Friday, February 28, 2020

Jad Ganem: Regarding Some Aspects of Antioch's Position

Arabic original here.

Regarding Some Aspects of Antioch's Position

The Church of Antioch's decision to refrain from participating in the "fraternal consultative meeting" which took place in Amman on February 26 was no surprise for those who follow the positions of this church regarding the current ecclesiastical crisis, since Antioch's position, which is contained in the communique of February 23 and states that "the Church of Antioch reiterates Her firm position that the "unanimous consensus" between the Churches, based on the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition, is the essential rule in the Orthodox Church, with regards to general decisions on the universal Orthodox level, as well as in resolving outstanding issues," is in harmony with the positions that this church has previously declared:

-- Before the outbreak of the crisis, when the Holy Synod of Antioch met at Balamand between October 3 and 6, 2017-- that is, a few days before Constantinople granted autocephaly to the Ukrainian schismatics, that "any approach to granting autocephaly to a specific church must be in accordance with Orthodox ecclesiology and the principles agreed upon by the unanimity of the churches in recent years, whether with regard to the agreement of the Mother Church or with regard to the recognition of all the autocephalous churches of this decision" and "the necessity of following this principle of unanimity in what pertains to pan-Orthodox activity and controversial issues in the Orthodox world, as an effective guarantor of the unity of the Orthodox Church."

-- After the Patriarch of Antioch received from Metropolitan Christophoros of Amman the invitation to participate in the "fraternal consultative gathering" called by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, when he "welcomed this initiative and reaffirmed the firm position of the Antiochian Church announced by the Holy Antiochian Synod, which calls for the necessity of a meeting ΣΥΝΑΞΗ of the heads of the local Orthodox Churches, so that all Orthodox Churches collaborate in solving Orthodox issues."
Nevertheless, this decision, which comes in the context natural to the Church of Antioch's approach to pan-Orthodox activity, through its focus on building consensus between the churches in order to "preserve Orthodox unity," as still been subjected to certain simplistic or purely political readings, sometimes by seeing it as oriented against the Russian Church and sometimes by seeing it as succombing to pressure from Constantinople.

But if one reads this position closely, one will notice that:

-- It relies on the very same approach that Antioch took towards the "Council of Crete", which insisted on either providing the circumstance for all the churches to participate in its activities or delaying its meeting until "consensus is built among everyone" about it.

-- It stresses that the issue of granting autocephaly to any new local church is an issue that requires the unanimity of all the Orthodox churches and does not belong the the Patriarch of Constantinople alone.

-- It indicates that the Church of Antioch will not be satisfied with any sort of approach to the issue of Ukrainian autocephaly that treats it as though it were a purely political issue and that Antioch will continue to stress the importance of resorting to "venerable tradition" and the ecclesiastical canons pertaining to the reception of schismatics whose ordinations lack apostolic succession.

-- The Church of Antioch will not abandon the rules that have governed relations in the Orthodox world for decades, especially the principle of unanimity, which gives an equal role to all the local Orthodox churches and prevents any church or group of churches from acting unilatarally and attempting to impose their view on the others, which leads to polarisation and schisms.

In recent years, the Church of Antioch has been subject to many malicious campaigns, the misrepresentation of her positions, and attempts to minimize her agency and treat her as part of the politics of Orthodox polarization. However, the decision not to participate in the Amman meeting on account of the absense of the element of unanimity affirms once again that she is zealous for the unity of the Orthodox world and faithful to the principle that governs relations in it and that she does not approach ecclesiastical issues from a political, partisan or racial perspective, but rather according to the requirements of the Gospel. The Church of Antioch has said "I am not of Paul" and "I am not of Apollos" but "I belong to Christ."

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