Saturday, June 18, 2016

Will it happen or not?!?

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod meets regularly -- every three years now and possibly every four after 2019 if the delegates agree.  It is a huge endeavor involving pastoral and lay delegates from all the Circuits of the LCMS and a host of details involved in it all are more than I can consider.  Yet for all that has gone into the plans for the 2016 LCMS Convention in Milwaukee in July, it is nothing compared to the leg work that went into the planning and preparation for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.  This event has been in process for for more than half a century and, we think will take place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete on June 19-26, 2016. The dates of the Council were unanimously approved by all autocephalous Orthodox Churches in March 2014.  So you would think this might be smooth sailing, right?  Maybe not.

Now there is word that some churches are withdrawing and others are contesting the rules and fighting the details of what the council is supposed to do and how it will render any decisions.  I guess maybe the infighting in Missouri is not quite as bad as I thought.  Well, it could be that the Orthodox are simply out of practice on how to meet and fight and smile at the same time.  In any case it makes for an interesting thing to watch.

The decision of several churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, to withdraw from the Council reveals a difference of opinion and intention among the churches. A majority of the local churches desire to “walk together” (the literal meaning of the word “synod” or council) towards unity, while a minority desire ethnic isolation. The Council must not and will not be postponed due to this minority. Nor will the nonparticipation of a minority invalidate the proceedings of the Council.

While the official representatives of all Orthodox Churches have supported the idea of conciliarity in principle, some have attempted to block the conciliar process in practice. Importantly, the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) have insisted on a very strict interpretation of the consensus rule by which all conciliar decisions are to be made. The Moscow Patriarchate would require the total unanimity of all church delegations—and even of every bishop within each delegation. This interpretation of consensus departs from the Church’s tradition, in which decisions are made by majority vote or public acclamation. For example, the local council and the bishops’ council of the Russian Orthodox Church require a quorum of two-thirds of members, not total unanimity. 

On the basis of this strict interpretation of consensus, the Moscow Patriarchate argues that the Council cannot go forward, because the Churches of Bulgaria, Antioch, and Georgia have all withdrawn, citing disagreements over Council documents and procedures. Under these conditions, and given its definition of consensus, the Moscow Patriarchate sees no reason to hold a Council. It argues that a conference should be held instead, to settle the contested issues so that the Council can be held at a later date with all churches in attendance.
I would say to watch the internet for live coverage but I expect there won't be any.  I would say that this is a once in a lifetime event for those of us who have not ever seen such an assembly but it is still threatening to unravels.  So watch for the news or the lack of it from Crete (BTW not Crete, Nebraska, home of Doane College, nominally Lutheran, but the island in the Mediterranean).  It is supposed to begin on Father's Day and end the following Sunday.  Imagine how you would feel if you had planned for something for 50 years and thought all the ts were cross and every i dotted only to find out there were some serious hitches after all.   I do not know about the rest of you LCMSers but it all makes our triennial convention seem rather pedestrian.  All in all, I would rather have been in Crete on June 19 than in Milwaukee on July 8.  Just sayin. . . .

1 comment:

Ted Badje said...

Admit it, Pastor, you just want the good Falafel and Feta Cheese.