"Being Human,” a special double issue of The Wheel on sex, gender, and sexuality, is going to press! The issue has been guest-edited by Fr Andrew Louth and includes contributions from Met. Kallistos Ware, Fr John Behr, and Christos Yannaras. Subscribe today and be among the first to receive this landmark issue!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Thank you very much for reading my lengthy open letter to Giacomo Sanfilippo, and for your thoughtful, respectful response to it. I appreciate your calmness and civility in approaching the controversial topic of homosexuality, and I will endeavor to respond to you in a similar way.
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 .
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.
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.
I want to offer a reflection on the falling asleep of my teacher Peter Berger. I have known him over 45 years.
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.
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.
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.
After 1200 years, truly, the beard grows, but the head grows no wiser.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
A few weeks ago, at the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a couple of days in Istanbul for a gathering of Orthodox scholars from around the world. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: a) an opportunity for the Ecumenical Patriarch to learn about a “younger generation” of Orthodox scholars, our areas of concern and interest, and how these areas intersect with the work of the Patriarchate; b) a meeting with His Eminence Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon to discuss the forthcoming Great and Holy Council.
From January 4 to 6, 2016, in anticipation of the forthcoming Council of the Orthodox autocephalous Churches later this year, thirty theologians were invited by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to his headquarters at the Phanar in Istanbul. The majority of those invited were lay people teaching Orthodox theology either in seminaries or in universities, publishing journals and books, and serving the church in various capacities through ecumenical, political, or diplomatic service. The group was composed of persons from many parts of the world.
I was one of the invitees and this is my personal report on the meeting.
The Orthodoxy of my youth no longer exists in the United States (or perhaps in the world) today. The young, immigrant-heavy American Church had grown up into an openness to change, liturgical reform, improved conciliar approaches to Church governance, and a dynamic parish interaction. Influenced by a call from theologians (most notably Fr. Alexander Schmemann) for a rediscovery of the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church, the request for frequent communion originated not from the bishops, but as a groundswell from the people. This Eucharistic renaissance in North America became only a first step in cultivating a Church characterized by open discussion, the free exchange of ideas, and increased participation of all members in its life.