Who speaks for Orthodoxy?: Can we articulate our position? - Printable Version
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Who speaks for Orthodoxy?: Can we articulate our position? - Rick Henry - 18-10-2007
Dear Discussion Community,
I made a very similar post as this on another site today, and it occurred to me that this may be an appropriate topic here as well. I will modify it a bit here and hopefully it will work as a starting place.
On the other site, I read a post by a man this morning which brought to mind a nagging question. simply put, 'Who speaks for Orthodoxy?'
This man has written:
Quote:Of course bishops are sometimes "wrong", but we do not require our bishops or even our saints to be infallible.
What I mean is as we use the term Protestants, they ultimately appeal to an infallible bible and the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit, Roman Catholics ultimately appeal to the Pope. It is very clear and easy to understand the answer to this question as it relates to these two particular Christian groups.
But, as for Oriental Orthodoxy, if someone would ask me who speaks for the O.O. Church, I honestly would not know what to tell them. In the case of the E.O., I have read that we are not a true hierarchy because there is a check and balance system of a kind whereby what may be (as we have seen in the past in the history of the Church) approved by hierarchs can potentially be rejected by the people and abandoned.
Usually when I ask this question, I receive what seem to be meaningless cliches, or language that speaks of things like a zealousless zealousness whereby at the end of the day it seems we cannot articulate an answer.
Honestly, with no malcontent, I would like to ask, is the answer to this question that there can be no articulation of an answer. In the past, there usually is a series of well honed responses followed by an appeal to a special understanding as it relates to this question.
But, I can't help but wonder if the reason why we speak as we do as it relates to this question is because if we start to define and measure what we have in common with the Protestants as it relates to our practical theology we might see more in common than we would like.
But, simply put, can we articulate the O.O. position as it relates to the question, 'Who speaks for Orthodoxy?'
Speak for Orthodoxy? - John Charmley - 19-10-2007
This is an excellent question, and one that I have puzzled over from time to time.
Of course the term 'Oriental Orthodox' is one of art in that it describes a number of Churches all with their own patriarch; so the short answer would be that each Patriarch speaks for his Church, after talking to his bishops and metropolitans. The same is true for the EOs.
But that means that no one speaks for Orthodoxy. This has always been the case, and looks odd only against the backdrop of the way the RCC has developed the Petrine primacy. But it is never clear to me that those outside the RCC actually have a clear grasp of how its Magisterium is exercised. The Pope has spoken infallibly on remarkably few issues since the 1870s, and most of the time speaks out of consultation within the Church. In that sense he really is speaking for his Church.
The eventual relationship of Orthodoxy to this model offers fertile soil for speculation.
Who speaks for Orthodoxy? - John Charmley - 29-10-2007
It occurs to me that when we have discussed this before we have skirted around what might be called the 'ethnic' question.
As you and I know from elsewhere, a good deal of time gets taken up in EO circles with the confusion between ethnic practice and Orthodox practice. For understandable historical reasons, the close identification of Orthodoxy and nationalism in those places where the EO Churches have thrived has created this dimension to the problem.
I contrast that, now I come to think of it, with what I have experienced with the Copts and the BOC, where the former, once convinced of our Orthodoxy, have been very happy to let us get on with the vital task of talking to the British people about Orthodoxy, unencumbered by demands that they learn old Church Slavonic or adopt strange styles of dress.
Rereading Fr. Peter Gillquist's book, it occurs to me to wonder what would have happened had the Antiochenes followed suit with the EP and rejected him and his group? Perhaps one way forward for Orthodoxy in the USA would be for a similar group to talk to the Copts in the US about the sort of affiliation the BOC has. To my mind, the Copts have been so wonderfully welcoming in sharing the pearl of great price, and I certainly feel blessed by their Christian love and charity.
- Rick Henry - 30-10-2007
As I read your post above, the word community came to mind.
On an increasing basis, in my neck of the woods, I have observed both within and without the Body of Christ that the word community has become a buzz word over the years. But, it is really a buzz word used primarily by the bourgeois who are involved in an anti-bourgeois rebellion. In the end, there is only further division.
But, with that said, as we consider the 'ethnic' question, and 'nationalism' as well in relation to the Body of Christ, this word comes to mind. And, in relation to this thread then we are able to ask the question another way. Who speaks for the community? Or, more precisely, who speaks for the Community of communities? Who speaks for the Community of the cross?
In the other forum, the answer has been given that no one person speaks for Orthodoxy; but, we all speak for Orthodoxy. From this I have concluded that the Spirit of Life speaks for Orthodoxy through whom He wills.
How can we recognize this Voice? I think characteristically, you have answered this question below as you refer to the Christian love and charity of the Copts.
As far as methods and groups like Gillquist's go, I do not have the discernment at all in such matters to comment here. I must admit though that as we may consider such things as natural and organic processes verses mechanical and contrived, a red flag goes up in my minds eye. And, as I think back to the book you mention, a Chinese proverb comes to mind, "He who rides the tiger can no longer get off of it."
And, when I further consider the ethnic question and nationalism, I wonder if it is not simply a question of the Fatherland here. In this sense I speak of the Fatherland as the Kingdom of God. Who speaks for the Fatherland? What one person or group would dare say he or she, or they speak exclusively for God the Father?
I am not too familiar with Oriental Orthodoxy. Possibly, this question/statement is perceived as inflammatory within the OO ranks. I don't know. In my view, the Spirit of Life is not confined to any one group or person--within or without the Orthodox Church--He speaks through whom He wills, when and where He wills period. He has chosen to speak through a jackass (Balaam's) in the past, so in this sense we see it is an ignorant statement to say He speaks only through a select group of humans.
Possibly, we can modify the question even further and ask "characteristically" who speaks for the Community of communities?
who speaks for orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 31-10-2007
Dear John and Rick,
It is interesting that there is the British Orthodox Church functioning as part of the Coptic Church, and therefore part of Oriental Orthodoxy. Does the USA need a similar vessel? I would have nothing against it, but I would also quote my own example as an ethnic Brit (whatever that may mean!) who is a member of the Syriac Orthodox Church. It would be very possible to do the same in the USA. Particular Church customs are not exclusivist, they usually provide another light on the faith. The Church speaks on behalf of Orthodoxy not as an ethnic unit, but on the basis of the Scriptures,and Apostolic and Patristic Tradition, all of which blend together.
The other important thing to note is that Orthodoxy, if it is imbued with Christian love, is by definition ecumenical, reaching out to other Churches to strive towards that unity we all desire, but which we know cannot be achieved by human effort alone, but by the Holy Spirit working through us.
The test of Orthodoxy is, do we love not only friends, but also those who perceive themselves as our enemies? To speak on this basis is to speak on the command and authority of Christ, which is to speak for Orthodoxy.
Who speaks? - John Charmley - 13-11-2007
An excellent and thought-provoking post; I am, as ever, stunned by the insights you bring here.
What a very good statement you make:
Quote: The Church speaks on behalf of Orthodoxy not as an ethnic unit, but on the basis of the Scriptures,and Apostolic and Patristic Tradition, all of which blend together.
Tradition is the living river which connects the past and the future, on which we are but passengers. The last sentence is very profound.
In his treatise on the Lord's Prayer, St. Cyprian describes the Church as: ?a people united in one in the unity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.? I note how it is the same communion which unites the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit which is the model and the source of the fraternal communion which ought to unite Christians. As Our Lord tells us in St. John 15:12: ?Love one another as I have loved you?; and in St. John 17:22 he tells us why: ?that they may be one even as we are one?.
Indeed, Orthodoxy is by definition ecumenical.