Category Archives: Ecclesiology

On Ecumenoclasm: What Is Church?

by Paul Ladouceur

On April 22, 2016, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church issued a decision containing its objections to the draft document of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church on “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece took a similar decision on May 26, 2016. The brief decision of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which contains no theological justification for its positions, rejects the use of the appellation “Church” to refer to non-Orthodox Christian denominations; it objects to the inference that Christian unity has been “lost”; and it deplores the absence of affirmation that the only way to Christian unity is the return of “heretics and schismatics” to the Orthodox Church. Neither the Bulgarian nor the Greek decision go as far as an earlier declaration of Bulgarian clergy and monastics which postulates that “heretics are outside the ship of the Church and as a consequence, beyond salvation” – but the practical conclusion is the same.    Continue Reading…

Ten Days, Fourteen Delegations: Some Thoughts on the Format of the Upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council

by Andrey Shishkov

The forthcoming Pan-Orthodox council is conceived as a council of delegations of all universally recognized autocephalous churches, which are headed by their primates. In reality, the difference between the Pan-Orthodox council and the synaxis of primates is insignificant. The Pan-Orthodox council format assumes that one delegation has one vote and decisions are made by consensus. The number of votes in the conciliar decision-making process coincides with the synaxis – fourteen votes.

But is this format enough to identify risks and issues and to find solutions? Is it representative of the Orthodox Church? Continue Reading…

Phyletism and the Case for Ukrainian Autocephaly

by Nicholas Denysenko

In my previous post, I introduced the Ukrainian problem and its significance for the forthcoming Great and Holy Council to be held in Crete in June 2016. Having argued that the movement for autocephaly in Ukraine originated nearly one-hundred years ago and is beginning to mature only in this post-soviet period, a formidable obstacle to Ukrainian autocephaly can be addressed: the problem of phyletism.

Phyletism is a modern phenomenon whereby the organization of Church life occurs on basis of ethnic or national identity. Phyletism violates the universalist spirit of the Gospel because it identifies the Church as a space exclusively reserved for one ethnic people, a type of elitism that tends to breed hatred for other peoples. In 1872, the local synod of Constantinople condemned phyletism, with reference to a controversy which emerged within the Bulgarian Church, as leading Bulgarians sought to hold jurisdiction over all persons of Bulgarian ethnic origin. Continue Reading…

The Great and Holy Council and the Ukrainian Problem

by Nicholas Denysenko

As the Orthodox Churches continue preparations for the Great and Holy Council, which will take place June 16-27, 2016, in Crete, one of the primary unresolved problems is the schism of the Church in Ukraine. While the council itself did not formally address the Ukrainian matter, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow stated that the council will not consider the possibility of granting Ukraine autocephaly, a position he said is supported “unequivocally” by Patriarch Bartholomew (Mospat.ru, 1/27/2016).

Readers who have followed the Ukrainian issue in the press are probably familiar with the post-Soviet narrative on the schism in Ukraine. In April of 1992, Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church formally requested autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. Continue Reading…