I both agree and disagree with GIC here. First, regarding the manner in which converts are received, I think GIC is correct:
It is the Patriarchate, not the Athonite Monks, who have the right to decide the proper means to receive converts into the Church. Monasticism has its place in Orthodoxy, but it is Not to determine matters of Church Policy or Inter-Church Relations. The Monastics insisting on a practice inconsonant with the expectations of the Oecumenical Throne is unacceptable and contrary to the obediences and duties of the monastic life.
I agree with this, so long as we are talking about within a single Local Church. By what right does a monk go against his bishop's wishes and receive someone in a different manner? Whether the bishop is correct or not is irrelevant. So long as the bishop has not strayed into heresy, obedience is owed to him concerning the matter; that is the only things relevant. Of course, where I disagree with (you) GIC is in going past this. I have been batting around the idea of posting again on neo-papal-patriarchalism
for a couple weeks now. Since I have the next two days off work, I think I'd better do it now (while I have lots of free time ahead of me).
Yet again some attempt to defend Defiance and Schism by citing the very few instances in History when certain Occupants of the Oecumenical Throne fell into error.
I'd call that the understatement of the year! Just how exactly does one define "very few instances," anyway?
ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Let's take a look at the history of the Patriarchate, from it's founding in the middle of the 4th century till about the middle of the 7th century. In that 300 year span, how many Patriarchs that held to heresy can we find?
4th Century - Eusebius, Macedonius, Eudoxius
5th century - Nestorius, Acacius, Phravitas, Euphemius
6th Century - Timothy I, Anthimus
7th Century - Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Peter
I know this isn't all of them, as I'm not sure of some of the names of the Patriarchs (for instance--and not the only instance!) during the Arian heresy, when Constantinople was in the clutches of heretics for decades, until St. Gregory the Theologian won the people's souls and St. Emperor Theodosius made sure that Orthodoxy prevailed. The point is that Constantinople was constantly falling into error. In fact, after it's creation, it fell into just about every major heresy there was: monothelitism, monophysitism, nestorianism, arianism, etc.; and many times it was the originator of the heresy. Consider the 6th Ecumenical Council, where one Roman bishop and one Alexandrian bishop are condemned for monothelitism, and four (!) Patriarchs of Constantinople are condemned (Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter) in the Sentence Against the Monothelites
(Session 13). This Sentence condemns four bishops from Constantinople, and three bishops from the rest of the world combined
As though the errors of a few undermine the Rights and Authorities granted by the Oecumenical and Provencial Synods as well as Imperial Decrees and other Elements of Sacred Tradition.
It is of course true that, so long as she is Orthodox, Constantinople is the first among equals, and has certain rights and authority. That authority does not include many of the things that you seem to think that it includes, however. For example, I would disagree with Constantionple's interpretation of the 28th Canon of the 4th Ecumenical Council, and while I think Archbp. Peter L'Huillier of the OCA perhaps goes too far in trying to explain away the canon, this interpreation given of the canon seems to be the best fit: "Not only are the Metropolitans of the said dioceses to be ordained by him [Pat. of Constantinople], but indeed also the bishops located in barbarian regions that border on the said dioceses". The key word being "border". It wasn't talking about every "barbarian region" that would ever be discovered. And everyone were quite fine under the Russian hierarchy in our own (American) "barbarian land" (until the rise of the Soviet state screwed everything up).
As we see from this sacred Canon, the issue of Authority and Schism is not new to the Orthodox Church, but was most manifest even during the struggles of St. Photios the Great. The Church, in her infinite wisdom, realized the aforementioned historical difficulities and established a standard that Order may be kept in the Church, lest the godless schismatics tear the Body of Christ asunder.
This is very true. We do not have the right to sever relations with our Patriarch willy-nilly. And so long as we recognize that our Bishop is orthodox, we have no right to be disobedient to him. However, the 1st-2nd Council has another canon, which you did not quote:
The rules laid down with reference to Presbyters and Bishops and Metropolitans are still more applicable to Patriarchs. So that in case any Presbyter or Bishop or Metropolitan dares to secede or apostatize from the communion of his own Patriarch, and fails to mention the latter’s name in accordance with custom duly fixed and ordained, in the divine Mystagogy, but, before a conciliar verdict has been pronounced and has passed judgment against him, creates a schism, the holy Council has decreed that this person shall be held an alien to every priestly function if only he be convicted of having committed this transgression of the law. Accordingly, these rules have been sealed and ordained as respecting those persons who under the pretext of charges against their own presidents stand aloof, and create a schism, and disrupt the union of the Church. But as for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodal verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions. (Canon 15)
So how can you say what you have said in other threads about people breaking communion with Constantinople, when this canon clearly allows for a break if a bishop is preaching heresy bareheadedly? Was not St. Maximos the Confessor acting properly when he broke communion with his Patriarch, even though he was but one simple monk? Do we not celebrate his orthodoxy (his confession), rather than chastising him for presumption and disobedience? Obedience is required--I agree, and say again, REQUIRED--if a bishop is orthodox. However, if he is not, then obedience is not required one jot. Now, I am not saying here that the current Pat. of Constantinople is in heresy. As I said above (regarding reception of converts), I think he is orthodox and should be obeyed by his flock, even if people disagree with him. Speaking of potential situations, however, there is certainly theological, canonical, and historical precedent for breaking with one's bishop (even if he is the First-among-equals).