MEETING OF DELEGATIONS OF THE RUSSIAN AND GEORGIAN CHURCHES
On 11 March 1998 there was a meeting in the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate of delegations of the Russian Orthodox and Georgian Orthodox churches devoted to the entire complex of questions associated with participation of the two churches in the ecumenical movement.
The sides certified the agreement of their approaches to the basic problems associated with the participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement. It was noted that in both churches there is criticism of this movement. In many cases the criticism has the goal of discrediting the church leadership and entails calls for schism and it this sense it represents a threat to the unity of Orthodoxy. But at the same time it was noted that there also is constructive criticism which is guided not by bad intentions but has a substantial basis: those difficulties which at present Orthodox churches experience within the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical organizations. It was emphasized that Orthodox churches must make a decisive rebuff against all who use ecumenism in their struggle with legitimate and canonical church leadership insofar as participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement from the very start was predicated on the attempt to testify about Orthodoxy before the rest of the world. Both sides agreed that the present forms of participation do not facilitate the adequate achievement of this mission. Specifically therefore currently Orthodox churches are reviewing their attitudes toward the forms of participation in inter-Christian dialogues. Changes in the forms of participation in the ecumenical movement, however, are possible only on the basis of church discussion of these questions and not under pressure from schismatics.
At the same time the sides recognized that church leadership in the past did not devote sufficient attention to a broad acquaintance of the believing people with information about the reasons, nature, and forms of participation of their representatives in the ecumenical movement and were not concerned for a responsible theological conceptualization of this activity.
Both sides certified their common positions in relationship to the ecumenical movement in general and the WCC in particular. At the present there are various models of relationships between Orthodox churches and international Christian organizations, as members or as nonmembers of these (as the Georgian Orthodox church is not now a member of WCC and other ecumenical organizations while the other Orthodox churches, including the Russian Orthodox church, continue their relationships with them). But this difference of the specific forms of contacts and communications with ecumenical organizations does not change the fundamental essence of attitudes towards them on the part of the Georgian and Russian Orthodox churches, as well as their concerns which already have been expressed frequently. The Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches agree that the WCC in its present form and the manner of participation of Orthodox churches within it do not fully conform to the Orthodox ecclesiastical self-perception. In this regard they are awaiting from it a radical review of its structure and the need for seeking new forms of the participation of Orthodox churches which will permit them to be more adequately represented.
Both churches view with regard those tendencies which exist in several protestant churches who are members of WCC, in particular the inclusion of women in the priesthood, use of inclusive language in the Bible and prayers, and the revision of biblical ethical standards, and the like. They consider mutual communion with those of other beliefs (intercommunion) impermissible as a means for achieving Christian unity. The sides certify that in their churches the practice of participation in ecumenical prayers provokes confusion of the church public.
Representatives of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches view positively the possibility of discussing the topics of participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement at the upcoming meeting of representatives of Orthodox churches in Thessalonika on 28 April to 3 May, expressing the firm conviction that this meeting will serve to strengthen pan-Orthodox unity.
Russian original at Moscow Patriarchate:
(posted at http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/9803a.html#09 on 17 March 1998)
posted April 15, 1998