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Sincere questions about ecumenism from a convert


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#41 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 05:29 PM

Just to be clear- heresy is the belief in and espousal of heretical doctrines. It isn't being in the company of those with incorrect or even heretical teachings. The latter may in certain circumstances put you in spiritual danger or temptation. It may in certain situations contravene the spirit of the canons. But this doesn't mean that association in itself is heretical.

A lot of anxiety is removed if we keep this in mind. For it pre-empts the idea that someone for example who attends an ecumenical meeting necessarily believes that 'God is the same for everyone' or that there is no particular Church but all beliefs are the same. Being in the proximity of someone of incorrect faith may or may not be a temptation. But proximity in itself doesn't make you a heretic.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#42 Jason Hunt

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 06:51 PM

Of course, as has been pointed out, bishops are not infallible and have sometimes said and done things that they should not have said or done. Adopting, teaching, and spreading heresy, however, is another matter entirely. The subject of Ecumenism is one that has been hotly debated in the Orthodox Church especially since the 1960s, but at that time many of the Orthodox patriarchates were under Soviet control and were not able to act as freely as they otherwise could have to express their positions and to censure those who misrepresented the Orthodox position. Since the fall of Communism, those patriarchates formerly under Communist control have been much more assertive in making sure that the purity of Orthodoxy is not compromised at dialogues with the non-Orthodox, and that the views of the entire Orthodox Church are represented at such dialogues and not merely the views of one or two churches or academic professors. Over the past few years, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church of Greece in particular have been much more vocal about their concerns regarding Ecumenism, and have made it very clear that they will not permit any compromise of Orthodox teaching or principles in dialogues with the non-Orthodox.

One thing that is very important to emphasize, however, is that there are many enemies of the Church that intentionally deceive people regarding Orthodox participation in Ecumenism in order to encourage and justify schism. This is a very critical issue. There are a multitude of groups calling themselves "Genuine Orthodox", "True Orthodox", and other such names, who left the Orthodox Church without canonical justification and who expend much time and effort trying to build the case that the Orthodox Church is “heretical”. They do this because, according to the canons of the Church (particularly the 15th canon of the First-Second Council), breaking communion with one's chief hierarch is only permitted if that hierarch is openly preaching in church a heresy that has been condemned by a past Council or Church Father. This canon allows one to break communion with one's hierarch until the matter is resolved by a competent Council. The canons do not, however, allow for people to break communion with the entire Orthodox Church in order to create their own fake hierarchy with its own church structures, as these various schismatic groups have done. Unfortunately, much of the information on the Internet which criticizes Orthodox participation in Ecumenism is written by people who are not part of the Orthodox Church but belong to various sects. A primary goal of these sects is to scandalize people who belong to the Orthodox Church so that the faithful become scared and embittered, and then flee to one of these small and dubious sects. To achieve this "ultimate good" of increasing the number of their sectarian adherents, these groups do not have a problem bending and distorting the truth, or with just making things up. This is a very important issue that requires great discretion on the part of the person who chooses to delve into this subject.

#43 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 12:34 PM

Unfortunately, much of the information [on the Internet] which criticizes Orthodox participation in Ecumenism is written by people who are not part of the Orthodox Church but belong to various sects. A primary goal of these sects is to scandalize people who belong to the Orthodox Church so that the faithful become scared and embittered, and then flee to one of these small and dubious sects. To achieve this "ultimate good" of increasing the number of their sectarian adherents, these groups do not have a problem bending and distorting the truth, or with just making things up. This is a very important issue that requires great discretion on the part of the person who chooses to delve into this subject.


I think this statement should not be taken to include those who are most definitely within the Church who have concerns about ecumenism. This would include most people in Russia and well-respected hierarchs such as Metroplitan Athanasios of Limassol.

#44 Brian McDonald

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 08:36 PM

I’m sorry for a post that may be a bit off topic, and thus inexcusably long, but since the name of Dr. Charles Ashanin has come up several times in prior postings, and not in a favorable manner, I want to raise a voice in his behalf.

Charles was my godparent in the Orthodox Church and like Mark Twain’s death, the rumors of his unorthodoxy are greatly exaggerated. Au contraire, his colleagues at Christian Theological Seminary, a Disciples of Christ institution in Indianapolis where he was professor of Church History, often attacked him because, while participating in the ecumenical movement, he insisted in “staying home” theologically, never giving an inch to the more “broadminded” views of modernist Christianity that they endorsed. In fact, this firm and unbending commitment to Orthodoxy may have been responsible for his forced retirement from that seminary, and for the many years in which he was paid at a lower scale than other professors of his rank. (He took legal action on this and received a judgment in his favor.)

Furthermore, unlike his detractors (the great Seraphim Rose among them, alas!) Dr. Ashanin actually suffered as a confessor the faith—not just in the “minor” ostracisms of his academic colleagues and seminary administration, but in costly witness in homeland that led almost literally “to the point of shedding blood.” He was a Serb from Montenegro, who came to manhood during the period when Yugoslavia was invaded by Nazi and Fascist forces while being torn within by civil war between the Nationalist “Chetniks” and the Communist “Partisans.” He refused to renounce his faith and join the Communist ranks, though ferociously pressured to do so by some in his family who were Party members. He barely escaped execution after being tried in one of those “show” trials for which the Communists of that era were famous.

Escaping to Italy and then to England, he maintained his role as a “confessor” by rejecting offers to join the Church of England or Church of Scotland after gaining his Ph.D. at the University of Glasgow—thus sacrificing his chance for employment and advancement in the prestigious British university system. I can still hear his high, emphatic accented voice declaring, “I would rather dig ditches than leave Orthodoxy!”

And he never left Orthodoxy; on the contrary, many who came under his influence (I’m just one of dozens) left their religious “homes” to journey to the strange new world of his ancient faith—a faith whose genuine Orthodoxy should not be doubted, despite the occasional eccentric idea any more than we doubt that of, say, Gregory of Nyssa, who was canonized despite almost certainly teaching the erroneous doctrine of universal salvation.

While not teaching such a profound error, it is true that Charles probably showed an uncritical open-minded to the charismatic movement, seeing in it possibilities for church renewal. But in this matter, “e’en his failings leaned to virtue’s side.” His “liberalism” in such matters was partly in reaction to what he saw as the stifling narrow-mindedness and feudal hierarchical structure of the Serbian Church, whose intense and claustrophobic nationalism, combined with medievalist rigidity he fervently believed had helped to foster the very revolution that overthrew it.

If he was insufficiently critical of the errors of his charismaticism, I think this “failing” may have also been a spinoff of his most outstanding quality: the ability to sense and convey the intense reality of the spiritual world, the glory of God in which man is fully alive (Irenaeus). Charles was a fully alive man, capable of seeing more than others because an extraordinarily intense faith in God, made him able to use his eyesight.

The eyesight image reminds me of a certain peculiarity in Charles. He often spoke to you with his eyes closed! Jessica Succi-Pilalis, the former cantor of the Greek Church in Indianapolis, who flew all the way from New York to attend Charles's funeral, related this quality to the Orthodox Icon. Pointing to one hanging on the wall, she reminded us that the Icon is not intended to portray the human being as he or she is under the disfiguring indignities of sin, temptation, and slavery to the conditions of earth, but as we are transfigured in the light of God after the victory of faith has done its work and we have attained to glory. Charles when speaking to you, closed his eyes, in the same manner the icon as the icon figuratively speaking, makes you "close your eyes” to anything other than that transfigured being in glory. It’s as though he could see in you a "you" you didn't know you had; a potential you, the you might be when transfigured by the love and light of God.

#45 Marcin Mankowski

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 11:01 AM

I was about to convert to Orthodoxy until a few days ago when I stumbled upon information regarding the involvement of large segments of the Orthodox Church in ecumenism. Including the Ecumenical Patriarch.


It wouldn't be an understatement to say that this has been a scandal for me. I immediately became skeptical. The Church seems to be disobeying its own canons, and its state belief that it is the Church.


It was exactly my experience. Almost thirty years ago I was ready to give up search for the true religion, as
I dismissed the Orthodox Church because Her involvement into ecumenism and World Council of Churches
and especially of the spectacular EP gestures.

Then I met some Greek Old Calendarists who told me that Ecumenical Patriarch is as fallible as anyone else,
that his position among Orthodox is not like the Pope of Rome. The scales fell from my eyes and all scattered pieces joined into one seamless whole. I was so happy!

I did not end up among Old Calendarists because I found them too sectarian and rather not very canonical.
Yet I owe them a great debt of gratitude for helping me to find the Church.

#46 Beckett

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 08:01 AM

Marcin,

I've had the same experience thus far.

Thanks for your input.

Thank you all for your input.

And a blessed Great Lent to you all.

#47 Matt R

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 07:47 AM

can somebody with knowledge, please expand on the statement "Gregory of Nyssa, who was canonized despite almost certainly teaching the erroneous doctrine of universal salvation" ?

#48 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 01:02 PM

I recommend you start with this thread: To Pray or not to pray: Dare we hope for the salvation of all?

#49 Matt R

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 01:50 PM

thank you herman, i'll start there tomorrow :-)


hosanna

#50 Jason Hunt

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 06:16 PM

can somebody with knowledge, please expand on the statement "Gregory of Nyssa, who was canonized despite almost certainly teaching the erroneous doctrine of universal salvation" ?


In his book "Life After Death", Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos discusses in detail the teachings of St. Gregory of Nyssa for which he is accused of the heresy of apokatastasis (that the torments of hell are not eternal but temporal, and that all will eventually be saved). In this work, Met Hierotheos shows that the claim of apokatastasis is based on a misunderstanding of St. Gregory of Nyssa, and that St. Gregory is actually innocent of this charge against him.

The text from Met Hierotheos used to be accessible online but does not appear to be available. Perhaps someone who has the book can comment further.

#51 Mike L

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:12 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.



I agree brother. What drew me to Orthodoxy was the Church Fathers. I had studied the Scriptures for a long time coming out of an era of Skepticism. I wanted to know God. I felt Christ tugging at me.. but...which church? There are so many-- all claiming to be right. I'm a pretty black & white kind of guy-- things are right or wrong. I sought the True Church of the Apostles & the Church Fathers. I had already concluded that a return to the RCC of my youth was not the answer. I admired the objective uncompromising Truth of how the Patristic Fathers taught. That is Orthodoxy & the Orthodox Church. Me, a great sinner, needs that. That being said, I do not like compromising the Faith at all. What the EP does or doesnt do is his concern. I am under his jurisdiction, but do not have to agree with anything that isn't Scriptural or isn't Canonical. That is the beauty of Orthodoxy-- we always have the Scriptures & the Patristic Fathers to keep everyone in check-- from the layperson all the way up the line. That being said, I hold the same view of ecumenism as they did.

#52 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:57 PM

As Jason pointed out, the charges of "ecumenism" as a "heresy" are generally seriously overblown. When all is said and done, nobody, not Metropolitan Kallistos, not the EP, or even the "professional attenders of ecumenical gatherings" are advocating open communion or equivalency of traditions. One could argue that perhaps certain types of "participation" are less edifying than others, but anything that comes close to an actual realistic definition of "heresy" has really yet to be shown, certainly nothing that actually meets the ROCOR definition of "ecumenism" as "heresy".

#53 Marcin Mankowski

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:46 AM

can somebody with knowledge, please expand on the statement "Gregory of Nyssa, who was canonized despite almost certainly teaching the erroneous doctrine of universal salvation" ?


No one is infallible, even saints. One can find some errors in Fathers and Doctors of the Church, that is why
in order to discern the correct teaching we need to consult writings of more than one author, preferably
from different places and times. The doctrine of the Church is a collective not individual thing.

#54 Marcin Mankowski

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 10:32 AM

certainly nothing that actually meets the ROCOR definition of "ecumenism" as "heresy".


Perhaps, but this condemnation of heresy of Ecumenism could have prevented it from happening. BTW, I would
not use the quotes around the words Ecumenism and heresy.

#55 Beckett

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 08:10 PM

I started this thread over a year ago. I wanted to return and announce that my family and I have since been received into the Church.

Not long after starting this thread my fears were alleviated. While I'm still opposed to much of the cumenical movement - though not opposed to dialogue - I found that my aversion to ecumenism was not reason enough to estrange myself from the Church.

I had originally stated that I was not sure that the Orthodox Chuch was identical with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Obviously I now have no doubt that it is that Church written of by the holy Fathers.

Forgive me!

A blessed lent to you all.

Glory to God for all things.

#56 Athanasius

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:16 AM


You have eloquently, and much more succinctly, expressed what I was attempting to do in my previous ruminations. My point is that, in my experience, both ecumenism and proselytizing generally come from the "organizational machines" and not from hearts centered in Jesus Christ--in love. The majority of the responders in this thread have expressed this idea in many different ways. When Jesus opens our hearts, the Spirit flows in and God reveals Himself more fully. On the other hand, when this happens, the Evil One fights back and doubts, fears and stubbornness clouds our hearts. I think that this was the point Mr. Ilaria was making.

Here's an example of "organizational machine ecumenism" from my own experience. There is a beautiful hymn used at Mass entitled "Yahweh, I Know You are Near." Two years ago, "official" word came down that forbade the use of the word "Yahweh" in any liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church. This was done in the spirit of ecumenism and in an effort not to offend "our Jewish brothers who are forbidden to use that name." From a practical standpoint, and in my cynical and sarcastic way, I have never seen a Jewish person who is not Catholic at Mass to be offended. As a result, the "power" of that hymn is lost. This is why I say, as you and Mr.Beckett have, I am concerned about ecumenism, and its lack, in Roman Catholicism and other faith bases.

Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox all use the same Bible and have received the same Gospel. Jews acknowledge all but the New Testament. We worship the same God and have the same salvation history. We all have a lot to learn from one another, but cannot learn if we don't listen and our hearts are not open.

I applaud your interest in the lives of the saints and acknowledge your concerns. I recommend praying. In the end, I would love to see you moved to Orthodoxy or Catholicism simply because of each group's participation in the "Lamb's Supper." It is just as well, without accepting either of these, that you form a deeper love of and commitment to our Triune God.

Grace and peace to you,
Dan

 

With respect, Dan, what you have cited here is completely wrong. I don't know who told you this, or where you've read it, but Pope Benedict prohibited the use of the Tetragrammaton because the Name of God was always considered, not only by Jews, but by the early Church as well, to be so Holy it was unpronounceable - it has nothing whatsoever to do with ecumenism. It is a modern phenomenon which crept into the Church, and the Pope was quite correct in his action.

 

If this had actually been done for ecumenical reasons, then you'd be quite right.

 

Perhaps this, in its own way, echoes precisely what has been said above about 'learning the language' of the Church?



#57 Athanasius

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:20 AM

  • 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.

 

Why would you worry about your Bishop? You don't belong to an 'organised religion'.

 

Surely you mean a 'centralised religion'?



#58 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:47 PM

 

Why would you worry about your Bishop? You don't belong to an 'organised religion'.


I don't "worry" about my Bishop. I do pay attention to him however, in accordance with the admonition of the Holy Apostle: "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." (Hebrews 13:17)

Surely you mean a 'centralised religion'?


I meant what I posted. I was "riffing" on a theme by the humorist/social commentator Will Rogers who once said, "I don't belong to any organized political party, I'm a Democrat".

#59 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 06:04 PM

 

With respect, Dan, what you have cited here is completely wrong. I don't know who told you this, or where you've read it, but Pope Benedict prohibited the use of the Tetragrammaton because the Name of God was always considered, not only by Jews, but by the early Church as well, to be so Holy it was unpronounceable - it has nothing whatsoever to do with ecumenism. It is a modern phenomenon which crept into the Church, and the Pope was quite correct in his action.


Is that your final answer? I think you might want to check out the following threads:

The tetragrammaton: to pronounce or not to pronounce

The name of God and writing God's name

The Hopefully Helpful Herman

#60 Athanasius

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 07:50 AM

 
Is that your final answer? I think you might want to check out the following threads:

The tetragrammaton: to pronounce or not to pronounce

The name of God and writing God's name

The Hopefully Helpful Herman

 

Yes, it is. The early Church and Scriptures support my response. As you will know, in the thread above Fr Irenei considers the Name pronounceable and Fr Kimel does not. I respect what Fr Irenei has to say, but, like Fr Kimel and the Pope, have to disagree as the factual evidence is that the Divine Name was not held to be pronounceable in the early Church. 

 

The main point, though, is that the removal of the Divine Name was not some ecumenical endeavour by the Catholic Church as Dan seemed to think.

 

Thanks for putting me on to those threads though - you are a helpful Herman indeed!






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