible translation, same-sex unions, ordination of homosexuals,
abortion, environmentalism, and population control. Such complaints are not new. At the
last assembly in Canberra, Australia, Orthodox threatened to leave the ecumenical
organization unless it affirmed the faith's biblical moorings (CT, April 8, 1991, p.
Delegates from 16 Orthodox groups gathered earlier to affirm their
general support of the overall ecumenical vision, but announced they would significantly
reduce their level of involvement in the WCC.
Because many WCC decisions are established by majority rule, the
Orthodox believe they are being marginalized, if not ignored, despite their significant
numbers. While the Orthodox profess commitment to many of the aims promoted by the WCC,
they object that WCC approaches to them are rooted in secular philosophies rather than a
More could be said about the nature of these current
disagreements with the WCC. Suffice it to say that they do not indicate a disavowal of the
WCC Vision, despite what point 7 (below) might superficially appear to indicate. Orthodox
Christians unfamiliar with the internal debates concerning our involvement in the
ecumenical movement should realize that they are entirely concerned with the dogmatic
minimalism and wholly un-Orthodox ecclesiological position that the movement espouses.
Though it is certainly laudable that a stance is being taken on these other issues they do
not touch on the core issues. The visible unity of the churches
continues to remain the overt goal of the WCC member churches.
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5. Criticism of the World Council of Churches (WCC) by the Orthodox
has fallen into roughly two categories. On the one hand there are those who spread
untruths about the WCC. Either through being misinformed themselves, or in the deliberate
intention to misinform others, some extremist groups within or on the fringes of the
Orthodox Church, hold that membership in the Council is a heresy in itself. On the other
hand, however, there are critics of the WCC who, on the basis of their intense commitment
to and involvement with the Council, are deeply disappointed with the directions that it
is taking. Just as much as the propaganda of the former groups is to be repudiated or
ignored, the criticism of the latter needs to be listened to with care.
Comments: This is incredibly dishonest. Not only do the
now-famous videos distributed by the Monastery of
Sts. Justina and Cyprian> consist almost entirely of actual WCC footage, the official
documents of the WCC and the Orthodox statements cited herein are all one
needs to assess the rightness of the Orthodox participation in the WCC.
Even the criticism contained in the protest statement of the Orthodox delegates to Canberra
(1991) contains such remarks as, The Orthodox churches want to emphasize that for
them, the main aim of the WCC must be the restoration of the unity of the church....
Visible unity, in both the faith and the structure of the church, constitutes a
specific goal and must not be taken for granted.... For the Orthodox gathered at this
assembly, these and other tendencies and developments question the very nature and
identity of the Council, as described in the Toronto
We invite he reader to examine the Toronto Statement and judge for
himself whether this and other so-called propaganda on this website should, or
even can be, repudiated or ignored.
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6. From our perspective there are two equally important aspects to
the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the WCC. One concerns structure or
constitution. The current constitutional framework of the WCC mitigates against equitable
participation in the governing bodies, advisory councils, and staff by the Orthodox Church
because there are two opposite ecclesiologies operative. The number of member churches in
the WCC continues to grow, but according to Orthodox ecclesiological principles the number
of Orthodox churches will not grow significantly beyond their present number. For the
churches of the Reformation, the impulse has been to multiply the number of churches. For
the Orthodox, the ecclesiological approach does not easily or quickly allow the creation
of new self- governing churches. Simply put, given the constitutional framework of the
WCC, the Orthodox churches are not represented commensurate with their place within world
Christianity. A number of proposals have been advanced to address this imbalance. None is
as yet satisfactory to all parties. But we are convinced that the present structure must
7. The other concern relates
to ethos, to mindset and ways of proceeding. Even more important
than the constitutional question is the question of the manner in which priorities
for the Council are set. While the language of the WCC sometimes
has reflected the Orthodox vision and Orthodox concerns, we believe there is
a growing tendency towards ecumenical and theological language and
ethos reflecting priorities and directions foreign to the Orthodox,
and alienating the Orthodox. Even the classic struggle within the Council between
the Faith and Order movement and the Life and Work movement frames the question
of unity in such a way that the Orthodox must convolute their tradition and,
we might add, their understanding of the Gospel itself in order to enter
into the discussion.
Comments: This sounds nice on the surface. However, a careful reading of the many documents issued by the Orthodox ecumenists, as well as the
public remarks made in an official capacity by various representatives of Orthodox member
churches (see the Contributions to a Theology of Anti-Ecumenism series), shows this point 6 for what it is: a tremendous understatement and a clear
example of the meaningless "double speak" that has become so much a part of
the warp and woof of the ecumenical movement. But there appears to be a ray of hope in
point 7: Even the classic [historic?] struggle within the Council... frames
the question of unity in such a way that the Orthodox must convolute their tradition and,
we might add, their understanding of the Gospel itself in order to enter into the
discussion. This is so painfully obvious to be trite. It reflects the traditionalist
argument against Orthodox participation from the very beginning. Observe, however, how
blind these ecumenists are to the extreme convolution of Holy Tradition within this
very document! We marvel that they cannot see this, speaking from one side of their
mouth like an Orthodox Christian, and then from the other side as heterodox.
Furthermore, the description of current trends is hardly accurate. The priorities
and directions have always been foreign to the Orthodox. The
current WCC Vision Statement has
evolved out of previous statements made from the earliest days of Orthodox participation.
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8. While as part of its general restructuring the Council needs to
address questions of church representation, the Council also needs to be held to its
foundational principles. This is particularly appropriate as the Council celebrates its
fiftieth anniversary and examines itself in the Common Understanding and Vision
processan eight-year study mandated in 1989 by the Central Committee of the World
Council in preparation for the Eighth
Assembly in Harare. The Council needs to be more accountable to its Basis: a
fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to
the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of
the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Council needs to be continuously
accountable to the 1950 Toronto Statement, where among other
things it is stated that the WCC is not and must never become a superchurch,
by refraining from formulations or liturgical rites which suggest an ecclesial identity
which the Council in fact does not possess. Finally, the Council needs to be true to its
identity as a council of churches and not of movements or communities of goodwill.
Comments: We invite the reader to examine the
"negations" and "assumptions" in the Toronto
Statement, and, in the light of traditional Orthodox ecclesiology (see the appropriate
section on the Inquirers page as well as the article
"Orthodox Unity Today"), ask two questions: 1) Do
these negations absolve the Orthodox ecumenists of apostasy?; 2) Do these assumptions
reflect the Orthodox Church's traditional expression of Her nature?
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9. The value of theological reflection cannot be underestimated. In
our ecumenical discussions, it is not enough simply to identify historical reasons for
divisions and points of similarity. More than this, the doctrinal differences which
contribute to divisions must be identified and, with the grace of the Holy Spirit,
overcome. The ecumenical movement in general and the World Council of Churches in
particular must provide the opportunities for theological reflection which is rooted in
the Scripture and Tradition of the Church. This theological reflection should respond to
the critical issues facing the churches today, especially issues related to the
reconciliation of Christians and the restoration of the visible unity of the churches. We
affirm that the visible unity of the churches requires that we come to a common confession
of the Apostolic faith.
Comments: Given that it is widely accepted that ecumenical
dialogue has completely failed to bear positive fruit, we cannot help but to view these
remarks as naive and misguided. The kind of dialogue that is needed is internal:
i.e., between the true Orthodox who are against ecumenism
and their ailing brothers and sisters who have been compromised by it. The cries for
"visible Church unity 'so that the world may believe,'" found often in official
Orthodox ecumenical statements, are hypocritical and wholly misdirected: for the Church's
true witness has been shamefully tarnished by the internal Church divisions resulting from
Orthodox involvement in the ecumenical movement. Which leads us to point 10...
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10. We must also admit that the weakness of the Orthodox voice is
not due simply to the WCCs constitutional framework. Often, it is due to internal
problems and disagreements, which hinder our effectiveness. We have not enlisted the
number of church people ready, willing and able to participate in ecumenical meetings. We
often decline to send delegates to meetings when invited. There are times when we Orthodox
are unable to form a common mind, because we ourselves have not settled certain
ecclesiological questions. We must adhere to an internal self-discipline that does justice
to our own ecclesiology.
11. In recent times some Orthodox have questioned whether praying
with other Christians is in fact contributing to the restoration of the kind of Christian
unity willed by Christ. We affirm the need for common prayer in order to heal our ancient
divisions. Unfortunately, ecumenical worship sometimes has been dominated and driven by
issues which not only deflect from the concern for Christian reconciliation and unity but
also themselves become the focus of attention. Rather than having communion with the
Triune God as its focus, ecumenical worship sometimes has become the platform for
particular social and political agendas and causes incompatible with the Gospel. Of
course, in worship it is appropriate to lift up our living concerns in prayer. But when
these concerns become the dominant element, Christian worship is deformed.
Comments: Forgive us for being blunt, but the statement,
"In recent times some Orthodox have questioned...," is another outright lie. Not
only has there been consistent opposition (not mere "questioning") to
this canonical infraction from the earliest days of our involvement in the ecumenical
movement, but the amount of opposition is grossly understated. Is it possible that
the members of the OTSA, meeting at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, are
unfamiliar with the "Open
Letter to Archbishop Iakovos" (former head of the
Greek Archdiocese), sent by Metropolitan Philaret in 1969? This is one of innumerable
public protests made by Orthodox who are endeavoring to stand faithful to the Patristic
and Canonical Tradition of Orthodoxy. Joint prayer and worship "in order to heal our
ancient divisions" (our?) is totally forbidden by the Holy
Canons. It is a misguided means of restoring unity. The remainder of their remarks in
this point are nonsensical and irrelevant. We should not share in these things with the
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12. Orthodox participation in ecumenical services of prayer has
been predicated upon the fact that the fundamental tenets of the apostolic faith continue
to be expressed through the Scripture readings, prayers, and hymns of the worshipping
community. When these fundamental tenets of the apostolic faith are lacking or
intentionally distorted, it becomes difficult if not impossible for the Orthodox to
participate. When, however, these convictions are embodied in ecumenical prayer services,
that do not have a eucharistic character, and do reflect these fundamental principles, we
should rejoice in joining our brothers and sisters in Christ in praise of God.
Comments: We would ask them to show us from Holy Tradition
how they justify their predication. It cannot be done, nor is it an Orthodox approach to
reduce the Gestalt of Orthodoxy to "fundamentals." This approach is one
of the reasons why we think ecumenism can be linked to
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13. We offer as an illustration of the way in which the unity of
the churches can be restored the special relationship that has developed between the
Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Nurtured by prayer, our churches have
been engaged in theological dialogue for over thirty years. Through this dialogue our
churches have come to see that we share the same Orthodox faith despite centuries of
formal alienation. We have grown closer through cooperation in all aspects of ecclesial
life. This Society has for many years
included as full members theologians from the Oriental Orthodox Churches. We look forward
to the restoration of full communion among the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox
Churches in the near future. In order to further the quest for restored communion, we urge
the hierarchs of the both the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches in America to
establish a bilateral dialogue to address the practical questions necessary to attain this
goal. We believe this restored communion to be the obvious and indeed necessary
consequence and testimony of our full agreement in matters of faith. This final act will
provide an example of the manner in which deep divisions lasting hundreds of years can be
healed in the dialogue of love.
Comments: We rest our case!
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14. Finally, we wish to affirm our basic and profound commitment to
the struggle for Christian reconciliation and the visible unity of the churches. We call
upon people of goodwill within every Christian church to join with us in the call of the
Lord, so that the world might believe and God might be glorified.