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Ecclesiology - John Charmley - 16-09-2007 04:01 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I did think of posting this under the 'nature of the Church' thread, but it is a little different, and I didn't really want to turn that thread in this direction.

On another forum I have been discussing with some EOs the question of 'the Church'. We, and they, and the RCC seem to inherit the ecclesiology of St. Cyprian, that there is one Church, and outside of it there is no salvation. The implications of this, and how one can read it, are what I'd like to raise here.

For my EO friends their Church is the Church; some of them think we, the OO, are plain heretics, others that we are simply not the Church but an ecclesial body which has some claims to be Christian; a view not dissimilar to the RCC one. My queries here are as follows:

1. Given that St. Cyprian wrote before the split of 451, are we right to read his words as applying to an ecclesial body alone?

2. How, to the satisfaction of anyone outside your own way of believing, would you assert that your Church was THE Church?

3. What follows IF the concept of the Church can be limited to one ecclesial group? Since it is God who decides who will be saved, there need be no negative soteriological consequences even if one is outside THE Church.

I ask these things in the context of many of us here being either converts or potential converts. For me, it was the growing realisation that the Anglican Church was headed in a direction which I could not follow which led me to find myself needing to find another spiritual home.

But that left me with a choice to make, and very uncomfortable it felt, since I was conscious for the first time of what I would call a Protestant dilemma; who was I to make such a choice? How was I to make it?

Some things I took for granted: Apostolicity; a sacramental ministry; orthodox faith as defined by what the Church held before the major divisions started in 451. But, whilst holding to a version of Cyprianic ecclesiology, the version of it I found in the EO seemed, as it still does, both potentially exclusivist and divisive.

I see no satisfactory answer to my question 2 above; even the EOs are telling me that it only works within their tradition; that's a solipsistic definition. They imply, sometimes more than that, that to hold anything other is syncretism. Well, I don't think I am a syncretist, but I don't hold what I am coming to think of as the 'rigorist' position they do.

What lies beneath, above and beyond our Church? What is the bed rock of our Faith? Belief in the Risen Lord and our encounter with Him. If we start from this Christo-centric position, what form of ecclesiology do we end up with?

I suspect (but I always do) that I'm asking the wrong questions in the wrong way; but since I have always found this forum to be excellent in keeping me from making too many excursions into rank heresy, I thought I'd bring it here; as some of you will know, on the EO forum, it simply gets them cross!

In Christ,

John


ecclesiology - kirk yacoub - 17-09-2007 08:39 AM

Dear John,
I think that I have written somewhere before that, yes, there is only one Church, which is the Church of the Holy Spirit, to which we belong as members of the Body of Christ. However, the Church's organisational name is not the Church itself. Whether Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or protestant, if a Christian has been baptized
by a priest whose authority comes from that of Apostolic succession, then that Christian has been truly baptized into the Church. However, that is only the beginning of the story. It is then up to each individual Christian to live according to the commandments of God, always, of course, seeking the divine help without which it is not possible to do anything. So, within the framework of any Apostolic Church,anyone striving to do God's will is a member of the Church, and anyone, even a Bishop, who goes against God's will, has put themselves outside of the Church. Since all of us are sinners, we are both members of the Church and, succumbing like my hypothetical Bishop, also outside the Church. Since we can only be judges of our own selves, we must try to stay within the Church through honest admission of sins, repentance, and the continual striving to fulfill God's will.
The Church is not exclusivist because it always seeks to convert and, if the Church fails to convert, always prays for those who reject the Church.
If what I have written seems to vague for some people, then all I can say is that Christ rejected slavish subservience to rules and proclaimed the power of outward-going love. If Christ commands us to do something we see that it is always connected with what is good for us, His Truth setting us free.
I hope that this will push the ball forward for a good, long conversation!

Kirk Yacoub


Ecclesiology - John Charmley - 19-09-2007 09:47 PM

Dear Kirk,

Thank you for your response, which will, I hope, help us along here.

The ecclesiology of Anglicanism can be summed up in the notion of the 'branch theory', which sees itself, the RCC, and the OCs as parts of the one tree which is the Church; but this is not at all the ecclesiology of those other Churches, each of which teaches that there is but one Church - and it is it, so to speak.

Not being a relativist on these things, I have no problem with this; except, of course, that if only one of these Churches is THE Church, what are the others? Moreover, how does anyone outside of any of those Churches establish which one is THE Church?

I am rather taken with your own views, but wonder how they square with the traditional ecclesiology of our Church?

My own tentative thoughts lie along the axis of seeing our encounter with Christ at the Eucharistic feast as the centre of our experience of Him. It may be that the way in which we encounter Him in the different traditions means we speak in different ways about Him - but if it is Him we encounter, we must be encountering the same Christ. I don't know if that is orthodox or quite where it would lead, but the line taken by some of the EO posters on the other site - namely that there is ONE Church and they are it and the rest of us are heretics, is, whilst being entirely consistent within itself, not one that feels right.

In Christ,

John


- admin - 20-09-2007 09:38 AM

I have found this question of the Church and the churches to have been one that I have reflected on for many years, even before I became Orthodox and had only started to believe that there was 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church'.

I don't think I have found any straightforward answers, just a variety of propositions or paradigms.

i. I wonder if there is a difference between a group which is actually and presently separating itself from the integrity of the Orthodox Church, and a group which is not Orthodox but which has not in living memory separated itself, or even does not consider itself as existing in separation.

I mean that the case of Max Michael in Egypt is a present case of someone setting himself up in opposition to the integrity of the Church. It seems to me that it is appropriate to apply the formal Cyprianic ecclesiology in his case. There is only One Church and Max Michael's is not it.

But what of people who are Baptist or Brethren not through any personal, or even corporate rejection of Orthodoxy. And who perhaps hold no personal animosity towards Orthodoxy, even a genuine interest?

Are these in the same category? It does not seem to me that they are directly the focus of St Cyprian, who was dealing with present schism and attempts to undermine the Church.

So I wonder if as a first thought, those are only outside the Church who set themselves against the Church and themselves withdraw from the life of the Church?

ii. I wonder if there is also a difference between leaders and ordinary faithful Christians. This seems to be the case because even at the times of fiercest persecution of the Church by the Byzantines it was always the rule that simple lay people should be easily accepted into communion and that very little in the way of canonical obstructions should be placed before them. More or less, if they were not positively Nestorians then they were received as being part of the Church.

Even clergy from among the Byzantines were received certainly as Christians and therefore sacramentally part of the Church, but were required to provide a statement of faith and renounce error, and then had a probationary period before they could resume clerical ministry.

These Byzantines were never baptised by our Orthodox communion.

Therefore it must have been the case, and I believe that the writings of the Fathers show this, that they distinguished between the visible community which a person came from, and which might be in error in some regard, and the reality of the Church which subsisted in such broken-ness in a human sense.

This never meant that the errors in mind were not important. Or that the integrity of the Church was not important. But it seems to me that they understood the Church as being rather more resiliant to human imperfections. The Byzantines were certainly spoken of as heretics, but I sense that this meant that they were teaching error and heresy, not that all grace had abandoned them. They were still in some sense the Church, but a disabled limb, which there was always hope could find healing.

I mean that after Chalcedon the various Patriarchates were in the hands of the Chalcedonians. But this did not mean that the Church had ceased to exist. The Alexandrian community had to live in an uneasy state of persecution by their new Patriarch while preserving their Orthodox life in difficult circumstances.

At the first opportunity they consecrated their own Patriarch, Timothy, who very surprisingly and commendably in the circumstances urged tolerance and compassion towards all those who had 'collaborated'. He was willing even to accept the leaders of the Chalcedonian group, but was prevented by the will of the whole Church which had suffered such loss at their hands.

By 512 almost all the patriarchates were in the hands of our own Orthodox leaders. But it was the same Church essentially, swinging this way and that at the level of senior leadership and international Church politics, but on the ground there were just ordinary priests and people finding themselves under one leadership and then another. Some more or less relunctantly.

So it is hard to see that there were clear cut divisions between The Church and the Non Church even in these days of suffering such great persecution on our own part. There seems to me to have been good and bad bishops. Faithful and unfaithful bishops. Principled and unprincipled bishops. But most of the Church probably found themselves swaying this way and that without a very clear idea of what was happening.

In our own country the Protestant Revolution seems to have taken place against the will and inclination of most people. But within a generation or two England was firmly Protestant, not least because it was functionally impossible to be anything else.

Were those first generations of still vaguely Catholic people heretics? Or did they find themselves swept up in currents stirred by other more culpable leaders? And were the later generations schismatics considering they knew nothing other than Protestantism? People did try to remain Catholic but the forces acting against Catholicism were so strong that it was virtually impossible.

St Severus recognises that some court officials will have to attend Chalcedonian Church services but counsels them only not to commune. So it seems to me that he did not consider so completely negatively the spiritual life of the Chalcedonian communion, but that to take communion was to say something about belonging to it which was not appropriate.

iii. Since it was the case that Byzantines coming over to our communion were not baptised again, I wonder when the practice of baptising Roman Catholics began in the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate? I have not been able to find out, and of course exposure to Roman Catholics would have been minimal until the Napoleonic period.

It seems to me that the Roman Catholics are essentially Byzantine in their theology. This being so is the present requirement for their baptism because of later theological developments in Roman Catholicism? Or because the form of baptism has changed from immersion (practiced until the Middle Ages) to aspersion? Or is it because of the presence of Roman Catholics in Egypt drawing their members from the Coptic Orthodox Church? I am not sure.

If a Roman Catholic had been baptised by immersion would they be accepted?

I am not sure about the reasons for our present Coptic practice, since other Churches in our communion receive Roman Catholics with less restrictions. Nor can I see that the Roman Catholic Church is essentially and formally more defective than we have considered the Byzantine communion. They are, after all, two halves of a whole and share many of the same authoritarian aspects of Church life and governance.

iv. So is it the case that our Fathers were able to accept as Christian those who had been baptised in the name of the Trinity, and belonged to what was still in some sense The Church even though the expression of that Church life had been marred by human sin?

I think that it is so. And in the Byzantine tradition they also were able to accept as Christian in some sense members of various groups who were separated from the visible organisation of the Church.

Does this mean that everything is the Church and everyone is in the Church? I don't think so.

I think it is possible to say by faith that our communion is The Church in the fullest sense, because the Life of the Spirit which is the Life of the Church is a qualitative matter in our experience and not a binary one. I am in the Church, thank God, but how much is the Life of the Church, which is the Holy Spirit, in me?

I think it is possible to also say that the Byzantine communion is also The Church, but perhaps in a qualitative lesser sense, although it might be more reasonable to assert that all the Orthodox Churches are struggling, but perhaps with different problems of being human in the world. Nevertheless I do think it is possible to say that some aspects of Byzantine theology are less satisfactory and do tend towards certain ends which are not as spirit-filled.

Personally I do think it is the same with the Roman Catholic Church. Even though baptism is not by immersion, and it would be better if it were. There seems to me to be a clear intent that the person being baptised be regenerated in a sacrament and become part of the Church.

And much of the theology of the Roman Church is within the bounds of what is acceptable to the Orthodox Church, even though there is a different theological spirit about much of Roman Catholicism. I mean the spirit of scholasticism. And of course the Papal doctrines are unacceptable, but they have always been unacceptable and have generally been ignored by others without any breach of communion.

So I think I personally believe that the Orthodox - Byzantine - Roman Catholic communion is The Church in one sense, though there are local problems of clarity of theology and practice. There is One Church and this is it. Not branches. But qualitatively The Church filled with the Holy Spirit, but to varying degrees, because the Church is human as well as being the Body of Christ.

Am I not in The Church because I have a couple of strange non-Orthodox ideas? Am I not in the same Church as you because I am less holy? It seems to me that the Church is liable to this human element. It copes with it, just as the Scripture says that some parts of our body are more presentable and honourable than others.

The Protestant and non-Apostolic Churches are rather different. I was baptised as a Plymouth Brethren but we positively and explicitly rejected any sense of it being a sacrament. Therefore I cannot think that I was sacramentally baptised. It was not the same thing at all. And this, as far as my experience goes, holds for almost all non-Apostolic groups.

I must think of them, and of myself in those days, as a catechumen. I had faith in Christ, as a catechumen has faith. I had a relation to the Church, as a catechumen has a relation, a relation of being outside much of the blessing, while also being within the family of the Church. As catechumens I understand all these faithful believers, Christians, to be on their own journeys into the Life of the Church, which is the Holy Spirit. It has not been the will of God that most of these should complete their journey in this life within the visible boundaries of any Orthodox Church, but as catechumens in relation to the Church, and not heretics, we have a great responsibility towards them.

Yes, they are to be baptised when they come formally to the Church, and yes, much of the theological and practical systems which men have organised outside of formal Orthodoxy is defective in many ways. But as persons loved by God they are not on a different journey than our own, though they have further to go in some regards. And being on the same journey they are fellow travellers.

v. In short. I guess I consider systems (denominations) to be more or less Orthodox and more or less defective, even damaging. But the faithful people within them, if they love Christ, are in relation to Christ and therefore to The Church, to our Church.

Not all are members of the Church, otherwise the state of being a catechumen would have been meaningless. But we may consider all as being God-fearers in the sense of those Gentiles who loved the God of Israel but had not been received into Judaism through the rite of circumcision.

There are groups which need to be opposed as heretical, but there are others which need to be restored to unity with the wider Church as far as this ever becomes possible.

This is one of the aims of the British Orthodox Fellowship after all. To help people become MORE Orthodox where they are, because the next step in each of our journeys is where WE are. To the extent that each of us lives an Orthodox life we ARE Orthodox and we are Christian.

This can only find fulfillment in the formal bounds of the Orthodox Church, which is not an exclusive club but an inclusive haven. It received ME after all, but we are received on the Spirit's terms not our own.

I wonder, in conclusion, if much of our present 'hard-line' ecclesiology is not suited for our present times. It presents itself as 'One Church AGAINST all others'. I wonder if our mission is now to be 'One Church FOR all others', sharing what we have received, as far as we can, winning others for the fulness of Life in the Spirit, rather than circling the wagons in a fearful spirit of contamination.

Just a few thoughts, still no answers.

Peter


ecclesiology - kirk yacoub - 21-09-2007 09:11 AM

Dear John and Peter,
Just a brief comment. Bishop Athanasios Touma explained to me that the Syriac Orthodox Church will commune anyone who considers themselves to be a Christian, excepting protestants, who are "non-Apostolic". I take the latter to mean that Anglicans are "Apostolic", but that all the other non-conformist groups are not. It is to be noted that the Oriental Orthodox Churches have recently decided to resume ecumenical discussions with
the Church of England. The problem of the Church of England is that you can be a member of it and believe whatever you want, therefore, unless the C of E suddenly decides to become very precise in what it believes, I do not see much hope of fruitful dialogue with them. The Syriac Orthodox Church also began dialogue with the Church of the East a few years ago, only to be told that it should not do so on its own, but as part of the Oriental Orthodox family. With the signing of a Christological agreement
between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the East a big barrier was placed between the RC Church and the Coptic Church. Further confusion was added following the invasion of Iraq. The Uniates in Iraq, who placed themselves under the Vatican in the 17th century, are now able to give communion to members of the Church of the East on the strength of the controversial Christological agreement. The knots are being further entangled.
I can see why Patriarch Zakka I Iwas has said that the devil is still up to his tricks to cause splits and divisions.

Kirk Yacoub


- Rick Henry - 21-09-2007 05:40 PM

Dear Peter,

Yes, thanks very much for this post--this one's a keeper! I think I see an answer or two in your post, not the least of which is contained in the following when you say:

Quote:"So I wonder if as a first thought, those are only outside the Church who set themselves against the Church and themselves withdraw from the life of the Church?"

And, I think I would like to reread what you have written before possibly commenting further; however, after a first run through, as we consider those inside and those outside Orthodoxy Proper, is it a play on words to consider the possibility of turning from something without rejecting/withdrawing? As I reread even my own words here it sounds like mumbo jumbo, but for those of us who have had the legalists and the formalists sink their teeth into us in the past, it may warrant consideration as it is now applied to both extremes to be found in an ecclesial discussion such as this.

Thanks again Peter, good work.

In Christ,
Rick


Re: ecclesiology - John Charmley - 22-09-2007 04:07 PM

Dear Kirk,

Yes, I fear that the Church of England probably needs to have ecumenical dialogue with itself first! Still, if a stand is taken against the Eposcopalian hierarchy, that will at least sugges that there are limits to what it will tolerate.

Quote:I can see why Patriarch Zakka I Iwas has said that the devil is still up to his tricks to cause splits and divisions.
For sure His Holiness is correct.

In Christ,

John

[/quote]


Ecclesiology - John Charmley - 03-11-2007 02:31 PM

Thinking further on this subject, I do wonder whether the ecclesiology of St. Cyprian has not helped imprison us in our current situation where we have a number of Churches all claiming to be THE Church.

Is it beyond the wit of a Church that was able to grasp the idea of the trinity to grasp an ecclesiology which sees three in one and one in three in ecclesiological terms?

So often, in these sorts of discussions, we find ourselves saying that although we believe that there is no salvation outside the Church, we do not necessarily believe in the damnation of those outside our Church 'because only God decides that'. If that is so, why do we believe it matters which Church one is in? If we believe it does matter, why are we not out there trying to save as many souls as possible?

Origen posited an ecclesiology which saw the mission of the Incarnate Word as being to the whole world, so the whole world was potentially 'the Church' - those actively converted were, so to say, the elect of the elect. It seems a more hopeful ecclesiology than one which concentrates on boundaries.

In Christ,

John


ecclesiology - kirk yacoub - 05-11-2007 10:08 AM

Dear John,
Yes, there is only one Church, which is the only road to salvation, and the whole world is indeed, potentially, the Church. The only problem is the human perception of who is in the Church, not God's perception. We must follow the commands of Christ, we must live within the precepts of the Apostles and the Fathers, and then pray that we are really doing this. If you read the monastic Fathers in particular you will see how they understand the subtle slyness of the Devil in making us believe that by being baptised and attending the Liturgy we are neccessarily doing everything else right. It does matter that we are in an Apostolic Church, but that in itself will not be sufficient if we lack love towards our fellow creatures.

Kirk Yacoub


Thank you - John Charmley - 05-11-2007 01:33 PM

Dear Kirk,

Extremely helpful - many thanks.

In Christ,

John


Ecclesiology again - John Charmley - 06-11-2007 04:30 PM

Dear Kirk, Dear Rick, Dear Peter,

Pondering this topic further it occurs to me that our ecclesiology is usually used to draw boundaries and point out differences, but I do wonder whether we don't need a way of talking about something which the early Church did not have words for because it did not experience it - and that is the phenomenon of more than one Church claiming to be the one Church?

I don't want to go back to something like the Anglican 'branch theory' because I don't think that sort of metaphor actually describes what has happened, and therefore can't accurately scope it for us. But the phenomenon described previously, and familiar to us all, does require some language in which it can be discussed - and 'heresy' and 'schism' aren't perhaps the best words to start with - unless they are accurate representations. The question is - are they?

The iconography, liturgical life, Creeds and dogmatic believing of the ancient Church came down to us in forms at once Eastern and Western; this rich unity of patristic culture, expressing as it did the faith of the apostolic community was shattered by the schism between Catholics and Orthodox, even as it had earlier been damaged by Chalcedon. Catholics, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox all claim the exclusive title of THE Church - yet each of them inherits the same rich patristic culture, whilst claiming that each of them is the only one that possesses the 'fullness of the Faith'. It is a moot question, posed this way, as to whether any of them can actually substantiate that claim in any eyes other than their own.

There are some Catholic writers who have the humility (often wanting in all three Churches) to acknowledge that after 1054 (and I quote one):

Quote:No Church could now lay claim to the total cultural patrimony of both Eastern and Western Chalcedonianism - that is, the christologically and therefore triadologically and soteriologically correct understanding of the Gospel.

We can claim that the OO, the EO or the RCs do indeed possess the 'total cultural patrimony', but that is where we may disagree; my Catholic source (Fr. Aidan Nichols) evinces a humility from which we could all learn. Taking the same line as Pope Benedict takes in the recent CDF document, Fr. Aidan states:
Quote:the Orthodox churches are churches in the apostolic succession; they are bearers of the apostolic Tradition, witnesses to apostolic faith, worship and order - even though they are also, and at the same time, unhappily sundered from the prima sedes, the first see. Their Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers, their liturgical texts and practices, their iconographic tradition, these remain loci theologici - authoritative sources - to which the Catholic theologian can and must turn in his or her intellectual construal of Catholic Christianity.


He goes on to write:
Quote:only the Orthodox are, along with the Catholic Church, bearers of Holy Tradition - in the singular, with a capital 'T', that is, of the Gospel in its plenary organic transmission through the entirety of the life - credal, doxological, ethical - of Christ's Church.

What we find on examination is that the OO, the EO and the RCs are all liturgical, dogmatic and monastic Churches; all confess the Nicene Creed; all (perhaps) recognise the same Christology (even if the EO and the OO won't always admit it); all recognise that there are some real differences between them - some doctrinal, some dogmatic and some cultural and historical. These last we deal with by focusing on them; what about the commonalities?

It seems to me that we need an ecclesiology which says something about the common patristic and dogmatic inheritance as well as speaking to the differences. There is no inherent reason why St. Cyprian's ecclesiology cannot do this - just that we usually stress the boundaries. Of course, St. Cyprian did not have to deal with a situation where three Churches, all with a claim to part of the common patristic inheritance, would claim it all for more than a millennium and a half; that is our task - if we can embrace it.

This is not, I hope, a plea for 'indifferentism' - indeed, it is far from it. How do we describe those areas where we actually agree? Only by doing so - and proceeding from there, is there any chance of 'unity'.

As we have no examples of how such schisms can be healed - since they never have been - it may be rank optimism to think they can - but His command is there - and we ignore it at our peril - surely?

In Christ,

John


ecclesiology - kirk yacoub - 08-11-2007 10:34 AM

Dear John,
John Romanides states things very clearly in the 'Concluding Remarks' to his excellent and provocative 'Ecclesiology of St Ignatius of Antioch':
"The ecclesiology of St Ignatius rests exclusively and harmoniously upon the Biblical teaching concerning salvation and its appropriation. The
resurrected flesh and blood of God is the only source of immortality, of unity with each other in Christ, and of power to struggle for selfless love and simultaneously defeat the devil. Salvation is not magical. God Himself saves those who gather together in the life of selfless love with their clergy... The visible Church is composed of those only who continuously share in the corporate eucharistic life. This life of selfless love for God and neighbour is an end in itself. Good works are not, therefore, performed for utilitarian motivations as part of divine-human business, but rather are expressions of the struggle for selfless love, as well as a most effective weapon against Satan. God has no need of man's acts of charity.
It is man who needs good works, prayer and fasting as a spiritual exercise for selfless love and as an effective means of remaining attentive and spiritually alert against the attacks of Satan... Beyond the life of unity centred in the corporate Eucharist as an end in itself there is no Church and only God can know if there is any salvation...
"As all other things pertaining to the Church, the clergy also exists for the sole purpose of preserving and increasing the life of unity and love...
in the flesh and blood of Christ. The authority of the clergy is founded exclusively upon the mysteries of unity in Christ... The clergy as such cannot save. Only the resurrected flesh of Christ saves when received in unity and selfless love for each other... Even within the corporate life of
the mysteries it is Christ and not the Church that saves."

Inevitably Romanides condemns the 'nationalisms' of Byzantium, the Papacy, and Anglicanism which, in attempting to extend the meaning of the Church beyond that of a Eucharistic community to one of national and therefore political significance, investing the clergy with powers and authority beyond that of the laity, actually diminish the true role of the Church. He adds that Eastern Orthodoxy will not be able to play a true ecumenical role "if she does not first drop her cultural, political, and national pretensions."

Powerful stuff!

Kirk Yacoub


Concrete Utopia or Abstract? - Rick Henry - 08-11-2007 02:53 PM

Dear John, Dear Kirk,

Romanides words just leapt off the page at me here especially in the last paragraph as he speaks of "extending the meaning of the Church" and "pretensions/"pretense.

I have never considered it this way before; however, what a definition of the term 'cosmic irony' we have here. In an attempt to draw lines and pound boundary markers into the common ground found in the Kingdom of God, in an attempt to stake out protect, and elevate the one true, genuine, etc., Body of Christ, all the calls and prayers for unity in the New Testament are ignored, and the flag is raised which proclaims the kerygma of pretense is spoken here and that the true role of the Church is diminished.

And, just for the record, based on my reading of Eastern Orthodoxy the Eastern Orthodox hierarchy is not a hierarchy, as one might think. What I mean here is that in the EO Church, there is a kind of check and balance system. Whereby, Bishops can (as has happened in the past) come together and agree on something; but, the people of their churches have rejected it, and what was agreed on by the Bishops was abandoned and truly overturned by the people of the Church, the Church.

So hopefully, no one will see this as a plea for insurrection anymore than one would see the above as a plea for indifferentism, but as you suggest John, the Church is living in a time and experiencing a way of being that she has never before. And, this may very well require a way of talking, a language, that has not been employed in the past. Based on my limited view/perspective, there is an increasing number of people who are seeing the prayer of the Lord (John 17) as being something to not ignore, but how to speak of this at all? How to speak of a unity which is as the Trinity. I am not aware of a theology or a branch of theology that deals with this--we are not speaking of ecclesiology here now.

On the one hand, I think a true unity of the East and the West (whatever that means these days) will probably not ever be realized in the here and now, and it will only be realized as an eschatological event. But, on the other hand, IT is here and now and available for those to participate in for those who can/may transcend all divisions in Christ.

But, it is here where the one who would transcend all divisions in Christ is placed in an awkward position. To speak of this moving beyond the cultural, political and national pretensions is in many ways like blowing in the wind. To just live in the reality of the Church and the Kingdom of God that is within, the Inner Kingdom, is to move beyond all of this and to work out our salvation for ourselves, to be involved as we are gifted and called, and to be known by our love . . . in this sense the one who has transcended all divisions in Christ is usually not found in such ecumenical debates, they are moot. But, it is as you imply John, if we ignore the words of our Lord and especially Paul, we do this at our peril.

Also, on one hand, at times it seems there is no use in discussing such things, even if all participants are willing to come to the table--it usually ends up being a tiring exercise where well honed responses are traded and all those who agreed with each other in the beginning agree with each other in the end, and vice-versa. But, again, on the other hand, I am not so sure that within the ranks and phalanx of the common man and woman there is not a common ground that has come into view, and if my vision is close to being accurate, then it is not a time to be depressed or get down in the dumps, but a time to begin rejoicing. Time will tell.

I think it was another John (Lennon) who wrote something like, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." And, for that matter, if I remember correctly also, it was another Peter, and a Paul and a Mary who sang, "The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind."

In Christ,
Rick


Ecumenism - John Charmley - 09-11-2007 04:08 PM

Dear Kirk, Dear Rick,

I am deeply in your debt for continuing this discussion in such a constructive and eirenic way. Kirk's quotations are wonderfully thought-provoking.

I am struck by the frequency with which the phrase 'the fulness of the faith' is used by Orthodox and Catholic writers; few of them appear to be converts from the other, so quite how they are qualified to pronounce thus is an interesting question. On both sides of the divide comments get made which, if accurate, would presuppose a depth of experience within that Church which few, if any, of the writers possess. Kirk's quotation about 'the Church' is one of the most thoughtful I have seen on this vexed subject.

The close identification between Orthodoxy and nationalism does seem to question its Catholicity in some ways; even as the equivocation of some parts of the Catholic Church on some crucial issues may be seen to cast doubts on its Orthodoxy. The unwillingness of some Christians to admit to the need for repentance might be thought a trifle surprising?

In Christ,

John