by Anthony J. Limberakis, MD
It is one of the most vexing and important questions confronting the Church in our time, and one of the least understood: the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has rocked the Church more than any event in the last millennium. Now the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is hosting a Virtual Town Meeting to bring some light and clarity to this unfortunately heated and unquestionably crucial issue.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Russia is “comparing it to the Great Schism of 1054 that divided western and eastern Christianity.” This issue has indeed been the cause of a regrettable schism, with the Moscow Patriarchate unilaterally breaking communion with Constantinople not over any matter of doctrine, but simply over the question of jurisdiction regarding the Ukrainian Church.
Thus what was, or should have been, simply an administrative issue has become something far larger, with implications for the Orthodox Church as a whole that cannot be overstated. The questions involved in this issue include ones of authority, unity, jurisdiction, and the very nature of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in the world today. Continue reading
by Paul Gavrilyuk | ελληνικά | ру́сский
The Holy and Great Council of Crete (2016) demonstrated that pan-Orthodox gatherings are possible in our time. The Council also made manifest global Orthodoxy’s enduring tensions and divisions. The delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch did not attend the Council primarily because of its broken communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church did not attend the Council because of its tensions with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which have now escalated into the Moscow Patriarchate’s unilaterally breaking the communion with Constantinople.
Our geopolitical quarrels have turned us inward; they have drained our financial resources; they have distorted our spiritual compass and diminished the potential of the Church’s salvific mission. Nevertheless, the Holy and Great Council has awakened a desire for a more connected global Orthodoxy in the hearts of many. Despite our divisions, the conciliar spirit is afoot. It is time to become the Church of the Councils not only in theory, but also in practice.
Responding to the call of the conciliar spirit, in February 2017 a group of Orthodox scholars and professionals created the International Orthodox Theological Association, or IOTA. Continue reading
by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko
In the last few days, a number of announcements appeared about the Ukrainian Church controversy. After President Poroshenko announced that the unification council will take place at St. Sophia Cathedral on December 15, a spurious text that appeared to be some version of the statute for the Church drafted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) circulated on the Internet, copies of the letters of invitation to participate in the council were posted on social media by multiple bishops, and a copy of the letter from Patriarch Bartholomew to Metropolitan Onufry dated October 12 also appeared. Those who are interested in this issue, especially Orthodox clergy and laity throughout the world, watched spellbound as the news appeared and then reacted. In other words, the responses are no different than quick analyses ordinary people post on political news flashes. On the theme of the Ukrainian Church issue, a handful of responses have become clichés. Observers favor either the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) or the EP in the canonical clash; people call for the Ukrainian schismatics to return to the canonical church; critics denounce Russian aggression and the complicity of the MP in the war in Eastern Ukraine; and people offer the now stereotypical “thoughts and prayers.”
Observers strain Google’s capacity to lead us to the truth by searching for quick, neat profiles on all of the leaders and land on any number of web sites claiming to possess the absolute truth. We might find what we want to find: another layer of incriminating evidence exposing the faults of Metropolitan Filaret, a photo of a grotesque icon demeaning Russia (or Ukraine), a headline announcing the seizure of a church, and through it all, we select the sources that support a viewpoint we have chosen to adopt.
Amidst all of this, the most important fact of all is lost, and it is the fact that we all need to confront as soon as possible: the Ukrainian Church crisis is a messy, nasty divorce, and the stories that assign blame to the parties involved have been handed down from one generation to the next. Continue reading
by Theodore Theophilos
Over the course of the last few years, the relationship between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate has been severely strained. Disputes involving Ukraine; the Great and Holy Council of 2016; the opening of ROCOR churches in Korea, France and Italy; claims of “Third Rome” status and allegations of Caesaro-Papism—the list of controversies and recriminations seems to be growing ever longer. It is easy to despair of these events.
But I take comfort in the thought that it was not always this way. In 1992, I was asked by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA) to incorporate a new charitable organization, which would operate under the authority of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops of America. The new organization was named International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Continue reading