While the attention of the Orthodox community and the secular world has been focused on the Ukrainian autocephaly, another “hot spot” has appeared on the Orthodox world map - the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe[i]. On November 27, 2018, the Synod of Patriarchate of Constantinople announced a decision to revoke the charter (tomos), by which in 1999 autonomy was granted to the Archdiocese, and its own statutes were guaranteed .
When Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko initially announced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) would grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the promise seemed overconfident at best, and delusional at worst. For decades, global Orthodoxy has recognized the canonicity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), and dismissed the Kyivan Patriarchate (KP) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) as uncanonical schismatics.
The events of 2018 unfolded with one surprise after another. Clergy, laity, and students of Church history were stunned when Patriarch Bartholomew informed Patriarch Kirill of the EP’s intention to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.
A sickness which long afflicted the Ukrainian church had become chronic. That is probably the best way to describe the background to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s historic decision to take responsibility for spiritual affairs in Ukraine.
Millions of faithful have remained outside the Eucharistic communion with the world Orthodoxy and in a state of schism for decades. We are not talking about one lost sheep but an entire flock.
I have had many opportunities for personal contact with the people who have been described as schismatic, because they belong to the unrecognised Kyiv Patriarchate. They are good Christians who pray with fervour and attend church with zeal. I have not observed among them any fanaticism or ethnic prejudice. At any rate, these qualities are no more evident among them than they are among any other historically Orthodox people. Yes, they love their homeland, but they have an even greater love for the Holy Church. Which has left them in isolation for decades.
I have many vivid memories from my first visit to Ukraine in 1993, taken with my brother and grandfather. During our stay in Tetiiv (approximately 80 kilometers west of Kyiv), our family hosts asked us to walk with them to the family cemetery. This visit occurred after a few days of conversation that were simultaneously tense and joyous, as we learned about our family’s perspectives on faith and politics along with their concerns about post-Soviet Ukraine. All of these concerns were put aside as we walked from grave to grave, with most of the family members unable to hold back tears for the departed loved ones who were murdered during the course of the Holodomor of 1932-33. This memory reminds me how long Ukrainians have been caught in the crossfire of wars and revolutions, as the imperial powers to their West and East have fought to expand their borders and increase their power. The memory of the Holodomor united us in spite of our differences because we all felt the sting of violent murder in the name of someone else’s gain, even if it was passed on to us.
Ukraine attained statehood in 1991 following 74 years of colonial occupation. When Ukraine initially sought to establish a sovereign republic after the fall of the Tsarist regime in 1917, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine began the natural process of re-organizing its life in rhythm with the aspiring nation.
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.
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….
"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.