Voices from Russia

Friday, 30 October 2009

Is There a “Third Way?”

a fork in the road

Are there only two positions on ecumenism? Must we choose between “giving away the farm” or “speaking the truth in love”… or, is there a “third way?”


To me, the only really interesting part of all this is that I try personally to make a clear distinction between the kinds of ecumenical activity that seek some sort of forced-fit or dumbing-down of theology, and those that simply promote our knowing one another better and more deeply.  The former is something in which I have no inclination to engage; the latter, it seems to me, is a part of loving one’s neighbour, as Christ exemplified when he broke bread with Romans, tax collectors and other sordid characters… never giving an inch in terms of the significant differences they had between them.

In sum, if you were objecting to LK’s participation in the kind of ecumenical processes that “give away the farm”, then, I’m right with you.  I don’t know him well enough to make the same kind of judgement.

An honest and humble observer…


In this instance, I wish to totally protect my correspondent’s identity… I don’t wish any repercussions from the Syosset mafia to fall upon this estimable person. Such is my duty to my friends… it’s how I can best express my respect for them, isn’t it? This submission raises such good questions that I had to share it with you (and protect my interlocutor at the same time, no?).

What’s “giving away the farm?” A good example is the recent concordat signed between SVS and a heretical Episkie seminary, Nashotah House. The Anglicans compromised on none of their theology or on any practical matter… and received legitimation by their agreement with SVS. Nashotah House didn’t abjure the 39 Articles nor did they agree to condemn such things as female ordination or Calvinist theology. In short, SVS and an unrepentant Proddie body signed an agreement… with a bunch of Calvinists who’ve no intention of curbing any of their objectionable Protestant practises. In short, it was a classic illustration of an Orthodox body compromising its basic principles in its concessions to the party outside the Church, and the heterodox party emerged with its assumptions intact and whole, without making any attempt to fit them to the Church’s dogma and tradition. JP’s signature to all of that was an open and brazen slap in the face to the MP… which has broken off “dialogue” with the TEC and has condemned the “branch theory” explicitly, a heresy that the OCA implicitly accepted by its acceptance of a pact with a TEC institution. Don’t forget who wrote the MP’s condemnation… His Nibs did, when he was still a metropolitan and head of the MP DECR..

“Speaking the truth in love” appears more truthful… at first glance, only. Part of the problem with it is that unscrupulous sorts use it to continue the fruitless “ecumenical” dialogue. If there’s nothing of use in such talks, if it leads to nothing but the pointless issuing of papers on topics that the parties either never disagreed upon or will never agree upon (due to the basic dogma of the groups involved), “speaking the truth with love” is just as bootless as “giving away the farm”. Indeed, it’s WORSE… for the Orthodox party thinks that they’re “witnessing” to the heterodox. Trust me, the papists, Proddies, Pentecostalists, and the American Cultists (Mormons, JWs, et al) aren’t listening… they are NOT going to change one whit even if we were to talk until we’re quite blue in the face. Any discussion on doctrine is sterile as no party’s going to give in to the other. Ergo, this is worse than “giving away the farm”… it’s far more mischievous and we should stop it immediately.

But… isn’t there anything that we can do with those outside the Visible Church of Christ? Of course, there is! There’s a great deal that we can do together once we drive a stake through the heart of the ecumenical monster. People of good will can unite to support common goals in the community. We can work to help unwed mothers… we can help to feed the hungry… we can lobby politicians at all levels of government. That’s only a partial list. However… we can’t hold common prayer together or pretend that we’re one in Christ… we aren’t. To love one’s neighbour as a fellow human-being and to love what our Lord Christ taught us are two ENTIRELY different things. The first requires that we treat all of our neighbours with fairness and equity, at the least. The second requires us to understand that some are outside of the Body of Christ… and that this fact makes for a difference.

Yes, I agree that many disagreements and disputes between people arise out of ignorance, and that anything that “lights a candle in the darkness” is very good, indeed. No one’s more polite and civil to those outside the Church in personal situations than I am. They are what they are (and they’re emphatically NOT Orthodox). I’ve no right whatsoever to proselytise them (even if they try to proselytise me)… that’s the most inherently disrespectful thing that I can think of. I’d keep the discussion focused on things of common interest and approval, and would politely (but firmly) steer the conversation away from any doctrinal matters… that never leads to any good, I’ve found. It’s sad that there are neophytes in the Church who think that they should “witness” to others in the same way that they did in their former confessions. If any of you have met such, I apologise to you most sincerely and profoundly, and can assure you that grounded Orthodox do NOT act in such an inconsiderate and impertinent way.

So, is there a “third way?” Yes… happily, there is. In fact, the Church has followed it for many centuries… it’s NOT new. Let’s remember what a wise Ecumenical Patriarch once said…

Send us no more letters on doctrine. Send us letters of friendship, only.

Now, THAT’S what I agree with. I believe that I’m not alone…

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Friday 30 October 2009

Albany NY


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