Give Us This Day Our Daily Portion of Nationalism… Reflections on the Issue of the Autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine

by Davor Džalto

I tried to stay away from publicly expressing my thoughts on the current church/autocephaly crisis in Ukraine, for many reasons. First of all, there are much more competent people who know the situation better than I do. Second, the issue of autocephaly of the church in Ukraine has, by now, escalated so dramatically that one feels compelled to side either with the “pro-Russian” block or with the “pro-Ukrainian/pro-Constantinople” one. The “camps” seem to be so fortified, and the discussion so heated, that it seems difficult to formulate and express one’s opinion without taking a clear-cut “pro” or “contra” position.

In the end, however, I decided to write a short piece about the issue because I received about a dozen requests from various people to comment on the situation, and to give my view on the issues at stake.

Let me say at the beginning that I do not share the mainstream views when it comes to the issue of autocephaly in Ukraine. I will try to explain why. Continue Reading…

An American Guilt Trip

by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis

John Steinbeck once wrote: “There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation . . . There is a failure that topples all our success.”

In an effort to witness first-hand the financial, social and personal impact of “black diamonds”—the benefits of which we all enjoy, but the cost of which we all irreproachably disregard—I decided to meander through the unparalleled beauty of the Appalachians in West Virginia, among the oldest mountains on the planet. I wanted to see for myself the origins of the benefits I enjoyed living in my home in Maine. It is easy for Americans, especially environmentalists, to ostracize the coal miners, who, by the way, smashed every stereotypical image I had and instead displayed an unassuming charity and disarming simplicity. Nevertheless, I saw them as tragic pawns in the coal and fracking industries from which all of us reap the benefits with our cozy comforts.

There is good reason why West Virginia has been labeled “almost heaven.” Today, it is eerily close to hell. Continue Reading…

Has Moscow Undermined Its Ability To Engender a Schism?

by Sotiris Mitralexis  |  ελληνικά

Most observers are growing increasingly more worried about the drifting apart of Constantinople and Moscow on the basis of Ukraine’s imminent autocephaly. I would like to make a case to the contrary. There are indications that the possibility of a full-blown schism between two halves of the Orthodox world (rather than between two patriarchates) has lessened recently due to Moscow’s problematic handling of the crisis during the last few weeks.

A necessary disclaimer: this essay is not about theology, but about (ecclesiastical) politics. And it is not about the Ukraine (ecclesiastical) crisis in general, or its geopolitical context, but specifically about Moscow’s recent handling of the crisis. It is most unfortunate that it has become necessary to treat seminal patriarchates as if these were political parties/players engaging in positioning and information warfare, but this does not make the current lamentable situation less of a reality.

The up-until-recently-justified fear of many is that, following the granting of a Tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Kiev/Ukraine (and not to one of the currently non-canonical churches), Moscow would not recognize the new church and its primate and would break its communion with Constantinople, leading a number of autocephalous churches under its influence to do the same. This would lead the Orthodox world to a “new great schism,” a fragmented state between two “halves” (with varying estimates as to which church would go to which direction, etc.) without communion with one another. Thankfully, however, the overabundant trigger-happiness of the Moscow Patriarchate seems to have undermined this possibility in the following four ways: Continue Reading…

Can History Solve the Conflict about Ukrainian Autocephaly?

by Thomas Bremer and Sophia Senyk

The conversion of Kievan Rus’

In early September 2018, the gathering conflict between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow around the status of Orthodoxy in Ukraine escalated. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, in response to a request by the Ukrainian president and the parliament, announced the preparation of a tomos which would grant autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in the country and named two bishops as exarchs. In reaction, the Russian Orthodox Church interrupted communion among priests and hierarchs and announced further measures if Constantinople proceeded with its intentions. On October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate confirmed its decision to grant autocephaly, and restored communion with the self-proclaimed patriarch Filaret (Denysenko) as well as with the other Ukrainian bishops who were in schism until now. The Moscow Patriarchate announced counter-measures to be taken by its Synod which will meet October 15.

The core issue is canonical territory. Moscow regards Ukraine as its canonical territory and claims that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the only canonical Church in the country, belongs to it. Constantinople, in turn, regards itself as the mother Church of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and expresses concern for unity in the country. Who is right? Continue Reading…