We live in historic times. About a week ago, the leaders of the Orthodox Churches announced their commitment to hold the Pan-Orthodox Council on the island of Crete in mid-June 2016. The failed attempts to organize such a council for more than fifty years have been attributed to a variety of factors, most notably the rivalry between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The news of the upcoming Council has now been overshadowed by another sensational announcement that Pope Francis will meet with the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba on Friday, February 12, 2016. Pope Francis’s predecessors, including John Paul II and Benedict XVI, made numerous requests for such a meeting, to which Moscow responded with inaction or rejection. What could possibly have changed Patriarch Kirill’s disposition? Why is the meeting happening now? What will be discussed at the meeting? What will be the meeting’s impact? Continue Reading…
The Patriarchate of Constantinople has been at the forefront of planning a Great and Holy Council, which will gather together the leaders of all fourteen self-governing Orthodox Churches. While the Council has its share of supporters, there are influential groups within the Orthodox Church that oppose the Council for political and theological reasons. What are these reasons? Why is the Council perceived as a threat? Why do the Orthodox Christians need such a Council today? These questions require cool-headed consideration. Continue Reading…
(This essay was originally delivered as a public talk at the June 2015 Fordham/OTSA conference on the upcoming Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. It was part of a panel on Autocephaly and Diaspora.)
I would like to begin with three questions, for which I would ask for a show of hands:
- How many of you do NOT consider yourselves a part of any Diaspora? [About a third of all people in the audience raised their hands].
- How many of you consider yourselves to be primarily the members of a larger American society and only to lesser extent the members of a specific Diaspora? [The rest of the people in the audience raised their hands].
- How many of you consider yourselves exclusively Diaspora members and do not feel that you are a part of a larger American society? [Nobody raised a hand].
Your answers reflect an important social reality. Some of you belong to one club and it’s the American society. Others hold membership in two clubs, but the American society membership is more important to you. None of you holds an exclusive membership in a club called “Diaspora.” This is one of the reasons why Diaspora talk emanating from Moscow or Constantinople sounds so artificial to us. We are asked to hold an exclusive membership in a club, whose benefits are far from obvious to us this side of the Atlantic. There are other reasons for us to be alienated from the Diaspora language, such as Russian chauvinism, Hellenocentrism, and other utopian forms of cultural imperialism masquerading as universalism. (Continue Reading…)