HmkEnoch

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In the last meeting of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece (23-24 November 2016), Metropolitan Theologos of Serres, read his presentation, titled “Briefing on the works of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church” and then followed a long debate on the content of the presentation and some decisions were taken.

The presentation had three main points, first the Conciliar Constitution of the Church and the preparation of the Holy and Great Council, secondly the contribution of our Church in the preparation and formulation of its texts over the time, and thirdly proposals for further actions. In reality, the presentation aimed at informing the members of the Hierarchy on the Council of Crete and on the decisions that had to be taken by our Hierarchy.

During the meetings I made two oral interventions and submitted a text to be included in the Minutes which further analyzed my views.

In what follows I will publish my main oral intervention made on the first day of the Council and the text submitted for the Minutes of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy.

* * *

A

Intervention at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of the Church of Greece, 23-24 November 2016

I listened carefully to the presentation of the Metropolitan Theologos of Serres and Nigrita and I thank him for his effort, for the confession he gave at the beginning and for his proposals.
With what I will argue below I will make a few extensions on this presentation. I have written a text that I will submit to the Minutes, whilst necessarily I will highlight a few points briefly on the critical 6th text titled “The Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world.”

1. Preparation for this Council was not adequate. The Hierarchy was not aware of the text drawn up by the 5th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference. We received it after it had been signed by the Primates in January 2016. A discussion ought to have taken place in the Hierarchy, before the text was signed by the Primates.

Also, our representatives in the 5th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference informed the Standing Holy Synod that the final text entitled “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world”, “expresses perfectly the pan-Orthodox position on specific issues in a balanced way and within the Orthodox ecclesiology, as described and held by the patristic and conciliar tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

However, these confirmations are incorrect because the text, as many others have pointed out, was problematic and for this reason it was corrected.

2. The Council which convened in Crete, as I have repeatedly emphasized, was a Council of the Primates with their escorts.

In observing the whole work of the Council of Crete I note that there are positive points, which were reported in the presentation, and I have highlighted them in my published text. We have to emphasize this. The first five texts are generally good, they have some deficiencies, so I had to express my written reservations on two occasions. I signed two of the five documents with expressed reservations as to the concept of person and the ecclesiological consequences of mixed marriages.

3. The text which constituted the basis of the Council was the sixth, titled “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world.” The final text has many problems, despite some generally good formulations. When the Minutes of the Council are published, where the true views of those who decided on and signed the text are recorded, then it will be clear that the Council was dominated by the branch theory, baptismal theology and especially the principle of inclusiveness, i.e. a retreat from the principle of exclusivity to the principle of inclusiveness.

This sixth text was not ripe for decision and signing, and for this reason we suggested various corrections, but these were not accepted. I have pointed them in one of my texts, which have I sent to all members of the Hierarchy. It is characteristic that the text was corrected in the four languages even after the termination of the Council.

In any case, one notes contradictory points in the final text. In my opinion it is a diplomatic text, not a theological one. But the unity of the Church is not based on diplomatic documents, as history has proved in the “Ekthesis” of Heraclius and the “Typos” of Constans.

Then, during the works of the Council in Crete various distortions of the truth were said regarding St. Mark of Ephesus, the Council of 1484 and the Synodical text of the Patriarchs of the East of 1848, in relation to the word “Church” applying to Christians cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

4. In the sixth paragraph of the sixth text, a new proposal submitted by our Church was accepted by the other Churches present.

Specifically, the decision of the Hierarchy was: “The Orthodox Church knows the historical existence of other Christian Confessions and Communities, that are not in communion with her.”
Following a reaction from other churches, our Church offered a new proposal: “The Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox Christian churches and confessions that are not in communion with her”.

To start with, we did not have the authorization of the Hierarchy to negotiate its decisions, as was said by many of the Hierarchs that were present.
Then, there was no discussion in order to accept this change, merely a vote and moreover with haste. Other proposals could have been adopted such as “rest of the Christian world”, “non-Orthodox”, “outsiders”, etc.

Furthermore, with this new proposal, some of the changes made are problematic in my opinion, namely:

The phrase “The Orthodox Church knows” was replaced with the phrase “The Orthodox Church accepts”.

The phrase “the historical existence” was replaced by the phrase “the historical name”. There is no name without existence, because otherwise an ecclesiological nominalism is expressed. Then, why not also accept the name Macedonia for the State of Skopje because it has prevailed for many years.

The phrase “Christian Communities and Confessions” was replaced by the phrase “heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions” [in the Greek language text]. The word “heterodox” in relation with the Orthodox Church means heretics. Therefore, attaching the adjective “heterodox” to the Church indicates an inconsistency.

The words of St. Mark of Ephesus are characteristic: “Church matters have never been corrected by the mean, the middle position. There is no middle position between truth and falsehood”.

It must also be noted that the term Church is not descriptive nor an image; it rather indicates the actual body of Christ, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul “and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1, 22-23). This means that the Church is identified with the God-human Body of Christ and because the head is one, Christ, and the body of Christ is one, so “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. d, 4-6).

Thus, this new proposal is in no way aligned “to the spirit of the Hierarchy,” as written in the Bulletin Press of that day (25-6-2016); it is rather a diplomatic proposal.

5. But what is most important in this case is that the new proposal, while prima facie it seems harmless, is anti-Orthodox. To support this view I will highlight two theological comments.

The first comment is that the view that a church can be characterized as heterodox-heretical was condemned by the Councils of the 17th century, on the occasion of the “Confession of Loukaris”, alleged to have been written or adopted by the Patriarch of Constantinople Cyrillos Loukaris. This is the phrase that “it is true and certain that the Church may sin, and adopt falsehood instead of the truth.” The decisions of the Councils of the 17th century hold that the Church cannot err.

Thus, either there is Church without heretical teachings or there is an existing heretical group that cannot be called Church.

The second theological comment is that this new proposal expresses theProtestant idea of invisible and visible Church, which is a “Nestorian ecclesiology.”

In the final text is written: “In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed.” Here the invisible church, which is united, is implied — this is the meaning of “ontological”. Then, the phrase introduced by “In spite of this” and continuing “the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox [Translator’s note: the official English version says “non-Orthodox” while the Greek version says “heterodox”] Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her” implies the visible Church that is fragmented.

Luther, but mainly Calvin and Zwingli, developed the theory of the invisible and visible Church, to declare their identity when detached from Rome. According to this theory the unity of the invisible Church is given, while on earth visible Churches are fragmented and struggling to reach unity.

Lossky, commenting on this theory, argues that this view is a “Nestorian ecclesiology” when the Church is split into invisible and visible, as the divine and the human nature in Christ are supposedly separated. Other theories originate from this theory, such as the branch theory, baptismal theology and the principle of inclusiveness.

6. Proposal

After all these I think that, because the text has many contradictions, if the Hierarchy does not reject it, then at least it must maintain its reservations for its content and decide that it be further elaborated and revised by another Council which will convene in the future.

I support this for the following reasons:

a) Many people have understood that this text was written and decided in a hurry and is not complete, and in fact it was being signed by the Bishops on Sunday morning, during the Divine Liturgy.

b) The Council of Crete expressed the hope that such Councils are repeated regularly to resolve various issues. In any case, many issues have been left outstanding and they need immediate addressing.

c) The Church of Antioch considered this Council as Pre-Conciliar, the same is supported by the Church of Serbia, and recently the Church of Romania decided that the texts decided in Crete can be differentiated in part and developed by a future Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church and be perfected, without time pressure and with a pan-Orthodox consensus.

d) This is the usual practice in the Orthodox synodical system. In the Ecumenical Councils many meetings took place extending into many years. We also have the Quinisext Council that completed the 5th and 6th Ecumenical Councils on canonical law, the First-Second Council (861), and the Hesychastic Councils of St. Gregory Palamas (1341, 1347, 1351, 1368), considered as one Council.
Such a proposal will prevent schisms that may be created within the Church.

* * *

B

The Church of Greece in the “Holy and Great Council” of Crete

(Text submitted to the Minutes of the meeting of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, 23-24 November 2016)

The Council convened in Crete between 19-26 June 2016, while in the beginning was characterized as Ecumenical Council, eventually was titled as “Holy and Great Council”. The four Churches not attending the Council, directly or indirectly rejected the title Holy and Great Council, and their final decisions are pending. So, the real name of this Council will be given by the consciousness of the Church, which is expressed by her Saints, who are the theoptic class in the Church, according to St. Dionysius Areopagite. We will see then how this Council will eventually be called, Council of the Primates, Holy and Great Council, Ecumenical Council, Pre-Council etc.?

In what follows I will call it Council of Crete, as we do with other Councils which are called by the name of the town where they convened, such as the Council in Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon etc.

I participated in this Council, representing, together with other brothers Bishops and laity, the Church of Greece, following a decision of the Hierarchy in March 2016 and accepted this mission, especially after the decisions taken by the Hierarchy in May 2016. According to these decisions we had to try and fight for the correction of the texts we had in our possession. With my participation I gained great experience but at the same time I left with deepest concern.

I will highlight a few points that are related to the new proposal made by our delegation to this Council.

1. Preparation of our Church for the Council

I can say that our Church’s preparation for participation in this Council was not the appropriate one.

a) The proposal of Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Messinia

It is known that in our Synod of the Hierarchy in October 2014 there was a presentation by the Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia, in order to inform the Metropolitans on the agenda of the coming Council and on its whole work, as had been decided in the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in March 2014 at Constantinople.

The presentation was informative and basically traditional. It is significant that in the presentation reference was made to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to those Christians departed from her, that is, for those Christians outside her. A few points of this presentation will be highlighted regarding this issue.

His Eminence speaking about the dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the heterodox Christians notes:
“For the Orthodox Church, dialogue has always been and remains an essential and inalienable element of both her soteriological task, aiming at the return of schismatics and heretics in her bosom, and of her pastoral responsibility. For this reason she confesses powerfully and teaches that, in her self-consciousness, she constitutes the authentic continuation of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the ark of salvation for those near and far.”[1]

In this text there is reference to the Orthodox Church, which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to the schismatics and heretics that departed from the Orthodox Church and should return to her and not about other Churches, which is in line with Orthodox ecclesiology.

Then it is stressed that local Orthodox Churches and the Orthodox members of the Theological Committees must possess this “ecclesiological self-awareness as an essential criterion of each Dialogue”, and also that the local Orthodox Churches, not only at the level of competent synodical organs but also at Pan-Orthodox Conferences, should monitor and assess these dialogues “with special critical attitude”. [2]

It also reports that “from the point of view of the very care and testimony of the Orthodox Church it is necessary … to mention both all serious novel deviations that exacerbate even more the severity of the acknowledged theological differences of the various Christian traditions and confessions, as well as the traumatic experiences of their historical relations.” [3]

This means that the theological differences and the different Christian traditions must be pointed out, as well as all those events that have created traumatic experiences in the Orthodox Church.

Elsewhere in the presentation it is written:
“Certainly a confessional introversion of many years, in the operation of inter-Christian relations, does not allow, unfortunately, a sober assessment of the consequences of such a responsible projection of the Orthodox tradition to those near and afar, aiming at the treatment of confessional deviation and of the entanglements of various traditions of the Christian world of the West, as well as the confirmation of the validity of Orthodox tradition across time. This is why occasionally there appear justified complaints, objections, suspicions or reactions on the right or wrong course and the necessity of the aforementioned bilateral theological dialogues.” [4]

Here it seen that the author is careful in his wording and does not use the word “Church” to describe the groups of Christians in the West; instead he speaks of confessional deviations and entanglements of the various traditions of the Christian world of the West. At the same time he notes that occasional reactions and protests by Christians for the course of theological dialogues are justified, because there has not been a sober assessment of the consequences of a responsible projection of Orthodox tradition.

b) The Reports of the Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Review of the Texts of Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences

After the meeting of the Hierarchy of October 2014 and following a request by some Bishops, we were given the texts of the Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences drafted until then, that had been elaborated by the representatives of the fourteen Orthodox Churches, thus including our own Church, without us having until then even an elementary briefing on the texts being prepared by these Conferences.

According to the decision of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in March 2014 the texts drafted until then should be reviewed by a Special Inter-Orthodox Committee consisting of representatives of all the Churches. In this Committee our Church was represented by Metropolitans Chrysostomos of Peristeri, Ignatius of Demetrias and Almyrou, and Chrysostomos of Messinia.

One thing that is observed is that while Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia in his presentation to the Hierarchy in October 2014 expressed the orthodox terminology for the relation of the Orthodox Church with other Christians, in the text that was prepared by the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the revision of the documents and by the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches to be discussed and eventually decided at the Council of Crete, there was a different terminology. That is, there was a reference to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as well as to the other Christian Churches and Confessions, and it was also mentioned that, whilst the unity of the Church is given, there is need to make efforts for the unity of the Christian world. These points caused much debate when the texts were published.

Conferences were held by the representatives of all Orthodox churches to revise the texts. The Hierarchy was unaware of all this preparation.

From the research I did in the archives of the Holy Synod, following my petition and authorization by the Synod, I found that the three prelates who were representatives of our Church in the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Review of the texts sent out their reports to the Standing Holy Synod with their comments every time they met. So the Synodical Bishops of the Synodal period 2014-2015 took note of the reports and documents which were prepared, without suggesting corrections, additions and changes. This happened only once when few, minimal, corrections proposed by the Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Churches Issues Synodical Committee were adopted. But the texts were not sent to all Hierarchs in order for them to express their opinion or even be informed, and a convening of the Hierarchy to address this issue was not proposed.

If that had happened, all Hierarchs, or those interested, would have been informed of the texts and we would have the opportunity to suggest corrections and additions before the text was signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2016. In my opinion, until the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, when all fourteen Churches participated, major corrections could have been made. Of course, it was possible to make corrections, additions and deletions during the Council of Crete, but with greater difficulty.

What is important is that our representatives at that time during the sessions of the Inter-Orthodox Committee for the revision of the texts sent their reports to the Holy Synod, in which they confessed that the texts were basically Orthodox.

For example for the new text titled “The Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian World”, which originated from the merging of two previously different texts, in the report dated 20.12.2014 by our three representatives in the Special Inter-Orthodox Review Committee for the texts of Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox conferences, held in Chambesy Geneva from 29 September to 4 October 2014, there is a paragraph repeated in the other reports as well:

“After corrective interventions were accepted, the text was finally signed by all the heads of the delegations of the Orthodox Churches and it was decided to refer it ad referendum for approval and correction to the Holy Synods of the local Orthodox Churches and for final drafting in the about to be convened 5th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference “. [5]

From the archives of the Holy Synod it is certified that this text together with the Report was given to the Synodical Bishops of the Standing Holy Synod of that period, and the Synod adopted some minimal proposals by the Synodical Committee of Inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian issues, but it was not sent, as it should have been, to all the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece, because the Hierarchy is competent to decide on such matters.

For example, in April 2015 some changes proposed by the Synodical Commission of Inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian Relations were approved. They were the insertion of the words “local”, “participation in the WCC”, “confessions”, “according to the Nicaea-Constantinople Creed” and replacing the word “WCC” by the word “its”, the word “such” with the word “in order to” and the word “but” with the word “and.”

Besides this, the report found that:
“We consider that this new and consolidated text expresses absolutely the pan-Orthodox position on specific issues in a balanced manner within the framework of Orthodox ecclesiology as is defined and held by the patristic and conciliar tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Moreover it clearly depicts and reflects not history, but the present and the future of the state of the described relationships.” [6]

Similar assurances are found in other reports too, when other texts which would be referred to the Holy Council were discussed.

Perhaps this assertion reassured the Synodical Bishops of that period, who anyway had to study the matter extensively and to bring it for consideration by all the members of the Hierarchy.

With hindsight this assertion did not prove to be a correct assessment, because many sides have pointed out the contradictory statements in the text. The text certainly did not express the self-consciousness of Orthodox ecclesiology, nor did it hold the patristic and conciliar tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is proved beyond any doubt by the fact that the Council of Crete made corrections and additions, even if incomplete.

When I read the texts for the first time I sent my views dated 18-1-2016 and 20-1-2016, before the Summit of the Primates of the Orthodox Church in Chambesy Geneva from 21st to 28th of January 2016, but I do not know why our delegates did not take into consideration the remarks I made in time, and did not raise the issue of the change in this Summit. Probably these remarks were not given to them.

The Holy Synod sent the final texts signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Church in Geneva in January 2016 and the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, as Chairman of the Holy Synod, sent to all the Hierarchs of our Church a letter (755/16-2-2016), urging those who wished so to submit their observations, in order for the Hierarchy to take the relevant decisions.

In the Standing Holy Synod, after studying the comments of the Prelates who sent texts to the Holy Synod, we proposed some corrections, changes, additions and deletions in the May 2016 meeting of the Hierarchy. Therefore, some have a responsibility because they reassured us and did not inform us during this time, and as a result our participation in the Council of Crete faced difficulties.

The Standing Holy Synod of the year 2015-2016, as was obligated, convened twice the Hierarchy of the Church for this important issue, in March and May of 2016, and studied in detail these issues, first for the selection of members to represent our Church in the Council of Crete and secondly the proposals for the correction of the texts to be submitted to the Secretariat of the Holy and Great Council.

The decisions taken, as well as their outcome, I have included in another text of mine and there is no need to refer to them here.

Because there was concern among the flock of the Church, the Standing Holy Synod sent an encyclical letter that was read in all the churches. The letter said that the Hierarchy has “absolute faith in the teachings of the prophets, the apostles and Fathers” and respects “the conciliar polity of the Orthodox Church”.

2. The new proposal of our Church for the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world

When in the Council of Crete, at its meeting in the afternoon of Friday, June 24th, the proposal of our church on the 6th paragraph of the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world”, referring to the determination of the Christian world outside of the Orthodox Church was read, referring to “Christian Communities and Confessions,” there was a great debate.

Firstly I need to make a point. The phrase “Christian Communities and Confessions”, proposed by the Church of Greece is not conservative or novel. It has already been used by the representatives of the Churches in the discussion on this text at the Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986), as shown in the Proceedings, i.e. “Christian families”, “the Christian Communities outside the Orthodox Church”. Furthermore there was discussion at that time about the need for us Orthodox to acquire our proper self-consciousness, and also that a study is needed of what can be said by the Church to the non-Orthodox and how to accept them. [7]

Also, the Second Vatican Council speaks of “Christian communities” in its texts, and Anglican Christians use the expression “Anglican Communion”.

In any case, during the discussion, the Archbishop of Cyprus spoke in a provocative way about the Church of Greece. And although our Archbishop answered in a proper and sober manner, eventually this, together with the urging of the Ecumenical Patriarch to submit a new proposal, forced our Church to retreat.

I think our Church could stick to the decision of the Hierarchy, submit its proposal, record its disagreement in the Minutes, and let other Churches decide what they wanted, so the Church of Greece would not have the responsibility. Now it appears that this proposal originated from the Church of Greece and was adopted by all Churches.
On this subject I will emphasize three points.

a) Unsound arguments for the term Church for the groups of the heterodox

I think that the members of the Council in Crete were “misled” by those who argued that in the period of the second millennium the Orthodox characterized heretical groups as Churches, without referring comprehensively to this issue. The truth is that Western Christianity was characterized as a Church especially in the 20th century, when the Orthodox terminology and theology was differentiated from the terminology and theology of the past, in particular with the Proclamation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the year 1920.

It should be noted, as I remarked during the proceedings of the Council in Crete, that one can find in some texts of the second millennium the word Church, characterizing the Confessions, as a technical term. But this was not the case when exact wording was used, and indeed our Fathers used also various other heavy (insulting) expressions. St. Gregory Palamas clearly defined this issue, as shown in the Synodical Tomos of the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1351. [8] He writes: “it is one thing to use counterarguments in favor of piety and another thing to confess the faith.” That is, one should use every argument in countering something, while confession should be brief and doctrinally precise.

Also during the second millennium those separated from the Church were called Latins, heretics, Papists, heterodox etc. Indeed, St. Gregory Palamas, a great theologian not only of the second millennium but of all time, characterizes the heretics as atheists, because they believe in a God who does not exist, the way they believe him and preach him.

Unfortunately, some supported in the Council of Crete that St. Mark of Ephesus, the Council of 1484, which condemned the Council of Ferrara-Florence, and the Encyclical letter of the Patriarchs of the East in 1848 used the word Church for Western Christians. This is not actually true, so it I will make a brief presentation.

i. St. Mark of Ephesus

St. Mark of Ephesus wrote a letter to the Pope before the start of the dialogue expressing his sincere disposition for dialogue, which demonstrates his good-will, expressing also the will of the entire delegation of the Church of Constantinople. One cannot enter in dialogue and dispute and insult the other side. However, when he realized the whole mentality of the representatives of the Latins, he expressed himself accordingly. Thus, St. Mark was courteous and a Confessor.

There have been important works presenting the life and theology of St. Mark of Ephesus. I highlight two of these, one by Irenaeus Bulovic (now Bishop of Backa) with the title: “The mystery of the distinction of the divine essence and divine energy in the Holy Trinity according to Saint Mark of Ephesus” and another by Fr. Dimitrios Keskinis titled “The Pneumatology of St. Mark bishop of Ephesus and its timeliness”. Also, there is the doctoral thesis of Hercules Rerakis on St. Mark’s brother, John Evgenikos, titled “Dialogue of East and West for the union of the Churches in the 15th century according to John Evgenikos.”

Reading carefully these three theses one gets to know the whole atmosphere prevailing at that time, and also the Orthodox patristic theology of St. Mark of Ephesus. I underline some points in particular.
First, St. Mark of Ephesus was a great theologian, bearer of St. Gregory Palamas’ teaching, whom he expressed wonderfully.

Second, still as a layman, before becoming a Cleric, he was inspired with the desire of the Union of East and West, and he was preparing with passion and zeal for this task. And while he began with longing for union, he was gradually overtaken by “the disappointment of the theological impasse.”

Third, the relevant letter written by St. Mark to be given to Pope Eugene IV, in which there are some phrases for the divided body of the Church etc., was written at the instigation of Cardinal Julian and with great reluctance by the saint, with a view to a good outcome of the discussion. But Julian was not enthusiastic about the contents of the letter, because it pronounced the Pope as the cause of the schism by the addition of filioque, and rather than giving it to the Pope, he gave it to the Emperor, who became angry and banned henceforth communication between the Hierarchs and the Latins, and it was only through the intervention of the Metropolitan of Nicaea that St. Mark was not punished. In no case was this letter read in front of the Synod.

Fourth, St. Mark expressed the whole theology of the Ecumenical Councils, the terms of which he knew well, he limited the discussion to these terms from the beginning, and brought great embarrassment to the Latins, so the theological dialogue that started in Ferrara reached deadlock and the Synod had to move to Florence.

Fifth, the Orthodox representatives, including St. Mark, faced pressures and threats and deception and fraud. Indeed, John Evgenikos writes that we suffered a lot, not only because of the current and upcoming ills, “but also of the lack of freedom because we were restrained like slaves.” He also speaks about the long-term deprivation of necessities, about “poverty” and “famine”.

Sixth, during the Council, St. Mark of Ephesus fought for unity with love, he submitted proposals that were not accepted, he struggled and remained tranquil. He had a sincere willingness to seek the truth. And after the Council his “polemics” “were mainly directed to his Latin-minded compatriots, rather than the Latin papists.”

Professor Ioannis Karmiris using views of the historians who were present at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, writes that St. Mark considered the Latins as heretics during the Council, too.

“In Florence, too, Mark Evgenikos said to the Orthodox delegates, ‘that the Latins are not only schismatics but heretics as well; and our Church kept this in secret for our nation was much weaker than theirs’ (J. Harduin, Acta Consiliorum, Parisiis 1715 Eq.), and ‘(those before us) did not wish to proclaim the Latins as heretics, looking forward to their return and negotiating their friendship’ (S. Syropuli, Vera historia unionis non verae, 9,5. p. 256).” [10]

According to the Acts and memoirs of the Ferrara-Florence Council, St. Mark of Ephesus always considered the Latins as heretics and he said so to the Orthodox delegation, but the delegation of the Orthodox Church did not want to express it publicly because of the difficult conditions of the time and as an expression of friendship, hoping for their return.

But, of course, St. Mark of Ephesus after that Council, when he saw the actual attitude of the Latins, expressed himself in harsh terms. He sent the well-known letter to the “Orthodox Christians everywhere across the land and the islands”.

This letter begins with the phrase: “Those who kept us in dismal captivity and wished to draw us towards the Babylon of Latin morals and doctrines, but they did not manage to achieve this……”. [11] He considers that he went to the Babylon of Latin customs and doctrines and that even during the Council they were taken as hostages. Elsewhere in the letter he writes: “as heretics we turned away from them, and for this reason we separated ourselves from them…. they are heretics therefore, and as heretics we cut them off”. [12] Latins are heretics.

Those who seek to lie midway between the Orthodox Church and the Latins, that is, those who “follow the middle path”, who praise some Latin customs and doctrines, and praise some others yet do not accept them, and do not praise some others at all, and who behaved almost like modern ecumenists, he calls “Greco-Latins” and recommends: “We must flee from them as one flees from a snake or from them [the Latins] themselves; as they are much more dangerous, being Christ-profiteers and Christ-merchants”. And later on he writes about them: “Brothers, depart from them and from communion with them; they are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as Apostles of Christ”.[13]

Professor Ioannis Karmiris observes:
“Because of the above doctrinal differences and deviations of the Latins ‘from the correct faith … and everything concerning the theology of the Holy Spirit,’ Mark Evgenikos characterizes them as heretics, verifying that the Orthodox Church during that time and possibly since the time of the Crusades considered indeed the Latins not only as schismatics, but as heretics as well, accepting those of them who came to Orthodoxy through chrismation with holy chrism, thus classing them with the Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novatianists and other heretics of the fourth century according to the 7th canon of 2nd Ecumenical Council, which he recalls in addition to the 16th Query of Theodore Balsamon “. [14]

St. Mark Evgenikos after the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438-39 and after what he saw there, no longer speaks of the Western Church nor even of a heterodox Church; he speaks about Latins and heretics. It is strange that some people involve St. Mark in an ecumenistic mentality and do not understand correctly, first, his courteous attitude before the Council, for the benefit of the Church and of the expected union, while expressing the entire delegation, and, secondly, the Orthodox treatment of the heretic Latins after this pseudo-Council.

Therefore, the selective and misinterpretative mentality of some modern theologians and clergy toward the Orthodox stance of St. Mark Evgenikos in Ferrara-Florence is unacceptable by any means, and when it is used by scholars it is unscientific. Fr. Dimitrios Keskinis writes: “a fragmentary approach, which unfortunately was cultivated either intentionally by western ‘scholars’ or naively by semi-educated Orthodox diminishes this great theologian of the Church and indeed offends our Orthodox conscience.” [15]

ii. The Synod of 1484

The Synod of 1484 condemned the Synod of Ferrara-Florence of 1438/1439, which in the meantime had been rejected by the conscience of the church flock.

This Council, which was called Ecumenical, was summoned at the church of Pammakaristos by Patriarch Simeon in two phases. The first, i.e. in the years 1472 to 1475, issued a “horos” [definition] renouncing the Council of Ferrara-Florence, and the second, in 1484, issued a service for the Latins who wanted to return to the Orthodox Church. In this Council representatives of the other Patriarchs of the East participated too. [16]

This service was written by the Ecumenical Patriarch Simeon. In the heading the following is written: “Service published by this Holy and Great Synod, for those who return from the Latin heresies to the Orthodox and Catholic Church of Constantinople, but also to the three most holy Patriarchs of the East, i.e. those of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem”. In this phrase it is clear that a distinction is made between the Orthodox Catholic Church, and Latin heresy.

The service speaks of the “Latin heresy” encourages the Latin who is to become Orthodox to renounce “all the shameful and alien doctrines of the Latins” and “everything which is not in agreement with the Catholic and Orthodox Church of the East”, and to anathematize those who add the filioque to the Creed. Also, in this service, by way of questions to the Latin converting to the Orthodox Church, the “horos” of the Ecumenical Council of 1472-1475 is essentially presented: “Do you reject and do you consider null and void the Synod, which was previously summoned in Florence of Italy and those fraudulent things, which that Synod erroneously embraced against the Catholic Church?”

In another question the Latin is prompted to turn away “completely from the gatherings of Latins in their churches, or of those who are Latin-minded”. Here the phrase “the gatherings of Latins in their churches” obviously means the gatherings in church buildings, without attaching an ecclesiological meaning. The Latins are heretics and the gatherings in churches are the gatherings in church buildings, and it does not mean the Church of the Latins, as advocated by some.

In the service there is reference to the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Latin heresy. Once where the word church is used for the Latins it means the place where the Latins meet, that is, the church building, without having any ecclesiological importance. [17]

I consider it unscientific and ultimately misleading to claim as some do that even at the Council of 1484, which condemned the Council of Ferrara-Florence, there is reference to Western Churches.

iii. The Encyclical of the Patriarchs of the East of the year 1848

In the Encyclical of the Patriarchs of the East of the year 1848 signed by the Patriarchs Anthimos VI of Constantinople, Hierotheos II of Alexandria, Methodius of Antioch and Cyril II of Jerusalem, and the Hierarchs who were members of their Synods, the Orthodox Church is characterized as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, following the steps of the holy Fathers, eastern and western”; elsewhere it is characterized as “Catholic Church”, “as the divine fold of the Catholic Orthodox Church” as “Catholic holy Church” as “Orthodoxy”, namely ” the Orthodoxy of the Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Elsewhere it is written that “Orthodoxy kept the Catholic Church as a virgin bride for her bridegroom among us, although without any worldly protection.”

In contrast, the Western Christianity of Old Rome is characterized as “Papism” disturbing “the quiet Church of God”; those who are under the authority of the Pope and attack “Orthodoxy according to their custom” are characterized as “Papists”. In the West the “virus of modernism” entered with heresies. The Church of Ancient Rome before separating from the Orthodox Catholic Church is called the “Roman Church”, whereas it is replaced by “Papism”, apparently because of the theories of the Pope’s primacy and infallibility, and once only it is called “Romana church” which is contrasted to the ancient Roman church. A few times Papism is referred to as “the Church of Rome” and “Western Church” without ecclesiological meaning.

Westerners were excised from the Orthodox Church, but “before departing from Orthodoxy to such heresies they possessed the same faith.” In reality, then, it calls them heretics.

It is also mentioned that “savage wolves” have attacked this holy fold of Christ, the Orthodox Church. This holy fold of Orthodoxy, in which “the pastors and honorable presbytery and the monastics maintain this ancient charitable modesty of the first centuries of Christianity,” “was attacked and is attacked as we see, too, by ‘savage wolves’.” Then the Patriarchs of the East invite the faithful to feel the “mutual painful feeling of a mother loving her children and children loving their mother, when men that are wolf-minded and soul-mongers study and scheme to kidnap these as slaves or snatch them like lambs from their mothers”.

These are very harsh expressions used by the Patriarchs of the East in order to characterize the Latins. It is also very important that in this Encyclical letter it is mentioned that the holy Fathers teach us “not to judge Orthodoxy from the holy throne, but to judge the throne and whoever is upon the throne by the divine Scriptures, by the synodical decisions and terms and by the preached faith, namely by the Orthodoxy of the timeless teaching”. This means that Orthodoxy derives not from the holy throne, but we judge the throne and the one sitting on the throne on the basis of the entire ecclesiastic tradition.

Also important is a remark made by the Patriarchs of the East, that the seats of all Bishops of the West remain empty, in anticipation of the return of the rebel shepherds along with their flocks. It is written characteristically: “… the canonical first-seat of His Holiness and the seats of all the bishops of the West are empty and ready; for the Catholic Church, awaiting the return of the apostate shepherds and their flocks, does not appoint intruders having only a nominal title, where in essence others have the authority, abusing the priesthood.”

This is an important argument, that, although they are called “Churches of the West”, this refers to their thrones, which were Orthodox previously and now are empty of Bishops, that is, those who sit on the thrones are not recognized by the Orthodox Church and it awaits the return of the shepherds that went away with their flocks. This means that no ecclesial meaning is given to the heretics who wrongly hold the old Orthodox Churches.[18]

Mainly the use of the word Church for Christians outside her began in the 20th century with the Proclamation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the year 1920.

Therefore, it is unscientific and misleading to say that even in this important text of the Patriarchs of the East with their Synods it is written that the “Roman Catholics” are a “Church”. On this subject I submitted my view to the Minutes of the Council.

b) The anti-Orthodox theory of “heterodox churches”

The remarkable thing is that, following the new proposal by the Delegation of the Church of Greece, without an authorization by the Hierarchy to make changes in the decisions, and after the decision was accepted by the other Orthodox Churches, the subsequent ecclesiological decisions of our Hierarchy were essentially not supported, except for a few details, as I presented them in another text of mine.

The final proposal of the Church on the 6th paragraph was as follows:
“The Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox Christian Churches and confessions that are not in communion with her…”.

First I still do not know precisely the paternity of this new proposal, submitted during the night of Friday to Saturday, but what I realize is that he who conceived this idea does not know the dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church as will be made obvious further below.

Then, our delegation was not given sufficient time to study the new proposal and to assess it. The decision was taken within a few minutes under strain and without substantive discussion. It seemed that some bishops knew the content of the new proposal before it was announced by the Archbishop to the members of our Delegation, while I heard it for the first time at that moment. In addition, there was a written note that the content of the proposal is in the spirit of the decision of our Hierarchy and eventually was presented as a victory for our Church.

The rationale of the decision is the following:
“With this amendment we achieve a conciliar decision which for the first time in history limits the historical framework of the relations with the heterodox not to the existence, but ONLY to their historical name as heterodox Christian Churches or Confessions. The ecclesiological implications of this change are obvious. Not only they do not adversely affect in any way the age-old Orthodox tradition, but rather protect in a very clear way the Orthodox ecclesiology.”

On the Press Release of the Church of Greece that day (25-6-2016) the view was expressed that the Delegation of our Church proposed the new proposal “in line with the (sic) spirit of the Hierarchy.”
But this new proposal of the majority of our delegation on the one hand diverged from the unanimous decision of our Hierarchy, and on the other hand it is heretical and anti-Orthodox.

i. Poor wording of the proposal

The new proposal formulated by representatives of the Church of Greece, except me, is problematic in the following points:
Firstly, the new proposal altered also another word of the decision of the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy reformulated the initial verb of the text “recognizes the existence” to the verb “knows”, while in the new proposal the verb “knows” turned into “accepts”. Of course, as it is understood, the verb “know” has a different weight than the verb “accept”. So, there is a very clear differentiation from the decision of the Hierarchy on this point as well.

Then, the word “existence” was replaced with the word “name”, as if the name does not declare the existence. There is no name without existence, because this expresses an ecclesiastical nominalism. This cannot be accepted even in national issues, and this is why Greece refuses to recognize the name “Macedonia” for Skopje, although this name has been by the State of Skopje for many years, and Cyprus refuses to recognize the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus “, although it has been occupied for a long time.

Moreover, it was considered that “heterodox Christian churches” is a historical name, whilst this is not referred to steadily in historical texts. In a number of texts the groups outside the Church are called by economy “western churches” but not “heterodox churches.” The word heterodox means heretical and that is why neither the Catholics nor the Protestants describe themselves as heterodox. Quite the opposite happens, as seen in their official texts. It is a diplomatic and not a theological phrase, which mocks both the Orthodox and the heterodox.

ii. The “Loukaris” view on the erring Church

The view that there is a Church that becomes heterodox, i.e. mistaken, is written in “Loukaris’ confession” and has received strong criticism, because the Church does not err, and if some Christian group errs, this group is not a Church.

It seems that the “Loukaris’ confession” was written by Calvinists in their war against the Latins, but was adopted by Patriarch Cyrillos Loukaris and published under his name. The “Loukaris confession” was condemned by the Councils of the 17th century.

Among other things in this “Confession” is written: “it is true and certain that on the way the Church may sin, and choose falsehood instead of truth.” [19]

The Council of Constantinople in 1638 anathematized Patriarch Cyrillos Loukaris for his view that the Church may sin and be deceived and choose falsehood instead of truth. [20]

The Synod of Constantinople and of Jasi decided the same in 1642, proclaiming “as alien” “to our Eastern and Apostolic Church of Christ” what is contained in the “Confession” allegedly by Patriarch Cyrillos, in which among everything else he confused “the earthly and the heavenly church” and in which he declares that it is possible for the Church to sin. [21]

How, then, can we consider as a Church a heretical offshoot, and even call it a heterodox, i.e. erroneous Church? The dilemma is clear: either there is a Church without heretical teachings, which saves people or there is a heretical group, which cannot declare itself Church. To unite these two words — heterodox and Church – in a unity with one being the cosmetic adjective of the other, is an erroneous act, because both the heterodox and the Orthodox are being mocked.

iii. The Protestant view on ontological unity and historical fragmentation of the Church, namely on invisible and visible Church

The new phrase proposed by our Church and adopted by all other present Churches, and in fact with applause, integrated within the whole spirit of the text is purely Protestant and represents a “Nestorian ecclesiology.” This is probably a grave expression but is fully justified with what we shall mention below.

In the final text adopted by all the Primates, accepting the proposal submitted by our delegation it is written:
“In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox [Note: the Greek text uses “heterodox” and the English text uses “non-Orthodox”] Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her…”.

I will present a brief analysis to demonstrate that this phrase is in error and is anti-Orthodox.

First of all what is an “ontological unity”? The word ontology refers to the theory of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle and this phrase was probably preferred in order to indicate the real rather than the apparent unity. And this is found in Protestant theories on the Church.

Then, the text makes an indirect but clear distinction between Church and Orthodox Church. Namely, it is written that the unity according to the real nature of the Church “is impossible to be perturbed,” but “in spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name…”. It seems as if the Church, whose unity is not perturbed, is something else from the Orthodox Church and the “Christian heterodox churches”, who are separated. This reminds me of the principle of phenomenology of the 20th century, that investigates things as seen, removing from them any idea, image, opinion which have been formed about them. That is, they see things as they appear to people and try to see their essence.

However, this mainly refers to the theory about the invisible united Church and the visibly fragmented Church, which is pervasive in the Protestant world and appears in the texts of the World Council of Churches.

To explain this it should be stated that after their secession from the Pope the Reformers wanted to determine what exactly the unity of the Church is, and how we can characterize all these local Christian groups relative to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. As it is clear there was a serious ecclesiological problem concerning the self-description of the splinter Christian groups at that time. So they created the theory of the invisible and visible Church.

Within this perspective the unity of the invisible Church is given, its members are everywhere, only God knows them, like the lights of a big city that exist, but are revealed when they are lit in the night and lighten the darkness, while all visible historical Churches are fragmented.

Clearly, then, the division between the ontological unity of the Church and the historical name and existence of heterodox Churches refers to this Protestant theory which is unacceptable from an Orthodox perspective. Because in Orthodox ecclesiology the Church is both visible and invisible, and there is no split between these two forms of the Church. The Church is a “Concurrence of Heaven and Earth”. St. John Chrysostom observes:

“Oh how great are Christ’s gifts! Hosts of angels praise Him in heaven; in churches on earth human choirs imitate the doxology of the angels. Above Seraphim sing aloud the thrice-holy hymn; below the same hymn is sung by the human multitude; a common heavenly and earthly feast is celebrated: one thanksgiving, one rejoicing, one joyful ceremony. The indescribable condescension of the Lord has created this; the Holy Spirit has put it together; and this harmony of sounds was orchestrated with the Father’s good pleasure. From on high come harmonious melodies, and, moved by the Holy Spirit as though by a plectrum, pleasant and blessed music sounds, the angelic hymn, the unending symphony. This is the outcome of our striving here, this is the fruit of our meeting.” [22]

Specifically, John Calvin in his book “Institutes of the Christian Religion” (1536) sets the foundations of the distinction between the invisible and visible Church. The invisible church refers to the fact that only God knows who the true members of His body are, something that people are not able to find out with certainty. He writes: “God wondrously preserves His Church, while placing it as it were in concealment”.

At the same time he speaks about the “visible Church”, “as it is seen by the eyes of fallible men.”

Ulrich Zwingli expresses more clearly the distinction between the invisible and visible Church in his text “A short and clear exposition of the Christian faith …” (1531).

In the 6th chapter titled “The Church” he refers to the visible and invisible Church. According to him the visible Church is the one that comes down from heaven, recognizes and embraces God in the light of the Holy Spirit. “To this Church belong all those that believe throughout the whole world.” It is called invisible Church “not as if they that believe were invisible, but because it is not evident to human eyes who those are who believe. The faithful are known to God and themselves alone.”

Then he writes that the visible Church consists “not of the Pope of Rome and all others who wear tiaras, but of all those throughout the world who have enrolled themselves under Christ [he means by the Baptism]. Among them are included all those who are called Christians, though mistakenly, because they have no faith within. Therefore there are in the visible Church some who are not members of the chosen and invisible Church.”

Vladimir Lossky referring to this teaching of Protestantism writes that such a view is “Nestorian ecclesiology” because all Christological heresies are revealed in their teaching about the Church. Also, there is an opposite view called “monophysite ecclesiology.” For the first case he writes:

“Thus, there arises a Nestorian ecclesiology, the error of those who would divide the Church into distinct begins: on the one hand the heavenly and invisible Church, alone true and absolute; on the other, the earthly Church (or rather ‘the churches’) imperfect and relative, wandering in the shadows, human societies seeking to draw near, so far as is possible for them, to that transcendent perfection.” [23]

Nikos Matsoukas commenting on this Protestant view writes:

“The Church of Christ in no way can be understood as identical to the Protestant communities. This view is unconditionally accepted by all the theologians of the Protestant orthodoxy. The Church of Christ is something wider and more universal. So they never speak about an exit from the Church. They do not know its boundaries and never risk saying to any of their brothers who were condemned by the Church that they are outside of it. In this case the invisible Church that is fundamentally divided from the visible, according to Protestant theology, dominates the thinking and life of Protestants … But the dominance of the invisible Church over all human acts and historical events weakens the importance of the visible one. That’s why later on and in our days the Protestants can very easily speak about many individual visible Churches and about only one invisible. The branch theory, developed within modern ecumenism, originates from this principle. Although current Protestantism has gone through many evolutionary stages and can comfortably be adjusted, it seems to show a particular favor for the teaching of the fundamental distinction and differentiation between the invisible and the visible Church.” [24]

Therefore, the view that in accordance with the ontological nature of the Church her unity can never be perturbed but according to the historical name there are other heterodox Christian churches not in communion with her reflects this Protestant teaching about the invisible and visible Church. This is the basis of the branch theory, namely that all Christian Churches, including the Orthodox Church, are branches of the same tree, and everyone is looking for their unity. The essence of this view is that the invisible Church is united, whilst the visible Churches are divided and make mistakes.

Fr. John Romanides taught:
“The Church is invisible and visible, that is, it is composed of those militant on earth and those triumphed in the glory of God in heavens. The prevailing view among the Protestants is that the Church is only invisible, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are only symbolic acts and that only God knows the actual members of the Church. In contrast, the Orthodox Church emphasizes the visible part of the Church as well. Outside the Church there is no salvation.” [25]

Thus, the new proposal submitted by majority by our delegation in Crete is problematic and anti-Orthodox.

iv. Ecclesiological questions

Overall the triumphalism of some people after the submission of the new proposal by the majority of the delegation of the Church of Greece, that for first time the Christians outside the Church are treated by a Synod not theologically, but only historically, and its acceptance by all the Churches, is unfounded.

This is because, among other things, the text is not theological, but rather diplomatic. And there are intense contradictions as to what the Eastern and Western Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church are. There are many questions:

Do Christians outside the Orthodox Church belong to canonical Churches or to heterodox ones? What does heterodox Church mean other than heretical? Then, why are they still called “sister Churches”? Why elsewhere in the text they are called simply “other Christians” or “rest of the Christian world”? Why elsewhere in the same text they are characterized as “the non-Orthodox Churches and Confessions” that diverged from the true faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? After all are they “heterodox Churches”, “other Christians”, “non-Orthodox churches and confessions” diverging from the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? How are all these different phrases justified in a text and how can this text have a theological identity? Shouldn’t this text have a uniform terminology in referring to Christians outside the Orthodox Church? Shouldn’t this text’s content conform to its title?

The same can be observed for the reference to the unity of the Church. At one point it is said that the unity of the Church can never be perturbed; elsewhere that the Orthodox Church is aware of the difficulties in the course of dialogue with the other Christians “to the common understanding of the tradition of the ancient Church»; elsewhere that the World Council of Churches together with other inter-Christian organizations “fulfill an important mission by promoting the unity of Christendom”; elsewhere that the Orthodox Church is aware that “the movement towards the restoration of Christian unity takes new forms…”. What is valid out of all these? The unity of the Church is given or is it looked for?

The least I can say is that this text not only is not theological, it is also not clear, it does not have a clear perspective and foundation, it is diplomatic. The way it is written it is characterized by a creative diplomatic ambiguity. Thus, being a diplomatic text, it satisfies neither the Orthodox nor the heterodox ones. I cannot understand how it will be accepted by other Christians who are called simultaneously “heterodox”, that is, heretic, “rest of Christians” and “brothers”, or it speaks simultaneously about “heterodox Churches” and “sister Churches.”

All these problems exist in this text, because it was not ripe for decision and signing, especially since both the Greek text and the translations into other languages were still being elaborated late on Saturday night 25th June.

At this point I remember the saying of St. Mark of Ephesus: “Church matters have never been corrected by the mean, the middle position. There is no middle position between truth and falsehood, but as the one who goes out of the light is necessarily in the darkness, in the same way someone who has diverged a little from the truth we truthfully say to be subject to falsehood”. [26]

v. The World Council of Churches

These questions are related to the World Council of Churches (WCC). Specifically:
In the 19th paragraph of the text titled “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world”, adopted at the Council of Crete, there is reference to the ecclesial prerequisites of the Toronto declaration (1950), which as it is written, “are of paramount importance for the Orthodox participation in the Council” and the 17th paragraph of the same text mentions the “established criteria”, which were proposed by the Special Commission, “mandated by the Inter-Orthodox Conference held in Thessaloniki (1998).”

As to the first issue of paragraph 19, I read the decision of the Central Committee of the WCC in Toronto, in English and in Greek, and found that, in addition to the section that is indicated in the text, there are other paragraphs which cannot be accepted from an Orthodox point of view. Among else it states that the WCC includes Churches, who believe that the Church is essentially invisible, and Churches who believe that the visible unity of the Church is essential; there is a distinction between the visible body of the Church and the invisible body of the Church; that apart from few exceptions the Churches accept that the baptism celebrated by other Churches is valid; that the Churches that are members of the WCC recognize “elements of a true Church”, “traces of Church”, in other Churches, and the ecumenical movement rests on them; that all Churches recognize “that there are Church members extra muros, that these aliquo modo belong to the Church, and also that there is “Church within the Church” ” etc. That is, clearly in the WCC there dominates an anti-Orthodox view about an invisible and a visible Church, which overturns the whole Orthodox ecclesiology.

With respect to the second issue, in paragraph 17 referring to the decision of the Special Commission, there is a problem here, too. It is known to those involved in these matters that there was an Inter-Orthodox Conference in Thessaloniki (April 29 – May 2, 1998) on the “Evaluation of New Facts in the Relations of Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement”, in which representatives of all Orthodox Churches proposed, in view of the convening of the WCC in Harare, that “the W.C.C undergoes radical reform in order to allow a fuller Orthodox participation.” It was proposed, therefore, to make changes in the religious gatherings and in common prayers, and in the vote process. It also stated that if there were not radical changes, “it is likely that other Orthodox Churches may withdraw from the Council, following the example of the Church of Georgia.”

After this proposal by the Orthodox Churches, the General Assembly of the WCC in Harare Zimbabwe established a special committee to study the issue, whose final text was almost unanimously accepted at the meeting of the Central Committee of the WCC in 2002.

When reading this text of the Special Commission, signed also by our own representatives, in matters of ecclesiology, of common prayer, of the Eucharist worship, of the way of decision-making by consensus, etc. one is startled.

In this text there is reference to “confessional” and “inter-confessional” common prayer at meetings of the WCC, and through these prayers “churches have experienced progress towards unity, and some have succeeded in reaching agreements leading to “full communion””; to “Eucharistic worship” by “the brotherhood of the churches of the WCC “; to “some churches having an “open altar” for all those who love the Lord”; to “hospitality churches” that celebrate Eucharist together etc. It is confessed that “worship is the center of our Christian identity. Nevertheless in worship we also discover our breakup. In an ecumenical framework, common prayer can be a source of joy and sorrow”; there is reference about an “inclusive language” in common worship; that “as fellow pilgrims on the spiritual path, we participate as equals in inter-confessional common prayer” for the “brotherhood of the churches of the WCC” etc.

Everything in quotes refers to approved texts of the Special Commission of the WCC and in fact expresses the Protestant idea of invisible and visible Church. The decisions of the Special Commission endorsed by the WCC have passed into paragraph 17 of the text approved by the Council of Crete.

The view of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristeri, delivered in the meetings of the Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986) when the text on relations between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world, and on the theme of the WCC, was discussed, is entirely true. He said:
“The Holy and Great Council must deal with and decide if and whether it is better for our Orthodox Church to return to the old system of separate Declarations. Because, currently, the texts of the WCC are both Orthodox and Protestant and whatever else. They are syncretistic texts that please everyone and no-one. I humbly think that we will offer more services to the unity of the Churches with an Orthodox doctrinal Declaration”. [27]

I will not write more on this subject, but I will analyze it in another work of mine. What we should note is that, unfortunately, when on May of 2016 the Hierarchy decided by a majority that we remain as members of the WCC it was not fully informed about the beginning, the evolution and the current situation prevailing in the WCC. I think that at some point there must be an informed presentation on what the WCC is.

Conclusion

It is clear and obvious that an Orthodox Hierarchy cannot adopt such a proposal, as set by our Delegation, because this would imply the acceptance of the theological error of speaking about Churches that are heterodox, i.e. heretical and erring. It would also accept the anti-Orthodox doctrine of visible and invisible Church, that is, a theory of a “Nestorian ecclesiology”, which is the basis of the branch theory, which has been condemned by the Great Councils of the 17th century.

November 2016
http://parembasis.gr

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