We are in the midst of a few anniversaries of note in the Greek world. Last year, of course, was the bicentennial of the war for independence. This year, it’s the centennial of the July 1922 founding of AHEPA, in Atlanta, and far more ignominiously, the conclusion of the Greco-Turkish War in September 1922. These events, especially the war, still affect the Greeks today, and the Greek Orthodox with them, but they are also directly relevant to the frightful issues raised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine—questions of nationalism, irredentism, and religion.
The connection has not gone unnoticed. After the publication of the “The Declaration on the ‘Russian World’ Teaching” on Public Orthodoxy, Fr. John Whiteford argued that, within Greek Orthodoxy, “One hears a very similar concept to ‘The Russian World’ fairly frequently, only it is called ‘Hellenism’.” Fr. Whiteford was not alone in drawing this connection. In a friendly critique of the Declaration published in Public Orthodoxy’s own pages, Andrey Shishkov described the Russian World as less a theological heresy than “an ordinary national doctrine, which is very similar, for example, to the Hellenistic Μεγάλη Ιδέα”—the ideological basis for the Greek incursion into Turkey after WWI and the dreams, in Shishkov’s words, of “restoring a Christian Byzantine Empire.” These are important points to consider. In the wake of just criticisms of the subordination of Russian Orthodoxy to the aims of the Kremlin and the Russian world, we must ask: what is the relation of Hellenism to Orthodoxy? Can there be one? If so, how?
Following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation in February 2022, Orthodox voices have thoroughly rebutted the use of the “Russian World” (russkii mir) teaching, which claims that there is an organically unified transnational orthodox Christian Russian civilization that includes the territories and people of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and sometimes other nations, to justify the current war. This statement seeks a) to facilitate support from among non-Orthodox Christian scholars for the rejection of the “russkii mir” teaching; b) to reject unholy alliances between Christian identity and political power which have also emerged in the context of Christian Nationalism; and c) to call for the development of an ecumenical “Theology after Christendom”. We invite support from Christian scholars and clergy, and are open to those who do not share the Christian language of this statement, but who share its purpose.
“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, Let not arrogance come from your mouth; For the Lord is a God of knowledge, And by him actions are weighed”
As of 4 July 2020, the amendment to the Russian Constitution—first proposed by President Vladimir Putin in January, smoothly approved by the State Duma and Constitutional Court in March, and confirmed in a nationwide referendum with 78,56 per cent of votes—has taken effect. As widely reported, the main purpose of the amendment was to secure Putin the possibility of two more terms in office. But what significance does the constitutional amendment of 2020 have for the Russian Orthodox Church?
There are four places in the amended constitution which are the result of successful lobbying by the Moscow Patriarchate.
I tried to stay away from publicly expressing my thoughts on the current church/autocephaly crisis in Ukraine, for many reasons. First of all, there are much more competent people who know the situation better than I do. Second, the issue of autocephaly of the church in Ukraine has, by now, escalated so dramatically that one feels compelled to side either with the “pro-Russian” block or with the “pro-Ukrainian/pro-Constantinople” one. The “camps” seem to be so fortified, and the discussion so heated, that it seems difficult to formulate and express one’s opinion without taking a clear-cut “pro” or “contra” position.
In the end, however, I decided to write a short piece about the issue because I received about a dozen requests from various people to comment on the situation, and to give my view on the issues at stake.
Let me say at the beginning that I do not share the mainstream views when it comes to the issue of autocephaly in Ukraine. I will try to explain why. Continue Reading…