Ecumenical Greeting Delivered by Bishop Kallistos of Dioklela of behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the 13th ACC Meeting.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with great joy and love in our Lord that his All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, wishes to respond to your kind invitation to send a message to the 13 th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church in general have always valued highly their relations with the Anglican Communion, with which they have been engaged in theological dialogue and fraternal contacts for many decades now.
Your meeting takes place at an important moment in the history, not only of your own Church, but of the Christian Church as a whole. After having devoted a great deal of effort and work to the restoration and further deepening of the unity of the Church of Christ, we who bear the name of Christians realise that we are now faced with new challenges coming from the world in which we live and to which we are called by God to proclaim the Gospel. These challenges oblige us to strengthen and deepen our ecumenical relations and our unity in Christ ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17, 21).
In order to respond to these challenges it is necessary for us, in the first place, to avoid or overcome any divisive tendencies within our own Churches. Anglicans and Orthodox have in common a tradition of Church polity which values highly the autonomy of each ecclesiastical province to which the Orthodox have given the name of ‘autocephalous Church’. Although the Orthodox structures of autocephaly and the Anglican provincial system are not identical in all respects, both of them present the same problems with regard to the unity of the Church. Decisions made at the level of a province or an autocephalous Church sometimes create tensions within the whole Church. The problem of the relation between the local church and the Church at the universal level is one of crucial issues we face today, both within our own particular Churches and in our ecumenical relations.
The Orthodox feel strongly that these problems can be properly solved only in the spirit of an ecclesiology of communion. We are pleased to see that this is the view taken also by the Anglican Communion in the Windsor Report which has been read carefully and with appreciation in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is our view too that decisions of major importance can be carried into effect in a constructive manner only after consultation and agreement with the rest of the local churches. This calls for a careful study of the levels of primacy within the Church and more particularly of the manner in which such primacy may be applied, so as to respect the right balance between local autonomy and universal unity.
We believe that the same principle of consultation and consensus should govern also our ecumenical relations. It is for this reason that the Orthodox would have hoped that decisions on major matters affecting deeply our ecumenical relations, such as the ordination of women to the priesthood, would have been made with deeper consideration of their ecumenical repercussions. We are pleased, however, that such important questions have been receiving full consideration and deep examination in the official Theological Dialogue between the Anglican and the Orthodox Churches. It is with great satisfaction that we note that the Commission on this Dialogue is now completing its present phase of work and will soon approve for publication the agreed statements that it has drawn up.
The challenges that the Church of Christ receives from the world today call us to extend our pre-occupation beyond matters concerning our internal problems. We are called to face the dangers arising from the use of religion as a source of conflict and fanaticism, and to work together in order to combat, alike at a national and an international level, all forms of hatred and discrimination.
We are also asked to work with all the spiritual means at our disposal for the overcoming of poverty throughout the planet, and to foster the protection of God’s creation at this critical time of sever ecological crisis. In all these and other areas we can and must join forces, never losing sight of the vision of one Church visibly united, as our Lord wills her to be.
With these thoughts and feelings His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, wishes to greet this meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and assure you of his prayers for the success of your work, for the benefit of the Church of Christ and her unity.