Система Orphus
The Orthodox Church
(Faith and Worship)



by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

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Introduction
1. The Beginnings
2. Byzantium, I: The Church of the Seven Councils
   The establishment of an imperial Church
   The first Six Councils (325-681)
   The holy icons
   Saints, monks, and emperors
3. Byzantium, II: The Great Schism
   The estrangement of Eastern and Western Christendom
   From estrangement to schism: 858-1204
   Two attempts at reunion; the hesychast controversy
4. The Conversion of the Slavs
   Cyril and Methodius
   The Baptism of Russia: The Kiev Period (988-1237)
   The Russian Church Under the Mongols (1237-1448)
5. The Church under Islam
   Imperium in Imperio
   Reformation and Counter-Reformation: their double impact
6. Moscow and Petersburg
   Moscow the third Rome
   The schism of the Old Believers
   The Synodical period (1700-1917)
7. The twentieth century, I: Greeks and Arabs
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (1)
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (2)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (1)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (2)

10. Holy Tradition
   Inner Meaning of Tradition
   Outward Forms
11. God and Man
   God in Trinity
   Man: His Creation, His Vocation, His Failure
   Jesus Christ
   The Holy Spirit
   'Partakers of the Divine Nature'
12. The Church of God
   God and His Church
   Unity and Infallibility of the Church
   Bishops : Laity : Councils
   Living and Dead
   Last Things
13. Orthodox Worship I: Service
   Doctrine and Worship
   Outward Setting of Services
14. Orthodox Worship II: Sacraments
   Baptism
   Chrismation
   Eucharist
   Repentance
   Holy Orders
   Marriage
   Anointing
15. Orthodox Worship III: Feasts and Fasts
   Christian Year
   Private Prayer
16. Orthodox Church and Reunion of Christians
   One Holy Catholic Church
   Relations with Other Communions
   Learning from One Another



CHAPTER 16

The Orthodox Church and the
Reunion of Christians

The greatest misfortune that befell mankind was, without doubt, the schism between Rome and the Ecumenical Church. The greatest blessing for which mankind can hope would be the reunion of east and west, the reconstitution of the great Christian unity.
General Alexander Kireev (1832-1910)

 

'One Holy Catholic Church':
what do we mean?

The Orthodox Church in all humility believes itself to be the ‘one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,’ of which the Creed speaks: such is the fundamental conviction which guides Orthodox in their relations with other Christians. There are divisions among Christians, but the Church itself is not divided nor can it ever be.

Christians of the Reformation traditions will perhaps protest, ‘This is a hard saying; who can hear it?’ It may seem to them that this exclusive claim on the Orthodox side precludes any serious ‘ecumenical dialogue’ with the Orthodox, and any constructive work for reunion. And yet they would be utterly wrong to draw such a conclusion: for, paradoxically enough, over the past half century there have been a large number of encouraging and fruitful contacts between Orthodox and other Christians. Although enormous obstacles still remain, there has also been great progress towards a reconciliation.

If Orthodox claim to be the one true Church, what then do they consider to be the status of those Christians who do not belong to their communion? Different Orthodox would answer in slightly different ways, for although all loyal Orthodox are agreed in their fundamental teaching concerning the Church, they do not entirely agree concerning the practical consequences which follow from this teaching. There is first a more moderate group, which includes most of those Orthodox who have had close personal contact with other Christians. This group holds that, while it is true to say that Orthodoxy is the Church, it is false to conclude from this that those who are not Orthodox cannot possibly belong to the Church. Many people may be members of the Church who are not visibly so; invisible bonds may exist despite an outward separation. The Spirit of God blows where it will, and, as Irenaeus said, where the Spirit is, there is the Church. We know where the Church is but we cannot be sure where it is not; and so we must refrain from passing judgment on non-Orthodox Christians. In the eloquent words of Khomiakov: ‘Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and ... does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day’ (The Church is One, section 2 (italics not in the original)).

There is only one Church, but there are many different ways of being related to this one Church, and many different ways of being separated from it. Some non-Orthodox are very close indeed to Orthodoxy, others less so; some are friendly to the Orthodox Church, others indifferent or hostile. By God’s grace the Orthodox Church possesses the fullness of truth (so its members are bound to believe), but there are other Christian communions which possess to a greater or lesser degree a genuine measure of Orthodoxy. All these facts must be taken into account: one cannot simply say that all non-Orthodox are outside the Church, and leave it at that; one cannot treat other Christians as if they stood on the same level as unbelievers.

Such is the view of the more moderate party. But there also exists in the Orthodox Church a more rigorous group, who hold that since Orthodoxy is the Church, anyone who is not Orthodox cannot be a member of the Church. Thus Metropolitan Antony, head of the Russian Church in Exile and one of the most distinguished of modern Russian theologians, wrote in his Catechism:

Question: Is it possible to admit that a split within the Church or among the Churches could ever take place?

Answer: Never. Heretics and schismatics have from time to time fallen away from the one indivisible Church, and, by so doing, they ceased to be members of the Church, but the Church itself can never lose its unity according to Christ’s promise’ (Italics not in the original).

Of course (so this stricter group add) divine grace is certainly active among many non-Orthodox, and if they are sincere in their love of God, then we may be sure that God will have mercy upon them; but they cannot, in their present state, be termed members of the Church. Workers for Christian unity who do not often encounter this rigorist school should not forget that such opinions are held by many Orthodox of great learning and holiness.

Because they believe their Church to be the true Church, Orthodox can have but one ultimate desire: the conversion or reconciliation of all Christians to Orthodoxy. Yet it must not be thought that Orthodox demand the submission of other Christians to a particular center of power and jurisdiction (‘Orthodoxy does not desire the submission of any person or group; it wishes to make each one understand’ (S. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, p. 214)). The Orthodox Church is a family of sister Churches, decentralized in structure, which means that separated communities can be integrated into Orthodoxy without forfeiting their autonomy: Orthodoxy desires their reconciliation, not their absorption (Compare the title of a famous paper written by Dom Lambert Beauduin and read by Cardinal Mercier at the Malines Conversations, ‘The Anglican Church united, not absorbed’). In all reunion discussions Orthodox are guided (or at any rate ought to be guided) by the principle of unity in diversity. They do not seek to turn western Christians into Byzantines or ‘Orientals,’ nor do they desire to impose a rigid uniformity on all alike: for there is room in Orthodoxy for many different cultural patterns, for many different ways of worship, and even for many different systems of outward organization.

Yet there is one field in which diversity cannot be permitted. Orthodoxy insists upon unity in matters of the faith. Before there can be reunion among Christians, there must first be full agreement in faith: this is a basic principle for Orthodox in all their ecumenical relations. It is unity in the faith that matters, not organizational unity; and to secure unity of organization at the price of a compromise in dogma is like throwing away the kernel of a nut and keeping the shell. Orthodox are not willing to take part in a ‘minimal’ reunion scheme, which secures agreement on a few points and leaves everything else to private opinion. There can be only one basis for union — the fullness of the faith; for Orthodoxy looks on the faith as a united and organic whole. Speaking of the Anglo-Russian Theological Conference at Moscow in 1956, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, expressed the Orthodox viewpoint exactly: ‘The Orthodox said in effect: ‘…The Tradition is a concrete fact. Here it is, in its totality. Do you Anglicans accept it, or do you reject it?’ The Tradition is for the Orthodox one indivisible whole: the entire, life of the Church in its fullness of belief and custom down the ages, including Mariology and the veneration of icons. Faced with this challenge, the typically Anglican reply is: ‘We would not regard veneration of icons or Mariology as inadmissible, provided that in determining what is necessary to salvation, we confine ourselves to Holy Scripture.’ But this reply only throws into relief the contrast between the Anglican appeal to what is deemed necessary to salvation and the Orthodox appeal to the one indivisible organism of Tradition, to tamper with any part of which is to spoil the whole, in the sort of way that a single splodge on a picture can mar its beauty (‘The Moscow Conference in Retrospect,’ in Sobornost, series 3, no. 23, 1958, pp. 562-563).

In the words of another Anglican writer: ‘It has been said that the Faith is like a network rather than an assemblage of discrete dogmas; cut one strand and the whole pattern loses its meaning’ (T. M. Parker, ‘Devotion to the Mother of God,’ in The Mother of God, edited by E. L. Mascall, p. 74). Orthodox, then, ask of other Christians that they accept Tradition as a whole; but it must be remembered that there is a difference between Tradition and traditions. Many beliefs held by Orthodox are not a part of the one Tradition, but are simply theologoumena, theological opinions; and there can be no question of imposing mere matters of opinion on other Christians. Men can possess full unity in the faith, and yet hold divergent theological opinions in certain fields.

This basic principle — no reunion without unity in the faith — has an important corollary: until unity in the faith has been achieved, there can be no communion in the sacraments. Communion at the Lord’s Table (most Orthodox believe) cannot be used to secure unity in the faith, but must come as the consequence and crown of a unity already attained. Orthodoxy rejects the whole concept of ‘intercommunion’ between separated Christian bodies, and admits no form of sacramental fellowship short of full communion. Either Churches are in communion with one another, or they are not: there can be no half-way house (Such is the standard Orthodox position. But there are individual Orthodox theologians who believe that some degree of intercommunion is possible, even before the attainment of full dogmatic agreement. One slight qualification must be added. Occasionally non-Orthodox Christians, if entirely cut off from the ministrations of their own Church, are allowed with special permission to receive communion from an Orthodox priest. But the reverse does not hold true, for Orthodox are forbidden to receive communion from any but a priest of their own Church). It is sometimes said that the Anglican or the Old Catholic Church is ‘in communion’ with the Orthodox, but this is not in fact the case. The two are not in communion, nor can they be, until Anglicans and Orthodox are agreed in matters of faith.

 

Orthodox relations with other communions: opportunities and problems

The ‘Separated’ Eastern Churches. When they think of reunion, the Orthodox look not only to the west, but to their neighbours in the east, the Nestorians and Monophysites. In many ways Orthodoxy stands closer to the ‘Separated’ Eastern Churches than to any western confession.

The Nestorians are today very few in number — perhaps 50,000 — and almost entirely lacking in theologians, so that it is difficult to enter into official negotiations with them. But a partial union between Orthodox and Nestorian Christians has already occurred. In 1898 an Assyrian Nestorian, Mar Ivanios, bishop of Urumia in Persia, together with his flock, was received into communion by the Russian Church. The initiative came primarily from the Nestorian side, and there was no pressure — political or otherwise — on the part of the Russians. In 1905 this ex-Nestorian diocese was said to number 80 parishes and some 70,000 faithful; but between 1915 and 1918 the Assyrian Orthodox were slaughtered by the Turks in a series of unprovoked massacres, from which a few thousand alone escaped. Even though its life was so tragically cut short, the reconciliation of this ancient Christian community forms an encouraging precedent: why should not the Orthodox Church today come to a similar understanding with the rest of the Nestorian communion? (When visiting a Russian convent near New York in 1960, I had the pleasure of meeting an Assyrian Orthodox bishop, originally from the Urumia diocese, likewise called Mar Ivanios (successor to the original Mar Ivanios). A married priest, he had become a bishop after the death of his wife. When I asked the nuns how old he was, I was told: ‘He says he’s 102, but his children say he must be much older than that’).

The Monophysites, from the practical point of view, stand in a very different position from the Nestorians, for they are still comparatively numerous — more than ten million — and possess theologians capable of presenting and interpreting their traditional doctrinal position. A number of western and Orthodox scholars now believe that the Monophysite teaching about the person of Christ has in the past been seriously misunderstood, and that the difference between those who accept and those who reject the decrees of Chalcedon is largely if not entirely verbal. When visiting the Coptic Monophysite Church of Egypt in 1959, the Patriarch of Constantinople spoke with great optimism: ‘In truth we are all one, we are all Orthodox Christians ... We have the same sacraments, the same history, the same traditions. The divergence is on the level of phraseology’ (Speech before the Institute of Higher Coptic Studies, Cairo, 10 December 1959). Of all the ‘ecumenical’ contacts of Orthodoxy, the friendship with the Monophysites seems the most hopeful and the most likely to lead to concrete results in the near future. The question of reunion with the Monophysites was much in the air at the Pan-Orthodox Conferences of Rhodes, and it will certainly figure prominently on the agenda of future Pan-Orthodox Councils. During August 1964 an extremely friendly ‘Unofficial Consultation’ took place at Aarhus in Denmark between Orthodox and Monophysite theologians. ‘All of us have learned from each other,’ the delegates from the two sides declared in the ‘agreed statement’ issued at the end of the meeting. ‘Our inherited misunderstandings have begun to clear up. We recognize in each other the one orthodox faith of the Church. Fifteen centuries of alienation have not led us astray from the faith of our Fathers.’ Further consultations met at Bristol (1967), Geneva (1970), and Addis Ababa (1971).

The Roman Catholic Church. Among western Christians, it is the Anglicans with whom Orthodoxy has at present the most cordial relations, but it is the Roman Catholics with whom Orthodoxy has by far the most in common. Certainly between Orthodoxy and Rome there are many difficulties. The usual psychological barriers exist. Among Orthodox — and doubtless among Roman Catholics as well — there are a multitude of inherited prejudices which cannot quickly be overcome; and Orthodox do not find it easy to forget the unhappy experiences of the past — such things as the Crusades, the ‘Union’ of Brest-Litovsk, the schism at Antioch in the eighteenth century, or the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Poland by a Roman Catholic government between the two World Wars. Roman Catholics do not usually realize how deep a sense of misgiving and apprehension many devout Orthodox — educated as well as simple — still feel when they think of the Church of Rome. More serious than these psychological barriers are the differences in doctrine between the two sides — above all the filioque and the Papal claims. Once again many Roman Catholics fail to appreciate how serious the theological difficulties are, and how great an importance Orthodox attach to these two issues. Yet when all has been said about dogmatic divergences, about differences in spirituality and in general approach, it still remains true that there are many things which the two sides share: in their experience of the sacraments, for example, and in their devotion to the Mother of God and the saints — to mention but two instances out of many — Orthodox and Roman Catholics are for the most part very close indeed.

Since the two sides have so much in common, is there perhaps some hope of a reconciliation? At first sight one is tempted to despair, particularly when one considers the question of the Papal claims. Orthodox find themselves unable to accept the definitions of the Vatican Council of 1870 concerning the supreme ordinary jurisdiction and the infallibility of the Pope; but the Roman Catholic Church reckons the Vatican Council as ecumenical and so is bound to regard its definitions as irrevocable. Yet matters are not completely at an impasse. How far, we may ask, have Orthodox controversialists understood the Vatican decrees aright? Perhaps the meaning attached to the definitions by most western theologians in the past ninety years is not in fact the only possible interpretation. Furthermore it is now widely admitted by Roman Catholics that the Vatican decrees are incomplete and one-sided: they speak only of the Pope and his prerogatives, but say nothing about the bishops. But now that the second Vatican Council has issued a dogmatic statement on the powers of the episcopate, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Papal claims has begun to appear to the Orthodox world in a somewhat different light.

And if Rome in the past has perhaps said too little about the position of bishops in the Church, Orthodox in their turn need to take the idea of Primacy more seriously. Orthodox agree that the Pope is first among bishops: have they asked themselves carefully and searchingly what this really means? If the primatial see of Rome were restored once more to the Orthodox communion, what precisely would its status be? Orthodox are not willing to ascribe to the Pope a universal supremacy of ‘ordinary’ jurisdiction; but may it not be possible for them to ascribe to him, as President and Primate in the college of bishops, a universal responsibility, an all-embracing pastoral care extending over the whole Church? Recently the Orthodox Youth Movement in the Patriarchate of Antioch suggested two formulae. ‘The Pope, among the bishops, is the elder brother, the father being absent.’ ‘The Pope is the mouth of the Church and of the episcopate.’ Obviously these formulae fall far short of the Vatican statements on Papal jurisdiction and infallibility, but they can serve at any rate as a basis for constructive discussion. Hitherto Orthodox theologians, in the heat of controversy, have too often been content simply to attack the Roman doctrine of the Papacy (as they understand it), without attempting to go deeper and to state in positive language what the true nature of Papal primacy is from the Orthodox viewpoint. If Orthodox were to think and speak more in constructive and less in negative and polemical terms, then the divergence between the two sides might no longer appear so absolute.

After long postponement the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches set up a mixed international commission for theological discussions in 1980. Much is also being done informally through personal contacts. Invaluable work has been done by the Roman Catholic ‘Monastery of Union’ at Chevetogne in Belgium, originally founded at Amay-sur-Meuse in 1926. This is a ‘double rite’ monastery in which the monks worship according to both the Roman and the Byzantine rites. The Chevetogne periodical, Irénikon, contains an accurate and most sympathetic chronicle of current affairs in the Orthodox Church, as well as numerous scholarly articles, often contributed by Orthodox.

Certainly one must be sober and realistic: reunion between Orthodoxy and Rome, if it ever comes to pass, will prove a task of extraordinary difficulty. But signs of a rapprochement are increasing year by year. Pope Paul the Sixth and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople met three times (Jerusalem, 1964; Constantinople and Rome, 1967); on 7 December 1965 the anathemas of 1054 were simultaneously withdrawn by the Vatican Council in Rome and the Holy Synod in Constantinople; in 1979 Pope John Paul the Second visited Patriarch Dimitrios. Through such symbolic gestures mutual trust is being created.

The Old Catholics. It was only natural that the Old Catholics who separated from Rome after the Vatican Council of 1870 should have entered into negotiations with the Orthodox. The Old Catholics desired to recover the true faith of the ancient ‘undivided Church’ using as their basis the Fathers and the seven Ecumenical Councils: the Orthodox claimed that this faith was not merely a thing of the past, to be reconstructed by antiquarian research, but a present reality, which by God’s grace they themselves had never ceased to possess. The two sides have met in a number of conferences, in particular at Bonn in 1874 and 1875, at Rotterdam in 1894, at Bonn again in 1931, and at Rheinfelden in 1957. A large measure of doctrinal agreement was reached at these gatherings, but they have not led to any practical results; although relations between Old Catholics and Orthodox continue to be very friendly, no union has been effected. In 1975 a full-scale theological dialogue was resumed between the two Churches, and an important series of doctrinal statements has been issued, showing once more how much the two sides share in common.

The Anglican Communion. As in the past, so today there are many Anglicans who regard the Reformation Settlement in sixteenth-century England as no more than an interim arrangement, and who appeal, like the Old Catholics, to the General Councils, the Fathers, and the Tradition of the ‘undivided Church.’ One thinks of Bishop Pearson in the seventeenth century, with his plea: ‘Search how it was in the beginning; go to the fountain head; look to antiquity.’ Or of Bishop Ken, the Non-Juror, who said: ‘I die in the faith of the Catholic Church, before the disunion of east and west.’ This appeal to antiquity has led many Anglicans to look with sympathy and interest at the Orthodox Church, and equally it has led many Orthodox to look with interest and sympathy at Anglicanism. As a result of pioneer work by Anglicans such as William Palmer (1811-1879) (Received into the Roman Catholic church in 1855). J. M. Neale (1818-1866), and W. J. Birkbeck (1859-1916), Anglo-Orthodox relations during the past hundred years have developed and flourished in a most animated way.

There have been several official conferences between Anglican and Orthodox theologians. In 1930 an Orthodox delegation representing ten autocephalous Churches (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland) was sent to England at the time of the Lambeth Conference, and held discussions with a committee of Anglicans; and in the following year a Joint Anglican-Orthodox Commission met in London, with representatives from the same Churches as in 1930 (except the Bulgarian).

Both in 1930 and in 1931 an honest attempt was made to face points of doctrinal disagreement. Questions raised included the relation of Scripture and Tradition, the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the sacraments, and the Anglican idea of authority in the Church. A similar joint Conference was held in 1935 at Bucharest, with Anglican and Romanian delegates. This gathering concluded its deliberations by stating: ‘A solid basis has been prepared whereby full dogmatic agreement may be affirmed between the Orthodox and the Anglican communions.’

In retrospect these words appear over-optimistic. During the thirties the two sides seemed to be making great progress towards full doctrinal agreement, and many — particularly on the Anglican side — began to think that the time would soon come when the Anglican and Orthodox Churches could enter into communion. Since 1945, however, it has become apparent that such hopes were premature: full dogmatic agreement and communion in the sacraments are still a long way off. The one major theological conference between Anglicans and Orthodox held since the war, at Moscow in 1956, was much more cautious than its predecessors in the thirties. At first sight its findings seem comparatively meager and disappointing, but actually they constitute an important advance, for they are marked by far greater realism. In the conferences between the wars there was a tendency to select specific points of disagreement and to consider them in isolation. In 1956 a genuine effort was made to carry the whole question to a deeper level: not just particular issues but the whole faith of the two Churches was discussed, so that specific points could be seen in context against a wider background.

An official theological dialogue, involving all the Orthodox Churches and the whole Anglican communion, was started in 1973. A crisis in the talks occurred in 1977-1978, because of the ordination of women priests in several Anglican Churches. The conversations continue, but progress is slow.

In the past forty years a number of Orthodox Churches have produced statements concerning the validity of Anglican Orders. At a first glance these statements seem to contradict one another in a curious and extraordinary way:

1) Six Churches have made declarations which seem to recognize Anglican ordinations as valid: Constantinople (1922), Jerusalem and Sinai (1923), Cyprus (1923), Alexandria (1930), Romania (1936).

2) The Russian Church in Exile, at the Karlovtzy Synod of 1935, declared that Anglican clergy who become Orthodox must be reordained. In 1948, at a large conference held in Moscow, the Moscow Patriarchate promulgated a decree to the same effect, which was also signed by official delegates (present at the conference) from the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, and Albania.

To interpret these statements aright, it would be necessary to discuss in detail the Orthodox view of the validity of sacraments, which is not the same as that usually held by western theologians, and also the Orthodox concept of ‘ecclesiastical economy;’ and these matters are so intricate and obscure that they cannot here be pursued at length. But certain points must be made. First, the Churches which declared in favour of Anglican Orders have not apparently carried this decision into effect. In recent years, when Anglican clergy have approached the Patriarchate of Constantinople with a view to entering the Orthodox Church, it has been made clear to them that they would be received as laymen, not as priests. Secondly, the favourable statements put out by group (1) are in most cases carefully qualified and must be regarded as provisional in character. The Ecumenical Patriarch, for example, when communicating the 1922 decision to the Archbishop of Canterbury, said in his covering note: ‘It is plain that there is as yet no matter here of a decree by the whole Orthodox Church. For it is necessary that the rest of the Orthodox Churches should be found to be of the same opinion as the most holy Church of Constantinople.’ In the third place, Orthodoxy is extremely reluctant to pass judgment upon the status of sacraments performed by non-Orthodox. Most Anglicans understood the statements made by group (1) to constitute a ‘recognition’ of Anglican Orders at the present moment. But in reality the Orthodox were not trying to answer the question ‘Are Anglican Orders valid in themselves, here and now?’ They had in mind the rather different question ‘Supposing the Anglican communion were to reach full agreement in faith with the Orthodox, would it then be necessary to reordain Anglican clergy?’

This helps to explain why Constantinople in 1922 could declare favorably upon Anglican Orders, and yet in practice treat them as invalid: this favorable declaration could not come properly into effect so long as the Anglican Church was not fully Orthodox in the faith. When matters are seen in this light, the Moscow decree of 1948 no longer appears entirely inconsistent with the declarations of the pre-war period. Moscow based its decision on the present discrepancy between Anglican and Orthodox belief: ‘The Orthodox Church cannot agree to recognize the rightness of Anglican teaching on the sacraments in general, and on the sacrament of Holy Order in particular; and so it cannot recognize Anglican ordinations as valid.’ (Note that Orthodox theology declines to treat the question of valid orders in isolation, but considers at the same time the faith of the Church concerned). But, so the Moscow decree continues, if in the future the Anglican Church were to become fully Orthodox in faith, then it might be possible to reconsider the question. While returning a negative answer at the present moment, Moscow extended a hope for the future.

Such is the situation so far as official pronouncements are concerned. Anglican clergy who join the Orthodox Church are reordained; but if Anglicanism and Orthodoxy were to reach full unity in the faith, perhaps such reordination might not be found necessary. It should be added, however, that a number of individual Orthodox theologians hold that under no circumstances would it be possible to recognize the validity of Anglican Orders.

Besides official negotiations between Anglican and Orthodox leaders, there have been many constructive encounters on the more personal and informal level. Two societies in England are specially devoted to the cause of Anglo-Orthodox reunion: the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (whose parent organization, the Eastern Church Association, was started in 1863, mainly on the initiative of Neale) and the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius (founded in 1928), which arranges an annual conference and has a permanent center in London, Saint Basil’s House (52 Ladbroke Grove, W11). The Fellowship issues a valuable periodical entitled Sobornost, which appears twice a year; in the past the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association also published a magazine, The Christian East, now replaced by a Newsletter.

What is the chief obstacle to reunion between Anglicans and Orthodox? From the Orthodox point of view there is one great difficulty: the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism, the extreme ambiguity of Anglican doctrinal formularies, the wide variety of interpretations which these formularies permit. There are individual Anglicans who stand very close to Orthodoxy, as can be seen by anyone who reads two remarkable pamphlets: Orthodoxy and the Conversion of England, by Derwas Chitty; and Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, by H. A. Hodges. ‘The ecumenical problem,’ Professor Hodges concludes, is to be seen ‘as the problem of bringing back the West ... to a sound mind and a healthy life, and that means to Orthodoxy ... The Orthodox Faith, that Faith to which the Orthodox Fathers bear witness and of which the Orthodox Church is the abiding custodian, is the Christian Faith in its true and essential form’ (Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, PP- 46-7). Yet there are many other Anglicans who dissent sharply from this judgment, and who regard Orthodoxy as corrupt in doctrine and heretical. The Orthodox Church, however deep its longing for reunion, cannot enter into closer relations with the Anglican communion until Anglicans themselves are clearer about their own beliefs. The words of General Kireev are as true today as they were fifty years ago: ‘We Orientals sincerely desire to come to an understanding with the great Anglican Church; but this happy result cannot be attained ... unless the Anglican Church itself becomes homogeneous and the doctrines of its different constitutive parts become identical’ (Le Général Alexandre Kiréeff et l’ancien-catholicisme, edited by Olga Novikoff, Berne, 1911, p. 224).

Other Protestants. Orthodox have many contacts with Protestants on the Continent, above all in Germany and (to a lesser degree) in Sweden. The Tubingen discussions of the sixteenth century have been reopened in the twentieth, with more positive results.

The World Council of Churches. In the Orthodox Church today there exist two different attitudes towards the World Council of Churches and the ‘Ecumenical Movement.’ One party holds that Orthodox should take no part in the World Council (or at the most send observers to the meetings, but not full delegates); full participation in the Ecumenical Movement compromises the claim of the Orthodox Church to be the one true Church of Christ, and suggests that all ‘churches’ are alike. Typical of this viewpoint is the statement made in 1938 by the Synod of the Russian Church in Exile:

 

Orthodox Christians must regard the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ, one and unique. For this reason, the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile has forbidden its children to take part in the Ecumenical Movement, which rests on the principle of the equality of all religions and Christian confessions.

 

But — so the second party would object — this is completely to misunderstand the nature of the World Council of Churches. Orthodox, by participating, do not thereby imply that they regard all Christian confessions as equal, nor do they compromise the Orthodox claim to be the true Church. As the Toronto Declaration of 1950 (adopted by the Central Committee of the World Council) carefully pointed out: ‘Membership in the World Council does not imply the acceptance of a specific doctrine concerning the nature of Church unity ... Membership does not imply that each Church must regard the other member Churches as Churches in the true and full sense of the word.’ In view of this explicit statement (so the second party argues), Orthodox can take part in the Ecumenical Movement without endangering their Orthodoxy. And if Orthodox can take part, then they must do so: for since they believe the Orthodox faith to be true, it is their duty to bear witness to that faith as widely as possible.

The existence of these two conflicting viewpoints accounts for the somewhat confused and inconsistent policy which the Orthodox Church has followed in the past. Some Churches have regularly sent delegations to the major conferences of the Ecumenical Movement, others have done so spasmodically or scarcely at all. Here is a brief analysis of Orthodox representation during 1927-68:

 

Lausanne, 1927 (Faith and Order): Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland.

Edinburgh, 1937 (Faith and Order): Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania.

Amsterdam, 1948 (World Council of Churches): Constantinople, Greece, Romanian Church in America.

Lund, 1952 (Faith and Order): Constantinople, Antioch, Cyprus, North American Jurisdiction of Russians.

Evanston, 1954 (World Council of Churches): Constantinople, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, North American Jurisdiction of Russians, Romanian Church in America.

New Delhi, 1961 (World Council of Churches): Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, North American Jurisdiction of Russians, Romanian Church in America

Uppsala, 1968 (World Council of Churches): Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Georgia, Poland, North American Jurisdiction of Russians, Romanian Church in America.

 

As can be seen from this summary, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has always been represented at the conferences. From the start it has firmly supported a policy of full participation in the Ecumenical Movement. In January 1920 the Patriarchate issued a famous letter addressed ‘To all the Churches of Christ, wheresoever they be,’ urging closer cooperation between separated Christian bodies, and suggesting an alliance of Churches, parallel to the newly founded League of Nations; many of the ideas in this letter anticipate later developments in the Ecumenical Movement. But while Constantinople has adhered unwaveringly to the principles of 1920, other Churches have been more reserved. The Church of Greece, for example, at one point declared that it would only send laymen as delegates to the World Council, though this decision was revoked in 1961. Some Orthodox Churches have gone even further than this: at the Moscow Conference in 1948, a resolution was passed condemning all participation in the World Council. This resolution stated bluntly: ‘The aims of the Ecumenical Movement ... in its present state correspond neither to the ideals of Christianity nor to the task of the Church of Christ, as understood by the Orthodox Church.’ This explains why at Amsterdam, Lund, and Evanston the Orthodox Churches behind the Iron Curtain were not represented at all. In 1961, however, the Moscow Patriarchate applied for membership of the World Council and was accepted; and this has opened the way for other Orthodox Churches in the communist world to become members as well. Henceforward, so far as one can judge, Orthodox will play a far fuller and more effective part in the Ecumenical Movement than they have done hitherto. But it must not be forgotten that there are still many Orthodox — including a number of eminent bishops and theologians — who are anxious to see their Church withdraw from the Movement.

Orthodox participation is a factor of cardinal importance for the Ecumenical Movement: it is mainly the presence of Orthodox which prevents the World Council of Churches from appearing to be simply a Pan-Protestant alliance and nothing more. But the Ecumenical Movement in turn is important for Orthodoxy: it has helped to force the various Orthodox Churches out of their comparative isolation, making them meet one another and enter into a living contact with non-Orthodox Christians.


Learning from one another

Khomiakov, seeking to describe the Orthodox attitude to other Christians, in one of his letters makes use of a parable. A master departed, leaving his teaching to his three disciples. The eldest faithfully repeated what his master had taught him, changing nothing. Of the two younger, one added to the teaching, the other took away from it. At his return the master, without being angry with anyone, said to the younger: ‘Thank your elder brother; without him you would not have preserved the truth which I handed over to you.’ Then he said to the elder: ‘Thank your younger brothers; without them you would not have understood the truth which I entrusted to you.’

Orthodox in all humility see themselves as in the position of the elder brother. They believe that by God’s grace they have been enabled to preserve the true faith unimpaired, ‘neither adding any thing, nor taking any thing away.’ They claim a living continuity with the ancient Church, with the Tradition of the Apostles and the Fathers, and they believe that in a divided and bewildered Christendom it is their duty to bear witness to this primitive and unchanging Tradition. Today in the west there are many, both on the Catholic and on the Protestant side, who are trying to shake themselves free of the ‘crystallizations and fossilizations of the sixteenth century,’ and who desire to ‘get behind the Reformation and the Middle Ages.’ It is precisely here that the Orthodox can help. Orthodoxy stands outside the circle of ideas in which western Christians have moved for the past eight centuries; it has undergone no Scholastic revolution, no Reformation and Counter-Reformation, but lives still in that older Tradition of the Fathers which so many in the west now desire to recover. This, then, is the ecumenical role of Orthodoxy: to question the accepted formulae of the Latin west, of the Middle Ages and the Reformation.

And yet, if Orthodox are to fulfil this role properly, they must understand their own Tradition better than they have done in the past; and it is the west in its turn which can help them to do this. Orthodox must thank their younger brothers, for through contact with Christians of the west — Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Calvinist, Quaker — they are being enabled to acquire a new vision of Orthodoxy.

The two sides are only just beginning to discover one another, and each has much that it can learn. Just as in the past the separation of east and west has proved a great tragedy for both parties and a cause of grievous mutual impoverishment, so today the renewal of contact between east and west is already proving for both a source of mutual enrichment. The west, with its critical standards, with its Biblical and Patristic scholarship, can enable Orthodox to understand the historical background of Scripture in new ways and to read the Fathers with increased accuracy and discrimination. The Orthodox in turn can bring western Christians to a renewed awareness of the inner meaning of Tradition, assisting them to look on the Fathers as a living reality. (The Romanian edition of the Philokalia shows how profitably western critical standards and traditional Orthodox spirituality can be combined). As Orthodox strive to recover frequent communion, the example of western Christians acts as an encouragement to them; many western Christians in turn have found their own prayer and worship incomparably deepened by an acquaintance with such things as the art of the Orthodox icon, the Jesus Prayer, and the Byzantine Liturgy. When the Orthodox Church behind the Iron Curtain is able to function more freely, perhaps western experience and experiments will help it as it tackles the problems of Christian witness within a secularized and industrial society. Meanwhile the persecuted Orthodox Church serves as a reminder to the west of the importance of martyrdom, and constitutes a living testimony to the value of suffering in the Christian life.

 

THE END


Introduction
1. The Beginnings
2. Byzantium, I: The Church of the Seven Councils
   The establishment of an imperial Church
   The first Six Councils (325-681)
   The holy icons
   Saints, monks, and emperors
3. Byzantium, II: The Great Schism
   The estrangement of Eastern and Western Christendom
   From estrangement to schism: 858-1204
   Two attempts at reunion; the hesychast controversy
4. The Conversion of the Slavs
   Cyril and Methodius
   The Baptism of Russia: The Kiev Period (988-1237)
   The Russian Church Under the Mongols (1237-1448)
5. The Church under Islam
   Imperium in Imperio
   Reformation and Counter-Reformation: their double impact
6. Moscow and Petersburg
   Moscow the third Rome
   The schism of the Old Believers
   The Synodical period (1700-1917)
7. The twentieth century, I: Greeks and Arabs
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (1)
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (2)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (1)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (2)
   Western Orthodoxy
   Missions

10. Holy Tradition
   Inner Meaning of Tradition
   Outward Forms
11. God and Man
   God in Trinity
   Man: His Creation, His Vocation, His Failure
   Jesus Christ
   The Holy Spirit
   'Partakers of the Divine Nature'
12. The Church of God
   God and His Church
   Unity and Infallibility of the Church
   Bishops : Laity : Councils
   Living and Dead
   Last Things
13. Orthodox Worship I: Service
   Doctrine and Worship
   Outward Setting of Services
14. Orthodox Worship II: Sacraments
   Baptism
   Chrismation
   Eucharist
   Repentance
   Holy Orders
   Marriage
   Anointing
15. Orthodox Worship III: Feasts and Fasts
   Christian Year
   Private Prayer
16. Orthodox Church and Reunion of Christians
   One Holy Catholic Church
   Relations with Other Communions
   Learning from One Another






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