Pan-Orthodox Movement

Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE – Pan-Orthodox Christian NGO Movement

The OCP Pan-Orthodox Christian movement had a humble beginning in 2007. The major aim of our movement is to generate Pan-Orthodox Christian unity awareness among Orthodox Christian faithful worldwide. We dream of building a common platform for all Orthodox Churches. OCP is a small NGO movement registered under the Travancore-Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act, 1955.

What Is Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity?
The Pan-Orthodox Christian conciliar unity is focused on bringing Orthodox Christians across various jurisdictions, cultures and origin onto a common universal platform. It is a cross-cultural interaction and approach between various Orthodox jurisdictions and a call for an extensive dialogue and action between Eastern, Oriental, Western, non-canonical, Old Believers, Traditional, Old Calendar and new generation Orthodox churches. It aims at full sacramental communion between the various Orthodox Christian families. The focus is given to conciliarity, because the nature and structure of administration and decision in Orthodox churches are always based on councils, unlike the Roman Catholics or Protestants.

Councils are given importance, as they are considered the measuring scale. If a dispute arises in the church, then a council is organized to make an appropriate decision. Orthodox Christianity gives importance to the fusion of episcopacy and democracy.

There is always a scope for collective decision-making. The primate of each local Orthodox Church (patriarch, catholicos, archbishop or metropolitan) is considered first among equals in the Synod of Bishops, who is chosen to lead the church, but does not have authoritarian rights to decide, by himself. The schism between the Orthodox families, particularly between Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, was a result of politics, misunderstanding and misinterpretations of theological and Christological doctrines.

The Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon is considered one of most important significant ecumenical councils in the history of Christianity. Sadly it split the Christian East into two families of churches—Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox. Later in 1054, the Great Schism split the Roman Catholic Church (Old Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome) from the Eastern Orthodox communion of churches.

“We must confirm that the purpose of the Council of Chalcedon was to maintain the Church’s faithfulness and unity, not its rupture. Today our duty is to explain the problems of the past and reconsider that this Council could be one of unity, not of separation.” Bishop Demetrios Charbak of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & All East.

The first major schism in the East was between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. We should not forget the fact that the Roman Catholic Church (at that time the Orthodox Church of Rome) was part of the Orthodox communion. There have been several attempts in the past to reconcile. At present, the pace of reconciliation is slow in several aspects. A number of agreements along with official and unofficial dialogues between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox families have been accomplished which have to be upgraded to the next level. The volume and intensity of dialogue by the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox for Christian unity and ecumenism practiced with the WCC (World Council of Churches), the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian bodies, is very high in comparison to the extent of dialogue and action between the various families of Orthodox churches. I personally believe that there should be an immense shift. There should be more focus on inter-Orthodox action. The sacramental unity and agreements between both families of churches have remained on papers rather than in practical action. It has not yet been properly circulated or practiced among the faithful and clergy. Moreover, these agreements are yet to be officially recognized by the synods of EO and OO churches. Only then will it have practical effects.

Agreements reached are not just to be shelved or for theological and academic purposes or just for the sake of publishing, but should aim at achieving full sacramental unity between both families of Orthodox churches. It should also invite other Orthodox jurisdictions like the Old Believers, Traditional, non-canonical, Old Calendar, unrecognized, and new generation churches for dialogue. We need to overcome a lot to boost inter-Orthodox cooperation. We need to fight our ignorance, scepticism and attitudes towards each other. We need to forgive our past mistakes and all those elements that hinder the smooth process of Pan-Orthodoxy. There is a long way to go.

Why Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity?
Conciliar unity of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox is to bring together those brothers and sisters who separated 1500 years ago due to misunderstanding of theological interpretation, certain misguided terminologies, words, language and politics. It is to bring all families of Orthodox churches into dialogue, sharing with love and mutual respect and to achieve full sacramental unity, or at least to build a world platform and conciliar organizational structure, which will enable them to share their diversity, to build a common voice and to work for a better tomorrow. To bring them together to experience the power, glory and blessings of the ‘United Orthodox Christian Witness’. In the words of Fr Heikki Huttunen (former president of SYNDESOMS and Finnish Orthodox delegate to the Official Theological Dialogue): “The rediscovery of the unity in faith among the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox is unique event in the Christian History. To recognize the Orthodox faith in brothers and sisters separated for 1500 years, and to discover together the divine-human mystery of Christ is a great gift from God. The gift is also a calling, a challenge for us. We are to act it out, to incarnate it in our lives. It takes humility to admit that we are only beginners on the Orthodox way, and it takes a grain of free will to open ourselves to the ever-surprising new possibilities of growth and spiritual renewal offered to us by God who is with us.” Pan-Orthodox Christian conciliar unity is a wholesome and inclusive approach.

Pan-Orthodox Christian conciliar unity is not something that should be restricted within the various local Orthodox churches of Eastern Orthodox communion or the Oriental Orthodox communion. The essence of Pan-Orthodoxy should be widely circulated among all Orthodox jurisdictions. Pan-Orthodoxy is complete when it has representations from all Orthodox jurisdictions.

Ecumenism and Pan-Orthodox Christian Unity
Orthodox Christians understand ecumenism. They are familiar with the concept, but sadly, many of them don’t understand the concept of Pan-Orthodox unity. Many are confused with the whole idea of Orthodox Christian conciliar unity. There are clear differences between ecumenism and Pan-Orthodox unity. The common idea is that the any inter-church relation fall under the umbrella of ecumenism. When it comes to Orthodox churches, I would like to relate the concept of ecumenism to indicate the relations between Orthodox churches (EO, OO and rest of them) with non-Orthodox churches. Any relations between Orthodox churches (canonical EO, OO, non-canonical and others) should fall under the umbrella of Pan-Orthodox relations or inter-Orthodox relations. Ecumenical movement is well known and vibrant, whereas Pan-Orthodox unity is a unique area with less vibrancy. The Pan-Orthodox movement is a premature and developing sector. Ecumenical movement is widely recognized and welcomed by churches in general. Pan-Orthodox unity has huge challenges within the Orthodox circle itself and may not be welcomed by all parties.

The call for global Orthodox unity and the call for global Christian unity are at different levels. In Pan-Orthodox unity, we are talking about EO and OO unity and that is the priority. At the same time, we check for dialogue with Old Believers, Old Calendar, non-canonical to see the possibility of achieving reconciliation with them. The genuine effort for inter-Orthodox unity will help canonical jurisdictions to accept and provide themselves with a strong structural platform for interaction and unity with Old Believers, Old Calendar, non-canonical, Traditional, schismatic and new generation Orthodox churches.

Pan-Orthodox unity focuses on interactions between various families of Orthodox Christianity, understanding and sharing of theology, spirituality, culture and traditions, reconnecting with our common Orthodox heritage, as well as building a common voice and making the world feel the presence of united Orthodox Christianity. In Pan-Orthodox unity, we are reconnecting with our own family members, with whom we are not in communion because of various unfortunate events in history. Pan-Orthodox unity is focused on creating and maintaining a conciliar world platform for Orthodox Christian churches. Pan-Orthodox unity helps Orthodox Christians to overcome their own ignorance, and enhances cooperation between various jurisdictions for the betterment of the whole world. Pan-Orthodox unity resolves existing conflicts and prevents schism.

Pan-Orthodox unity or inter-Orthodox unity is an internal affair of Orthodox Christianity. It helps Orthodox Christians to formulate a unified position on several social issues and build a common approach to non-Orthodox Christians and other religious groups. Pan-Orthodox unity aids Orthodox Christians to rejoice in the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, to witness conciliar unity of his body and to propagate unity among all Christian denominations. The good vibes of Pan-Orthodox unity should reach all categories, irrespective of ethnic differences, gender, caste, religion and creed.

Non-Orthodox churches have a minimal role in inter-Orthodox unity. Ecumenism focus on unity between all Christian churches (building closer relationships and understanding of different church traditions).

In ecumenism, we are trying help non-Orthodox churches to help them reconnect with their lost ‘Orthodox past’ and to find common grounds of social and theological cooperation. Pan-Orthodox unity will enhance speedy reconciliation between various Christian denominations and strengthen ecumenical unity.

So what is the role of Roman Catholic Church? Considering the fact that the Roman Church was the Old Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome, unity with them should be a second priority after establishing a common platform for Orthodox Christianity. The love and urge for unity should be expressed between various families of Orthodoxy, before expressing it with others. The strong fellowship of united Orthodox Christianity is a key priority.

“We must give our best efforts together in building up and strengthening this relationship, and we know from our experience that dialogue has proved to be the only way to resolve family (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) disagreements and misunderstandings and to bring about a new unity of purpose.” ― His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem (Letter to the Armenian Orthodox Brotherhood of Jerusalem).

A Briefing on the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Dialogue for Sacramental and Conciliar Unity.
(Info adopted from www.orthodoxjointcommission.wordpress.com).

The first unofficial meeting between clergy and theologians of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches took place in Aarhus, Denmark in 1964. There were four unofficial meetings:

Aarhus – 1964
Bristol – 1967
Geneva – 1970
Addis Ababa – 1971

These were followed by a series of official dialogues between the Churches. These took place at:

Geneva – 1985
Egypt – 1989
Geneva – 1990 
Geneva – 1993

Working Group Consultation

Athens – 2014
Antelias – 2018 (Meeting of the Co-Chairmen of the Joint International Theological Commission of the two families of the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Antelias, Lebanon, April 2018).

A number of statements have been issued by the Joint Commission, as well as agreements relating to pastoral matters. The main agreement is that “We have inherited from our fathers in Christ the one apostolic faith and tradition.”

‘Gratefully acknowledging the guidance of the Holy Spirit so far in the work of the Joint Commission, the working group called for the continuation of the dialogue in all earnestness and for a formal meeting of the full Commission at an appropriate time at the earliest. While acknowledging the good work of the Sub-Committees on theological, canonical, liturgical and pastoral issues, the working group recognized that some churches raised some serious issues that require further clarification such as lifting of anathemas, common enumeration of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, mutual recognition of Saints and some questions on Christology. Some solutions to these issues have also been proposed in the Sub-Committees, but they need to be communicated effectively to the clergy, monks, schools of theology and people on both sides to arrive at a consensus.

‘It was noted that three local churches from the Orthodox family (Alexandria, Antioch and Romania) and three churches from the Oriental Orthodox family (Alexandria, Antioch and Malankara-India), had already declared their acceptance of the agreed statements and proposals from the Joint Commission.

‘The working group that met in the 50th year of the first unofficial dialogue meeting between the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox took place in Aarhus, Denmark, 1964. Hence, in the spirit of jubilee, the group called for liberation from the misapprehensions and separations of the past, while praying for the joyful common celebration of our life together in Jesus Christ our Saviour in mutual forgiveness, reconciliation and communion in love and truth for the glory of the Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ Working Group of the Joint Commission for the Dialogue Between Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches, 2014. 

 “The theological dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches shows us that we share the same Apostolic Faith and that perfect ecclesiastical communion between our two families of churches should be restored as soon as possible and the anathema on both sides lifted.” Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland.