Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Orthodox Announce Ecumenical Council
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A meeting of Eastern Orthodox patriarchs ended Sunday with a call for the bishops of Orthodoxy to convene in an Ecumenical Council in 2016. According to Reuters via the Huffington Post:
Patriarchs of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians ended a rare summit in Istanbul on Sunday calling for a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine and denouncing violence driving Christians out of the Middle East.
Twelve heads of autonomous Orthodox churches, the second-largest family of Christian churches, also agreed to hold a summit of bishops, or ecumenical council, in 2016, which will be the first in over 1,200 years.
The Istanbul talks were called to decide on the council, which the Orthodox have been preparing on and off since the 1960s, but the Ukraine crisis overshadowed their talks at the office of spiritual leader Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
One of the main questions facing the 2016 council will be how to balance relations among the Orthodox now that the Russian church, after seven decades of subjugation under communism, has reemerged as an influential voice in world Christianity.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will meet Roman Catholicism’s Pope Francis in Jerusalem in May, is the senior-most Orthodox leader, but his Istanbul-based church is tiny, with none of the resources the large Russian church enjoys.
Despite the prestige of his post, he has no authority over other churches, unlike the power the pope has in Catholicism, the world’s largest church with 1.2 billion members.
The communique stressed that all decisions at the council would be taken by consensus, a position the Russians strongly defended in preparations for the meeting.
The 2016 council will be held in Hagia Irene, a Byzantine church building in the outer courtyard of the Ottoman sultans’ Topkapi Palace. Now a museum, it has not been used as a church since the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
This is potentially the most important event in the life of the Eastern Church since the Seventh Council took place in 787, also in Constantinople. Or it could be a big nothingburger. I can think of at least two issues that desperately need to be dealt with. One is the multiplication of jurisdictions based on ethnicity in places like the United States, which has crippled Orthodox outreach to non-ethnics for decades. The second is relations with other Christian churches (specifically, Rome), which are in drastic need of a definite statement about intentions and purposes. Along with this is the need to decide on a unified approach to the World Council of Churches, which the Orthodox as a whole ought to have abandoned years ago, and which Antioch at least has.
It will be very interesting to watch the preparations and the emerging agenda over the next couple of years.

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