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Orthodoxy and Tradition - John Charmley - 22-10-2006

A question which has been recurring to me, partly because of the experience Peter and I have had with the EO on the Monachos website, is how Orthodoxy deal with change.

It strikes me that one reason some of the EO on that site will never deal with some of the questions that Peter and I pose is that the only logical answers to them lie outside what they have been taught; i.e. it questions their tradition. They have been taught that the OO are monophysites, and therefore, however much Peter and I argue that the evidence is hugely against that interpretation, and that even some of their own theologians question that notion, they literally cannot entertain the idea because it is against traditional teaching.

If the characteristic vice of Anglicanism has been to adapt itself to the spirit of the age to the extent that it can almost seem to be an instrument for secularised moral teaching, then I suppose the corresponding problem for Orthodoxy would be this inability to deal with something that questioned traditional teaching. Of course not all EO take up this very conservative line, but it seems as though many do.

How do members of the Fellowship find that Oriental Orthodoxy deals with the problem of what might be called development?

The EO tend to fetishise the idea of the Ecumenical council, and some of them come close to attributing infallibility to the councils; this does not seem to be the OO position.

But how does the Church determine not only what is Orthodox by tradition, but how Orthodoxy deals with changing times?

In Christ,


tradition and orthadoxy - geraldine - 22-10-2006

Hi friends ,

A valid question ? Take this scenario - " In earlier times the Church took the stand that it allowed the Christian Spouse to live with the other partner to keep the family ties and to give the chance to the unbeliever to see the changes that christianity brought about."Now the situation is different and a believer should not be tied with an unbeliever"( FROM The coptic church - Youth and Sacrifices by H.H. Poope Shenouda

So here the Church has changed its beliefs!!!!

As a would be convert - with Gods will - this now is a totally diff. situation for me. To what point should I justify LEAVING my Chilfren?

This is a very tough dilema for me. Does it mean I do not have the " true determination ??

Change and Tradition - John Charmley - 22-10-2006

Dear Geraldine,

An interesting point. I am not sure whether HH means that one definitely should not stay married to a non-Orthodox spouse, or means to say that one does not have to stay married.

In our secular society this pronouncement also raises the question of what marriage means. A purely civil ceremony is not the same as a religious one, obviously, so someone (such as myself) married to a non-believer in a civil ceremony is potentially in a difficult situation.

However, from what I know of OO teaching, it is pastoral in nature, as well as compassionate, and it would be a very strange interpretation of Christian teaching for any priest to say that one should break up one's family upon converting. I suspect that the traditional teaching remains valid.

I suspect HH's teaching is applicable in Egypt, but not so here with converts; one has to remember that in Egypt it is very dangerous for anyone to convert to Christianity, and I daresay is something of a rarity; here, the only 'danger' is that one's friends think one has lost the plot, and since mission is such a major part of what we are about, our teaching and practice has to be appropriate for this society.

It might, however, be useful to have an authoritative view on this one.

In Christ,


- admin - 23-10-2006

Dear all

I am in Scotland on holiday for a few days, staying with my wife's family in Stirling actually. But I always manage to find a way of being online somehow. Big Grin

Without having the full textual contexts of these passages I would understand them to have the following meanings.

i. It is still the case as far as I am aware that I know of no married converts to Oriental Orthodoxy who are counselled to leave their spouse. Indeed there are many of us in the British Orthodox Church in just that circumstance, and as the Church grows there will be a greater liklihood of more and more people who become Orthodox while their spouses do not. In these circumstances, as far as I am aware, the Biblical teaching is clear, that the believing partner sanctifies her/his partner and should witness to the Faith in their marriage not by abandoning it.

ii. In a text addressed to Orthodox young people the counter position is clearly presented. In this circumstance the teaching of the Church is that an Orthodox young person should not marry a non-Orthodox. I would imagine that the booklet for young people is contrasting the prevalence of mixed marriages in the NT period with the good sense of marrying Orthodox today.

Indeed there are issues when a Coptic Orthodox youth chooses to marry outside Orthodoxy. How can an Orthodox marriage take place with a non-Orthodox partner?

So I think the two positions are actually complementary. Though they might appear contrary because in Egypt a married convert would be rare. So the prime concern is that Coptic youth should only consider Orthodox spouses for practical and spiritual reasons.

Here in the West the issue of married converts is a live issue where it is not really in Egypt. And here the NT principles are applied by the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Patriarchate.

Does this help? Or explain?

Do let me know if you have further questions.

Best wishes


- geraldine - 23-10-2006

Hope u enjoying the fresh air !!!!
In Egypt im sure this issue must be becoming an issue also !!!
And as one Priest said to me - It is a scenario which there will be more occurances of and will be more of an issue for the Church to deal with..
EG. ME!!!! A Muslim - ( yes I announce it !!!) whose husband Im well sure of - isnt going to get a change of heart in the forseeable future and am I meanwhile meant to languish in this place of uncertainty?
Let me tell u it's a very unsettling position to be in !! In one instance I was told by a C.O Priest to approach the R.C Church that basically they would "have me" !!! mmm charming . -- but im a persistant kind of person and getting there " inspite " of the hurdles being thrown at me Big Grin


Mixed marriages - John Charmley - 23-10-2006


I have asked Abba Seraphim if he could be kind enough to clear this one up; my reading you be exactly as Peter's - that this is something which is not an issue in Egypt, and where, as it would be dangerous to convert to the CO from Islam, it is unlikely to become one.

Here it is, and I feel sure that the traditional ruling Peter mentions will apply. The Church cannot, of course, recognise a civil marriage contract as anything more than it is, but given that it is a contract between two people who are declaring their commitment to each other, the Church would encourage those in it to keep it. If, of course, marriage to an Orthodox partner did, eventually, encourage the other partner to wish to convert, then that would be wonderful; but I suspect that some of us are far from that! Smile

Enjoy your holiday Peter!

In Christ,


- admin - 23-10-2006

Dear Geraldine

It is raining here of course, but we managed to get out when it had slowed to a persistent drizzle. Smile

I think I would have to add that perhaps the C.O. have some practical and historical issues with dealing with Muslim converts, in that it is always dangerous in Egypt for all concerned, especially in Egypt. This may influence the response of some C.O.

But the B.O.C. does not wish to be bound by the same understandable history and receives all those who come to us where they are and as they are.

Not only are converts liable to be Muslims and married to Muslims, but to Hindus, atheists, maybe even criminals, leaders, laity, pleasant and kind people of no faith and from other Christian traditions and all other religions. All sorts in fact. Good and bad. And I don't see in my experience of being part of the B.O.C. for 12 years, that we turn anyone away.

I can't answer for the comments of any other person, clergy or layfolk. But as far as I can see the B.O.C. wishes to be home to all people and any people, who desire to share the living out of the Orthodox Faith with us.

It will be good if we can get a comment from Abba Seraphim. But you are not the first Muslim convert nor will you be the last I am sure. Our role must be to help people become Orthodox not put obstacles in their way.

Best wishes


mixed marriages/converts - geraldine - 23-10-2006

So U are witnesssing a " soft day" as we say in Ireland -

Yes I believe u are right in the attitudes from the Coptic Church in the way that they are well aware and would have had more problems with Muslim converts in Egypt ,and were perhaps afraid for my physical well being etc more than any other reason
But with Gods help - I am still standing and on my way back to him ... although a long road .... There is a light at the end of it

- admin - 23-10-2006

Dear Geradline

I pray that the road be no longer than needful, and I am sure that there is a great light, and life and an abundance of love at the end of it.

Indeed I pray that you may experience His love right now on your journey.

Best wishes in Christ Jesus


Marriage - John Charmley - 24-10-2006

Dear Geraldine,

Abba Seraphim has been kind enough to respond to the enquiry about the status of marriage to a non-Orthodox spouse, and has given the following helpful comment:

Quote:This issue of the marriage of a Christian and a non-believer is an important one for us and I suspect there are many similarities between 21st century London and 4th century Alexandria, where Christianity was one of many competing faiths.

In the first instance there is the question of a Christian marrying a non-believer. St. Paul?s injunction to the Corinthians not to be ?yoked together with unbelievers? (mē ginesthe heterozygountes) in 2 Corinthians VI:14 seems to be appropriate here, especially as the word translated as ?yoked together? (more accurately mis-yoked) is a common root with our Lord?s command ?What therefore God hath joined together (sy-zeugnymi), let no man put asunder? (Mark X: 7). A committed Christian must surely see the issues here which prevent a husband and wife from truly becoming one. The Coptic Church tells us we may not marry outside the Orthodox Faith and here again there is pastoral wisdom because of the tensions and issues which a divided religious loyalty may generate, but these are not of the same magnitude as marrying an unbeliever.

For us marriage is a sacrament and only if both partners are members of the Orthodox Church can this sacrament be effectual. The idea of one partner receiving the sacrament but not the other is extraordinary. We do not, therefore, recognise civil marriages and those couples who become Orthodox are required to marry in the church.

But what of those who are drawn by conviction to become Christians and wish to unite themselves to the Orthodox Church. Are we to turn them away or, rather hypocritically, direct them to other denominations which might be more flexible in their marriage policy ? I think not. If we believe that the Church is truly the ark of salvation we cannot refuse them. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue when he advises that ?the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife...? (1 Corinthians VII:13-14) St. John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage draws a parallel with a Christian whose wife is a harlot but is still ?one body with him?. He teaches that a woman joined to an idolater is also one body with him but in this case she does not become unclean as a result. ?On the contrary, her cleanness overcomes the uncleaness of her husband? because ?there is hope that the lost member may be saved through the marriage ... An unbelieving man may be reclaimed by his believing wife if she is faithful to him? (Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 19.4). On the other hand if the unbelieving partner abandons the marriage, the Christian is to let that partner go and is free to remarry without commiting adultery.

Of course the obstacles to this marriage being a blessing are many and there are elements which strongly militate against it approximating to the Christian ideal. For this reason, Chrysostom, who has earlier spoken more positively of such unions, also observes, ?If an unbeliever wants his partner to join him in sacrificing to idols, it is better for the marriage to be annulled, so that there may be no breach in godliness.? (op.cit.) We must balance each statement against the other and it is surely the same sort of concern which Pope Shenouda enunciates. It is not a question of the Church having changed its beliefs, as having recognised the spiritual dangers of this course. At the most positive the believer may lead their partner to salvation but at its darkest they may imperil their own faith and fall into despair and unbelief.

This seems pretty clear. Obviously HH Pope Shenouda has to be particularly sensitive to the situation of the Copts in Egypt, and his pronouncements are clearly made in that context. Equally, Abba Seraphim has to show sensitivity to the needs of the wider Church, as well as wisdom to the diaspora, which it seems to me, this pronouncement does.

I hope that helps.

In Christ,


Orthodoxy and Tradition - John Charmley - 20-11-2006

Peter and I are, in another forum, discussing the question of 'labels' and authority. The Church condemns 'Nestorianism' and yet almost every time one reads a book on the subject one trips over statements such as 'Nestorius was not a Nestorian'. By the same measure, Arius was not an Arian, and it would appear unlikely that Origen was an Origenist.

We had both thought that the obvious answer to this was that the Church is right to condemn heresy but is not always fully aware of what particular people believe and may therefore have to revise who is condemned as a heretic even if the heresy is always worthy of condemnation.

Somewhat to our surprise, the Eastern Orthodox posters have come back saying that it is up to the Church to decide what the possible implications of what someone says they believe are, and that this is more important than what they actually believe, and, moreover, that 'modern standards of fairness' do not apply.

My, no doubt, inadequate response was to say that I was not sure what they meant by 'modern standards', and that I based myself on the 10 commandments, which, among other things, forbid us to bear false witness, which it surely would be to present someone as saying something they did not say.

The EO seem hung up on an idea of the Church as being infallibly able to pronounce on what someone 'really' meant. This seems a trifle dangerous to me, but then what do I know?

I wonder if this prompts any thoughts from members of the Fellowship?

In Christ,