The Price of Ecumenism
How Ecumenism Has Hurt the Orthodox Church
by Fr. John Reeves
Webmaster Note. At the time of this writing Fr. John Reeves was pastor of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, State College, PA. A former Episcopal priest, he was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in 1981 by Archbishop Dmitri. He works in the fields of mission and church growth for the Orthodox Church in America (O.C.A.).
Our Lord met the woman at the well. "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews," he said. "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." (Jn 4:22,23)
For Our Lord Jesus, Truth was not relative. Worship and doctrine were not matters of personal opinion. He was, in fact, that Truth. There was one faith revealed to the world and one Messiah who had come to save it—the Jews first, but then ultimately Samaritans and Gentiles, disciples being made of all nations.
For the Orthodox Christian there can be no deviation from the fact that Orthodox is that very faith of the apostles which has established the Universe. For long before there were papacies and protestants, the Orthodox faithful have proclaimed what the apostles taught, what the councils have decreed. This we believe; this we confess in word and in deed and which we depict in the Holy Icons.
Truth has been revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ, not a partial truth, not a theory about truth, but truth indeed, God in the flesh reconciling the world unto himself. The repository of that truth is first and foremost the Church, the Body of Christ, wherein the Holy Spirit dwells. That Church, founded on the day of Pentecost, and forever withstanding all the assaults of hell, is the Orthodox Church. Neither denomination nor sect, neither religion nor philosophical system, she invites the entire universe to enter into to communion with her Head, even Jesus Christ. She is the Church Catholic because her teaching is full; she is Orthodox because her worship is right.
Yet in Christian religious circles outside of the Orthodox Church, there seem to be no "orthodoxies" today. [A case might be made for some Protestant fundamentalists, who have reacted against the effect of the higher criticism of the Scriptural texts.] There seem to be no orthodoxies, no fixed standards, no canons of faith, no rules of conduct. The image of God himself in Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son and our Lord is now subject to the sort of attack which would make Arius himself seem a piker.
Attack on doctrine, as indeed, the attack on the source of the Scriptural canon, is accepted as normative, not merely by the skeptic who always has done so, but now by the very ones who would purport to represent Christianity to the world. There are various paths to truth we are told, since revelation is now culturally determined. There are multiple options for morals. There even seem to be multiple deities on the horizon. And all of this may be tolerated and encouraged, in the name of diversity and inclusivity, in the name of contextual theology, and propelled by means of ecumenical convergence.
All indeed is to be tolerated and even embraced. Is it a Lesbian bishop solemnizing "gay marriages" or a "church" running abortion services as a part of pastoral ministry? Celebrate the liberation from oppressive patriarchal, homophobic, sexist institutions. Is it offering milk and honey to Sophia? Celebrate a decade of churches in solidarity with women.
Celebrate, tolerate, liberate; just do not dare criticize. In the political order it is down right risky to attack notions of radical feminism. That is one political issue not subject to debate. In matters religious the umbrella of ecumenism, and the ecumenical movement which seems the spawning ground for so much of what Orthodox Christians know to deviant, perverted is off limits from scrutiny likewise.
It is as if a cadre of theological elitists translate the political agendas of the political left into religious symbol and then become ever ready to attack those who would presume to criticize the theological new-speak. There are no old "orthodoxies" in such circles, but there certainly are new ones. If one raises an objection, ad hominem attack, distortion of position, and defaming of character are sure to follow.
This past July (95), a review of Frank Schaeffers then most recent book, Dancing Alone, appeared in a journal of quite liberal, ecumenist persuasion. Had one not read the book, one would have thought from the review that Dancing Alone was primarily about ecumenism and Orthodoxys role in it. The reviewer was most insistent on seeing such as the primary theme of the work, to the point of distortion.
Actually, ecumenism is but touched upon in some two to three pages toward the end, in the appendix. What Schaeffer states, more a conclusion, than certainly a thesis, is that ecumenism has damaged us and will continue to damage us and to divert us from our mission as Una Sancta, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The review is substantially as long as the "offending" passage in Schaeffers book. What seems to warrant the reviewers umbrage is that Schaeffer in two or three pages dared to suggest that the current trend in ecumenical circles, and its impact upon Orthodox evangelism and witness, warranted greater scrutiny. Yet the reviewer represents himself as within the Orthodox family, and one might conclude that his positions represent accurately what the position of Orthodoxy really is, viz-a-viz ecumenism. What is ironic is that the arena for this one sided debate was not within the "Orthodox family" so to speak, but in the context of one of the more liberal theological journals in the country. Tolerance, respect, diversity, these are the watch words of ecumenism, provided that what is tolerated, respected and diverse is consonant with ecumenist "orthodoxy", not the Tradition, with the Faith, with the Doctrine and Discipline of the Orthodox Church, down through the ages, including the decisions of all Seven of the Ecumenical Councils.
Critique Dancing Alone on its basic premise, if one would. Do not attack a parenthetical remark in its appendix. Try hard to do so in the same "spirit" of charity which ecumenism seeks to foster for ideas strange and novel.
Indeed, the reviewer would have done well to attempt to refute Schaeffers assertion: "How ironic that the very elements of Protestantism, the Liberal elements that have had the most to do with ecumenism, are the very elements that have become the most secularized and which represent less and less people as their numbers dwindle, plagued by the drumbeat of Protestant doubt."  Yet the reviewer did not.
No. It is far better to dismiss the author, the messenger, than to take seriously his argument, follow the standard rules of engagement and debate, and to seek an Orthodox forum for the same. It is no small curiosity that a convert to the Orthodox faith would be savaged in a journal of ecumenical proclivities. If the ecumenical movement can be tolerant about so much else, why might conversion to Orthodoxy threaten it? Why indeed does it threaten some of our very own ecumenists so that a neophyte would be subjected to such vitriol? Obviously, such an attack is meant to send a message. Yet is the intended recipient merely the one who wrote the offending passage in the first place? Is this perhaps only the old phyletism, Orthodox nationalism, merely telling the newcomer to stay in his place? This is an "ethnic" church, so to speak, and we are determined to keep it that way.
Could this be an ecumenist response, a warning, to others not to contemplate the notion that Truth itself has been fully preserved in the Church of the Seven Councils?
Or, could this be a cry for help by an advocate of a movement which many believe to be morally and theologically bankrupt, no matter how noble its original intentions might have seemed to have been at the time? Could it be a combination of all three?
Did the reviewer, in fact, unwittingly make Mr. Schaeffers point that we seem preoccupied in ecumenical quarters more "with making friends than with telling the truth"?
Are there no more theological "orthodoxies"? There seems to be one left, to be sure. Do not criticize the ecumenical movement. It is the sacred cow to which much smoke is offered. Or else, the reviewer protesteth too much.
ORTHODOXY AND ECUMENISM
This century has seen the ecumenical movement grow from a purely Protestant, missionary one to one which includes Orthodox as well as Roman Catholics in various capacities, in various organizations, and in a multiple of dialogue roles. It would be beyond the scope of this article to detail each and every aspect of ecumenism which has developed over the past nine decades of ecumenical endeavor.
It does go without saying that the current World Council of Churches and its American cousin, the National Council of Churches are most identified with the ecumenical movement today. Perhaps it is for the simple reason that both the World and National Councils are sufficiently bureaucratized to have lasting impact and far reaching effect. Even some Orthodox Christians participate in ecumenism at the salaried level, further enabling ecumenism to reach one of its goals, to teach members of the churches how to work together ecumenically. Consequently, this article seeks to trace our beginnings in the ecumenical movement, and focuses mainly, but not entirely on the participation of the various Orthodox patriarchates in such forums as the World and National Councils. While much controversy has erupted over the years over the political actions taken by both the World and National Councils, the political issues should not be the ultimate cause for alarm. They are merely reflective of a world view upon which these councils rest , one which is not Orthodox at its core.
NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT?
"To every serious student of the ecumenical movement it must be clear that at no time has the Orthodox witness (presented mainly, if not exclusively in separate Orthodox statements attached to the minutes of all major ecumenical conferences) had any significant impact on the orientations and theological development of the movement itself."  These words of the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann were written some fifty or so years after the Orthodox Church first began participating in different aspects of the ecumenical movement of this century. Now some twenty more years have passed since Father Schmemanns frank assessment. The ecumenical movement is still with us. Our impact, our "witness" is still debatable. The question remains, perhaps, now more than ever. Why do we persist? Why does our involvement in the ecumenical movement continue?
Yet first it is necessary to outline the development of the ecumenical movement itself and to look at the role which the Orthodox Churches have played in it. The origins of modern ecumenism can be traced back the establishment of the International Missionary Council at the Edinburgh Conference of 1910. It was not even pan-Protestant, but nevertheless was one three separate movements which would coalesce over time and effect the shape and direction of ecumenism. The other two were the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work (1925) and the Faith and Order Conference (1927).
"The original WCC, whose constitution was drafted in 1938, although the body was not formally inaugurated until the Amsterdam Conference of 1948, represented a union of the Faith and Order and Life and Work organizations. The International Missionary Council continued its separate existence, although in formal association with the WCC, until 1961, when it became an integral part of the the World Council."
1.) "The initial aims of the WCC were defined by the purposes of the two organizations that united to form it: the search for Christian unity and a concerted effort to relate the Christian faith to social and world problems."
2.) Immediately following World War I, the Patriarchate of Constantinople opened the first breech in the wall of Orthodox solidarity with the issuance of the Patriarchal Encyclical "Unto all the Churches of Christ, wheresoever they be..." in 1920.
3.) It proposed various steps to be taken by Christian churches "in order to face the debilitating influence of atheism on society,"
4.) and proposed a plan to lead to church unity.
5.) Thus a door was opened for Orthodox participation in the Faith and Order Conference held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1927 with participation by nine Orthodox Churches.
6.) A second Faith and Order Conference held in Edinburgh, (1937) would be attended by representatives of nine autocephalous Churches as well.
7.) Other ecumenical conferences, too, were held during the period between the World Wars with Orthodox participation.
Thus, a hitherto Protestant movement was entered by some of the Orthodox patriarchates for the express purpose of uniting the various Christian bodies. The Roman Catholics would remain out of the process essentially until the period of the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65.
The Encyclical of 1920 cannot be seen in isolation of other actions taken by Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV to "re-form" the Orthodox Church herself, abolishing fasts, introducing calendar reform, and the reintroduction of married hierarchs. However, even more immediately distressing was the Patriarchs support of the Soviets Living Church Movement in Russia which sought to implement many of the same issues supported by the Patriarchate.  Meletios own universalist leanings at the expense of Orthodoxy becomes obvious upon examination. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to write in particular about the calendar reform issue—it being without a doubt more internally disruptive of the Orthodox Churchs life in this century than any other single issue—calendar reform, ultimately culminating in acceptance of the Western Paschalion to enable a uniform celebration of feasts ecumenically must not, however, be dismissed.
The intervening World War reduced opportunity for ecumenical contacts. At the same time, another world-wide war, fought so much and so soon on European soil quickened the desire of many leaders, political and religious, to hasten the formation of organizations designed to bring about greater understanding amongst men and nations in order to lessen the occasion for war. The United Nations, founded in 1945, was a political answer to mankinds thirsting for peace. The union of the churches would be another, since it might seem that religious bickering was a primary cause of many European conflicts. Councils of Churches: World and National
As noted, it was not until 1948 that the World Council of Churches was formed, meeting in Amsterdam, a joining together of the Faith and Order Conference with the Council for Life and Work. Membership was "composed of churches which acknowledge Jesus Christ as God and Saviour. They find their unity in Him. They have not to create their unity; it is the gift of God. But they know that it is their duty to make common cause in the search for the expression of that unity in work and in life". 
Furthermore, the Amsterdam Report stated that "unity arises out of the love of God in Jesus Christ which, binding the constituent churches to Him, binds them to one another ."  It would be Fr. Georges Florovksy who would be credited with being the father of Orthodox Participation in the Ecumenical Movement from 1948 onward. 
In America, the National Council of Churches would be organized in 1950, a union of several cooperative bodies, the Federal Council of Churches, the Foreign Missions Conference, and the International Council of Religious Education. It claims membership of thirty-two Protestant and Orthodox churches. It works independently but in close cooperation with the World Council. Una Sancta or E pluribus unum?
Key to understanding the difficulty for Orthodox participation in such ecumenical undertakings is the fact that the basic presupposition of these councils of churches is a Protestant one: No one constituent body possesses the fulness of truth. The "constituent churches" are deemed bound to God, not because of right doctrine or because of the fulness of faith or because of apostolic origin, and thus they are already deemed to be bound "to one another." Then too, Orthodox participation has artificially created the impression that such is not a movement of Protestants alone. Nevertheless, it is. That is, it is a Protestant movement in which the Orthodox have seen fit to take part. Its underlying rationale, is untenable from an Orthodox perspective, to believe that only in the aggregate, only in the amalgamation of the sometimes divergent confessional bodies can truth be full.
As Father Schmemann wrote:
"The important fact of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement and in the encounter—after so many centuries of almost total separation—between the Orthodox and the West is precisely that the Orthodox were not given a choice; that from the very beginning they were assigned, not only seats but a certain place, role and function within the ecumenical movement. These assignments were based on Western theological and ecclesiological presuppositions and categories, and they reflected the purely Western origin of the ecumenical idea itself. We joined a movement, entered a debate, took part in a search whose basic terms of reference were already defined, and taken for granted. Thus, even before we could realize it, we were caught in the essentially Western dichotomies—Catholic versus Protestant, horizontal versus vertical, authority versus freedom, hierarchical versus congregational—and were made into representatives and bearers of attitudes and positions which we hardly recognized as ours and which were deeply alien to our tradition. All this, however, was due not to any Machiavellian conspiracy or ill will, but precisely to the main and all-embracing Western presupposition that Western experience, theological categories and thought forms are universal and therefore constitute the self evident framework and terms of reference for the entire ecumenical endeavor." 
Early Guidelines for Orthodox Participation
In the early days of Orthodox participation in the World Council, the difficulties outlined above could be evidenced by limitations placed on Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement by Constantinople itself, in 1952:
"a) Participation of the Orthodox Church in the discussions of the Faith and Order Committee was to be avoided, and the Faith of the Orthodox Church was to be explained in works written expressly for this purpose;
b) The Orthodox Church was to be represented by delegates of all the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches which were to have permanent Synodical Commissions that would concern themselves with matters pertaining to the Ecumenical Movement;
c) Orthodox clergy were enjoined to be reserved regarding their congregating with non-Orthodox in worship services since these services were antikeimenas, against the canons, which dulled the acuity of the Orthodox Confession, and as a result, the clergy were instructed to make every possible effort to conduct unadulterated Orthodox ordinaries and celebrations." 
Orthodox delegates to the World Councils second general assembly, Evanston, IL, 1954 would declare: "We are bound to declare our profound conviction that the Holy Orthodox Church alone has preserved in full and intact the faith once delivered to the saints."  (Emphasis added.)
Likewise, in 1957, delegates to the North American Faith and Order Study Conference would likewise reject the theme of the study, "The Unity We Seek" with these words: "The Unity we seek is for us a given Unity which has never been lost, and as a Divine Gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost...For us, this Unity is embodied in the Orthodox Church, which kept katholikes and anelleipes (Webmaster note: the second word here is a guess at what the transliteration was in the original) both the integrity of the Apostolic Faith and the integrity of the Apostolic Order." 
Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America reiterated this theme speaking to the annual meeting of the US Conference for the WCC, on April 22, 1959: "The common use of the term Orthodox to signify the Church of the East should signify to the churches of the West that the Eastern Church is committed to maintain the genuine characteristics of the one Church of Christ." 
The Archbishop went to state that "the Orthodox view of unity is well-known and does not need detailed explanation. The Eastern churches adhere to the belief that the real UNITY of the Church was never and can never be broken, since she is the Body of Christ, the fulness of him (Eph. 1.22-23)."
Then referring back to the Faith and Order Study Conference, the Archbishop quoted the Orthodox representatives there: "The problem of unity is for us, therefore, the problem of the return to the fulness of Faith and Order, in full faithfulness to the message of Scripture and Tradition and in the obedience to the will of God "that all be one."" 
In concluding his remarks, Archbishop Iakovos then reiterated the Ecumenical Patriarchs Encyclical of February 6, 1952:
"According to its own constitution, the World Council of Churches seeks only to facilitate common action by the churches, to promote cooperation in study in a Christian spirit, to strengthen ecumenical-mindedness among members of all churches, to support en even wider spreading of the holy Gospel, and finally to preserve, uplift and generally restore spiritual vales for mankind with the framework of common Christian standards...We of the Orthodox Church must participate in this pan-Christian movement because it is our duty to impart to our heterodox brethren the riches of our faith, worship, and order, and of our spiritual and ascetic experience." 
Of course, to maintain that the World Council of Churches was pan-Christian in fact was to overstate the case then, as it still would be today. Nevertheless, it can be maintained that the position of the Orthodox representatives to the meetings of various assemblies of the World Council portrayed fairly accurately an Orthodox ecclesiology: The Orthodox Church was and is the Una Sancta, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is full; it lacks not.
Accordingly, those outside the Church could be and were portrayed as "heterodox", as lacking the fulness of faith which the Orthodox Church had possessed since Pentecost itself. The condition for unity, a unity not lost by the Orthodox as the Church, was rather seen as a return to Apostolic faith and order. In short, Orthodoxy in these statements was not presented merely as one denomination, however venerable and ancient, but as the True Faith. It should be noted that membership in the World Council did not require Trinitarian belief, but at least the presumption was there on the part of the Orthodox that their own faith was indeed complete.
The Sixties: A "subtle" shift?
In 1961, at New Delhi, two important events happened in the history of the World Council. The Church of Russia was admitted into Council membership, and now a majority of the worlds Orthodox were "represented", indeed a triumph for those committed to the basic Western presuppositions underlying the Councils existence. As well, it meant that Orthodox churches in the Eastern European nations would be freer to join in ecumenical contacts and ventures as well, at a price. The application for membership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council meant that the World Council of Churches would be curiously silent about the existence of religious persecution in the Soviet Union. In fact, Metropolitan Nikodim, head of the Moscow Patriarchates Foreign Relations Department and chief architect of the ecumenical programme of the Russian Church, would deny the existence of religious oppression in the U.S.S.R.  He later would play a prominent part in the Russian Churchs relations with the Vatican, as well.
The second event mentioned above was the merging" of the International Missionary Council with the World Council. Thus, the three primary antecedent bodies were now united officially. For the Orthodox, the former event, however, would prove more of more consequence.
However, a shift in Orthodox thinking was emerging in the presentations of some of the delegates to WCC affairs. In 1961, Professor Nikos Nissiotis opened an address to the delegates to the Third Assembly of the WCC in New Delhi with a question: " Do we not all constantly fall back into thinking and acting as though the Una Sancta were confined within the limits of our own Church or confession?"  Nissiotis continued, "The wind of the Holy Spirit is driving us forward with pressing urgency. And Assembly is a time for action directed towards the restoration of unity." 
"...Thus unity does not mean waiting for agreement to be reached between the different conceptions which are held in our churches, but imposes on us the obligation to remain in that condition in which we are recreated by the Spirit as One in the One Undivided Church. It is not only through consideration of what we believe this Church Unity to be that we hope to advance to the continuous reestablishment of reunion, but also through how we exist as Christians. It is the content seen and lived in the historical churches through the act of our faith in God the Holy Trinity." 
Hence Orthodox doctrine is relegated to a "conception", unity has been severed, the One Undivided Church is no more, and a continuous "reestablishment of reunion" is called for, presumably even with that multitude of denominations which did not have a unity with Orthodoxy in the first place. One can logically question what a "reestablishment of reunion" anyway.
"When we live by faith in the Trinity, our very existence as Christians discloses what unity is. We do not find the nature of that unity by devising subtle pseudo-theological formulas which would capture its essence in polemical concepts. No, we find it in the life of historic churches, a life which springs from the same source as the life received at Pentecost. By historic churches we mean churches which confess in terms of the Nicene Creed the whole of the Divine Economy of the Revelation in the Church of God the Holy Trinity, and which believe in the continuation of this event by the Holy Spirit in and through the Church by acts culminating in the Sacraments and the Word, administered by those set apart to do so. This is what for me is implied by the definition of unity agreed by the representatives of the churches at the Central Committee at St. Andrews in 1960. What the churches actually do as churches constitutes the authentic expression of their undivided unity, and this is far more important than the theories and declarations of individual members as to what the churches do." 
The position that the Orthodox Church is the Una Sancta and that those separated from her need to return to apostolic fulness is jettisoned in favor of a belief that the "One undivided historical Church" consists of those "historic churches" confessing Trinitarian belief in terms of the Nicean Creed, their undivided unity consisting in what they actually do as churches, rather than "the theories and declarations of individual members as to what the churches do." [Such words would come back to haunt us.]
Indeed, Nissiotis would continue:
"Orthodox is not the adjective or the qualification of one local church or even of all our Eastern Orthodox Churches...It is not an exclusive but an inclusive term which goes beyond the limits of the churches which call themselves Orthodox. It includes all those churches and believers who seek to offer an honest confession and achieve a life which is untouched by heresies and schisms and to arrive at the wholeness of the divine revelation in Christ." 
"This dynamic understanding of Orthodoxy enables us to see Church history in a new perspective. It excludes labeling movements within the Church as apostasies—thus placing them outside the Church. It is impossible to locate an ecclesiological event extra ecclesiam. Neither the Roman schism nor the Reformation which resulted from it should be described in this way. The Orthodox witness as service to unity can, by self-sacrifice, put all separations in their right place within the One Undivided Church, and share the glory of God with them. This means in practice that Orthodoxy must give up its defensive, confessional-apologetic attitude, and in the glory of the Holy Spirit, become a mighty river of life, filling the gaps, complementing opposites, overcoming enmities, and driving forward toward reunion." 
Professor Nissiotis would go on to say, "To use such slogans as come back to us or let us go back to the first eight centuries as though we were inviting others to deny their own traditions is unorthodox." 
One might suspect that more recent use of the "slogans" such as "Welcome Home" , "Coming Home", and "Bringing America to Orthodoxy" might equally suffer the approbation "unorthodox" according to this line of reasoning. Then again, what would the Professor make of the reception not merely of thousands of converts who did believe they were coming home, but to the numerous parishes themselves, converting, en masse to Orthodoxy? By Nissiotis line of reasoning, would conversion even be possible, much less desirable?
As little as two years later, in 1963, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos would state to assembled members of the World Council in the U.S.: " It would be utterly foolish for the true believer to pretend or to insist that the whole truth has been revealed only to them, and that they alone possess. Such a claim would be both unbiblical and untheological." 
This was a sharp departure from what the Archbishop had said four years prior when the Archbishop stated the need for the return to the fullness of apostolic faith and practice: "the truth that should always be remembered in all ecumenical circles it that there are no churches but ONE, and that this truth is more than attested by church history. The branch theory, that is, that the true Church consists of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican Churches, as well as the fragmentation theory, this is that there is schism within the Church, or that all existing churches are to a greater or less degree in schism, can find no ground of justification in church history. Orthodoxy, however, can perfectly see and comprehend present church realities. She knows all she needs to know in regard to the existing numerous communions, confession, denominations, groups, and sects."  What a difference those four years made!
By 1963, in words meant for the ears of those assembled, such belief in the fullness of faith, and more precisely that the Orthodox Church is the repository of that revelation, is shied away from by attacking however subtlety those who might hold such beliefs as being utterly foolish. To be sure the words are couched. The words are equivocal. In fact, the Orthodox indeed do not maintain that the whole truth has been revealed only to them or that they alone possess it. Yet, the Orthodox Christian can never withdraw from the position that Orthodoxy is the repository of divinely revealed truth in its fullness.
If indeed the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tm 3:16), and if by "Church" one means the Orthodox Church (cf. Eph 1:22,23), this is a curious shift in ecclesiology from that stated only nine years before at Evanston, which by this line of reasoning must by now have been judged to have been both "unbiblical and untheological".
What is unbiblical, what is untheological is the notion that an individual, apart from Christs body, the Church, could ever possess or could ever be in a position to appraise what is fullness of the Divine Revelation. It is precisely in the Church, the Una Sancta, which is his body, where there is the fullness of him that filleth all in all. It is not a question of whether "true believers" possess the fullness of revelation at all, but whether or not the Church does. If so, where is that Church? If not, why should anyone bother? How might anyone know when he had possessed it?
Thus, a basic, Protestant presupposition, an ecclesiology at variance with that of the Fathers, and a reduction of Truth to a set of principles was being enunciated by one who has come to be arguably American Orthodoxys most conspicuous prelate during the last three-and-one-half decades.
The Russians: A More Cautious Approach
Yet, despite this shift in emphasis, especially by those under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate towed a more cautious line. It is interesting to note Metropolitan Nikodims reflection on the entry of the Moscow Patriarchate to the WCC delivered during the Uppsala Assembly, in April 1969:
"For many years after the First Assembly of the WCC at Amsterdam in 1948 the Russian Orthodox Church studied the activity of this new ecumenical body in order to see what possibility might exist to collaborate with it without prejudicing the principles of Orthodoxy.
"Moreover, from the very outset it was clear to the Orthodox that collaboration with the World Council of Churches, still more membership of it, would inevitably mean plunging into the Protestant element or, if you prefer, undergoing a sort of kenosis, because the voice of Orthodox witness at ecumenical meetings and in the WCC documents would always be submerged by a chorus of diverse, but essentially Protestant, opinions.
"It is only by increasing the number of representatives of the Orthodox Churches, so as to reflect the real importance of Orthodoxy in Christendom (and at the same time to improve the quality of that representation) that a balance can be created between the two confessional groups or systems, and their forces equalized. But that does not always guarantee a maximum of mutual understanding. I must frankly say that this situation will not disappear until all the Christian Churches have attained unanimity in their confession of faith, i.e. until all the Churches belonging to the World Council of Churches hold the faith which was the faith of the ancient undivided Church...
"The fact that the Russian Orthodox Church has joined the World Council of Churches cannot be regarded as an ecclesial act in the ecclesiological sense. It is connected with those aspects of its own life and activity whose free expression does not impose direct responsibility on all the local Orthodox Churches—that responsibility which is incumbent upon every part of the sacred Body of Christ in face of the plenitude of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church as a whole...I repeat, the way in which the Russian Orthodox Church took the decision to join the WCC clearly indicates that this act was never considered as having an ecclesiologically obligatory meaning for the Orthodox conscience. It would be more exact not to speak of the Russian Orthodox Church "joining" the WCC, still less "being admitted" to the WCC, but rather of an agreement between the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and those of the World Council of Churches for representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to enter into permanent collaboration with representatives of other Churches belonging to an association called the World Council of Churches. The Assembly held at New Delhi in 1961 gave its consent to a collaboration of this kind. In speaking of the Word Council of Churches I must point out that, from the very outset, there has been a certain confusion or ambiguity in the definition of the nature of that body." 
Continuing his remarks, the Metropolitan went on to observe that the "Section on Unity" of the Report of that same New Delhi meeting which accepted the Russian Orthodox Church into such a "collaborative association", to paraphrase, contained
"a concept of unity which is completely Protestant. Unity is regarded as a gift from God belonging, despite the divisions, to the whole of Christendom. This unity is not always visibly manifest to the necessary extent. Christendom as such is thus considered as essentially the one, complete body of the Church of Christ. As for division, it is not understood as the destruction of inner unity and a painful crippling of certain parts of the body of the Church. It is merely regarded as an inadequate awareness (in the minds of divided Christians) of their inner health, and as a lack of courage to proclaim that health to the world through acts which manifest their unity.
"The description of unity contained in this Report can refer only to the future when—after intercession, ecumenical collaboration and seeking have come to an end—that unity has been attained.
"The sin of division consists not in insufficient awareness of allegedly existing unity, but in the destruction of that unity, thus injuring some of its parts and harming the whole body of the Church of Christ. It is true that the unity of the Church is a gift of God, but only in a well-defined sense. It is a fact that there exists now and will exist until the consummation of time a divine objective basis of ecclesial unity in Christ, i.e. the possibility of intimate communion with Him through faith and through participation in sacramental life, especially in the true Eucharist, on condition that full obedience is paid to the fullness of the divine revelation. In itself this objective aspect, outside our obedience or disobedience to the divine revelation, does not assure complete, essential unity in any part of the Christian brotherhood. Only the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, which is the full, healthy foundation of the Body of Christ, possesses the true and full unity, because it is obedient to the voice of the divine Truth. It can be incomplete, or may almost disappear. Full and perfect unity can be appropriated by the whole Oekumene not through a simple manifestation or visible expression, but solely by re-building the broken unity, by returning to complete obedience to the truth. This will enable the limits of the whole Christian brotherhood to become identified with those of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church." 
Such a relatively conservative position by Moscow through the Metropolitan is all the more interesting when one considers what an avid ecumenist Nikodim himself was, especially when it came to matters involving Roman Catholics. Yet even Metropolitan Nikodim speaks of "returning to complete obedience of the truth"; he does not accept that the "whole Christian brotherhood" is "the one Church of Christ." He makes no mention of a branch theory of historic churches which accept the Nicene Creed. Thus the positions of Professor Nissiotis and the Metropolitan differ markedly.
A Roman Holiday
In the intervening years between New Delhi and Uppsala, an ecumenical event of the greatest magnitude had occurred outside the boundaries of the WCC, but one which would have profound impact on the Orthodox, as well as others involved in the ecumenical movement, the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, (1962-1965).
While standing officially aloof from ecumenical work until then, the Roman Church, by establishing the Secretariat for Christian Unity, plunged into the ecumenical quest itself. Most immediate was the meeting in Jerusalem in January 1964 between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. This meeting was described as a communion of love.  Thus, Orthodox-Roman Catholic ecumenism began in earnest.
Patriarch Athenagoras described his role "to cultivate friendly relations with the Roman Catholic Churches, as well as with all Christian Churches. We entertain this aim in spite of the many existing obstacles, bearing in mind the common teachings and traditions that have bound together the Churches, and that have their origin in the first ages of the One and Undivided Church of Christ."35 In words paralleling those of Professor Nissiotis at New Delhi, the Ecumenical Patriarch spoke of an ancient Undivided Church of Christ to which those with common teaching and traditions have been bound together. If the ancient Church was "undivided," and by implication the Church today is divided, then the whole of Orthodox ecclesiology was turned on its head by pronouncement of the Ecumenical Throne.
Contacts between Rome and Constantinople continued until the much celebrated "mutual lifting of the Anathemas of 1054 "was announced on December 7, 1965. 32 The schism, and the issues which effected it, remained but the anathemas were lifted as "a gesture of goodwill between the two Churches..."36, an act of linguistic legerdemain, at least, to be sure.
By the mid 1970s, the seeds sown in the sixties were certainly starting to sprout, especially amongst those representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. At the Fifth Assembly (Nairobi, November 1975), speaking on "Christian Unity", Archimandrite Cyril Argenti addressed first the question, Why are we divided?:
"the things which divide people in general—conflicting economic interests, racial prejudice, nationalist feelings, class selfishness, thirst for power, rivalry for prestige, and so on—also divide Christians, which means that the particular social group—class, nation or race—to which we belong is a more important factor in determining our behavior than the Kingdom of Heaven to which we also belong. We are more intensely aware of being Greek, Irish, or Boer than being Orthodox, Catholic or Calvinist. Our confessional label serves simply as an alibi to justify, or rather to conceal, our real motives which continue to be those of the old man who still lingers in all of us." 
After then discussing the Body of the Risen Christ as a foundation for unity, Christian Unity and the Eucharistic Assembly and Christian Unity and Witness to the World, the speaker says,
"The Church is therefore a witnessing community because it identifies itself with the body of the Crucified and Risen Christ: this is the Church in which we confess our faith in the words of the Creed, I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is to this goal and final objective that all our efforts for unification must be directed, and we should not confuse it with the distorted image present by our different church institutions. What defines the Church and gives it its being is what the creative word of its Lord incessantly summons it to become, not the caricature of it that its clergy too often present to us." 
Finally, near the end, Fr. Agenti asks,
"Does this mean that at the present time we should abandon the quest for organic union of the separated churches? On the contrary, we must prepare the framework for it by assemblies like the present, and also, on the various geographical levels, by local assemblies which will foreshadow the future of the Church...
"In conclusion, may I express the wish, or rather the prayer that:
—through the participation in the World Council by all the Christian churches, (and in particular by the very ancient and venerable Church of Rome and all the holy churches in communion with her);
—through the deeper growth in Christ of all the member churches, present and future;
—through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, the unifying Spirit,
if not the 5th or 6th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, then at least the n-th Assembly will be recognized by the whole Christian people as the 8th Ecumenical Council of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ." 
In not one instance did the speaker identify the Orthodox Church as the Una Sancta when speaking of the Church. While he says certain things about the Church and Eucharist and witness in the world which could be interpreted from an Orthodox understanding, he lays the groundwork for his conclusion—that a future assembly of the World Council be recognized as the 8th Ecumenical Council—by stating, near the beginning, that confessional labels served as alibis to conceal our real motives, that the cause of Christian disunity was ultimately the function of social and economic struggle. What of false doctrine? What of truth?
"If we are not united," Father Argenti posits, "we are not the Church."  In other words, we are the Church based upon our relations with other, separated Christians, not because the Church is obedient to the Truth. Hence, a Protestant ecclesiology was proclaimed by an Orthodox priest to an ecumenical gathering: The Church had ultimately ceased to be because of the separations in the Christian world. The role of ecumenism, and in particular that of the WCC was to be the vehicle of reconstituting a lost unity.
Twenty years before, the position of the Ecumenical Throne was that the Unity was already a given within the Una Sancta, the Orthodox Church. Now the position to the contrary, that of pan-Protestantism, was enunciated by a representative of the same Patriarchate.
A Path Strewn with Complexities
Only a year earlier, Patriarch Pimen of All-Russia had addressed the subject, "An Orthodox View of Contemporary Ecumenism" at the University of Ioensu (Finland) in terms different from those of the Ecumenical Throne and its representatives.
First of all, Patriarch Pimen qualifies his role:
"I do not of course consider myself as having the right to speak on behalf of all Orthodox or of presenting one, single, Orthodox view on ecumenism. Such a single, pan-Orthodox view not only does not exist among the Orthodox churches, but there is no single view or single approach within any single local Orthodox church, as there is no unanimity of approach or view on this question in other, non-Orthodox churches.
"Besides this, no one in Orthodoxy has the right to speak on or evaluate anything in name of all Orthodox, on behalf of all the Orthodox churches. Only an Ecumenical Council has the right to speak in the name of all the Orthodox communion, and then only if that Council has been accepted by all the local Orthodox churches." 
He went on, first to describe in brief the entrance of the Russian Church into the Ecumenical Movement, "a path strewn with complexities and hesitations between a sincere desire for brotherly relations and the achievement of full unity with our brothers outside the Orthodox church, and our traditional loyalty to the ecclesiological views of the Ancient Undivided Church..." 
"To this we must add the difficulties provoked by the original, not only purely Western but entirely pro-Western, character of the structure, activity and politico-social orientation of the World Council of Churches in the period of its establishment and the Cold War period... The Russian Church wanted to see in the World Council of Churches an objective and effective forum for the coming together (meeting) and dialogue of all churches and all Christians in their efforts towards rapprochement and the achievement, or rather the restoration of the unity of all Christians in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." 
As well, the Patriarch stated emphatically that the World Council of Churches could not be considered, or confused with, what the Orthodox Church means when she speaks of a Church Council. "Councils are the organs of the Church,"  he said, leaving no doubt that the Patriarch believed that the Orthodox Church was Una Sancta.
Hence, Archimandrite Argentis "prayer", to use his own words, that a future assembly of the World Council of Churches might be recognized as an Ecumenical Council displayed a variant position from that of the Patriarch of Moscow but one year earlier.
Yet even some under the jurisdiction of Moscow were using terms in the 70s which indicated that the Protestant presuppositions underlying the Councils work, to which Father Schmemann would make reference, were certainly being used when speaking to WCC agencies. For example, in a sermon in West Berlin for the WCCs Central Committee (1974), Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh spoke of the words from "the ancient liturgies of the still undivided Church."  He speaks then of "a unity which is lost, a oneness which is to be reconquered, but is not yet possessed."  Certainly this might seem to be more appropriately addressed to representatives of the Church of Rome rather than to Protestants.
This is basically the background of Orthodoxys role and evolution in the Ecumenical movement, especially in the World Council of Churches, from the 1920s until the mid 1970, when Father Schmemann wrote of the Ecumenical Agony for the Orthodox, which was quoted at the beginning of this article. While Fr. Schmemann stated quite rightly that Orthodoxys "witness" has been a marginalized one in the Ecumenical movement, it also seems obvious from the above quotations from various Orthodox ecumenists that the "witness" of the Ecumenical movement upon the Orthodox participants was not so marginal.
Fr. Justin Popovich would offer a critique of ecumenism. One of Orthodoxys theologians from the same period, he had known the same wars and political movements that prompted the initial concern for greater collaboration amongst the churches in Europe. Yet, Father Justins assessment is quite different, and one worthy of quoting.
"The contemporary dialogue of love, which takes the form of naked sentimentality, is in reality a denial of the salutary sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13), that is to say the unique salutary love of the truth. (2 Thess. 2:10) The essence of love is truth; love lives and thrives as truth. Truth is the heart of each Godly virtue and therefore of love as well. And each one of these Godly virtues preaches and evangelizes about the God-man Lord Jesus as the only Person Who is the embodiment and image of Divine Truth, that is to say Pan-Truth. If truth were something other that the God-man, than Christ in other words, if it were though, an idea, a theory, mind science, philosophy, culture, man, humanity, the world, or all the worlds, or whoever or whatever or all it altogether, it would be minor, inadequate, finite, mortal. Truth, however, is a person, and yes, the person of the God-man Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, and as such is immortal and not finite, but eternal. This is because in the Lord Jesus, Truth and Life are of the same essence: they are eternal Truth and eternal Life. (cf. John 14:6; 1:4,17) He who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ grows unceasingly through His Truth into the divine infinity. He grows with all of his being, with all of his mind, with all of this heart and his soul. People live in Christ speaking the truth in love, because only in this way we must grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ. (Eph. 4:15)
"This is always realized with all the saints, (Eph. 3:18), always in the Church and through the Church, because a person cannot grow in Him Who is the head of the body of the Church, in other words in Christ, in any other way.
"Let us not fool ourselves...Separation of and detachment of love from truth is a sign of the lack of theanthropic faith and of the loss of theanthropic balance and common sense. At any rate, this was never, nor is it the way of the Fathers. The Orthodox are rooted and founded only with all of the saints in truth, and have proclaimed in love this theanthropic life-saving love for the world and for all of the creation of God from the time of the Apostles until today. The naked moralistic, minimalistic, and humanistic pacifism of contemporary Ecumenists does only one thing: it brings to light their diseased roots, which is to say, their sick philosophy and feeble morality according to the human tradition. (Col. 2:
They reveal the crisis of their humanistic faith, as well as their presumptuous insensitivity for the history of the Church, which is to say, for its apostolic and catholic continuation in truth and in grace. And the holy apostolic, patristic, God-mindedness, and common sense are proclaimed by the mouth of St. Maximos the Confessor in the following truth: For faith is the foundation of the things that follow, I mean hope and love, which certainly sustain the truth. (P.G. 90c. 1189A)" 
"Separation of and detachment of love from truth is a sign of the lack of theanthropic faith and of the loss of theanthropic balance and common sense." At any rate, this was never, nor is it the way of the Fathers. The Orthodox are rooted and founded only with all of the saints in truth, and have proclaimed in love this theanthropic life-saving love for the world and for all of the creation of God from the time of the Apostles until today. Father Justins words are worth repeating, because they offer the fit criticism not only of the ecumenical method, but also of its results. Love divorced from truth truly is sentimentality. To speak of a "communion of love" without truth, whether this is a denial of history, an obfuscation of schism, or an avoidance of basic doctrine, is a thing of feelings not of substance.
It is as if the maxims of the situational ethicists of the sixties were adopted by the ecumenists: to do the "loving thing," not the right thing, because morality is relative. For in matters ecumenical the maxim has become to say the loving thing, not that which is true. This is done, it would follow, because Truth itself, or rather, Himself is relative.
What is detailed above about Orthodox involvement in Ecumenism is dated by some two decades. In the intervening twenty years, Orthodoxys role and impact on ecumenism has continued to be debated.
In the 1980s, through the work of the Faith and Order Commission, a document entitled "Baptism, the Eucharist, and Ministry" was issued by the WCC for study by its constituent bodies. At the time of its publication, Prof. Nissiotis, referenced above was Moderator of the Commission.
Basically, the BEM document is predicated upon the Councils understanding of churches growing toward of a goal of visible unity, developing doctrinal convergence along the way. Chiefly, the document seeks to focus on "the problems of mutual recognition leading to unity." 
From the Preface to the ... [Webmaster note: text unclear at this point] ... we read: "...the Faith and Order Commission now present this Lima text (1982) to the churches. We do so with deep conviction, for we have become increasingly aware of our unity in the body of Christ. We have found reason to rejoice in the rediscovery of the richness of our common inheritance in the Gospel. We believe that the Holy Spirit has led us to this time, a kairos of the ecumenical movement when sadly divided churches have been enabled to arrive at substantial theological agreements. We believe that many significant advances are possible if in our churches we are sufficiently courageous and imaginative to embrace Gods gift of Church unity."  Again, the basic, sectarian premise is stated: the many, divided churches are actually parts of the body of Christ. Not one of them is the Church.
It indeed is wonderful to note the "convergence", if not consensus on the topics of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry contained in the document, as far as the document goes. However, mutual recognition of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry in the various divided churches is the ultimate goal. It seems not a matter that the Holy Spirit supplies what is lacking, as we would understand it, but that theological convergence would determine that nothing has been lacking all along.
Thus baptism is described:
"Our common baptism, which unites us to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity. We are one people and are called to confess and serve one Lord in each place and in all the world. The union with Christ which we share through baptism has important implications for Christian unity. There is...one baptism, on God and Father of us all... (Eph. 4:4-6) When baptismal unity is realized in one holy, catholic, apostolic Church, a genuine Christian witness can be made to the healing and reconciling love of God. Therefore, our one baptism into Christ constitutes a call to the churches to overcome their divisions and visibly manifest their fellowship." 
The commentary on this section notes: "The inability of the churches mutually to recognize their various practices of baptism as sharing in the one baptism, and their actual dividedness in spite of mutual baptismal recognition, have given dramatic visibility to the broken witness of the Church." "The readiness of the churches in some place and times to allow differences of sex, race, or social status to divide the body of Christ has further called into question genuine baptismal unity of the Christian community (Gal. 3:27-28) and has seriously compromised its witness. The need to recover baptismal unity is at the heart of the ecumenical task as its is central for the realization of genuine partnership within the Christian communities." 
To recognize baptism extra ecclesiam, outside of the Church, as Orthodox understand the Church to be is central to the ecumenical agenda. Orthodoxy admittedly has had, and does have, two basic practices in regard to heterodox baptism, the stricter position holding that baptism does not exist outside of the Church and the other practice of economy, declaring the rite to lack fulness and in want of the sealing of the Spirit. In effect, the latter position is similar to that taken of baptism in extremis by the laity, except that it is presumed that a lay baptism is ministered by one baptized and chrismated. In either case, the BEM document purports to see baptism as a uniting ordinance, already having incorporated all of its recipients wherever they be and whatever they believe into Christ.
Again, the section on the Eucharist refers to its being a judgment on "unjustifiable confessional oppositions with the body of Christ"  and yet any doctrine of Eucharistic presence, doctrine to which the Holy Fathers appealed at the Third Ecumenical Council to defend the union of the two natures—Divine and human—in one person—Jesus Christ, is omitted. Agreement about Eucharistic presence is left as a possibility for further theological "convergence."  Yet Eucharistic sharing is envisioned as a means to union.  A comment on this sections notes:
"Since New Testament days, the Church has attached the greatest importance to the continued use of the elements of bread and wine which Jesus used at the Last Supper. In certain parts of the word, where bread and wine are not customary or obtainable, it is now sometimes held that local food and drink serve better to anchor the eucharist in everyday life. Further study is required concerning the question of which features of the Lords Supper were unchangeably instituted by Jesus, and which features remain within the Churchs competence to decide." 
Whether this commentary was arrogant, or merely naive, contextualizing the eucharist, as well as other aspects of worship and faith, will be seen later in Council activities.
Finally, when the BEM statement touches on ministry, apostolic succession is not definitively resident in the person of a bishop. Thus the document, unlike the early Church, does not envision asking a church for a list of bishops to prove its relationship to the Church Catholic.
"It is increasingly recognized that a continuity in apostolic faith, worship and mission has been preserved in churches which have not retained the form of historic episcopate. This recognition finds additional support in the fact that the reality and function of the episcopal ministry have been preserved in the many of these churches, with or without the title "bishop". 
"Today churches, including those engaged in union negotiations, are expressing willingness to accept episcopal succession as a sign of the apostolicity of the life of the whole Church. Yet, at the same time, they cannot accept any suggestion that the ministry exercised in their own tradition should be invalid until the moment that it enters into an existing line of episcopal succession. Their acceptance of the episcopal succession will best further the unity of the whole Church if it is part of a wider process by which the episcopal churches themselves also regain their lost unity." 
Ultimately, the question of candidates for ordination is dealt with thus: "The discipline with regard to the conditions for ordination in one church need not be seen as universally applicable and used as grounds for not recognizing ministry in others."  "Churches which refuse to consider candidates for the ordained ministry on the ground of handicap or because they belong, for example, to one particular race or sociological group should re-evaluate their practices."  Does this mean, then that though conditions for ordination might not be universally applicable there are some universals in regard to the candidates? That is, does "sociological group" refer only to racial and ethnic division, or does it mean as well, the sex and/or the sexual preference of the candidate him/herself?
A further section address ordination of women: "Differences on this issue raise obstacles to the mutual recognition of ministries. But those obstacl