In 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
The 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.