Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission Completes its Work

It looks like the discussion centers around Cyprus (Constantinople objects?) and Georgia (Moscow objects?). Since the rules state the decisions need to be unanimous, these might be sticking points for a while. I doubt the American situation got much play at all.

Source: Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church

On 26 February 2011, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church completed its work at the Orthodox Centre of the Patriarchate of Constantinople near Geneva.
Representatives of the fourteen Autocephalous Orthodox Churches took part in the meeting chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Patriarchate of Constantinople. The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), included archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia); archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR deputy chairman; and interpreter Anatoly Churiakov.

The Commission, which task was to elaborate questions for the agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Council, continued to consider the issue of signing the Tomos of autocephaly. As a long discussion has not led to the unanimous decision, the necessity of further studying of the issue of autocephaly was recognized.

The Commission discussed the issue of diptychs, considered canonical and ecclesiological aspects, described the current practice of the Orthodox Churches and the criteria of including the Churches into diptychs and the order of the Primates’ names in them and also noted the necessity of compiling the uniform diptychs of the Orthodox Church.
Also considered was a wish of the Polish and Albanian Orthodox Churches to reach uniformity in regard of the place of their Primates in diptychs of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. The Commission suggested to take these requests into account and to consider proper changes in diptychs.

The requests of the Georgian Orthodox Church concerning its sixth place in diptychs and of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus concerning a higher place of its Primate in holy diptychs were presented at the meeting. Consent has not been reached either on this issue, or on the differences in holy diptychs of some Churches due to the lack of Pan-Orthodox agreement on the number of the recognized autocephalous Churches.

Under Art. 16 of the Rules of the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conferences, documents on all issues on the agenda shall be approved unanimously.


  1. Why just 14 recognized Churches?

  2. It is unfortunate that the Rules of the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conference require a unanimous approval for documents of all issues on the agenda. I believe that a unanimous vote will result in much less progress being achieved than if the Conference had agreed to a majority vote instead.

    To illustrate this point, I would like to compare the Conference voting to the voting in the US Supreme Court. If a unanimous vote of all nine justices was required to agree on a decision, the Supreme Court would make very few decisions. On the other hand, a majority vote (eg, 5 to 4) by the Supreme Court justices — which is the requirement for reaching a decision — allows for a more harmonious, productive, and realistic process for achieving an objective.

  3. George, what would your idea do to Orthodox conciliarity in the process, though? Genuine conciliarity implies consensus, according to what my OCA priest teaches as the Orthodox understanding. I suppose if there was a consensus to go with a majority vote on certain issues, that wouldn’t violate the spirit of conciliarity, but I don’t see that happening any more easily than building consensus on the actual issues.

  4. The Commission discussed… the criteria of including the Churches into diptychs…

    Is there anything published on what the criteria is right now, today for a Church to be included in the diptychs?

    • Your autocephalous primate recognizes the other primate as autocephalous. End of criteria.

      Met. Jonah is in the diptychs of the Russian Church because the Patriarch (and Holy Synod) of Moscow recognize him as autocephalous. He is not in the dptychs of the Greek Church because the EP refuses to recognize him as autocephalous (techinically the Pope of Alexandria, the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Archbishops of Cypurs and Greece could recognize him, but the last Greek primate to break omogeneia was deposed in thanks).

  5. I believe it should concern us all that no one really knows how these assemblies and councils work. Fr. Mary Arey was asked a couple of easy questions regarding voting and the EA. AOI Readers did not get an answer. Nobody really knows how the EA works or votes etc. Nobody really knows how a Great Council works or votes etc. There really is no canonical or spiritual basis for secrecy in the Church on these issues. Those who administer the EA need to clarify how the EA works, votes, and what the rights of the chairman are. Likewise with a Great Council. Lets get these issues out in the open and discuss them and finally put speculation to rest. If the preparatory commission requires unanimous consent to decide does the EA require unanimous consent to vote or decide an issue? How about a Great Council?

    Is there any leader out there who can tell the faithful how the structures of government work in this context? The more silence on this issue the more people will wonder if the structures of Orthodox Church governance work at all…….

    • Nick Katich :

      With regard to Councils, there is no rule book that says how they operate. It does not appear historically that they vote. They have a process known as “consensus” whatever that means. At Chalcedon, a block of bishops who eventually became known as monophysites did not concur and were opposed to the doctrinal formulation, but the Council thought they had a consensus and promulgated the formulation. The fact that there was some significant dissent didn’t seem to matter. After all, there was a consensus. That is about as precise as I can get. If you are looking for more precision, forget it. As for the EA, they work on the basis of a “unanimous” consensus, whather that means, as well.

  6. Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :

    Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that the questions of both they diptychs & autocephaly are being discussed without any reference to the concept that the well-known historian & Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Francis Dvornik, called the principle of accommodation?

    Accommodation is not merely a concept that Dvornik “invented” by means of some sort of academic contortion. Rather, he astutely observed that it is a fundamental concept integral to Orthodox ecclesiology that can be seen reflected in the Scripture, the patristic texts as well as the canons (both implicitly & explicitly!).

    The clustering of contiguous local churches (i.e., bishoprics) into autocephalous (i.e., self-headed) synods based upon geo-political boundaries & their ordering by rank are both based up this “principle of accommodation” which pre-dates the ecumenical councils & clearly continues with the era of ecumenical councils. Thus, we are bound to it as much as we are bound to any other element of the Holy Tradition.

    What ever happened to logic & fidelity?

    • Michael Bauman :

      “What ever happened to logic & fidelity?”

      Have we ever had it? But how easy is it to be either when one is distorted by dhimmitude; Soviet oppression; and buffeted with democratic ideals?

    • I’ve only quickly browsed via Google, including, so I might not grasp what you’re referring to. But ISTM what Dvornik is referring to is the organization of the Church into ecclesiastical provinces and bishoprics, even eventually an East/West subdividing, on the basis of the Roman Empire/Empire of the Romans’ cities, civil provinces, and East/West subdividing (e.g., a senior See in the West, and one in the East [though obviously structured differently, with plural patriarchates]). And also, it seemed to me he chronicled the jostling of Eastern Sees for leadership among themselves, not necessarily (as is frequently claimed) with Old Rome itself in any of their ‘crosshairs,’ at least not until Rome was clearly no longer in the Empire and Constantinople New Rome was clearly The Church’s active lead inter-patriachate See — where I wasn’t sure where Dvornik’s argument was going, and had to tear myself away(!).

      So are you thinking of an idea that every independent country’s Orthodoxy should be autocephalous, and that Precedence/Diptychs should be based on The Church’s needs of the day, and not necessarily tied to ‘tradition for its own sake’?

      I didn’t note whether Dvornik addresses the rise and organization of regional patriarchates as kind of (gradually) compromising provincial autocephaly (except in Cyprus)…? But I could see that they’re based largely within a single ‘independent country,’ the Empire, occasionally following its more transient trans-provincial structures, e.g., Proconsular Asia, Pontus (incl. Cappadocia), Thrace, “The East,” etc. So, “independent countries” being “independent” of “foreign” Orthodox Churches?

      I used to be more sympathetic to the logic of the basic concept, but I’m persuaded right now that if that means a rather high ‘wall of separation’ between/among Local Orthodox Churches, such that cooperation, fellowship, friendship and amiability, even communication and visiting, are hard to come by … even when in the hands of just a few very powerful national or regional Patriarchs (or DECRs) … The Church loses something important. E.g., Medieval Orthodox Ireland supplied Bishops, Abbots, and Missionaries throughout Europe, East and West (without imposing Irish primacy over those distant lands); it also received the occasional Bishop willingly and freely from Celtic or Anglo-Saxon (pre-Norman) Britain (despite the pretensions of Anglo-Saxon Orthodox Canterbury to primacy over Orthodox Ireland — some things never change!!). It also received saintly Orthodox Irish Bishops back, consecrated in far off Rome or Jerusalem, without those patriarchs making grandiose claims over such great distances or disparate geography. Even an early Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Theodore of Tarsus, was a “Greek” recommended to Rome’s suggestion by a Berber abbot (after the choice of a couple Saxon kings reposed before being consecrated in Rome).

      Arguably the modern ‘high wall of separation’ is also a root of the current anomalous “jurisdictionalism” spreading in Orthodoxy, West and even East. Does it sound like I’m parroting questionable statements from C’ople against “novel radical autocephalism”? Clearly the statuses and behaviors of Local Orthodox Churches has fluctuated throughout history. But certainly what C’ople once recently proposed to Rome “to be in the East what Rome is universally” is dangerous and without precedent: What Rome claims to be universally, is dangerous and without o/Orthodox precedent!

      —Leo Peter

  7. Those few. pictured in one photograph, sitting in a quarter-circle, staged lights shining on them as if from on high, there purport to decide in advance what will occur at an event we are to understand as ‘Ecumenical’.

    Kyrie Eleison

  8. Dean Calvert :

    Forgive me, but does it bother anyone else that these bishops essentially sat and talked about the order of the diptychs for two days?

    I mean, someone actually spent money to have this crew fly to Geneva and spend two days talking about whether Cyprus or Georgia is sixth in line, and whether Poland should be ahead of Albania in the order.

    Am I the only one looking at this, and saying, “R U Kidding me???….with all the problems we are facing…who cares?”

    More and more I think the best advice to the OCA is, “Lose their phone numbers.”

    Phew…you could not make this stuff up.

    Best Regards,

    PS BTW – These discussions were led by a metropolitan of Pergamom and Adramyttium. Talk about poetic justice! Now will someone please tell me when the last liturgy was celebrated in Pergamom. Since my relatives (and the Dukakis’s) were from Adramyttium, I’m assuming the last liturgy was 1922 there, but I suspect Pergamom might have been much earlier.

    • I can’t decide if I’m not jaded enough not to care. But since it is hard to lower the bar of expectations when it is rolling on the floor, I’m not too phased by this colossal waste of time and effort.

      That said, whenever the Phanar’s 28 dreams run into a solid brick wall, it can’t be a complete waste or time.

      Since the “Mother Churches” are too busy with their distant tournament of liquid emissions, us in the “Diaspora” have to get busy to make Chambesy useful.

      The EA have been useful in that I can now tell anyone who wonders what a canonical jurisdiction is, and if the local Church parish which is the only one for hours around is really Orthodox or not, I can just give them the list on the EA website (I’ve done so with potential converts a half dozen times this past month alone).

      Better yet, since the OCA is there per the directives of “All the [other] autocephalous Churches” as Fr. Arey never tired of saying (though it seems to have fallen out of common parlance, ever since the OCA was seated), the Phanar has gambled and lost on that one. It still hopes for a miscarriage, but this baby is coming to term.

      From what I’ve seen/heard, it seems the EA for the British Isles is also going to be useful and an improvement already on the prior situation (where there was NO Pan-Orthodox organization).

      Then there are those EA which are less than useful. Abp. Stylianos long refused to call his, and he or his boss evidently decided he could claim and invite the entire Far East. He didn’t invite the Japanese or Church of China under the MP, and of course not the OCA, in violation of the Chambesy accords, doing in fact what Abp. Demetrios refused to do (I doubt that he had to receive instructions to do so; his grand tour as the head of the troika that gave us Abp Spyridon (that worked well) showed that he is quite simpatico to the Phanar). It seems its belated meeting was quite perfuctory, which is just as well:I’d prefer it do nothing while the EA here gets going with the OCA part of it, a obviously recognized canonical part. That way eventually, hopefully, Abp. Stylinos will have to explain eventually how he doesn’t invite Met. Jonah, who had parished in AU when Chambesy was adopted and still has one at least, who is already recognized as a canonical bishop under Chambesy. One can be a little pregnant only so long. The EA in Australia is such a non-entity that the local version of SCOBA wasnt’ dissolved.

      The EA has to be moved out of SCOBA II into Ligonier II.

    • RE Am I the only one looking at this, and saying, “R U Kidding me???….with all the problems we are facing…who cares?”

      Well… yes. That thought did occur to me too, but then (I thought)… what do I know about such things.

  9. Macedonia74 :

    Time to gird the loins – The End of Times is upon us when the Church starts becoming the Church only in form.

    God forgive me greatest sinner and culprit of this all.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Fr Hopko said in a sermon that in the last days there would be no persecution of the Church. There wouldn’t be any need for one because it would be existing mainly in the “form of religion” rather than religion itself. The entire multi-decade nonsense that took place in Chambesy is a case in point. Concern about the diptychs is as well. WHERE IS THE GOSPEL IN ALL THIS????

Care to Comment?