Basic principles of attitude of Russian Orthodox Church towards heterodoxy

The document, adopted at the Jubilee Bishops’ Council in 2000, reflects and defines the basic principles of the Russian Orthodox Church’s attitude towards heterodoxy, as well as interaction with heterodox and inter-confessional organizations.

June 7, 2008

Basic principles of the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church towards heterodoxy

Law

1. Unity of the Church and the sin of human divisions

1.1. The Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ, created by Our Lord and Savior Himself, the Church confirmed and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Church about which the Savior Himself said: “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). She is the One, Holy, Catholic (Catholic) and Apostolic Church, the guardian and giver of the Holy Mysteries throughout the world, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). She bears full responsibility for spreading the Truth of Christ’s gospel, as well as full authority to bear witness to “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

1.2. The Church of Christ is one and only (St. Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Unity of the Church”). The basis of the unity of the Church – the Body of Christ – is that it has one Head – the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:23) and one Holy Spirit acts, giving life to the Body of the Church and uniting all its members with Christ as its Head.

1.3. The Church is the unity of the “new man in Christ”. By incarnation and incarnation, the Son of God “began again a long series of human beings” (St. Irenaeus of Lyons), creating a new, grace-filled people, the spiritual offspring of the Second Adam. The unity of the Church is above all human and earthly unity, it is given from above as a perfect and divine gift. The members of the Church are united in Christ by Himself, united like vines rooted in Him and gathered into the unity of eternal and spiritual life.

1.4. The unity of the Church overcomes barriers and boundaries, including racial, linguistic and social ones. The gospel of salvation must be proclaimed to all nations in order to bring them into one bosom, to unite them by the power of faith, by the grace of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8).

1.5. In the Church, hostility and alienation are overcome, unity in love of humanity divided by sin is accomplished in the image of the Consubstantial Trinity.

1.6. The Church is the unity of the Spirit in the union of the world (Eph. 4:3), the fullness and continuity of grace-filled life and spiritual experience. “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace” (St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. XXIV). The unity of the grace-filled life is the foundation of the unity and immutability of the Church’s faith. Always and invariably “the Holy Spirit teaches the Church through the Holy Fathers and Teachers. The Catholic Church cannot err or err and speak a lie instead of the truth: for the Holy Spirit, always acting through the faithful servants of the Fathers and Teachers of the Church, protects her from any error” (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs).

1.7. The Church has an ecumenical character – it exists in the world in the form of various Local Churches, but the unity of the Church is not diminished in the least. “The Church, illuminated by the light of the Lord, spreads its rays throughout the world; but the light spreading everywhere is one, and the unity of the body remains undivided. She spreads her branches over all the earth, laden with fruit; its abundant streams flow to a distant space – for all that, the head remains one, one beginning, one mother, rich in abundance of fruitfulness ”(St. Cyprian of Carthage. “On the Unity of the Church”).

1.8. Church unity is inextricably linked with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which the faithful, partaking of the One Body of Christ, are truly and truly united into a single and catholic body, in the sacrament of Christ’s love, in the transforming power of the Spirit. “For if “we all partake of one bread,” then we are all one body (1 Cor. 10:17), for Christ cannot be divided. Therefore, the Church is also called the Body of Christ, and we are individual members, according to the understanding of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 12:27)” (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

1.9. The One Holy Catholic Church is the Apostolic Church. Through the divinely established priesthood, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated to believers. The apostolic succession of the hierarchy from the holy apostles is the foundation of the community and unity of the grace-filled life. Departure from the legitimate Hierarchy is a departure from the Holy Spirit, from Christ Himself. “All follow the bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and the presbytery as the apostles. Honor the deacons as a commandment of God. Without a bishop, no one should do anything that pertains to the Church. Wherever there is a bishop, there must be a people, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is also the Catholic Church” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Smyrn. 8).

1.10. Only through connection with a specific community is communication with the whole Church possible for each member of the Church. By breaking canonical ties with his Local Church, a Christian thereby damages his grace-filled unity with the entire body of the Church, breaks away from it. Any sin in one way or another removes from the Church, although it does not excommunicate from it completely. In the understanding of the Ancient Church, excommunication was an exception to the Eucharistic assembly. But the admission into church communion of the excommunicated was never accomplished through a repetition of Baptism. Faith in the indelibility of Baptism is confessed in the Nicene-Tsaregrad Creed: “I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins.” The 47th Apostolic Canon says: “A bishop or presbyter, if he truly baptizes him who is baptized… let him be deposed.”

1.11. By this, the Church testified that the excommunicated retains the “seal” of belonging to the people of God. By accepting back the excommunicated, the Church brings back to life the one who has already been baptized in the Spirit into one Body. By excommunicating her member, sealed by her on the day of his Baptism, the Church hopes for his return. She considers excommunication itself as a means of spiritual rebirth of the excommunicated.

1.12. Throughout the centuries, Christ’s commandment of unity has been repeatedly violated. Contrary to the divinely commanded catholic unanimity and unanimity, differences of opinion and divisions arose in Christianity. The Church has always strictly and fundamentally treated both those who opposed the purity of the saving faith and those who brought divisions and confusion into the Church: “Why do you have strife, indignation, disagreement, division and strife? Is not there one God and one Christ, and one Spirit of grace poured out on us, and one calling in Christ? Why do we tear and tear apart the members of Christ, rebel against our own body, and reach such madness that we even forget that we are each other’s members ”(St. Clement of Rome. Epistle to the Corinthians. 1. 46).

1.13. Throughout Christian history, not only individual Christians, but also entire Christian communities have separated from unity with the Orthodox Church. Some of them have disappeared in the course of history, while others have survived through the centuries. The most significant divisions of the first millennium, which have survived to this day, occurred after part of the Christian communities did not accept the decisions of the III and IV Ecumenical Councils, as a result, the Assyrian Church of the East, which still exists today, the pre-Chalcedonian Churches – Coptic, Armenian, Syro-Jacobite, Ethiopian, Malabar . In the second millennium, the separation of the Roman Church was followed by the internal divisions of Western Christianity associated with the Reformation and led to the ongoing process of the formation of many Christian denominations that are not in communion with the See of Rome.

1.14. Errors and heresies are the result of selfish self-affirmation and isolation. Every schism or schism leads to some degree of falling away from the fullness of the Church. Division, even if it occurs for non-doctrinal reasons, is a violation of the doctrine of the Church and ultimately leads to distortions in the faith.

1.15. The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the Holy Fathers, affirms that salvation can be found only in the Church of Christ. But at the same time, communities that fell away from unity with Orthodoxy were never seen as completely devoid of the grace of God. The rupture of church communion inevitably leads to damage to the grace-filled life, but not always to its complete disappearance in seceded communities. It is precisely with this that the practice of accepting into the Orthodox Church those who come from heterodox communities is connected, not only through the Sacrament of Baptism. Despite the rupture of unity, a certain incomplete communion remains, which serves as a guarantee of the possibility of returning to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and unity.

1.16. The ecclesiastical position of those who have separated cannot be unambiguously defined. In a divided Christian world, there are some signs that unite it: this is the Word of God, faith in Christ as God and Savior who came in the flesh (1 John 1, 1-2; 4, 2, 9), and sincere piety.

1.17. The existence of various rites (through Baptism, through Chrismation, through Repentance) shows that the Orthodox Church approaches heterodox confessions differently. The criterion is the degree of preservation of the faith and structure of the Church and the norms of the spiritual Christian life. But, establishing various rites, the Orthodox Church does not pass judgment on the degree of preservation or damage of the grace-filled life in heterodoxy, considering this a mystery of Providence and judgment of God.

1.18. The Orthodox Church is the true Church, in which Sacred Tradition and the fullness of God’s saving grace are preserved intact. She preserved intact and pure the sacred heritage of the apostles and holy fathers. She is aware of the identity of her teaching, liturgical structure and spiritual practice with the apostolic gospel and the Tradition of the Ancient Church.

1.19. Orthodoxy is not a “national-cultural affiliation” of the Eastern Church. Orthodoxy is an internal quality of the Church, the preservation of doctrinal truth, the liturgical and hierarchical structure, and the principles of spiritual life that have been continuously and unchangingly abiding in the Church since apostolic times. One should not be tempted to idealize the past or ignore the tragic shortcomings or failures that have occurred in the history of the Church. An example of spiritual self-criticism is given first of all by the great fathers of the Church. The history of the Church knows many cases of falling into heresy of a significant part of the church people. But she also knows that the Church fundamentally fought against heresy, she also knows the experience of healing from heresy of the once lost, the experience of repentance and return to the bosom of the Church. It is precisely the tragic experience of the appearance of unthinking in the depths of the Church itself and the fight against it that has accustomed the children of the Orthodox Church to vigilance. The Orthodox Church, humbly testifying that she keeps the truth, at the same time remembers all the temptations that have arisen historically.

1.20. As a result of the violation of the commandment of unity, which caused the historical tragedy of the schism, divided Christians, instead of being an example of unity in love in the image of the Most Holy Trinity, became a source of temptation. The division of Christians was an open and bleeding wound on the Body of Christ. The tragedy of divisions has become a serious visible distortion of Christian universalism, an obstacle in witnessing to the world about Christ. For the effectiveness of this witness of the Church of Christ to a large extent depends on the embodiment of the truths she preaches in the life and practice of Christian communities.

2. The desire to restore unity

2.1. The most important goal of the relationship of the Orthodox Church with heterodoxy is the restoration of the divinely commanded unity of Christians (John 17:21), which is part of the Divine plan and belongs to the very essence of Christianity. This is a task of paramount importance for the Orthodox Church at all levels of her being.

2.2. Indifference to or rejection of this task is a sin against God’s commandment of unity. In the words of St. Basil the Great, “those who sincerely and truly work for the Lord must only make efforts to bring back to unity the Churches, so many times divided among themselves.”

2.3. But, recognizing the need to restore broken Christian unity, the Orthodox Church affirms that true unity is possible only in the bosom of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. All other “models” of unity seem unacceptable.

2.4. The Orthodox Church cannot accept the thesis that, despite historical divisions, the fundamental, deep unity of Christians allegedly has not been violated and that the Church should be understood as coinciding with the entire “Christian world”, that Christian unity supposedly exists over denominational barriers and that the division of churches belongs exclusively to the imperfect level of human relations. According to this concept, the Church remains united, but this unity is not sufficiently manifested in visible forms. In this model of unity, the task of Christians is understood not as the restoration of the lost unity, but as the revelation of the unity that exists inherently. This model repeats the doctrine of the “invisible church” that arose in the Reformation.

2.5. Completely unacceptable is the so-called “branch theory” connected with the above concept, which affirms the normality and even providential nature of the existence of Christianity in the form of separate “branches”.

2.6. Orthodoxy cannot accept the assertion that Christian divisions are an inevitable imperfection of Christian history, that they exist only on the historical surface and can be healed or overcome with the help of compromise interdenominational agreements.

2.7. The Orthodox Church cannot recognize “equality of denominations”. Those who have fallen away from the Church cannot be reunited with it in the state in which they are now; the existing dogmatic differences must be overcome, and not simply bypassed. This means that the path to unity is the path of repentance, conversion and renewal.

2.8. The idea that all divisions are tragic misunderstandings, that disagreements seem irreconcilable only from a lack of love for each other, from an unwillingness to understand that with all the difference and dissimilarity, there is sufficient unity and agreement in the “main thing” is unacceptable. Divisions cannot be reduced to human passions, selfishness, or even more so cultural, social or political circumstances. Also unacceptable is the assertion that the Orthodox Church is distinguished from the Christian communities with which it does not have communion on issues of a secondary nature. It is impossible to reduce all divisions and disagreements to various non-theological factors.

2.9. The Orthodox Church also rejects the thesis that the unity of the Christian world can be restored only through joint Christian service to the world. Christian unity cannot be restored by agreement on temporal matters, in which Christians are united in the minor and still differ in the main.

2.10. It is unacceptable to limit agreement in faith to a narrow circle of necessary truths in order to allow “freedom in the doubtful” outside of them. The very installation of tolerance for dissent in faith is unacceptable. But at the same time one should not confuse the unity of faith and the forms of its expression.

2.11. The division of the Christian world is a division in the very experience of faith, and not only in doctrinal formulas. There must be full and sincere agreement in the very experience of faith, and not only in its formal expression. Formal religious unity does not exhaust the unity of the Church, although it is one of its necessary conditions.

2.12. The unity of the Church is first of all unity and communion in the Sacraments. But true communion in the Sacraments has nothing to do with the practice of so-called “intercommunion.” Unity can be realized only in the identity of grace-filled experience and life, in the faith of the Church, in the fullness of the mysterious life in the Holy Spirit.

2.13. The restoration of Christian unity in faith and love can only come from above, as a gift from Almighty God. The source of unity is in God, and therefore only human efforts to restore it will be in vain, for “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it work in vain” (Ps. 126:1). Only our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave the commandment of unity, is the One Who can give strength for its fulfillment, for He is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The task of Orthodox Christians is to cooperate with God in the work of salvation in Christ.

3. Orthodox witness to the non-Orthodox world

3.1. The Orthodox Church is the guardian of the Tradition and the grace-filled gifts of the Ancient Church, and therefore considers its main task in relations with heterodoxy to be constant and persistent witness, leading to the revelation and acceptance of the truth expressed in this Tradition. As stated in the decision of the Third Pre-Council Pan-Orthodox Conference (1986): “The Orthodox Church, in deep conviction and ecclesiastical self-consciousness, that she is the bearer and witness of the faith and Tradition of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, firmly believes that she occupies a central place in the movement towards the unity of Christians in the modern world… The mission and duty of the Orthodox Church is to teach in its entirety the truth contained in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, which imparts to the Church its universal character… This responsibility of the Orthodox Church, as well as her ecumenical mission regarding the unity of the Church, was expressed by the Ecumenical Councils. They especially emphasized the inseparable connection between the right faith and communion in the Sacraments. The Orthodox Church has always sought to involve various Christian Churches and denominations in a joint search for the lost unity of Christians, so that everyone would come to the union of faith…”.

3.2. The task of Orthodox witness is entrusted to every member of the Church. Orthodox Christians must clearly realize that the faith they preserve and profess has an ecumenical, universal character. The Church is not only called to teach her children, but also to testify to those who have left her about the truth. “But how can we call on Him in Whom they did not believe? how to believe in the One about Whom they have not heard? how to hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10.14). The duty of Orthodox Christians is to bear witness to the truth that has been forever entrusted to the Church, for, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “we are laborers together with God” (1 Cor. 3.9).

4. Dialogue with non-Orthodoxy

4.1. The Russian Orthodox Church has been engaged in a theological dialogue with non-Orthodox for more than two centuries. This dialogue is characterized by a combination of dogmatic adherence to principles and brotherly love. This principle is formulated in the “Reply Message of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” (1903) in relation to the method of theological dialogue with Anglicans and Old Catholics: in relation to the heterodox “there should be a fraternal readiness to help them with explanations, the usual attentiveness to their best desires, possible indulgence to the natural in the age-old separation of perplexities, but at the same time a firm confession of the truth of our Ecumenical Church as the only custodian of Christ’s heritage and the only saving ark of Divine grace… Our task in relation to them should be… to,

4.2. A characteristic feature of the dialogues conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church with non-Orthodox is their theological nature. The task of the theological dialogue is to explain to non-Orthodox partners the ecclesiological self-awareness of the Orthodox Church, the foundations of her dogma, canonical system and spiritual tradition, to dispel misunderstandings and existing stereotypes.

4.3. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church conduct dialogues with the heterodox on the basis of fidelity to the apostolic and patristic Tradition of the Orthodox Church, the teaching of the Ecumenical and Local Councils. At the same time, all dogmatic concessions and compromises in faith are excluded. No documents and materials of theological dialogues and negotiations are binding on the Orthodox Churches until their final approval by the entire Orthodox Plenitude.

4.4. From the point of view of the Orthodox, for heterodoxy, the path of reunification is the path of healing and transformation of dogmatic consciousness. On this path, the topics discussed in the era of the Ecumenical Councils should be rethought. Important in dialogue with non-Orthodox is the study of the spiritual and theological heritage of the holy fathers – the spokesmen for the faith of the Church.

4.5. Testimony cannot be a monologue – it presupposes hearing, presupposes communication. Dialogue implies two sides, mutual openness to communication, readiness for understanding, not only “open ears”, but also “expanded heart” (2 Cor. 6.11). That is why one of the most important issues in the dialogue between Orthodox theology and non-Orthodox should be the problem of theological language, understanding and interpretation.

4.6. It is very gratifying and inspiring that heterodox theological thought, in the person of its best representatives, shows a sincere and deep interest in the study of the patristic heritage, the doctrine and structure of the Ancient Church. At the same time, it should be recognized that there are many unresolved problems and disagreements in the relationship between Orthodox and non-Orthodox theology. Moreover, even formal similarity in many aspects of the faith does not mean true unity, since the elements of dogma in the Orthodox tradition and non-Orthodox theology are interpreted differently.

4.7. Dialogue with non-Orthodox again revived the understanding that a single catholic truth and norm in different cultural and linguistic contexts can be expressed and embodied in various forms. In the course of the dialogue, it is necessary to be able to distinguish the originality of the context from the actual deviation from catholic fullness. The theme of the limits of diversity in a single catholic tradition must be explored.

4.8. The creation of joint research centers, groups and programs within the framework of theological dialogues should be recommended. It is important to consider the regular holding of joint theological conferences, seminars and scientific meetings, the exchange of delegations, the exchange of publications and mutual information, the development of joint publishing programs. The exchange of specialists, teachers and theologians is also of great importance.

4.9. Of great importance is the direction of theologians of the Russian Orthodox Church to the leading centers of non-Orthodox theological science. It is also necessary to invite non-Orthodox theologians to the theological schools and educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church to study Orthodox theology. In the programs of the Theological Schools of the Russian Orthodox Church, more attention should be paid to the study of the course and results of theological dialogues, as well as to the study of heterodoxy.

4.10. In addition to the theological topics proper, the dialogue should also be conducted on a wide range of problems of interaction between the Church and the world. An important direction in the development of relations with non-Orthodox is the joint work in the field of service to society. Where this does not conflict with dogma and spiritual practice, joint programs of religious education and catechesis should be developed.

4.11. A feature of bilateral theological dialogues, in contrast to multilateral ties and participation in inter-Christian organizations, is that these dialogues are built by the Russian Orthodox Church in the volume and forms that the Church considers most appropriate at the moment. The measure and criterion here are the successes of the dialogue itself, the readiness of dialogue partners to take into account the position of the Russian Orthodox Church in the widest (not only theological) spectrum of church and social problems.

5. Multilateral dialogues and participation in the work of inter-Christian organizations

5.1. The Russian Orthodox Church conducts dialogues with non-Orthodox not only on a bilateral, but also on a multilateral basis, including in the pan-Orthodox representation, and also participates in the work of inter-Christian organizations.

5.2. In the matter of membership in various Christian organizations, the following criteria should be adhered to: The Russian Orthodox Church cannot participate in international (regional/national) Christian organizations in which a) the charter, rules or procedure require the rejection of the dogma or traditions of the Orthodox Church, b) the Orthodox The Church does not have the opportunity to testify about itself as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, c) the way of making decisions does not take into account the ecclesiological self-awareness of the Orthodox Church, d) the rules and procedures require the “opinion of the majority” to be binding.

5.3. The level and forms of participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in international Christian organizations should take into account their internal dynamics, agenda, priorities and the nature of these organizations as a whole.

5.4. The scope and measure of the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in international Christian organizations is determined by the Hierarchy based on considerations of church benefit.

5.5. Emphasizing the priority of theological dialogue, discussion of the norms of faith, church structure and principles of spiritual life, the Russian Orthodox Church, like other Local Orthodox Churches, considers it possible and useful to participate in the work of various international organizations in the field of serving the world – diaconia, social service, peacemaking. The Russian Orthodox Church cooperates with various Christian denominations and international Christian organizations in the cause of common witness in the face of a secular society.

5.6. The Russian Orthodox Church maintains working relations at the level of membership or cooperation with a wide variety of international Christian organizations, as well as regional and national councils of churches and Christian organizations specializing in the field of diaconia, youth work or peacemaking.

6. Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with heterodoxy in its canonical territory

6.1. Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with heterodox Christian communities in the CIS and Baltic countries should be carried out in the spirit of fraternal cooperation of the Orthodox Church with other traditional confessions in order to coordinate activities in public life, jointly uphold Christian moral values, serve public harmony, and stop proselytism in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. Churches.

6.2. The Russian Orthodox Church claims that the mission of traditional confessions is possible only in those conditions when it is carried out without proselytism and not at the expense of “poaching” believers, especially with the use of material goods. The Christian communities of the CIS and Baltic countries are called upon to unite their efforts in the field of reconciliation and the moral revival of society, to raise their voice in defense of human life and human dignity.

6.3. The Orthodox Church draws a clear distinction between heterodox confessions that recognize faith in the Holy Trinity, the God-manhood of Jesus Christ, and sects that reject fundamental Christian dogmas. Recognizing the right of non-Orthodox Christians to bear witness and religious education among population groups that traditionally belong to them, the Orthodox Church opposes any destructive missionary activity of sects.

7. Internal tasks in connection with the dialogue with non-Orthodox

7.1. Rejecting views that are erroneous from the point of view of Orthodox dogma, the Orthodox are called to treat the people who profess them with Christian love. Communicating with the heterodox, the Orthodox bear witness to the holiness of Orthodoxy, to the unity of the Church. While bearing witness to the Truth, the Orthodox must be worthy of their witness. Insults against non-Orthodox are not allowed.

7.2. Reliable and qualified informing the church community about the course, tasks and prospects of contacts and dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and non-Orthodox is necessary.

7.3. The Church condemns those who, using unreliable information, deliberately distort the tasks of witnessing the Orthodox Church to the non-Orthodox world and deliberately slander the Church’s hierarchy, accusing them of “treason against Orthodoxy.” Canonical punishments should be applied to such people, who sow the seeds of temptation among ordinary believers. In this regard, one should be guided by the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Meeting in Thessaloniki (1998): “The delegates unanimously condemned those groups of schismatics, as well as certain extremist groups within the Local Orthodox Churches, who use the topic of ecumenism to criticize the church leadership and undermine its authority, thereby trying to cause controversy and schisms in the Church. They use false material and misinformation to support their unfair criticism. The delegates also stressed that Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement has always been based and is based on Orthodox Tradition, on the decisions of the Holy Synods of the Local Orthodox Churches and pan-Orthodox meetings… The participants are unanimous in their understanding of the need to continue participation in various forms of inter-Christian activity. We have no right to refuse the mission entrusted to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, the mission of bearing witness to the Truth before the non-Orthodox world. We must not break off relations with Christians of other confessions who are ready to cooperate with us… Over the many decades of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement, not one of the (official) representatives of this or that Local Orthodox Church has ever betrayed Orthodoxy. On the contrary, these representatives always kept complete loyalty and obedience to their ecclesiastical authorities, acted in full accord with the canonical rules, the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the Church, and with the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.” Danger for the Church is also presented by those who participate in inter-Christian contacts, speaking on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church without the blessing of church authorities, as well as those who introduce temptation into the Orthodox environment, entering into canonically unacceptable sacramental communion with heterodoxy.

Conclusion

The past millennium was marked by the tragedy of division, enmity and alienation. In the 20th century, divided Christians showed a desire to find unity in the Church of Christ. The Russian Orthodox Church responded by its readiness to engage in a dialogue of truth and love with non-Orthodox Christians, a dialogue inspired by the call of Christ and the God-given goal of Christian unity. And today, on the threshold of the third millennium from the day of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Church again with love and perseverance calls all those for whom the blessed name of Jesus Christ is higher than any other name under heaven (Acts 4.12), to the blessed unity in the Church: “Our mouth is open to you … our heart is enlarged” (2 Cor. 6.11).

Appendix

History and characteristics of theological dialogues with heterodoxy

The first experience of the Russian Orthodox Church entering into dialogue with non-Orthodox Christianity dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. In the second half of the 19th century, a theological dialogue began between the Russian Orthodox Church and non-Orthodox Christians – Anglicans, Old Catholics and pre-Chalcedonites. Contacts with the Anglican Church intensified in the 1960s in North America, where Orthodox parishes were in close contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA. Once again, the question of rapprochement between Anglicans and Orthodox was raised at negotiations in 1895-1897, and then at the beginning of the 20th century with the participation of St. Tikhon, the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Negotiations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Old Catholic Church within the framework of the St. Petersburg-Rotterdam Commission (1892–1914) were important for developing theological grounds for dialogue with the heterodox. The outbreak of the First World War and the subsequent revolution of 1917 interrupted the official dialogue of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Anglicans and Old Catholics. At the same time, the dialogue with non-Orthodox continued by the forces of the Russian Orthodox diaspora. The Russian Orthodox Church was able to resume theological dialogues only in the fifties. Thus, the Russian Orthodox Church entered into dialogues on a bilateral level with the Church of England (1956), the Evangelical Church in Germany (1959), the Roman Catholic Church (1967), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (1970).

Relations with the Ancient Eastern (pre-Chalcedonian) churches

The Russian Orthodox Church has been participating in a dialogue with the pre-Chalcedonian churches on a pan-Orthodox level since 1961, first in the course of unofficial meetings, and since 1985 in an official theological dialogue in the person of its representatives who were members of the Mixed Theological Commission. The result of many years of work on discussing the causes and nature of the division that exists between the Orthodox Church and the churches that did not accept the definitions of the IV Ecumenical (Chalcedon) Council was the “Second General Declaration and Proposal to the Churches” (Chambesy, Switzerland, 1990).

With regard to the interim results of the pan-Orthodox dialogue with the pre-Chalcedonian churches and the document developed in the course of it, the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997 applies. faithful to the apostolic and patristic Tradition, which is expressed by the Joint Theological Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches in the “Second General Declaration and Proposals to the Churches” (Chambesy, Switzerland, 1990). The “Declaration” should not be regarded as a final document sufficient to restore full communion between the Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, because it contains ambiguities in certain Christological formulations. In this regard, to express the hope that Christological formulations will be further refined in the course of studying questions of a liturgical, pastoral and canonical nature, as well as questions related to the restoration of ecclesiastical communion between the two families of Churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Based on the above decision of the Council of Bishops, the Holy Synod at its meeting on March 30, 1999 decided to continue the theological dialogue of the Russian Orthodox Church with the pre-Chalcedonian churches on a bilateral level. relating to the restoration of ecclesiastical communion between the two families of Churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Based on the above decision of the Council of Bishops, the Holy Synod at its meeting on March 30, 1999 decided to continue the theological dialogue of the Russian Orthodox Church with the pre-Chalcedonian churches on a bilateral level. relating to the restoration of ecclesiastical communion between the two families of Churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Based on the above decision of the Council of Bishops, the Holy Synod at its meeting on March 30, 1999 decided to continue the theological dialogue of the Russian Orthodox Church with the pre-Chalcedonian churches on a bilateral level.

Relations with the Roman Catholic Church

Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church has been built and must be built in the future, taking into account the fundamental fact that it is a Church in which the apostolic succession of ordinations is preserved. At the same time, it seems necessary to take into account the nature of the development of the doctrinal foundations and ethos of the RCC, which often ran counter to the Tradition and spiritual experience of the Ancient Church.

The theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church should develop in parallel with the discussion of the most pressing problems of bilateral relations. The most important topic of dialogue today remains the topic of union and proselytism.

At present and in the near future, one of the most promising forms of cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church is the strengthening of existing regional ties with the dioceses and parishes of the RCC. Another form of cooperation could be the establishment and development of already existing links with the Catholic Episcopal Conferences.

Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Anglicanshave a special character, due both to their prescription and the special spirit of interest and mutual respect and attention in which they were traditionally conducted. The dialogue with the Anglicans, interrupted by the revolutionary change of power in Russia, was resumed in 1956 at a theological interview in Moscow, when the topics of “Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church”, “On Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition”, “doctrine and its wording”, “Creed and Councils”, “Sacraments, their essence and quantity”, “Orthodox customs”. Since 1976, the Russian Orthodox Church has been participating in a pan-Orthodox dialogue with the Anglicans. In 1976, an agreed statement was adopted on seven sections: 1) Knowledge of God, 2) Divine inspiration and the authority of Scripture, 3) Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, 4) Authority of the Ecumenical Councils, 5) Filioque, 6) The Church as a Eucharistic community, 7) The invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist. As a result of the dialogue, the Anglican participants decided to use the Creed without the “Filioque”. In the ongoing dialogue, topics such as the Sacrament of the Church, signs of the Church, communion and intercommunion, expansion of governance in the Church, witness, evangelization, service, Triadology, prayer and holiness, participation in the grace of the Holy Trinity, prayer, prayer and Tradition, worship and transmission of faith were discussed. , communion of saints, icon veneration. Significant damage to the successful and progressive development of the dialogue was caused by the emergence on the Anglican side of the practice of ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopal rank, which is alien to the tradition of the Church. But despite the difficulties that have arisen, the reduced level and ecclesiastical significance of the dialogue, it should be continued with more careful attention to revealing the spiritual foundations of the Orthodox Tradition. The Third Pre-Council Pan-Orthodox Conference, in its resolution, considered “satisfactory the work done by the Mixed Theological Commission on dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Church of England, despite the tendencies shown by the Anglicans to reduce the importance of this dialogue. The commission compiled general texts on the topics of triadology and ecclesiology, as well as life, worship and Tradition of the Church. At the same time, the meeting notes that the agreement signed in Moscow (1976) regarding the removal of the Filioque from the Creed has not yet met with a wide response. In the same way, despite the discussions and statements of the Orthodox in Athens (1978) and other places who opposed the consecration of women, some Churches of the Anglican Communion continued to perform similar ordinations. These trends may have a negative impact on the further course of the dialogue. A serious difficulty for the normal conduct of this dialogue is also presented by the fuzzy and loose ecclesiological premises of the Anglicans, which deprive the content of jointly signed general theological texts of concreteness. A similar difficulty arises from the various extreme pronouncements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.” These trends may have a negative impact on the further course of the dialogue. A serious difficulty for the normal conduct of this dialogue is also presented by the fuzzy and loose ecclesiological premises of the Anglicans, which deprive the content of jointly signed general theological texts of concreteness. A similar difficulty arises from the various extreme pronouncements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.” These trends may have a negative impact on the further course of the dialogue. A serious difficulty for the normal conduct of this dialogue is also presented by the fuzzy and loose ecclesiological premises of the Anglicans, which deprive the content of jointly signed general theological texts of concreteness. A similar difficulty arises from the various extreme pronouncements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.” A serious difficulty for the normal conduct of this dialogue is also presented by the fuzzy and loose ecclesiological premises of the Anglicans, which deprive the content of jointly signed general theological texts of concreteness. A similar difficulty arises from the various extreme pronouncements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.” A serious difficulty for the normal conduct of this dialogue is also presented by the fuzzy and loose ecclesiological premises of the Anglicans, which deprive the content of jointly signed general theological texts of concreteness. A similar difficulty arises from the various extreme pronouncements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.” arising from various extreme statements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.” arising from various extreme statements on matters of faith by individual Anglican leaders. With regard to the topics of the dialogue, the meeting, in particular, recommends emphasizing the agreement that can take place on dogmatic issues dividing both Churches. It would also be possible to include in the topics and issues of spirituality, pastoral care and serving the needs of the modern world.”

Dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Old Catholicsalso distinguished by its rich history and theological significance, as well as the very serious results noted at the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1917-18. The Third Pre-Council Pan-Orthodox Conference (November 28–November 6, 1986) adopted the following resolution based on the results of the dialogue with the Old Catholics: “Twenty texts have already been compiled and jointly adopted; the same number of theological, ecclesiological, soteriological themes, including the themes of the Mother of God and some sacraments. The Mixed Theological Commission will have to consider at the next meeting, having studied questions relating to the doctrine of the sacraments, eschatology, as well as the conditions and consequences of church communion. The Meeting considers that, in order to better evaluate the results of this dialogue, the following should be kept in mind: a) the observance by the Old Catholic Church of the long-standing practice of communion in the sacraments with the Church of England, as well as the later tendencies that appeared in Germany towards communion in the sacraments with the Evangelical Church, since all this reduces the significance of common ecclesiological texts signed jointly in the dialogue; b) the difficulties of embodying and revealing the theology of jointly signed common theological texts throughout the life of the Old Catholic Church. Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a positive impact on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen the credibility of them.” as well as the later tendencies in Germany towards communion in the sacraments with the Evangelical Church, since all this reduces the significance of common ecclesiological texts signed jointly in the dialogue; b) the difficulties of embodying and revealing the theology of jointly signed common theological texts throughout the life of the Old Catholic Church. Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a positive impact on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen the credibility of them.” as well as the later tendencies in Germany towards communion in the sacraments with the Evangelical Church, since all this reduces the significance of common ecclesiological texts signed jointly in the dialogue; b) the difficulties of embodying and revealing the theology of jointly signed common theological texts throughout the life of the Old Catholic Church. Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a positive impact on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen the credibility of them.” since all this reduces the significance of common ecclesiological texts signed jointly in the dialogue; b) the difficulties of embodying and revealing the theology of jointly signed common theological texts throughout the life of the Old Catholic Church. Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a positive impact on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen the credibility of them.” since all this reduces the significance of common ecclesiological texts signed jointly in the dialogue; b) the difficulties of embodying and revealing the theology of jointly signed common theological texts throughout the life of the Old Catholic Church. Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a favorable effect on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen their credibility.” Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a positive impact on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen the credibility of them.” Both of these questions need to be assessed by competent theologians of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of ecclesiological and ecclesiastical implications in order to accelerate the establishment of ecclesiastical prerequisites for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Catholics. The successful completion of this theological dialogue will have a favorable effect on the results of other dialogues, as it will strengthen their credibility.”

The Russian Orthodox Church is in dialogue with the Lutherans both on a bilateral and pan-Orthodox level. In dialogue with the Evangelical Church of Germany (FRG), the topics of Holy Scripture and Tradition, Redemption, Pneumatology, peace, the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist were discussed. In dialogue with the Lutheran Church of Finland, the topics for discussion are the Eucharist, Salvation, Justification, Deification. There was also a dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Lutherans of the GDR, during which the issues of understanding the two traditions of the Kingdom of God, which sanctifies the actions of Divine Grace, were studied. At the pan-Orthodox level, the topic for discussion is “Participation in the sacrament of the Church.”

The Russian Orthodox Church participates in a pan-Orthodox dialogue with the Reformed . The themes of this dialogue were Holy Tradition, the Eucharist, spiritual values ​​and social service. Despite all the difficulties of this dialogue, it should also be continued with special attention to the ecclesiological theme, as well as the theme of the Tradition of the Church.

Appendix

Participation in international Christian organizations and dialogues with the so-called. “ecumenical movement”

For nearly a century, the Russian Orthodox Church has been in dialogue with the ecumenical movement. Ecumenism is a multifaceted concept. Initially denoting the desire for rapprochement between Christians, today it is used in a variety of senses. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly distinguish between the concepts of “ecumenism”, “ecumenical movement”, on the one hand, and “ecumenical contacts of the Orthodox Church” or “participation of the Orthodox in the ecumenical movement”, on the other. The most important goal of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement has always been and should be in the future to bear witness to the doctrine and catholic tradition of the Church, and above all the truth about the unity of the Church as it is realized in the life of the Local Orthodox Churches.

The dialogue of the Orthodox Church with the ecumenical movement does not mean recognition of equivalence or equivalence with the rest of the participants in the movement. Membership in the World Council of Churches does not mean the recognition of the WCC as an ecclesiastical reality of a more comprehensive order than the Orthodox Church itself, since it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, or even simply the recognition that the WCC and the ecumenical movement have at least some kind of ecclesiastical reality on their own. The spiritual value and significance of the WCC is determined by the willingness and desire of the members of the WCC to hear and respond to the testimony of catholic Truth.

The ecumenical movement arose in the depths of Protestantism at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The emergence of the ecumenical movement is associated with the awakening of the “will to unity” in a divided Christian community. In addition, the initial motives and impulses of the ecumenical movement were the need for international Christian cooperation and the desire to overcome the mission-destroying denominationalism. characteristic of the late 19th century. was the emergence of confessional unions, associations and alliances. In the first third of our century, the ecumenical movement was not something single, it was the totality of a number of inter-Protestant movements. Almost from the very beginning of the emergence of the ecumenical movement, its initiators had a desire to create a single body of the ecumenical movement, which later took shape in the “World Council of Churches”. In addition, national and regional bodies of ecumenical interaction arose – national and regional “councils of churches”. In addition to missionary work, cooperation in the field of practical affairs was primarily among the interests of the ecumenical movement. Relatively later, the movement for inter-Christian unification that took shape was inspired precisely by the Protestant teaching about the church, about the goals and objectives of Christian reunification. One of the key ideas for Protestant ecumenism was the idea that none of the existing denominations can claim to be called “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” in the full sense. Yet they are nothing but denominations that arose as a result of the division of the once united Christianity caused by human shortcomings. On the question of the nature of Christian unity and the meaning of divisions, representatives of various denominations had their own disagreements, but basically “ecumenical ecclesiology” was reduced to the fact that Christian unity is a certain given. All Christians, inasmuch as they all believe in Christ, are therefore one in Christ. Accordingly, the ecumenical task was understood as the need to visibly express and emphasize this ontological unity, clouded and weakened in the course of history, to restore broken ties between Christians. Accordingly, in practical terms, the prospect of restoring unity was conceived in the direction of interdenominational agreements. Since there was a thesis that “dogma divides, and life unites”, then in order to achieve convergence of denominations, it was supposed to a) strive for a doctrinal consensus on issues dividing confessions (such a consensus, like any consensus, assumed mutual concessions, the recognition of differences as a matter of secondary importance, especially because all these doctrinal differences are the fruit of the intractability and arrogance of theologians and the lust for power of church administrators). b) without waiting for a doctrinal consensus to achieve unity in practical work – missions, ministry to the disadvantaged, etc. c) strive to establish church fellowship as a means of spiritual rapprochement between denominations – hold joint prayers, invite to worship in your community representatives of another congregation, etc. – somewhat later, this idea acquired the character of the so-called “intercommunion” or “Eucharistic hospitality” – when representatives of a different confession were invited to participate in the Eucharist, with whom full communication has not yet been restored. The World Council of Churches was considered by the initiators of its creation as the most visible sign of Christian unity, an instrument for coordinating interdenominational rapprochement.

The very choice of the term “ecumenical” for the movement of Christians towards unity reflects a specifically Western, external understanding of the principles of catholicity and the unity of the Church. “Ecumene” – the “universe” of the first centuries of Christianity was the designation of the inhabited earth, the totality of the countries of the Greco-Latin culture, the countries of the Mediterranean basin, the territory of the Roman Empire. The adjective ecumenikos (“universal”) became the definition of the Byzantine Empire, “universal empire”. Since the boundaries of the empire by the time of Constantine the Great more or less coincided with the spread of the Church, the Church often used the term “ecumenikos”. It was given as an honorary title to the bishops of the two capitals of the empire, Rome and later the “New Rome”—Constantinople. Mainly, this term denoted the general church councils of the bishops of the universal empire. The word “universal” “ecumenical” was also designated that which concerned the entire church territory as a whole, as opposed to everything that had only a local, provincial significance (for example, a local council or local veneration). Therefore, the expression “ecumenical movement” implied overcoming denominational “principality”, overcoming isolation from the whole other world, openness to all other Christian communities. The Orthodox Church distinguishes “Christian universality”, universalism, ecumenism, from catholicity (catholicity). Ecumenism is a consequence that necessarily follows from the catholicity of the Church and is inseparable from the catholicity of the Church, since it is nothing but its external, material expression. The Church as a whole is called “universal”, and this definition does not apply to its parts; but every part of the Church, even the smallest, even only one believer can be called catholic (cathedral). The universality and ubiquity of the Church is a consequence of her catholicity. The Universal Church appears not only in the totality of all its members or all local Churches, but everywhere and always, in every local Church, in every temple. Thus, the Orthodox and non-Orthodox understanding of “ecumenism” (universality) diverged significantly. For the Orthodox, ecumenism is a consequence of inner unity with Truth and the inner integrity and inseparability of the spiritual experience of the Church, while for the non-Orthodox, ecumenism is the initial premise and formal condition of unity. but everywhere and always, in every local Church, in every temple. Thus, the Orthodox and non-Orthodox understanding of “ecumenism” (universality) diverged significantly. For the Orthodox, ecumenism is a consequence of inner unity with Truth and the inner integrity and inseparability of the spiritual experience of the Church, while for the non-Orthodox, ecumenism is the initial premise and formal condition of unity. but everywhere and always, in every local Church, in every temple. Thus, the Orthodox and non-Orthodox understanding of “ecumenism” (universality) diverged significantly. For the Orthodox, ecumenism is a consequence of inner unity with Truth and the inner integrity and inseparability of the spiritual experience of the Church, while for the non-Orthodox, ecumenism is the initial premise and formal condition of unity.

If the necessity of the Orthodox Church’s Witness to the non-Orthodox world is beyond doubt, then the question of the specific forms of such witness, in particular, the expediency of the participation of the Orthodox Church in the ecumenical movement and international Christian organizations has been and still is a subject for constant and careful study. Recognizing and constantly reminding the non-Orthodox that the main ecumenical problem is division and not unity, the Local Orthodox Churches have decided to participate in the ecumenical movement and ecumenical organizations, ie. “from within” and take a constructively critical position. It cannot be said that this question is indisputable for the Orthodox conscience and consciousness. The Orthodox see that in the ecumenical movement there is both a sincere striving for unity and, at the same time, the whole spectrum of errors and doctrinal untruths that have manifested themselves in the course of Christian history. In this regard, the question has been and is repeatedly asked: Is the ecumenical movement and its institutional forms, as well as the role that the Orthodox play in it, an appropriate and effective means of Orthodox witness? Wouldn’t it be better, simpler and wiser to keep a distance, to speak from the outside and from the very beginning emphasize the inconsistency of the underlying premises, as well as significant differences in the formulation of tasks and ultimate goals? But by taking part in the ecumenical movement, the Orthodox quite definitely and unambiguously declare that they do not share the heterodox vision of ecumenism. For the Orthodox it is not important

Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky) wrote about the principles of the Orthodox Church’s attitude to “ecumenical unity” and its institutional forms in his reply to Robert Gardiner, one of the leaders of the ecumenical movement and the initiator of the creation of the World Council of Churches. Devoting his reply to the relentless critique of “ecumenical ecclesiology” that Gardiner seems to have shared, St. At the end of the letter, Hilarion says the following: “Do not think that my resolute disagreement with your concept of the unity of the Church is a condemnation of the very idea of ​​a worldwide conference of Christianity (a prototype of the WCC). No, I have already spoken about my complete prayerful goodwill for the projected conference. But I firmly believe that it would be a huge step towards unity,

The attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church towards the World Council of Churches was ambiguous. Along with the desire to fulfill its duty of witness, the Russian Orthodox Church also saw the dangers hidden in the dominance of the Protestant element in the WCC. The Russian Orthodox Church, along with a number of other local Orthodox Churches, declined an invitation to join the WCC in 1948. The most painful topic for Orthodox self-consciousness turned out to be the concept of membership in the World Council of Churches. The existence of the Orthodox Churches as member churches along with other “churches” aroused serious suspicions about the possibility of interpreting the WCC as a more universal structure than the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which the Orthodox Church understands itself to be. The result of constructive and persistent criticism from the Orthodox was the adoption by the World Council of Churches of the so-called. The Toronto Declaration, which guaranteed the Orthodox the right to testify clearly and unambiguously in the WCC about their ecclesiology and the nature of Christian division, the rejection of the requirement of “parity” and recognition as churches of various denominations, and affirmed the ecclesiological neutrality of the WCC – something that the WCC is not considered as ” super-church” and in no way seeks to create it. The Toronto Declaration was the World Council of Churches’ response to the 1948 Moscow Meeting’s criticism of the “purposefulness of the WCC.” The further evolution of the Council in a positive direction led to constructive efforts by the World Council to change the one-sided pro-Western direction of its activities and try to maintain a more balanced and objective relationship between West and East. In theological terms, the World Council of Churches began to pay more attention to the problems of “Faith and Church Order”, in particular, the development of a new Basis and a clearer definition of the unity of the Church in faith and in the foundations of canonical order. Such an internal evolution developed in the direction of strengthening the elements of catholicity and churchliness. the development of a new Basis and a clearer definition of the unity of the Church in faith and in the foundations of the canonical structure. Such an internal evolution developed in the direction of strengthening the elements of catholicity and churchliness. the development of a new Basis and a clearer definition of the unity of the Church in faith and in the foundations of the canonical structure. Such an internal evolution developed in the direction of strengthening the elements of catholicity and churchliness.

In July 1961, the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a decision on the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the World Council of Churches. The entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the World Council of Churches took place in December 1961, at the Third General Assembly of the WCC in New Delhi. The fact that the change in the position of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with the ecumenical movement was caused by positive changes within this movement, and that the entry of the Russian Church into the WCC was dictated by considerations of Orthodox witness, was said in 1961 by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy I of Moscow and All Russia : “We state with satisfaction that … [the ecumenical movement] has largely embarked on the path of striving for a more ecclesiastical, spiritual structure of activity … And we have now changed our position in relation to the World Council of Churches. However, and earlier we Orthodox did not have a cold and even more disdainful attitude towards Western Christians. On the contrary, we have always willingly met their spiritual quests and requests, desiring to unite all under the Head of Christ in the bosom of His Holy Church. Now, when those who have fallen away from the Church themselves seek unity in it, we need to meet them halfway in order to facilitate their search by witnessing the truth of Orthodoxy. The relationship that has developed between our Church and the World Council of Churches… has now led to the well-known decision of our Holy Synod of March 30 [1961] on the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the World Council of Churches… In the circumstances of the present time, we cannot but see indications of the need to maintain a sense of Christian community and bind Christians East and West in bonds of love and peace.

The entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the World Council of Churches was marked by the adoption by the Orthodox participants of a statement to the Third Assembly of the WCC, in which the critical attitude of the Orthodox towards the dominant view in the Protestant world about the methods of Christian reunification was clearly formulated and which became a new striking example of principled Orthodox witness to the non-Orthodox members of the WCC: “… The ecumenical movement, now embodied in the WCC, began on a Protestant initiative, but was not intended from the very beginning to be a Protestant cause and should not be considered as such. This must be especially emphasized now, when almost all the Churches of the Orthodox community have become members of the WCC…. The ecumenical problem, as it is understood in the present ecumenical movement, is primarily the problem of the Protestant world. The main issue in this perspective is the question of “denominationalism”. Therefore, the issue of Christian unity or Christian reunification is usually seen in the context of interdenominational accord or reconciliation. In the Protestant world, this approach is normal. But it is not suitable for the Orthodox. For the Orthodox, the main ecumenical problem is schism. Orthodox cannot accept the idea of ​​”denominational equality” and cannot view Christian reunification simply as an interdenominational settlement. Unity has been broken and must be restored. The Orthodox Church is not one of many confessions; for the Orthodox, the Orthodox Church is the Church. The Orthodox Church identifies its internal structure and its teaching with the apostolic message (kerygma) and with the tradition of the ancient undivided Church. It is in the undisturbed and constant succession of the mysterious service, the mysterious life and faith. For the Orthodox, the apostolic succession of the episcopate and the sacrament of clergy are essential and founding, and therefore are indispensable elements of the very existence of the Church. The Orthodox Church, according to her inner conviction and knowledge, has a special and exclusive place in the divided Christian world, as the bearer and witness of the tradition of the ancient undivided Church, from which all existing denominations come by reduction and separation. From an Orthodox point of view, a real ecumenical effort can be characterized as “ecumenism in space” aimed at an agreement between the different denominations that currently exist. From the Orthodox point of view, this effort is incomplete and insufficient. One can find common grounds in existing denominations in the past, in their common history, in the common ancient and apostolic tradition from which they originated, and one must look for them. This kind of ecumenical effort can be called “ecumenism in time”… It is not supposed to be a static restoration of the old forms, but rather a dynamic restoration of the eternal essence, which alone can ensure the true harmony of “all ages”… The goal of the ecumenical effort in Orthodox understanding is restoration of the Christian mind, apostolic Tradition, the fullness of Christian vision and faith in harmony with all ages.

The decades that have passed since the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the World Council of Churches are years of intense dialogue. Participation in the WCC turned out to be a difficult task, requiring the use of the best theologians of the Church. The Orthodox optimism of the early period of the ecumenical movement, associated with the hope of a quick and significant rapprochement with the heterodox, turned out to be premature: the differences turned out to be too deep, the task of building a new language turned out to be extremely difficult. But despite these difficulties, years of hard work have borne fruit. Thus, the results of the Orthodox witness in the WCC are the new Basis of the WCC; New Delhi Statement of Unity and Toronto Declaration; Lima Documents of the WCC on Baptism, the Eucharist and the Priesthood.

For many years of dialogue with the ecumenical movement, the Orthodox have emphasized the priority of works to restore unity in the faith, structure and principles of the spiritual life of the Church over cooperation in practical matters, the so-called. “horizontalism”. Related to this is the special attention that the Orthodox attach to their participation in the commission of the WCC “Faith and Order”. The Faith and Order Commission is an institutional and, to a certain extent, autonomous continuation within the framework of the WCC of the movement of the same name, which has existed since 1910, one of the most important trends in the ecumenical movement along with the Life and Work movements and the international missionary council. The activity of “Faith and Order”, unlike other areas in the ecumenical movement, and this is its special value and significance for Orthodox witness, was originally aimed at the implementation of a multilateral theological dialogue. It was within the framework of the “Faith and Order” direction that the Orthodox participants were able to convey to their partners in the theological dialogue the catholic vision of the topics discussed: the Church and its unity, understanding of the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood, Scripture and Tradition, the role and meaning of the Creeds, the influence of n. “non-theological” factors to the problem of Christian division and unity. The theological dialogue within Faith and Order is made broader and more representative by the membership of the Roman Catholic Church, which is not a member of the WCC. Due to the special significance of the “Faith and Order” commission for the Orthodox witness,

From the very beginning of their participation in the dialogue with the ecumenical movement, Orthodox theologians faced the inevitable ambiguity of the language and terminology used in the dialogue, which expressed the desire of heterodox participants to achieve a doctrinal compromise: no compromise is in place, and two understandings, two different ideas and explanations of generally accepted formulations cannot be justified by the same words. And the Orthodox cannot hope that unity based on such ambiguous formulations will not last long…. The Orthodox Church believes that any union must be based on a common faith… No practical value, for example, has an agreement on the need for sacraments in Churches, if there are fundamental contradictions among the Churches regarding their number, their meaning and in general the essence of each of them, their actions and results … As a result of all this, we cannot accept the idea of ​​​​reunification, which is limited to only common insignificant elements, because, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church where there is no community of faith, there can be no communion in the sacraments. We cannot even apply here the principle of economy, which operates in other cases, which the Orthodox Church often used in relation to those who turn to her.” (Statement of Orthodox participants at the First World Conference “Faith and Church Organization”, Lausanne, 1927). limited only to common minor elements, because, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, where there is no community of faith, there can be no communion in the sacraments. We cannot even apply here the principle of economy, which operates in other cases, which the Orthodox Church often used in relation to those who turn to her.” (Statement of Orthodox participants at the First World Conference “Faith and Church Organization”, Lausanne, 1927). limited only to common minor elements, because, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, where there is no community of faith, there can be no communion in the sacraments. We cannot even apply here the principle of economy, which operates in other cases, which the Orthodox Church often used in relation to those who turn to her.” (Statement of Orthodox participants at the First World Conference “Faith and Church Organization”, Lausanne, 1927).

The participation of the Orthodox in the World Council of Churches has never been easy. Centuries of Christian separation, the life of Western Christianity in isolation from the Orthodox Plenitude, have led to deplorable results. First of all, the common language, the common system of meaning of concepts, the common space of discourse turned out to be lost. Even the use of biblical language in ecumenical dialogue proved ambiguous and artificial. Formally speaking, theologians can communicate in the same language, but even using the same concepts, they essentially express the different spiritual experiences of their traditions. It is this deep, root difference in the spiritual experience of Orthodoxy that makes Testimony an extremely difficult task. During the years of participation of the Orthodox in the ecumenical movement, it became clear that the Orthodox witness could only be successful on the basis of a consistent, justified criticism of the premises, content, ethos, cultural, historical and social context and the very spiritual foundations of heterodoxy. For this, a clearer understanding of the Protestant problematic itself, the study of theological and spiritual foundations is necessary. It also became clear that the entire problem of dialogue with heterodoxy, its internal dynamics, requires as an answer not ready-made and frozen schemes, but a constant and creative understanding of one’s own tradition. It became clear that participation in the ecumenical movement gives a powerful stimulus to the development of Orthodox theological thought, precisely as a response to the questions of heterodoxy. The idea that the Gospel, the Tradition of the Church, the dogmatic teaching should each time, as it were, be re-embodied in a new cultural-historical context, again manifested itself with all its relevance. The ecumenical dialogues have revealed an amazing regularity: entering into a discussion with non-Orthodox on issues of modern times that seem to be far from patristic issues and topics that concern the non-Orthodox inevitably requires Orthodox theologians to grow more and more into patristic tradition and thought. The ability to dialogue with non-Orthodox is determined by the degree of creative rootedness in one’s own tradition.

The Russian Orthodox Church throughout all the years of her participation in the World Council of Churches has taken a position of constructive criticism in relation to the WCC. This is due to the historically determined features of the structure of the World Council of Churches. From the very beginning, the Protestant element dominated the WCC. The Orthodox, taking part in the work of the WCC, understood that they would have to bear the Testimony in difficult conditions, when the very possibility of discussing a particular topic is determined by a vote in which they may be in the minority. We are not talking about the fact that such a procedure could impose something on the Orthodox – the decisions taken in the WCC have no binding significance for the members of the WCC. But the topic of discussion in the World Council of Churches was to a large extent determined and is still being determined by the Protestant majority. Of course, the Orthodox, even under these conditions, freely and openly presented their opinion in accordance with the Tradition of the Church, but this opinion often turned out to be a “reaction”, a “special position” in relation to the opinion of the non-Orthodox majority. The World Council of Churches has turned out to be a unique tribune, a truly worldwide forum, where the Orthodox have the opportunity to represent the faith of the Church to the heterodox. And this fact cannot be discounted by all the difficulties that the Orthodox have to face in the World Council of Churches. “special position” in relation to the opinion of the non-Orthodox majority. The World Council of Churches has turned out to be a unique tribune, a truly worldwide forum, where the Orthodox have the opportunity to represent the faith of the Church to the heterodox. And this fact cannot be discounted by all the difficulties that the Orthodox have to face in the World Council of Churches. “special position” in relation to the opinion of the non-Orthodox majority. The World Council of Churches has turned out to be a unique tribune, a truly worldwide forum, where the Orthodox have the opportunity to represent the faith of the Church to the heterodox. And this fact cannot be discounted by all the difficulties that the Orthodox have to face in the World Council of Churches.

By virtue of the existing structure of the WCC, the Orthodox are sometimes compelled to discuss in the World Council of Churches the problems that are imposed on them for discussion. At the same time, issues that really concern the Orthodox Churches remain outside the field of view of the WCC. Thus, a most serious obstacle is laid for bearing the Orthodox witness in the Council. The Orthodox, simply because of their structural minority, cannot influence the formation of the themes of the WCC. Within the framework of the current structure of the WCC, the Orthodox are forced to bear full responsibility for the agenda and for those decisions that are taken in the WCC and which sometimes turn out to be unacceptable for the Orthodox dogma and tradition. This circumstance leads to the fact that membership with such a level of commitment is sharply criticized by the clergy and laity of individual Orthodox Churches.

Over time, topics began to appear on the agenda of the WCC that turned out to be completely unacceptable for Orthodox Tradition. It has become completely legitimate to speak of the growing crisis of the WCC, which in turn is connected with the crisis of a significant number of Protestant denominations – members of the WCC and the crisis of the ecumenical movement as a whole. The tasks declared by the WCC today come into complete contradiction with practice: the gap between the Protestant majority and the Orthodox minority, which has come closer on the basis of liberalization, is becoming more and more obvious. As a result, such a development is possible in the Protestant churches and in the World Council of Churches, with which the Orthodox will no longer be able to agree, neither for ecclesiological, nor for dogmatic, nor for moral reasons.

The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997 considered the situation with the membership of the Russian Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches and the issue of related problems in connection with the strengthening of negative tendencies in the Council. In order to resolve the issue of the participation or non-participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC, the Consecrated Council of Bishops decided to hold a pan-Orthodox discussion of this problem. As stated in the definition of the Council: “Based on the results of a pan-Orthodox decision, to have a judgment at the Council of Bishops on the participation or non-participation of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in bilateral and multilateral inter-confessional theological dialogues, as well as in the work of the WCC and other international Christian organizations.

The Pan-Orthodox Conference in Thessaloniki (April 29–May 1, 1998), convened on the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church, came to the conclusion that the current structure of the WCC is unacceptable to the Orthodox and their continued participation in the Council is only possible under the condition of a “radical reform” of the World Council of Churches. In connection with this statement, the VIII Assembly of the WCC decided to establish a Special Commission of the World Council of Churches for Relations with the Orthodox. The commission’s mandate includes consideration of the entire range of issues and problems of Orthodox participation in the WCC and proposal of possible options for transforming the Council. In accordance with the decision of the pan-Orthodox meeting in Thessaloniki, during the work of this commission, the Russian Orthodox Church takes part in the work with the WCC with a “limited mandate”. Thus, the current period in the relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with the World Council of Churches, when the new model of the WCC and ways of its transformation is being discussed, is a transitional one. At this stage of the transition to the new model of the WCC, the Russian Orthodox Church should use all the tools at its disposal to be present in the WCC in order to disseminate as widely as possible among the member churches its position on issues that provoke criticism from the Orthodox.

The Orthodox take their participation in the WCC with the utmost responsibility, and that is why they warn: the current development of the WCC is going in a dangerous and improper direction. They state the crisis of the World Council of Churches and call for a revision of the entire current ethos, the principles of the WCC. Therefore, a radical reform of the WCC should imply not a change in the “form” while maintaining the same content, not a “reform”, but a change in the very essence of the WCC. Any new step towards the strengthening of Protestant ecclesiology in the WCC will be the spiritual suicide of the WCC. The Orthodox, demanding a “reform” of the WCC, insist that the WCC should have the possibility of a full-fledged Orthodox witness to the truth of the Church, to the principles of unity. If there is no possibility for such evidence, if the activity of the WCC moves further and further away from the original goals of the ecumenical movement – the desire to restore Christian unity – then the WCC loses its spiritual value. The WCC is a dynamic phenomenon in which the “strengthening” and “weakening” of the elements of catholicity is possible. Now in the WCC there is a desire to be satisfied with “incomplete koinonia”, to stabilize the existing division as a normal and weak measure of communication, to fix the existing status of “community” in the concepts of “incomplete (growing) communication”, “exemplary diversity”. Today’s ecumenical movement is in crisis. The reason for this is the weakening of the striving for unity, the weakening of the readiness and will for “conversion”, for catholic renewal. This is what first of all makes the Russian Orthodox Church reconsider its attitude towards the World Council of Churches. Negative trends in the WCC lead to the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is faced with the need to be ready to change its status in relations with the WCC. However, such a decision should be made only when all means of changing the nature of the WCC have been exhausted.


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