I am surprised that anyone would be surprised at intolerance, ignorance and a lack of charity in discussions between members of different churches.
I am more surprised, however, that anyone would bother with such discussions (unless for the sheer enjoyment of some sort of intellectual debating exercise) unless the participants were adequately educated in their respective theologies. The ?blind? debating the ?blind? may constitute an amusing spectacle, but it is rarely edifying or productive.
My limited experience of a range of ?let?s have a theological fight? chat sites does not inspire me to read further, let alone to take part.
Such inter-church discussions as I have experienced (for example, with the ROCOR Archbishop in Sydney, or at the ?Orientale Lumen? conference in Sydney) have been entirely polite, scholarly and Christian. Even my discussions with the Old Rite Russians (a group all too unlikely to be labelled educated or open!) have been thoroughly enjoyable and educational.
There is a basic principle in Conflict Resolution (reverting to my professional field!): dialogue. Dialogue has a very specialized meaning when used in this way?.I could, but won?t, ramble on about it endlessly! It is not about agreement, approval, acceptance, etc.: it is a process seeking mutual understanding, including understanding of essential and irreconcilable differences if these exist. This is not (uncanonical) ?Inter-Faith Worship? or (largely meaningless) ?Mutual Statements? ? but about a desire to understand the other, and to be understood.
We need to be careful about assuming or implying that the Oriental Orthodox are all rational, informed and eager to understand while the Eastern Orthodox are all narrow minded, illiterate bigots! There are Oriental Orthodox websites and publications (including those produced by the Copts) that peddle pseudo-theological nonsense (and heresy) and attack others (including the Eastern Orthodox) with nastiness and misinformation.
Dialogue can only occur in a spirit of genuine openness, willingness to listen and preparedness to acknowledge error. It requires an enthusiasm for asking (genuine) questions, and for offering (genuine) explanations, rather than for scoring debating points or ?proving? the other wrong.
If someone does not wish to engage in dialogue with me, so be it. We can either engage in another form of communication (debating or argument, for example) or we can go our separate ways.
I do not consider ecumenism a ?dirty word?, but I do consider much of what passes for ecumenism to be meaningless, uncanonical or fraudulent ? or, in some cases, all three!
Preoccupation with being accepted as ?genuine? (as in wanting them to agree that we are really Orthodox) or ?valid? (as in wanting them to accept that I really am a Priest, or offering me Communion) are distinctly Western concerns (although some Orthodox have become infected by what might be called ?Westernism?). Many Anglican churches will, for example, excitedly ?recognize? any passing Orthodox and hand out Communion to anyone who turns up. What value should be placed on such ?ecumenism?? It is an old Orthodox axiom that ?Intercommunion is the sign of union not the means to achieving it?.
When I attend the Liturgy at the truly magnificent Old Rite Russian Cathedral in Sydney (as I do when Fr Serge Kelleher, editor of the ?Eastern Churches Journal? is in Sydney), we are received with honour, invited to be seated in the choir, and offered the antidoran at the conclusion of the service. Do they accept us (me British Orthodox, him Greek Catholic) as Orthodox? I am sure the official answer, if we ever sought one, would be something like ?not really?. Seeking an official answer would seem to me to be (again) a Western approach. We can be received in the spirit of Orthodoxy, and engage in rich dialogue and fellowship without seeking something like a ?Certificate of Approval?.