The ongoing war in Tigray, the cradle of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity, might lead into yet another split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EtOTC), this time into an Amhara-based Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church and a Tigray-based Orthodox Tewahdo Church, weakening further the second largest Orthodox Church after Russia and the largest church of the Oriental family. The first split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church took place in 1994, when the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (ErOTC) was granted autocephaly by the late Pope Shenouda III following Eritrean independence from Ethiopia on May 24, 1993 (Stéphan, Bonacci, & Persoon, 2014). If Tigray opts for secession from Ethiopia and establishes its own independent nation-state like the Eritreans, then Alexandria has no option but to grant Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church (TOTC) autocephaly. Both options, autocephaly or continuation as part of the Ethiopian Synod, entail immense challenges.
The current situation is bleak for Christians in the Middle East, largely split between the Oriental and Byzantine rites. They are hemmed in by dictatorships, sidelined by political Islam and exploited by militia groups while their pleas for aid are generally disregarded by Western powers.
Yet despite their dwindling numbers and waning influence, petty squabbles between Middle Eastern Christian churches remain to this day despite various ecumenical meetings. Even worse, these squabbles have spilled into lands outside of their traditional borders. It is bewildering to hear clerics and lay people even here in the U.S. accuse others of not “being Orthodox” while our house, the Church of Christ, is littered with literal and figurative infighting. Continue reading →
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware delivers the opening address at IOTA’s inaugural conference in Iasi, Romania
When I introduced Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at the International Orthodox Theological Association’s (IOTA) inaugural conference Opening Ceremony in Iaşi, Romania earlier this month, I told a story about my father—the son of Russian immigrants to West Virginia in the early twentieth century—and how his perception of Orthodoxy was expanded by His Eminence when they met in the early 1990s on a trip my father took to the British Isles. Metropolitan Kallistos’s explanation of the history and the present circumstances of Christianity there gave my father his first sense of a global Orthodox Church, which broadened his own Orthodox identity to include ties to many people and circumstances, past and present.
I told this story as a way of suggesting that Metropolitan Kallistos has done the same for so many people; he has opened up our Orthodox realities and given us a vision of a global Church, of a shared experience of Orthodox history and of the Orthodox Church today—through his writings, through his teachings, through his guidance as a hierarch; and thus he was a perfect keynote speaker to begin IOTA’s first conference. My introductory remarks were more apt than I could have realized, because not only was this true of Metropolitan Kallistos, his legacy, and his keynote remarks, but this expansive and gratifying experience of a shared Orthodoxy was the heartbeat of the next three days of the conference. Continue reading →
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…