Seeking Christian Unity in an Orthodox Setting

Written By: on Oct 12th, 2009 and filed under News, World News.

That is despite the particular difficulty that the Orthodox church has when engaged in ecumenical dialogue, since “its thought forms and ‘terms of reference’ are different from those of the West”. Given that the ecumenical movement works mainly with western patterns of thought, “Orthodox participants were, from the very beginning, forced to express their positions and points of view within a theological framework alien to […] the Orthodox Tradition.”

Gennadios acknowledges that there is a certain “stagnation” in the present day ecumenical movement, leading sometimes to a “sense of frustration” regarding the lack of achievements in terms of church unity. However, he states, “we do have to bear in mind for how many centuries we have been divided!”

There have been real progresses. The 1982 Faith and Order text Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), “was indeed a revolution for the ecumenical movement and for the churches,” he says. “It has been the most translated ecumenical text ever, and is still used today, although to a lesser degree.”

In the Orthodox world the BEM text has been, alongside other results from Faith and Order work, a tool often used in bilateral talks with confessions such as Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans, and even between the two Orthodox families (the eastern and the oriental).

For Gennadios, the “crucial question” in current theological debate is “without doubt, ecclesiology”, or, in other words, our understanding of the “One Church” and its nature.

Dialogue on their different ecclesiologies has enabled the churches in recent decades to reach a better understanding of one another and of themselves. Today what is needed is a renewal able “to promote an ecclesiology of more convergence”.

According to Metropolitan Gennadios, for the Orthodox the aim is “not a naïve rapprochement, but unity in Christ”. They hope for “a situation where in their ecclesiological space and insight of their church boundaries might be possible to recognize the others’ ecclesial tradition”.

Gennadios says there is need for a “spacing ecclesiology” – an enlarged understanding of the “One Church of Christ”. Today, churches “are called to a new ecumenical ‘ecclesial space of togetherness’ in view of celebrating one day together at the Lord’s Table.” Within such a space churches would be drawn together on the condition that they all are “called to be the One Church”.

“The unity of the Church will be achieved only if we, with repentance, humility and discernment, return to our common sources of the undivided church.” The hope of achieving that is based on our belief that “in spite of this divided world, God’s promise stands.”

“We are all the people of God,” Gennadios says. “And despite our being divided God’s grace reaches out to all God’s children.”

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