The British Orthodox Church

within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate




 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Oriental and Eastern Orthodox: questions
27-04-2007, 09:02 AM
Post: #31
 
The reasons for the apparent lack of Coptic theological works (at least in English) are, I suspect, many and complex. No doubt the Arab conquest caused a major hiatus in any such writing: sitting down to write theology while trying to avoid death seems an unlikely occupation. I am inclined to attribute a major influence to the influence of Protestant theology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, there are obviously significant works which are simply not published, or not published in languages other than Arabic.

The only survey of Coptic theology in English (albeit very brief) of which I am aware is found in Otto Meinardus? two volume work, now edited and condensed into one volume: ?Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity? (American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 1999:52-64).

He divides Coptic theology into:

1. Pre-Chacedonian theology
2. Post-Chalcedonian theology
3. The theology of the (Coptic) Middle Ages (by which he seems to mean the period from the 7th to the 18th centuries)
4. The theology of the 19th and 20th centuries.

However, some of the writings he describes as theological are in fact works on canon law (a survey of which he has already provided:45-52).

He rightly notes that little is known ?about the theological developments in Egypt immediately following the Arab conquest?. He also notes that the language of Coptic theology changed from Greek and Coptic to Arabic by the 10th and 11th centuries.

Meinardus does, however, provide an interesting account of a number of theological works from the period of the (Coptic) Middle Ages, virtually none of which would ever seem to have been published (at least in English). I would be delighted to be able to see a translation of, for example, Abu Ishaq?s ?Compendium of the Foundations of Religion? (c. 1260), or Afram Adad?s ?A Handbook of Religion? (c. late 19th century).

Meinardus cites works by a number of Coptic theologians in the 19th and early 20th century; I assume some of these may exist in Arabic versions. I would be fascinated to see, for example, Ibn Shuga?s ?Precious Pearls: Commentary on the Ecclesiastical Rites and Doctrines of the Faith? (1909), or Mikhail Mina?s ?A Systematic Theology? (3 volumes, 1933-1938), or yet the writings of Bishop Gregorius (whom Meinardus describes as ?the foremost theologian of the Coptic Church in the middle of he twentieth century?), including ?Spiritual Values in the Dogmas and Rituals of the Orthodox Church? (4 volumes, 1964-1966) or ?Christological Teachings?.

Not only do such works seem mysteriously absent from modern Coptic presses (again, at least in English) but so is any reference to them. An exception might be Fr Tadros Malaty?s ?The School of Alexandria?, a substantial two volume work (?Book One: Before Origen?, and ?Book Two: Origen?, seemingly self-published c. 1995). The production and layout are of poor quality, as is the English and the editing, but the work is a valiant and impressive attempt to deal with this topic from an insider?s perspective. With sound editing and referencing, it would be a major reference work. It is unclear whether the work is currently available, or has even been withdrawn (I was given my copies by Fr Malaty).

The closest I think I have come to a contemporary living Coptic theology was in working (with Deacon Brendan) in transcribing (and trying to render into good English) the course on ?Systematic Theology? given by the senior Coptic monk in Australia (who was also my teacher in the ?Forty Days?). He had been trained in the theological tradition of the monasteries and of Upper Egypt, and certainly seemed to have no patience with much of what was presented as Coptic theology. Unfortunately, he also held to the ancient practice of the oral transmission of tradition and was disinclined to (not that he had the time to) commit to writing. He once presented me with a fundamentalist Protestant enquirer, giving the simple instruction: ?Correct him where he is in error?! I remain unsure as to whether the enquirer or I was more surprised.

Fr Gregory
Quote
27-04-2007, 09:29 AM
Post: #32
 
Dear Father Gregory

Thank you for that helpful post.

I am slowly discovering that it is my own ignorance of sources rather than the absence of materials, which has resulted in me having less Oriental Orthodox works in English than I would like. Though it is absolutely true that many important works are in language other than English at present. But there seems to be a very active scholarly community which is working on the corpus of Oriental Orthodox texts, and if the reader has French then a massive library of translations of key texts becomes accessible.

I believe that there is a useful range of materials produced by some of the other Oriental Orthodox communities. For instance, this website has the text (which is available in print as well) of a long series of poetic texts by St Gregory Narekatsi, an Armenian of the

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/book.php">http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/book.php</a><!-- m -->

This is a very moving book which is comparable in spiritual quality to the Eastern Orthodox Canon of St Andrew of Crete. He lived in the second half of the 10th century. I would recommend folk meditating on one of these poem prayers.

If you look at the bibliography (sources page) on the site you will see that there is a significant collection of works, a few of which are in English, but the majority are in Armenian. So there are modern works of high quality but often not in English. This will be a challenge for the churches in the next decades.

On the other hand, I have permission from the estate of Professor Nersoyan, one of the inspirations and founding fathers of St Nersses Seminary in the USA. The first work I will republish is called - The Christology of the Armenian Church. He has several others which I also have permission to republish, such as The Faith of the Armenian Church and A History of the Armenian Church.

I believe also that there are PhD theses which have been written by Oriental Orthodox scholars and which languish unpublished, and one such is The Patriarchate of Severus of Antioch, which I am presently formatting for a volume in the Oriental Orthodox Library.

As for the French materials, I am trying to organise a small group of bi-lingual Orthodox Christians to help translate these texts in a fairly organised manner, so we may be able to have more important primary texts in English soon. I am even working very hard on my own French skills to make use of these works.

To be honest I would rather read St Severus directly than read about him, though that is of course valuable as well, and we are fortunate that so much of his writing was saved in Syriac when the Eastern Orthodox burnt all his works in Greek. I am constantly challenged theologically and spiritually by his teaching and I think that within Oriental Orthodoxy our growth in the West will be accompanied by a representation in English of his teaching, which is, with St Cyril his master, the foundation of our thought. It is a blessing to find that more and more younger, and older Oriental Orthodox, are aware of and appreciate his teachings and can express them in dialogue with Eastern Orthodox.

So I guess the challenge for those of us who are formally members of the Oriental Orthodox communion is to ask what we can do to make the spiritual and theological tradition of our Church available in English. I am learning Syriac, and making progress, but I think I will have to leave Arabic to someone else!

Peter
Quote
27-04-2007, 10:06 AM
Post: #33
 
One useful task that could be attempted at some point...is to create a comprehensive bibliography of materials about Oriental Orthodoxy in English.

It is a serious challenge but I might create an online database so that at least it could be begun.

Antony, I think you mentioned that you were interested in the approach to the scriptures by early writers, and one Oriental Orthodox example is St Philoxenus of Mabbugh. He wrote several spiritual works which I have republished, but he also set about creating a new Syriac edition of the Bible, and he also produced Commentaries on some parts of the Scripture.

None of these have survived complete. But I note that there are several modern studies.

The Matthew-Luke commentary of Philoxenus : text translation & critical analysis / Douglas J. Fox.

The Old Testament Quotations of Philoxenus of Mabbug. Subs. 84.

Philoxenus of Mabbug. Fragments of the Commentary on Matthew and Luke. Syr. 171.

A Letter of Philoxenus of Mabbug, sent to a Novice. Edited by Gunnar Olinder. [Syriac text, with English translation.]

Canons. Syr. & Fr. In : Nau (F.) Docteur ès sciences mathématiques. Concile d?Antioche, etc. 1909. 8?.

Kitchen, Robert Ardelle. The development of the status of perfection in early Syriac asceticism with special reference to the Liber Graduum and Philoxenus of Mabbug.

The Discourses of Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabôgh, A.D. 485-519. Edited from Syriac manuscripts ... with an English translation by E. A. W. Budge. Syriac & Eng.

The letter of Mar Philoxenus of Mabbūg sent by him to Abi ?Afr, military governor of Ḥirta of Nu?mān, in which is contained the story of the accursed and anathematised Nestorians. [With part of the Syriac text.]

Letter of Mar Xenaias of Mabûg to Abraham and Orestes, presbyters of Edessa, concerning Stephen Bar Sudaili to Edessene. Syr. and Eng.

The four minor Catholic Epistles, in the Syriac of the original Philoxenian version made in the sixth century by Polycarpus the Chorepiscopus, etc.
In: London.-Text and Translation Society. Remnants of the later Syriac Versions of the Bible. pt. 1. 1909. 8?.

HALLEUX, André de. Philoxène de Mabbog, sa vie, ses écrits, sa théologie. (OK this one is French)

Chesnut, Roberta C. Three monophysite christologies : Severus of Antioch, Philoxenus of Mabbug and Jacob of Sarug / by Roberta C. Chesnut. (I am hoping to republish this)

Now there are plenty of books there that I wouldn't mind having. But I just wanted to suggest that even in the case of a pretty much unknown figure in the West (outside of specialist interest) there is still a lot of material in terms of primary texts in translation, and modern studies.

The bibliography of works on St Severus is much larger and can be found here - <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.cecs.acu.edu.au/severusresearch.htm">http://www.cecs.acu.edu.au/severusresearch.htm</a><!-- m --> though this includes works in languages other than English.

So I am not so sure that the size of my own small library is not rather due to my not having enough cash, and not digging deep enough. Coptic materials are thinner, but I know two Coptic scholars working in the field who are producing academic materials. One is Dr Youhanna Youssef, and I am working on a volume of his collected papers. You can see that some of his papers are listed on the Severus bibliography.

Best wishes

Peter
Quote
27-04-2007, 10:51 AM
Post: #34
Eastern and Oriental
Dear Solly,

I did wonder if there was something in my supposition.

It makes me wonder about the extent to which history may have divided the two communions in the millennium and a half since Chalcedon. There is a great deal in the EO ecclesiology which I find unattractive, and which seems to me to stem from their own experience of being an imperial Church (first at Constantinople then at Moscow and St. Petersburg).

I can understand their view that they are THE Church, but find its corollary, that the rest of us are in some way not part of the Body of Christ, deeply flawed; based on assumptions of imperial authority rather than on the communion of God's love. If they do believe what they say then it does rather follow that the rest of us are little better than heathens (in fact, probably rather worse, since we believe wrongly, rather than are simply uninformed). I suspect most EO realise how saying this would make them appear in eyes of others, and therefore seek to avoid saying it quite so bluntly - which is one of the reasons why dialogue with them can end up being a trifle frustrating.

I don't much mind being considered a heathen, or a schismatic, or a heretic, if some one would actually explain to me why I am whichever of those things they think I am. But when the answer comes, as it tends to, 'that is what my Church has always taught', then I am in the presence of a cultic-mindset describing itself as an Orthodox mindset.

As an historian, I never yet came across an occasion for schism when wrong was not on both sides; nor yet an admission by the dominant party's descendants that that might have been the case. Perhaps it would be as well simply to accept that the official EO position is whatever it is - and that is part of the problem - who actually speaks on behalf of the EO? Clearly not the EP, since he gets routinely abused by ROCOR and Athonite opinion; equally clearly not the MP, since he gets abused by parts of ROCOR and some Greeks. Perhaps their problem with the question of authority is what helps make them so defensive?

At any rate, I am happy to be in a communion where the Patriarch speaks with a clear voice, and communicates so often with his flock. Pope Shenouda III is a man of rare spiritual gifts, and if our Church has escaped scholasticism, neo-Aristotelianism and the rest, and is therefore closer to the early Fathers, then I see that as a plus; I think.

In Christ,

John

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Quote
27-04-2007, 11:33 AM
Post: #35
 
Thank you friends.

On Coptic literature particularly, I present this from the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, located at Tertullian.org:

Quote:Severus (Sawiros) ibn al-Muqaffac (which means 'son of the dwarf') as a layman was known as Abu Bisr ben al-Muqaffac and was a clerk. He seems to have been born around 915 and grew up in Old Cairo (=Babylon fortress) before the founding of modern Cairo by the Fatimid caliph (on 6th July 969). He became a monk, and then bishop of al-Ashmunein (Hermopolis Magna as it had been; Shmoun in Coptic) in the Thebaid under patriarch Theophanius (953-956) or Menas (956-975). Information about his early life is unknown. He flourished in the latter half of the 10th century and died at the latest soon after the turn of the century.
In the monastery he became acquainted with a former Moslem who had taken the name Paulos and fled the wrath of his family and coreligionists, and taken refuge in the monasteries in the Wadi Natrun (the same Wadi Habib so often mentioned). A close friendship developed, strengthened by a common literary interest in apologetics. They researched together, and created their works in an atmosphere of constant discussion. The account of this friend is perhaps more panegyric than biography, however. In the process Severus came to realise the necessity of writing in Arabic, as Copts began to lose touch with their own language, and he is the first Coptic writer of importance to write in Arabic.
Severus also participated in Disputations with Moslems, and also with Jews, under the tolerant Fatimid rule. The Disputation with the Jew Mose (975) is extant. Severus wrote more than 20 works in Arabic (26 according to Abu al-Barakat), of which the majority is probably lost. However in the mass of uncatalogued Arabic manuscripts, more may remain to be discovered. Before 955 he also wrote a Book of the Councils in four chapters against the Melkite patriarch Eutychios (877-940), discussing the first four councils, with an appendix of computational material. He then wrote a further book on the same subject at more length, in nine chapters, which is dated and was completed on 5th September 955. He also wrote an explanation of the Nicaea-Constantinople creed in ten chapters, against the East Syrian or Nestorian bishop of Damascus, Elias, who had written his own explanation of the creed. The work also attacks the Jews, and the Moslem Muctazilites.
Coptic Christians were constantly propagandised by Islam. As knowledge of Coptic faded, the Copts lost access to their own literature, and this left them vulnerable to Islamic propaganda. Severus therefore wrote the Book of the statement, in the first two chapters of which he describes this situation and gives it as a reason for writing. The work contains twelve treatises in letter form, covering the Trinity, the incarnation, the crucifixion of the Saviour, and a range of other topics designed to equip the Christian to answer Moslem attacks. It even included a summary world chronicle.
A further work is a manual of faith. The first 13 chapters (plus some appendices) discuss the christological differences between Jacobites (monophysites like Severus), Melkites and Nestorians. A further 22 chapters explain the church and church practises and obligations. It finishes with 13 key differences between Monophysites and Melkites.
The Book of the precious bead is not attributed to Severus in the manuscripts, but the research of George Grafs and Paul Maibergers has established that he is in fact the author. It contains a further statement of the Christian faith in 15 chapters.
The fame of Severus rests mainly on his History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, which contains biographies of the Coptic popes and patriarchs of Alexandria. Den Heijer's research suggests that it was first composed in Coptic, and all the entries up to 1051 and 1058 were written originally in that language, and so not by Severus. Michael, bishop of Tinnis, wrote the fifth series of biographies thus. Thereafter it was continued in Arabic, and the original entries were translated into that tongue. This view excludes Severus as author completely. Aziz S. Atiya however believes that the evidence is still for the authorship of Severus for the original portion, in Arabic, but derived from Greek and Coptic sources. The two opinions are mutually exclusive, and more work remains to be done.

On modern literature, I notice, from items I have downloaded from CopticPope, that Fr Malaty has several works publishe in the 80's and 90's.

I think Philoxenus is over on Tertullian too - I just need names at the moment!!


Fr Gregory, did the Anglican influence come about because of the British presence in Egypt?

[b]Fides Qu?rens Intellectum[/b]
Quote
27-04-2007, 11:38 AM
Post: #36
Re: Eastern and Oriental
John Charmley Wrote:Dear Solly,

I did wonder if there was something in my supposition.

It makes me wonder about the extent to which history may have divided the two communions in the millennium and a half since Chalcedon. There is a great deal in the EO ecclesiology which I find unattractive, and which seems to me to stem from their own experience of being an imperial Church (first at Constantinople then at Moscow and St. Petersburg).

I can understand their view that they are THE Church, but find its corollary, that the rest of us are in some way not part of the Body of Christ, deeply flawed; based on assumptions of imperial authority rather than on the communion of God's love. If they do believe what they say then it does rather follow that the rest of us are little better than heathens (in fact, probably rather worse, since we believe wrongly, rather than are simply uninformed). I suspect most EO realise how saying this would make them appear in eyes of others, and therefore seek to avoid saying it quite so bluntly - which is one of the reasons why dialogue with them can end up being a trifle frustrating.

I don't much mind being considered a heathen, or a schismatic, or a heretic, if some one would actually explain to me why I am whichever of those things they think I am. But when the answer comes, as it tends to, 'that is what my Church has always taught', then I am in the presence of a cultic-mindset describing itself as an Orthodox mindset.

As an historian, I never yet came across an occasion for schism when wrong was not on both sides; nor yet an admission by the dominant party's descendants that that might have been the case. Perhaps it would be as well simply to accept that the official EO position is whatever it is - and that is part of the problem - who actually speaks on behalf of the EO? Clearly not the EP, since he gets routinely abused by ROCOR and Athonite opinion; equally clearly not the MP, since he gets abused by parts of ROCOR and some Greeks. Perhaps their problem with the question of authority is what helps make them so defensive?

At any rate, I am happy to be in a communion where the Patriarch speaks with a clear voice, and communicates so often with his flock. Pope Shenouda III is a man of rare spiritual gifts, and if our Church has escaped scholasticism, neo-Aristotelianism and the rest, and is therefore closer to the early Fathers, then I see that as a plus; I think.

In Christ,

John

As a Calvinist, I have seen it all before, and dished it out, at least theologically. As a Baptist, I have been on the other side too. This is why I think the idea of ecclesial fallibility should be a built in principle of church life. The Holy Spirit may be infallible, but humans aren't, and when you mix in politics...

On the idea of dysfunctional family as a model of the Orthodox difficulties, I think one might take to heart the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Remember the elder son? If the hat fits...have the humility to recognise it, and the grace to repent of it. As you say, there is wrong on both sides in all schisms, and Calvinists are experts at schism, whereas Baptists tend to hold it together. I wonder why?

[b]Fides Qu?rens Intellectum[/b]
Quote
27-04-2007, 11:40 AM
Post: #37
 
admin Wrote:Antony, I think you mentioned that you were interested in the approach to the scriptures by early writers, and one Oriental Orthodox example is St Philoxenus of Mabbugh. He wrote several spiritual works which I have republished, but he also set about creating a new Syriac edition of the Bible, and he also produced Commentaries on some parts of the Scripture.

Not to be confused with Philoxenus of Hierapolis, over at Tertullian??

[b]Fides Qu?rens Intellectum[/b]
Quote
27-04-2007, 12:48 PM
Post: #38
 
Quote:Not to be confused with Philoxenus of Hierapolis, over at Tertullian??

Hi Antony

He is the same one, so yes those are some of his writings. Actually a lot of the volumes I have published use Roger Pearse's scanned html versions - may God bless him. I know Roger from an Intensive Syriac course that he and I and a few other independent and amateur scholars organised over the Winter.

Peter
Quote
27-04-2007, 12:59 PM
Post: #39
 
Oh good, so you know about the Patrologia Orientalis that he has a bibliography for.

[b]Fides Qu?rens Intellectum[/b]
Quote
27-04-2007, 01:20 PM
Post: #40
 
Quote:As a Calvinist, I have seen it all before, and dished it out, at least theologically. As a Baptist, I have been on the other side too. This is why I think the idea of ecclesial fallibility should be a built in principle of church life. The Holy Spirit may be infallible, but humans aren't, and when you mix in politics...

After some 15 years spent talking with Eastern Orthodox online I have grown convinced that their assertion that the Ecumenical Councils must be understood as 'infallible' is in fact a fairly recent phenomenon.

One the one hand I hear this claim made for them, but on the other hand very few Eastern Orthodox are willing to explain what they mean by such infallibility, or which components of the events in question should be considered 'infallible'. It has always seemed to me to be just a matter of polemics - accept the Seven Councils! - while rarely ever having anything to do with the content of those councils. Indeed many of those who insist I must accept the Seven Councils as ecumenical do not actually know what those councils teach. I have quoted parts of some councils to correspondents and they have assumed that what I was quoting was 'monophysite heresy' and have rejected it out of hand even while they supposedly consider it 'infallible'.

I have come to the point of view that the 'infallibility' of the Seven Councils (in fact many important sources speak of Eight Ecumenical Councils - not least a document signed by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs in the 1850's) is rooted in the Protestant insistence on the 'infallibility' of Scripture, and the Roman Catholic insistence on the 'infallibility' of the Pope of Rome speaking 'ex cathedra'. I wonder seriously if some Eastern Orthodox believed that they needed a similar locus of ultimate authority? And therefore chose the Councils?

But of course the Councils do not deal with the whole of the Christian Faith, and they do not 'make' the Faith, merely clarify and describe and set bounds to what is already the Faith. And it has seemed to me that setting the Seven or Eight Councils 'above' the Church as 'infallible' is a mistake because it removes them from the continuum of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

An ecumenical Council has a larger scope than a local Synod, or even a bishops own presbyterial college, but it is the same grace, and the same Holy Spirit who is invoked on each occasion. If the Holy Synod of the Coptic Patriarchate convenes and dealing with some error that has surfaced explains the Faith clearly on that matter then is that statement less true and less binding because it is not presented at an ecumenical Council? It is surely as binding on those whom that Synod represents and has responsibilty for, as an Ecumenical council, as representing the Imperial Church, could claim to be binding on the whole Empire - when there truly was agreement.

I am trying to suggest, in this roundabout way, that though the Oriental Orthodox communion is less 'well organised' because it does not have such a locus of ultimate authority, and does not think in such a way, there is greater scope for the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the true source of infallibility in the Church.

The Eastern Orthodox have rather painted themselves into a corner whereby unless another communion such as the Oriental Orthodox can say 'we receive the Seven Ecumenical Councils as infallible' it does not matter that in everything else, in the whole substance of the Faith there is agreement. This seems a real weakness in ecclesiology, because it seems to me to root unity in identity of expression, which may actually disguise a real and even unacceptable variety of faith. Whereas the Oriental Orthodox communion, in its relations with the Eastern Orthodox, seems entirely willing to allow a dversity of expression if there is a true identity of faith.

As John has described, there are significant groups within Eastern Orthodoxy who do actually believe that all who are not Eastern Orthodox are practically the same as heathens. This is consistent with their ecclesiology, but I believe their ecclesiology is wrong in that it has nothing to say about the billions who love Christ sincerely in the world but who are not Eastern Orthodox.

I was very pleased earlier this year to be receiving reports from a Coptic woman who had gone to India for some time to work with the Sisters of Charity (Mother Teresa's community) among the absolutely poorest people in every sense. I found not one Coptic Orthodox voice condemning her for working with Roman Catholics, but there are countless voices raised when any Eastern Orthodox bishop dares to meet with the Pope of Rome.

I have no doubt that the Eastern Orthodox are sufficiently Orthodox to be considered the Orthodox Church (and I don't mean that dismissively or patronisingly). I mean that the Holy Synods of our Churches have confirmed that they have been the Church even while separated from us. But I do think that there are areas of Eastern Orthodox thought which are dysfunctional, such as their ecclesiology. And I believe that these have been negatively affected by centuries of being the Imperial Church and essentially an arm of Government.

Back to the original point. This is why I think that the Oriental Orthodox perspective of finding infallibility in the Holy Spirit and not in the Church, or in any Council (and this does not mean that the opposite of infallible is heresy of course, it just means 'human') is much safer. We need not be afraid of history because we have not invested our whole ecclesiology in proving that the Church is right all the time. We can look at our participation in various councils and be critical, even while considering them part of our tradition, because we understand that they are divine-human events, and humanity is fallible.

This is another concern about the idea of 'infallible' councils. They can only be 'infallible' if the human element is removed, and so ironically it is the Eastern Orthodox view of the councils which is truly 'monophysite' because the human participation is constrained and the outcome is fixed. It is the Oriental Orthodox view which is 'chalcedonian' (if we can think in that way by analogy) because it insists on the free human element which is liable to fail in a variety of ways.

This post is more than long enough, but I am very stimulated by the whole idea of councils, all councils, and how we view them in the context of the Church.

Peter
Quote
27-04-2007, 03:18 PM
Post: #41
Eastern and Oriental
Dear Peter,

Thank you for a most interesting post.

I suspect that you may be on to something in terms of the need of the EO for some 'infallible' source. There is always a problem of 'authority' in the Church, and much of the history of division comes from that source.

We all agree that it is His Church and that it is guided by the Holy Spirit; unfortunately the Spirit speaks through fallible men, who are often sure that they are the channel for its Truths - even as other men are very doubtful of that claim.

If we take the Ecumenical Councils, the Church managed to have precisely three of them before splitting - and even the third was badly split and required a formula of reconciliation before it could be in any way effective. The Latin West came to find one answer to the problem - but it was at a high price, and first the East, and then parts of the West itself, fractured under the strain.

The Anglicans, of course, cannot find any real locus of authority, but seek refuge in Synods and the language of the fudge. The RC's at least have an answer to the question of who interprets the will of the Holy Spirit in matters of Faith. The EO seem to say that they interpret their canons 'ascetically', but fail to say who makes the decision and how self-contradiction is to be avoided. Perhaps the Coptic way of thinking about these things makes more sense?

But it is quite clear that the EO have themselves in a bind of their own making. If the 7 (or 8 ) Ecumenical Councils are the standard of the Faith, then we either all accept them, or there is no union. That is not dialogue, it is pretending to talk about union because you fear the consequences of telling the other Churches what you really think of them.

It seems to me inconceivable that Mother Theresa and Pope John-Paul II were not great Christians who offer inspiring examples of how to live the Christian life; if the EO Churches fail to recognise them as such, then so much the worse for the EO; on the world stage they are a tiny and fissiparous minority, We, of course, are an even tinier minority, but not, I think, inclined to say that everyone must agree with us before we can talk about unity. The difference is significant.

In Christ,

John

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Quote
27-04-2007, 03:34 PM
Post: #42
 
Excellent words from both of you.

For Reformed protestants, although they may speak of the infallibility of scripture alone, yet it is their own 'conciliar' statements that hold the field: The Westminster Confession, Synod of Dort, even the 39 Articles. Dare to suggest different to them, even a different interpretation of the words that are there, and you fall foul of the same things that the AngloCatholics did in Newman's time. Even as we speak, several Reformed and Presbyterian denominations are deeply split over interpretations of their theological statments; lines are drawn, insults and anathemas hurled, and the church is split further.
All this means that the Church CAN'T hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. How fascinating to find a older church tradition that is not bound up with similar issues - modernist issues - of authority; issues that, for some, grow ever more fearful in the face of modernism, secularism, and post-modernism.

[b]Fides Qu?rens Intellectum[/b]
Quote
27-04-2007, 04:55 PM
Post: #43
Eastern and Oriental
Dear Solly,

What an interesting discussion! I am finding out so much.

As I understand it, and I really would crave correction if this is wrong, the view of the Copts towards what became the BOC was to ask whether what we believed was Orthodox, and whether our Liturgy and our Christology was in line with Orthodox belief. They were not hung up on Councils, language, ethnicity or any of these man-made accretions - the simple question was whether what we believed and how we worshipped was in line with the undivided Church - which, of course, is the Coptic Church's own praxis.

Again, correct me if I am wrong, but Pope Shenouda was entirely happy that that was the case and welcomed us into his jurisdiction, recognising our Orthodoxy. He did not 'make' us Orthodox, he recognised what we were, rather in the manner of the early Church, where St. Paul would find a congregation and recognise its Orthodoxy.

If this is the case, it does seem a much healthier - as well as Apostolic approach to these matters.

Perhaps one of our long-standing members could correct any mistakes I have made, and put us right?

In Christ,

John

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Quote
27-04-2007, 05:26 PM
Post: #44
 
Dear John

I think it would be correct to say that the faith of the British Orthodox Church (the Orthodox Church of the British Isles as it was known) was received as Orthodox by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, and that it was received into the communion of the Church by advancing her clergy through one of the ranks so that while the orders were received as Orthodox they were also fulfilled in any necessary sense by being incorporated into the Patriarchate.

The OCBI had been created by the vision of the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the 19th century but it had lost contact with the East through no fault of her own and being isolated there were inevitably some idiosyncracies which time had introduced. Bring brought into the Coptic Orthodox succession made right anything that might have been considered inadequate, but the fact that clergy were advanced and not ordained again shows that the Church was essentially considered Orthodox.

I think this is rather different to the circumstances when an Eastern Orthodox decides to become part of the Oriental Orthodox communion in that even from the time of Chalcedon the Oriental Orthodox have taken the position that an Eastern Orthodox should not be baptised but should be received as an Orthodox Christian by confession of faith. Likewise even from the beginning the Oriental Orthodox have received Eastern Orthodox clergy in their orders, but the tradition in the controversial period was that they have a period of probation before exercising those orders.

The reason for the progression of British Orthodox clergy through one rank was, I understand, because of the isolation of the Orthodox Church of the British Isles from the wider Orthodox communion for a century. It was to make sure that anything which be considered lacking be completed.

Interestingly enough the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate had already received a French Church into union with herself, so there is a history of rather imaginative thinking. The French Coptic Orthodox Church has the mission of bringing Orthodoxy to French people without expecting them to become Egyptian, in the same way that the British Orthodox Church has a mission here in the British Isles.

Peter
Quote
27-04-2007, 06:01 PM
Post: #45
British Orthodox Church
Dear Peter,

I am glad that I have understood the situation aright.

Surely this is how the early Church worked, and a much better model than the insistence on adherence to some man-made criterion?

Take those troublesome Councils from this vantage-point. Nothing in them contradicts Orthodox belief, so we are happy to accept what they say - whether they are called 'Ecumenical' 'local' or, frankly 'Fred', does not matter a hill of beans. If they are Orthodox we are happy with them; if they are not, we are not.

To insist that we call them 'Ecumenical' is to strain at gnats. But, given the EO ecclesiology, it isn't a gnat to them. Mind you, since, as we have been told elsewhere, someone somewhere can interpret their canons 'ascetically', they could allow the rest of us in that way! Which, of course, is to miss the point.

Their ecclesiology is lop-sided. It starts from the view that they are THE Church and insists the rest of us 'join'. The OO way seems more viable - but I would say that, since one of the reasons I became a member of the BOC was that I found its approach much more based on Christian charity and 'economy'. I have had no occasion to regret that decision - indeed, far from it.

I am immensely grateful to Abba Seraphim for his wisdom in guiding us to the Coptic Church; but I had best stop there - His Grace is a modest man (to misquote Churchill - with very little to feel modest about).

In Christ,

John

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Quote




Twitter: britishorthodox | Contact: info@britishorthodox.org | © The British Orthodox Church 2012 all rights reserved