Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- )
In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias met with Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches (WCC). His Holiness explained to Dr Tveit why Orthodox are alienated from the ecumenical organisation. Vladyki Kirill said that the WCC is in the midst of a protracted crisis, according to the MP official website. He believes that it is caused by the contradiction between a declared desire for Christian unity and the exacerbation of differences among Christians on some questions, particularly in the area of morality. The patriarch said that attempts to alter the rules of Christian morality within some Protestant communities contribute to the alienation of the Orthodox from the WCC. Orthodox must attend to such currents; otherwise, it would be a departure from the truth and become the grounds for contention amongst the Local Orthodox Churches. Speaking about the prospects of a policy change in the WCC, Vladyki Kirill said, “All Christians understand that it is important to ensure the preservation of Christian civilisation and to facilitate the construction of good relations with other civilisational communities. The WCC can help achieve these goals through the protection of Christian values and promoting a Christian dialogue with other religions and secular ideologies”. His Holiness thinks it that it is necessary to protect Christianity from certain secular trends, ones that propagate an anti-Christian spirit in the world.
In his turn, Rev Tveit recognised that the ecumenical movement is in crisis. He expressed his hope for continued dialogue in the WCC on the questions raised [by His Holiness]. According to Rev Tveit, the member-churches of WCC can be overcome their differences on a broad range of problems with a process of fair and open debate. The membership of the WCC is made up of various Orthodox and Protestant bodies. Ecumenical dialogue, that is, communication and collaboration between the Orthodox Churches with Catholics and Protestants, causes concern and dissatisfaction amongst some Orthodox. Some of them are afraid that such cooperation will lead to a mechanical unification of churches. The consequence would be a falling away from the Truth of the Orthodox Church, and the True Church would only then be only a small handful of people. In any case, there are no longer ecumenists who defile the Church with involvement in joint prayer together with Catholics and Protestants. Nevertheless, some Orthodox do not understand why we need to cooperate with Catholics and Protestants. They point up that the ancient Church Fathers denounced heretics, rather than trying to find common ground with them on issues of morality.
29 June 2010
It appears that there is a crisis in the WCC, but not what one thinks. Actually, the Proddies are concerned that the Orthodox (mainly, the MP) will decamp the organisation. The MP joined the WCC in 1961 at the urging of Nikodim Rotov… it was used successfully as a tool to ensure the preservation of the Church during the Khrushchyov persecutions. Today, the MP does not need the WCC for survival; it only needs it as a convenient forum for conversation with heterodox bodies.
There are two equal and opposite errors to fall into. The first is more obvious, Vassa Larina’s vehement defence of the Jesuit Uniate poseur Taft illustrates it abundantly (or John Behr’s kowtowing before Rowan Williams is another good case). All grounded Orthodox know that we do not treat heterodox the same as we do those within the Church. Not worse… not nastily… but differently. Someone such as Mr Taft is outside the Church and so is bereft of its Light, and we must act accordingly. Ms Larina’s latest effort is an apologia, which shows that healthy elements have called her indifferentism into question, and that she has been forced to moderate her syncretistic statements. That is good… it certainly speaks well of Ms Larina. In some cases, the heterodox provide material assistance to Orthodox, which can lead to indifferentism. Several sources have assured me that Mr Taft arranged funding for Ms Larina… if so, it would explain her deviations. It shows that we have to formulate a more coherent policy towards such, for the spiritual stakes are very high, indeed.
The second is less obvious, but just as insidious. We cannot have any contact with the heterodox, according to these sorts. A good illustration would be Diomid Dzyuban; the HOCNA lot at Brookline is another such lot. These people are fearful… Orthodox must not contaminate themselves with any contact with the heterodox, and they condemn all Orthodox who merely have friendly relations with them.
I say there is a “third way”… one that avoids the pitfalls of both these paths. We should avoid Larinesque indifference… the heterodox are outside of the visible Church, and that is all that one can say of the matter. We should also avoid HOCNA-style condemnation of the heterodox, for they are simply what they are (that being said, I have more sympathy for the HOCNA lot than I do for Larinesque pseudo-scholars). It’s not rocket science… we should send our observers out into the heterodox world… not to participate in their debates, for they are not ours, but to look at them, to hear them, and to get our information “from the horse’s mouth”, as it were. We should not pose in their group photographs or be part of their “dialogues”… but we should not shun them as lepers either. We should be polite to all comers, even atheists, and offer sincere and genuine hospitality. That does NOT mean that we must agree with our interlocutors… after all, wasn’t the local Catholic bishop and his clergy invited to Jordanville for the consecration of the church in 1951?
“Send us no more letters on doctrine; send us letters of friendship only”. That’s as true today as it was in the sixteenth century!
An older friend of mine reminded me that the Catholic bishop was seated in front of the iconostas in a place of honour (he did not participate in the service, obviously) and that Vladyki Vitaly Maksimenko gave the Catholic bishop a seat amongst the VIPs during the dinner afterwards. That’s as it should be, and I dare you call to me an “ecumaniac”. None of the parties involved compromised anything. It’s what “send us letters of friendship only” means in real terms… fences DO make for “good neighbours”.