The Holy and Great Council: or Have the Orthodox blown it?

After about a century of off and on preparations and discussions the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church opened yesterday in Crete with an impressive concelebration of the Divine Liturgy. The Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Throne, who seems to be the English Language press officer, gave a very upbeat assessment of everything it is going to achieve. But we all know that the facts are rather different.

I wanted this to work. I really did. I think Orthodoxy has a great deal to give to wider Christianity. The idea that all theology is mystical theology – that one cannot divorce the study of God from prayer, that it belongs in the liturgy not just (or even at all) in the lecture room – is a vital idea. In the west, since scholasticism, we have obsessed too much with angels and pinheads.

But Orthodoxy seems to prefer its own internal squabbles and power struggles.

I am no authority (thank God) on Orthodox Church politics. I know that the Patriarchate of Antioch threw a strop because the Patriarchate of Jerusalem erected a bishopric in what it considered to be its territory (at the same time that the said Patriarchate of Antioch was erecting a bishopric in the United Kingdom for a group composed mostly of ex-Anglicans …). For some reason this gave Moscow the pretext it doubtless wanted to stay away too. Now the Church of Russia represents about three quarters of world Orthodox. So this is a major blow.

At least when Anglicans have public spats it is about doctrine. About something which actually matters.

Orthodox unity, even in faith, is actually a smoke and mirrors business. They are deeply disunited. OK, I know Anglicanism is too, and the RCs, and everyone else. But this was Orthodoxy’s big moment. A chance to act like grown ups, rather than squabble like children.

But it seems to me (correct me if I am wrong) that they have blown it.


2 thoughts on “The Holy and Great Council: or Have the Orthodox blown it?

  1. Actually I don’t think they have blown it at all, to the contrary. The Seven Ecumenical Councils are still the standard, and whatever disunity exists at the political level, there’s still plenty of unity on matters of Faith. On a certain level the idea of Sobornost there’s unity, just as there’s unity with theccontent of the Divine Services and amongst the various saints that exist in all the churches. This Council was to be the Vatican II of Orthodoxy and the Holy Spirit did not allow it to happen. One can’t force unity and bludgeon people into conformity a la Roman Catholics with the infallible papacy and by hiding behind bebulous terms like ” magisterium”.

    Nationalism exists in Orthodoxy no doubt, but if you look deeper the faith remains, especially in the hearts of simple believers. This faith does not depend upon committees, Vatican commissions or the fiat of an infallible Vicar. It’s amazing it exists at all.

    That being said there ain’t a church out there that doesn’t have various problems and contradictions, it’s just that both Orthodoxy and Anglicanism are more comfortable with them, whereas Roman Catholics want everything as precise as a neat scholastic syllogism or a mathematical proof.

    At any rate you’ve returned to the Anglican way and I can be happy for that. If you’re the Ian I think you are ( we communicated through Fisheaters and e-mail) I don’t know if you ever were happy in Rome anymore than I really was. May you find he peace that you seek my friend.

    –Formerly FormerBuddhist from FishEaters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank’s for your comment JD. Firstly, I must tell you that I am not your former fisheaters correspondent. I know of the site, but don’t think I have ever looked at it.

      I am guessing that you have left Rome for Constantinople. The only thing that actually matters is that we find a way to relate to God, a way we are comfortable with. How we arrange the furniture in the Church is a second order question.

      I don’t know where you live. I live in England. Thus I have not returned to Anglicanism, one choice among many, but to the Church of England. I think that quite important. Like Orthodoxy in Greece, or Roman Catholicism in France, it is the Church of the land. My post about the Holy and Great Council was based on frustration. I wish Orthodoxy could get it’s act together. But maybe the Holy Ghost is wiser that I am.


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