Articles Deacon Andrei Psarev

ROCOR Synod’s Statement on Ecumenism in 1937

Archbishop Seraphim is on the right. Photo credit:

Ecumenism as a Non-Compromise Witness of Our Faith

The Synod of the Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad made a statement on ecumenism on this day in 1937.

The Synod of Bishops directed Bishop Seraphim of Potsdam to participate in the 1937 Faith and Order and Life and Work meetings (In 1948 both committees united into the World Council of Churches). In the record of this decision from 18/31 December 1931, it is written:

“Maintaining faith in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Synod of Bishops confesses that this Church has never been divided. The question is only who belongs to her and who does not. Along these lines, the Synod of Bishops warmly welcomes all attempts of heterodox confessions to learn Christ’s doctrine on the Church in the hope that, through such a study, especially through the participation of a representative of the Holy Orthodox Church, they will in the end come to be certain that the Orthodox Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (Tim. 3:15), and has preserved in full and without any defilement the doctrine passed down by Christ the Savior to His disciples. And with this faith and with such hope, the Synod of Bishops gratefully accepts the invitation of the Committee of the World Conference on Faith and Order” (Deianiia Vtorogo Vsezarubezhnago Sobora RPTsZ [Acts of the Second All-Diaspora Council of the ROCOR] (Belgrade: 1939), 304).

The Synod of Bishops sent Bishop Seraphim of Potsdam to the second conference on the theme of “Faith and Order,” which took place in Edinburgh in 1937. In his report, Bishop Seraphim notes that the goal of the conference was to determine in what way the existence of differences in the realm of faith and order could in the future be considered as impediments to full unity and communion. Metropolitan Germanos (Patriarchate of Constantinople) made a declaration in the name of all Orthodox delegates, from which the following is excerpted:

“We are firmly convinced that in religious work clarity and precision in formulations of differences contribute to the discovery of truth. Only under such conditions can be achieved agreement have with actual value.

“We believe that in the act of salvation the greatest significance lies in the Church and not in the ‘Word of God’… For the Holy Scriptures themselves were given to us by the Church; they are a gift of God, entrusted to the Church…

“From the Orthodox point of view, the meaningfulness of all the other sacraments is linked with [chrismation], with the only possible exception of the sacrament of Baptism.

“We call attention to the necessity of exactness and concreteness in the formulation of true doctrine, for we are certain that ambiguity of formulation and sweeping generalizations in questions of faith have no authentic value.” (Otchet o vtoroi vsemirnoi konferentsii po voprosam verouchetntia I tserkovnago ustroistva [Report on the Second World Conference on Questions of Doctrine and Church Life] (Paris: Les editeurs réunis), 61–66.)

This confession of Orthodox ecumenism was signed by three representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as by Archbishop Anthony (Bashir) of the Patriarchate of Antioch, Professor G. S. Alivizatos, and others. Among those listed as representatives of the Russian Church Abroad are Bishop Seraphim, Archimandrite Cassian, Fr. Georges Florovsky, and others who actualy belonged to the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Evlogii. In his report, Bishop Seraphim wrote that the participation of the Orthodox delegates had a great and positive significance for the heterodox world, for they brought the spirit of the Church into the discussion, opening up the richness and beauty of Orthodoxy to the participants of the conference. For that reason, he recommended the Council and Synod of Bishops should send representatives to future conferences.

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