Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fr. George Florovski on Ecumenism

Fr. George Florovski is one of the most prominent Orthodox theologians of the 20th century. He is considered one of the Orthodox pioneers in the contemporary ecumenical movement. Due to his involvement within the ecumenical sphere, he is regarded as one of the architects of the World Council of Churches. As most theologians, he had many ecumenical aims, but also doubts in regards to the furtherance of the WCC and the Ecumenical Movement as a whole. Below we give a number of his ideas in regards to ecumenism.
“We could meet each other in complete Christian freedom. This did not exclude controversy, but even the controversy was dominated by the conviction that divided Christian still do belong together and dwell under the mighty challenge of the call to unity. This dialogue has helped me to discover both the common ground of universal Christian commitment and the depth of the actual estrangement and tension. It was at this point that I became inwardly compelled to develop a sense of ‘ecumenical patience’.
  The ecumenical problem is a problem of schism and its healing. Christian disunity is an open and bleeding would on the glorious body of Christ. The ultimate unity can come only from above, as a free gift of Almighty God.

It is not enough to be moved towards ecumenical reconciliation by some sort of strategy, be it missionary, evangelistic, social or other, unless the Christian conscience has already become aware of the greater challenge, by the Divine challenge itself. We must seek unity or reunion not because it might make us more efficient or better equipped […] but because unity is the divine imperative, the divine purpose and design, because it belongs to the very essence of Christianity.
Christian disunity means nothing less than the failure of Christians to be true Christians. In divided Christendom, nobody can be fully Christian, even if one stands in the full truth and is sure of his complete loyalty and obedience to the truth ‘once delivered to the saints’ – for no one is permitted freedom from responsibility to others. For everyone is, and this is the privilege of Christians […] the keeper of his brethren. The catholicity of the Church is never broken by human secessions, but her universality is heavily compromised by the unhappy divisions. Christian provincialism […] is not less a failure than a doctrinal error. And if heresy prevails, is it not chiefly because the witness to orthodox truth has been inadequate or has been sorely neglected?
Ecumenical does not mean or should not mean either pan-Protestant or non-Roman. No true ecumenical cooperation, no true Christian fellowship and obviously no Christian reunion can be achieved unless Rome could be included […]. The ultimate integration of Christendom is to be truly total and universal. Everything else is inevitably but partial and provincial, basically inadequate and incomplete, and perhaps even misleading”[1].

[1] Fitzgerald, Thomas, “Florovsky at Amsterdam: his ‘ecumenical aims and doubts’”, Sobornost, Volume 21, Number 1, 1999, p. 37-50

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