Category Archives: Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Islam, Orthodoxy, and Tyranny

by Phil Dorroll | български | ქართული | 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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Saint Francis of Assisi: Icon of God’s Love for Our Troubled Times

by Alfred D. Turnipseed | Ελληνικά | ქართული | Русский | Српски

The Stigmatisation of St. Francis

Ah, life’s ironies! As it turns out, many of those who are against abortion (quite a few of whom are President Trump’s supporters) are making excuses for Trump’s decision to accept therapies derived from aborted fetal tissue as a (so-called) “cure” for COVID-19; and yet, many of those in favor of abortion (who, more often than not, are the president’s opponents) are upset that Trump owes his (apparent) “rapid recovery” from COVID-19 to therapies they would otherwise welcome, or even celebrate, if used to help others.

In the meantime, God, who “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), and for whom all events manifest the sovereignty of his providence, judges all hearts, using the events of the history we have made to teach us how far we have fallen short of his love. If only we would listen to his teachings within us.

This, I think, may be why the Lord (through Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and so many others) seems to be calling special attention to the teaching of St. Francis today. Il Poverello (“the little poor one,” as St. Francis is known in Franciscan tradition) is not only a master teacher when it comes to issues related to racism, violence, interreligious rivalry, and intolerance, as well as poverty and economic injustice; he is also, as the Catholic patron saint of animals and ecology, a guide for all believers during our worldwide environmental collapse, and the COVID-19 pandemic that is its most recent manifestation.

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