Category Archives: Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Why Do Theological Pluralism and Dialogical Ethos Matter for Orthodoxy?
The Volos Academy for Theological Studies Blog “In Many and Various Ways”

by Pantelis Kalaitzidis | български | ქართული | Română | Русский | Српски

This post was originally published in Greek on the new blog of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, πολυμερώς και πολυτρόπως (“In Many and Various Ways”). Read the Greek original.

Because, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, in many and various ways God spoke to our ancestors in faith (cf. Heb. 1: 1), just as in these last days, as evidenced by the Pauline and the Catholic letters, the Gospel was preached and embodied in a diverse, pluralistic and ecumenical environment.

Because, today’s orthodoxism seems to have largely lost the wonderful balance of the Council of Chalcedon, a balance that is expressed in the “Chalcedonian adverbs” “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably,” and has slipped more and more into one-sided and gnosiomachical practices, as well as into a theological monophysitism. It suffices to visit an Orthodox religious bookstore in Greece. One will find there that the Bible and the Fathers have been completely sidelined by all sorts of contemporary elders and their followers, who have occupied a privileged position for years!…

Because, modern Orthodoxy often tends to replace theological pluralism with all kinds of monophonic versions, and, moreover, to further the ecclesiastical/ecclesiological, as well as the juridical, fragmentation of the national churches and the Orthodox diaspora. Orthodoxy’s legitimate (and traditional) theological pluralism, its unity in diversity, has thus been replaced in many cases by spiritual uniformity and a theological entrapment in a single trend, in a homogeneous expression.

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Islam, Orthodoxy, and Tyranny

by Phil Dorroll | български | Ελληνικά  | Русский | Српски

Mostque at sunset

When it comes to religion and politics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims find themselves in the same predicament. Both of these religions adhere to a particularly strong concept of sacred tradition. This tradition is distinct from revelation itself, but revelation can only be properly interpreted through this tradition. Theological thought, detailed practices of corporate worship, and ascetic disciplines of individual spiritual striving are the key components of both faiths- and crucially, all of these key components must be understood using the words written by their religious ancestors. Moreover, because both communities are globally decentralized—neither of these faiths has a single person to whom all believers look for authoritative guidance—this concept of tradition is absolutely crucial for keeping the integrity of the faith itself, especially in the tumultuous modern context.

This means that both faiths have an historically rich and consistent tradition of belief and practice, and have both conveyed immense spiritual riches across the sometimes-harrowing journey of modernity. But this concept of tradition has one major drawback: the premodern political and social context, during which all of the texts through which we understand the core of our faith were written, was radically different from our own. This is a dilemma common to all religious believers, but I believe it is especially serious in the case of Eastern Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims, given just how strong and all-encompassing our notion of tradition is. When it comes to politics, the contours of the dilemma are particularly clear: nearly all of the central texts of our authoritative and interpretive traditions were written in the context of empire.

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The Unity of God’s Church and the Orthodox Church

by Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis | български | Русский | Ελληνικά | Српски

church

Today, the Orthodox Church maintains cordial relations with other Christian churches and communities and participates in joint efforts with them to recover the visible unity of all God’s people. While most of the Orthodox faithful perceive the Church’s involvement in this joint quest for unity to be guided by the Holy Spirit, others express fear that the faith of the Church is somehow compromised for the sake of a unity not always grounded in truth. Why has the Orthodox Church decided to be involved in the ecumenical movement? How does this involvement relate to her claim to be the embodiment of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church?

In an encyclical addressed to all Orthodox churches in 1902, the Ecumenical Patriarchate invited the Orthodox churches to move towards more dynamic inner communion, conciliarity, and cooperation to work with other Christian churches and communities towards visible unity. In 1920, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a second encyclical addressed to all Christian churches suggesting the formation of a “league of churches” for common witness and action. It stated that the Orthodox Church “holds that rapprochement (προσέγγισις) between the various Christian churches and fellowship (κοινωνία) between them is not excluded by the doctrinal differences which exist between them.”  The Ecumenical Patriarchate had hoped that the churches could move towards greater unity if they could overcome their mutual mistrust and bitterness by rekindling and strengthening the evangelical love. This could lead them to see one another not as strangers and foreigners, but as being part of the household of Christ, “fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise of God in Christ” (Eph. 3:6). In 1986 the Third Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox conference unequivocally stated that the “Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement does not run counter to the Orthodox Church’s nature and history. It constitutes the consistent expression of the Apostolic faith within new historical conditions.”

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Getting Along in Hard Times
The "Sad" Microcosm of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

by V. Rev. Dr. Stelyios Muksuris | български | ქართული | Ελληνικά | Русский | Српски

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One afternoon last week, a wave of profound sadness came over me, prompted by a video I had viewed. A fairly new documentary on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of the Resurrection (or Anastasis), was released to me and fellow scholars as part of a webinar panel discussion on this holiest of Christian sites and the strong claims made to it by the six major Christian denominations.

While much of the footage I have seen before in other documentaries and many of the problems and challenges I was already familiar with, the film did its utmost to reinforce them, and did so even more intensely when placed against the backdrop of the current Coronavirus pandemic. I will explain.

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