Category Archives: Ecclesiology

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 (, 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…

By What Authority? Conciliar Authority in the Church

by Gregory Tucker

The long-awaited pan-Orthodox council will be upon us in a few short months. If all goes ahead as announced, representatives of each of the fourteen universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches will meet on the island of Crete for two weeks at the feast of Pentecost to discuss and either agree or refuse several carefully prepared documents. These documents cover six of the ten topics that have been debated during the very long pre-conciliar process.

The Orthodox Church has, for some time now, referred to the anticipated meeting as “the Great and Holy Council.” Some commentators external to the official pre-conciliar processes have speculated whether it will become the eighth ecumenical council of the Orthodox Church, ending a hiatus of more than 1,200 years. Continue Reading…

The Great Synod of the Orthodox Church and Christian Unity: Another View

by Athanasios Giocas

Orthodox Christians throughout the world exhibit a range of different attitudes towards other Christians and with respect to the cause of inter-Christian relations more generally. It is commonly assumed however that the Holy and Great Council planned for 2016 is meant to reaffirm the case for Christian reunification as well as the manner of its achievement. As expected, the top-down approach to proclaiming a common Orthodox witness continues to be the subject of critical discussion. This post introduces a somewhat different perspective by highlighting one area where the mere holding of the Council could set a negative precedent for Orthodox-Catholic relations in particular. As counterintuitive as such a claim may at first appear, it is useful to set out the argument before attempting to assess its merits. Continue Reading…