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Sincere questions about ecumenism from a convert


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#21 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 10:26 PM

  • The EP is not the Pope. He has little ability to impose his view on the other Orthodox Churches.
  • We are a conciliar Church. We all have to agree BEFORE it is considered an "official" position.
  • The EP is in a very difficult position. Before we rush to judgement, we ought to be ready to walk in his shoes.
  • If #3 causes you concern, see #1.
The EP does not commune Catholics, nor Jews, nor Moslems regardless of how we choose to interpret what he says. He is NOT saying we are all the same. If he starts handing out the Eucharist to everyone on the street, then I might have a different opinion. Until then, I worry about what MY bishop has to say on the subject.

#22 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 10:44 PM

What else would you expect him to say before Prince Phillip, who, by all accounts, has reverted to the Orthodox faith in which he was originally baptised but who is also married to the Supreme Governor of the Church of England? The EP depends on the goodwill of the USA and the UK.

#23 Beckett

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 11:12 PM

  • The EP is not the Pope. He has little ability to impose his view on the other Orthodox Churches.
  • We are a conciliar Church. We all have to agree BEFORE it is considered an "official" position.
  • The EP is in a very difficult position. Before we rush to judgement, we ought to be ready to walk in his shoes.
  • If #3 causes you concern, see #1.
The EP does not commune Catholics, nor Jews, nor Moslems regardless of how we choose to interpret what he says. He is NOT saying we are all the same. If he starts handing out the Eucharist to everyone on the street, then I might have a different opinion. Until then, I worry about what MY bishop has to say on the subject.


What else would you expect him to say before Prince Phillip, who, by all accounts, has reverted to the Orthodox faith in which he was originally baptised but who is also married to the Supreme Governor of the Church of England? The EP depends on the goodwill of the USA and the UK.


Two excellent responses! Thank you!

Herman, your point about the Eucharist is very, very good! That has always been the center of the unity of the Church. It's all over in Ignatius (who I'm reading now).

I'm probably being overly critical of the EP words. I had no idea that Prince Phillip was/is Orthodox.

Again, I'm not attempting to malign anyone. I'm just asking questions about some of the things I'm having hard time understanding.

If you know anything about my tradition (reformed protestant) than you know how difficult this transition is.

Thanks again.

#24 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 11:22 PM

Prince Phillip was born a Greek prince on the island of Corfu. His grandmother was an Orthodox nun, and he is a direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas I.

#25 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 07:08 AM

I wonder how many of you have actually red the addresses of the Ecumenical Patriarch. In every one I've read so far, he seems to indicate that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God, and that particularly Jews are part of the same "family".

He also speaking of the Anglican Church as a Christian Church saying: It is our hope and prayer that this proposal by the Ecumeni*cal Patriarchate, which has already been accepted by the Primates of all the other Orthodox Churches during their recent assembly, which took place here on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, might be adopted, if possible, by all Christians in general (Speaking to Anglicans about Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants). This would contribute greatly to the establishment, by all believers in Christ, of a common and unique position..."

As I read this he's admitting that the Christian faith is not limited to the Orthodox Church. This was taken from an address before Prince Phillip.


As others have said, more eloquently than I can, to become Orthodox one needs to become fluent in the language of Orthodoxy, in other words, to develop an Orthodox mind or fronima. And the kind of language you used is not Orthodox, as far as I can discern. As we pray in Lent, "Grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother" and among my brothers is the Ecumenical Patriarch.

In what you have said above, and elsewhere, you have not shown any wrongdoing. In the bit quoted above, you mention "this proposal", but you do not say what "this proposal" is. Is it a proposal to say that all those who accept the proposal will be accounted part of the Orthodox Church? Or is it a proposal about something else? "Ecumenism", in the bad sense, does not consist in saying that the Christian fath is not limited to the Orthodox Church. Nor does it consist in saying that Jews worship the same God, but in a different way. Ecumenism, in the bad sense, is saying that bodies outside the Orthodox Church are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Jews (and Muslims) do worship the same God, though in a different way. They cannot worship different Gods, because there is only one God. To paraphrase a rather old joke, they worship God in their way, while we worship Him in His way. That is what "Orthodox" means - right worship. Orthodox also means right opinion, and as Orthodox Christians we believe that the understanding of God, the theology, of Jews and Muslims is defective. But God is not changed by that. God does not become a different God because we fail to understand him. There is a sense in which we cannot understand God at all; He stands over us.

So Anglicans, Catholics and Protestants may well be "believers in Christ", and it is not "ecumenism" in the bad sense to say that they are, even if we regard their theology as defective or just plain wring. What we do affirm is that they are not members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But part of being in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is being in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other Orthodox patriarchs.

There are some members of schismatic bodies who call themselves Orthodox, but are not in communion with the Orthodox Church because they accuse the this or that hierarch of the Orthodox Church of "ecumenism". They sometimes get offended because we do not regard them as Orthodox, but we cannot regard them as Orthodox without ourselves becoming guilty of "ecumenism".

#26 Beckett

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 09:36 AM

As others have said, more eloquently than I can, to become Orthodox one needs to become fluent in the language of Orthodoxy, in other words, to develop an Orthodox mind or fronima. And the kind of language you used is not Orthodox, as far as I can discern. As we pray in Lent, "Grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother" and among my brothers is the Ecumenical Patriarch.

In what you have said above, and elsewhere, you have not shown any wrongdoing. In the bit quoted above, you mention "this proposal", but you do not say what "this proposal" is. Is it a proposal to say that all those who accept the proposal will be accounted part of the Orthodox Church? Or is it a proposal about something else? "Ecumenism", in the bad sense, does not consist in saying that the Christian fath is not limited to the Orthodox Church. Nor does it consist in saying that Jews worship the same God, but in a different way. Ecumenism, in the bad sense, is saying that bodies outside the Orthodox Church are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Jews (and Muslims) do worship the same God, though in a different way. They cannot worship different Gods, because there is only one God. To paraphrase a rather old joke, they worship God in their way, while we worship Him in His way. That is what "Orthodox" means - right worship. Orthodox also means right opinion, and as Orthodox Christians we believe that the understanding of God, the theology, of Jews and Muslims is defective. But God is not changed by that. God does not become a different God because we fail to understand him. There is a sense in which we cannot understand God at all; He stands over us.

So Anglicans, Catholics and Protestants may well be "believers in Christ", and it is not "ecumenism" in the bad sense to say that they are, even if we regard their theology as defective or just plain wring. What we do affirm is that they are not members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But part of being in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is being in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other Orthodox patriarchs.

There are some members of schismatic bodies who call themselves Orthodox, but are not in communion with the Orthodox Church because they accuse the this or that hierarch of the Orthodox Church of "ecumenism". They sometimes get offended because we do not regard them as Orthodox, but we cannot regard them as Orthodox without ourselves becoming guilty of "ecumenism".


Fantastic response. I greatly appreciate it. Here are my thoughts.

1) I've tried to make this as clear as possible, but let me say it again. I'm not suggesting, and certainly not claiming, the "wrongdoing", or "sin", of anyone. Like I said before, I'm not in any position to do that. What I'm doing is setting forth troubling statements, organizations (WCC), and events (inter-faith fellowships) that are causing me some heart-ache with regard to Orthodoxy. I love the Church. Again, I'm willing to accept that I'm simply mis-interpreting these statements, organizations, and events and the Orthodox involvement in them. However, in order to ask honest questions I have to do so by explaining how I'm understanding said issues.

2) When you say that Jews and Muslims worship the same God would also include tribal witch doctors, and Satanists? Would you include Hindus, and Voodoo practitioners? Those groups worship spirits who have very specific names. They call down those spirits to possess them. Are they worshiping the Triune God - the only true God - through these different names and ceremonies? Is that what you mean? Or are you only speaking of Jews and Muslims? Certainly Paul said that the Jews "have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." With that I can agree. They are attempting to worship YWHY, but are incapable because they do not worship through Jesus Christ.

Something else to think about with regard to this issues is that fact that the Bible itself states that there are, in fact, many gods, but only One True God. Holy Scriptures teach that other gods are demonic spirits.

1 Cor 10:19-22 "What say I then? that a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have communion with demons. 21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?"

I'm sure I don't need to quote all of the Scriptures that teach that other gods do "exist" and that they are really demons. They are not God, nor is worship of them pleasing to God. There are well over 200 Old Testament references to other gods. We know that he gods are not True, for only one is True. However, we also know that behind these gods are demons (as Paul says). What shall we do with this?

3) Your final two paragraphs were splendid! As I said before I have no problem with proper ecumenism among those who hold to a traditional Christian faith (doctrine of the Trinity, Incarnation, etc.). I would agree with your statement whole heartedly. When you put it that way it appears then that Orthodoxy is not 'contradicting' itself as I said earlier. (Again, I wasn't saying that Orthodoxy was contradiction itself, but only that it appeared that way.)

Your point about the non-cannonical Orthodox was great.

Thanks again!

#27 Beckett

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 06:26 AM

Dear Mr. Beckett,

Fr Raphael has given you wise and sound counsel. I hope you will ruminate on what he has written and heed his advice.

I would like you to think of becoming Orthodox as learning a foreign language. How does one learn a language? One way to do so is to take classes, as many of us did in in junior high and high school. I took Spanish for five years. I never really learned the language. I can still recite from memory the first ALM dialogue that I was taught in the 7th grade ("Hola, Isabel, como estas?"), but that's about it. Some of my fellow students were more successful at learning Spanish than I, but few gained fluency just by taking the classes. Those who did typically did so by spending time in a foreign country and immersing themselves in the culture. I remember my next door neighbor who began studying French in junior high. In high school she was given an opportunity to spend the summer in France. When she came back, she could speak French fluently. She found it all very difficult, she said, until one night she dreamed in French. The next morning the language flowed from her, to her great delight and the delight of her French hosts.

A language needs to be internalized in order for fluency to be attained. And the growth in fluency, of course, never stops. There is always more vocabulary and grammatical and syntactical nuances to learn. Learning a foreign language is a life-time endeavor.

You are just at the beginning of learning the Orthodox language. I do not know how well acquainted you are with Orthodoxy (what books and writings you have read, how many liturgies and offices you have attended and prayed, etc.); but the fact is, you are still very much at the periphery of Orthodox life. You are not yet immersed in Orthodox culture and therefore have not yet acquired an Orthodox mind (neither have I, by the way). You are not yet fluent.

Hence, when you speak of being scandalized by Orthodox with ecumenical commitments, I would like to respectfully suggest that you are not in a position to accurately judge. I come back again to the analogy of learning a language. It's one thing to read a book containing the rules of grammar; it's quite a different matter to have internalized this rules in such a way that one immediately knows when someone else is speaking ungrammatically. Knowing the rules from a book is not the same as knowing them from the inside, as it were, i.e., as one who speaks the language fluently and therefore is in a position to recognize when the language is spoken improperly.

The intra-Orthodox debate about ecumenism is similar to a debate about grammar. Some Orthodox believe that it violates the grammatical structure of the Orthodox language; others believe that it flows naturally from that structure. But until you have internalized this structure, you really are not in a position to even have an opinion and you're certainly not in a position to be scandalized. Merely citing canons, for example, is unhelpful; because canons need to be interpreted and applied, and the Orthodox have their own way of doing so. The canons of the Church need to be read with an Orthodox mind in an Orthodox spirit.

Mr. Beckett, you mention that you were a former Calvinist influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer. I read some of his books a lifetime ago. Becoming Orthodox for you will involve many years of unlearning, not just unlearning the particulars of Schaeffer's theology but unlearning the way the way you were taught to do and think theology. Perhaps most importantly, it will mean unlearning the implicit sectarianism that is at the heart of Schaefferite Christianity. Orthodoxy is not a sect. She is the Church. It's probably impossible for me to articulate the difference, but so much hinges on this difference. The difference can only be learned by becoming fluent in Orthodoxy. Some converts, alas, never learn the difference, as more than one Orthodox priest has told me.

I read through the letter you cite from the Ecumenical Patriarch. I think you may have misinterpreted it. I do not believe that the Patriarch is guilty of the sins of which you accuse him; but even if he were, he is only one hierarch. It's hardly the case that we Orthodox have no experience with heretical bishops and patriarchs. Why should one more be decisive for you?

Have you given the Orthodox case for ecumenism a fair hearing? Here are a couple of good places to begin:

Fr Georges Florovsky, "The Limits of the Church"

Met John Zizioulas, "The Self-Understanding of the Orthodox"

Met Kallistos Ware, "Receptive Ecumenism"

Before condemning the Orthodox involvement in the ecumenical movement, it is important for you to understand why those who have been and are involved in this movement over the past century believe that their involvement flows naturally and grammatically from Orthodox ecclesiological understanding. Some Orthodox, including many on this forum, may strongly disagree with the positions advanced by Florovsky, Zizioulas, and Ware. After long reflection may too come to share in that dissent. But what is crucial to understand is that this is a intra-Orthodox debate. It is not a debate between Orthodox and heretics.

And so I return to Fr Raphael's wise counsel: "The best way to deal with such issues is for each of us to adopt a truly Orthodox way of life ourselves. Otherwise without noticing it we attack the wrong issues- which should be the disposition of our own hearts in relation to Christ and His Church."

In Christ,
Fr Aidan


Sometimes someone says they believe A. But what logically follows from A is b, c, and d. However, they claim to reject b, c, and d. The claim to only believe A.

Sometimes it is difficult, for those listening to him defend A, to believe that he does not also hold - by necessity - b, c, and d.

Sometimes it just seems has though it defies all logic to claim to believe A, but also reject the necessary consequence (b, c, and d).

For example, when one says that the Orthodox Church is THE church. It would seem necessary, then, to apply ONLY to the Orthodox Church those things which one believes define the Church. I have had, due to my theological tradition, certain beliefs about The Church. They are, in some ways, more ecumenical than the Orthodox ecumenists. In other ways the are less ecumenical.

For example, I had, for a long time, held that there is not salvation, whatsoever, outside of the Church precisely because the Church is defined as those who are saved. This body is invisible. That's what many modern evangelicals believe. Most of them hold that the Church is just an organization that contains some saved people, and some unsaved people. Some are receiving grace, and others are receiving absolutely no grace.

In their view you can be ecumenical physically, in that you really don't know who is saved (who has the grace of God) so you can join with virtually anybody calling themselves a "christian". Yes, they are inconsistent with this. You're sort of forced to be inconstant when you're a modern protestant. I stopped believing this 10 yeas ago.

So, if there is no salvation outside of the Church (which is just the invisible body of the saved) then to say that the Orthodox Church is the Church necessitates (in the modern evangelical mind) the conclusion that everyone outside of it is damned, without question, for all eternity.

What I've provided here is just an example of how presuppositions in ones world-view (in this case, the view of the Church) make understanding the 'language' of others very difficult.

I'm having a hard time with Ware's "receptive ecumenism" because he grants to the non-Orthodox things that I would only grant to the Church. He statements seem to necessitate that he concede that the Roman Catholics, Protestants, and others are true Christians and their bodies are part of the Church. However, he would (I assume) not say that.

Regardless of what he does, or does not admit, he is describing a rose, but then calls it something else. He might not refer to the Protestants as 'full Christians', "the Church", etc., but he seems to grant them every benefit of being full Christians, and true Churches. At least it seems that way to me.

So, that is the difficulty I have with Ware's paper.

Fr Georges Florovsky's, "The Limits of the Church", was fantastic. It also seems to indicate that the Protestants and Catholics have something of the Church.

Whatever it is, the Church is not a static body, as the Protestants tend to see it, but it is a body in time and being 'worked out'. It is not possible to be in the Church and not receiving Grace. It IS possible to reject that grace and spurn it, and thus condemn yourself, but it is not possible escape grace completely while in the Church. But what constitutes the Church. That's the question.

Anyway, thanks for all your replies, I'm finding them very helpful.

#28 Stephen Hayes

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 09:05 AM

Fantastic response. I greatly appreciate it. Here are my thoughts.

1) I've tried to make this as clear as possible, but let me say it again. I'm not suggesting, and certainly not claiming, the "wrongdoing", or "sin", of anyone. Like I said before, I'm not in any position to do that. What I'm doing is setting forth troubling statements, organizations (WCC), and events (inter-faith fellowships) that are causing me some heart-ache with regard to Orthodoxy. I love the Church. Again, I'm willing to accept that I'm simply mis-interpreting these statements, organizations, and events and the Orthodox involvement in them. However, in order to ask honest questions I have to do so by explaining how I'm understanding said issues.

2) When you say that Jews and Muslims worship the same God would also include tribal witch doctors, and Satanists? Would you include Hindus, and Voodoo practitioners? Those groups worship spirits who have very specific names. They call down those spirits to possess them. Are they worshiping the Triune God - the only true God - through these different names and ceremonies? Is that what you mean? Or are you only speaking of Jews and Muslims? Certainly Paul said that the Jews "have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." With that I can agree. They are attempting to worship YWHY, but are incapable because they do not worship through Jesus Christ.


To begin with your first point, about statements, organisations etc., I refer you to a blog post I wrote a few years ago about Orthodox approaches to ecumenism, mainly to try to explain them to Protestants. I don't really have much to add to it, and you can find it here:

http://methodius.blo...-revisited.html

The second point, on gods, is really drifting away from ecumenism. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are sometimes called "Abrahamic" in the sense that they claim to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even though their understanding of the nature of God differs. For Christians the God of Abraham is the Holy Trinity, which Jews and Muslims deny.

The Bible tells us that in Abraham's time there were many gods, worshipped by different people, and the Bible describes these gods in many ways - as demons (as in the text you cited) as angels (see Deut 32:8) and several other things. But however they are described, there is one thing common to them all: they are creatures. God, the Holy Trinity, is the uncreated creator of all; and all the gods of the nations are created. There are ikons showing the tower of Babel, with the gods of the nations (the angels of the peoples) scattering.

Tribal witchdoctors are basically specialists in countering witchcraft, and are found in widely different cultures in various parts of the world. Satanists basically worship a creature whom Christians regard as a fallen angel who rebelled against God. The word "satan" means "accuser", and "Satan" is a job-description rather than a name. The satan was the prosecutor in the heavenly court (see Zechariah 3), who thought that the judge (God) was too soft on criminals and thought he could do a better job of being judge than God himself. He was a martinet for God's justice, but had no understanding whatever of God's mercy. He was a bit like some earthly prosecutors who hoped for promotion by upping their conviction rate, reasoning that it is better that the innocent should suffer than that the guilty should escape. He overreached himself and was fired (see Rev 12:10). Why Satanists should want to worship such a creature I can't imagine. I've written more about it here:

http://khanya.wordpr...lease-stand-up/

Hindus vary enormously, from polytheism to pantheist monism. But all this, though interesting, goes far beyond ecumenism, and really belongs in a different topic.

#29 Beckett

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 11:26 AM

Stephen,

Thanks for your response. I brought up those various subjects of worship, and religions, not because I am ignorant of them, but because I was wondering at what point the ecumenists draw the line. Certainly Christians, whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant worship the Triune God. The EP had made statements to the effect that Jews, and Muslims "worshipping the same God by a different manner?" I was asking if an ecumenist would also say that Satanists worship the same God by a different manner? Where is the line drawn? Because the WCC doesn't seem to draw a very clear line. At this years inter-faith fellowship conference the Pope was prayed over by a Voodoo practitioner in public while the the EP looked on. Again, I'm just stating a fact, I'm not saying that anyone did anything wrong. Well, I would probably consider being prayed over by a Voodoo practitioner to be wrong, but I'm not saying the EP did anything wrong. I'm curious about how the Orthodox treat other Churches, and other religions. Specifically with regard to the World Council of Churches which goes out of its way to let demon worshippers perform their services of worship at Roman Catholic alters.

So, the points I raised regarding where the line is drawn between Christian groups, and non-Christina groups with regard to ecumenism has everything to do with ecumenism.

(I was also drawing form some of the EP's statements made at a recent Islamic prayer service he attended, as well as some statements he made before a group of Jews.)

----

So far, my reading has led me to conclude that over the last 60-70 years (or so) the positions of the Patriarchs and some Bishops with regard to the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches has changed with respect to what appears to have been the mainstream Orthodox view for at least several centuries.

I may be wrong. I'm only judging by my limited research. That's why I'm asking questions.

However, even if I were correct, It wouldn't bother me that the Orthodox Church were "ecumenical" with regard to other Christian groups who hold to the first 6 ecumenical counsels - as most Protestants do (at least on paper). I'm currently not convinced that the Orthodox Church is the ONLY Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And, in a sense, the Orthodox Church doesn't seem to either. They would certainly say so, but they also seem very willing to assign "Church-ness" (that which defines the Church) to Roman Catholic and Protestants. They do so often.

I've been reading Polycarp and Ignatius and I've noticed that the both have no patience at all for heretics (referring to them as the 'first born of Satan'), while they have plenty of patience for sinners who had run, or been excommunicated. Sinners who are separated due to their sin are to be treated respectfully, and are to be guided back into the Church like stray sheep (esp. in Polycarp). When it came to heretics Ignatius encouraged the Churches to avoid even accidentally meeting them - avoid them like the plague.

Now, I'm not saying that's how we should treat "heretics" today. But I do find it interesting.

There's another point worth raising: the Church has certainly treated different heretical groups differently. That makes sense to me. The heresies of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are in a different category than say Gnosticism. As a result I think much dialogue will be very helpful. Post-modern America is yearning for a faith like Orthodoxy. I believe that Orthodoxy will draw many out of protestantism. I hope the Church doesn't give up reaching out to evangelical Protestants out of fear of offending their hierarchy. I've known and heard of at least 20, or more, families who have converted to Orthodoxy from the last 2 Churches I've been in the last 10 years.

My point is that I'm not arguing against ecumenism with Christian groups. I am concerned about this inter-religious stuff.

What are you thoughts? Any more suggestions for reading!?

Thanks again.

#30 Niko T.

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 12:34 PM

Having re-read this letter from Elder Paisios the Athonite (+1994) (who many perceive as a great saint of our times), I find that it is one of the best responses to what we have been discussing, so I include it below (I bolded the sections below):

The following letter was a private letter sent to Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos, who was the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Petraki, Athens, and founder of the Pan-Hellenic Orthodox Union and its organ Orthodoxos Typos. In this letter Elder Paisios shows that his primary aim is to bring unity among Orthodox Christians by addressing the wrongs of the Ecumenists, the Fanatics, the Schismatics and pretty much everyone else in between, while also appealing to their sensibilities so as to avoid the bombardment of the extremes. It is this primary subject that we should find of benefit from this letter. We should not read this letter outside of its context, since the late 1960's on Mount Athos and even around the world was a confusing time for serious Orthodox Christians who did not know how to faithfully respond to the extreme ecumenistic actions of Patriarch Athenagoras. With the faithful on Mount Athos and in Greece divided on this issue, the following letter was written and distributed for these same faithful to unite in a bond of true spiritual love and communion.

The Holy Mountain, January 23, 1969

Reverend Father Haralambos,

In as much as I see the great uproar which is happening in our Church because of the various movements in favor of unification, as well as the interaction of the Ecumenical Patriarch with the Pope, I was pained as Her child, and considered it good, besides my prayers, to send a small thread (which I have as a poor monk), that it too may be used as a means of stitching together the multipart garment of our Mother. I know you will show love and share it only with your religious friends. Thank you.

First of all, I would like to ask forgiveness from everyone for being bold to write something when I am neither holy nor a theologian. I trust everyone will understand me, that my writing is nothing more than an expression of my deep pain for the unfortunate stance and worldly love of our father, Patriarch Athenagoras.

It appears he loved another modern woman — which is called the Papist Church — because our Orthodox Mother has not made an impression on him at all, for She is so modest. This love, which was heard from Constantinople, caused a sensational impression of sorts among many Orthodox, who nowadays live in an environment of such meaningless love, in cities across the entire world. Moreover, this love is of the spirit of our age: the family will lose its divine meaning from just such kinds of love, which have as their aim breakup and not union.

With just such a worldly love the Patriarch takes us to Rome. While he should have shown love first to us his children and to our Mother Church, he unfortunately sent his love very far away. The result, it’s true, delighted the secular children who love the world — who have this worldly love —, but completely scandalized us, the children of Orthodoxy, young and old, who have fear of God.

With sadness I must write that among all the unionists I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.

I would like tenderly to beseech all our unionist brothers: Since the issue of the union of the Churches is something spiritual, and we have need of spiritual love, let’s leave it to those who greatly love God and are theologians, like the Fathers of the Church — not the legalists — who have offered up and continue to give themselves in service to the Church (instead of just buying big candles), and who were and are lit by the fire of love for God rather than by the lighter of the church sacristan.

We should recognize that there exist not only natural but also spiritual laws. Therefore, the future wrath of God is not averted by a convocation of sinners (for then we shall receive double the wrath), but by repentance and adherence to the commandments of the Lord.

Also, we should know well that our Orthodox Church does not have even one shortcoming. The only apparent insufficiency is the shortage of sober Hierarchs and Shepherds with a Patristic foundation. “Few are chosen.” This should not, however, be upsetting. The Church is Christ’s Church, and He governs Her. It is not a Temple built by the pious from rocks, sand and mortar, which is then destroyed by the fire of barbarians; the Church is Christ Himself. “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44-45)

When He needs to, the Lord will bring forth the Mark of Ephesuses and Gregory Palamases, so as to bring together all our scandalized brethren, to confess the Orthodox Faith, to strengthen the Tradition, and to give great joy to our Mother, the Church.

In times past we see that many faithful children of our Church, monastics and laymen, have unfortunately broken away from Her on account of the unionists. In my opinion, separation from the Church each time the Patriarch makes a mistake is not good at all. From within, close to the Mother Church, it is the duty and obligation of each member to struggle in their own way. To cease commemoration of the Patriarch; to break away and create their own Church; and to continue to speak insultingly to the Patriarch: this I think, is senseless.

If, for this or that occasional deviation of the Patriarchs, we separate ourselves and make our own Churches — may God protect us! — we’ll pass up even the Protestants. It is easy for one to separate, but difficult to return. Unfortunately we have many “churches” in our times, created either by big groups or even just one person. Because there happened to be a church in their kalyve (I am speaking about things happening on the Holy Mountain), they figured they could create their own independent Church.

If the unionists gave the Church the first wound, the aforementioned give the second.

Let’s pray that God will illumine all of us, including our Patriarch Athenagoras, that union of these “churches” will come about first; that tranquility would be realized within the scandalized Orthodox fold; so that peace and love would exist among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Then let’s think about union with other “Confessions” — and only if they sincerely desire to embrace Orthodox Dogma.

I would further like to say that there does exist another, third group, within our Church. They are the brethren who remain as Her faithful children, but who don’t have spiritual concord between themselves. They spend their time criticizing one another, and not for the general good of the struggle. The one monitors the other (more than himself) to see what he will say or write so as to ruthlessly nail him. However, if this person had said or written the same thing, he’d certainly have supported it with numerous passages from the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers.

Great harm comes of this; for while the one injures his neighbor, the other strikes him back before the eyes of all the faithful. Often times, disbelief is sown in the souls of the weak, because they are scandalized by such people. Unfortunately, some from among us make senseless claims against the others. We want them to conform to our own spiritual character. In other words, when someone else doesn’t harmonize with our own character, or is only mildly tolerant — or even a little sharp — with us, immediately we jump to the conclusion that he is not a spiritual person.

We’re all needed within the Church. All the Fathers, both the mild and the austere, offered their services to Her. Just as the sweet, sour, bitter and even pungent herbs are necessary for a man’s body (each has its own flavor and vitamins), the same is true of the Body of the Church. All are necessary. The one fills up the spiritual character of the other, and all of us are duty bound to endure not only the particular spiritual character, but even the human weaknesses we each have.

Again, I come sincerely asking pardon from all for being so bold to write. I am only a simple monk, and my work is to strive, as much as I am able, to divest myself of the old man, and to help others and the Church, through God, by prayer. But because heartbreaking news regarding our Holy Orthodoxy has reached even my hermitage, I was greatly pained, and thus considered it good to write that which I felt. Let’s all pray that God grants His Grace, and may each of us help in his own way for the glory of our Church.

With much respect to all,

Monk Paisios


Edited by Olga, 25 January 2012 - 03:13 PM.
changed font size, added quote box for ease of reading


#31 Beckett

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 07:04 PM

Niko,

Great letter. Thank you. I suppose I would be in good company by agreeing with it. It does sum up how I feel in many ways.
I mentioned before that I'm not convinced the Orthodox Church is THE ONLY one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. However, it is of this fact that I long to be convinced. That's what I want to believe.

Incidentally, it is because of my study of the Eucharistic meal in the Bible and the early Church that I am almost entirely convinced that the Orthodox Church is that True Church. The Orthodox Church is the only Church that has uniformly included all baptized members - including infants and children! - at the alter of our Lord.

I've found that even most Orthodox don't understand how absolutely wicked it is that the western Church in the 800's stopped feeding their children the bread and wine. It is the de facto excommunication (the very opposite of communion) that truly, in my mind, led to the Great Schism. The western Church came under the judgment of God that Paul warned about in 1 Cor 11. In a sense the whole Church came under the judgment when its spiritual division at the Lord's meal manifest itself in outward disunity. It was for UNITY, and that ALL baptized members should eat the meal, that caused Paul to correct the Corinthian's failure. Their "eating unworthily" was the very fact that "some" were eating, and "others went hungry"! Thus Paul concluded by saying "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another." (Literally, "Wait longingly for one another.") There sin was in leaving some hungering for the food. A straight for ward reading of 1 Cor 10-12 will prove that Paul's concern was unity. And that this unity was IN the Lord's table - the Body and Blood of Christ, and thus the Church. When the Corinthian Church left some out of the communion meal they were truly "not taking communion." All of the heresies and schisms in Corinth could be traced back to the meal!

"For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken."


I greatly appreciate your feedback, and look forward to more articles to read.

Much appreciated!

#32 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 07:31 PM

'With sadness I must write that among all the unionists I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.'

Yikes... that's all I can say...

Btw, is anyone here familiar with Dr. Charles Ashanin, a professor and clairvoyant Orthodox Christian who passed away in 2000. He was known for his ecumenism while living in America and apparently wrote a book 'The Vision of Christian Unity', I have not had a chance to read it yet...

#33 Father David Moser

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 07:59 PM

Btw, is anyone here familiar with Dr. Charles Ashanin, a professor and clairvoyant Orthodox Christian who passed away in 2000. He was known for his ecumenism while living in America and apparently wrote a book 'The Vision of Christian Unity', I have not had a chance to read it yet...


Yes, I knew Dr Ashanin personally and fairly well in my younger days. (say 30-35 years ago) He was part of the "Orthodox Charismatic" group along with Fr Eusebius Stephanou. This group was basically Pentecostal/Charismatic in Orthodox clothing. While Dr Ashanin was indeed an intelligent man, I would expect his theology and historical interpretation to be somewhat tainted by his Pentecostalist/Charismatic beliefs.

Fr David Moser

#34 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 11:08 PM

Yes, I knew Dr Ashanin personally and fairly well in my younger days. (say 30-35 years ago) He was part of the "Orthodox Charismatic" group along with Fr Eusebius Stephanou. This group was basically Pentecostal/Charismatic in Orthodox clothing. While Dr Ashanin was indeed an intelligent man, I would expect his theology and historical interpretation to be somewhat tainted by his Pentecostalist/Charismatic beliefs.

Fr David Moser


ugh, I think I am becoming rather sad and confused that every time I find some inspirational example of a lay Orthodox Christian with the Charisma and penetrating insight they are denounced as heretics etc... Is it really really so, that this level of 'Charisma' in Orthodoxy is only found in monastics? Why? I really don't understand this? Why should the 'higher gifts' only be possible for monastics? And I am sure there is many threads on this, I will read them or reread them later... but if some Spirit was moving these Orthodox Christians including Fr Eusebius Stephanou, (whom I am not familiar with), what Spirit was it if not the Holy Spirit?? If there is one thing that I really really wish to understand after years of confusion, that is what exactly is 'prelest' and how does it differ from the Real...

To the OP, please forgive me I have a tendency to hijack threads, please resume with the original topic...

#35 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 11:20 PM

Let me assure you Jan, since I also was around at the time when Fr Eusebius Stephanou's influence was quite strong in certain parishes (one parish here in Canada in particular), his presence and teachings caused tremendous controversy. This was due to the fact that as Fr David mentions the teaching and religious practices were Pentecostal and Charismatic.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#36 Rick H.

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 11:31 PM

His influence was very strong in my first parish. There were folks passing out his brouchures and organizing trips in vans down to Florida to be with him. I wonder why his teaching is so popular with some of the Orthodox people. After reading his material and seeing the excitement in some of the folks as they read it, I wondered if this was the first exposure they had had to "Holiness" teachings as they are called by those familiar with such as the "Keswick" teachings.

#37 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 12:03 AM

what exactly is 'prelest'


There's a thread on prelest. In Yorkshire (where the use of Russian spiritual terminology is not widespread), we say, "his peas have grown above his sticks".

#38 Father David Moser

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 12:36 AM

every time I find some inspirational example of a lay Orthodox Christian with the Charisma and penetrating insight they are denounced as heretics etc


Please note that I did not say that Dr Ashanin was a heretic - such a proclamation is far above my pay grade - I simply said that I would expect that what he wrote about theology and Church history was tainted and did not reflect the teachings of the Orthodox Church, but rather those of a protestant sect.

if some Spirit was moving these Orthodox Christians ..., what Spirit was it if not the Holy Spirit??


Ahhh, now that's the question is it not?

Fr David Moser

#39 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 12:48 AM

Ahhh, now that's the question is it not?


Answer: vodka.

#40 Kosta

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 10:32 PM

Mr Becket,

I'm familiar with many of the EP writings and reject many of the things he says. I also agree with you that George Florovsky's writings are superior to that of Met. Kallisotos Ware. Many positions of Met. Kallistos are quite muddled and we are left wondering what he actually believes.

Ecumenism is indeed a heresy, but one that needs to be better defined. What are the limits on dialogue with the heterodox? In what capacity if any, can Orthodox christians participate in ecumenical ceremonies? For how long should we engage in dialogues if the heterodox do not embrace anything of Orthodoxy?

For me; membership in the WCC, concelebrations and joint prayers, and signing agreed statements by the participants of these dialogues crosses the line. So in these regards we should not remain silent.




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