Tag Archives: Will Cohen

Dialogue, Church Teaching, and the German Orthodox Bishops’ Letter on Love, Sexuality, and Marriage

by Will Cohen

In a 2015 address at the University of Munich, Metropolitan John Zizioulas observed that “[t]he agenda of Theology is set by history.”  By “history” he meant the concerns and questions particular to a given age, as he underscores in adding, “This was known to the Fathers of the Church who were in constant dialogue with their time.”

If the Church’s theology must accept the questions of history in order to be vital and serve humanity, the same is not true of the conclusions history may hurriedly reach. Christians have sometimes not readily enough accepted history’s questions and sometimes too readily accepted its answers. Of relevance to this dynamic is how Church teaching is understood—specifically, in relation to the place of dialogue in the Church.

When in the flow of history an issue erupts, becoming a real question for human beings, the fact that there is already Church teaching on it—if that is the case—can be taken to mean it is unnecessary and even impermissible for Christians to take it seriously as a question. Instead of rediscovering and deepening the teaching through the question, those who appeal to the teaching in order to beat the question back cannot really speak to the question the present age has posed, because they have not entered into it in a sufficiently real and searching way.  Continue Reading…

Political Polarization and Christian Unity

by Will Cohen

polarization

When politics is as toxic as it’s become today in North America, Church unity would seem more than ever to require quarantining the life of faith from current political and social questions. Broader society’s most polarizing issues do get taken up eagerly, it’s true, in Christian congregations (of whatever tradition) that lean hard ideologically either to the left or the right, but how fruitful that engagement has been is unclear. In any case, most Orthodox parishes I know aren’t overwhelmingly partisan in that way. As a consequence, North American Orthodox parish and diocesan life steers mostly clear of the pressing issues of the day.

There are exceptions. Continue Reading…

The Orthodox “Diaspora”: Mother Churches, Mission, and the Future

by Rev. Dr. Radu Bordeianu, Will Cohen, Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko, Brandon Gallaher, Rev. Dr. D. Oliver Herbel, and Kerry San Chirico

Among the issues to be heard by the Orthodox Churches at the June 2016 Great and Holy Council in Crete is the situation of the Orthodox diaspora. The Council will be working with the document on the diaspora promulgated by the fourth pre-conciliar gathering in Chambésy in June 2009. This document called for a swift canonical resolution to the current organization of the Church in the regions of the diaspora so it accords with Orthodox canon law and ecclesiological principles. The 2009 pre-conciliar gathering implemented a temporary solution by creating episcopal assemblies (2a) in regions of the diaspora to promote common action and witness to the unity of Orthodoxy without depriving the member bishops of their “administrative competencies and canonical character” (5). It is not immediately clear whether the June 2016 council will propose a permanent canonical solution or bless the continued work of the regional episcopal assemblies. In order to arrive at the canonical and ecclesiological ideal envisioned by the bishops in 2009, several issues and potential actions should be considered.   Continue Reading…

Orthodoxy and Ecumenism in View of the Upcoming Great and Holy Council

by Will Cohen

Some members of the Orthodox Church, who regard ecumenism as a heresy, have been predictably critical of the preconciliar document “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World” since it was approved by the Orthodox primates at Chambèsy in October 2015.  In that document, the identification (¶1) of the Orthodox Church with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of the Nicene creed is entirely consistent with Orthodox ecumenism (¶4).  For anti-ecumenists, by contrast, this identification can only mean that all others that call themselves church are not church at all.  As the eminent Greek theologian Fr. Theodore Zizis in a recent talk on the upcoming Great and Holy Council said about Orthodox participation in the World Council of Churches, “The Church amidst 340 Protestant groups!  What business do we have there?  Are we a heresy?  Do we lump ourselves in with the heretics?”  The idea is that we know all we need to know about what other Christian traditions think and believe.  There is no reason to pay it any further attention.  Continue Reading…