The Price of Ecumenism
How Ecumenism Has Hurt the Orthodox Church
by Fr. John Reeves
Webmaster Note. At the time of this writing Fr. John Reeves
was pastor of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, State College,
PA. A former Episcopal priest, he was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood
in 1981 by Archbishop Dmitri. He works in the fields of mission and church
growth for the Orthodox Church in America (O.C.A.).
Our Lord met the woman at the well. "Ye worship ye know not what:
we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews," he said. "But
the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the
Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him."
For Our Lord Jesus, Truth was not relative. Worship and doctrine were
not matters of personal opinion. He was, in fact, that Truth. There was
one faith revealed to the world and one Messiah who had come to save itthe Jews first, but then ultimately Samaritans and Gentiles, disciples
being made of all nations.
For the Orthodox Christian there can be no deviation from the fact that
Orthodox is that very faith of the apostles which has established the Universe.
For long before there were papacies and protestants, the Orthodox faithful
have proclaimed what the apostles taught, what the councils have decreed.
This we believe; this we confess in word and in deed and which we depict
in the Holy Icons.
Truth has been revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ, not a partial truth,
not a theory about truth, but truth indeed, God in the flesh reconciling
the world unto himself. The repository of that truth is first and foremost
the Church, the Body of Christ, wherein the Holy Spirit dwells. That Church,
founded on the day of Pentecost, and forever withstanding all the assaults
of hell, is the Orthodox Church. Neither denomination nor sect, neither
religion nor philosophical system, she invites the entire universe to enter
into to communion with her Head, even Jesus Christ. She is the Church Catholic
because her teaching is full; she is Orthodox because her worship is right.
Yet in Christian religious circles outside of the Orthodox Church, there
seem to be no "orthodoxies" today. [A case might be made for
some Protestant fundamentalists, who have reacted against the effect of
the higher criticism of the Scriptural texts.] There seem to be no orthodoxies,
no fixed standards, no canons of faith, no rules of conduct. The image
of God himself in Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son and our Lord is now
subject to the sort of attack which would make Arius himself seem a piker.
Attack on doctrine, as indeed, the attack on the source of the Scriptural
canon, is accepted as normative, not merely by the skeptic who always has
done so, but now by the very ones who would purport to represent Christianity
to the world. There are various paths to truth we are told, since revelation
is now culturally determined. There are multiple options for morals. There
even seem to be multiple deities on the horizon. And all of this may be
tolerated and encouraged, in the name of diversity and inclusivity, in
the name of contextual theology, and propelled by means of ecumenical convergence.
All indeed is to be tolerated and even embraced. Is it a Lesbian bishop
solemnizing "gay marriages" or a "church" running abortion
services as a part of pastoral ministry? Celebrate the liberation from
oppressive patriarchal, homophobic, sexist institutions. Is it offering
milk and honey to Sophia? Celebrate a decade of churches in solidarity
Celebrate, tolerate, liberate; just do not dare criticize. In the political
order it is down right risky to attack notions of radical feminism. That
is one political issue not subject to debate. In matters religious the
umbrella of ecumenism, and the ecumenical movement which seems the spawning
ground for so much of what Orthodox Christians know to deviant, perverted
is off limits from scrutiny likewise.
It is as if a cadre of theological elitists translate the political
agendas of the political left into religious symbol and then become ever
ready to attack those who would presume to criticize the theological new-speak.
There are no old "orthodoxies" in such circles, but there certainly
are new ones. If one raises an objection, ad hominem attack, distortion
of position, and defaming of character are sure to follow.
This past July (95), a review of Frank Schaeffers then most recent
book, Dancing Alone, appeared in a journal of quite liberal, ecumenist
persuasion. Had one not read the book, one would have thought from the
review that Dancing Alone was primarily about ecumenism and Orthodoxys
role in it. The reviewer was most insistent on seeing such as the primary
theme of the work, to the point of distortion.
Actually, ecumenism is but touched upon in some two to three pages toward
the end, in the appendix. What Schaeffer states, more a conclusion, than
certainly a thesis, is that ecumenism has damaged us and will continue
to damage us and to divert us from our mission as Una Sancta, the One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The review is substantially as long as the "offending" passage
in Schaeffers book. What seems to warrant the reviewers umbrage is that
Schaeffer in two or three pages dared to suggest that the current trend
in ecumenical circles, and its impact upon Orthodox evangelism and witness,
warranted greater scrutiny. Yet the reviewer represents himself as within
the Orthodox family, and one might conclude that his positions represent
accurately what the position of Orthodoxy really is, viz-a-viz ecumenism.
What is ironic is that the arena for this one sided debate was not within
the "Orthodox family" so to speak, but in the context of one
of the more liberal theological journals in the country. Tolerance, respect,
diversity, these are the watch words of ecumenism, provided that what is
tolerated, respected and diverse is consonant with ecumenist "orthodoxy",
not the Tradition, with the Faith, with the Doctrine and Discipline of
the Orthodox Church, down through the ages, including the decisions of
all Seven of the Ecumenical Councils.
Critique Dancing Alone on its basic premise, if one would. Do not attack
a parenthetical remark in its appendix. Try hard to do so in the same "spirit"
of charity which ecumenism seeks to foster for ideas strange and novel.
Indeed, the reviewer would have done well to attempt to refute Schaeffers
assertion: "How ironic that the very elements of Protestantism, the
Liberal elements that have had the most to do with ecumenism, are the
very elements that have become the most secularized and which represent
less and less people as their numbers dwindle, plagued by the drumbeat
of Protestant doubt."  Yet the reviewer did not.
No. It is far better to dismiss the author, the messenger, than to take
seriously his argument, follow the standard rules of engagement and debate,
and to seek an Orthodox forum for the same. It is no small curiosity that
a convert to the Orthodox faith would be savaged in a journal of ecumenical
proclivities. If the ecumenical movement can be tolerant about so much
else, why might conversion to Orthodoxy threaten it? Why indeed does it
threaten some of our very own ecumenists so that a neophyte would be subjected
to such vitriol? Obviously, such an attack is meant to send a message.
Yet is the intended recipient merely the one who wrote the offending passage
in the first place? Is this perhaps only the old phyletism, Orthodox nationalism,
merely telling the newcomer to stay in his place? This is an "ethnic"
church, so to speak, and we are determined to keep it that way.
Could this be an ecumenist response, a warning, to others not to contemplate
the notion that Truth itself has been fully preserved in the Church of
the Seven Councils?
Or, could this be a cry for help by an advocate of a movement which
many believe to be morally and theologically bankrupt, no matter how noble
its original intentions might have seemed to have been at the time? Could
it be a combination of all three?
Did the reviewer, in fact, unwittingly make Mr. Schaeffers point that
we seem preoccupied in ecumenical quarters more "with making friends
than with telling the truth"?
Are there no more theological "orthodoxies"? There seems to
be one left, to be sure. Do not criticize the ecumenical movement. It is
the sacred cow to which much smoke is offered. Or else, the reviewer protesteth
ORTHODOXY AND ECUMENISM
This century has seen the ecumenical movement grow from a purely Protestant,
missionary one to one which includes Orthodox as well as Roman Catholics
in various capacities, in various organizations, and in a multiple of dialogue
roles. It would be beyond the scope of this article to detail each and
every aspect of ecumenism which has developed over the past nine decades
of ecumenical endeavor.
It does go without saying that the current World Council of Churches
and its American cousin, the National Council of Churches are most identified
with the ecumenical movement today. Perhaps it is for the simple reason
that both the World and National Councils are sufficiently bureaucratized
to have lasting impact and far reaching effect. Even some Orthodox Christians
participate in ecumenism at the salaried level, further enabling ecumenism
to reach one of its goals, to teach members of the churches how to work
together ecumenically. Consequently, this article seeks to trace our beginnings
in the ecumenical movement, and focuses mainly, but not entirely on the
participation of the various Orthodox patriarchates in such forums as the
World and National Councils. While much controversy has erupted over the
years over the political actions taken by both the World and National Councils,
the political issues should not be the ultimate cause for alarm. They are
merely reflective of a world view upon which these councils rest , one
which is not Orthodox at its core.
NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT?
"To every serious student of the ecumenical movement it must be
clear that at no time has the Orthodox witness (presented mainly, if
not exclusively in separate Orthodox statements attached to the minutes
of all major ecumenical conferences) had any significant impact on the
orientations and theological development of the movement itself."  These
words of the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann were written some
fifty or so years after the Orthodox Church first began participating in
different aspects of the ecumenical movement of this century. Now some
twenty more years have passed since Father Schmemanns frank assessment.
The ecumenical movement is still with us. Our impact, our "witness"
is still debatable. The question remains, perhaps, now more than ever.
Why do we persist? Why does our involvement in the ecumenical movement
Yet first it is necessary to outline the development of the ecumenical
movement itself and to look at the role which the Orthodox Churches have
played in it. The origins of modern ecumenism can be traced back the establishment
of the International Missionary Council at the Edinburgh Conference of
1910. It was not even pan-Protestant, but nevertheless was one three separate
movements which would coalesce over time and effect the shape and direction
of ecumenism. The other two were the Universal Christian Council for Life
and Work (1925) and the Faith and Order Conference (1927).
"The original WCC, whose constitution was drafted in 1938, although
the body was not formally inaugurated until the Amsterdam Conference of
1948, represented a union of the Faith and Order and Life and Work organizations.
The International Missionary Council continued its separate existence,
although in formal association with the WCC, until 1961, when it became
an integral part of the the World Council."
1.) "The initial aims of the WCC were defined by the purposes of
the two organizations that united to form it: the search for Christian
unity and a concerted effort to relate the Christian faith to social and
2.) Immediately following World War I, the Patriarchate of Constantinople
opened the first breech in the wall of Orthodox solidarity with the issuance
of the Patriarchal Encyclical "Unto all the Churches of Christ, wheresoever
they be..." in 1920.
3.) It proposed various steps to be taken by Christian churches "in
order to face the debilitating influence of atheism on society,"
4.) and proposed a plan to lead to church unity.
5.) Thus a door was opened for Orthodox participation in the Faith and
Order Conference held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1927 with participation
by nine Orthodox Churches.
6.) A second Faith and Order Conference held in Edinburgh, (1937) would
be attended by representatives of nine autocephalous Churches as well.
7.) Other ecumenical conferences, too, were held during the period between
the World Wars with Orthodox participation.
Thus, a hitherto Protestant movement was entered by some of the Orthodox
patriarchates for the express purpose of uniting the various Christian
bodies. The Roman Catholics would remain out of the process essentially
until the period of the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65.
The Encyclical of 1920 cannot be seen in isolation of other actions
taken by Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV to "re-form" the Orthodox
Church herself, abolishing fasts, introducing calendar reform, and the
reintroduction of married hierarchs. However, even more immediately distressing
was the Patriarchs support of the Soviets Living Church Movement in Russia
which sought to implement many of the same issues supported by the Patriarchate.
Meletios own universalist leanings at the expense of Orthodoxy becomes
obvious upon examination. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to
write in particular about the calendar reform issueit being without
a doubt more internally disruptive of the Orthodox Churchs life in this
century than any other single issuecalendar reform, ultimately culminating
in acceptance of the Western Paschalion to enable a uniform celebration
of feasts ecumenically must not, however, be dismissed.
The intervening World War reduced opportunity for ecumenical contacts.
At the same time, another world-wide war, fought so much and so soon on
European soil quickened the desire of many leaders, political and religious,
to hasten the formation of organizations designed to bring about greater
understanding amongst men and nations in order to lessen the occasion for
war. The United Nations, founded in 1945, was a political answer to mankinds
thirsting for peace. The union of the churches would be another, since
it might seem that religious bickering was a primary cause of many European
conflicts. Councils of Churches: World and National
As noted, it was not until 1948 that the World Council of Churches was
formed, meeting in Amsterdam, a joining together of the Faith and Order
Conference with the Council for Life and Work. Membership was "composed
of churches which acknowledge Jesus Christ as God and Saviour. They find
their unity in Him. They have not to create their unity; it is the gift
of God. But they know that it is their duty to make common cause in the
search for the expression of that unity in work and in life". 
Furthermore, the Amsterdam Report stated that "unity arises out
of the love of God in Jesus Christ which, binding the constituent churches
to Him, binds them to one another ."  It would be Fr. Georges Florovksy
who would be credited with being the father of Orthodox Participation
in the Ecumenical Movement from 1948 onward. 
In America, the National Council of Churches would be organized in 1950,
a union of several cooperative bodies, the Federal Council of Churches,
the Foreign Missions Conference, and the International Council of Religious
Education. It claims membership of thirty-two Protestant and Orthodox churches.
It works independently but in close cooperation with the World Council.
Una Sancta or E pluribus unum?
Key to understanding the difficulty for Orthodox participation in such
ecumenical undertakings is the fact that the basic presupposition of these
councils of churches is a Protestant one: No one constituent body possesses
the fulness of truth. The "constituent churches" are deemed bound
to God, not because of right doctrine or because of the fulness of faith
or because of apostolic origin, and thus they are already deemed to be
bound "to one another." Then too, Orthodox participation has
artificially created the impression that such is not a movement of Protestants
alone. Nevertheless, it is. That is, it is a Protestant movement in which
the Orthodox have seen fit to take part. Its underlying rationale, is untenable
from an Orthodox perspective, to believe that only in the aggregate, only
in the amalgamation of the sometimes divergent confessional bodies can
truth be full.
As Father Schmemann wrote:
"The important fact of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical
movement and in the encounterafter so many centuries of almost total
separationbetween the Orthodox and the West is precisely that the Orthodox
were not given a choice; that from the very beginning they were assigned,
not only seats but a certain place, role and function within the ecumenical
movement. These assignments were based on Western theological and ecclesiological
presuppositions and categories, and they reflected the purely Western origin
of the ecumenical idea itself. We joined a movement, entered a debate,
took part in a search whose basic terms of reference were already defined,
and taken for granted. Thus, even before we could realize it, we were caught
in the essentially Western dichotomiesCatholic versus Protestant, horizontal
versus vertical, authority versus freedom, hierarchical versus congregationaland
were made into representatives and bearers of attitudes and positions which
we hardly recognized as ours and which were deeply alien to our tradition.
All this, however, was due not to any Machiavellian conspiracy or ill will,
but precisely to the main and all-embracing Western presupposition that
Western experience, theological categories and thought forms are universal
and therefore constitute the self evident framework and terms of reference
for the entire ecumenical endeavor." 
Early Guidelines for Orthodox Participation
In the early days of Orthodox participation in the World Council, the
difficulties outlined above could be evidenced by limitations placed on
Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement by Constantinople itself,
"a) Participation of the Orthodox Church in the discussions of
the Faith and Order Committee was to be avoided, and the Faith of the Orthodox
Church was to be explained in works written expressly for this purpose;
b) The Orthodox Church was to be represented by delegates of all the
local autocephalous Orthodox Churches which were to have permanent Synodical
Commissions that would concern themselves with matters pertaining to the
c) Orthodox clergy were enjoined to be reserved regarding their congregating
with non-Orthodox in worship services since these services were antikeimenas,
against the canons, which dulled the acuity of the Orthodox Confession,
and as a result, the clergy were instructed to make every possible effort
to conduct unadulterated Orthodox ordinaries and celebrations." 
Orthodox delegates to the World Councils second general assembly, Evanston,
IL, 1954 would declare: "We are bound to declare our profound conviction
that the Holy Orthodox Church alone has preserved in full and intact the
faith once delivered to the saints."  (Emphasis added.)
Likewise, in 1957, delegates to the North American Faith and Order Study
Conference would likewise reject the theme of the study, "The Unity
We Seek" with these words: "The Unity we seek is for us a
given Unity which has never been lost, and as a Divine Gift and an essential
mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost...For us, this Unity
is embodied in the Orthodox Church, which kept katholikes and anelleipes
(Webmaster note: the second word here is a guess at what the
transliteration was in the original) both the integrity of the Apostolic Faith and the integrity of the Apostolic
Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America
reiterated this theme speaking to the annual meeting of the US Conference
for the WCC, on April 22, 1959: "The common use of the term Orthodox
to signify the Church of the East should signify to the churches of the
West that the Eastern Church is committed to maintain the genuine characteristics
of the one Church of Christ." 
The Archbishop went to state that "the Orthodox view of unity is
well-known and does not need detailed explanation. The Eastern churches
adhere to the belief that the real UNITY of the Church was never and can
never be broken, since she is the Body of Christ, the fulness of him
Then referring back to the Faith and Order Study Conference, the Archbishop
quoted the Orthodox representatives there: "The problem of unity
is for us, therefore, the problem of the return to the fulness of Faith
and Order, in full faithfulness to the message of Scripture and Tradition
and in the obedience to the will of God "that all be one."" 
In concluding his remarks, Archbishop Iakovos then reiterated the Ecumenical
Patriarchs Encyclical of February 6, 1952:
"According to its own constitution, the World Council of Churches
seeks only to facilitate common action by the churches, to promote cooperation
in study in a Christian spirit, to strengthen ecumenical-mindedness among
members of all churches, to support en even wider spreading of the holy
Gospel, and finally to preserve, uplift and generally restore spiritual
vales for mankind with the framework of common Christian standards...We
of the Orthodox Church must participate in this pan-Christian movement
because it is our duty to impart to our heterodox brethren the riches of
our faith, worship, and order, and of our spiritual and ascetic experience."
Of course, to maintain that the World Council of Churches was pan-Christian
in fact was to overstate the case then, as it still would be today. Nevertheless,
it can be maintained that the position of the Orthodox representatives
to the meetings of various assemblies of the World Council portrayed fairly
accurately an Orthodox ecclesiology: The Orthodox Church was and is the
Una Sancta, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is full; it
Accordingly, those outside the Church could be and were portrayed as
"heterodox", as lacking the fulness of faith which the Orthodox
Church had possessed since Pentecost itself. The condition for unity, a
unity not lost by the Orthodox as the Church, was rather seen as a return
to Apostolic faith and order. In short, Orthodoxy in these statements was
not presented merely as one denomination, however venerable and ancient,
but as the True Faith. It should be noted that membership in the World
Council did not require Trinitarian belief, but at least the presumption
was there on the part of the Orthodox that their own faith was indeed complete.
The Sixties: A "subtle" shift?
In 1961, at New Delhi, two important events happened in the history
of the World Council. The Church of Russia was admitted into Council membership,
and now a majority of the worlds Orthodox were "represented",
indeed a triumph for those committed to the basic Western presuppositions
underlying the Councils existence. As well, it meant that Orthodox churches
in the Eastern European nations would be freer to join in ecumenical contacts
and ventures as well, at a price. The application for membership of the
Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council meant that the World Council of
Churches would be curiously silent about the existence of religious persecution
in the Soviet Union. In fact, Metropolitan Nikodim, head of the Moscow
Patriarchates Foreign Relations Department and chief architect of the
ecumenical programme of the Russian Church, would deny the existence of
religious oppression in the U.S.S.R.  He later would play a prominent
part in the Russian Churchs relations with the Vatican, as well.
The second event mentioned above was the merging" of the International
Missionary Council with the World Council. Thus, the three primary antecedent
bodies were now united officially. For the Orthodox, the former event,
however, would prove more of more consequence.
However, a shift in Orthodox thinking was emerging in the presentations
of some of the delegates to WCC affairs. In 1961, Professor Nikos Nissiotis
opened an address to the delegates to the Third Assembly of the WCC in
New Delhi with a question: " Do we not all constantly fall back into
thinking and acting as though the Una Sancta were confined within the limits
of our own Church or confession?"  Nissiotis continued, "The
wind of the Holy Spirit is driving us forward with pressing urgency. And
Assembly is a time for action directed towards the restoration of unity." 
"...Thus unity does not mean waiting for agreement to be reached
between the different conceptions which are held in our churches, but imposes
on us the obligation to remain in that condition in which we are recreated
by the Spirit as One in the One Undivided Church. It is not only through
consideration of what we believe this Church Unity to be that we hope
to advance to the continuous reestablishment of reunion, but also through
how we exist as Christians. It is the content seen and lived in the historical
churches through the act of our faith in God the Holy Trinity." 
Hence Orthodox doctrine is relegated to a "conception", unity
has been severed, the One Undivided Church is no more, and a continuous
"reestablishment of reunion" is called for, presumably even with
that multitude of denominations which did not have a unity with Orthodoxy
in the first place. One can logically question what a "reestablishment
of reunion" anyway.
"When we live by faith in the Trinity, our very existence as Christians
discloses what unity is. We do not find the nature of that unity by devising
subtle pseudo-theological formulas which would capture its essence in polemical
concepts. No, we find it in the life of historic churches, a life which
springs from the same source as the life received at Pentecost. By historic
churches we mean churches which confess in terms of the Nicene Creed the
whole of the Divine Economy of the Revelation in the Church of God the
Holy Trinity, and which believe in the continuation of this event by the
Holy Spirit in and through the Church by acts culminating in the Sacraments
and the Word, administered by those set apart to do so. This is what for
me is implied by the definition of unity agreed by the representatives
of the churches at the Central Committee at St. Andrews in 1960. What the
churches actually do as churches constitutes the authentic expression of
their undivided unity, and this is far more important than the theories
and declarations of individual members as to what the churches do." 
The position that the Orthodox Church is the Una Sancta and that those
separated from her need to return to apostolic fulness is jettisoned in
favor of a belief that the "One undivided historical Church"
consists of those "historic churches" confessing Trinitarian
belief in terms of the Nicean Creed, their undivided unity consisting in
what they actually do as churches, rather than "the theories and declarations
of individual members as to what the churches do." [Such words would
come back to haunt us.]
Indeed, Nissiotis would continue:
"Orthodox is not the adjective or the qualification of one
local church or even of all our Eastern Orthodox Churches...It is not an
exclusive but an inclusive term which goes beyond the limits of the churches
which call themselves Orthodox. It includes all those churches and believers
who seek to offer an honest confession and achieve a life which is untouched
by heresies and schisms and to arrive at the wholeness of the divine revelation
in Christ." 
"This dynamic understanding of Orthodoxy enables us to see Church
history in a new perspective. It excludes labeling movements within the
Church as apostasiesthus placing them outside the Church. It is impossible
to locate an ecclesiological event extra ecclesiam. Neither the Roman schism
nor the Reformation which resulted from it should be described in this
way. The Orthodox witness as service to unity can, by self-sacrifice, put
all separations in their right place within the One Undivided Church, and
share the glory of God with them. This means in practice that Orthodoxy
must give up its defensive, confessional-apologetic attitude, and in the
glory of the Holy Spirit, become a mighty river of life, filling the gaps,
complementing opposites, overcoming enmities, and driving forward toward
Professor Nissiotis would go on to say, "To use such slogans as
come back to us or let us go back to the first eight centuries as though
we were inviting others to deny their own traditions is unorthodox." 
One might suspect that more recent use of the "slogans" such
as "Welcome Home" , "Coming Home", and "Bringing
America to Orthodoxy" might equally suffer the approbation "unorthodox"
according to this line of reasoning. Then again, what would the Professor
make of the reception not merely of thousands of converts who did believe
they were coming home, but to the numerous parishes themselves, converting,
en masse to Orthodoxy? By Nissiotis line of reasoning, would conversion
even be possible, much less desirable?
As little as two years later, in 1963, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos
would state to assembled members of the World Council in the U.S.: "
It would be utterly foolish for the true believer to pretend or to insist
that the whole truth has been revealed only to them, and that they alone
possess. Such a claim would be both unbiblical and untheological." 
This was a sharp departure from what the Archbishop had said four years
prior when the Archbishop stated the need for the return to the fullness
of apostolic faith and practice: "the truth that should always be
remembered in all ecumenical circles it that there are no churches but
ONE, and that this truth is more than attested by church history. The branch
theory, that is, that the true Church consists of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic,
and Anglican Churches, as well as the fragmentation theory, this is that
there is schism within the Church, or that all existing churches are to
a greater or less degree in schism, can find no ground of justification
in church history. Orthodoxy, however, can perfectly see and comprehend
present church realities. She knows all she needs to know in regard to
the existing numerous communions, confession, denominations, groups, and
sects."  What a difference those four years made!
By 1963, in words meant for the ears of those assembled, such belief
in the fullness of faith, and more precisely that the Orthodox Church is
the repository of that revelation, is shied away from by attacking however
subtlety those who might hold such beliefs as being utterly foolish. To
be sure the words are couched. The words are equivocal. In fact, the Orthodox
indeed do not maintain that the whole truth has been revealed only to them
or that they alone possess it. Yet, the Orthodox Christian can never withdraw
from the position that Orthodoxy is the repository of divinely revealed
truth in its fullness.
If indeed the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth"
(I Tm 3:16), and if by "Church" one means the Orthodox Church
(cf. Eph 1:22,23), this is a curious shift in ecclesiology from that stated
only nine years before at Evanston, which by this line of reasoning must
by now have been judged to have been both "unbiblical and untheological".
What is unbiblical, what is untheological is the notion that an individual,
apart from Christs body, the Church, could ever possess or could ever
be in a position to appraise what is fullness of the Divine Revelation.
It is precisely in the Church, the Una Sancta, which is his body, where
there is the fullness of him that filleth all in all. It is not a question
of whether "true believers" possess the fullness of revelation
at all, but whether or not the Church does. If so, where is that Church?
If not, why should anyone bother? How might anyone know when he had possessed
Thus, a basic, Protestant presupposition, an ecclesiology at variance
with that of the Fathers, and a reduction of Truth to a set of principles
was being enunciated by one who has come to be arguably American Orthodoxys
most conspicuous prelate during the last three-and-one-half decades.
The Russians: A More Cautious Approach
Yet, despite this shift in emphasis, especially by those under the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate towed a more cautious line. It is
interesting to note Metropolitan Nikodims reflection on the entry of the
Moscow Patriarchate to the WCC delivered during the Uppsala Assembly,
in April 1969:
"For many years after the First Assembly of the WCC at Amsterdam
in 1948 the Russian Orthodox Church studied the activity of this new ecumenical
body in order to see what possibility might exist to collaborate with it
without prejudicing the principles of Orthodoxy.
"Moreover, from the very outset it was clear to the Orthodox that
collaboration with the World Council of Churches, still more membership
of it, would inevitably mean plunging into the Protestant element or, if
you prefer, undergoing a sort of kenosis, because the voice of Orthodox
witness at ecumenical meetings and in the WCC documents would always be
submerged by a chorus of diverse, but essentially Protestant, opinions.
"It is only by increasing the number of representatives of the
Orthodox Churches, so as to reflect the real importance of Orthodoxy in
Christendom (and at the same time to improve the quality of that representation)
that a balance can be created between the two confessional groups or systems,
and their forces equalized. But that does not always guarantee a maximum
of mutual understanding. I must frankly say that this situation will not
disappear until all the Christian Churches have attained unanimity in their
confession of faith, i.e. until all the Churches belonging to the World
Council of Churches hold the faith which was the faith of the ancient undivided
"The fact that the Russian Orthodox Church has joined the World
Council of Churches cannot be regarded as an ecclesial act in the ecclesiological
sense. It is connected with those aspects of its own life and activity
whose free expression does not impose direct responsibility on all the
local Orthodox Churchesthat responsibility which is incumbent upon every
part of the sacred Body of Christ in face of the plenitude of the Holy,
Catholic, Apostolic Church as a whole...I repeat, the way in which the
Russian Orthodox Church took the decision to join the WCC clearly indicates
that this act was never considered as having an ecclesiologically obligatory
meaning for the Orthodox conscience. It would be more exact not to speak
of the Russian Orthodox Church "joining" the WCC, still less
"being admitted" to the WCC, but rather of an agreement between
the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and those of the World Council
of Churches for representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to enter
into permanent collaboration with representatives of other Churches belonging
to an association called the World Council of Churches. The Assembly held
at New Delhi in 1961 gave its consent to a collaboration of this kind.
In speaking of the Word Council of Churches I must point out that, from
the very outset, there has been a certain confusion or ambiguity in the
definition of the nature of that body." 
Continuing his remarks, the Metropolitan went on to observe that the
"Section on Unity" of the Report of that same New Delhi meeting
which accepted the Russian Orthodox Church into such a "collaborative
association", to paraphrase, contained
"a concept of unity which is completely Protestant. Unity is regarded
as a gift from God belonging, despite the divisions, to the whole of Christendom.
This unity is not always visibly manifest to the necessary extent. Christendom
as such is thus considered as essentially the one, complete body of the
Church of Christ. As for division, it is not understood as the destruction
of inner unity and a painful crippling of certain parts of the body of
the Church. It is merely regarded as an inadequate awareness (in the minds
of divided Christians) of their inner health, and as a lack of courage
to proclaim that health to the world through acts which manifest their
"The description of unity contained in this Report can refer only
to the future whenafter intercession, ecumenical collaboration and seeking
have come to an endthat unity has been attained.
"The sin of division consists not in insufficient awareness of
allegedly existing unity, but in the destruction of that unity, thus injuring
some of its parts and harming the whole body of the Church of Christ. It
is true that the unity of the Church is a gift of God, but only in a well-defined
sense. It is a fact that there exists now and will exist until the consummation
of time a divine objective basis of ecclesial unity in Christ, i.e. the
possibility of intimate communion with Him through faith and through participation
in sacramental life, especially in the true Eucharist, on condition that
full obedience is paid to the fullness of the divine revelation. In itself
this objective aspect, outside our obedience or disobedience to the divine
revelation, does not assure complete, essential unity in any part of the
Christian brotherhood. Only the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church,
which is the full, healthy foundation of the Body of Christ, possesses
the true and full unity, because it is obedient to the voice of the divine
Truth. It can be incomplete, or may almost disappear. Full and perfect
unity can be appropriated by the whole Oekumene not through a simple manifestation
or visible expression, but solely by re-building the broken unity, by
returning to complete obedience to the truth. This will enable the limits
of the whole Christian brotherhood to become identified with those of the
one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church." 
Such a relatively conservative position by Moscow through the Metropolitan
is all the more interesting when one considers what an avid ecumenist Nikodim
himself was, especially when it came to matters involving Roman Catholics.
Yet even Metropolitan Nikodim speaks of "returning to complete obedience
of the truth"; he does not accept that the "whole Christian brotherhood"
is "the one Church of Christ." He makes no mention of a branch
theory of historic churches which accept the Nicene Creed. Thus the positions
of Professor Nissiotis and the Metropolitan differ markedly.
A Roman Holiday
In the intervening years between New Delhi and Uppsala, an ecumenical
event of the greatest magnitude had occurred outside the boundaries of
the WCC, but one which would have profound impact on the Orthodox, as well
as others involved in the ecumenical movement, the Second Vatican Council
of the Roman Catholic Church, (1962-1965).
While standing officially aloof from ecumenical work until then, the
Roman Church, by establishing the Secretariat for Christian Unity, plunged
into the ecumenical quest itself. Most immediate was the meeting in Jerusalem
in January 1964 between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.
This meeting was described as a communion of love.  Thus, Orthodox-Roman
Catholic ecumenism began in earnest.
Patriarch Athenagoras described his role "to cultivate friendly
relations with the Roman Catholic Churches, as well as with all Christian
Churches. We entertain this aim in spite of the many existing obstacles,
bearing in mind the common teachings and traditions that have bound together
the Churches, and that have their origin in the first ages of the One and
Undivided Church of Christ."35 In words paralleling those of Professor
Nissiotis at New Delhi, the Ecumenical Patriarch spoke of an ancient Undivided
Church of Christ to which those with common teaching and traditions have
been bound together. If the ancient Church was "undivided," and
by implication the Church today is divided, then the whole of Orthodox
ecclesiology was turned on its head by pronouncement of the Ecumenical
Contacts between Rome and Constantinople continued until the much celebrated
"mutual lifting of the Anathemas of 1054 "was announced on December
7, 1965. 32 The schism, and the issues which effected it, remained but
the anathemas were lifted as "a gesture of goodwill between the two
Churches..."36, an act of linguistic legerdemain, at least, to be
By the mid 1970s, the seeds sown in the sixties were certainly starting
to sprout, especially amongst those representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
At the Fifth Assembly (Nairobi, November 1975), speaking on "Christian
Unity", Archimandrite Cyril Argenti addressed first the question,
Why are we divided?:
"the things which divide people in generalconflicting economic
interests, racial prejudice, nationalist feelings, class selfishness, thirst
for power, rivalry for prestige, and so onalso divide Christians, which
means that the particular social groupclass, nation or raceto which
we belong is a more important factor in determining our behavior than the
Kingdom of Heaven to which we also belong. We are more intensely aware
of being Greek, Irish, or Boer than being Orthodox, Catholic or Calvinist.
Our confessional label serves simply as an alibi to justify, or rather
to conceal, our real motives which continue to be those of the old man
who still lingers in all of us." 
After then discussing the Body of the Risen Christ as a foundation for
unity, Christian Unity and the Eucharistic Assembly and Christian Unity
and Witness to the World, the speaker says,
"The Church is therefore a witnessing community because it identifies
itself with the body of the Crucified and Risen Christ: this is the Church
in which we confess our faith in the words of the Creed, I believe in
the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is to this goal and final
objective that all our efforts for unification must be directed, and we
should not confuse it with the distorted image present by our different
church institutions. What defines the Church and gives it its being is
what the creative word of its Lord incessantly summons it to become, not
the caricature of it that its clergy too often present to us." 
Finally, near the end, Fr. Agenti asks,
"Does this mean that at the present time we should abandon the
quest for organic union of the separated churches? On the contrary, we
must prepare the framework for it by assemblies like the present, and also,
on the various geographical levels, by local assemblies which will foreshadow
the future of the Church...
"In conclusion, may I express the wish, or rather the prayer that:
through the participation in the World Council by all the Christian
churches, (and in particular by the very ancient and venerable Church of
Rome and all the holy churches in communion with her);
through the deeper growth in Christ of all the member churches, present
through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, the unifying
if not the 5th or 6th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, then
at least the n-th Assembly will be recognized by the whole Christian people
as the 8th Ecumenical Council of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church of Christ." 
In not one instance did the speaker identify the Orthodox Church as
the Una Sancta when speaking of the Church. While he says certain things
about the Church and Eucharist and witness in the world which could be
interpreted from an Orthodox understanding, he lays the groundwork for
his conclusionthat a future assembly of the World Council be recognized
as the 8th Ecumenical Councilby stating, near the beginning, that confessional
labels served as alibis to conceal our real motives, that the cause of
Christian disunity was ultimately the function of social and economic struggle.
What of false doctrine? What of truth?
"If we are not united," Father Argenti posits, "we are
not the Church."  In other words, we are the Church based upon our
relations with other, separated Christians, not because the Church is obedient
to the Truth. Hence, a Protestant ecclesiology was proclaimed by an Orthodox
priest to an ecumenical gathering: The Church had ultimately ceased to
be because of the separations in the Christian world. The role of ecumenism,
and in particular that of the WCC was to be the vehicle of reconstituting
a lost unity.
Twenty years before, the position of the Ecumenical Throne was that
the Unity was already a given within the Una Sancta, the Orthodox Church.
Now the position to the contrary, that of pan-Protestantism, was enunciated
by a representative of the same Patriarchate.
A Path Strewn with Complexities
Only a year earlier, Patriarch Pimen of All-Russia had addressed the
subject, "An Orthodox View of Contemporary Ecumenism" at the
University of Ioensu (Finland) in terms different from those of the Ecumenical
Throne and its representatives.
First of all, Patriarch Pimen qualifies his role:
"I do not of course consider myself as having the right to speak
on behalf of all Orthodox or of presenting one, single, Orthodox view on
ecumenism. Such a single, pan-Orthodox view not only does not exist among
the Orthodox churches, but there is no single view or single approach within
any single local Orthodox church, as there is no unanimity of approach
or view on this question in other, non-Orthodox churches.
"Besides this, no one in Orthodoxy has the right to speak on or
evaluate anything in name of all Orthodox, on behalf of all the Orthodox
churches. Only an Ecumenical Council has the right to speak in the name
of all the Orthodox communion, and then only if that Council has been accepted
by all the local Orthodox churches." 
He went on, first to describe in brief the entrance of the Russian Church
into the Ecumenical Movement, "a path strewn with complexities and
hesitations between a sincere desire for brotherly relations and the achievement
of full unity with our brothers outside the Orthodox church, and our traditional
loyalty to the ecclesiological views of the Ancient Undivided Church..." 
"To this we must add the difficulties provoked by the original,
not only purely Western but entirely pro-Western, character of the structure,
activity and politico-social orientation of the World Council of Churches
in the period of its establishment and the Cold War period... The Russian
Church wanted to see in the World Council of Churches an objective and
effective forum for the coming together (meeting) and dialogue of all churches
and all Christians in their efforts towards rapprochement and the achievement,
or rather the restoration of the unity of all Christians in One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church." 
As well, the Patriarch stated emphatically that the World Council of
Churches could not be considered, or confused with, what the Orthodox Church
means when she speaks of a Church Council. "Councils are the organs
of the Church,"  he said, leaving no doubt that the Patriarch believed
that the Orthodox Church was Una Sancta.
Hence, Archimandrite Argentis "prayer", to use his own words,
that a future assembly of the World Council of Churches might be recognized
as an Ecumenical Council displayed a variant position from that of the
Patriarch of Moscow but one year earlier.
Yet even some under the jurisdiction of Moscow were using terms in the
70s which indicated that the Protestant presuppositions underlying the
Councils work, to which Father Schmemann would make reference, were certainly
being used when speaking to WCC agencies. For example, in a sermon in West
Berlin for the WCCs Central Committee (1974), Metropolitan Anthony of
Sourozh spoke of the words from "the ancient liturgies of the still
undivided Church."  He speaks then of "a unity which is lost,
a oneness which is to be reconquered, but is not yet possessed." 
Certainly this might seem to be more appropriately addressed to representatives
of the Church of Rome rather than to Protestants.
This is basically the background of Orthodoxys role and evolution in
the Ecumenical movement, especially in the World Council of Churches, from
the 1920s until the mid 1970, when Father Schmemann wrote of the Ecumenical
Agony for the Orthodox, which was quoted at the beginning of this article.
While Fr. Schmemann stated quite rightly that Orthodoxys "witness"
has been a marginalized one in the Ecumenical movement, it also seems obvious
from the above quotations from various Orthodox ecumenists that the "witness"
of the Ecumenical movement upon the Orthodox participants was not so marginal.
Fr. Justin Popovich would offer a critique of ecumenism. One of Orthodoxys
theologians from the same period, he had known the same wars and political
movements that prompted the initial concern for greater collaboration amongst
the churches in Europe. Yet, Father Justins assessment is quite different,
and one worthy of quoting.
"The contemporary dialogue of love, which takes the form of naked
sentimentality, is in reality a denial of the salutary sanctification of
the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13), that is to say the
unique salutary love of the truth. (2 Thess. 2:10) The essence of love
is truth; love lives and thrives as truth. Truth is the heart of each Godly
virtue and therefore of love as well. And each one of these Godly virtues
preaches and evangelizes about the God-man Lord Jesus as the only Person
Who is the embodiment and image of Divine Truth, that is to say Pan-Truth.
If truth were something other that the God-man, than Christ in other words,
if it were though, an idea, a theory, mind science, philosophy, culture,
man, humanity, the world, or all the worlds, or whoever or whatever or
all it altogether, it would be minor, inadequate, finite, mortal. Truth,
however, is a person, and yes, the person of the God-man Christ, the second
person of the Holy Trinity, and as such is immortal and not finite, but
eternal. This is because in the Lord Jesus, Truth and Life are of the same
essence: they are eternal Truth and eternal Life. (cf. John 14:6; 1:4,17)
He who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ grows unceasingly through His
Truth into the divine infinity. He grows with all of his being, with all
of his mind, with all of this heart and his soul. People live in Christ
speaking the truth in love, because only in this way we must grow up
in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ. (Eph. 4:15)
"This is always realized with all the saints, (Eph. 3:18), always
in the Church and through the Church, because a person cannot grow in Him
Who is the head of the body of the Church, in other words in Christ,
in any other way.
"Let us not fool ourselves...Separation of and detachment of love
from truth is a sign of the lack of theanthropic faith and of the loss
of theanthropic balance and common sense. At any rate, this was never,
nor is it the way of the Fathers. The Orthodox are rooted and founded only
with all of the saints in truth, and have proclaimed in love this theanthropic
life-saving love for the world and for all of the creation of God from
the time of the Apostles until today. The naked moralistic, minimalistic,
and humanistic pacifism of contemporary Ecumenists does only one thing:
it brings to light their diseased roots, which is to say, their sick philosophy
and feeble morality according to the human tradition. (Col. 2:8) They
reveal the crisis of their humanistic faith, as well as their presumptuous
insensitivity for the history of the Church, which is to say, for its apostolic
and catholic continuation in truth and in grace. And the holy apostolic,
patristic, God-mindedness, and common sense are proclaimed by the mouth
of St. Maximos the Confessor in the following truth: For faith is the
foundation of the things that follow, I mean hope and love, which certainly
sustain the truth. (P.G. 90c. 1189A)" 
"Separation of and detachment of love from truth is a sign of the
lack of theanthropic faith and of the loss of theanthropic balance and
common sense." At any rate, this was never, nor is it the way of the
Fathers. The Orthodox are rooted and founded only with all of the saints
in truth, and have proclaimed in love this theanthropic life-saving love
for the world and for all of the creation of God from the time of the Apostles
until today. Father Justins words are worth repeating, because they offer
the fit criticism not only of the ecumenical method, but also of its results.
Love divorced from truth truly is sentimentality. To speak of a "communion
of love" without truth, whether this is a denial of history, an obfuscation
of schism, or an avoidance of basic doctrine, is a thing of feelings not
It is as if the maxims of the situational ethicists of the sixties were
adopted by the ecumenists: to do the "loving thing," not the
right thing, because morality is relative. For in matters ecumenical the
maxim has become to say the loving thing, not that which is true. This
is done, it would follow, because Truth itself, or rather, Himself is relative.
What is detailed above about Orthodox involvement in Ecumenism is dated
by some two decades. In the intervening twenty years, Orthodoxys role
and impact on ecumenism has continued to be debated.
In the 1980s, through the work of the Faith and Order Commission, a
document entitled "Baptism, the Eucharist, and Ministry" was
issued by the WCC for study by its constituent bodies. At the time of its
publication, Prof. Nissiotis, referenced above was Moderator of the Commission.
Basically, the BEM document is predicated upon the Councils understanding
of churches growing toward of a goal of visible unity, developing doctrinal
convergence along the way. Chiefly, the document seeks to focus on "the
problems of mutual recognition leading to unity." 
From the Preface to the ... [Webmaster note: text unclear at this
point] ... we read: "...the Faith and Order Commission
now present this Lima text (1982) to the churches. We do so with deep conviction,
for we have become increasingly aware of our unity in the body of Christ.
We have found reason to rejoice in the rediscovery of the richness of our
common inheritance in the Gospel. We believe that the Holy Spirit has led
us to this time, a kairos of the ecumenical movement when sadly divided
churches have been enabled to arrive at substantial theological agreements.
We believe that many significant advances are possible if in our churches
we are sufficiently courageous and imaginative to embrace God's gift of
Church unity."  Again, the basic, sectarian premise is stated: the
many, divided churches are actually parts of the body of Christ. Not one
of them is the Church.
It indeed is wonderful to note the "convergence", if not consensus
on the topics of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry contained in the document,
as far as the document goes. However, mutual recognition of Baptism, Eucharist,
and Ministry in the various divided churches is the ultimate goal. It seems
not a matter that the Holy Spirit supplies what is lacking, as we would
understand it, but that theological convergence would determine that nothing
has been lacking all along.
Thus baptism is described:
"Our common baptism, which unites us
to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity. We are one people and
are called to confess and serve one Lord in each place and in all the world.
The union with Christ which we share through baptism has important implications
for Christian unity. There is...one baptism, on God and Father of us all...
(Eph. 4:4-6) When baptismal unity is realized in one holy, catholic, apostolic
Church, a genuine Christian witness can be made to the healing and reconciling
love of God. Therefore, our one baptism into Christ constitutes a call
to the churches to overcome their divisions and visibly manifest their
The commentary on this section notes: "The inability of the churches
mutually to recognize their various practices of baptism as sharing in
the one baptism, and their actual dividedness in spite of mutual baptismal
recognition, have given dramatic visibility to the broken witness of the
Church." "The readiness of the churches in
some place and times to allow differences of sex, race, or social status
to divide the body of Christ has further called into question genuine baptismal
unity of the Christian community (Gal. 3:27-28) and has seriously compromised
its witness. The need to recover baptismal unity is at the heart of the
ecumenical task as its is central for the realization of genuine partnership
within the Christian communities." 
To recognize baptism extra ecclesiam, outside of the Church, as Orthodox
understand the Church to be is central to the ecumenical agenda. Orthodoxy
admittedly has had, and does have, two basic practices in regard to heterodox
baptism, the stricter position holding that baptism does not exist outside
of the Church and the other practice of economy, declaring the rite to
lack fulness and in want of the sealing of the Spirit. In effect, the latter
position is similar to that taken of baptism in extremis by the laity,
except that it is presumed that a lay baptism is ministered by one baptized
and chrismated. In either case, the BEM document purports to see baptism
as a uniting ordinance, already having incorporated all of its recipients
wherever they be and whatever they believe into Christ.
Again, the section on the Eucharist refers to its being a judgment on
"unjustifiable confessional oppositions with the body of Christ" 
and yet any doctrine of Eucharistic presence, doctrine to which the Holy
Fathers appealed at the Third Ecumenical Council to defend the union of
the two naturesDivine and humanin one personJesus Christ, is omitted.
Agreement about Eucharistic presence is left as a possibility for further
theological "convergence."  Yet Eucharistic sharing is envisioned
as a means to union.  A comment on this sections notes:
Testament days, the Church has attached the greatest importance to the
continued use of the elements of bread and wine which Jesus used at the
Last Supper. In certain parts of the word, where bread and wine are not
customary or obtainable, it is now sometimes held that local food and drink
serve better to anchor the eucharist in everyday life. Further study is
required concerning the question of which features of the Lord's Supper
were unchangeably instituted by Jesus, and which features remain within
the Churchs competence to decide." 
Whether this commentary was arrogant, or merely naive, contextualizing
the eucharist, as well as other aspects of worship and faith, will be seen
later in Council activities.
Finally, when the BEM statement touches on ministry, apostolic succession
is not definitively resident in the person of a bishop. Thus the document,
unlike the early Church, does not envision asking a church for a list of
bishops to prove its relationship to the Church Catholic.
"It is increasingly recognized that a continuity in apostolic faith,
worship and mission has been preserved in churches which have not retained
the form of historic episcopate. This recognition finds additional support
in the fact that the reality and function of the episcopal ministry have
been preserved in the many of these churches, with or without the title
"Today churches, including those engaged in union negotiations,
are expressing willingness to accept episcopal succession as a sign of
the apostolicity of the life of the whole Church. Yet, at the same time,
they cannot accept any suggestion that the ministry exercised in their
own tradition should be invalid until the moment that it enters into an
existing line of episcopal succession. Their acceptance of the episcopal
succession will best further the unity of the whole Church if it is part
of a wider process by which the episcopal churches themselves also regain
their lost unity." 
Ultimately, the question of candidates for ordination is dealt with
thus: "The discipline with regard to the conditions for ordination
in one church need not be seen as universally applicable and used as grounds
for not recognizing ministry in others."  "Churches which refuse
to consider candidates for the ordained ministry on the ground of handicap
or because they belong, for example, to one particular race or sociological
group should re-evaluate their practices."  Does this mean, then
that though conditions for ordination might not be universally applicable
there are some universals in regard to the candidates? That is, does "sociological
group" refer only to racial and ethnic division, or does it mean as
well, the sex and/or the sexual preference of the candidate him/herself?
A further section address ordination of women: "Differences on
this issue raise obstacles to the mutual recognition of ministries. But
those obstacles must not be regarded as substantive hindrance for further
efforts towards mutual recognition. Openness to each other holds the possibility
that the Spirit may well speak to one church through the insights of another."
Are we seriously to believe that the Orthodox position, viz-a-viz, ordination
of women is going to be construed as the voice of the Spirit, speaking
"to one church through the insights of another"? Future behavior
by ecumenists toward the Orthodox on this point should amply demonstrate
that this is not what is really meant. Mind you, two of our own ecumenists
note that the "church" is to be judged by what the "church"
does, not by what it says.
In sum, while not everything in the BEM should be rejected out of hand,
its basic premise, that mutual recognition of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry
will aid the sadly divided churches in their quest for unity must be.
That Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry can be recognized in themselves,
extra ecclesiam, for the Orthodox is impossible until agreement on the
what the actual apostolic faith of the Church is. Two examples from the
U.S. illustrate how far "theological convergence" has yet to
go in this regard.
The National Council of Churches, in 1986, would publish a gender inclusive
lectionary for the voluntary use of its member churches. "In the mid-1980s,
the National Council of Churches began publishing its multi-volume Inclusive
Language Lectionary...which omitted male pronouns for God and retranslated
Jesuss traditional title, the Son of Man, as the Human One."
While the Orthodox would dissent, the influence of the inclusivist movement
has continued to be felt and promoted in ecumenical circles.
To be sure the lectionary is not used by Orthodox Churches and the Orthodox
dutifully delineated objections to such an approach. The lectionarys publication
merely documents the deviance from traditional Christian vocabulary in
which the NCC is engaged.
Yet one must ask the question, What is the value of objecting at all,
if the basic presupposition undergirding ecumenical work, is a Protestant
, relativistic one? The Orthodox are granted their portfolio to represent,
at it were, the position, the perspective, the tradition of ancient and
venerable churches of the East. Until and unless the perspective of the
ancient and venerable Church of the East is accepted as true, as revealed
by the Truth Himself, we can only append document after document to ecumenical
studies. Yet in the long run, we shall be accepted as no more than a footnote
on the blotter of the ecumenical movement.
The Nineties: Will They Be As Gay?
A glaring example of the marginalization of the Orthodox participants
in ecumenism happened within this decade. For the first time in its history,
the World chose to focus on the Holy Spirit as the theme for its Seventh
Assembly in Canberra, (February 1991). For Orthodox Christians anywhere,
it seems odd to wait forty-plus years to focus on the Holy Spirit. Do we
not convene our Church Councils by invoking the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,
who gathers us together? Do we not begin our prayers daily by saying "O
Heavenly King? One wonders if the course of the WCC had not been different
had the Holy Spirit been the focus of the World Councils work in the first
That such an emphasis would be so late in coming only amplifies the
Orthodox conundrum of being in a organization based on non-Orthodox presuppositions
about the Church, about theology, about God Himself. To expect an Orthodox
outcome on such would have been hope against hope. Arguably, only Pentecostals,
perhaps, and Quakers, amongst the Western Christians have had much of an
emphasis on the Spirit to begin with, and yet not without difficulties
in their own Christologies, as one might expect.
"Participants couldnt, of course, agree on whether the Spirit
is he or she or it (not even those who read the Scriptures in the
original languages and knew that ruath is feminine), and there were charges
that some of the spirits invoked were pagan...Feminist theologians found
the Spirit theme a congenial one, but their perspectives on the nature
of the Holy Ghost sometimes antagonized more traditional masculine minds."
Of course, as this reporters account revealed, all of these presentations
were to be seen relatively. The feminists had a perspective; more traditional
masculine minds were antagonized. Truth could count for little, since to
maintain such would be to assert that some other was, in fact, wrong! In
such a dialogue, how can anyone assert Truth?
Particularly offensive to the Orthodox, even to those attending, was
the syncretistic presentation of a Presbyterian theologian which combined
aspects of her native Koreas popular religion in a presentation of "contextual
theology " and used ancestor worship " to honor the Spirits of
Australias aboriginal people." Speaking of Korean gods and the need
to listen to ancestral spirits to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, "she
called on listeners to renounce Western, human-centered theological assumptions.
This must be the time we have to reread the Bible from the perspective
of birds, water, trees and mountains...Learning to think like a mountain,
changing our center from human beings to all living beings, has become
our responsibility in order to survive."  If she was right to insist
upon the rejection of Western, human-centered theological assumptions(what
Orthodox theologian would not do so?)she errs greatly, of course, to
call Christians at all to "think" like mountains, impossible
for a Christian-belief system, impossible since only man, who is in the
image God and who most displays that image through his rational faculty,
can think, period. Yet the theologian was applauded, passionately in
some quarters of the assembly,  and ultimately defended by WCC General
Secretary, Emilio Castro.  At the same assembly, Castro chose to attack
openly Orthodox ecclesiology because of the necessity to have separate
Eucharists, one Protestant and one Orthodox. (Years before, the Orthodox
were guaranteed that their presence did not commit themselves to accepting
other bodies as churches in the full sense of the term.) In his report
as General Secretary, Castro called for Eucharistic sharing at the Assembly
and used the term "hypocrisy" to describe "Christendoms
divisions at the communion table. Orthodox felt they were being judged
as uncharitable." 
Elizabeth Templeton, a Scottish theologian, spoke to the Assembly and
addressed the Orthodox thus: "The brokenness of the Eucharist is not
your problem. Its all our problem. I take seriously what is being said
by the refusalthat I am not of the church. But I dont believe it..."
So much for four decades of "witness".
Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox priest and at that time president of
the NCC "cautioned delegates that the continued involvement By Eastern
and Oriental Orthodox in the WCC is fragile."  Yet membership continued.
That the Orthodox would be so attacked should not surprise anyone who
has observed the workings of the ecumenical movement, especially that of
the National and World Councils. There is to be sure an "orthodoxy"
to which both of these groups subscribe in various ways. Ironically, they
are very much human-centered, Western notions. To deviate from them, to
insist that the very presuppositions of the movement are flawed ones provokes
the wrath which once the Jesuits reserved for some Protestants. What the
Orthodox experienced in Canberra can only be harbinger of things to come.
Additionally, at Canberra came a call for the acceptance of the implications
of the BEM in its fulness: mutual recognition of Baptism, Eucharist, and
Ministry, plus a move toward accepting the faith of the Nicene Creed. Yet
what could one rightly make of such a call "back" to Nicea coupled
with the worship of ancestral spirits in the name of contextual theology?
Again, we must judge by what the "churches" do, not by what they
1991 Suspension of NCC participation
Later on in 1991 after Canberra, Orthodox bodies in the U.S., following
the leadership of Archbishop Iakovos suspended participation in the National
Council of Churches for several months, in part because of the theological
deviance of such ecumenical gatherings. Yet by the following March (1992),
the Archbishop provisionally resumed the participation of the Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese in NCC activities and the other jurisdictions which had been
on hiatus did so likewise. 
Interestingly enough, little more than one year following the resumption
of provisional participation in the National Council of Churches, Archbishop
Iakovos was honored by the establishment of the "Archbishop Iakovos
Endowment for Faith and Order", an effort to raise $10 million dollars,
and part " a larger campaign called the Ecumenical Development Initiative,"
and a joint effort of both the WCC and NCC. 
However, evidence of continued Orthodox unease with certain forms of
ecumenical involvement surfaced shortly thereafter. At a meeting in Santiago
de Compostela, Spain, in August 1993, of the WCCs Commission on Faith
and Order, evidence of the fragility of Orthodox relationships within the
ecumenical movement surfaced once more. At one point, a message from Archbishop
Iakovos was read in which the Archbishop took issue with the World Councils
"theological and ethical liberalism." 
Orthodox delegates as well declared that they were deeply offended
by some of the comments made during the meeting. Archbishop Stylianos of
Australia, and chairman of the Orthodox delegation stated, "Some of
the speakers allowed themselves to present their views as if they were
the new prophets of the Christian era who were entitled to put all of us
aside as if we were the betrayers of the Christian mandate." 
A WCC conference report noted that Archbishop Stylianos did not "identify
specific points of contention but was apparently referring to support shown
by some speakers for the ordination of women and Eucharistic sharing. Of
course, this path was dutifully lined out in the BEM document, to listen
to the insight of the Holy Spirit speaking "to one church through
the insights of another."  By late 1994, the Russian Church began
to deal with doubts within its own ranks, viz-a-viz ecumenism. An attempt
to withdraw the Moscow Patriarchate from the World Council was fought back
that December in a meeting of its Holy Synod, but the proposal was seen
by some as a protest against missionary activity in Russia by non-Orthodox
groups, some of which are members of the WCC.
By the mid-nineties, Orthodox participation in these forms of the ecumenical
movement had grown increasingly strained, even by admission of a number
of Orthodox ecumenists. The old reason given in certain quarters, namely
that World Council participation enabled Orthodox behind the Iron Curtain
to communicate more easily with their brethren in the free world had disappeared.
The only surviving remnant of this line of thinking was to be found in
crediting the World Council for providing a forum for representatives of
one of the Orthodox churches of the diaspora to meet with other churches
of worldwide Orthodoxy who would not otherwise be able to meet because
of certain canonical questions about their own governing status.
That Orthodoxy should find itself in such tension, or that its relationship
with the ecumenical movement should be so fragile had been addressed by
Father Schmemann two decades ago, should his words be heeded:
"...the initial misunderstanding that has never been fully cleared,
and hence the ultimate failure of that encounter in spite of the presence
and efforts of many brilliant Orthodox theologians and spokesmen, and,
in the last years, of the massive participation by virtually all Orthodox
churches. What the Western architects of the ecumenical movement never
fully understood is that for the Orthodox the ecumenical encounter, first
of all and above all, means the first free and therefore truly meaningful
encounter with the West as a totality, the West as the other half of
the initially one Christian world, separated from Orthodoxy not by a limited
number of doctrinal disagreements but primarily by a deep difference in
the fundamental Christian vision itself. It is this Western vision and
experience, inasmuch as the Orthodox saw in them a deviation from and a
mutilation of the once common faith and tradition, that they were anxious
to discuss, believing such discussion to be the self-evident and essential
condition for any further step.
"Such, however, was not at all the Western presupposition. First
of all, the West had long ago lost almost completely any awareness of being
just half of the initial Christianitas. Its own historical and theological
blooming began at the time when the Christian East, which dominated the
first Christian millennium, was entering its prolonged dark age, was
becoming voiceless and silent. Quite rapidly the West identified itself
with Christianitas, the East slipping into a corner of its memory, mainly,
alas, as the object of conversion to Rome or to Protestantism." 
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
I have been Orthodox now virtually since Fr. Schmemann first penned
his words about what he so rightly termed the "ecumenical agony"
for the Orthodox. I would offer the following critique of our continuance,
not so much in certain ecumenical endeavorsmore about that will followbut of our continuance in organizations or institutions which with their
own bureaucracies use the commendable objective of the unity of Christians
as a subterfuge for pan-Protestantism.
Working together ecumenically has become the catch-phrase, the code
word of a universalist movement. Orthodox positions are allowable as addenda
but, and perhaps in part by the equivocation of some of the Orthodox participants
over the years, the Orthodox positions are continually a marginal concern.
Purposefully not included for discussion in this article are the many,
questionable positions taken by the WCC, such as the support given in the
1970s for movements of political liberation in the Third World. These
are known, and they are but symptomatic of the problem the Orthodox world
has encountered dealing with a Pan-Protestant movement which has quite
triumphalistically presumed its rather recent, Western European positions
as normative. Yet even at this point, the question to be asked is the following.
Do ecumenical bodies like the WCC and the NCC now even purport to speak
in like terms which were originally used by its Protestant inceptors? That
is, are the ground rules of discourse, and the ultimate confession that
Jesus Christ is both God and Saviour, still operative in the movement,
evidenced, not by what member bodies say, but by what they do? (Cf. Nissiotis
and Argentis own test, cited above.) Hence, there are two areas to discuss
briefly, theological re-imagining; and moral issues, specifically abortion
and homosexuality. Approach to these two issues reveal rather bluntly what
the churches are, wherever they may be.
LANGUAGE AND RE-IMAGINING: Advent of a New Religion
The case of inclusive language and the syncretism found in Canberra
are but part of a new theology growing out a the abandonment of traditional
theology. In the late forties, both East and West, Roman Catholic, Protestant,
and Orthodox alike, could speak of Jesus Christ, call him God and Saviour,
call him the Son of God, and call God His Father, and they would have meant
it. Indeed, this was the operative condition for membership in the WCC
Today, it is quite proper to question whether or not certain members
of the World and National Councils believe in terms of faith and morals
anything near what was the common presumption that they did believe. To
borrow from the writings of Mr. C.S. Lewis, a belief in "mere Christianity"
was a least presumed a common denominator when the ecumenical movement
converged in Amsterdam. However, not only today is it common not to speak
of Christ Jesus in these terms, it is much more the case to speak in terms
not consonant with the Christology of the Patristic period, that of the
Cappadocians, for example. On the one hand, this demonstrates what the
Orthodox have known all along, that the Protestants are the inheritors
of but a recent tradition, steeped in the tenets of and made possible by
Western-European rationalism and humanism. For the Protestant, man, or
rather now I suppose, humankind, is the measure and objective reality has
been jettisoned in favor of a culturally determined reality. That the ecumenical
movement has definitely played a major part in attempts to redefine and
to re-imagine Christian doctrine is now beyond dispute. Two examples can
be readily examined closer to home. The first is inclusive language.
As noted above, "in the mid-1980s, the National Council of Churches
began publishing its multi-volume Inclusive Language Lectionary...which
omi4tted male pronouns for God and retranslated Jesuss traditional title,
the Son of Man, as the Human One."  Despite the Orthodox dissent,
the influence of the inclusivist movement has continued to be felt and
promoted in ecumenical circles.
To be sure the lectionary is not used by Orthodox Churches and the Orthodox
dutifully delineated objections to such an approach. Yet one must ask the
question, What is the value of objecting at all, if the basic presupposition
undergirding ecumenical work, is a Protestant , relativistic one?
The Orthodox are granted their portfolio to represent, at it were, the
position, the perspective, the tradition of the ancient and venerable churches
of the East. Until and unless the perspective of the ancient and venerable
Church of the East is accepted as true, as revealed by the Truth Himself,
we can only append document after document to ecumenical studies. In the
long run, we shall be accepted as no more than a footnote on the blotter
of the ecumenical movement. While might still officially see ourselves
as the True Church, to the Protestant, we are but one denomination among
Revising the Standard
To further the impact of inclusivist theology, the National Council
also chose to rework its own Revised Standard Version of the Scriptures
(1952), and issued the New Revised Standard Version, seeking to incorporate
inclusive language into the Scriptures as a whole, obliterating Messianic
prophecies, for example in some cases, (cf. Ps. 1:1) and even trying to
avoid the use of the pronoun "he" for the Lord Jesus as much
Additionally, the text is altered in many cases in the favor of the
"higher" critics. What previously had been footnoted in the RSV
as a variant reading, now became the text in the NRSV. Time and time again,
what is canonical Scripture for Orthodox Christians the world over and
the reading of the NRSV are not the same. (A curious "gloss"
on one NRSV text would even supply a reading favorable to female bishops!)
What the RSV began to untie theologically is unraveled almost completely
in the NRSV.
Thankfully, one jurisdiction did find the changes egregious enough to
warrant caution. The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America responded,
forbidding the use of the NRSV in its seminaries and for use in worship
in its parishes. An "Orthodox" edition is nevertheless in the
works with the approval of the ranking prelate of one of the other Orthodox
jurisdictions in America.
The Advent of a New Religion?
Yet the influence of ecumenism in reformulating the language of doctrine
and worship continues apace. In a book review entitled, "Three books
of worship: An ecumenical convergence", Paul Westermeyer looked at
three liturgical resources published by the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA),
the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ.
The Presbyterians themselves note an "ecumenical convergence
about worship...that had developed in the 19th and 20th centuries." 
When one examines what has converged along with a common shape for Protestant
worship, one finds the very ecumenical trend toward inclusive language.
"All three [the UMC, Presbyterians, and the UCC] seek to use inclusive
language for humanity and God. (Emphasis added.) ... The concern of inclusive
language is not worked out in exactly the same way. The UCC changes Lord
to God throughout. Though the Lord's Prayer usually is change to Prayer
of Our Savior, it remains unchanged in several places, perhaps inadvertently.
The United Methodists and the Presbyterians, though also sensitive to and
careful about inclusive language, do not make this change presumably because
Lord for them has a christocentric rather than a patriarchal connotation."
One wonders how to render, "God is the Lord and has revealed himself
unto us"? But, of course, if He has not really revealed himself, why
should one bother to sing that He has. Additionally, what is one to make
of the earliest creed of the Church, namely, that Jesus is Lord, by this
line of reasoning?
Even more recently the United Church of Christ published a new hymnal
wherein feminist, inclusivist lyrics are ever-present, including the hymn
"Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth," and where one example of
many attempts to give God dual-gender can be seen in a revision of the
hymn "Be Thou My Vision."
I can remember singing this particular hymn in my protestant youth,
"Thou my great Father,
I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling,
and I with thee one."
Alas, now the UCC is asking its members to sing
"Mother and Father, you are both to me
now and forever, your child I will be."
As poetry this is bad enough; as theology this is not Christian
The new hymnal is not without its critics. UCC theologian, Willis Elliott,
quite accurately assesses the situation thus: "What were being asked
to celebrate is the advent of a new religion." 
Even more recently, the U.C.C. has been cautioned to hold back lest
its deviance from "traditional" modes and expression harm its
ecumenical relationships. The use of a modalist formula for baptism, "In
the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer" has gained
acceptability in parts of the U.C.C.  In other words, "baptisms"
are being performed using Sabellian formulae, which strains beyond the
So, Willis Elliott is right. By means of certain worship forms, a new
religion is coming. This is precisely the point. This is where the path
of ecumenical convergence is leading. Perhaps a concern for more historic
forms of worship has emerged. Yet this convergence must be seen hand in
hand with a new theology, not unlike the position of pre-exilic Jews who
followed old ritual forms of Yahweh worship at the same time pagan idols
were erected in the Temple.
Lex orandi, lex credendi est.
The language of prayer is the language of belief. We Orthodox say that
we know that quite well. So the "ecumenical convergence" about
worship cannot be described otherwise as but an ecumenical "convergence"
about theology, about doctrine, about Christology wherein the ancient landmarks
that Jesus is Christ, that Jesus is Lord, that He is the Son of God, and
that the first Person of the Holy Trinity is Father, both his and ours,
are being removed by our "partners" in ecumenical endeavors.
By examining what other members of the ecumenical movement are saying
when they pray, one can learn much. This situation of redefining the corpus
of Christian belief did not exist to this extent when the ecumenical movement
began. There were de-mythologizers then to be sure. However, now the movement
is involved in what can only be described as re-mythologizing. Re-Imagining/
An obvious case in point was the "Re-Imagining" conference
held in Minneapolis in November 1993. It celebrated the World Council of
Churches Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women.  Charges
of Sophia-worship redounded in conservative Methodist and Presbyterian
circles, with those two denominations (UMC and PCUSA) being some of the
chief financial backers of the conference.
A Presbyterian denominational evaluation stated, "...conference
rituals attempted to discover and explore new language, not worship a new
god. Just as clearly, however, conference rituals used new language in
ways that imply worship of a divine manifestation distinctly different
from the the one triune God whom alone we worship and serve."
"Many of the prayers voiced at the conference went beyond using
wisdom as one of the metaphors appropriately employed in liturgical address
of God. Wisdom/Sophia, both in frequency and formulation, became an alternative
employed in distinction from the triune God. Such was clearly the case
in the Ritual of the Spirit of Re-Imagining in which a corporate prayer
concludes with the words, ... through the power and guidance of the spirit
of wisdom whom we name Sophia. Here, Sophia is not merely the Greek word
for wisdom, but a name invoked within a formulation that serves as an alternative
to the living tradition of the church catholic which prays through Jesus
"Consistently extravagant language in Re-Imagining rituals transformed
an attribute of God into a divine image different from the one true God
who has been revealed in Jesus Christ." Hence, the authors of the
evaluation concluded that worship of Sophia was "both implied and
encouraged by the liturgical language and forms of Re-Imagining rituals." 
An interesting side note is that one of the study references provided
by the WCC during its decade of solidarity contained a color icon of the
Holy Myrrhbearing Women on it cover, compliments of an Orthodox seminary.
Excerpts from the Enkomia for Holy Saturday Matins were included inside,
as well. A new openness, indeed! But we lend an air of legitimacy to such
ecumenical escapades even when we do not openly participate in them. In
the words of an eminent American ecumenist, "You (Orthodox) give us
our integrity." 
On the two most contentious moral issues of the past twenty-five years,
the ecumenical movement has displayed conspicuous silence. The very first
position of the Church on a social issue, abortion, is nowhere to be found
in the pronouncements of the National Council of Churches, for example.
That the Orthodox, by threatening to leave the NCC, stalled its attempt
by it to declare publically a pro-abortion stance in the early 1970s made
the news then. What did not make the news, and what most Orthodox Christians
do not realize, is that the National Council of Churches is cited by Mr.
Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority in Roe v. Wade, which legalized
abortion on demand and in all three trimesters of pregnancy.  The court
would deduce, based in part on such source material, that for Protestants
abortion was deemed a personal matter, though such was not the historic
Much more recently, NCC General Secretary Dr. Joan Brown Campbell went
on the record for the NCC in support of President Clintons health care
reform proposal, in 1993, one which included abortion coverage as an integral
part. Noting disagreement amongst some NCC members over aspects of the
reform, she stated, "Despite the fact that we reserve the right to
critique the plan to and to push for the greatest possible change, we continue
to go on record in support of this presidential initiative." Both
Roman Catholic Bishops and conservative Protestants did not hide their
light under a bushel, however, but specifically denounced the abortion
coverage provisions.  Since the NCC at times will state that it represents
thirty-two Protestant and Orthodox churches, it is not hard to fathom where the
general public, and public leaders, presume the Orthodox to be, viz-a-viz a given position.
Internationally, the World Council, for its part, more recently "protested
the UNs refusal to grant accreditation for the Beijing conference (on
women) to hundreds of organizations, most of them either feminist groups,
pro-choice groups or support groups for women in Tibet and Taiwan."
Hence, WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser warned UN Secretary General
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, "We may in the circumstances be constrained
to review the utility of our participation." 
Yet, unless abortion is condemned outright as the murder that it is
precisely because of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of the
Virgin Mary, either councils statement of belief that Jesus Christ is
Lord and God is not only suspect, but disingenuous.
A second moral issue threatening the very fabric of society is of course
the approbation sought by many secular forces to regard homosexuality as
but an alternative life-style. Again, the council remains silent. An attempt
on the part of the Metropolitan Community Church to gain council membership
was stalled by Orthodox objections, along with objections from some of
the predominantly Black Baptist denominational council members. According
to the Rev. Jane Brown Campbell, current General Secretary of the National
Council, the differing opinions on this issue, ranging from those of the
Black churches and the Orthodox to that of the United Church of Christ,
(which ordains openly gay and lesbian pastors), are all based in who the
constituent bodies are. 
That is, Orthodox positions on homosexuality are viewed not as based
on revealed truth but rooted in the cultures of the various member bodies.
Thus, the Orthodox, like the Black Baptists, have their pigeon-hole. Keep
in it, conform to the stereotypes, and we will tolerate you. We, after
all, give the movement its "integrity." Our "witness"
seems to be nothing more than to but a patch on the quilt of multiculturalism
rather than the fabric of the apostolic faith.
Interestingly enough, last July 7, one of the leading ecumenists in
the United Methodist Church admitted that she was a lesbian. Jeanne Audrey
Powers, associate general secretary of the UMCs General Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, was also head of the Faith
and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches.
After her disclosure, a Bishop of the UMC praised "Powers role
in the global ecumenical movement and the UMC."  One must rightly
ask, Whose faith, and whose order, did she represent? Or, is it any wonder
that Powers was also instrumental in planning the Re-Imagining Conference
referred to above?  We Orthodox do have some strange bed-fellows in the
ecumenical movement, do we not? The interrelatedness of inclusivist language,
feminist theology, abortion and homosexuality cannot be dismissed by anyone
serious enough to be alarmed about ecumenisms role in current theological
debate. The ecumenical convergence, to borrow a phrase, is one now so radically
different from that of those early days of the World Council. That we meet
in a quasi-ecclesial setting with members of the various denominations
whose basic core of beliefs are at variance with that faith once delivered
to the saints, defies the imagination. Both Professor Nissiotis and Archimandrite
Argenti declared that the "church" is to be judged by what the
"church" does, not by what it says. What then is one to make
of what the Orthodox Church does in ecumenical alliance with those whose
very lifestyle and theological point of reference is not merely "divergent"
from Orthodoxy but actually an attack on Orthodoxy? We will be judged on
what we do, to be sure.
The Price We Have Paid: Another Western Captivity?
The ecumenical movement was born out the atmosphere of European frustration
with the tribalism of the continent which saw country invade country in
the name of nationalism and all too often in the name of God. First the
League Nations, and later its successor, the United Nations, sought to
check the outbreak of war through the mediating influence of a supranational
political body of some sort.
The parallels between such and the flow of the ecumenical movement should
be obvious. Yet what is arguably proper in a political context is demonstrably
improper in a theological one because, at least for Orthodox Christians,
theology implies belief in eternal verities which God has revealed to man
in his Son, Jesus Christ.
There is a political maxim: "Between men as between nations, mutual
respect is peace."  Such a position can go along way to limit the
spread of war and hostility, whether nationalism or religion be the cause.
Politically speaking, one can posit that all religious positions are equally
deserving of respect. Yet in this principle of universal tolerance and
respect is also the seed of ecumenical disaster if truth be sacrificed
on the altar of amicability. Civil rulers in virtually every age have had
no tolerance for religious debate which threatened the political stability
of the realm. For some, religious debates have not made "one iota
of a difference," as long as political stability of the empire be
However, as Orthodox Christians, we are committed ipso facto to the
position that even "one iota" can make the difference between
truth and falsehood, darkness and light, heaven and hell. When the debate
centers on whether or not an issue is theologically proper, or morally
permissible, those in dialogue must first of all come to terms as to what,
indeed, is true.
In truth, Christ Jesus came to bring not peace but a sword, dividing
the bone from the joint and the marrow from the bone. The political ideology
undergirding ecumenism in the above cited instances, one of mutual respect
because all positions are equally valid is simply false to begin with.
All men are created equal; their religious positions are not. If one position
be true, then all the others which diverge from it must somehowto greater
or lesser degreebe false.
The Immigrants Desire?
Orthodoxy must constantly fight against the old ghost of Western captivity,
a curious fascination with things Western, which from time to time has
dominated the Church in certain quarters theologically, (both Latin and
Calvinist!), iconographically, and even architecturally, musically and
liturgically. The shame of being who we are, and the judging of the same
by Western, humanistic standards, rears its ugly head again and again.
Pan-protestant ecumenism stokes the fires of Western captivity still burning
in Orthodox self-consciousness. Thus a tension is to be found between those
not only of Western birth and culture who have converted to Orthodoxyas
well as of those "cradle born" Orthodox who remain unfetteredand
those whose Orthodoxy all too often is treated as but the religious expression
of the nation or the tribe.
1.) For example, the immigrants desire for social acceptance in America,
not unlike like that of the war-savaged Europeans desire for peace, should
not be dismissed as a motivating factor for some Orthodox to pursue ecumenist
endeavors. Ecumenical agencies provide at times ready access to the sources
of political power in the nation. This can be quite an intoxicant, indeed,
an opiate for those who might otherwise be denied such.
2.) Ecumenicity can cause to us to be more concerned by the political
impact of statements than for the truth. What is one to make of an Orthodox
cleric who would dodge his own faiths longstanding opposition to abortion
by publicly making such an inane statement that the Church seeks to stay
out of couples bedrooms? Of course, abortions tend to take place in abortuaries;
it is adultery that tends to take place in bedrooms. One would wonder whether
the adultery behind most abortions should not be addressed, too.
Yet, if ecumenical acceptance is paramount, then such equivocation is
to be expected. Let us sacrifice truth, and unborn children, on this altar
3.)Yet again, what is one to make of statements of the various patriarchates
which seem to equate evangelism with proselytism? Is this not merely the
old tribalism in a new form, telling the Western Christians to stay in
Western Europe because of historic, Orthodox claims to territory in the
East? It is as if Orthodoxy is the spiritual legacy of certain ethnic groups,
but not a universal faith for all mankind. If so, ecumenisms hand is at
work once more
4.) Most American churches involved in the National Council of Churches
are continuing to show decline in church membership, year after year. Over
twenty years ago, former NCC staffer Dean Kelley published his findings
in a book entitled, Why Conservative Churches are Growing.  He demonstrated
that the lack of specificity in a belief system, common to most, and perhaps
growing in all ecumenical partnerships, is chiefly to blame.
In fact, Kelley argued that it is not conservatism per se, at least
in a political sense, that is attributable to the growth of churches. It
is that those churches which make demands of their members in terms of
morals and faith are stronger, more cohesive bodies. This is the requisite
element, one which most member denominations and churches of the NCC lack.
Here again, our desire to be respectable, and to be just like anyone else
including in matters of faith and morals is taking its ecumenical toll
on us, especially among our cradle-born.
5.) Finally, what Orthodox priest has not had to deal with the conclusions
of certain parishioners that "we all believe in the same God anyway,
Father"? This desire for acceptance and upward mobility is tailor-made
At the same time, converts, adults and children, individuals and whole
parishes, are finding Orthodoxy not to be merely a denomination but the
Church, not merely an exotic option but the fullness of apostolic faith.
In fact, their very presence in the Church becomes an embarrassment to
the committed ecumenist, whether Orthodox or not. If Orthodox commitment
to mission and evangelism remains generally confined to establishing new
missions in the suburbs for the nominally churched who flee the old neighborhoods,
should we wonder why?
Why Do We Yet Persist?
At the onset of this article, the question was asked, Why do we persist
in the ecumenical movement? Especially, why do we continue participation
in certain entities whose basic commitment to "mere Christianity"
would seem hardly recognizable to those early pioneers, Orthodox, Protestant,
(or Roman Catholic). If some twenty years ago, Fr. Schmemann could describe
the agony wherein Orthodox participants found themselves, viz-a-viz "Orthodox
witness" and its impact,  the agony cannot help but be all the
more acute now.
Why do we remain? Why do we seem entrenched? Have we fallen victim to
but another Western captivity of the Church? There is, after all, unfortunately
a sense of inferiority devolving from minority status that the Orthodox
in America have felt. They have preoccupied themselves with conforming
to Western religious behavior and ethics. In fact, to paraphrase Fr. Schmemann,
they have wanted "not only to be Americanized, but homogenized and
pasteurized."93 The power structure of those in the American churches
remains drawn almost exclusively from this same base of cultural self-deprecation.
The majority of Orthodox hierarchs, as well as those who set policy and
administer in the Americas, are either foreign-born, or are the children
or grandchildren of immigrants. Unlike the original Orthodox missionaries
to America, most of these clerics, or their recent ancestors, did not come
to America to evangelize it. They came for religious and political freedom
at times. They came seeking economic benefits in most cases. And these
are not ignoble reasons. Yet, the desire to make it, to fit in, and to
be seen as part of the American middle class has all too often been substituted
for the Gospel imperative to go and to make disciples of all nations.
This mentality, of course, has played into the hands of those seeking
an ecumenical course in America. The political influence presumed by ecumenist
ventures is a heady experience for those who find themselves not totally
integrated into the power structure in America. Thus a longing for upward
mobility, and the power that such mobility implies, can be achieved by
associating with those who appear to, and in some cases, do represent the
same. That most of the Orthodox ecumenists in America come precisely from
the ranks of the "cradle born" Orthodox is a point which should
not be missed because of its profound sociological impact and symbolism.
This symbolism, indeed, cuts two ways. The "cradle-born" Orthodox
ecumenists can rub shoulders with the power elites, a situation which might
otherwise have eluded them, given their perceived social status. However,
they provide, as well, an image of "Orthodoxy-confined", the
heritage of the sons and daughters of Eastern European and Middle Eastern
In other words, the vision of a St. Innocent of Alaska, who desired
the penetration of the United States with the Orthodox faith,a mission
to be implemented by native-born American prelates and convert clergy ,is not consonant with that ecumenical vision found when the presence of
the chief representatives in many ecumenical ventures implies "a foreign
faith for foreigners." In the ecumenical world of culturally determined
revelation, this is precisely the pigeon-hole that the Orthodox find themselves
It is hard to find converts to Orthodoxy who are very sympathetic to
the aims of the ecumenical movement in the first place. Having made conscious,
adult decisions to accept Orthodoxy as the true faith, as the very ark
of salvation, they tend to be more than a bit perplexed by the associating
with members of non-orthodox denominations at the bureaucratic level. For
"average" converts, the very idea of seeking to cooperate with
representatives of Protestant denominations they personally have left as
the result of no small bit of soul-searching is more than curious. They
would rather seek to convert the non-Orthodox than to engage in ecumenically
minded mutual co-existence. As well, for the convert, for any who have
wrestled existentially with the competing claims of Protestantism, or of
Roman Catholicism, rather than theoretically, as is the case with ecumenical
discussions, the nuances of the debate can many times seem lost on the
Some of these Protestant presuppositions that creeds are part of historical,
cultural conditioning and theological development and that "new"
creeds may be drafted; that the "church" can be in a state of
sin; or that the "church" has not always used Biblical language
authentically or appropriately ; or, finally, that we must be open to
new, contextual expressions of the faith, are the very operating platform
of much of the ecumenical movement.
Is it therefore, any wonder, "that the thousands of Protestants
who have recently converted to Orthodoxy, including numerous ministers
and priests from diverse denominational backgrounds, have not come into
the Orthodox Church through the actions of the Orthodox witness in ecumenism,
but quite the contrary is true. The wave of recent Protestant converts
have come into the Church not because of its polite efforts at dialogue,
but because of its ageless, Patristic and Apostolic witness, including
those portions of that witness that most forcefully claim the exclusive
nature of the Orthodox Church to be the true Church."  Indeed, it
is any wonder that the missionary zeal in America is confined? If Orthodoxy
is confined by the ecumenical movement , as well as by some ecumenists
themselves, to an aspect of Eastern European culture, no wonder we are
"Americas best kept secret." 
Is it any wonder that most converts to Orthodoxy have had to find Orthodoxy
on their own? Like the paralytic carried up on the roof top and let down
into the Lord's presence, his friends tearing off the roof because they
found the door blocked, so too have so many come to Orthodoxy, in spite
of those rulers of the synagogue who would say in their hearts that this
was the wrong day, or the wrong way, to do it.
It Is the Twelfth Hour
Thus the crux, the agony of future witness and evangelism depend on
our determining what we are first and foremost. As long as the Orthodox
themselves conform to the place reserved for them in the movement, they
cannot hope to have lasting influence on it.
As Fr. Schmemann wrote:
"The initial misunderstanding [that Western
experience, theological categories and thought forms are universal] ...has
never been fully cleared, and hence the ultimate failure of that encounter
in spite of the presence and efforts of many brilliant Orthodox theologians
and spokesmen, and, in the last years, of the massive participation by
virtually all Orthodox churches." 
Ponder then these words of Fr. Justin (Popovich), as well:
"It is now high timethe twelfth hourtime for our Church representatives
to cease being nothing but the servants of nationalism and for them to
become bishops and priests of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The mission of the Church, given by Christ and put into practice by the
Holy Fathers, is this: that in the soul of our people be planted and cultivated
a sense and awareness that every member of the Orthodox Church is a Catholic
Person, a person who is for ever and ever, and is God-human; that each
person is Christs, and is therefore a brother to every human being, a
ministering servant to all men and all created things. This is the Christ-given
objective of the Church. Any other is not an objective of Christ but of
the Antichrist. For our local Church to be the Church of Christ, the Church
Catholic, this objective must be brought about continuously among our people.
And yet what are the means of accomplishing this God-human objective? Once
again, the means are themselves God-human because a God-human objective
can only be brought about exclusively by God-human means, never by human
ones or by any others. It is on this point that the Church differs radically
from anything which is human or of this earth." 
IS ORTHODOXY TRUE: Or is the Convert Being Lied
An essential question must be answered. Are we, or are we not, the Church
of Christ? That is, is Orthodoxy true? The response of the ecumenical movement
is that it is not.
If the Orthodox Church, through a desire to work ecumenically with the
separated bodies of Christendom ceases to proclaim that this is the True
Faith, that this is the Church, then we are being lied to, as well as lying
to ourselves. The adult convert has had to declare in public at his conversion:
"I believe and confess that this Church is the Bride of Christ, and
that therein is true salvation, which was in the Ark of Noah at the flood."
 Yet such a belief is incumbent upon each Orthodox, whether adult convert
or Orthodox from the age of forty days. It ultimately decides whether or not
he believes this to be true. How each Orthodox Christian lives, the moral
values he seeks to inculcate in his children. the vision of the future,
of America, of the world, that is, of the oikoumene, that God has revealed
himself unto us, that we have found the true faith, will determine how
he has answered this question.
The dilemma of the European seeking political stability in part through
ecumenism or the immigrant seeking acceptance in Americas sociopolitical
environment must not be allowed to impede the process. Political, sociological
and/or theological alliances must be seen in the light of the Gospel of
the God-Man who would allow alliances with none of this fallen worlds
systems, its methodologies, its techniques.
In short, God has given us the Church wherein lies the solution to the
political, and sociological issues of this or any day. The vision, the
ecumenical vision of the Theologian is quite simply the New Jerusalem,
"coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for
her husband." (Apoc. 21:2)
To believe that the institutions of man can accomplish this, that man
can in fact construct the institutions to do create such, is an idea as
old as Babel and as recent as the Renaissance. In short, such will deconstruct
not because of the weight of the task but because of the instability of
its foundation. For unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain
that build it. To presume that the house built by the Spirit on the day
of Pentecost is lacking, is incomplete betrays our faith to the core.
We know what, rather, who we worship. He met a woman at the well one
day. His Church was established that we all, Samaritan and Jew and Gentile,
might worship His Father in Spirit and in truth. If after all of our ecumenical
witness we have accomplished so little, our theological luminaries not
withstanding, let us heed the call, it is high time for our bishops and
our priests and our people to act like they are, "Orthodox Catholic"
peoplenot in any sectarian sense, but in spirit and in truth and to go
and make disciples, calling all mankind into the unity already existing,
never severed, of the Orthodox Church with her head, even Jesus Christ
So, let us never cease calling people to come home, even though some
of our own would condemn us still. Many of us know what it is like to be
orphans and then to have the joy of arriving safely home. By the waters
of Baptism and and the sealing of Chrismation, God's grace, active in our
heterodox lives, to be sure, was sealed; but oh, the fulness, the abundance
of that grace now! It is a chalice overflowing, a source of living water.
It is the fulfillment of the prophecy of a river flowing from the temple,
the One True Church of Christ, into all nations, setting the captives free,
and bringing them home, for ever.
The "cradle-born" Orthodox ecumenist simply does not know,
cannot know what it is like not to be Orthodox. On this account, judge
us not unless one has been where we have been. There was a time when we
could only sing of grace, abundant, rich and free. Yet, hear us now when
we cry out: We will let no manno human institutiontake our crowns.
At the same time of the incident which precipitated this article, other
voices, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox gathered to advocate a
new approach to ventures ecumenical. This past summer, Rose Hill saw the
meeting of advocates of what was called "the new ecumenism."
Roman Catholics had met with Evangelicals before, both of whom are not
WCC/NCC members. This was the first time for Orthodox participation.
That there should be a call for such is interesting itself. That those
who spoke should lend credence to such a gathering, Bishop Kallistos Ware
and Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon; Roman Catholics, Richard John Neuhaus and
Peter Kreeft, and Evangelicals, Harold O.J. Brown and J.I. Packer, is noteworthy.
That the chief Orthodox speakers were both converts to Orthodoxy says much
about this new approach.
If the chief architectural flaws of the old Protestant-style ecumenical
movement be avoided, and if a bureaucracy not be established to provide
jobs for professional ecumenists, perhaps something more substantive can
be the result. Not the least to be noted favorably is that participants
in this new ecumenism state from the outset that agreement on moral issues,
such as abortion, precedes further work and cooperation. For them, at least,
morality is not merely rooted in who they are but in who God is. Only in
that do they hope for future endeavor. 
* For more on the connection between Baptism and ecumenism, see the special
Ecumenism Awareness sub-page: Baptism and the Reception
** For an excellent critique of the BEM document, see "B.E.M.
and Orthodox Spirituality" by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna.
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The Christian Century June 7-14, 1995.
2. Schaeffer, Frank. Dancing Alone. Holy Cross Press. p. 308.
3. Schmemann, Alexander. Church, World, Mission. St. Vladimirs Seminary
Press, 1979. p. 202.
*** Webmaster Note: Unfortunately, the location
of footnotes 4-10 in this essay are missing.***
4. "The World Council of Churches." Groliers Electronic Publications,
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9. Ware, Timothy (Bishop Kallistos). The Orthodox Church.
11. Macris, pp. 4-7
12. The World Council of Churches. "Constitution." Amsterdam,
14. Patelos, Constantin G., ed. The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical
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Geneva, 1978. p. 172.
15. Schmemann, op cit. p. 200-201.
16. Macris, op. cit., p. 9.
17. Ibid. p. 10.
18. Ibid. p. 11
20. Koukoujis, Archbishop Iakovos. "The Contribution of Eastern
Orthodoxy to the Ecumenical Movement." The Orthodox Church in the
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1978. p. 216.
21. Ibid. p. 216.
22. Macris, op. cit., p. 37.
23. Nissiotis, Nikos. "The Witness and the Service of Eastern Orthodoxy
to the One Undivided Church." The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical
Movement: Documents and Statements 1902-1975. The World Council of Churches,
Geneva, 1978. p. 231.
24. Ibid. p. 231.
25. Ibid. p. 233.
27. Ibid. p. 237.
28. Ibid. p. 238.
30. Macris, op. cit., p. 42.
31. Koukoujis, op. cit., p. 212.
32. Nikodim, Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod. "The Russian
Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Movement." The Orthodox Church
in the Ecumenical Movement:Documents and Statements 1902-1975. The World
Council of Churches, Geneva, 1978. pp. 266-68.
33. Ibid. pp. 273-74.
34. Macris, op. cit. p. 53.
35. Ibid. p. 63.
36. Ibid. p. 77.
37. Argenti, Archimandrite Cyril. "Christian Unity."
Church in the Ecumenical Movement:Documents and Statements 1902-1975. The
World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1978. pp. 342-43.
38. Ibid. p. 347.
39. Ibid. p. 350-51.
40. Ibid. p. 346.
41. Pimen, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia. "An Orthodox View
of Contemporary Ecumenism." The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical
Movement: Documents and Statements 1902-1975. The World Council of Churches,
Geneva, 1978. p. 326.
42. Ibid. p. 327.
44. Ibid. p. 332.
45. Bloom, Metropolitan Anthony. "Sermon for WCC Central Committee
Berlin (West), 1974." The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement: Documents and Statements 1902-1975.
The World Council of Churches, Geneva,
1978. p. 338.
46. Ibid. p. 339.
47. Popovich, Archimandrite Justin. Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ.
Institute of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Inc. Belmont, MA. 1994.
48. Preface. "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry." Faith and
Order Paper No. 111, World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1982. p. ix. (Hereafter,
49. Preface. "BEM". p. x.
50. "BEM", p. 3.
52. Ibid. p. 14.
53. Ibid. p. 12.
54. Ibid. p. 15.
55. Ibid. p. 17.
56. Ibid. p. 29.
58. Ibid. p. 32.
61. Niebuhr, R. Gustav. "The Lord's Name: Image of God as He
Loses Its Sovereignty in Americas Churches." The Wall Street Journal
April 27, 1992, A-4.
62. Lyles, Jean Caffey. "Moves of the Spirit: diversity or Syncretism?"
The Christian Century. March 13, 1991. p. 284.
63. Ibid. p. 286.
66. Ibid. p. 285.
68. Ibid. p. 286.
69. The Christian Century. Apr. 8, 1992. p. 358.
70. "Former Presidents in Ecumenical Fund Drive." The Christian
Century. July 28-Aug. 4, 1993. p. 737.
71. "WCC Seeks Faith and Order." The Christian Century.
25-Sept. 1, 1993. p. 810.
73. "BEM," p. 32.
74. Schmemann, op. cit. p. 201.
75. Viz. Niebuhr, op. cit.
76. Westermeyer, Paul. "Three Books of Worship: An Ecumenical Convergence."
The Christian Century. Oct. 27, 1993. pp. 1055 ff.
78. Woodward, Kenneth L. "Hymns, Hers and Theirs." Newsweek.
Feb. 12, 1996, p. 75.
79. "Debating Baptismal Language." The Christian
Sept. 27-Oct. 4, 1995, p. 880.
80. Heim, David. "Sophias Choice." The Christian Century.
April 6, 1994, p. 339.
81. Small, Joseph D. and John P. Burgess. "Evaluating Re-Imaging".
The Christian Century. April 6, 1994, p. 342-43.
83. Campbell, Dr. Joan Brown. Address. Banquet. All-America Council
of the Orthodox Church in America. Chicago. July, 1995.
84. Blackmun, Mr. Justice Harry.Roe v. Wade. United States Supreme Court.
Jan. 22, 1973.
85. "Religious Groups and Health Reform." The Christian Century.
Oct. 6, 1993. p.
[At another time, Dr. Campbell discussed her role as spokesman for the
NCC: " I try to root our statements in our theology and to make it
clear we are speaking for the churches, not a secular organization."
The Christian Century, Nov. 8, 1995. p. 1052 .]
86. "WCC Protests UN Plans for Womens Meetings." The Christian
Century, 1995. p. 560.
87. "An Interview with Joan Brown Campbell." The Christian
Century. Nov. 8, 1995. p. 1052
88. "Methodist Official Comes Out." The Christian
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89 . Ibid. p. 704.
90. Juarez, Benito. Mexican Statesman.
91. Kelley, Dean M. Why Conservative Churches Are Growing. Mercer University
Press. 1988. Rose Edition.
92. Schmemann, op. cit.
93. Tarasar, Constance J. "The Little Things that Count."
The Christian Century. Nov. 3, 1993. p. 1077.
94. Garrett, Paul. St. Innocent: Apostle to America. St. Vladimirs
Seminary Press.p. 184.
95. Directory for Worship. PCUSA. Quoted by Small and Burgess, op. cit.
96. Schaeffer, op. cit. p. 308.
97. Saliba, Metropolitan Philip. Oft quoted remark.
98. Schmemann, op. cit. p. 201.
99. Popovich. op. cit. p. 25.
100. Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church.
Isabel Florence Hapgood. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, Englewood,
NJ. 1975. 5th edition, p. 460.
101. "New Ecumenism Gathering Seeks Common Ground."
Today. July 17, 1995. pp.56-57.
From The Christian Activist, Volume 9 (now defunct). Permission was given to the Orthodox
Christian Information to republish on the Web.