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John Jillions - "Thicket of Idols": Alexander Schmemann's Critique of Orthodoxy

John Jillions - "Thicket of Idols": Alexander Schmemann's Critique of Orthodoxy

Part I of this essay will examine Schmemann’s journals for the various streams of his critique and argue that the doubts, criticisms and questions Schmemann first raised privately many years ago still need serious public attention as Orthodoxy seeks to find its voice, message and mission in the 21st century. However, if Fr Alexander’s vocation as a prophet (though he himself would have eschewed that title) led him to speak clearly, convincingly and critically about the realities he saw, he was much more ambivalent about proposing solutions. Without attempting to guess what his solutions might be today, in Part II of this essay I will suggest that Fr Alexander’s sharp critique can be channeled into positive terms by refocusing the Orthodox Church on Christ as scriptural, contemplative and self-emptying.

Jim and Nancy Forest: The Green Patriarch’s Campaign for a Greener World

Soon after his election to the throne of Ecumenical Patriarch in 1991, Bartholomew of Constantinople made clear that he saw his task not only as safeguarding the unity of the Orthodox Church but also doing all that he could to protect the world and its people in a period of extreme environmental peril. He quickly began to enlarge an initiative taken in 1989 by his predecessor, Patriarch Dimitrios, who had invited all Orthodox churches to begin the church year, the first of September, with prayer for all creation and for its preservation. In the years since, Bartholomew has repeatedly declared that “crimes against the natural world are sins….

Denis Bradley: Thoughts on "A Preliminary Response"

In his "Preliminary Response" (The Wheel, Blog, 28 February 2018) to Professor David Ford's "Open Letter on Homosexuality" (Orthodoxy in Dialogue, 8 November 2017) Mr. Gregory Tucker raises (without using the term) the issue of the "development of doctrine." That, to be sure, is a neuralgic term for the Orthodox theologians who regard it as instantiating a fundamental error, even perhaps the seminal heresy, sustaining the other deviations from "The Tradition" which they perceive in Western Christian belief, praxis, and theology. Professor Ford might well concur with the Reverend Professor Andrew Louth who contends that the idea of doctrinal development is not "a valid category for Orthodox theology," an astonishingly ironic assertion given the honoree of the Festschrift wherein Louth's remark is published [1].

Gregory Tucker: A Preliminary Response to Dr Ford's Open Letter on Homosexuality

This short essay will, with one hand, attempt to point out some of the foundational ideas that support the views expressed by Dr Ford in his open letter, and, with the other, gesture towards an understanding of how these differ from the fundamental presuppositions of those who have diverged in their conclusions on matters of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Cyril Hovorun: Ethnophyletism, Phyletism, and the Pan-orthodox Council

The Pan-orthodox Council held on the island of Crete in June 2016 established its succession to the Council held in Constantinople in 1872. Both Councils dealt with the topic of nationalism, which the majority of scholars agree is a modern phenomenon: nationalism, and even national identity, constitute an intrinsic feature of modernity. The two Councils, however, addressed this phenomenon each in their own way.

Carrie Frederick Frost: “Women Willing to Offer Themselves”: The Historic Consecration of Deaconesses in Africa

Several Orthodox women were made deaconesses in Democratic Republic of Congo on February 17, 2017. Though this is a remarkable and historical event not just in African Orthodoxy, but in Orthodoxy the world over, it took about five days for this news to travel into English-speaking quarters of the Church. This time lag is indicative of both the lack of communication channels among international theologians and hierarchs and the independent character of each of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches. The Synod of Alexandria, which had moved in November of 2016 to pursue the revival of the female diaconate, needed neither permission from, nor consultation with any other part of the Church to grant these women diaconal ministry earlier this month.

Sergei Chapnin: The Demolition of the Church Legacy of Russian Emigration: How It Is Done.

What image expresses most fully the content and character of Patriarch Kirill's visit to London? My answer may seem paradoxical or even frivolous. Yet I think it would seem so only at first glance. The image, which is a fairly accurate reflection of the inner meaning of the visit of Patriarch Kirill, and moreover, of all his multifaceted activities, is a photograph that the Patriarch had brought with him and presented to the Royal Geographical Society.

Sergei Chapnin: What are the consequences of the refusal of the Russian Orthodox Church to take part in the Pan-Orthodox Council?

The Pan-Orthodox Council, which is officially called “Great and Holy,” will not take place. It has disintegrated before our eyes just two weeks before it opens. Of the 14 local Orthodox Churches, four have refused to attend. And even those which have not refused to attend are fiercely critical of the prepared documents. What has happened? Can it be that the problems and internal conflicts in the Orthodox world are so serious that it is no longer possible to hold a Council? Theological and historical problems are here closely intertwined with church politics.

Timothy Curtis: On the Episcopal Election of the Exarchate

To participate in the election of one’s archbishop is a privilege, but to participate in two in short succession may seem to be sheer folly. The challenges facing the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe have been dissected in social media for the last three years, and the selection of Bishop Jean of Chariopolis on the 29th of March 2016 is—God willing—the beginning of a new stage of peace and growth.

Antoine Arjakovsky: History and Memories of the Pseudo-Synod of Lviv

The editors of The Wheel are grateful to Antoine Arjakovsky for his careful analysis of a painful episode in the history of the Church in Ukraine on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. His article below is a reminder that the repercussions of that episode resonate to this day in the unfortunate tangle of secular and ecclesiastical politics that prevail in the contemporary situation of Ukraine.  

Nicholas E. Denysenko: The Possibilities of the ‘Joint Declaration’: Dreams or Illusions?

Like many other Orthodox Christians, I tuned in to the historic meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill which took place in Havana on Friday, February 12. In the short time since the meeting, I have read diverse assessments of the meeting. In response to requests for official comments, Church leaders from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America have welcomed the meeting and its ensuing declaration as an occasion for celebration, a mark of significant progress in continuity with decades of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Some observers view the meeting as a victory for Pope Francis, the realization of a dream that gained momentum with the ecumenical impetus of Vatican II. The Pope himself apparently exclaimed “finally!” in reacting to the news of Patriarch Kirill’s agreement to meet him in Havana.

Antoine Arjakovsky: Can the Pan-Orthodox Council be saved from shipwreck?

On January 27, the primates of the Orthodox Churches announced at Chambésy that they will meet in a Pan-Orthodox Council at the Orthodox Academy of Crete from June 16–27, 2016. The Orthodox Churches have been preparing for this council since the 1930s, when the primary goal was to resolve a conflict around the decision by the Greek Orthodox Church to adopt a liturgical calendar that modified the Julian Calendar which had been in use since the 4th century. But the churches of Slavic tradition did not arrive on common ground with the churches of Greek tradition before the outbreak of World War II. After 1945, the Orthodox world was summarily divided between the Slavic churches which were part of the Communist world and the Greek and Arab churches which were part of the so-called “free world.” In 1948, the Patriarchate of Constantinople participated in the creation of the World Council of Churches, while the Patriarchate of Moscow convoked a synod to condemn the ecumenical movement.

Tamara Grdzelidze: On the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill

An historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill is now in progress. There has been speculation about this meeting since last Spring, when officials of the Moscow Patriarchate made several visits to the Holy See. More recently, information was leaked about a forthcoming meeting through non-official press channels, but even for experts it was hard to imagine that this could be accurate. The “unpredictable” Pope Francis has again surprised his flock and the world! What is at stake in this meeting?

Lena Zezulin: The Russian Orthodox Church, the law, and family violence

The Moscow Patriarchate’s Commission “On the questions of the family, protection of motherhood and children” recently adopted a resolution on the family, which includes positions on family violence entirely at odds with Orthodox theology and contrary to relevant evidence.

This note addresses several questions related to this resolution on family violence. First, is family violence a serious problem in Russia? Second, are programs to combat family violence in other countries hostile to the Christian family? And third, is it consistent with Orthodox values to oppose such programs? I approach the first two questions by comparing Russia with the United States, because the United States is more similar to Russia in size than countries of Western Europe, and also because it has a high homicide rate, due to gun violence, thus is a relatively violent country.