Tue, 15 Oct 2019

Even compared to the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine that exists in the same post-Soviet social environment, the ROC is witnessing an opposite tendency of turning back to the Middle Ages. And as against New Rome the difference is astonishing. So, its no wonder that the ties between Moscow and its Mother Church were severed.

During his visit to Rome, on September 16, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a speech at the 24th International Congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches. Mentioning among the association founders his doctoral supervisor Prof. Ivan uek, the Ecumenical Patriarch said:

In our doctoral dissertation we argued, and in our lecture at the Societys inaugural Congress we had the opportunity to reiterate, that the ancient canons contain the guiding and fundamental principles, on which all legislative work of the Church, created by changing ecclesiastical circumstances, must be based. The Churchs legislation must always aim: firstly, at the application of the above-mentioned principles in accordance with the special needs of the Church in a given age, and secondly, at the elaboration of these principles in specific appropriate canons. These canonical principles have a theological content and are fundamental to the Churchs ecclesiological self-understanding. They have a living force and contain within themselves the possibility of further development and articulation. They form a dynamic canonical tradition, which is the living experience of the whole body of the Church, and not a museum piece, expressing the demands of each time.

These are very important words. They mean that the Mother Church doesnt stick to an old form and is ready for development while preserving its spirit. It means that it has future.

Moreover, as we can see, the Mother Church really means that. The Church is living and growing. Constantinople has clearly seen the Russian Orthodox Churchs true policy and started to rebuff its claims for primacy in the Orthodox world, stood up for believers unduly deprived of Eucharistic communion and their rights for jurisdictional self-determination and autocephaly, which is provisioned through the Tomos for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Above all are a persons interests, not territorial boundaries, property issues or political ambitions. An example of such policy is the benevolent bestowal of canonical release to Archbishop John Renneteau of Charioupoulis who decided to estrange himself from the center of Orthodoxy, disobeyed the Synods decision and was willing to join the Patriarchate of Moscow with the dioceses of the Russian tradition in Western Europe given in charge to him.

Just another case proving the Church is changing: in 2013, Patriarch Bartholomew described same-sex conduct as the result of sin and a threat to the divine institution of the family. Now, six years later, its not shocking that per a 2017 survey, in the US where the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is dominating, about 66 percent of the Orthodox Christian say that homosexuality should be accepted by society while 54 percent favor allowing legal same-sex marriages. According to another survey, released by the Public Religious Research Institute (PRRI) in 2018, 66 percent of US Eastern Orthodox Christians support marriage equality.

It means that the largest part of the clergy at least revised their priorities, realized that a Christians intolerance to his or her neighbor is unacceptable and are conducting enlightening activities on this. Somebody even approached the issue unbiasedly and scientifically and understood that the ability to love must be developed and directed regardless of the innate peculiarities of expressing love. Moreover, these individualities arent a reason for a clergyman to prevent this person from communicating with God, be admitted to Sacraments and serving the Church.

Another fact proving that a campaign against tolerance was abandoned is that in 2016 the Order of St. Andrew of the Ecumenical Patriarchate presented the Athenagoras Award to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the years long participant of Pride Parades and a LGBT rights defender.

Respected clergymen as, for example, an advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch GOARCH Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, follow publications on homosexuality in the Orthodox Church around the world and claim that an open dialogue is needed.

The discussion between supporters and opponents of softening the stance toward LGBT involves not only such famous theologians as Metropolitan Kallistos Ware but also the faithful scholars, historians, clinicians, sociologists, journalists, writers and activists.

A month ago, on August 16-19, an annual conference on contemporary issues of sex, gender and sexuality in relation to the Orthodox Church took place in Oxford (UK) as part of a three-year research project Bringing Voices funded by the British Council.

Although it would have been impossible without Patriarch Bartholomews good will, cant be ignored the contribution of such laymen activists as the co-founders of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center and the editors of Public Orthodoxy website Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Prof. Aristotle Papanikolaou, Prof. George Demacopoulos; the founding editor of Orthodoxy in Dialogue Giacomo Sanfilippo; and the editor of The Wheel Journal Katherine Kelaidis. Even the supporters of traditional values sympathize with Nik Jovi-Sas, a Serbian Orthodox Christian theologian, musician and LGBT advocate who unveils terrible discrimination, hatred and violence against LGBT community in Orthodox countries these stories shock the West.

However, its not about LGBT issues or activists. The fact that the conference was attended by a prominent theologian and supporter of the Ukrainian autocephaly, a disgraced ROC Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun shows that all these changes is a demonstration of a trend coming from the personality of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to promote the values of humanism, civil society and protecting the Creation in an extended sense.

Another example is that the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine involved the out-of-favor Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Olexander Drabinko, who, being the chief editor of the UOC MP website, published sayings unprecedented for his former Church in their tolerance toward LGBT, and is a homosexual himself. It means that even during the period of its formation under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Ukraine promoted the idea that later became the keynote of its Primate Epiphanius speeches: Our Church is open for everyone.

Of course, such developments began earlier in some churches and in some later. In late 2007, the Episcopal Synod of the Finnish Orthodox Church (the Ecumenical Patriarchate) stated that the sexual ethics represented by the movement Community (working for social and ecclesiastical equality of persons of same-sex orientation) doesnt fight against the Orthodox tradition, and there is no need to prohibit Orthodox priests from participating in the activities of the movement. The principle dont ask and dont talk is lex non scripta there in the case of the clergy and laymen within same-sex marriage. Meanwhile in Ukraine, which is still shortening its half-century gap between it and Europe as far as civil society is concerned, the softening of the church views is only beginning. Although more than five bishops of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine were born homosexuals, its Primate Epiphanius still cant give up the paradigm of sin and dividing the world into the traditionalist East and decadent West. However, he is already brave enough to say that LGBT people have the same rights as other members of a congregation but can take part in Sacraments after repenting. Its a big step for Ukraine and its conservative society which witness regular clashes and threats during marches for LGBT rights.

In contrast, in June 2012 Patriarch Kirill of Moscow expressed his discontent with the Finnish Lutheran Church endorsing same-sex unions while in January 2013 he named alcoholism, drug addiction, lust, prostitution and homosexuality as equivalent evils. In July of that year he described the legalization of gay marriages as a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse and a path of self-destruction supporting a ban on homosexual propaganda signed into law by Russias president Vladimir Putin. The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted in 2000, contains provisions condemning sexual perversions as opposed to physical relations between man and woman blessed by God in marriage and homosexual propaganda; it also bars LGBT activists from educational and other work with children and youth or occupying superior positions in the Army and reformatories (XII.9).

As we can see, even compared to the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine that exists in the same post-Soviet social environment, the ROC is witnessing an opposite tendency of turning back to the Middle Ages. And as against New Rome the difference is astonishing. So, its no wonder that the ties between Moscow and its Mother Church were severed. The reason is not only disagreements over the Ukrainian issue but also the directions of their policies to human and from human, from acceptance to hostility. Nevertheless new times require changes and professing the faith of Christ while supporting the infringement of human rights is becoming harder and harder which means that the ROC in its current state will not only stay in isolation but also in the past. The Canons that in some way became obsolete lead to nowhere but even this way, by naturally removing remains from the path of history, they contribute to the Churchs development.

Divine Providence in history can be praised or bashed but it proves: to move along we have to turn to Constantinople.

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