For a selected bibliography, click HERE.


Source:  Faith Matters, TOWARD THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL: Retrieving a Culture of Conciliarity and Communion


Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis


Introduction: primacy and conciliarity in context

Allow me to begin by articulating some personal sentiments on my relationship with this school and Church.[1] I am not sure that there could be more touching an affirmation of my regard for the legacy of this community than the honor of delivering the Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture. My admiration for the late Fr John Meyendorff and Fr Alexander Schmemann has proved formative in my academic and church life both in Australia and the United States, where I have been privileged to serve—over the last twenty-five out of thirty-one years in my priesthood, in one capacity or another—His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, presently on a full-time basis with the gracious consent of His Eminence my own Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. 

I would be hard pressed to identify another contemporary clergyman with the breadth of perspective and boldness of Fr Alexander Schmemann, whose name graces this memorial lecture. Fr Alexander was fearless in his analysis because he discerned the temptation of a Church shamelessly grandstanding, but shamefully disregarding its role “in this world, yet not of this world” (Jn 17.16-18):

We are paying the price,” he writes in his Journals, “of the crisis of Orthodoxy because we created so many idols . . . We are concerned with the fate of many patriarchates . . . and deeply engulfed in many jurisdictions, all of them brandishing various canons. We try to conquer the West with what is weak and ambiguous in our heritage. This arrogance, self-satisfaction, and pompous triumphalism are frightening.[2]

In 1963 he wrote: “[A] synod is not ‘power’ in the juridical sense of this word, for there can exist no power over the church body of Christ.  [A] synod is, rather a witness to the identity of all Churches as the Church of God in faith, life, and agape.”[3]

Forty-five years later, in a similar assessment that I consider historical and definitive for the Orthodox Church, addressing the Fifth Synaxis of the Heads of Orthodox Churches (Phanar, Constantinople, October 8, 2008), His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew candidly, albeit unassumingly alerted the world’s Orthodox primates:

We have received and preserve the true faith . . . We commune of the same . . . sacraments. We basically keep the same liturgical typikon and are governed by the same Sacred Canons . . . Despite this, we must admit in all honesty that sometimes we present an image of incomplete unity, as if we were not one Church, but rather a confederation or a federation of Churches.[4]

As I listened to this critique and questioned how and where the leadership would come from to address the absence of unity in my beloved Church, the words of Fr John Meyendorff writing in 1978 resonated in my mind:

It is unquestionable that the Orthodox conception of the Church recognizes the need for a leadership of the world episcopate, for a certain spokesmanship by the first patriarch, for a ministry of coordination without which conciliarity is impossible . . . [T]he Patriarchate of Constantinople was n[ever] deprived of its “ecumenicity,” being always answerable to the conciliar consciousness of the Church. In the present chaotic years, the Orthodox Church could indeed use wise, objective and authoritative leadership from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[5]

Fr John died just months after Patriarch Bartholomew’s election to the throne of Constantinople. I cannot help but wonder how he might today have welcomed his visionary leadership, especially in light of the forthcoming Holy and Great Council, to which I would now draw your attention. It has been a unique and humbling blessing that His All-Holiness invited me to witness and assist the Pan-Orthodox process leading up to this extraordinary synod.


A council of healing and unity

Of course, it may be better to avoid any kind of meeting of bishops; I know of no good to have come from even a single synod; I know of no solutions that resulted, but only additional problems that arose. Their only outcomes are arguments, ambitions and rivalries; bishops prefer to reprove others rather than resolve internal church issues

This description doubtless echoes my experience in recent years with regard to the futility and frustration of hierarchal meetings at the highest level. But these words actually belong to St Gregory the Theologian.[6] Who am I to disagree with such a prominent saint and hierarch? And admittedly there are even enlightened Orthodox hierarchs and theologians—along with uninformed and malevolent critics—who diminish or denounce the importance of the forthcoming Holy and Great Council.  

Given St Gregory’s admonition and contemporary skepticism, why bother to convene a council? Where did the idea come from?  Will this meeting be recognized as the Eighth Ecumenical Council?  What issues will and will not be addressed? What are the rules of engagement? Will the council be a source of unity or disunity? These are the questions I hope to consider partially, since presuming to know the answers would be the height of arrogance when everything still seems so unpredictable; or, more accurately, when everything depends almost exclusively on the grace of God.

At the aforementioned Synaxis of Primates in 2008, the First Hierarchs issued a communiqué reaffirming their obligation: 1) to safeguard Orthodox unity; 2) to heal every canonical anomaly in the so-called diaspora; as well as 3) to resume and escalate preparations for the Great Council. Almost two years ago, when the primates assembled again for their Sixth Synaxis at the Phanar in March 2014, arguably their foremost and unanimous decision was the convocation of the Great Council, scheduled to take place around the Feast of Pentecost this year at the Church of Haghia Irene in Constantinople, the site of the second ecumenical council of 381 where the divinity of the Holy Spirit was professed. The council was to be held around Pentecost of 2016 unless unforeseen circumstances arise. Some Churches emphasized the date and venue; others stressed the phrase “unless something unforeseen occurs.”[7] In fact, unforeseen circumstances did occur; and in January 2016, the Synaxis of Primates voted to move the venue to the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

The Holy and Great Council has been on the table for discussion and preparation since at least the early 1960s (in Rhodes)—although there were proposals for such a council as early as the 1920s (in Constantinople[8]) and the 1930s (on Mt Athos[9]); the Church of Russia did not send representatives to the earlier meetings,[10] doubtless because of complicated relations at the time with the state! However, this year’s council is unprecedented inasmuch as it will mark the first-ever gathering of delegates from fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches, including the ancient patriarchates, apart from Rome. Never before has such an extensive initiative been undertaken; never in history has such a truly universal council convened. In the first millennium of the Christian era, there were only five church centers, located exclusively around the Mediterranean and monitored rigidly by a secular imperial authority—because someone had to supervise the episcopate!

Theological commentators and historical analysts should bear in mind that the process in the Orthodox Church may not often appear as orderly or organized as in Western Churches precisely because it is contingent on a sense of conciliarity, rather than on any imposition of authority.[11] It is also naïve to dismiss disagreements among individual Churches, implying that these result merely from ecclesiastical rivalry. While such an impression is not entirely erroneous, and while the process is without question hopelessly frustrating, it is in some ways a far more nuanced—a profound, even if painful—representative process than often perceived. In many ways, it is more “republican” than the Orthodox themselves like to admit and more “democratic” than frequently characterizes church structures in the West; in the hierarchical system of the papacy, absolute authority descends from above, vertically; while the horizontal structure of Protestantism dispels—in fact, transfers—the same absolute authority horizontally. By contrast, Orthodox authority is essentially “circular,” at least fundamentally symbolical of conciliarity and communion.


An ecumenical council?

Of course, despite assessments by critics and pundits, both cynical and constructive, we should not expect from the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church such radical changes in terms of influence or consequence as wielded by the Second Vatican Council over the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. First, the “universal” aspect of unity is differently understood in the Orthodox Church; while the Ecumenical Patriarch has a responsibility and authority in terms of jurisdiction and function as the “first among equals,” he would never imagine or impose a top-down primacy without the exercise of collegiality. Second, each of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches would also be called to a procedure of reception with regard to decision-making, a methodology that ultimately itself recognizes and validates the “ecumenicity” of any particular council. And third, while change in the Orthodox Church is normally subdued, even imperceptible, it is always a natural and organic process, never a reform from above or a revolution from below. This is how we understand the continuity of a living tradition, the succession of apostolicity and authority.

When the Second Vatican Council convened in Rome, from October 1962 to December 1965, it marked the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Seven of these councils are shared with the Orthodox Church. By contrast, the Orthodox have neither summoned nor sanctioned an ecumenical council since the seventh ecumenical council of 787. Some Orthodox sources—including the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1848—maintain that the Council of Constantinople, held in 879-880 under the chairmanship of St Photius and referring to itself as “a holy and ecumenical council,”[12] was the eighth ecumenical council inasmuch as it incorporated all Churches of the time, including Rome. Others claim that the Councils of 1341 and 1351, held in Constantinople and ratifying the teaching of St Gregory Palamas, should also be regarded as ecumenical. The same is sometimes said of the Council of Constantinople in 1484 that repudiated the union of Florence.[13] However, most theologians continue to speak of seven ecumenical councils.

There is of course some validity to returning to or resuming the vitality of earlier councils, especially those of the fourteenth century. In some ways, every council is a confirmation and prolongation of previous councils, the perpetuation of Pentecost. Perhaps the Great Council is called to continue where the last councils left off. Is there no correspondence between the problems of the hesychast controversy and the challenges of our time? Palamite theology formulated a theology about the deification of human nature and the transfiguration of the whole world, much like our own age that desperately yearns for a vision of light and a worldview of hope. The Great Council should be an instrument of God’s presence, an affirmation of God’s love in the world, the covenant and conviction that God is in all things “true, honorable, just, pure, loved, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy.” (Phil 4.8)

So, then, can the forthcoming Great Council be considered ecumenical? The church canons do not discuss or define criteria of ecumenicity. There is no formal or external mark, no general or clear principle that establishes ecumenicity or infallibility—at least, not in any mechanical or automatic sense. In the final analysis, there is only one test, and that is retrospective: namely, a council’s acceptance and adoption by the people of God (the pleroma, the sensus fidelium or consensus ecclesiae).[14] Outside of this, none of the external criteria is either definitive or decisive:

  1. Numbers and representation: 560 bishops attended the council of Ariminum-Seleucia in 359—more than most any ecumenical councils.
  2. Conviction and doctrine: Several councils claimed ecumenical status but were ultimately rejected by the Church.
  3. Imperial or papal recognition: Many councils were convened and ratified by emperors (such as Hieria in 754) but rejected by the Church, while at Ferrara-Florence, Archbishop Bessarion declared: “Despite the greatness of the Roman Church, it is less than an ecumenical council and the universal Church.” However, since convocation or chairmanship by the Byzantine emperor is frequently brandished as a fundamental criterion for the ecumenical status of a council, we should remember that imperial recognition was never—and never could be—an ecclesiological principle but only an historical accident.
  4. Conciliar recognition: While an ecumenical council confirms the decisions of its predecessors, ratification in itself is insufficient; otherwise, the entire series becomes invalidated.

Of course, while the Church is not democratic, neither is it, strictly speaking, hierocratic—to adopt the terminology of Professor Ioannis Karmiris.[15] It is, we might say, a hierarchal democracy, involving the reciprocity of charismata, a mutual interdependence between the ministerial priesthood of the hierarchy and the royal priesthood of the laity. As the Eastern patriarchs affirmed in their response of 1848 to Pope Pius IX:

Among us, neither patriarchs nor councils could ever introduce new teaching, for the defender of religion is the very body of the Church—that is to say, the people itself—which desires that its doctrine should remain unchanged from age to age, identical to that of its fathers.[16]

In the model Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), it is the “elders and apostles who met in order to consider matters” (v. 6). “The multitude kept silent” (v. 12), though the community was hardly passive. For—much like we tend to forget that, in the eucharistic consecration, the descent of the Holy Spirit is invoked “upon us and on the gifts before us,” so too—“it seemed good to the apostles and elders with all the Church” (v. 22). The power to discern between authenticity and fallacy—“rightly to divide the word of truth”—is granted, not to the hierarchy in isolation, still less to any hierarch as individual, but to the people of God in its entirety.

I will return to the role and rights of the laity; however, at this point, it behooves us to recall the appeal of St Paulinus of Nola: “Let us hang upon the lips of our faithful; for the spirit of God breathes upon every one of them.”[17] I should add, however, that it is also imprecise to speak of the conscience of the Church as if it were an alternative source of truth or authority, somehow distinct from or superior to the ecumenical council. We must generally disabuse ourselves of the temptation to “objectify” or “externalize” the truth, identifying it with the letter of Scripture, the office of bishop, or the institution of council. Ever present in the Church, God speaks through episcopal councils as in popular conscience. A council is accepted as true and ecumenical by the church’s conscience because it is true and ecumenical. In essence the ecumenical status and doctrinal stature of a particular assembly was determined retrospectively and confirmed retroactively.

It would perhaps be more appropriate and accurate to consider the Holy and Great Council as a continuation not only of the early Ecumenical Councils of the first Christian millennium, but also of the later “Great” or “Greater” (Μείζονες) Councils of the second Christian millennium.[18] Such councils have convened through the centuries following the “great schism” of 1054 in order to resolve issues of doctrinal, canonical or administrational character.


Deciphering the agenda

What, in that case, will be discussed at the Holy and Great Council? The various items on the agenda were first debated in the late 1960s, determined by the mid-1970s, and defined by the mid-1980s. Certain detractors are quick to dismiss the forthcoming council as insignificant or inconsequential, claiming that no “weighty” doctrinal issue will be addressed or resolved. Admittedly, I am not sure that bishops always arrived at earlier councils with the predetermination or realization that they were, through divine inspiration, about to settle a major theological debate and ecclesiastical dispute. That would have been arrogance of the highest degree, even for ordained clergy! In fact, the majority of councils were not at all focused on theological disputes but rather on internal governance and administration. That is quite natural: Councils are how the Church is supposed to function. This is why, in the felicitous and at once witty remark of Patriarch Daniel of Romania at the last Synaxis of Primates (Chambésy, January 2016), “the forthcoming Great Council should not be seen as an eschatological phenomenon, in the sense of our last chance to meet before ‘the last times,’ but as a significant historical event reinforcing conciliarity.”[19] Councils are what bishops are expected to schedule on their calendars! How did we ever lose sight of that? Once assembled, they simply dealt with issues at hand. We should always remember that, it was when the disciples were “gathered in the same place, on the day of Pentecost, . . . that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.1-4).

The agenda of the Holy and Great Council should be an occasion and opportunity to reveal the mystery of Orthodox faith and the heart of Orthodox life to a world that yearns “for an account of the hope that is in us” (1 Pet 3.15). Yet, there is an air of paranoia that clouds the council’s agenda. Paranoia is not an excessively inflated term to describe much reaction to the Holy and Great Council. Fr Schmemann might describe it as “the Pentecost of the devil”[20]; it is the polar opposite of what a council is, namely the expression of Pentecost! How else would one justify the apprehension on the part of official Orthodox Churches regarding enforcement by the Phanar of a “hidden agenda,” an imposition of the Phanar’s “papist ambition,” or even a “general sell-out” of traditional doctrine? Or how does one explain formal church Web sites—there is no point even mentioning personal or political blog-sites—that suspect involvement by “top US officials and the US State Department trying to set the agenda, specifically for homosexuality” or retired university professors who alert their devotees to “Phanariote schemes plotting unity with the Papacy and Protestantism”? Or how does one respond to experienced Orthodox hierarchs, who express their fear about “secret meetings” of Inter-Orthodox committees or ask whether the Great Council will condemn the heresies of the world, especially “the disease of ecumenism”?

In fact, for other conservative detractors, who contend that an ecumenical council only meets to annihilate treacherous heresy or perilous unbelief, surely the role and responsibility of the Church in today’s world is a pressing matter for our faithful. The notion that contemporary problems somehow do not rival the “glamor” of early heresies is simply another ruse for subverting the value of the Great Council.[21] I sincerely strive to sympathize with those who dust the pews in search of contemporary Arians or look in religious haystacks for current Nestorians.[22] But they will more profitably find their contemporary heretics among those Orthodox believers who tolerate or propagate the exclusion of refugees on the basis of race, as well as among Orthodox clergy and laity who conveniently reconcile the gospel creed with secular greed.[23] Paradoxically—and tragically—they may well find their modern heresy cajoling a synaxis of primates or an assembly of bishops to justify the grave sin of ethnophyletism and defending the jurisdictional boundaries of mother Churches either as “differences of missionary approach” or on the pretext of pastoral practice.[24] Are these not vital issues of life and death? Are they not challenging matters of truth and salvation?  Is it just the filioque and the papacy that scandalize us?


The “final ten” of the agenda

The items for discussion and decision at the Holy and Great Council have been painstakingly determined since the early 1970s,[25] with some of them going back to the early 1960s.[26] Actually, in 1961 (Rhodes), there were over a hundred items (!) on the agenda, subdivided into eight distinct categories.[27] In fact, as the late Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland, first and founding director of the patriarchal secretariat for the preparations of the Great Council, was fond of saying: “Even if there was only a single item on the agenda for discussion, it would be worth convening the Great Council. This,” he would add, “is the hour of Orthodoxy!” The “final ten” items now on the agenda are well known and public:

a) Internal relations among the Orthodox Churches:

                        1. The Orthodox diaspora

                        2. Autonomy, and how it is proclaimed

                        3. Autocephaly, and how it is proclaimed

             4. The diptychs

b) Issues of pastoral or practical nature:

            5. A common calendar

            6. Impediments to marriage[28]

            7. Regulations for fasting[29]

c) External relations with other Churches and the world:

                        8. Bilateral and multilateral dialogues

                        9.  Orthodoxy and the rest of the Christian world

10. The contribution of Orthodoxy to peace, freedom, solidarity, love, and the elimination of discrimination.[30] This item has been retitled as: The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World

Over the past eighteen months, two special committees, a Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Consultation, and a Synaxis of Primates of bishops has labored to update and finalize position language for each of the agenda items. Six of these items have been agreed upon and finalized for referral and adoption by the Holy and Great Council.

The first matter of the Orthodox diaspora has not been solved, but progress has been made because of the newly created Assemblies of Bishops, which will be explained in detail later.

While a document was adopted on the second item (i.e., autonomy), no conclusion was reached and no conversation was conducted on the third and fourth matters, dealing with the land mine of how autocephaly is determined and the hypersensitive ranking of Churches on the diptychs. As His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew lamented at the Synaxis of 2016, “no Church wants to forfeit its place in the order!” It would not take a professor of statistics and probabilities to predict these items would somehow be diplomatically circumvented.

With regard to number five (on a common calendar), no revision was made to the original language dating to 1986.[31] In summary the text concerning the calendar was supposed to consider the date of Easter on the basis of scientific calculations, which could facilitate a common celebration of Pascha; but, the favorable impact of such an endeavor for Orthodox communities in the West notwithstanding, the mere prospect of any alarm created by even the utterance of the word “calendar” was sufficient to bury this subject in its entirety! At the last Synaxis of Primates, held at Chambésy in January, 2016, it was agreed that this item should be dropped from the Council’s agenda.

As for item six (on marriage impediments), a hasty revision under pressure to stand up to “evil forces in the world” resulted in a rather incompetent and incomplete statement. The text on marriage impediments might well have brought some consolation and dignity to hundreds of widowed (even divorced) clergymen seeking honorably and honestly to vacate their celibacy;[32] but it appears easier—perhaps even convenient and expedient—for the Church to handle issues of sexuality by denunciation or denial. The omission, moreover, of painful albeit pragmatic issues related to inter-Christian marriages of lay Orthodox faithful is another tragic reflection of the sanctimonious insensitivity of much of our Church leadership to pastoral issues of our age.

As for item seven on rules of fasting, while a revised text was approved, there was a fundamental shift of emphasis from the original intention, which was to discuss fasting regulations in missionary fields and in Western societies; but again, when it is a matter of how to understand tradition, it is sometimes far less challenging simply to underline tradition for fear of undermining tradition.

Finally, items eight and nine pertaining to dialogues with other Churches and the ecumenical movement were combined into a single text, while the text on the Orthodox Church’s contribution to the world (item number ten) was adopted by all but not signed by Moscow and Georgia until amended with a conservative tone by the most recent Synaxis of Primates in January, 2016. I will analyze the diaspora, ecumenism, and consensus in greater detail below.

Clearly the texts remain imperfect, even incomplete. The Hierarchs are in some ways dissatisfied, while readers and the general public will in many ways be disappointed. But was it realistic to expect more? In response to one Hierarch’s plea that his “Church sees no reason for the Great Council to convene unless we improve the documents to the level of those produced by Vatican II” (sic!), Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus pointed out during the recent January 2016 Synaxis of Primates, that “what was achieved was the best we could do.” It was spiritually refreshing and heartening to hear Archbishop Anastasios of Albania contend: “Let’s admit our humility, our inefficiency, our poverty,” to which he added: “Our documents are the deficient, even defective ‘prosphoron’[33] that we offer to God, who alone can transform them into Body and Blood of Christ.”


Missing the mark?

Yet how do we imagine that people might understand the issues, on which our hierarchs have reached agreement or chosen to quarrel? Will they be seen as missing the mark? Will they interpret ostensible consensus or ostentatious controversy as misplacement in the hierarchy of values? Will they recognize the glaring omission of some items, such as the treatment of laity and the second-class role of women in the Church? Why was there so little agreement on the role and responsibility of Orthodoxy in the world? Or why was there little if any headway on the pastoral issues related to marriage and fasting? Why would there be so much disagreement on autocephaly and the diptychs? Are we signaling that our primary concern lies in “the exercise of authority” (Mk 10.42) and decisions about who is “first” or “last” (Mt 19.30 and 20.16), rather than the fulfillment of the “new commandment [of love], by which all may know that we are disciples of the Lord” (Jn 13.34-35)—that is to say, by whether we discriminate against and judge people of other Christian confessions and faith communities, but also by the way we demonstrate compassion for people in our own Churches and congregations? Are we implying that, while we delight in emphasizing our unity in doctrine and liturgy, we are in fact divided at the most sacred and critical moment of the Divine Eucharist, namely at the very heart of communion, when the diptychs are recited from the royal doors? Have we forgotten St John Chrysostom’s warning that “the desire to rule is the mother of heresies”?[34]

Let me further probe this line of inquiry. Would it not be scandalous if participants at the Holy and Great Council argued over issues of ecclesiastical priority and primacy at the expense of addressing areas of concern and anguish for people throughout the world? Would it not be a dismal reflection of the level of our compassion and pastoral care if a document related to the function and obligation of Orthodoxy in the world—instead of in its own world!—does not include reference to the immorality of social and financial injustice, as well as of racial and sexual discrimination, before which many of its autocephalous Churches are often guilty of silence, if not collusion?

Moreover, for a Church so infatuated with tradition and memory, how can our hierarchs conveniently misplace the original objective of many agenda items? Is it not ironic and tragic that hierarchs, who envisioned and planned the Great Council more than a generation ago—whose spiritual protégés are, in many cases, the church leaders attending preconciliar consultations and primatial assemblies today—were far more moderate than their militant successors and radically more progressive and pastoral than current trends in their Churches? How otherwise can we possibly reconcile the paranoia of some church leaders unwilling even to entertain the scientific inaccuracy of our paschal calculation, which was the motivation behind item five on the agenda (on “a common calendar”) for fear that their congregations would misinterpret this as yet another heinous calendar reform? Or, how else can we understand the eagerness and forcefulness of some Churches to debate and berate same-sex unions, when the original intention of item six on the agenda (on “impediments to marriage”) was intended to provide essential pastoral consolation to those adversely impacted by medieval marriage regulations or to widowed clergy and lapsed monastics uncharitably refused the prospect of marriage? Finally, how can we explain that item seven on the agenda (on “regulations of fasting”) originally had nothing whatsoever to do with preaching about dietary restraints and their spiritual benefits, but everything to do with assessing and adapting fasting regulations in missionary territories and the “new world”?

I would respectfully submit that, while the issues of autocephaly and the diptychs are doubtless vital to the growth of the Orthodox Church, many Orthodox—including hierarchs involved in the conciliar process—may in fact be unaware that the importance of these issues pales in comparison to the other items on the agenda. For example, the ecumenical openness and conciliar engagement of an otherwise profoundly traditionalist Church is of crucial importance, especially in light of isolationist and nationalistic circles in both the Greek and Slavic worlds.[35] The way in which the Orthodox Church handles modernity—both in the light as in the wake of the Great Council—is of profound relevance for the resonance of its teaching in the public sphere. By the same token, the conciliar nature of the Church presupposes openness to risk and surprise through encounter and exchange among the various autocephalous Churches.[36]


Internal relations: “Orthodox diaspora”

I would like to explore in greater detail the very first item on the agenda—an indication of its paramount importance to the “founding fathers” of the forthcoming council—that concerns the role of the Orthodox Church in non-traditional Orthodox lands (“The Orthodox Diaspora”). This relates to the manner of achieving the proper canonical status of one bishop in each diocese (or city) where an existing diocese currently includes a number of ethnic Orthodox jurisdictions and, frequently, more than one bishop. Will our church leaders confer—or concede—some standing of autonomy, some status of self-administration in the diaspora? More importantly, will our bishops even be interested in a more unified, collaborative organization? Or will they abide by and remain attached to narrowly nationalistic interests? Father Schmemann articulated the challenge starkly:   

[W]e constantly congratulate ourselves about all kinds of historic events and achievements, . . . yet, if we were true to the spirit of our faith we ought to repent in “sackcloth and ashes,” we ought to cry day and night about the sad, the tragic state of our Church. If “canonicity” is anything but a pharisaic and legalistic self-righteousness, if it has anything to do with the spirit of Christ and the tradition of His Body, the Church, we must openly proclaim that the situation in which we all live is utterly uncanonical regardless of all the justifications and sanctions that every one finds for his “position.”[37]

From this perspective, perhaps the most consequential and enduring pronouncement of the Great Council will be its deliberation and determination regarding the organization and administration of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. The question is whether churches abroad, such as in the United States, Western Europe, and Australasia—comprised of Orthodox immigrants and converts long established in their new homelands, miles away and cultures apart from the “mother Churches” where they originated—have reached the maturity or acquired the single-mindedness and commitment to minister to their people in harmony and manage their affairs in unity.

Regrettably, most Orthodox Churches seem to be retreating into a stifling, sheltered and safe provincialism, which they explain—or excuse—as attending to internal affairs, which are in turn reckoned as more important pastorally than concerns for collegiality and communion. What is again unfortunate is that contemporary church leaders, who have been exposed to and educated in the modern world and its global challenges—at least by comparison with their predecessors, who were perhaps restricted by the “iron curtain” or an oppressive xenophobia—appear less interested in transcending parochialism and prejudice.

Earlier, I referred to issues that are sufficiently urgent and vital for a Pan-Orthodox council to convene. Is not the grave sin of nationalism or ethnophyletism yet another such issue? Why is it so often and so brazenly justified—even theologically and canonically—under the pretext of pastoral grounds, in retaliation for jurisdictional boundaries, or out of fear for the loss of supremacy, paranoia for an ulterior “agenda,” or suspicion for some “predetermination” of . . . unity?[38] Ethnophyletism was patently “decried, denounced, and condemned,” while its proponents were “emphatically declared schismatics,” at the Pan-Orthodox Council of Constantinople in 1872.[39]

A 137 years later, at the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Conference held in Chambésy, on the outskirts of Geneva, a momentous decision was unanimously made to create Assemblies of Bishops in countries with overlapping jurisdictions; this decision has been referred for approval to the Holy and Great Council.  In fact, the clear and explicit mandate of the Assemblies of Bishops, their “unswerving obligation” is (to cite the Chambésy, Rules of Operation, Article 5.1a in 2009) to safeguard the unity of the Church and (to quote the Primates’ Message [Paragraph 13.1-2] in 2008) to advance “the swift healing”[40] of the canonical anomalies, especially the problem of the parallel presence of multiple bishops in one and the same city.[41] The deplorable rise of religious nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries rendered the Orthodox Churches increasingly independent of and imperious over one another, a practice that ultimately differs little from the Orthodox censure and caricature of Roman primacy. How ironic that the First Vatican Council (in 1870) that championed papal primacy was held almost contemporaneously as the Pan-Orthodox Council of Constantinople (in 1872) that denounced ethnophyletism.

In the same revolutionary address at the Synaxis of Primates in 2008, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew noted:

[W]e lack a unified voice . . . [which] is the healthy significance of the institution of autocephaly: while it assures the self-governance of each Church with regard to its internal life and organization, on matters affecting the entire Orthodox Church and its relations with those outside, each autocephalous Church does not act alone but in coordination with the rest of the Orthodox Churches. If this coordination either disappears or diminishes, then autocephaly becomes “autocephalism” (or radical independence), namely a factor of division rather than unity for the Orthodox Church.[42]

Despite justifications and vindications—such as maintaining relations with mother Churches, serving the needs of recent migrants, or suspecting hidden agendas of unity—we must candidly admit that our Churches in the United States have flagrantly diverged from the canonical and ecclesiological principles of two millennia. For a Church that prides itself on tradition, it is surely embarrassing to defend our contention and competition based on a preference for ethnic fascination, a priority ascribed to historical foundation, or a preeminence attributed to numerical force. We know very well that no Church has ever existed without clear and concrete geographical parameters. So we must frankly acknowledge that we are enticed by the ideologies of pan-hellenism, pan-slavism, and pan-arabism, while being exasperated with the theology behind Canon 6 of Nicaea I (325), Canon 28 of Chalcedon (451) and Canon 2 of Constantinople II (553) that provide at least a starting point for discussion. I am not arguing against embracing the broader social and cultural, or even political and financial dimensions of the contemporary phenomenon of global immigration. But our ultimate vision should always be ecclesial and ecclesiological. Indeed, this is precisely why the Ecumenical Patriarchate has advanced and advocated the Assemblies of Bishops as a positive and constructive method to determine the best way forward under these new circumstances.[43] Otherwise, we are guilty of preaching what Fr Schmemann was fond of labeling as “words that are in vain and do not bind, words that are part of the ritual and resemble checks without funds.”[44]

Perhaps we should not so critical of the preconciliar process, imputing it with overlooking the question of the Orthodox diaspora. The recent Synaxis of January 2016 issued a formal decision (no. 3, para. A):

The assemblies of bishops on the one hand tangibly reveal the unity of the Orthodox Church . . . and on the other hand ascertained the impossibility of immediately transitioning to the strict canonical order of the Church. Therefore, the Synaxis resolved to propose to the Holy and Great Council the preservation of this institution until such time when circumstances mature for the application of canonical precision.

In some ways, then, this issue has already been resolved by being referred to the Great Council. While there may be no adopted text on the Orthodox diaspora, there is an agreed procedure.

The creation, then, of the Assemblies of Bishops is itself a test of our willingness and readiness—ultimately of our integrity—to be and to work together, to acknowledge and affirm our unity. However, might we deliberately be avoiding our responsibility and shunning the solution to the delicate question of church unity, which has been placed—by the Orthodox autocephalous Churches, that is to say by our own “mother Churches,” and by Pan-Orthodox decision—in our humble hands? And if so, have we squandered an invaluable—once-in-generations—opportunity to advance the Church in this country? Like the newly ordained deacon, who holds the precious Body of Christ in his fragile hands, the promise to shape the Church has been placed before us—“we have this treasure in our earthen vessels.” Have we become so dysfunctional through division and ambition that we have either lost the will or lack the humility to remember and realize the vision of Church unity?[45]


External relations: ecumenical affairs

The other agenda item I would like to examine in depth concerns the external relations with other Churches. Orthodox hierarchs and theologians can no longer disregard or dismiss the phenomenon of fundamentalism,[46] which is increasingly disguised under the façade of conservatism? Doesn’t the absolute tyranny of a fragmented detail of truth often blind people to the fullness or wholeness of truth? “The spirit of truth leads us into all the truth” (Jn 16.13); it does not obsess about partial or partisan truth. Heresy (αἳρεσις) selectively ignores truth (ἀλήθεια), which implies remembering (ἀ-λήθει-α, as the practice of “not forgetting” and certainly “not dismembering”) and embracing the disparate and sublime dimensions of the whole truth, which we can never fully grasp or embrace in its entirety. Dogmatic definitions as symbols of faith do precisely that: they bring and hold together (σύμβολον, συμβάλλω) all the pieces of the puzzle, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” By contrast, the heresy of “piecemeal” truth complacently idolizes the formalism of certain “dogmas” and “canons,” or else conceitedly isolates the stature of only select “confessions” or “councils.”

Think of the calculated and biased parody of such saintly theologians as Photius the Great and especially St Mark of Ephesus, those genuine confessors and giant pillars of orthodoxy (St Nikodemus calls the latter an “Atlas”!), who are frequently presented as mirroring the conscience of the most orthodox of the Orthodox, but who were nonetheless far more susceptible to dialogue and animated for union than many of their reactionary and small-minded contemporary cheerleaders.[47] Is not such a perverse and divisive distortion of theology and division among believers sufficiently urgent ecclesiological heresy for a council to convene? Will we see a condemnation of separatist groups and a renewed commitment to ecumenical openness? A united and unequivocal response to extremist factions and subversive elements—sometimes within circles influenced by rigid hierarchs or repressed monastics—would be a compelling affirmation of and committed emphasis on the “royal way” of discernment and moderation adopted by the classic teachers of the early Church. Orthodox fundamentalism or fanaticism regards any conversation with Churches and confessions of the West as a threat to the fullness of truth. How can we, they ask, have an exchange or encounter with other Christian denominations, when we Orthodox possess the full truth? How can we speak of any division in the Body of Christ, when we Orthodox comprise the truth and fullness of the Church? Indeed, how can we even adopt labels, like “Church,” for those who have lapsed from the Church? For them, this approach constitutes betrayal of Orthodoxy and surrender to error.[48]

While such attitudes—read: abuses and aberrations—are sometimes endorsed within hierarchal and monastic circles, nevertheless they do not reflect the conciliar history or catholic experience of the Church. Indeed, they are even incompatible with apologetic statements “To the Latins” by St Mark of Ephesus at the Council of Florence:

There is truly a need for much investigation and conversation (πολλῆς ἐρεύνης δεῖται καί συζητήσεως) in matters of theological disputation (ὃσα τῶν δογμάτων ἀμφισβητήσιμα), so that the compelling and conspicuous arguments might be considered. There is profound benefit to be gained from such conversation if the objective is not altercation but truth, and if the intention is not solely to triumph over others; indeed, there are occasions when we should even endure defeat . . . [I]nspired by the same spirit [as the apostles at the council of Jerusalem] and bound to one another by love, the goal should be to discover the truth, and we should never lose sight of the purpose that lies before us (μή ἁμαρτήσεσθαι τοῦ προκειμένου σκοποῦ); even when its pursuit is prolonged, we should still always listen carefully to and address one another amicably so that our loving (ἀγαπητικῶς) exchange might contribute to consensus (συντείνοντι πρός ὁμόνοιαν).[49]

On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, at the outset of Great Lent in 2010, a Synodal Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate professed:

Orthodoxy must be in constant dialogue with the world. The Orthodox Church does not fear dialogue because truth is not afraid of dialogue. On the contrary, if Orthodoxy is enclosed within itself and not in dialogue with those outside, it will both fail in its mission and no longer be the “catholic” and “ecumenical” Church. It will instead be reduced to an introverted and self-contained group, a “ghetto” on the margins of history.

We acknowledge that the Church is neither a sect nor a denomination. It is the one holy catholic and apostolic Church; and this is what defines and prescribes the parameters of ecumenical dialogue. Yet, this only affirms and accentuates the solemn responsibility of the Orthodox Church to bear witness to the truth in the world. It does not imply parity among denominations or unity as confessional adjustment. Nor again does it entail acquiescence to doctrinal relativism or resignation to denominational minimalism. The Church is concerned with—nothing less than—the whole truth about the whole of humanity within the whole created cosmos. And when a Church lays claims to the fullness of truth, then surely its obligation to enter into dialogue and collaboration with all other Christian denominations in a spirit of love, humility, and service is also greater. If we ignore or condemn the life and beliefs of other Christians, then not only will our knowledge be deficient and defective, but our vocation and responsibility to Christ’s gospel will be found untruthful and unfaithful.


Rules of engagement

One of the paralyzing factors in the conciliar process is the introduction of the concept of consensus as a way of indiscriminately appealing to or appeasing all Churches. Under Article 10 of the Rules of Operation for Episcopal Assemblies, adopted by the 2009 Fourth Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference at Chambésy, Switzerland, decisions of the Episcopal Assemblies (including, therefore, our own Assembly of Bishops in the United States) shall be “taken by consensus.” The same is now true of decisions at the Holy and Great Council. In the Assemblies of Bishops and the Great Council, then, when it comes to matters of corporate or legal nature, decisions are reached by vote. However, on all other ecclesiastical, theological, and doctrinal matters, decisions are taken by consensus. Decision-making by consensus is supposed to build trust. It is a process that seeks the common mind of the meeting and the will of God without resorting to a formal vote, a method of genuine dialogue that is mutually respectful and supportive. The Church of Russia that proposed and promoted the principle of consensus seems to delight in flaunting this process as a victory trophy. But is the current interpretation and application of this principle by the Orthodox primates either convincing or even conventional?

How did voting take place in the early Church? Unanimity is regarded as echoing uniformity; no individual Church—not even the Church of Rome—could veto or direct the ultimate decision. Thus, from at least the mid-third century, on the basis of Roman civil and legal models, decision by majority was the general practice. Majority vote was considered proof of tradition and refutation of error: “Quod apud multos invenitur unum, non est erratum sed traditum.”[50] However, it was divine inspiration—neither mortal numbers nor institutional power, nor again historical seniority—that brought about a majority of votes. Accordingly, in order to acknowledge or supplicate the Holy Spirit, a copy of the Bible became a prominent fixture in the councils. For Ramsay Macmullen, emeritus professor of history and classics at Yale University:

Wherever there is debate, there must be force in majority. . . . Democracy teaches the equation: many is good; therefore, more is better. Yet a truer understanding of the Christian community suggests instead, or also, the equation: many is . . . God. In voting a power beyond the human might assert itself . . . Theological argument that went off the tracks invited God’s rebuke.[51]

MacMullen believes that the method of voting in councils, including ecumenical councils, is a matter of conjecture. The evidence is scant and obscure: Out of more than 15,000 councils that possibly convened between the fourth and sixth centuries, we can only identify about 250.[52] We know that these councils were well attended and generally representative. Church historian Philostorgius (368-439) claims that, during the first council of Nicaea, a paper was circulated for each bishop to sign. At another council, bishops or Churches changed places to join another group, not unlike presidential caucuses in the United States. Sometimes, voting reflected the voting system in the Roman senate, which resembled decision-making at the British House of Commons or the Oxford Union, with the “yeas” standing on the right and the “nays” on the left. The fact remains that, while majority vote was irrefutably the way that decisions were taken, there was no clearly established manner of determining this majority, so long as hierarchal seniority and fair representation were assured.

Needless to say, fair representation raises the delicate issue of observers at the Holy and Great Council. Would the Orthodox primates permit the participation—or, at least, the presence—of delegates other than bishops? In the early 1970s—again, in an era paradoxically distinguished by greater flexibility, transparency, and communication than ours—Olivier Clément[53] and Panagiotis Nellas[54] (inspired and intuitive lay Orthodox theologians) recommended that the council should include and involve bishops, clergy, monks, theologians, laity, and youth in order to instill and ensure a sense of catholicity. Nellas insisted that a council should not be the exclusive prerogative of hierarchs or specialists[55]; Clément contended that it should be the fruit of prayer and not power.[56] At its latest Synaxis (Chambésy, January 2016), the Primates of the Orthodox Churches decided that each delegation at the Great Council is entitled to six advisors (or “coworkers in Christ,” as Archbishop Anastasios of Albania preferred to label them). These could be clergy or laity, married or monastic, men or women.

At the same time, however, it is incumbent upon some Orthodox Churches not to obscure or obfuscate consensus with unanimity; otherwise, it may be exploited or manipulated for purposes of obstruction or procrastination. This only attracts derision. Here is a derisive, albeit painfully tragic description of the delays in the preconciliar process by Joseph Olšr and Joseph Gill writing in 1951!:

The deferring of the Prosynod[57] leaves the situation pretty much where it was before. The Slav Churches, under the aegis of Russia, challenge the theory of the prerogatives of Constantinople, and in practice studiously ignore them. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, supported firmly by the Church of Greece and less firmly by Alexandria (Antioch is the recipient of Russian bounty, and Jerusalem is fully occupied by local problems), defends its traditional practice and refuses to yield any part of its claims . . . In the struggle for position in the Orthodox world, the Slav Churches have the advantage of overwhelming numerical superiority; the Greek Churches that of antiquity, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate has behind it a long tradition of pre-eminence and leadership . . . But if the Prosynod must await a common Orthodox outlook before it is called, it will, one would think, have to wait a long time.[58]

Unfortunately, the overemphasis on consensus in preparations for and at the sessions of the Great Council only reflects the unfortunate lack of conciliarity in the Orthodox Church.[59] This was especially evident during deliberations of the Special Committee that met in Athens (December 15-19, 2015) to draft the Procedural Regulations for the Holy and Great Council; sessions were debilitated and ultimately suspended because one Church insisted on incorporating an article whereby disagreement or departure by one member church at the council would result in dissolution of the entire council. Such an attitude persisted even during the sessions of the Synaxis of Primates in January, 2016; however, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew exercised his presidential prerogative to facilitate a reasonable resolution in accordance with conventional church practice.[60]

There is no doubt in my mind that the Ecumenical Patriarch has submitted, even surrendered, to interminable complaints and veritable coercion from some Churches, focusing on one thing: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead; pressing on toward the goal and prize” (Phil 3.13-14) of finally meeting together in council.

St Paul’s word for “strain forward” is ἐπεκτείνομαι, which implies struggle to the degree of stretching and elasticity to the point of distortion. How else can one explain the Ecumenical Patriarch’s sacrifice of the autonomous Church of Estonia (one of the most refined and informed of our international Churches), which in turn means the surrender of the autonomous Church of Finland (one of the most enlightened and pioneering of our worldwide Churches) to meet a single Church’s ultimatum for estrangement from the communion of autocephalous Churches, especially when one considers that Finland and Estonia are the only independent Orthodox Churches integrally associated and immediately acquainted with the West? Or how else can we interpret the flexibility of the Ecumenical Patriarch to hold the last Synaxis in Chambésy (Geneva, January 2016) in order to facilitate the Primates, and again his generosity to offer Crete as an alternative venue in response to those scandalized by a venue like Haghia Irene,[61] particularly since this reveals that the convocation of the Great Council for the benefit of the entire Church as his sole ingenuous motive? Finally, how otherwise could one justify the insistence of Moscow on consensus, when this virtually ensured that the council—and, indeed, all of its preparatory conferences and consultations—would be unable to reach any agreement on matters of vital importance?[62] This is extremely important in light of the fact that there has been no discussion or definition of how this principle might constructively or positively guide the sessions of the Great Council.

Still, no one seems to protest Moscow’s maneuvering—one would not dare suggest manipulating—of the process or prospect whereby a single Church could control any fruitful discussion and constrain any meaningful resolution. People conveniently forget the fact that, despite its prominence in Western democratic procedures and effective ecumenical meetings, consensus has never really been the procedural model in church councils. Indeed, while consensus is not unequivocally orthodox or traditional, voting as Churches rather than as (individual) bishops is neither unorthodox nor untraditional. In almost every council convened and chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarch after the Fourth Ecumenical Council in the mid-fourth century (451), most Churches were represented by a limited number of delegates, usually just two or three bishops; in fact, most bishops in attendance were from the Church of Constantinople.

Personal rights and votes in fact reflect modern individualism, often merely serving as a way for rambunctious critics to have their “day in court.” At any rate, I would humbly remind church leaders that you cannot claim “rights” for yourselves when you withhold fundamental rights from lay people, including the right to participate actively in a council and other vital forms of church administration! Moreover, returning to the matter of consensus, such a notion would be utterly inconceivable and intolerable in the internal synodal procedure of any Church today—even Moscow; indeed, even Constantinople! Notwithstanding, even after securing this unprecedented and subversive methodology, Moscow has been criticized for applying it capriciously or (to quote an exasperated Metropolitan John of Pergamon) “à la carte”—insisting on consensus when expedient, while ignoring it when otherwise inconvenient.

There are many models of consensus building, but no single right way of achieving it. Perhaps before expecting consensus to function effectively, and without reducing consensus to the power of veto, we should consider it as a process rather than a product, a methodology of procedure instead of some magic of persuasion. In Philippians 2, St Paul urges:

Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (vv. 2-5).

And in 1 Corinthians 1, he adds: “I appeal to you, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement, and that there be no divisions among you, but rather that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (v. 10).


Conclusion: retrieving conciliarity and communion

Let me conclude by entertaining some reflections on key terms—catchphrases, in fact—on our way toward the Holy and Great Council. Retrieving conciliarity and communion involves a process of relearning, which in turn implies renunciation of preconceptions about hierarchy and status; it also involves receptiveness to fresh ways of being and working together. In order to discover or recover the conciliar nature of the Church, our bishops must—first of all and above all—assemble and sit together in humility, without any presumption or assumption of power. The Greek word for “council” is σύνοδος (more than just convocation or cooperation, or even sobornost), which literally means “being on the same road with one another” (σύν + ὁδός). And the Greek word for “communion” is κοινωνία (more than just fellowship or connection, or even unity), which actually signifies “discerning what we have in common” (κοινόν) with one another.

Moreover, in order to retrieve the lost sense of conciliarity, Orthodox hierarchs must first exercise a re-conciliatory spirit. The Greek word for “reconciliation” is συγχώρησις (which we normally translate as “forgiveness” but), which literally and quite simply means “being in the same space” as one another. If we are honest with ourselves, with each other and with God, we will admit that we have unfortunately misplaced the experience of conciliarity that prevailed in earlier centuries and councils. We have become estranged from the culture of conciliarity and communion. It will take a long process of education—a lifetime of cultivating and convening councils—to retrieve and relearn this culture as an intrinsic awareness and gracious etiquette of church life.

That is precisely why conciliarity is a matter of culture and not just a problem of communion or, indeed, consensus. It is something learned over time and earned through practice; and the truth is that we have lost the sense and sensitivity—the culture and refinement—of being-and-acting-in-council. Is it really that surprising that so many of our Churches are characterized by an un-Western or anti-Western bias?[63] Our Churches are torn between past and present; they are like “hybrid” Churches. It’s not so much that they’re opposed to the West; but they’re not adequately exposed to the West. It’s not so much that they’re allergic to modernity, but they’re exceedingly allured by antiquity. It’s not so much that they’re resistant to ecumenism, but they’re fatally asphyxiated by their isolation.[64] Culture matters, and culture matures with time. To quote one of Fr Schmemann’s favorite writers, Julien Green: “Culture cannot be improvised.”[65]

Meeting in council, then, “being in the same space” with one another, is not merely beneficial (part of the bene esse) but essential (of the esse) for the Church; to paraphrase an Archbishop of Canterbury, who once said: “I can think of no reason why bishops-in-council would be beneficial for the Church, but many reasons why councils-of-bishops are essential to the Church!” It is imperative that bishops confess and confirm the ecumenical and catholic dimension of the church. Over forty years ago, then Bishop Demetrios of Vresthena (now Elder Archbishop Demetrios of America) observed that conciliarity is not a luxury for the Church; it is, more correctly, indispensable for the life of the Church. Archbishop Stylianos of Australia put it more starkly in 1965: “If at any time the Church were to reject from its life, even for a moment, the idea of the synodical system, it would automatically cease to be Church.”[66] For St John Chrysostom, the term “Church” means two things: “institution” and “synod”: Ἐκκλησία γάρ συστήματος καί συνόδου ἐστίν ὂνομα.[67] There can be no Church without council; in the absence of a council, the Church may well function institutionally, but it is not a Church!

It is when the bishops are gathered together that “the sound [of the spirit] can descend from heaven”; and it does so “suddenly” (Acts 2.1-2)—that is to say, unexpectedly, surprisingly, breathtakingly.[68] Then the response, the result, is unforeseen and extraordinary. Then even the individual statements—miraculously produced by “agreement through consensus” (although, admittedly, the sessions I attended looked more like how St Gregory the Theologian described bishops’ councils)—will prove less important than the promise and presence of the Spirit, which “appeared as tongues of fire” (Acts 2.3), albeit only when the apostles had held their own tongues. Then, the bishops of the Holy and Great Council can confidently, if boldly address us with the apostolic words: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15.28).

Of course, only time will demonstrate just how much the Orthodox autocephalous Churches yearn for the Great Council; just as time will determine the status of this council for the life of the Church. It will indeed be telling to observe just how much the individual Churches are prepared to lay aside temptations of worldly power and trends of secular nationalism. After all, I was surprised to hear one primate at the January 2016 Synaxis vehemently protest that he had “never heard more outrageous and offensive a statement in Pan-Orthodox meetings” than another Primate reprimanding the plenary for ethnocentrism! But if our church leaders can indeed lay aside their nationalism and antagonism, then the Holy and Great Council promises to be a watershed event in church history, promising a series of regular conciliar gatherings, even if the conscience of the Orthodox faithful will alone finally reveal whether these stand in the line of the general or great councils of the first two millennia.

So “I am worried. There seems to be little unity and many passions, much mistrust. But my life-long experience is reassuring: the grace of the Holy Spirit never leaves the Church! . . . To work with bishops is almost always difficult; but, in our better moments, we know that in the Church ‘difficult’ is good.” Again . . . these are not my words; they are entries from Fr Schmemann’s Journals in the late 1970s.[69] In some ways, “good change” that comes from divine grace is already transpiring, albeit at glacial speed, with the various encounters—even if frequent confrontations—during the Pan-Orthodox consultations and Inter-Orthodox committees over the last decades. It may seem that little has resulted from over fifty years in anticipation of the Holy and Great Council; but in fact a lot has happened in the preparatory process itself, where the rediscovery of the universal and ecumenical nature of the Church, together with the celebration of its sacramental or doctrinal culture has little-by-little at least exposed the stifling boundaries of “autocephalism.” The truth is that we would not have gathered at all, were it not in order to prepare for the council.

I was struck by the piercing spiritual insight of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania at the Synaxis of January 2016, who reminded his brother primates, that “the Great Council is not a new—or a facsimile—ecumenical council that needs to resolve every menacing problem. Our Council is something else. What we are telling people with our Council is: ‘In a troubled world, we do not remain silent; at a dark time, we have a word of hope and light.’”

Something has profoundly and permanently changed for the Orthodox Church; things will not be the same moving forward. The spotlight is focused on us and people will now be able to recognize clearly who is playing political “Hunger Games” or even obsessed with “Trivial Pursuit.” The Orthodox Church can play a major role in our world; it can serve as the critical and prophetic conscience of the peoples entrusted to it. However, in order to do so, it must first disabuse itself of the idolatry of nationalism and embrace a more ecumenical Orthodoxy, where the dialectic of unity-in-diversity is reclaimed and enabled to thrive. It must free itself of all national or regional—ultimately provincial and parochial—arrogance and adversarial temptation if it seeks to provide an unbiased witness to all humanity. For this to happen, all of the Church’s indispensable structures (its bishops and councils) as well as all of its essential features (its liturgy and spirituality) must be placed at the service of God, the gospel, and the Body of Christ. Then, the centers of primacy will no longer appear as centralizing powers but as places of conciliarity and communion. What a refreshing and revolutionary example this would prove for a Church that claims to be “in the world” but not “of the world”!

[1] Portions herewith were delivered during an academic convocation at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York as the 33rd Annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture on January 31, 2016. The address was broadcasted by Ancient Faith Radio.

[2] Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, Juliana Schmemann, trans., (Crestwood, NY:  St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000), 29.

[3] John Meyendorff, “The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology” in John Meyendorff, ed., The Primacy of Peter (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1963; revised in 1992), and also reprinted in John Chryssavgis, ed., Primacy in the Church: The office of primate and the authority of councils, vol. 1, (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2016), 353-354.

[4] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Speaking the Truth in Love: Theological and Spiritual Exhortations of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, John Chryssavgis, ed. (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2011), 119.

[5] John Meyendorff in the official publication of the Orthodox Church of America, The Orthodox Church xiv, 4 (1978), 4. Emphasis mine.

[6] St Gregory, Epistle CXXX, to Prokopios, PG 37.225. See also Epistles 132-136, PG 37.228-232.

[7] A well-known Greek theological quarterly recently published an issue entitled “unless something unforeseen occurs . . .” Synaxis, no. 133 (January-March, 2015). The phrase “ἐκτός ἀπροόπτου” was added to the official message of the Synaxis of Primates (March 6-9, 2014) at the insistence of the Church of Russia, which somehow seems surprised each time something “unforeseen” arises, especially since the same Church “continues to be the most actively involved in the pre-Council process.” See “Russian Church doubts Pan-Orthodox Council possible in current situation,” December 29, 2015.

[8] See the record of the meeting in Constantinople (May 10 to June 8, 1923) in Πρακτικά καὶ ποφάσεις τοῦ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει Πανορθοδόξου Συνεδρίου, (Constantinople: Patriarchal Press, 1923), esp. 44, where it is noted that “the purpose of the meeting is to prepare the ground for the convocation of a Pan-Orthodox Council in order that the entire Hierarchy of the Orthodox Church may take decisions in common” on—at that time—a total of twenty-one issues.

[9] A “preliminary committee of the holy Orthodox Churches” assembled at Vatopedi Monastery from June 8-23, 1930, for further discussion on proposed items for the agenda. In many ways, the interwar years (1917-1939) were the period during which the Holy and Great Council was conceived; finally, in the early 1950s Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras enjoined the Orthodox Churches to materialize the vision of a Pan-Orthodox Council. See V. Stavridis, “On the name of the future council,” Theologia 38 (1967), 529-532 [in Greek]. The next preparatory meetings took place in Rhodes (1961-1964), which in turn led to the five Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Consultations in Chambésy (1976-2015).

[10] See Fr (now St) Justin Popovic, On the Proposed “Great Council” of the Orthodox Church (Athens, 1977), 17-20, where the author refers to the lack of freedom in the Eastern bloc as an impediment for the Great Council. Fr John Meyendorff agreed with such an appraisal in an article entitled “On the Way to an Ecumenical Council,” in Messenger (Vestnik) of the Russian Student Christian Movement 101-102 (1971), 138-141. Fr Justin’s text, which comprises a “Letter to the Holy Synod of the Church in Serbia,” dated April 23 (with the Julian Calendar], 1971, further suggests the dangers of convening a council, the difficult circumstances of the times, and the heretical intentions of Patriarch Athenagoras as reasons for cancelling or resisting the proposed council.

[11] See the recent article by Bruce Clark, editor of the Erasmus Blogspot: “When Bartholomew Meets Kirill: The Orthodox prepare for a great gathering” in The Economist., December 4, 2015.

[12] G.A. Rallis and M. Potlis, eds., Syntagma of the Holy and Sacred Canons, vol. 2 (Athens: Chartophylax Press, 1852), 705.

[13] Rallis and Potlis, Syntagma, vol. 4 (Athens: Chartophylax Press, 1854), 143.

[14] Some councils are recognized within a generation or two (Nicaea I in 325 was accepted at large in Constantinople I in 381); others take significantly longer (Constantinople I in 381 is not recognized by Rome until 517); and for others, the process of acceptance has proved incomplete (Chalcedon in 451 was repudiated by the non-Chalcedonians over many centuries).

[15] Ioannis Karmiris, A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church (Athens: University of Athens, 1957), 94 [in Greek]; English translation by Rev George Demopoulos (Scranton, PA: Christian Orthodox Edition, 1973).

[16] Cited in Ioannis Karmiris, The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church (Athens: no publisher, 1952-1953), 920 [in Greek]. Reprinted in 1960. Translation mine.

[17] St Paulinus, Letter xxiii, 36 PL61.280. See also Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 1.

[18] The most recent such Pan-Orthodox or Great Council was the well-known Council of 1872, held in Constantinople to consider and condemn “ethnophyletism.” However, there have been over a dozen such councils since the twelfth century (for example, in 1156, 1341, 1351, 1368, 1484, 1590, 1593, 1638, 1642, 1672, 1691, 1718, 1722, and 1727). I am indebted to Prof. V. Pheidas for this historical insight.

[19] From memory and conversation with His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel. See also January 26, 2016.

[20] Schmemann, Journals, 99.

[21] This is the motivation behind a provocative communiqué by acerbic Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus (Church of Greece) to his diocese, dated March 27, 2014. Seeορθόδοξος-και-οικουμενική-η΄-οικουμενιστική-η-συγκληθησόμενη-αγία-και-μεγάλη-σύνοδος-του-2016.html. The patristic basis for this argument is found in the commentary by St Nikodemus of Mt. Athos in Agapios and Nikodemus, The Rudder (Athens, Papademetriou Editions [in Greek]), 1970, 118-122, here at 118. Another caustic cynic in the Church of Greece and professor emeritus of theology at the University of Thessaloniki, Fr Theodoros Zisis—formerly a clergyman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and participant in ecumenical proceedings—has also scorned the longstanding preparations for the Great Council as unprecedented in church history, claiming that the Church convened in council as soon as a doctrinal issue arose instead of holding preparatory conferences; Fr Zisis overlooks iconoclasm, which endured over 125 years, as well as the fact that his obstructionism is part of the very problem he reviles! Zisis is the editor of Theodromia, journal (1999-), with such representative titles in its latest issue (17: 3, 2015) as “Ecumenism as a Judaizing heresy” and “The demonic method of ecumenism.”

[22] Even respected hierarchs and theologians are lured into this trap. For instance, in an interview published on November 12, 2015, in the Greek journal Ark of Orthodoxy (Κιβωτός Ὀρθοδοξίας), Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos spoke of a theological crisis: “From the studies I have done I do find that there is a theological crisis, because today there are prevailing some theological movements that differ from patristic theology. I do not think that the Pan-Orthodox Synod of 2016 will address these issues. And this is the big problem. The themes that have been fixed and the topics that will be discussed are not serious theological issues. I mean that it will not deal with the ‘filioque’ and the ‘actus purus,’ which the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Synods dealt with, so in my opinion, this shows that the Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conferences did not prepare in the best way the themes for the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, to be convened. I believe that the Synod of Saint Photios the Great (879-80) is a continuation of the Second Ecumenical Synod and the Synod of Saint Gregory Palamas (1351) is a continuation of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod. When we do not deal with such serious theological issues, this indicates that there is a theological crisis.” This argument is based on an official lecture by Metropolitan Ierotheos to the entire hierarchy of the Church of Greece on October 8, 2015.

See December 29, 2015.

[23] See, for example, Fr Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss, Creation and the Heart of Man, Dylan Pahman, ed. (Acton Institute: Grand Rapids, MI, 2013).

[24] See the transcript of interview with Fr Patrick O’Grady (on October 21, 2015) on Ancient Faith Radio, entitled “Antioch on the Record,” published on October 23, 2015, 4-5. November 15, 2015.  

[25] See Towards the Great Council: Introductory Reports of the Inter-Orthodox Commission in preparation for the next Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, London: SPCK, 1972. Then Archimandrite (and later Metropolitan of Tranoupolis/subsequently Metropolitan of Switzerland) Damaskinos Papandreou, as director of the Orthodox Center in Chambésy, was appointed secretary of the preparatory and planning committee in 1969. The First Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference at Chambésy (November 21-28, 1972) determined the methodology and five of the original items for the agenda: the sources of revelation; the fuller participation of laity in church life and worship; adaptation of fasting rules; impediments to marriage; the issue of the paschal calendar; and oikonomia in the application of canons. This limited agenda was defined in order to expedite the conciliar preparation and process. The Third Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference at Chambésy (October 28 to November 9, 1985) finalized the existing agenda comprising ten items.

[26] Some would even date the initiative or conception of the council to the renowned encyclical by Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III to the heads of all Orthodox autocephalous Churches on June 12, 1902, where the patriarch raises the issue of the Orthodox Churches’ meeting together in order to dispel their stifling introversion and isolation, even competition. The same encyclical raised the issues of reforming the calendar and relations with other confessions. In 1920, at the end of the First World War and the outset of the Russian Revolution, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued another encyclical, arguably spawning the emergence of the ecumenical movement and effectively facilitating a platform for greater Orthodox cooperation. See C.G. Patelos, ed., The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement: Documents and Statements (1902-1975) (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1978), 30ff.

[27] See the official report edited by Metropolitan Damaskinos [Papandreou] of Tranoupolis on the work of the preparatory commission, Saint et Grand Concile de l’Eglise Orthodoxe, Paris: Contacts, 1972. Supplement to no. 80, 4, 1972, 64 pages.

[28] This text has been retitled “The sacrament of marriage and its impediments.”

[29] This text has been retitled “The significance of fasting.”

[30] This text has been retitled “The mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world.”

[31] The Third Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Consultation, held in Chambésy in 1986, marked the first occasion that formal texts were approved on an Inter-Orthodox level.

[32] How unfortunate that Inter-Orthodox discussions and resolutions almost a century ago are either disregarded or disassociated today. In 1923, a Pan-Orthodox Conference held in Constantinople upheld the option for widowed clergymen to remarry, based on the pastoral needs and canonical dispensation of each local Church, until the matter is resolved at a Great Council. The preparatory meetings of the forthcoming Great Council have effectively buried any such consideration or deliberation. It is ironic, if not tragic that Churches in 1923 could propose a “charitable and compassionate” review of the relevant canonical regulations (including and especially the Churches of Romania and Serbia), even quoting historical precedents and patristic evidence in support of such a decision, while Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios [Metaxakis] IV could candidly profess that such an exercise of economy and philanthropy does not contravene scriptural or traditional practice. See Metropolitan Daniel of Kaisariani, The Second Marriage of Clergy in the Pan-Orthodox Conference of Constantinople, 10 May to 8 June, 1923 (Kaisariani, Athens, 2007) [In Greek].

[33] The bread prayerfully prepared by Orthodox faithful and humbly offered for the celebration of the Eucharist.

[34] St John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians 5.13.

[35] Isolationism leads to a kaleidoscope of deviations, including individualism (an unhealthy and imbalanced expression of spirituality), conservatism (an isolationism of and obsession on the past), and nationalism (an isolationism through inferiority or insecurity). On individualism and pietism, see Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984). For legalistic and conservative influences on Orthodox spiritual life, see Christos Yannaras, Orthodoxy and the West: Hellenic Self-Identity in the Modern Age (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2007). On nationalism as an ecclesiological heresy, see the special issue of St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 57 (2013): 3-4.

[36] On conciliarity and consensus, see the quarterly issue of Theologia [in Greek] 86 (2015): 2.

[37] Alexander Schmemann, “Problems of Orthodoxy in America,” in St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly 8, 2 (1964), 67-85, at 67-68. Cf. also John Meyendorff, “One Bishop in One City,” in St Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly 5, 1-2 (1961), 54-62.

[38] See the transcript of interview with Fr Patrick O’Grady (on October 21, 2015) on Ancient Faith Radio, entitled “Antioch on the Record,” published on October 23, 2015, 4-5. December 29, 2015.

[39] Acts of the Holy and Great Council (Constantinople: Vretos Printing, 1872), 91. It should be noted—and perhaps it is not coincidental—that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Church of Russia did not sign this Pan-Orthodox decision; nonetheless, it is canonically binding for all Churches inasmuch as the council was Pan-Orthodox.

[40] No one at Chambésy spoke of Churches being “immature” for such a process; and none of those who signed were apprehensive about “placing the cart before the horse.” See footnote 20 above.

[41] Contrary to Canon 8 of the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 325)

[42] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Speaking the Truth in Love, 120.

[43] In June 2009, twelve such Assemblies of Bishops were established by unanimous Pan-Orthodox decision at the Fourth Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Consultation in 2009; since the Assembly of Bishops in the United States was approved as a separate body in April 2014, there are now thirteen bishops’ assemblies. See December 23, 2015.

[44] Schmemann, adapted from his Journals, 169.

[45] Cf. Fr Thomas Hopko in Adam DeVille, Orthodoxy and the Roman Primacy (Notre Dame, IL: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011), 48. In the same book, DeVille describes the assemblies as “strikingly new and potentially revolutionary,” 162.

[46] On the issue of conservatism or fundamentalism, see George Demacopoulos, “Orthodox Fundamentalism,” on November 11, 2015.

[47] On Photius the Great, see Francis Dvornik, The Photian Schism: History and Legend (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1948); repr. 1970. Fr Dvronik overturns the classic (and conservative) conception of Photius as “prevaricator” of the papal claims and “patron” of papal resistance. For St Mark of Ephesus, see his Homily to Pope Eugene IV found in Acta Graeca, Book 1, 26-34 [here at 31], where Mark demonstrates his filial respect to the Roman primate and his fervent aspiration to doctrinal union. In fact, possibly drawing on the Letter of Pope John VIII to the Emperors presented to the Constantinopolitan synod of 879, Mark even appeals to Pope Eugene Pope to give his authoritative assent to remove the needless scandal separating the two Churches. I am grateful to Rev Prof Christiaan Kappes for this detail. See Theodore Xanthopoulos and Dorotheus of Myteline, Quae supersunt Actorum Graecorum Concilii Florentini. Concilium Florentinum Documenta et Scriptores, Series B, Volume 5, Books 1-2, Joseph Gill, ed. (Rome: Pontifical Institute of Oriental Studies, 1953). Also see J. Décarreaux, Les grecs au concile de l’union Ferrare-Florence 1438-1439. Société des Études Italiennes 6 (Paris: Éditions A. et J. Picard, 1969), 34-36; and N. Constas, “Mark Eugenikos,” in C.G. Conticello and V. Conticello, eds., La théologie byzantine et sa tradition, vol. 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2002, 411-475, esp. 460.

[48] Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), 119-136.


[49] See Mark’s second theological apology on the notion of purgatory, in Louis Petit, Documents relatifs au concile de Florence, vol. 1 Patrologia Orientalis XV, Fasc. 1, No. 72], Turnhout: Brepols, 1990, 108-109. I am again grateful to Rev Prof Christiaan Kappes, who kindly located this passage at my request. 


[50] Tertullian, Contra Julianum II, 33, 37.

[51] Ramsay MacMullen, Voting about God in Early Church Councils (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 41-42 and 47.

[52] Ibid. Local councils were mandatory; according to Canon 5 of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, provinces were supposed to assemble their bishops twice a year.

[53] Olivier Clément, “Let us prepare all together for the Council,” Contacts 76, 4 (1971). [In French]

[54] Panagiotis Nellas, The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church: theological reflections and perspectives, Thessaloniki, 1972, 19 pages. Reprinted in Synaxis 76 (2000) and 133 (2015). [In Greek] A conference on the Great Council was organized jointly by the Institut de Saint-Serge, the Center for Ecumenical Research at KU Leuven in Belgium and the Collège des Bernardins on October 18-20, 2012; topics covered by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars included the reception of the council and the role of observers, liturgical reform and calendar, autocephaly and autonomy, diaspora and ecumenism, as well as organizational matters such as diptychs and practical matters such as fasting. The papers were first published in Contacts 243 (July-September, 2013) and subsequently appeared in Greek in Καιρός Συνεσταλμένος τό Λοιπόν . . . Ἡ Μέλλουσα Πανορθόδοξη Σύνοδος. Ζητήματα-Διλήμματα-Προοπτικές, P. De Mey and M. Stavrou, eds. (Athens: Ἐν Πλῷ Editions, 2015). For the English edition, see the recent double issue of St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 60, 1-2 (2016) entitled The Forthcoming Council of the Orthodox Church: Understanding the Challenges.

[55] P. Nellas, The Contribution of Orthodox Youth to the Preparation for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Catholic Church (Athens 1973). [In Greek]

[56] See the article by Olivier Clément in Episkepsis 42 (November 16, 1971), 3-13. [Greek translation]

[57] The Preconciliar Conferences first proposed by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras to all the heads of the Orthodox autocephalous Churches on February 12, 1951.

[58] See Joseph Olšr and Joseph Gill, “The Twenty-eighth Canon of Chalcedon in Dispute between Constantinople and Moscow,” in Alois Grillmeier and Heinrich Bacht, eds., Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart (Würzburg: Echter Verlag, 1951), vol. 2, 765-783, at 783.

[59] See Radu Bordeianu’s comments in: November 19, 2015.

[60] There are several examples of individual bishops and even entire Churches either prevented from attending, refusing to attend, or even not invited to attend councils. In those cases, not only did the council proceed (routinely reaching decisions, which were valid and binding for all churches irrespective of attendance or presence), but on occasion the council denounced the absentee bishop. Thus, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451), the Acts of the Council noted that “Dioscorus [of Alexandria] was condemned not for heresy” but for arbitrarily storming out of the assembly because the bishops had reinstated those previously condemned by the “robber council” of Ephesus in 449, one of whom was the well-known Theodoret of Cyrus. After being invited three times to return to the council, Dioscorus was denounced and defrocked. Consensus is not unanimity: Nicaea (325) Canon 6, and Antioch (341) Canon 19.

[61] Those who adopted this pretext claimed that Haghia Irene served as an arsenal for many years, selectively forgetting the fact that, previously, it was a Christian Church for one thousand years, while conveniently turning a blind eye to practices in their own countries, where religious complexes were once used as political prisons. However, what is paramount here is the generosity of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to offer Crete as an alternative venue in response to the recent breakdown in political relations between Russia and Turkey as well as for security reasons due to the latest terrorist bombing that resulted in the death of tourists near Haghia Irene.

[62] For example, few are surprised by (and certainly not a single bishop out of over 250 in attendance at the Bishops’ Conference in Russia suspected) the following stark incongruity reported by the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church: In February 2015, His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill proudly claimed responsibility for proposing “the principle of consensus after long and not-always-easy discussions” during the Synaxis of Primates at the Phanar a year earlier; yet, in the same address to the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, Patriarch Kirill “stated his regret that the . . . preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council progressed not quickly enough”! See November 29, 2015. This insistence on consensus is foreshadowed in a lecture by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, entitled “Primacy and Synodality from an Orthodox Perspective,” delivered at St Vladimir’s Seminary on November 9, 2014. See, December 1, 2015.

[63] Some political commentators have suggested that this bias, which characterizes mostly (although not only) Churches of the former Soviet Union, has the “potential to advance a new religious Cold War by supporting the ideological rhetoric of an Orthodox civilization in opposition to the secular West.” See Lucian Leustean, “A New Religious ‘Cold War’?” in“cold-war.” December 27, 2015.

[64] Adapted from the title of a book by Néstor García Canclini, Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

[65] Schmemann, Journals, 183.

[66] Stylianos Harkianakis, The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology, Philip Kariatlis, trans. (Adelaide and Sydney: ATF Press and St Andrew’s Press, 2008), 129. 

[67] St John Chrysostom, On Psalm 149, PG 55.493.

[68] St John Chrysostom, Homily IV on Acts 2, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 11, Philip Schaff, ed. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing, 1889). Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.  November 26, 2015.

[69] Schmemann, Journals, 232 and 152. Emphasis mine.