REASONS AGAINST OPEN COMMUNION1. The Orthodox Church's Ascetic Discipline.
Our practice and spiritual regime is ascetic, taking communion only after strict preparation and communion in other churches would not match this ascetic attitude. (Reply #10)2. Communion is part of unity inside the church
Communion unites believers with Christ and eachother.
However, it seems to me that a valid Eucharist would unite people with Christ and such union would overcome divisions between Christians.
It appears that this reflects an "Invisible Church" Ecclesiology. And I see that the 12 apostles were united, and had a visible structure like the Jerusalem Council. If a nonconsensual organizational schism occurs within the same region, it would break organizational unity. The kind of organizational unity we are instructed to practice, with appointing bishops, is not done in an organized, coordinated manner between noncanonical Orthodox churches and canonical ones.
It's true that we have a bad situation in America where the church in the same region does not act in a strong coordinated manner, and there are several Orthodox bishops in one place lacking coordinated appointments by a single body. But this is an exception, and hopefully one that we are working to overcome. The Episcopal Assembly should be much stronger than the World Council of Churches.
The Episcopal Assembly (in America), our Councils, common correct observance of canon law, and mutual cooperation of our Primates creates a degree of church unity that we lack with other noncanonical churches. If Christians are in schism, then as a whole we are not following the structure handed down by the apostles and the vision God has for us as united believers. I accept that the Orthodox churches represent this vision, while the totalitarian one-primate structure of the Catholic church doesn't, nor does the broken, scattered, disunited structure of the 1000 Protestant churches.
However, St Paul in St Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 wanted St Peter to be together with the judaizers, and wanted the factions in Corinth to eat together, and I assume be united, despite their differences and division into factions. What should come first, institutional unity or sharing communion? This is not a chicken or the egg question, and it sounds like the Orthodox position is to put organizational unity first.
I can see the point of view that those who broke organizational unity based on a noncanonical position are no longer part of the church, and the church continues in the canonically correct organization. On the other hand, I think St Paul's position in Galatians 2:11-14 was that St Peter and the Judaizers were wtill part of the church because of their disagreement, which at some point apparently became organizational. But perhaps this division only became organizational later.
I think the judaizers' dispute is relevant, because it appears that such a disagreement existed between the apostle St James and the apostle St Peter. We, the spiritual descendants of St Peter, consider the judaizers to be wrong. If we reject the Invisible Church ecclesiology, we conclude that the spiritual descendants of St James would be outside the church, correct? We want an apostolic church, but we say it only includes those apostles with whom we have organizational unity. I admit that even apostles could fall outside the church, since St Peter denied Christ. But rejection of Invisible Church ecclesiology has a harsh result: once an organizational schism develops, we must decide whose fault it is and say one side is the church and the rest are outside the church, no matter how trivial the mistake may seem.
It appears that we do use a variation of the formula:
the Eucharist = the Body of Christ = The Church = Christians With Right Beliefs about Christ subject to an organizationally united institution
If we reject Invisible Church ecclesiology and say that the church must be a single united, coordinated, visible institution combined with a spiritual reality, then it doesn't make sense to me to say you can be united to it only spiritually.
On the other hand, "Invisible church" ecclesiology would say that actually there is a visible church, made up of canonical and noncanonical churches, and combined with a spiritual reality, but the church's organizational unity is invisible. One problem I see with "Invisible church" ecclesiology is that Jesus said a divided house will soon fall. Naturally, his house, his church, would not be currently broken as an organization, since He said it will prevail. On the other hand, Jesus said his body is broken for us, and his body after all, is the church, but this seems like a weak idea.
One conclusion is that in 1925-2007 either ROCOR was uncanonical or the Russian Patriarch and the OCA were uncanonical, since they had a nonconsensual organizational division. The churches lacked organizational unity and I believe considered eachother schismatic or noncanonical. However, ROCOR did have communion with a very few canonical churches like Serbia, and they in turn had communion with other canonical churches.
Yet as a member of OCA or a Greek parish, I could not take communion in a ROCOR church. Why not? Were the churches in schism? I believe so, because there was no consensual or organizational unity. But from the perspective of a few canonical churches, ROCOR was still canonical. What if even they broke communion? The only way to see ROCOR as part of the church in 1925-2007 is to accept invisible church ecclesiology since they were not part of a united structure, were outside their mother church without consent, and were not autocephalous. Now that we all have communion, and value some of eachother's traditions in 1925-2007, it is harder for me to say that ROCOR was completely outside the church.
I don't know much about John of Shanghai, or noncanonical Ukrainian Orthodox churches, but it is hard to say that those with faith much stronger than mine and an understanding of Orthodox theology much deeper than mine are not joined with Christ ("communion"), while I am. Are there examples of Christians or saints who have been wrongly excommunicated?St Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius lived ca.35/50 -- 98/117 when the gospels were written, was a student of St John.
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans says:
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
So once we have defined who a legitimate bishop is, we must follow him. Generally we shouldn't have 2 bishops in one place, although we have such a situation in nonOrthodox countries. I don't think this excludes the possibility of two bishops in one area, although it should not be a long term plan. I don't think "Invisible church" ecclesiogy would necessarily means approval of schism, just that both sides of the schism still belong to the church.PETER THE ALEUT,
You asked: "How, then, do we reconcile your idea of an invisible spiritual union with the Church with St. Ignatius's teaching that those not in communion with their local bishop are outside the Church?"
Sorry, where exactly does St Ignatius say this? The passage above seems to define the church as where Christ is. But I could imagine him agreeing with your words.
To answer the question, you would have to say that noncanonical Orthodox, traditional protestants, or Catholics are inside the church because they have legitimate bishops. That sounds like the Branch Theory. You also might be able to say that if there is no local bishop for them, like in a few nonOrthodox places, then failure to be in communion with such a bishop wouldn't necessarily put them outside the Church. Perhaps this explains the Thyateira Confession, which says Orthodox can commune in Catholic churches if there is no Orthodox church near them.St. Cyprian of Carthage
Cyprian lived in the first half of the 3rd Century. Cyprian's Letter on Church Unity uses language that more clearly describes a unified institution.
"The episcopate is one, of which each bishop holds his part within the undivided structure."
The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole. The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness...
break a branch from a tree,--when broken, it will not be able to bud... Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world."
In reality, I think regeneration from a branch depends on the kind of tree. Is a nonconsensual organizational division between bishops enough to make the kind of break Cyprian describes? In Cyprian's time, a united church did spread its branches across the Mediterranean. But by 1200 AD, either the Catholic church didn't spread its branches over the whole east, and the Orthodox lacked branches in the west.
Unfortunately perhaps, Cyprian's idea of unity seems to focus on one person, the Pope, saying that Christ
"assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair... If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that his is in the Church?
We have to say that Cyprian did not envision that a future pope would fall into heresy and that the structure of the church would divide. Cyprian would not want either. But once the division occurred, we can speculate that he would say Peter's chair moved, or that it is unoccupied, or that the church structure is now divided between Peter's descendants and the other apostles.
It looks like Cyprian describes the situation, like that in German Lutheran churches I believe, of churches that lack any claim to apostolic succession:
"they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement... who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate, whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting 'in the seat of pestilence.' ... Although there can be no other baptism but one, they think that they can baptize."
Did other ex-Catholic Lutheran priests have a law on ordination and give Luther the episcopate? I could imagine a situation where the bishops were killed or became heretics and priests had to install a new bishop. If Cyprian is talking about German Lutherans, it looks like none of their baptisms are valid and we former Lutherans would need rebaptism. Since the Orthodox church rejects this position, German Lutherans are either part of the church, or their sacrament is valid despite being outside the church.
Further, it is possible that Cyprian held that once bishops received the episcopate, other bishops or higher ones could not remove it from them: “each bishop has the right to think for himself and as he is not accountable to any other, so is no bishop accountable to him." This could suggest bishops wouldn't lose a valid apostolic succesion or fall outside the church based on a purely organizational disagreement with other bishops.Conclusion
In conclusion, if (1)the Church is a visible structure whose spiritual boundaries extend no farther than its coordinated organizational boundaries, (2) its organizational boundaries are defined by its leadership or by Christians' recognition of where those structural boundaries lie, and (3) the church=the body of Christ=the Eucharist, then (4) it's impossible for those outside the church to give or receive the Eucharist.
In that case, what about Christians outside the church who give or receive the Eucharist? Either they would be unknowingly part of the visible church and in disobedience to its leaders and canons, or the Eucharist they receive would be invalid.