Considering Chambesy: The Issues

chambesyIn this series of blogs I will be commenting on issues dealt with and created by the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy (June 6-13, 2009).  These blogs are my own opinions and do not represent those of anyone else.  The first blog was Considering Chambesy: The Mother Churches followed by Considering Chambesy: The Diaspora

Ancient Faith Radio characterized the work of Chambesy in this way:  “To address and fix the problem of the so called Diaspora – the scattering of Orthodox faithful into countries away from the mother churches.”   Two observations:

1)     I would like to know clearly what the bishops who met at Chambesy think the problem is that they are setting about to fix.  Is the problem that the mother churches have all embraced Phyletism and are pushing for universal jurisdiction over their “ethnic” descendents throughout the world?   Is it canonical confusion for the Diaspora?  Is it the lack of true missionary effort and instead an effort to simply keep one’s ethnic compatriots as part of the ethnic church?  Is it the tendency to behave like sectarians rather than like the Christian Church?  Is it the tendency to hate all things “Western” and all people who aren’t of a traditional Orthodox ethnicism?  Is the problem the fact that the ancient patriarchates have not entered the 21st Century but rather continue to pretend Byzantium exists?   Is the problem that by freezing our thinking in the 4th-8th Century Byzantine political boundaries we have chained ourselves to a world that no longer exists which has led to our inability to deal with the reality of the modern world which the holy Fathers of Byzantium never even imagined?

2)    I also am curious  –  in the “traditionally” Orthodox countries is Constantinople considered to be the mother church of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem?  What exactly is meant by “mother Church.”  Is this idea in itself Orthodox?   Are not all churches sisters and all bishops brothers?   The mother church idea combined with the despotic patriarchs leads to the notion of a Diaspora in which the membership are forever immature children.   However the original use of church as mother was combined with the idea of God as father, not hierarchs.   The church as mother imagery is not true to what the church is supposed to be doing – making disciples not children.

The Chambesy bishops listed among their goals:

The Conference expressed the common desire of all Orthodox Churches for a solution to the problem of the canonical organization of the Orthodox Diaspora, in accordance with the ecclesiology, canonical tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church.   Chambesy Communique

chambesy3The bishops assembled at Chambesy express their primary goal as dealing with the problem of “the canonical organization of the Orthodox Diaspora.”   This places the entire problem into a canonical framework.  The problem however is also a lack of vision and missionary zeal – seeing certain people in the world as being “ Diaspora” – children of the Church – while having a xenophobic view of all others as at best strangers and foreigners, but worse as infidels, heretics and enemies.   Seeing some people in the world as “Diaspora” is a problem in itself and not consistent with the Scriptures.   We like Abraham are children of God through faith not because of the flesh (Romans 8:4; Galatians 4:29-30).  We are in fact children born of the Spirit of God, not merely descendents according to the flesh.

The mission of the Bishops Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry to the Orthodox faithful of the region, as well as their common witness to the world.   Chambesy Communique

While the unity of the Church is indeed taught and even commanded by Christ our Lord, the main proclamation of the Church is Jesus Christ, not unity.  Unity results from making disciples of all nations, not just claiming rights over one’s Diaspora.  The focus of the Church must be on Christ and our relationship to Him, for in Him we will find unity.

Next:  Considering Chambesy: Decisions

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2 Responses to Considering Chambesy: The Issues

  1. Rebecca M says:

    It will be interesting to see how all this plays out … ultimately, the problem of unity is an organic problem, not merely an organizational one. I fear that our attempts at organizational solutions [including this latest initiative out of Chambesy] do little but distract us from addressing the organic issues. Certainly, treating the Orthodox in America and other “not traditionally Orthodox” areas as “diaspora” is highly problematic, but it’s not just because of what it does [defining us in terms of our relationship, no matter how tenuous, to some "homeland"] but because of what it utterly fails to do — understand us as communities of Christians living, first, in relationship to Christ and, second, in relationship to a particular time and place through our relationships among ourselves and with our neighbors [our actual, real, living, breathing neighbors -- who I promise you know little of Orthodoxy as Orthodox Christianity].

    Here’s a heretical thought [unlikely to happen with a bunch of organizational hoopla going on about episcopal assemblies] — what if we completely put aside any effort to resolve the issues of administrative, organizational unity for a decade? Efforts in this direction get mired in pride and authority and agendas. But we actively seek to foster organic unity during that time. What would this mean? Once a year all the bishops [nopt representatives of the various jurisdictions, but ALL the bishops] in America would gather for a three day retreat. The main agenda would be prayer, reflection and serving together. There would be discussions of common issues we face — youth, caring for the elderly, campus ministry, etc. but NO negotiations or statements about organizational issues. The purpose would be to build relationships and mutual understanding through that which we hold in common — the living experience of worship and the presence of Christ in the eucharist. Other layers could be built in on a regional and local basis, using the work of the organizations sponsored by SCOBA as a focal point for bringing together laity and clergy of different parishes in a common effort.

    Until we organically share a common vision of our selves as Orthodox Christians living in America, rather than a fractured vision of ourselves as Insert-Ethnic-Identifier Orthodox, all these meetings and coordinations and discussions and negotiations will never lead to real unity.

    We’re coming up on the fiftieth anniversary of SCOBA, we’ve past the 35th anniversary of our own autocephaly — I fear that the process envisioned by Chambesy is yet another organizational inititiative that will keep us isolated from one another and thinking in purely institutional terms about the challenges we face. Truly, if the past decade of scandals and controversies in all of our jurisdictions has taught us nothing else, surely it’s taught us that we are not at our best when we define the church in purely institutional terms?

    Pipe dream — sorry didn’t mean to go on so long!

  2. Pingback: Considering Chambesy: The Diaspora « Fr. Ted’s Blog

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