October 20, 2014

All-Orthodox Council on the way?

Interfax reports that planning for a council of Orthodox Churches is actively underway.

“We expect that preparatory process for the great and holy All-Orthodox Council of the Eastern Church will be revived,” Inter-Orthodox Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Nikolay Balashov said on Friday.

He reminded that preparations for the Council started in 1960 and after 30 years “unfortunately, they were suspended, but not through the Russian Church fault.” The Preparatory Commission last met about fifteen years ago.

Fr. Nikolay reminded that last autumn at the Istanbul meeting between primates of all Orthodox Churches Patriarch Kirill (then Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad – IF) “actively and largely contributed” in taking decisions to lead preparatory work out of the deadlock.

Comments

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    Fr. John A. Peck says:

    Councils have always been convened to define the faith in the face of heresy.

    What heresy will be the focus of discussion?

    What heresy is the Church currently fighting?

    What heresy requires the action of an Ecumenical Council today?

    Anyone?

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    The Church is currently facing the
    the heresy of Ecumenism

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Hans,

    I agree with you. There’s no need for an ecumenical council. If we Orthodox were smart, we’d just have regular (annual, biennial, decennial?) meetings of the primates and/or their representatives to discuss jurisdictional and canonical matters.

    As for the heresy of ecumenism, I agree that its terrible, but it doesn’t need to be addressed formally in my opinion. That gives it way too much authority, like Arianism or Nestorianism. It’s really not that big of a deal for the most part. If it’s ecumenist, don’t do it. True ecumenism involves the Church, not other denominations.

    The RC’s have the right attitude in this regard: they’ve never participated in ecclesial meetings such as the WCC/NCC. Our participation has been woeful and counterproductive. We just need to get out, say “have a nice day,” and go along our merry way. Any Orthodox prelate who participates should either (1) get out, or (2) don’t do it. (And repent for having been involved in the first place.)

    If there are problems for an Orthodox bishop, they should be kicked upstairs and if it involves jurisdiction, then the regular meeting of the Orthodox primates should resolve it. Canonical problems can be resolved for the most part by a regional Orthodox Church, because only a regional/national/etc. Orthodox Church has a real Holy Synod. Canonical issues are the purview of such a Holy Synod.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    He reminded that preparations for the Council started in 1960 and after 30 years “unfortunately, they were suspended, but not through the Russian Church fault.” The Preparatory Commission last met about fifteen years ago.

    I do not understand this … Who started preparations for the Council in 1960? The Russian Orthodox Church? The communist authorities? The quoted part sounds like a justification for the haste.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    If there were to be a Great and Holy Synod, it should address the heresies of Ecumenism and Liberalism. However, I do not look forward to such a Synod. Maybe in a hundred years.

    First, I have no faith that it might not turn out to be a “Robber Council”, given the reality of the rot indemic in much of the Orthodox world.

    Second, if it did delineate and condemn the above mentioned heresies, in what manner and to what extent would it exercise discipline?

    Third, it would be nice if such a Synod elaborated on the correct way to conduct ecumenical dialogue. The traditional model being that engaged in by Patriarch Jeremias with the Lutherans: Several exchanges, if there is movement toward conversion to Orthodoxy then continue, if not, let it go. Be careful how you eat with sinners. Bad company corrupts good manners.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure that at the present time that a traditional understanding of ecumenical relations would have majority support.

    So, God willing, we won’t see such a Synod anytime soon. Moreover, I have a deep faith that the conflicts inherent in where to have it, who would be represented and what the agenda would look like will cause it to be delayed indefinitely.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    “All profess that there are seven holy and Ecumenical Councils, and these are the seven pillars of the faith of the Divine Word on which He erected His holy mansion, the Catholic and Ecumenical Church.” John II, Metropolitan of Russia (1080-89)
    the_seven_pillars_of_orthodoxy

    If there will be an 8th Ecumenical Council it should not come in contradiction with any of the other seven and/or the Scriptures. Otherwise it won’t be valid.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    It appears that many Orthodox traditionalist/conservatives (such as myself) are wary of any such council. Speaking for myself, I don’t trust many of the bishops in the world today. The only reason for said council would be to streamline jurisdictional disputes, perhaps modify a few canons in light of modern medical knowledge, etc.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    George,

    I agree that there are some positive things that could be done at such a council; however, I too am also wary that since we still live in what I like to call “The Age of Apostasy”, some very bad things might come out of it. Let us learn from Vatican II.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    agreed. Vatican II was such a fiasco as far as the RC’s were concerned. They emasculated themselves with it.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    George Michalopulos says:

    perhaps modify a few canons in light of modern medical knowledge,

    This is plain heresy … I wish I can put it in some nice words. Forgive me.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Eliot, I’m not sure I follow you. What I meant was some of the small “c” canons, things that say the priest’s phelonion must be high-backed as opposed to on-the-shoulder, or elderly people can’t take medicine in the morning before Communion, etc.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    George is right that a Holy Synod can change canon law. It cannot change doctrine, although it can settle disputed questions of doctrine in light of what has always been taught by the Church (which is the main reason Holy Synods were called). Heresies are teachings that contradicts the doctrine of the Church.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    George, what we are seeing here in the conversation between Eliot and Scott is the awareness of the danger of secularism, particularly the relativizing of Church teaching — and on another level the relativizing of certainty — but different approaches in how to address it.

    Scott’s approach is behavioral. Secularism has eroded certain practices (head covering for example), and restoring the practices will restore the teaching that initially informed them, and through them the orientation of the mind towards our Savior.

    Elliot sees the locus of the Orthodox renewal differently. The canons reflect the proper orientation of the mind towards all things Orthodox, and thus the proper approach towards our Savior.

    Both contributors are, like almost everyone who reads or writes on this blog, “traditionalist” in the sense that we recognize the corrosive effects of secularism and have the sense (even if only intuitively) that a recovery of what it really means to be Orthodox Christian is necessary to stem this decline.

    I see two salient points emerging from their discussion: 1) recovery is necessary; and 2) it involves the transformation (renewal) of the mind, in other words, how we see.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    George Michalopulos:
    Really? You do not follow me? You are right to criticize the worldly bishops (I say woe to them, woe to them …) but you lead those scandalized by them on a far more dangerous path with the suggestions that you are making. Are there small and big canons? I can’t tell, but those who can better pay close attention to what is below:


    “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing
    but He revealeth His secret unto His servants,
    the Prophets.” (Amos 3, 7)

    Saint Seraphim of Sarov
    There will come a time, said father Seraphim, when under the guise of the progress of the church and Christianity, but in order to please the desires of the world, they will be changing and twisting the dogmas and rules of the Holy Church, forgetting that their beginning is with the very Lord Jesus Christ who taught and gave instructions to his disciples – the Holy Apostles – about the constructing of the Church of Christ and about her rules, commanding them, “Go and teach all nations what I have commanded you” (Matt. 28: 19).
    “Since then until now the rules and traditions of the Holy Apostles that have reached us have been preserved, being also explained and definitively confirmed once and for all by those who inherited them – Holy Fathers who were governed by the Holy Spirit at the Ecumenical Councils.”

    “Woe to him who takes away or adds even one word,” Saint Seraphim used to say. “Our Church does not have any shortcomings. Woe to him who dares introduce any changes in the Services and ordinances of that Church which is the ‘Pillar and the fortress of Truth’ and of which the Savior Himself said that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; which is to say, that she will exist unchanged until the end – until the second coming.

    ” Every desire to introduce so-called improvements and changes of rules and teachings of the Holy Church, is a heresy – a desire to construct one’s own particular church according to human reason, a departing from what was established by the Holy Spirit, and is indeed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven unto eternity. Thus have acted, and thus will act those who fell away from the unity with the Holy Apostolic Church, and of such Apostle Paul says, “Such apostles, workers of craftiness, assume the appearance of Apostles of Christ, and this is not astonishing since Satan himself assumes the appearance of an angel of light, so it is no great deed that his servants also assume the appearance of the servants of truth, but their end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11: 13-14).

    In one of his talks with Motovilov, venerable Seraphim, speaking of the spiritual condition of the last Christians who will remain faithful to God before the end of the world, said something very important for the strengthening of Christ’s confessors – “And in the days of that great tribulation of which it has been said that no flesh would be saved if the days weren’t cut short for the sake of the elect – in those days, the remnant of the faithful will experience on themselves something similar to what was once experienced by the Lord Himself when He, hanging on the Cross, being perfect God and perfect man, felt like He was so abandoned that he cried out to Him, ‘My God, my God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 28: 46).

    A similar abandoning of mankind by God’s grace will have to be felt by the last Christians, but only for a short time, after which the Lord will not tarry to reveal Himself in all of His glory, and all the Holy Angels with Him. And then, all that has been pre-determined in the Pre-eternal Council will be accomplished in its fullness.

    Saint John of Shanghai (Maximovich)
    Antichrist will grant the possibility of life for the Church, will allow the services, promise the building of beautiful churches under the condition of recognizing him as the Supreme Being and bowing down to him. He will have personal hatred for Christ. He will live by that hatred and will rejoice over people’s falling away from Christ and the Church. There will be massive apostasy, and many bishops will change their faith, pointing as their excuse to the blissful condition of the Church. Seeking of compromise will be the characteristic mood of the people. The directness of confession of faith will disappear. People will be cleverly justifying their apostasy, and a flattering evil will support such general mood; among the people there will be a habit of falling away from the truth and the satisfaction of compromise and sin.

    http://www.geocities.com/kitezhgrad/prophets/
    Click on: Prophecies concerning the end times [PDF]

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    Scott Pennington says:

    “I see two salient points emerging from their discussion: 1) recovery is necessary; and 2) it involves the transformation (renewal) of the mind, in other words, how we see.”

    Fr. Jacobse,

    What you are saying, of course, is true. The method of transforming the mind and spirit is the crux of the discussion.

    I have nothing against women and I don’t think that the more modern Orthodox jurisdictions are heretical (obviously not, since my church is part of GOARCH). But we should take account of whether our methods of transformation are actually effective. Given what I see in the churches that I visit, and how I see prominent Orthodox persons speak and behave, I do not believe that modern Orthodoxy is particularly effective.

    When people are made aware, ever so gently, that they need to dress respectfully in church, they will have to confront their own attitudes. This may be painful, but growth is often painful.

    Modesty, for women, since the foundation of the Church, has entailed head covering. Now, physically, putting a veil on ones head is utterly simple – – easier than to tie ones shoes. Spiritually though, for someone who buys into feminism, it is a formidable task. This is so because the veil represents servility to authority and modesty, not exactly virtues of the heresy of feminism.

    Besides the fact that it is very longstanding tradition, and that St. Paul and the Fathers and the bishops have consistently expected it (at least up until the time that feminism raised its ugly head), headcovering for women also works toward the reestablishment of the proper roles of the genders. Christianity is clearly, indisputably a patriarchal religion. However, the roles of the genders have become blurred. The husband is the head of the household and the wife owes him a duty of obedience (at least insofar as his wishes are merciful and pious since he, in turn, has a duty to love his wife).

    Moreover, in reaffirming the patriarchy, we strike a blow at other social evils such as abortion, unwed motherhood (and the crime and poverty which spring from it), promiscuity, divorce, et al. With a proper understanding of the roles of the spouses, and with the explicit rejection of feminism, we communicate to all those in the pews that a Christian order rejects these social evils.

    So, the great “burden” of a woman picking up a veil and putting it on her head is an act which has much broader effect than some appreciate. It not only helps heal her spiritual maladies, but also the ills of the Church and the greater society.

    However, unless the Church tells the faithful that this is expected of them, many of them will not do it. They will just ascribe it to old fashioned ideas incompatible with modern Orthodoxy. This results in two Orthodoxies, only one of which is actually true: a traditional Orthodoxy and a cafeteria Orthodoxy. The cafeteria Orthodoxy gains adherents like Olympia Snowe, Paul Sarbanes, etc. It gains a certain social legitimacy among the Orthodox. And it has real and devastating consequences.

    Ultimately, I do not blame the priesthood for this state of affairs. All the faithful, in a sense, bear partial blame for this – – for just going along with the “enlightenment” of Western society over the past 80-100 years or so.

    But really, it is the bishops who are the successors of the Apostles and bear a special kind of blame in all this. Priests have to be concerned about whether the bishop will subvert any efforts that they make toward restoring tradition. The faithful can provide a good example but, in the end, our actions can be dismissed as that of quirky fundamentalists. The bishops have the power to set the expectations in proper order. They refuse to do so and that is why I, and others, can be quite critical of them.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    “I see two salient points emerging from their discussion: 1) recovery is necessary; and 2) it involves the transformation (renewal) of the mind, in other words, how we see.”

    I would rather say we need to know the`writings of the Holy Fathers for
    “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing but He revealeth His secret unto His servants, the Prophets.” (Amos 3, 7)

    St. Seraphim of Sarov addressed the “need for modernization” about a century ago.

    Every desire to introduce so-called improvements and changes of rules and teachings of the Holy Church, is a heresy – a desire to construct one’s own particular church according to human reason, a departing from what was established by the Holy Spirit, and is indeed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven unto eternity.

    I was surprised to hear yesterday the priest preaching against the so called need for the modernization of the church. I am pretty sure he does not read this blog. I see here well intended people (I assume) blaming the entire Orthodox Church for all that is wrong in the world (including the fallen from Grace bishops).

Care to comment?

*