Uppsala and Orthodoxy
by Protopresbyter George Grabbe
Introduction by the Translators. THE qualities of Fr. George Grabbe's writings speak for themselves. Those who have read
his earlier ecclesiological studies in the St. Nectarios Series (#28 & #29) will need
no recommendation from us on behalf of the present articles.
These two new studies fill in the background of our Metropolitan Philaret's
"Sorrowful Epistle." They clearly show, on the basis of official reports, to
what kind of organisation the Orthodox representatives at the World Council of Churches
are now officially committed, and to what degree they have openly renounced "the
faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (Jude 3).
If it is true, as the Rev. Prof. Alexander Schmemann of St. Vladimir's Seminary says,
that "Metropolitan Philaret ... is not alone in having been 'greatly shocked' by
much of the Uppsala Report," [The Orthodox Church,
Vol. V, No, 9 (Nov., 1969), p. 5, col. 1] then one may reasonably wonder why only the
Metropolitan has had the courage to speak up and say so.
"Personally," Fr. Schmemann writes, "I trust people like Fr. Florovsky,
Prof. Verhovskoy, Fr. Meyendorff, Archbishop Basil Krivoscheine, Fr. Livery Voronoff and
many others who are not likely to 'sell out' Orthodoxy, but must be rather credited for
making Orthodoxy known in the whole Western world, whose ignorance of it was truly
abysmal. No one of them is happy about Uppsala, about the present trend of the ecumenical
movement, and no one has concealed, orally or in writing, his opposition to it." [Loc.
cit., p. 8, col. 4.]
Why is it, thenone is forced to askthat these men's "opposition"
to Uppsala is virtually unknown except to themselves? Why is it that they do not speak out
in accord with "the perfectly canonical and traditional stand taken in the
'Epistle"' [Schmemann, loc. cit., p. 5, col. 2] if they themselves hold to the
Faith and canons?
We live in one of the very few countries in the world where Orthodox affairs can be
freely and openly discussed. Yet it is a grievous fact that nothing has issued in print
from the above-mentioned clerics and scholars showing their unhappiness with "the
present trend of the ecumenical movement." Fr. Schmemann writes: "no one has
concealed, orally or in writing, his opposition to it." As to the "orally,"
we are not in a position to say; but we should like to know where the written opposition
is to be found. The Orthodox Church edited by Fr. Meyendorff has certainly not
given any such impression On the contrary, all opposition to ecumenism, by the Church of
Greece, for example, before Archbishop Chrysostom was forcibly retired by the present
dictatorship, was either ridiculed and hidden away in small announcements in inconspicuous
places or not even mentioned. There are people who have protested this fact in writing and
cancelled their subscriptions because of it.
Whomay we askof the above-mentioned clerics and scholars has written
anything of the calibre and content of such articles as "Ecumenism"
by Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal and "Should the Church Be 'In
Step with the Times'?" by Archbishop Averky?*not to mention the four
letters of protest from our Metropolitan Philaret. The glaring absence of any statements
on behalf of the Orthodox apart from those made by the Synod has forced Fr. Eusebius
Stephanou to exclaim in a recent editorial of The Logos: "What is going on?
Are we all headed for the Russian Church Outside of Russia in order to save our
Orthodoxy?" [Issue of December, 1969, p. 7.] And the associate editor of The Logos,
Charles B. Ashanin, writes in the November, 1969, issue: "... by your silence you
confirm what these bishops claimthat they are the only authentic Orthodox Episcopate
and you would surrender the Orthodox church into their hands [i.e., the Synod] whether you
like it or not. We have greater trust in your intelligence and responsibility!"
Why did our Metropolitan and Synod have to wait a full year after the Uppsala affair,
when the official minutes and papers of the Assembly were published and could be studied?
Why did not the eminent clerics and scholars which Fr. Schmemann mentions write us a
description or analysis of (if not a protest against) Uppsala so that the Orthodox could
be told by Orthodox sources what was taking place there and what was being
saidespecially by the Orthodox delegation? Why did we have to wait to see the report
of Fr. George Grabbe to hear what Metropolitan Ignatius Khazim of Latakia said? Yet was it
not this very speech of Metropolitan Ignatius that was cited with praise by Fr. Meyendorff
in The Orthodox Church as evidence that Orthodoxy was not being sold out at
How sad it is to see the Albanians, Serbs, Syrians, and Rumanians in this country
protesting and excommunicating one another (and of late the Greeks threatening to
excommunicate the Metropolia) over questions of who gets the first places ,at banquets and
who presides over whomin other words, over personal egotistical matterswhereas
no jurisdiction has protested or cut off communion with another because its
bishop-preaches open heresy or disregards the canons. Trample upon dogmas, canons,
traditionthat is all right. But try to step on one's prerogatives or jurisdictional
dominance, and protests and excommunications ring to high Heaven. Athenagoras goes to
Rome, Geneva, London, breaks scores of canons and utters unspeakable blasphemiesnot
a word from Moscow. Metropolitan Ireney visits Jerusalem and intends to visit
ConstantinopleMoscow protests-in the most bitter terms. Metropolitan Nikodim
liturgizes openly in Rome's Russicum and gives communion to Roman Catholics, he gives his
Leningrad cathedral to Bishop Willebrands of the Vatican to perform his mass in before an
Orthodox congregation, while Nikodim himself stands in the kliros with mandya and
staffnot a peep from Constantinople. But when news leaks out of an agreement between
Moscow and the Metropolia that would confer autocephaly on the latterthen
Constantinople protests in the strongest of terms and threatens excommunication. As we
have stated before, the issue today is no longer one of jurisdictions but of Orthodoxy
As an answer, therefore, to the evident annoyance and unhappiness which our
Metropolitan's "Sorrowful Epistle" has caused Fr. Schmemann, and which he has
expressed in writing, we offer these two excellent studies by Fr. George Grabbe.
It should be noted that the second of Fr. George's articles printed here,
"Contemporary Ecumenical 'Renovationism,'" was originally given by him as an
address on August 22/September 4, 1969, at the Pastoral Conference held at the Holy
Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y.
EVERY new General Assembly of the World Council of Churches seems to be a new step
forward in the propagation of ecumenism and the absorption into itself of the
representatives of the Orthodox Churches.
In my own time I have noted this tendency as I compiled reports on the Conferences in
Evanston and New Delhi. The last Assembly or General Meeting, which took place July 4-20,
1968, in Uppsala, also marks an advance in the same direction. One can judge this by the
official reports, which came off the press not long ago and permit us to form an opinion
as to what took place there.
It should be noted that never before have the Orthodox Churches been so widely
represented at an ecumenical meeting as at Uppsala.
Generally speaking, Uppsala has been the largest Conference in respect of numbers.
At Amsterdam, 147 Churches were represented. At Evanston, 174; at New Delhi, 197; and
at Uppsala, 235. The number of delegates at Amsterdam was 351, and at Uppsala, 704.
Further, there were 400 persons with the right to speak but not to vote, among whom were
157 advisers 65 observers, 127 representatives of youth, and 72 delegates of Brotherhoods.
Apart from these were 32 other observers (without the right to speak), 159 guests, and
state employees (management section) to the number of 650 persons. Further, there were 750
representatives of the press. Numerically, all in all this was a huge concourse.
We are especially interested, of course, in how many Orthodox Churches were
represented. Out of 704 delegates, 109 were Orthodox. Of these, the lion's share of
representatives fell to the Churches of Moscow and Constantinople. Moscow was represented
by 33 members. But to these we must add the representatives dependent upon her, numbering
21. In other words, she had 54 persons. The Patriarch of Constantinople had 24
representatives. Such a large representation would have given a significant influence to
the Orthodox. Later on, we shall see to what extent this was used.
+ + +
The main theme of the General Assembly was supplied by a text from Revelation: Behold,
I make all things new (xxi. 5). The fundamental idea of the long speech on this topic by
Metropolitan Ignatius Khazim of Latakia, a prelate of the Church of Antioch, turns out to
be the constant renewal of creation. In this connexion, the Church is understood in a much
broader sense than as only the one true Church. It is implied that all those who call
themselves Christians are included in her. "The eschatological meaning of bur
baptism," said the Metropolitan, "is perhaps too much neglected by Christians
today. This sacrament renews us and enables us to enter the new creation;' just because it
brings us into the communion of the Church. That would lead us, in inter-church relations,
to recenter everything upon the Church as a great sacrament, and to endeavour at a deeper
level and to tackle at a deeper level the divergencies which exist still in our communion
of faith... . The renewal of Christian asceticism depends to a great extent on this
eschatological perception of baptism. The
renewal of our solidarity with the whole of mankind depends on it also, firstly because
the newness of the Church would be better lived as transcendent and inherent in the world,
and then because the mysterious reality of which the Church is the signthe
agapethe divine koinoniawould be meaningful and active in the life of
our contemporaries in all the purity and power of the Gospel." [The Uppsala 68
Report, p. 300.]
The speaker called for the airing of a radical renewal of our Churches." Speaking
of inter-church relations in regard to such a renewal, he asked: "Would not the best
way of solving the doctrinal or pastoral dispute which is still preventing full communion
to be to turn together toward the Coming Lord?" [Ibid., p. 302.]
From the experience of the past, the speaker called for the joining of the future.,
What is required is a "genuine theological renewal" which will not lag behind
the "evolution of the contemporary world." [Ibid., p. 303.] The speech is
filled with love for this world. Its author does not believe the words-of the Apostle
Peter, that "the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up", (II
Peter iii. 16). Behold, I make all things new, does not, in his terms, mean
"sweeping away the whole scene of the cosmos. What will disappear is not this world
this marvel of the Creative Word; it is death. The labour of generation after generation
of men will not be wiped out; it will be transformed once and for all." The speaker
finished with the words: "It is in the light of this final Epiclesis that the Holy
Spirit has gathered us here today." [Ibid., p. 303.]
I have dwelt on this address in particular because it is a speech by a representative
of the Orthodox Churches, and because this address was assigned to Metropolitan Ignatius
in order that he might set the tone, as it were, for the entire work of the Assembly.
It is easy to see how little Orthodoxy there is in this speech. What emerges from it is
a clear-cut Chiliasm and "Renovationism," not a belief in the Orthodox Church as
the one true Church. If it is true that baptism "enables us to enter the new
creation," then it is true to the extent that we clothe ourselves with Christ and
adhere to Him as the Head of the one Church, having been drawn out of the world by grace.
But for Metropolitan Ignatius it is something which leads us to "inter-church
relations," to "solidarity with the whole of mankind," and not only with
that part which the Saviour has "chosen ... out of the world" (St. John xv.
19). The meaning ascribed to Orthodox baptism and heretical baptism is identical.
Unfortunately, the ambiguity of this speech is found to be quite in accord with last
year's Pan-Orthodox Conference at Geneva, which dealt with the participation of the
Orthodox Churches in the World Council of Churches.
Sad to note, although at the first two General Meetings of the World Council of
Churches the Orthodox delegates made statements in the plenary sessions which indicated
the special characteristics of Orthodox ecclesiology that did not permit them to join in
the many resolutions of the World Council of Churches reflecting the Protestant outlook,
recently the Pan-Orthodox Conference in Geneva has made a point of the organic entry
of the Orthodox Churches into the ecumenical movement without any reservations.
The resolution of last year's Conference in Geneva states: "The Inter-Orthodox
Commission meeting at Geneva expresses the general desire of the Orthodox Church to be an
organic member of the World Council of Churches and its decision to contribute in all ways
to its progress, theological and otherwise, to the promotion and good development of the
whole of the work of the World Council of Churches."
In the published reports, it is impossible to find a single reservation made by
Orthodox representatives regarding any disagreement with the accepted formulations of the
Assembly. There are only qualifying remarks made regarding the discussions. Meanwhile, a
great many of the resolutions have a distinctly Protestant character, as is especially
evident in the resolution on "The Holy Spirit and the Catholicity of the
Above all, it should be observed that this resolution, as well as many of the later
enactments of the World Council of Churches, speaks of a belief in "the Church,"
naming it in the singular.
One asksWhich Church, here, is being spoken of? By taking part in a general
resolution of this sort on a common basis with the gamut of heretical and sectarian
communities, did not the Orthodox delegates recognise all these as comprising the Church
and as having the right to speak in Her name? On this level, even if something apparently
Orthodox should happen to get said about the Church, it turns out to be heresy and a sin
against Orthodoxy nonetheless, for one is speaking not of the One Holy Catholic and
Apostolic Church, but of an altogether different union made up of people who do not
profess our Faith.
For example, it would be possible to agree with a declaration on the Church such as
that in the accepted speech "The Holy Spirit and the Catholicity of the
"The Church is revealed as the one body of Christ, the one people of God in every
age, and its continuity is made actual
in the faith once given to the saints, embodied in the Scriptures, confessed in the
Church, and proclaimed to the world;
in the liturgical life of the Church, its worship and sacraments;
in the continuous succession of the apostolic ministry of Word and sacrament . . .
[Uppsala 68 Speaks, p. 16.]
We may accept this if one is speaking of the Orthodox Church.
But is it possible to apply such a statement about the Church to a union in which
Presbyterians, Baptists, or Methodists are included, people who believe neither in the
apostolic succession of the hierarchy nor in the other mysteries?
Later in the same document, however, after it has been confessed that the Church is
Apostolic because She remains true to the Faith and mission of the Apostles, we read:
"We are now called afresh to repentance and humility in the search for one ministry
recognized by the whole Church, and for an understanding of ministry more adequate to the
New Testament, to the Church and to the needs of our time." [Ibid.]
Have not the Orthodox bishops and priests who put their signatures to such a document
thereby renounced the loftiness of their vocation, calling it as yet unrecognised by the
whole Church and as yet not in accord with the Holy Scriptures?
Why is it unrecognised? Who has not recognised it? Christ, or such sects as the
Baptists, the Presbyterians, and others? Does this mean that without these the Church is
not the Church?
There are similar instances when the singular use of the word Church in. ecumenical
documents puts the Orthodox participants in an absurd position; one could cite many, and I
will not tire the reader with them. I will only point out one more phrase in the same
document: "The members of the World Council of Churches, committed to each other,
should work for the time when a genuinely universal council may once more speak for all
Christians, and lead the way into the future." [Ibid., p. 17.]
What kind of "genuine, universal council" is this? Given the ecumenical point
of view, this would be a meeting of the representatives of all Christian heresies. But
then it would have nothing in common with the Seven cumenical Councils, the decisions of
which Protestants do not recognise as binding on themselves. The very designation
"genuine" as it were seals it with the stamp of unauthenticity. The extent to
which the composition of such a so-called universal council would be variegated can be
seen from the remarks of the Chairman of the Section on Prayer, Mr. David Edwards, who
observed in his speech that decisions in his section had been hampered by the divergent
understandings of the participants. A compromise text was reached by way of striking out a
series of questions originally scheduled for the project. In part, Mr. Edwards notes that
"a long paragraph describing the Eucharist was omitted in response to protests from
members that even the word Eucharist was unknown to their churches ... ." [Ibid.,
The World Council of Churches clearly sets for itself the task of building the Kingdom
of God on earth. Therefore, all its concern is directed to the affairs of this world. The
renewal of the world presents itself to the World Council of Churches as some kind of
ideal ordering of the earthly life. The spiritual preparation of mankind for this happy
era of its existence thus becomes the Church' problem. And all this is shown in the
Assembly's "Message to the World," in harmony with the propaganda of leftist
social circles. And hence also the struggle for racial rights and disarmament, and also
its readiness to cover the world with tributes. This is expressed with special clarity in
the speech of the Section on the New Way of Life and in the speech "For Justice and
Peace in International Affairs."
Much is said about freedom, the rights of the oppressed, etc., but there is one
situation about which we shall not find a single word in the entire acts of the
Assembly: that of the oppression of believers in communist countries. At the same time,
the speech on the New Way of Life endorsed by the General Assembly approvingly defends
those who spilled blood in the battle against Hitler and in the Cuban revolution against
Batista. [Uppsala 1969 Speaks, pp. 91-92.]
One sentence alone rang out, in the speech of the Pentecostalist Christian Krust on the
oppression of the Pentecostalists in the U.S.S.R. He expressed his gratitude for help in
the realisation of religious freedom in Colombia, the rest of South America, Spain, and
Italy, and added: "I would like to request it to do the same for the Pentecostalists
in Russia, of whose persecution we have heard." [The Uppsala 68 Report, p.
341.] Beyond the walls of the meeting there was a demonstration of people walking with
signs "Moscow Executed Baptists," but in the hall itself the sentence of the
Pentecostalist was, conspicuously, the only reminder of the persecution of religion. No
one raised the question of the oppression of the Orthodox Church in the U.S.S.R. in the
presence of the large Moscow delegation.
Something new for the ecumenical movement was the appearance in Uppsala of 17 observers
and several official guests from the Catholic Church. The Pope himself addressed a
statement to the World Council of Churches, giving his assurance that everything done
there for the successful uniting of all Christians would be blessed from the Lord. In the
resolution on the question of relations with the Catholic Church, there appears in the
very first sentence: "Since the Third Assembly the ecumenical movement has expanded
to include the Roman Catholic Church."
The Catholic view of ecumenism was expressed in the speech by the Jesuit Roberto Tucci.
He says that, in conformity with the dogmatic resolution of the Vatican Council, "one
can easily recognize today that it is possible to participate in different degrees in the
mystery of Christ's Church, and that the Churches and Communities separated from the
Church of Rome have a genuine ecclesial status, have authentic value as Churches, are
efficacious in the order of salvation, and that degrees of communion (which are less and
less imperfect in accordance with the variety of the ecclesial situations) already exist
between them and the Roman Church." [The Uppsala 68 Report, pp.325-326.]
Such a teaching goes very far along the road of ecumenism, as does also the behavior of
Patriarch Athenagoras. Not without reason have the latest dealings between the World
Council of Churches and the Vatican given the ecumenists grounds for hoping that not only
ideologically, but also in fact, the Roman Church will enter into the membership of the
The behavior of the Pope on his visit to Geneva ought, it would seem, to have disturbed
the ecumenists greatly. The Pope flatly declared that he is Peter, the successor of that
Apostle and Head of the Church. However, judging by the tone of reports from ecumenical
circles, the very appearance of the Pope in the World Council of Churches and his
participation in common prayer is considered to be already a sufficient step forward. A
certain lack of harmony with them in his statements did not frighten them. They kept
silent, as they had kept quiet in their time at the special statements of the Orthodox.
Indeed, the Orthodox representatives also, at previous conferences, used to point out
their disagreement with Protestant ecclesiology, but with the years they have yielded
their positionsfor participation in the so-called dialogue swallows one up and
gradually leads one away from the straight path. The Catholics' communication with the
World Council of Churches has already disclosed that they have much in common in their
undertakings. Besides their understanding of the Church as having no limits, they are also
united by the Chiliastic views which I have noted earlier. The Catholics also think of
building the Kingdom of God on earth with the unity of all and world-wide prosperity. This
belief became clearly apparent in New York during the visit of the Pope to the United
Summing up the Uppsala Conference from the Orthodox point of view, it must be said that
'the broad participation of Orthodox representatives in its work on common bases with.
Protestants appears as an important and sad fact, testifying to the weakening of Orthodox
consciousness among the hierarchy of many
Churches. They appeared there not as witnesses to Orthodox truth, but as collaborators
in the drawing-up of compromising decisions. The Orthodox participants in the General
Council at Uppsala bear the responsibility of all the heretical opinions in the documents
endorsed there with their participation. It is difficult to say whether they all really
share these opinions. One would sooner suppose that many of them did not sufficiently
consider what it was to which they were signing their names. Be that as it may, Patriarch
Athenagoras has declared, in the name of all the Orthodox, that they will unite fully to
ecumenism. This declaration is very significant. It was made in the Patriarchal greeting
to the Uppsala Assembly and it deserves mention.
Having expressed greetings and his own opinion about the great significance of the
Uppsala General Assembly, the Patriarch writes: "We are particularly happy to state
that as far as it concerns our Ecumenical Patriarchate and, in general, our whole Holy
Orthodox Church, there will, be a full participation in the shaping of the new drive and
course of the ecumenical movement, in the endeavour for its growth, in order that it
may become really ecumenical through the partaking of all the Christian Churches and
Confessions in the World Council of Churches. We say this just after an unanimous
pan-Orthodox decision, taken lately at the Inter-Orthodox Conference which gathered in
Geneva, a decision according to which the whole of Orthodoxy has declared its will
to offer, through all means and ways at its disposal, a more substantial contribution and
service to the work of the World Council of Churches at this beginning new period,
for the fulfilment of the general Christian renewal and unity in order that the
world may see and believe that God sent Christ." [The Uppsala 68 Report, p.
I have highlighted the most important words in the writing, of Patriarch Athenagoras.
It is worthwhile to pause and consider them.
The wish that the ecumenical movement "may become really ecumenical through the
partaking of all the Christian Churches and Confessions" obviously must refer above
all to the official entry of the Roman Catholic Church into the make-up of the World
Council of Churches. As I have pointed out above, she has already entered the ecumenical
movement, but does not yet appear as an "organic member" of the World Council of
Churches. This is probably a matter of the not far distant future. However, there is an
interesting addition by the Patriarch which consists of still another word: the Patriarch
wishes, besides the Churches entering into the World Council of Churches, that the Confessions
also might enter.
How is this to be understood? Is it not in the sense that the Patriarch wishes a
participation in unity also of those Protestant sects which do not call themselves
Churches? As a matter of fact, at the end of the greeting there is a second phrase, which
I have highlighted, expressing a wish for general Christian renewal and unity.
In this second phrase, the mention of the present period as one of beginning is
remarkable. In this document the Patriarch, using a language full of ambiguities and
hidden allusions, does not explain in what sense the present period appears as beginning
and new. It will remain for us to guess what he has in mind here.
From the fact that only now has the decision that the Orthodox Church should become an
"organic member" of the World Council of Churches been realised we can see in
this event the inauguration of a new period.
The significance of these words goes beyond the limits of significance for the Orthodox
Church alone. Indeed, until now in the World Council of Churches there have been,
formally, no "organic members," for the Council itself still has not designated
itself as a kind of organism. It is represented as being internally an organisation of
federative character, with a very indeterminate connexion between its separate members. To
belong organically is a kind of belonging much tighter in character. It already
defines the organisation itself as an organism... . The Federation of Collaborating
Churches gradually turns into the United Super-Church which can be announced with complete
openness when Rome formally enters it. Then what Patriarch Athenagoras calls "the
fulfilment of the general Christian renewal" will be achieved. Then, according to his
hope, that world of which it is said "do not love the world nor that which is in the
world" (I John ii. 15)then it will have to "see and believe that God sent
Here on the one hand may be seen the Chiliastic notion of universal unity, and on the
othera new proclamation of the interconfessional principle and
"Renovationism," which, in spite of the clear example of its destructiveness
among the Roman Catholics, does not lose its attraction for the Patriarch. The Patriarch
again sidesteps the truth in silence. It is not in the truth that he expects to see
Christianity unified, but rather in an ecumenical merging of the truth and error of all
In the ambiguity of the Patriarchal greeting is hidden the disguised notion of one more
success in the ecumenical task of building a global, all-unifying Church, founded on
Laodicean indifference to the truth (Rev. iii. 15-16).
See The Orthodox Word, Vol. V (1969), No. 4, pp. 145-161; and Vol. 111 (1967),
Nos. 5-6, pp. 182-188. Translated from the Russian by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The original
article was published in Pravoslavnaya Rus, Vol. XL, No. 13 (July 14, 1969), pp.