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THE THEOLOGIAN IN THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCH IN ECUMENICAL DIALOGUE
© John S. Romanides
It is indeed a great honor to have been invited to be the first speaker in this new annual lectureship in honor of Father Georges Florovsky, the greatest Orthodox theologian of our time, and the academic and spiritual guide and inspiration of most of us here present, both directly and indirectly.
Concerning the theologian, how he is trained and what he is supposed to be doing from the patristic point of view, I have expounded elsewhere in some detail. [ 1 ] The spiritual father and the theologian are one identical reality. I assume that my analysis of the subject is known, so that rather than repeat it I chose to expand the topic, "The Theologian in the Service of the Church in Ecumenical Dialogue."
Orthodox theologians represent and are part of a theological and spiritual tradition which is the primary responsibility of the Orthodox synods of bishops. The bishop himself is the preserver and teacher par excellence of the tradition who, when circumstances require, may delegate teaching and spiritual responsibilities to presbyters, deacons, monks, and even to laymen. What holds true for theologians and theology within the Church is true for theologians in dialogue with other churches or groups of churches.
It is generally known that since the 1961 New Delhi General Assembly and especially since the 1975 Nairobi General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Orthodox have been running into serious problems with the overwhelming Protestant majority. Father Florovsky had first-hand knowledge of the inception of these problems and their purpose, and he was disturbed about the course of possible events appearing on the horizon. The dialogue with the Latin Catholic Church will begin in seven days. We use the term Latin in order to distinguish it from Greek Catholicism or Uniatism.
Dialogue with the Anglicans will re-commence in July 1980, after an interruption created by the new practice of ordaining women in some Anglican churches.
Preparations for the official Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue are progressing normally and show signs that it may prove to be relatively fruitful.
The Old Catholic-Orthodox dialogue had gone very quickly into high gear, but the original high hopes seem to have waned a bit.
Unofficial dialogue with the Non-Chalcedonians had commenced on a solid footing, but went into a tailspin when the WCC began mixing into the dialogue's internal affairs, having transformed the dialogue into its own project to serve its own purpose.
Papers for the commencement of official dialogue have been in print since 1976. [ 2 ] The last meeting of the Orthodox commission, held in Geneva in February 1979, dealt at length with the problem of how to get the Non-Chalcedonians to the conference table.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has sponsored, to date, two meetings between Orthodox and Jews which proved to be very interesting and which had pleasant theological surprises for those previously unfamiliar with each other. It seems that except for the well-known differences between Judaism and Christianity, there is a closer similarity between Orthodoxy and Judaism than between Orthodoxy and those churches stemming from medieval Frankish, Visigoth (Spanish), Lombard, and Norman Europe.
Here we shall deal in order with the Orthodox Churches and their theologians in relation to the WCC and in dialogue with the Non-Chalcedonians, the Latin Catholics and the Anglicans.[ Return ]
The World Council of Churches
It must be emphasized from the very beginning that we should avoid viewing the World Council of Churches from the Orthodox point of view alone. We must be open and sympathetic to Protestant views and needs without, however, sacrificing Orthodox principles. It is inadmissible to judge Protestant actions by Orthodox standards or Orthodox actions by Protestant standards.
The WCC was established and shaped as a result of and in conformity to problems uniquely Protestant. Thus the Orthodox impact on the organizing process of the WCC was so insignificant that one wonders if the Orthodox really knew what they were getting themselves involved in when they joined. Indications are that the Orthodox who signed the Charter which brought the WCC into existence in 1948 believed that they were involved in the establishment of an organization within the spirit and limits of the 1920 encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople proposing to all Christians the founding of a `League of Churches' along the lines of the League of Nations. This clearly means that each church would be a real and direct member with equal rights and absolute control over the appointment of its representatives, exactly like in the case of the member nations of the League of Nations and then of the United Nations where size and population neither add nor increase voting power and where the member nations do not vote for each other's ambassadors and staff.
However, because of Protestant problematics and their need for real solutions, the WCC was organized on totally different lines. Obviously not adequately familiar with the importance of organizational structure, our Orthodox founders led us into areas of inter-confessional Protestant relations where we could not control our participation.
Searching through the files of the Church of Greece, no report could be found on the structural organization of the W.C.C.-indeed strange, to say the least, for a church whose representatives were involved in the founding and the work of the WCC from the very beginning. One of her representatives of long standing is currently serving as elected chairman of Faith and Order.
During the many years of our close association, Father Florovsky of blessed memory very often discussed the WCC If our discussions were any indication, he evidently attributed little importance to the WCC's organizational structure. He did, however feel the impact of the WCC's right to exercise power. He complained of being shifted to the sidelines in favor of Orthodox who more closely fit the requirements of the WCC. Father Georges, therefore, continuously complained that the WCC was undergoing a change which he attributed to its institutionalization and its being housed in the then newly-built headquarters in Geneva. That the WCC has changed is still a favorite theme of some professors in Greece.
Until the 1975 Nairobi General Assembly, my participation in WCC projects was limited to the 1963 Montreal World Conference on Faith and Order, where I composed the paragraph on Eucharistic Ecclesiology, and to the Rochester conference on religious freedom. Having never studied the constitution and bylaws of the WCC, I began preparing for Nairobi under the impression that this organization had indeed been undergoing the change which the Orthodox spoke of and liked so little. I studied the constitution and bylaws as part of my preparation and was disturbed at how much Orthodox participation depends legally on the goodwill of the overwhelming Protestant majority. No democracy can function unless the rights of the minority are protected. This constitution has no built-in rights which protect the Orthodox from a possible dictatorship of the Protestant majority.
I came to the conclusion that the Orthodox who got us involved in the WCC are like the pious farmer who went to the big city and demonstrated his writing ability by signing away the management of a part of his business. Because the manager did not immediately exercise his right to manage, the farmer continued to manage as usual. However, the time carne for the manager to begin exercising his legal right. The farmer protested. The manager produced the signed contract.
In other words, the WCC changed only in the sense that the Protestant majority began exercising legal rights which it always had and to which the Orthodox themselves had legally agreed.
This is why the Church of Greece is demanding protection of her right to function within the WCC as an Orthodox Church according to the traditions of the Orthodox Church. Because this can be done only by amendment to the constitution, in reality by the addition of a sort of inalienable bill of rights, the Church of Greece has requested that such amendments be made.
The principle behind this action is clearly that what is permissible and good for a divided Protestantism is not necessarily permissible and good for the Orthodox. Protestant participation should be Protestant, and Orthodox participation should be Orthodox.
The Synodical committee responsible for advising the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece realized the need to make such a distinction by taking into consideration the historical conditions of Protestantism which clearly point to the fact that the current organizational structure of the WCC is indeed the best possible and the most realistic for Protestantism, at least as far as Orthodox can judge. Let us look at the reasoning.
The structure of the WCC was determined by Protestant problems mainly in the missionary field. Protestantism divided its converts into confessional groups, whereas these same converts had been united religiously as pagans. A "World Missionary Conference" was held in Edinburgh in 1910 to study these and other such problems and ways of overcoming them.
It was further felt by Protestant leaders that one could separate the practical questions of life and work from the more doctrinal questions of faith and order. Thus a world conference on the first aspect of problems was convened called `Life and Work' in 1925, followed by a world conference on `Faith and Order' two years later in 1927 to deal with the second aspect. Thus, one separated the problems of coordinating social and educational efforts from the problems of doctrine and church structure which lay at the basis of the division and confusion in the missionary fields. Second conferences of each of these two divisions of labor were both held in 1937.
There was much talk about how the Holy Spirit was thus guiding Protestantism in the paths of cooperation and unity. However, leaders of Europe and America had already come to the realization that Christianity was a serious force of division, both at home and in the missions, and therefore not as effective in efforts to Westernize and unite the world for peaceful economic and social activities. The position, especially expounded by Arnold Toynbee, had gained dominance, i.e. that Westernization of the world will not be completed as originally believed or planned by Christian missions, but by Western technology and economics.
Orthodox civilization, already westernized to a great extent, was included in the designs for Christian unity and its fusion into Western civilization. Westernization was part of Greece's official political and ecclesiastical policy from the very beginning of her modern history.
The Latin Catholics, the original core of Western civilization, would be gently nudged into being inspired by the Holy Spirit also.
Thus the WCC was established in 1948, a few years after the United Nations, and at a time when Arnold Toynbee was expounding his master plan of Westernization to a well prepared and therefore ready and very large audience. [ 3 ]
Eventually, however, the Third World experienced a revitalization of political, economic, religious, and cultural awareness which rejected the idea that they should be westernized. This has had a tremendous impact on the United Nations, the WCC, and the papacy. Needless to mention is Khomeini's Islamic revolution.
The WCC was organized in such a way that success should both become a reality and become so as rapidly as possible. Thus it took a shape similar to that of a business corporation whose techniques in management, production and marketing could be put to good use. The similarity may be purely or partially accidental, but is striking nonetheless.
The world conferences already mentioned became in two stages (1948 and 1961) one corporation by merging with some loss of structural identity. In the process, Faith and Order has been given the status of a sub-unit. The same thing happened to World Mission and Evangelism.
The addition of the Orthodox to the WCC was essential from the viewpoint of long-range planning, but perhaps a bit superficial from the Orthodox point of view, especially in regard to missions and life and work. `Faith and Order' is the only division in which the Orthodox have a real contribution to make.
The historical background, the needs and goals of the WCC required an organizational structure which would transcend and thus avoid direct and possible erratic interference from the churches. This is the reason why neither the League of Nations nor the United Nations could be used as a model. The member churches had to be restricted to the status of shareholders in a corporation in order to make success possible.
The churches are, for all intents and purposes, shareholders in the WCC Shares are allotted according to population, geographic distribution and confessional identity. Shares are held in the form of one voting share per delegate at the General Assembly which is equivalent to the general meeting of shareholders, but held every seventh or eighth year instead of annually.
This General Assembly elects members of the Assembly to the Central Committee which governs the WCC according to the mandates of the General Assembly. The slate of candidates is prepared by a nominations committee which solicits candidates from the churches, which, however, it is not obligated to accept. The Central Committee in turn elects at each of its meetings a smaller Executive Committee which supervises the execution of its policies. In addition, the Central Committee approves the names of the core groups for membership in the divisions of the WCC These core groups are nominated by the division chairmen and staff and approved by the General Secretariat and make up about a third of the membership of the divisions. A second third of the membership of the divisions is elected by the Central Committee from its own members by suggestion of the same people who control the nominations to the core group. The third of the members of the divisions are co-opted by the officers and staff who ask for the approval of the churches, but are not legally obliged to accept recommendations from the churches.
Once the Central Committee is elected, the churches give up any direct control of their participation in the administration and work of the WCC and are reduced to reacting sometimes in a manner more befitting a minor shareholder of a corporation who has to wait for the next general assembly to get his opinion accepted as a motion duly made, seconded, debated, and voted upon. Nomination committees serve to channel preferred ecumenists into the right places according to the judgment of ideologically dedicated inner-core Protestant leaders.
The Central and Executive Committees are like larger and smaller boards of directors of a corporation with the same moderators and vice-moderators with some members belonging to both. The Central and Executive committees supervise the work of the staff, headed by the General Secretary and Directors or moderators of the three program units and their sub-units and two specialized units. These heads of the staff function like the officers of a corporation.
From the legal point of view, the WCC is a kind of servant holding company whose shares are held by the companies served. However, the Protestant and Anglican member churches hold majority shares far outweighing their numerical relation to the Orthodox. One does not have to be an intellectual giant to see why the Latin Catholics could not allow themselves to follow the Orthodox into a share-holding position.
It is generally admitted that the `Faith and Order' sub-unit of program unit I of the WCC should be the most important concern of the Orthodox Churches. There are Orthodox who believe, however, the contrary, i.e. that cooperation on practical matters should be the only Orthodox concern.
Protestant theologians dedicated to union in essentials and to tolerance of differences are co-opted as friends and supporters of the WCC and especially of `Faith and Order.' These are both the preferred type of Protestant ecumenists and the ones most open to dialogue with the Orthodox.
The result of such an orientation is that a society of ecumenists has been formed which is more dedicated to each other than to the members of their own particular church. [ 4 ] This group by WCC standard comprises what may be called an ecumenical nobility which every Orthodox should feel duty-bound to completely support for the union of Protestantism.
There are no Orthodox members of this ecumenical nobility as far as is known. The reason for this is simply that what may apply to Protestant principles and needs does not necessarily apply to Orthodox principles and needs. One does not undergo medical treatment unless he needs it. Thus from the viewpoint of Protestant needs, the WCC is certainly the best kind of medical treatment possible for the maladies of Protestantism. However, from the viewpoint of Orthodox needs, membership in the current organizational structure of the WCC is an aimless adventure, simply because the maladies of Orthodoxy and Protestantism are not the same.
At first the Orthodox made it a practice to make separate-doctrinal statements on subjects under study. This practice ended abruptly at the 1961 New Delhi General Assembly and has continued since because the Orthodox became divided over this issue. I personally sided with the idea of the common text principle at the 1963 Montreal Conference on Faith and Order. I have since changed my opinion in favor of separate statements primarily because of the Nairobi experience on the question which I will be glad to deal with during the discussion of this paper.
Indicative of the WCC attitudes and possible policies vis-a-vis the Orthodox was a discussion between the newly elected General Secretary of the WCC and the Ecumenical Patriarchate's committee on inter-Christian relations during the former's visit to Constantinople on 15-19 December 1972. Among the many items discussed was "the question of the promotion of anticanonical situations."
The Patriarchal committee appealed to the rule of the WCC's Constitution "according to which prior to the promotion of whatsoever related subject, entangling more widely a family of churches, to which the Church belongs for which the matter is being promoted, the agreement of the Churches of this family must be secured." [ 5 ] However, while the matter was being processed, the Protestant majority changed the rule, thus leaving the majority of the Orthodox Churches high and dry.
The General Secretary of the WCC made this action clear when he said the following: "I understand that that which must be done from the viewpoint of the Constitution of the WCC, is contrary to the Canons and Ecclesiastical Provisions of the Orthodox Church..." [ 6 ] He went on to suggest "that the Ecumenical Patriarchate should take steps to bring about a comparable change in canonical order and in its understanding of the provisions and requirements of the Holy Canons."[ 7 ]
The General Secretary further stated that he understood the Orthodox position and would do everything which depended on him, but it should not be forgotten that "there are also certain obligations" which emanate both from the proceedings followed till now by his predecessor-concerning which there is a letter of his to the Ecumenical Patriarchate-and from the Rules of the WCC now in force.[ 8 ] Mr. Philip Potter promised to do all he could knowing he could do little, if anything.
This event in isolation could be considered insignificant, but it is certainly not when put into the context of the pattern of such problems. Here we have a clear case wherein Orthodox Ecclesiology and Canon Law were precariously protected by a rule, but subject to change by the Protestant majority. Of course the change was made in such a way that one Orthodox member Church was satisfied.
I am not entering into the rights and wrongs of the concrete issue, but I am raising the question concerning the very nature of our relations with the WCC As matters stand the Orthodox not only do not, but they cannot control the nature of their own participation because they themselves have willingly or legally agreed to a built-in constitutional Protestant majority rule. In other words the Orthodox have legally accepted the right of the majority to make decisions which are contrary to the Ecclesiology and canonical practices of the Orthodox Churches.
Since Nairobi, Orthodox proposals to the nominations committee are no longer accepted as a matter of course. The Protestant majority always had the legal right to reject Orthodox suggestions for election. Because this legal right had never to my knowledge been put to the test many Orthodox did not know this. Nairobi became the test site of these rights; whether intentionally or not is beside the point. Thus we had a series of farces from an Orthodox point of view, but the exercise of legal rights from the Protestant side.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople had submitted three names for election to the Central Committee which were approved by the nominations committee. A Protestant pastor made the motion in a plenary session that one of the metropolitan candidates of Constantinople be substituted by another metropolitan of the Constantinople delegation. The motion was seconded, debated, and voted upon. The candidate suggested by Constantinople won his election not because his church appointed him, but because the assembly of the Protestant majority voted for him. The reaction in plenary session by the head of the Constantinople delegation was very strong. He announced at a reception that the Orthodox Churches would review their participation in the WCC The slate of the Church of Russia was also approved by the nominations committee and challenged from the floor. Sensing that the plenary session may vote for this suggested change, the Russian delegation accepted it rather than risk defeat.
In a third Nairobi clash, it was the nominations committee itself which rejected the name of a retired professor of the University of Athens who had been approved by the Holy Synod. The reason given was that it was decided that the third candidate had to be either a woman or a youth. The substitution was made arbitrarily without prior consultation with the head of the delegation. Also, when the Church of Greece was asked to submit three names nothing was mentioned about a youth or a woman. The head of the delegation quit the General Assembly in protest. Had he not ordered the rest to remain, most would have left also in protest.
In the beginning of 1976 the WCC had sent a letter to the Church of Greece requesting the approval of three names for membership in `Faith and Order.' The Holy Synod approved the one and suggested two other names of scholars she believed to be more qualified. The WCC accepted the one and rejected the other claiming "lack of place." That this was a tactical excuse seems strongly indicated from the fact that the WCC had suggested three names to fill three places, not two. This action of the WCC is no different than the USA suggesting to Russia and telling her who should represent Russian Communism in dialogue with American capitalism and dictating who will not. The ecclesiological implications of such events as the above should be carefully explored.
In an interview to the New York Times, the Archbishop of Athens accused the WCC of Protestant majority rule without regard to Orthodox minority rights and announced the Church's determination to ask for changes in the constitution to protect these rights.
At Nairobi the Orthodox witnessed the strange specter of a Protestant pastor from Zaire who went from section to section accusing the Orthodox of not being good Christians. He argued that only lack of Christian love could explain why the Orthodox refuse intercommunion with other Christians. Especially interesting was the fact that M.M. Thomas mentioned the accusations of this pastor and the `attempts' of the Orthodox to answer in his recapitulatory address which brought the work of the Nairobi General Assembly to a close.
The mounting pressure on the Orthodox in regard to intercommunion from Anglicans, Protestants, and Latin Catholics is effectively dealt with by a 1978 study by Archimandrite Kallistos Ware on the recent history of this problem. [ 9 ][ Return ]
Unofficial dialogue between Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians began in August 1964. The agreed statement includes the following:
The Synod of Chalcedon (451), we realize, can only be understood as reaffirming the decisions of Ephesus (431 ), and best understood in the light of the later Synod of Constantinople (553). All synods, we have recognized, have to be seen as stages in an integral development and no synod or document should be studied in isolation.[ 10 ]
One can appreciate why we were so optimistic after Aarhus. However, this positive attitude toward the Fourth and subsequent Ecumenical Synods became more negative at our second meeting in Bristol, England ( 1967) and quite hard at our third meeting in Geneva ( 1970).
At an ad hoc meeting, organized by the WCC in Addis Ababa (1971), not attended by several key members of the prior meetings, a Greek Orthodox member of the WCC staff was presented in the published minutes as claiming that "we cannot put formal recognition of Chalcedon as a pre-condition of union."[ 11 ]
The Non-Chalcedonians have only three Ecumenical Synods. From this viewpoint they could be quite useful in dealing with the Orthodox claims that Seven or Eight Ecumenical Synods are required for restoration of the unity of Christendom. It seems that the Non-Chalcedonians are more important to the WCC as they are, especially if communion can be restored along the lines suggested by the WCC staff member at Addis Ababa just quoted.
The Latin Catholics
There are strong indications that dialogue with the Latin Catholic Church to commence in seven days has been organized thus far within the context of the decisions of Vatican II. The key to understanding developments to date is the combination of three interdependent factors which seem to compose the method of union being used. For many years Latin theologians have been listening attentively to Orthodox explanations and insistence that intercommunion is impossible since the very act of communion is the result and expression of union in faith and therefore is the Orthodox understanding of church union.
The second factor is that interpretation of the schism which claims that the 1054 mutual excommunication and anathemas had taken place as an event between Old and New Rome alone. This event supposedly did not include the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. [ 12 ] It emphasized that subsequent to this event there are examples of sacramental communion between Western and Eastern Christians in the Middle East. These examples cease with the Latin conquest of Constantinople which, so the story goes, is the real cause and general consummation of the schism. Thus hatred and not doctrine is the cause of the split between the so-called Greek East and Latin West.
The third factor is the teaching and practice of the Latin papacy that one can be a member of the Church by means of a reflexive faith whereby one does not have to directly and openly accept all dogmas so long as one does not publicly oppose them. These three factors make the possibility of union real by expanding Uniatism which already exists within such dimensions. The Uniates oppose Latin exclusiveness but do not reject its legitimacy. Orthodox who understand this opposition as a rejection are proof of the success of the method. One of the stated purposes of the dialogue from the Latin point of view is to get the Orthodox to accept the legitimacy of Latin doctrinal developments without necessarily accepting these developments for themselves. The Anglicans and the WCC are showing indications that they are following a similar although not identical line on the question of the Filioque, as we shall see.
These factors become even more potent when cast into the framework of Eucharistic Ecclesiology and of Fr. Nicholas Afanasieff's views on intercommunion between Orthodox and Latins, as pointed out clearly by Father Ware. Having these factors in mind one can see that union or the manifestation of a supposedly already-existing union requires four things:1 ) the lifting of the anathemas between Old and New Rome, 2) the lifting of the excommunication between Old and New Rome, 3) the abolition of hatred caused by the Latin capture and sacking of New Rome, and 4) the restoration of communion. Thus we will allegedly have returned to the union which existed prior to 1054. The lifting of the anathemas has been accomplished. The restoration of communion has been decided by Vatican II which recognizes Orthodox sacraments and not only permits intercommunion but encourages it. [ 13 ] In keeping with these decisions the Latin Church lifted the excommunication of 1054, which is a step ahead of Constantinople, which restricted herself to the lifting of the anathemas. The abolition of hatred is in the process of being completed by the' dialogue of love. This evidently is supposed to cover the requirements of the Orthodox Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as that of the other Orthodox Churches. The fact that the Church of Constantinople lifted the anathemas, without consulting the other Orthodox Churches means that she accepts the position that this is a matter which concerns Old and New Rome alone.
The first Geneva meeting in June 1977 of the preparatory Orthodox Committee was presented with a draft of a text for discussion which in outline was similar to a text prepared by the Latin side. After some introductory remarks, it dealt with the purpose, methodology, and topics of the dialogue. In addition to this common outline, the text of the Latin committee concluded with a section called important recommendations. This text of the Latin Committee was in perfect accord with Vatican II.
The Orthodox draft text had no reference to the decision of the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference that the criterion for this dialogue would be the restoration of communion based on the common faith of the undivided Church of the Seven Ecumenical Synods. Therefore, it was suggested that reference be made to this in the paragraph on the purpose of the dialogue. This motion was put into writing to be discussed and voted upon. A compromise was suggested that reference to the Ecumenical Synods should be omitted and considered covered by the phrase "based on the common life and common tradition of the ancient and undivided Church."
This was finally accepted. Subsequently a sub-committee of the Orthodox committee met in Rome with a sub-committee of the Latins in March 1978. Then the full Orthodox preparatory committee was invited to reconvene in Geneva, July 1978.
Before the distribution of the text with the proposed changes a member of the Orthodox sub-committee at the March meeting in Rome took the floor and announced a great success. The Latin sub-committee at the Rome meeting liked the Orthodox text so much that they proposed to drop theirs and to adopt the Orthodox one as a common text for both sides. As a prerequisite they asked for a few changes. As it turned out the most important change requested was that the term "undivided" be omitted from the purpose of the dialogue. Discussions were exciting, to say the least.
It was also pointed out that the Church of Greece was in the process of reviewing the whole question of common texts in the WCC. Therefore, the representatives of the Church of Greece had no authorization to compose or accept a common text which is a matter for the Church to decide. It was also pointed out that, for the Orthodox, faith and formulation of the faith in Synods are one identical reality. However, for the Latin tradition they are not and this was clearly stated in the original text of the Latin side [ 14 ] which repeats Vatican II. [ 15 ]
The representatives of the Church of Greece claimed that by omitting from the purpose of the dialogue the question of the Ecumenical Synods and/or the undivided Church and by accepting a common text on the purpose of the dialogue we would in reality be accepting both the distinctions just quoted and the decisions of Vatican II. Therefore, at least reference to the "undivided" Church must be retained.
The spokesman for the Church of Greece pointed out that the Latin members of the dialogue are bound by the decisions of Vatican II concerning unity, dialogue, intercommunion and Uniatism. It is clear, therefore, that our text by becoming their text agrees with the decisions of Vatican II except where differences are clearly stated. The Greek delegation participated in the alterations in order to make the text as Orthodox as possible.
In spite of the fact that at least one doctrinal weakness remained i.e., a distinction between Triadology and Pneumatology, the text was unanimously accepted as adequately Orthodox, i.e. if it were to be an Orthodox text alone and not a common text. The Greek delegation left the matter of whether the text would be common open for the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece to decide for herself.
At the first meeting of the Orthodox preparatory committee the question of which subject to begin with was extensively debated. One group wanted to begin with subjects like the mysteries (sacraments), which, it claimed, unite Eastern and Western Christians. This suggestion was also made by the Latins. Others preferred to begin with the subjects which divide us. The candidate subjects were reduced to mysteries and Ecclesiology. The Church of Greece supported Ecclesiology, but the mysteries won out.
My position is that the mysteries do not unite Eastern and Western Christians since their foundation is the distinction between the uncreated divine grace, in which one may participate, and the uncreated divine essence of the divine Hypostases, in which creatures do not and cannot participate. Moreover, the Church is manifested in and through the mysteries. Thus, by discussing the mysteries one should be discussing the doctrines of God, of the incarnation and of the Church unavoidably, unless of course one's theology is not Orthodox.
In July 1978 the preparatory committee finished its work with the open question on the common text, as far as the Church of Greece was concerned, and disbanded. Subsequently, the committee for dialogue was appointed. This committee for dialogue will meet for the first time on 29 May 1980 in Patmos and will coincide with the first joint meeting of the Orthodox and Latin commissions.
Meanwhile, Professor John Karmiris had tendered his resignation from the delegation of the Church of Greece. He gave as reasons inadequate preparation on the Orthodox side, disagreement over the subject to be initially discussed, and the unresolved problem of Uniatism.[ Return ]
Dialogue with the Anglican Communion had reached a state of maturity which one may be tempted to describe as the beginnings of mutual understanding, were it not for the question of the ordination of women and indications of Anglican policy decisions to steer the Orthodox to predetermined positions in concert with the member churches of the WCC, especially on the questions of the Filioque and intercommunion.
Another important factor is the apparent reticence of the Anglicans in dialogue due to a basic Anglican indifference to what an individual believes one way or another on any given doctrinal subject and also due to what seems to be a policy of letting the Orthodox talk themselves out of positions, arguments, and breath. The Anglicans literally reject nothing the Orthodox may present except exclusivity.
Anglican comprehensiveness is by far the main reason why the Orthodox have a moral and scientific obligation to continuously review the feasibility of this dialogue. Most Orthodox seem not yet to have fully grasped the fact that Anglicans, like Protestants generally, do not accept something as correct in actuality simply because it is to be found in the Bible. The same is even more so for the Ecumenical Synods and the Fathers. They may thus agree that an Orthodox description of an historical doctrinal formulation is correct, but this does not necessarily mean either obligatory exclusion of other formulations or obligatory acceptance. It is in the light of such distinctions that the agreement on the Filioque should be viewed.
The Anglican members of the sub-commission on the Filioque agreed that the term procession in the Creed was equivalent to and parallel with the term generation and identical to the original patristic notion that like the Son, the Holy Spirit has His origin from the Father, but not by generation. `Procession,' therefore, in the Creed means manner of existence which is not that of the Son's generation. The term `procession' was preferred by the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Synod (381) over the term `not by generation' for literary and not theological reasons.
Problems arose, however, because the term `procession' was already being used in Latin to signify mission or action. Augustine is the first to identify procession as mission with the Holy Spirit's manner of existence. This identity was elevated by the Franks into a dogma. The Anglican chairman of the sub-commission on the Filioque is now Archbishop of Canterbury at whose enthronement on March 25 the Creed was both printed and recited without the Filioque. All Anglican members of this sub-commission and all but three Anglican members of the full commission agreed that the Orthodox were correct doctrinally also, as far as the Eastern tradition and its descriptive analysis are concerned. However, Anglican inclination is strong that this does not exclude the legitimacy and value of the whole Filioque tradition in the West. It is now clear, though, that Anglicans are working in concert with the WCC to get the Filioque removed from the Creed on the one hand and to reduce the whole question to the level of a so-called theologoumenon, or as they understand the term, permissible opinion.
Regarding this point the Orthodox mentioned that there is an Orthodox Filioque in the West wherein procession has two meanings as explained by Maximus the Confessor and Anastasius the Librarian and repeated by St. Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox at Florence. When procession means manner of existence, the Holy Spirit has only the Father as cause, and when it means mission then procession is a common and identical energy of the Holy Trinity. The whole question resolves itself into the axiom that what is common is common to the three Persons, and what is individual or hypostatic or personal property is incommunicable and belongs to one Person alone. This position, which was the basis of the Roman papacy's participation in the condemnation of the Filioque as heresy at the Photian Synod of 879, can hardly be considered a theologoumenon.[ 16 ]
Since the Moscow meeting left the Filioque question open from the doctrinal viewpoint, some Orthodox felt that the question should continue to occupy the sub-commission responsible for it. Nonetheless, it was omitted from the subsequent Cambridge agenda prepared at Moscow, as well as the future Cardiff agenda also prepared at Cambridge. The reason has now become clear. During the discussions the Anglicans repeatedly expressed their desire to act in concert with the other churches belonging to the medieval Filioque tradition. The Anglicans had been waiting for the WCC to complete its work on the Filioque. This is why the Filioque and the doctrine of the Trinity are being re-introduced into the discussions, and indeed in a peculiar manner.
At the Steering Committee meeting in July 1979, it was accepted as a matter of course that the agenda decided upon at Cambridge would be that of the meeting of the subcommissions at Cardiff in July 1980. However, at a staff meeting held in September 1979 it was decided to drop the agenda for the third sub-commission and replace it with "The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity in East and West." This third sub-commission had not been responsible before for the Filioque question, which was handled by the second subcommission originally appointed at Oxford to deal with issues of doctrine and history of doctrine and their application. Although this meeting called itself a `Staff Meeting,' it surpassed the Steering Committee in its exercise of executive functions. The duty of the Steering Committee was simply to execute and implement the agenda and study paper decisions of the full commissions.
The WCC studies on the Filioque seem to be the key to these moves.[ 17 ] The historical section of these W.C.C papers contains two chapters, one by an Orthodox who reviews the procession of the Holy Spirit in certain of the so-called Greek Fathers, and a second one by a Protestant who deals with the Filioque controversy. The Fathers of the Church who wrote in Latin are lumped into a so-called Western Trinitarian tradition so that part of the medieval Frankish myth is perpetuated that the Latin tradition is by nature that of the Filioque. However, the other part of this same Frankish myth, whereby it used to be claimed that even the Eastern Fathers were by nature also members of the Filioque tradition until supposedly betrayed by the Photian party, is partly discarded.
The WCC's general position is that both the medieval East and West went to extremes in elevating a speculative question, whose both sides are valuable and complementary, to the level of exaggerated dogmas. This line is clearly followed in a two-page paper prepared for the Anglican Consultative Council and "offered to the Churches of the Anglican Communion to assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate Synodical bodies..." [ 18 ]
It is evidently hoped that the Orthodox will be so pleased with the removal of the Filioque from the Creed that they will refrain from labeling it as a heresy and accept is as a theologoumenon as some Orthodox have evidently already done, at least according to the impression created by the WCC report "The Filioque Clause in Ecumenical Perspective." The cited paper claims that "Eastern Churchmen . . . opposed its introduction into the Creed and its being raised thereby in status from a theologoumenon (a permissible opinion) into a dogma. However, their opposition was based primarily on the embargo on further additions to the Creed contained in the seventh canon of the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD" [ 19 ] This is correct so far as the question of addition is concerned, but not so far as doctrine is concerned.
Both Anglicans and Protestants have nothing to lose and much to gain from demoting the Filioque from a dogma to a theologoumenon since their acceptance of Ecumenical Synods barely reaches as far as the Fourth. With one shot they take care of both the Orthodox and the Latins.
The WCC report presents St. Maximus the Confessor as a reconciler of the two supposedly variant Trinitarian traditions of East and West. This is simply not true. What St. Maximus clearly explains is that the doctrine is the same, the only difference being in the use of the term procession since in Latin it has the two meanings mentioned- In any case, nowhere does Photius, or any of the Fathers of the Synod of 879 claim that the Filioque is a heresy as a dogma, but Orthodox as a theologoumenon. St. Cyril of Alexandria did not respond to the accusations of Theodoretus of Cyrus by claiming that the Filioque is a theologoumenon. He simply pointed out that he was being misinterpreted.
The Orthodox in the Ecumenical Movement and in dialogue are evidently about to go through a period during which their resolve in claiming exclusivity for their tradition will be tested severely, especially on the question of intercommunion wherein Anglicans, Protestants, Latin Catholics and Non-Chalcedonians have effectively isolated the Orthodox. The question is included in the Anglican-Orthodox Cardiff meeting of sub-commission one as part of the topic "The Church and the Churches." Plans are to take the subject to the next full commission meeting.
For years the same things are said over and over again. One wonders what and whose purpose is being served by continuing this discussion about intercommunion. The Anglicans and the WCC will remove the Filioque from the Creed. No matter how the Orthodox and Latin Catholics view the dogmatical aspects of the Filioque, the Anglicans and the WCC seem to be determined to follow the course contained in a declaration suggested to the Anglican Churches which begins as follows: "We recognize both traditions of Trinitarian theology, Western and Eastern, as valuable in themselves and as bringing out complementary aspects of the truth . . ." [ 20 ] Given this fixation of Anglican and WCC policy, what is the purpose of continuing dialogue about the Filioque under the guise of the doctrine of the Trinity?
A protracted discussion on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, like the discussion on intercommunion, can have only one primary purpose, i.e., to bring the Orthodox down from their doctrinal pedestals and into the comprehensiveness characteristic of Anglicans and the Protestants of the WCC and in some ways of the Latin Catholics also. Strategy is indeed an exhilarating science whether applied to military tactics, diplomacy, business, economics, sports, human relations, advertising, medical therapy, warfare against the devil, or games like chess and ecumenical dialogue. Strategy is to devise a plan whose careful execution may bring about an advantage either for one's own good or that of another or even for the one intended to be duped by the stratagem.
We have pointed to some strong and some not so strong indications that special strategies have been devised for the benefit of the Orthodox Church from the viewpoint of the WCC, Anglicanism, and Latin Catholicism. One sometimes sees signs of strategy in the actions of Orthodox Churches in dialogue. In other cases, however, the impression is one not only of lack of strategy, but even of simple policy except of course for the usual repetition of traditional phrases. It is hoped that the few selected points discussed in this talk may become the occasion of establishing a tradition of continuing theological consultation on dialogue to help our Churches formulate the strategies required for the good of the WCC and those participating in the dialogue.
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[ 1 ] E.g. "The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch," Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 7 (1961) pp. 53-77;· The Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church (in Greek) (Thessaloniki, 1973), vol. I; Critical Examination of the Applications of Theology, Proces-Verbaux du Deuxieme Congres de Theologie Orthodoxe (Athens,1978), pp. 413-41.
[ 2 ] Papers, Metropolitan Methodios of Askum (Athens, 1976).
[ 3 ] See his Civilization on Trial (Oxford, 1948); The World and the West (Oxford, 1953).
[ 4 ]Work Book Nairobi 75, WCC (Geneva,1975), pp. 24-25.
[ 5 ] Report, 18 January 1973, p.15.
[ 6 ] Ibid., p.14.
[ 7 ]Ibid., pp.15-16.
[ 8 ]Ibid., p.15.
[ 9 ]See "Church and Eucharist, Communion and intercommunion," Sobornost 7 (1978).
[ 10 ]The Greek Orthodox Theological Review,10 (1964-65), pp.14-15.
[ 11 ]The Greek Orthodox Theological Review,16 ( 1971), p. 220.
[ 12 ]Peter III of Antioch clearly dates the schism in the year 1009 and protests at the suggestion that Antioch commemorates the Frankish popes. On this and related questions see my book Romanism, Romania, Roumeli (in Greek) (Athens, 1975), pp. 59-71.
[ 13 ] Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite, pp. 24-29.
[ 14 ] "C'est l'identité de foi que l'on recherce, non une identité de théologies. II y a done une claire distinction à faire entre le contenu de la foi, la formulation de la foi et la réflexion théologique sur 1a foi. Tandìs que le contenu doit demeurer le même, varient au contraire sa formulation et la facon concrète de la réalser dans la vie des Eglises . . .", Orientations Pour Le Dialogue Théologique Entre L'Iglise Catholique Et L'Iglise Orthodoxe, p. 3.
[ 15 ]Decree on Ecumenism 17.
[ 16 ] The Orthodox positions developed in discussions on the Filioque are contained in my paper "Filioque, Anglican Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions," paper no. 166, published in Kleroromia, 7 (1975), pp. 285-314. For details on the Trinitarian and historical background of the Filioque controversy see also my The Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church, (Thessaloniki, 1973), pp. 186-400. Also published in "Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine, Chapter 3," Brookline 1981.
[ 17 ] Faith and Order 1979, paper no 13 entitled "W.C.C. Commission on Faith and Order, The Filioque Clause in Ecumenical Perspective."
[ 18 ] "Anglican Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions," paper no. 195.
[ 19 ] Ibid.
[ 20 ] Ibid.
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