Friday, February 6, 2015

Does Christian Ecumenism still have a future, Hilarion Alfeyev

On Thursday 5th February Hilarion Alfeyev, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk (Russia) gave a talk at the University of Winchester (The Stripe, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR). The topic of the talk was Does Christian Ecumenism still have a future?
The Bishop began his talk by giving biblical examples of unity. He explained that after Jesus Resurrection, the Eucharist is the most important unifying element in the Christian world. The unity of Christians has a supernatural aspect, God; this supernatural aspect is needed for its preservation.
The speaker wished to give a history and an exegesis on heresies and schisms. Christianity has had three great schisms: a. at the Forth Ecumenical Synod, where the Oriental Orthodox split from the Eastern Orthodox Church, b. the schism of 1054, between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, which was based on ecclesiastical administrative issues, rather than on theology; theology was added on later on, and c. the Reformation, 1517. The speaker identified that there are less important differences between the Orthodox (including the Oriental Orthodox) and the Roman Catholic, than between the latter and the Protestants (including the Anglican Communion).    

In the 20th century we have the Ecumenical Movement, the restoration of unity. This new movement is one of the most significant movements in Christian history. The rejection of unity is a sin to God. During the past century we have had a systematic approach to Christian unity, where constant and regular talks took place. During the 20th century we have the establishment of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Second Vatican Council, allowing for the largest Christian church to come into dialogue, to create mutual respect.
Currently, the Inter-Christian dialogue has reached a point, where we ask ourselves: does it have a future? Many would have believed that a substantial closeness and coming together would have been achieved. However, more serious problems have occurred now, than 50 years ago, when the dialogue was still in its infancy. These problems occurred not only on a doctrinal level, but also on matters of morality.
A key problem, identified by Metropolitan Hilarion, is secularism, which leads to materialism and atheism. Secularism is Europe has a militant character; it moves on an anti-Christian level. This, of course, has hit marriage and the family, introducing for example same sex marriage. The importance of life has shifted, introducing thus euthanasia and abortion. We have a false understanding of freedom. The concept of good and evil is becoming vague.
Scripture is the common foundation of Christianity; however, we observe that there are different approached of moral teachings; this is clear. The speaker wished to explain that there are various versions of Christianity: the traditional and the liberal.
He later gave a history of the relations between the Anglicans and the Orthodox. There have been serious difficulties, especially after 1976 with the introduction of women priests in the Episcopalian Church in America. In 1993 the Church of England introduced women to the priesthood. There are, therefore, issues in ecclesiology. He then wished to give his position on women priests. He claimed that ‘we didn’t recognise the legitimacy of the Anglican hierarchy, with the introduction of women priests. Now with the introduction of women bishops, the legitimacy is closed.’ This, of course, is not understood theologically and ecclesiologically. It is, however, a result of secularism and of feminism.
Coming back to the same sex marriage, the Anglican Communion seems to be split on this issue. The Orthodox understand these new introductions as apostasy; they go against Christian morality and against Scripture. Nonetheless, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, brought new hope for the relations, since he has similar views on marriage with the Orthodox. The Orthodox are not against the tolerance of people of other sexual appetite; however, the Orthodox can’t accept sin as the norm. The future of the relations between the Anglicans and the Orthodox will be affected by these issues.

According to Metropolitan Hilarion, the most promising dialogue in the Christian world is between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, since both show an importance on Tradition, a common heritage and the never changing values of Scripture. Both encounter same challenges.
What we need today is a defence of Christian against discrimination and violence. Unfortunately, Christians today are discriminated under the Arab Spring in the Middle East, creating a Christian genocide. On the other hand, countries in Western Europe are trying to limit Christianity in public life. Discrimination is also evident in Britain.

Is there a future for Ecumenism? The Metropolitan wished to leave this question open. Unity is not achieved by social currents and by rejecting Tradition, but by Scripture. Anti-ecumenism, according to Hilarion, is a propaganda based on wrong ideas around the relations and the dialogue between the Christian churches. The word ecumenism is not widely used and accepted in Russia. However, ecumenism gives the possibility of talking with each other, to learn each other’ beliefs. The speaker, nonetheless, identified that differences on fundamental moral issues can stop the dialogue.    

1 comment:

  1. Λυπαται κανεις για το θεολογικο καταντημα της Ρωσικης "εκκλησιας" κρινοντας απ οσα ειπε ο Αλφεγιεβ στην διαλεξη του αυτη. Δεν καταλαβαινει ουτε τις πλεον στοιχειωδεις αρχες της Ορθοδοξιας οπως π.χ. το οτι η Ενοτητα ολων ανεξαιρετως των ανθρωπων (και κατα συμπτωση και των Χριστιανων) ειναι αποκλειστικα και μονο Δωρημα Θεου "ανωθεν καταβαινον εκ του Πατρος των Φωτων".Κανενας ανθρωπος με κανενα τροπο δεν μπορει να συντελεσει στην Ενοτητα αυτη, εκτος απο το να ζητησει την βοηθεια του Θεου: Την Ενοτητα της Πιστεως και την Κοινωνιαν του Αγιου Πνευματος ΑΙΤΗΣΑΜΕΝΟΙ....και: "Υπερ της των παντων ενωσεως...(οχι μονο των χριστιανων!) προσευχεται η Ορθοδοξη εκκλησια.. Ειναι τοσο αθεολογητος ο Αλφεγιεβ ωστε νομιζει οτι οι Παπικοι βρισκονται πολυ πιο κοντα με τους Ορθοδοξους ενω οι Προτεσταντες - και οι Αγγλικανοι ιδιαιτερα ...πολυ μακρυα!!! Η αληθεια απο καθαρα ΔΟΓΜΑΤΙΚΗ πλευρα ειναι ακριβως το αντιθετο! Αρκει να θυμησουμε πολυ συνοπτικα οτι οι Παπικοι ΔΕΝ πιστευουν οτι στον Ιησου Χριστο εχουν ενωθη η θεικη και η ανθρωπινη φυση μεσα σε ΜΙΑ Υποσταση, οι Αγγλικανοι ομως και οι Λουθηρανοι το πιστευουν αυτο και δεχονται και την Δ' Οικουμενικη Συνοδο!
    Δυστυχως ο Διεθνολογος-Θεολογος του ρεπορταζ δεν δινει καμμιά ορθοδοξη απαντηση στις ασυναρτησιες του ομιλητη...