Church

Christian Leaders May Return to Nicaea: What Does It Mean?

In 2025, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians could go back to the place where early followers of Jesus tried to create a consensus among all of Christendom.

The Atlantic has more:

Mark your calendars: In 2025, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians may return to Nicaea, the spot in modern-day Turkey where Christianity was literally defined. In 325, early followers of Jesus came together to figure out what it means to be a Christian; the goal was to create theological consensus across all of Christendom. This was way before the faith sub-divided into East vs. West, Catholics vs. Protestants, Southern Baptists vs. Primitive Baptists—these were the early days of the religion, when it still seemed like it could be observed as one, united faith. The council’s effect on Christianity was huge; for one thing, most Bible-school students still learn some version of the Nicene Creed, the profession of Christian faith.

On his way home from a meeting with Pope Francis in the Holy Land, Patriarch Bartholomew I, the primary leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, gave an interview in which he said that he and Francis are planning a gathering in Nicaea 11 years from now “to celebrate together, after 17 centuries , the first truly ecumenical synod.” That’s a pretty big deal; in 1054, theological disagreements led to a schism in Christianity, which is how Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians became separate faith traditions. This is a call back to a time before the schism, before the fundamental disagreements that kept popes and patriarchs from talking to each other for more than 900 years.

But the specifics are still pretty fuzzy. Will it be a formal ecumenical council, with leaders from the two faiths earnestly trying to reconcile their theological differences? Or will it be just what Bartholomew said—a celebration, full of meaningful dialogue but little actual change? Hard to tell, says Rocco Palmo, the author of the blog Whispers in the Loggia. 

“It’s 12 years away,” he pointed out. Trying to predict what will happen in 2025 is like an extreme version of confidently declaring who will be president of the United States in 2016—there’s just no way to know. Plus, Francis and Bartholomew are both in their 70s. Bartholomew said the pair wanted to leave this council “as a legacy to ourselves and our successors,” which seems like an acknowledgment that they could both be dead—or retired—11 years from now.

There’s also the challenge of getting Catholics and Orthodox Christians on board for whatever they want to do. “If the pope wants to do this, the Catholic side will be lined up, but if the ecumenical patriarch wants to, some will come and some will not,” Palmo said. Bartholomew is the archbishop of Constantinople, meaning that he is “the first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox churches, but he doesn’t have power over other patriarchs.

And besides, Palmo said, Francis still has work to do at home—for example, his synod on Catholic doctrine on the family, to be held in October. “He’s got to pull this synod off first—his successor can roll back anything, which is why he is taking his time,” Palmo said.

But is there a possibility that this could be a serious attempt to reconcile the division between East and West? Yes. “It’s a beautiful hope,” Palmo said. “It’s the prayer that Jesus had.”

 

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Church

Bartholomew Convokes Orthodox Primates

Communio:

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the point of unity among Eastern Chrsitians, has called the patriarchs and archbishops of the world’s Orthodox Churches to a meeting in Istanbul in March. This meeting is a precursor to a Pan-Orthodox Synod slated for 2015. Orthodox Primates last me in Constantinople in 2008.

Asianews.it carries one of the stories. For more on the event and for Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon’s comments read, “Bartholomew convokes the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch is 74 and has served the Church as a priest since 1969 and in this present capacity since 1991. He is the 27oth successor of Saint Andrew the Apostle. His Holiness’ biography is here.

This is terrific news!!!

All the holy Apostles, pray for the Primates!

 

Church

Eastern Orthodox Lose Two Evangelical Bridges

Christianity Today:

Metropolitan Jonah, by most accounts the highest-ranking, evangelical-friendly archpriest in North America’s Eastern Orthodox Church, resigned under duress in July.

His removal has observers less concerned about his leadership shortcomings, which allegedly led to his removal, than about the widening gap between conservatives and the Orthodox Church.

“His efforts were the most explicit attempt by any Orthodox hierarch to join with evangelicals and other conservatives in a common social agenda,” North Park University professor Brad Nassif said of Jonah’s nearly four-year tenure as primate.

Jonah, a former Episcopalian, was especially popular among the convert wing of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), which in 2008 constituted 51 percent of the denomination’s 85,000 North American adherents, according to the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute.

His ecumenical social efforts also endeared him to a wider conservative audience. In 2009, he linked arms with prominent evangelicals and conservative Catholics in signing the Manhattan Declaration, which defended a traditional definition of marriage and denounced abortion.

His bold social stances drew the ire of members of his own community, according to conservative pundit and Orthodox convert Rod Dreher.

Dreher, who broke the news of Jonah’s resignation, compared the OCA synod in a blog post to “a pack of ravening wolves” that he said has long been trying to unseat its leader.

The New York-based synod countered the Internet buzz with a statement outlining the allegations that led to Jonah’s forced resignation, including that Jonah knowingly harbored a priest accused of rape in his diocese.

The synod said its request “came at the end of a rather long list of questionable, unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to his peers.”

Jonah’s resignation came only five days after the death of 73-year-old Peter Gillquist, who infused evangelical fervor into the Antiochian Orthodox Church beginning in 1987, when he led some 2,000 of his Protestant followers into Eastern Orthodoxy.

“If he had not come into the church and brought those people in, our church would have atrophied to the point of near extinction,” Nassif said. “Gillquist came along at the right moment in American Orthodox history.”

Among his many accomplishments, Gillquist helped create the first Orthodox study Bible and served for a quarter of a century as chairman of the archdiocese’s department of missions and evangelism.

Gillquist, like Jonah, served as a critical bridge for relations between evangelicals and Orthodox, having spent the majority of his career on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ before his conversion.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a prominent Orthodox author and speaker, called the losses a “double blow” to American Orthodoxy. However, she doesn’t believe this will affect relations between the two groups.

“The change that has taken place so steadily over the years can’t be undone by these two losses,” she said. “And yet, they are losses we regret all the same.”

 

Church

The Six Attractions of Eastern Orthodoxy

On St Joseph’s Vanguard:

Many Protestants are facing the interesting but difficult choice between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I’ve been getting to know some Orthodox guys via the blogs and facebook lately and have grown in respect for Orthodoxy from them.

For Protestant Americans and Westerners in general, Eastern Orthodoxy looks appealing for many reasons. I leave aside in this post the ultimate determination of whether Orthodoxy is indeed the true Church (with the Catholic Church in schism from it) or vice-versa. Instead, I want to focus on what I see as Orthodoxy’s appeal agnostic of whether it is what it claims to be.

These include:

1. It’s Eastern.

2. It’s Ancient.

3. It’s Traditional.

4. It’s a bit less strict morally.

5. It’s pope-less.

6. It’s got strong community.

Read about each here.

And from the conclusion:

I know several people who have considered or are considering Orthodoxy, often alongside Catholicism as the only alternatives to more aimless drifting in the sea of Protestantism. Many express their frustration that after working so hard to figure out that Protestantism is fatally flawed, they have two options still to choose from instead of one. That’s just one more reason why we need to heed Christ’s call to perfect unity in John 17 and heal the schism.