Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fr. Peter Heers: Q&A on the Pan-Orthodox Council

There is a lot being said about who agreed to what when. The timeline is being used as a bludgeon to place blame on why one party chose to not come to the Council in Crete and why others are said to have pulled out "at the last minute."

Truthfully, the situation is much more complicated than that. Some documents were discussed over time, but others went into circulation much later. This paper pushing back and forth has quite a convoluted history making claims of "sabotage" or "Eastern Popery" caricatures of what actually happened. The above video answers some common questions on the topic (and much more is available at his website here). You have to have some patience with the responses, though, as there isn't a simple answer to such a complex series of events.

Let me conclude by saying this: The councils of old were masses of bishops meeting for extended periods of time to combat specific heresies. In sending representatives instead of inviting all Orthodox bishops to the Council we introduced a complication. How do we get consensus of the whole Church if we don't invite the whole Church?

The answer is to continue winnowing down to a tiny number of topics everyone can agree on (from over a 100 to 6) ahead of the Council. Then you write rather bland papers on the topics and give some time for the local Churches to look over them and make recommendations. As GK Chesterton famously said, "I've searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees." As such, we got what comes out of the other side of the committee documents sausage maker. Some of these documents were imperfect, so imperfect as to be unacceptable as written for a few Churches to feel comfortable with the imprecise or supposedly overly ecumenical slant of some of them.

Now we have these topical papers going into the Council. If we had a Council with every hierarch in attendance they could be voted on and received as a Church with final reception subject to the will of the people. We could have that majority voting that Constantinople wants instead of this requirement for complete unanimity introduced by Moscow. But that's not what we have. We have representative groups from those Churches that felt comfortable attending and no matter what documents the Council produces those resolutions that make it out of this part of the process have to be ratified by the local Synods and then the people. All of this "binding" talk and the outrage that followed could have been avoided if we hadn't built this complicated structure over what should have been a Council with everyone in attendance.

We have what we have now. It may eventually be called a Pan-Orthodox Council or a Local Conference. Time will tell, but it will be interesting to see what is done with these anemic documents and what new topics seep into the arguably semi-permeable membrane of the representative conciliar process.

1 comment:

  1. EXCELLENT ! Prayers for Fr. Peter, for laying out the situation with candor. I hope he suffers no reprisals from further up in the pecking order.