In early October of this year, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Georgia came together and discussed the Chambessy document (which pertained to relations with the Monophysites), the Balamand Agreement (which concerned the Roman Catholic denomination), the Antiochian Patriarchate’s resolutions with the Monophysites in 1991, the Finnish Orthodox Church’s use of the western paschalion, and the so-called Branch Theory.
Given the Patriarchate's former zealous participation in the pan-heresy of Ecumenism, the Georgian Synod's October resolutions on these particular matters were a surprising reversal and, for those who truly love Orthodoxy, very encouraging--as far as they go. The only problem is--if we are to employ the canonical standards of the Orthodox Church--they do not go far enough.
In a spirit of Christian charity--and based always upon the Orthodox Church’s canonical and doctrinal principles—let us briefly examine this latest statement of the Georgian Synod for any shortcomings or inadequacies.
1) The Chambessy Agreements (1990-1993). The document issued by the Georgian Patriarchate calls these Agreements unacceptable--that is, un-Orthodox--but it gives no explanation or analysis why they are "unacceptable," nor does it supply a positive and Orthodox teaching, nor does it point out that, contrary to what the Chambessy Agreements declare, the Orthodox do not share the same Apostolic traditions as the Monophysites. Four Ecumenical Councils would not have condemned the leaders of the Monophysitic movement if they shared the same Apostolic traditions as we do!
2) The Balamand Statement (1993). Contrary to the impression the Georgian Patriarchal document gives, Uniatism is by no means the only subject that the Balamand Agreement dealt with. The ecclesiological foundations for agreement and unity which were agreed upon by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic participants at Balamand are entirely wrong. That is to say, the Balamand Statement maintains that the Roman Catholic and Orthodox are "Sister Churches," with both possessing the same Apostolic Baptism, Eucharist and Priesthood, Apostolic traditions and Apostolic Faith.
3) The Georgian Patriarchate's rejection of the Finnish Church's celebration of Pascha according to the western Paschalion is devious and hypocritical. For over seventy years, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has sponsored the new calendar for itself and all its dependencies; it has permitted the Finnish Church to use the western Paschalion, and is presently in the forefront of urging for an agreement with the Roman Catholics and Protestants so that all the so-called "Christian" denominations (many of which have bishops and clergymen who no longer believe in Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead!) may celebrate Pascha together, on the basis of the new calendar. It should also be pointed out that the statements issued by all the historic Church Councils regarding Pascha were concerned that all the Orthodox Catholic faithful celebrate the feast together, and not that the Orthodox faithful celebrate Pascha together with the non-Orthodox, which, after all, is presently the primary concern of the Ecumenical Patriarchate!
4) The "Branch Theory," which the Georgian Patriarchate now rightly rejects, was espoused at the "Summit Meeting" of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople in 1992, at which representatives of all the "official" Orthodox Churches were present. According to this 1992 "Meeting," the only schismatics are the Old Calendarists!
5) The Georgian Patriarchate states that, in general, non-participation in prayers with heretics was affirmed in the Thessalonica meeting of April 29-May 2, 1998; in fact, this “non-participation” was affirmed only for the upcoming WCC Assembly to take place in Zambia.
Some other problems remain with the Georgian Patriarchate's recent Statement.
1) It states that the autocephalous Churches, including that in Georgia, “have never made positive synodal decisions” about the matters outlined above. If this is so, then why did Patriarch Ilia II, in the Spring of 1994, proclaim from the ambo of the Sveti-Tskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta -- the preeminent church of Georgia -- that "the Oriental Orthodox Churches have recognized the [Ecumenical] Councils, and have accepted Orthodoxy." This took place during the visit to Georgia of Metropolitan Damascene of Switzerland, Director of the Patriarchal Center in Chambésy (Geneva), and Professor Phidas of the University of Athens, Theologian of the State Church of Greece. At the time no one in Georgia had the faintest idea what was meant by the term 'Oriental Orthodox Churches'. This deceptive pronouncement was followed by a propaganda campaign in the mass media claiming that the Armenians, of whom there are many in Georgia, and other Monophysites had supposedly accepted the Orthodox Faith and could now be permitted to receive Holy Communion in the Georgian Orthodox Church. The truth only became known when contradictory information refuting these statements was received from Mount Athos and other sources abroad. The attempts on the part of some of the Georgian clergy and laity to investigate this issue and to explain the truth to the common people only evoked the bitter animosity of the Patriarchate.
Furthermore, even if we were to assume that the churches of so-called "World Orthodoxy" had "never made" such synodal decisions, then their representatives would not have made such "unacceptable" and blatantly un-Orthodox proposals at these aforementioned ecumenistic assemblies. Are these autocephalous Churches so completely lacking in sound Orthodox theologians that the individuals who represent them at these meetings are incapable even of making Orthodox proposals?
2) This statement does not mention that the Georgian Patriarchate continues its ecumenical contacts, as occurred in Patriarch Ilia’s last visit to the United States.*
3) It does not make a detailed rejection of prior Ecumenistic statements and concords, such as the 1965 "lifting" of the Anathemas of 1054 between Constantinople and Rome. Despite this so-called “lifting” of the Anathemas (which was enacted even though Rome remains firmly in its old heresies, and has added many others since 1054), the Georgian Patriarchate remains in full communion with Constantinople. In actuality, this act brought the Church of Constantinople and all those in communion with it under that anathema, according to the dictum of the Fathers: "If anyone does not fittingly anathematize all heretics as is necessary, let his portion be with theirs" (St. Theodore Studite, PG 99, 1028B).
4) It does not present any affirmative teaching against Ecumenism, both that of the Protestants and especially that practiced by several "Orthodox" Patriarchates.
5) And finally, and most tragically, the Georgian Synod remains in full communion with the ecumenist Patriarchates and does not rebuke their actions, as required by the holy canons and the teaching of the holy Fathers, such as that of the heroic Saint Maximus the Confessor.
As Saint Maximus told the representatives
of the Church of Constantinople:
Let these offences, introduced by the aforementioned [Patriarchs] into the Church, be removed. . . . and then the path to salvation will be cleared of all barriers, and you will walk on the smooth path of the Gospel, cleansed of all heresy! When I see the Church of Constantinople as she was formerly, then I will enter into communion with her without any exhortation on the part of men. But while there are heretical temptations in her, and while heretics are her bishops, no word or deed will convince me ever to enter into communion with her.
For the reasons mentioned above, we are forced to conclude that, whatever may be good in the statement issued by the Georgian Synod, it is by no means the steadfast and soundly Orthodox statement that is expected of bishops who are truly and heroically Orthodox in their faith. Their statement is, to be sure, a definite step in the right direction, but, to use their own words, it is still "unacceptable." We can only pray that the Georgian Synod--following the example of Saint Maximus the Confessor and so many other Saints--will find the courage to do what is necessary, and break off communion with those who teach doctrines that are "unacceptable" to the Orthodox and who continue to participate in "unacceptable" and ecumenistic discussions and prayers with the non-Orthodox. Amen.
"There can be no compromise in things of the Orthodox Faith."
St. Mark of Ephesus
* On May 21, 1998, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II was the guest of honor at a Doxology and dinner hosted by Archbishop Spyridon, Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, at the Archdiocese. The official Press Release reports:
In welcoming His Beatitude to the ecumenical gathering in his honor, Archbishop Spyridon said: “...You find in us an assembly of brothers and sisters committed to the well-being of the Georgian people. ...In work and prayer, all of us in this room joined with you.”While in New York, Patriarch Ilia was the guest of the aforesaid “Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. (See her very illuminating Welcome Page at the NCC web site: http://www.ncccusa.org.) One wonders, what need did Patriarch Ilia have to meet with her (or any of the other ecumenists in the USA), if his church has truly renounced Ecumenism?
...Invited guests included... Rev. Dr. Joan Campbell, National Council of Churches, and Rabbi James Rudin, American Jewish Committee.