Paper on the minor clergy

27 May, 2010

Here is a link to my book on the Minor Clergy of the Orthodox Church now published on Amazon.

The Minor Clergy of the Orthodox Church

This book is an examination of the canons that have universal recognition in the Orthodox churches; that is the canons of the seven Ecumenical Councils and the ninth century, which are applicable to ordering the transactions of the minor clergy in the Church. While the canons are not intended to be an instruction book on the minor orders they, nevertheless, provide a good picture of the functions and expected way of life of the minor clergy and they provide a large number of rules to enable these functions and way of life to be correctly ordered.

The book argues that, in terms of the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church, there has been an overtaking of the clerical functions by the laity, which the laity are not permitted to perform. These functions include chanting, reading, door-keeping, exorcism and serving in the chancel. These roles are the roles that were performed by the minor orders of the clergy, that is the Subdeacons, Lectors, Cantors, Exorcists, Acolytes and Doorkeepers. There seems to be an opinion that these are lay functions and so laity are appropriate to perform them but this paper will demonstrate that these are clerical functions.

It will be argued that while there is indeed a good case for the return to the laity of their role in the liturgical services, this does not mean taking over clerical functions but rather performing their proper parts in the services that are appointed for the laity. Many of these lay functions have, in the course of history, been assumed by the clergy for various reasons, and, in turn, these offices have been increasing performed by unordained laymen. This has resulted in a confusion of lay and clerical roles.

Another aspect that will be examined is the theological basis for the minor orders. It may be considered that the orders are merely functional and that they were established to ensure a quality of person that was capable of doing the function; thus, a Lector was to be capable of reading and a Cantor of singing. It will be argued in this paper that, while the clerical orders provide a mechanical function during the services, and this requires certain abilities, this function also has a theological or spiritual dimension that requires an ordination of the one performing the function, in a similar manner as ordination is required to the major orders of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon.



25 October, 2018

There seems to be a common school of thought that and exception to a canon permits more exceptions. However, the very nature of an exception is that it does not form a rule of practice but is a unique divergence from the normal rule. Thus, one should not be permitting further exceptions to a rule, unless one is of the same rank as that making the rule and there is further necessity for another exception.

The application for this is with canons such as not kneeling on Sundays, reception of converts without baptism, or presbyters ordaining minor clergy. Each of these has a canonical exception such that one may kneel while one is being ordained as deacon, presbyter, or bishop, or one may receive five different heresies without baptism, or an Abbot, as a presbyter, may ordain. Now, because one may kneel for ordination does not mean that one can then also kneel during the offering of the Eucharist or for the Lord’s Prayer, because these are not excepted by any canon and so one needs to follow the general rule of not kneeling. To do otherwise is to act with the same authority as the Father’s prescribing the canon and to overturn their rule. Only another council of the same authority can qualify a canon. This is true for receiving converts. They general rule is to baptise all those form heresy. There is an economy given for five heresies but that does not justify expanding those exceptions to other heresies excepting a suitable council authorise the exception. And this is true too for ordinations, only an Abbot may ordain minor clergy in his monastery and the exception cannot be given to a proto-presbyter without the further authorisation of an Ecumenical Council.

The application of exceptions is effectively failing to follow the rule. Once one begins to justify further exceptions to the canons then they quickly start to be undermined until they are no longer obeyed, which can result in confusion and scandal when those following the rule strictly come into contact with those having given themselves exceptions. The rule for kneeling for example was given so that there may be uniformity and the use of exceptions undoes the very purpose of the canon to prevent that.

So, one should not justify exceptions because of exceptions but follow the rule strictly and only permitting such exceptions as permitted by the Fathers.

Receiving converts – Canon 95

11 October, 2018

Canon 95 – Council of Trullo


This is a translation of Canon 95 into English in order to give it a more accurate reading than present translations. There are a number of Greek versions of this canon that vary regarding the final two or three sentences, which have caused some confusion as to their meaning. The Greek version used here is that from the Pendalion of St Nicodemus as in the 1864 version of the text.


Two English translations are commonly used. One is found in the Rudder (Cummings, 1957):

As for heretics who are joining Orthodoxy and the portion of the saved, we accept them in accordance with the subjoined sequence and custom. Arians and Macedonians and Novations, who called themselves Cathari and Aristeri, and the Tessarakaidekatitae, or, at any rate, those called Tetradites and Apolinarists, we accept, when they give us certificates (called libelli); and when they anathematize every heresy that does not believe as the holy catholic and Apostolic Church of God believes, and are sealed, i. e., are anointed first with holy myron on the forehead and the eyes, and the nose and mouth, and the ears, while we are anointing them and sealing them we say, “A seal of a gift of Holy Spirit.” As concerning Paulianists who have afterwards taken refuge in the Catholic Church, a definition has been promulgated that they have to be rebaptized without fail. As for Eunomians, however, who baptize with a single immersion, and Montanists who are hereabouts called Phrygians and Sabellians, who hold the tenet Hyiopatoria (or modalistic monarchianism) and do other embarrassing things; and all other heresies — for there are many hereabouts, especially those hailing from the country of the Galatians — as for all of them who wish to join Orthodoxy, we accept them as Greeks. Accordingly, on the first day, we make them Christians; on the second day, catechumens; after this, on the third day we exorcise them by breathing three times into their faces and into their ears. And thus we catechize them, and make them stay for a long time in church and listen to the Scriptures, and then we baptize them. As for Manicheans, and Valentinians, and Marcionists, and those from similar heresies, they have to give us certificates (called libelli) and anathematize their heresy, the Nestorians, and Nestorius, and Eutyches and Dioscorus, and Severus, and the other exarchs of such heresies, and those who entertain their beliefs, and all the aforementioned heresies, and thus they are allowed to partake of holy Communion.


And the other in Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series:


THOSE who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of certificates and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the holy Apostolic Church of God: then first of all we anoint them with the holy chrism on their foreheads, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears; and as we seal them we say—“The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

But concerning the Paulianists it has been determined by the Catholic Church that they shall by all means be rebaptized. The Eunomeans also, who baptize with one immersion; and the Montanists, who here are called Phrygians; and the Sabellians, who consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and are guilty in certain other grave matters, and all the other heresies—for there are many heretics here, especially those who come from the region of the Galatians—all of their number who are desirous of coming to the Orthodox faith, we receive as Gentiles. And on the first day we make them Christians, on the second Catechumens, then on the third day we exorcise them, at the same time also breathing thrice upon their faces and ears; and thus we initiate them, and we make them spend time in church and hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.

And the Manichæans, and Valentinians and Marcionites and all of similar heresies must give certificates and anathematize each his own heresy, and also Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and the other chiefs of such heresies, and those who think with them, and all the aforesaid heresies; and so they become partakers of the holy Communion.



Canon 95 is a amalgamation of previous canons almost verbatim, one inserted into the other and then new clauses are added at the end. The core of the canon is canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, within this is inserted the first sentence of canon 19 of the first Ecumenical Council. After this, there is added another section in addition to what had been decided in earlier canons. It is this addition that seems to cause problems for interpreting the canon. It is helpful though to remember that the canon is amalgamation of canons with an addition to the end to expand the canon.


The Greek of the amalgamated canon with added sentence(s) will be written below. Initially, it will be written as found in the Pendalion, of St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, and then rewritten with different punctuation. The translation will reflect the latter punctuation.


Τος προστιθμένους τρθοδοξία κατμερίδι τν σωζομένων, παρετικν δεχόμεθα καττν ποτεταγμένην κολουθίαν τε κασυνήθειαν, ρειανος μν καΜακεδονιανος, καΝαυτιανος, τος λέγοντας αυτος καθαρος καριστερος κατος Τεσσερασκαιδεκατίτας, γουν Τετραδίτας, καπολιναριστς δεχόμεθα, διδόντας λιϐέλλους, καναθεματίζοντας πσαν αρεσιν μφρονοσαν, ς φρονεγία τοΘεοΚαθολικκαποστολικκκλησί, σφραγιζομένους,τοι χρισμένους πρτον τγίΜύρτμέτωπον κατος φθαλος, κατς ρίνας κατστόμα καττα· κασφραγίζοντες ατος λέγομεν· Σφραγς δωρες Πνεύματος γίου. Περδτν Παυλιανιστν, ετα προσφυγόντων τκαθολικκκλησί, ρος κτέθειται, ναβαπτίζεσται ατος ξάπαντος. Ενομιανος μέντοι τος ες μίαν κατάδυσιν βαπτιζομένους, καΜοντανιστς τος νταθα λεγομένους Φρύγας, καΣαβελλιανος τος υοπατορίν δοξάζοντας, κατερά τινα χαλεπποιοτας, καπάσας τς λλας αρέσις, πειδπολλαί εσιν νταθα, μάλιστα οπτς Γαλατν χώρας ρχόμενοι, πάντας τος πατν θέλοντας προστίθεσθαι τρθοδξία, ς λληνας δεχόμεθα. Κατήν πρώτην μέραν, ποιομεν ατος Χριστιανος, τν δδευτέραν κατηχουμένους· ετα τν τρίτην ξορκίζομεν ατος μεττομφυσν τρίτον ες τπρόσωπον καες ττα, καοτω κατηχομεν ατος, καποιομεν χρονίζειν ν τκκλησίκακροσθαι τν Γραφν, κατότε ατος βαπτίζομεν. Κατος Μανιχαίους δ, κατος Οαλεντιανος, καΜαρκιονιστς κατος κ τν μοίων αρέσεων, χρποιεν λιϐέλλους, καναθεματίζειν τν αρεσιν ατν τος Νεστοριανος, καΝεστόριον, καΕτυχέα, καΔιόσκορον, καΣεβρον, κατος λοιπος ξάρχους τν τοιούτων αρέσεων, κατος φρονοωτας τατν καπάσας τς προαναφερομένας αρέσεις, καοτω μεταλαμβάνειν τς γίας Κοινωνίας.


The text found in the commentary of Balsamon (PG 137: 841C) has a full stop as in the second translation then a reordered following sentence attempting to make Nestorians a type of subject and the final clause is separated by an semi-colon:


…καποιομεν χρονίζειν ν τκκλησίκακροσθαι τν Γραφν, κατότε ατος βαπτίζομεν κατος Μανιχαίους δκατος Οαλεντιανος, καΜαρκιονιστς, κατος κ τν μοίων αρέσεων. Τος δΝεστοριανος χρποιεν λιϐέλλους, καναθεματίζειν τν αρεσιν ατν τος Νεστοριανος, καΝεστόριον, καΕτυχέα, καΔιόσκορον, καΣεβρον, κατος λοιπος ξάρχους τν τοιούτων αρέσεων, κατος φρονοωτας τατν καπάσας τς προαναφερομένας αρέσεις· καοτω μεταλαμβάνειν τς γίας κοινωνίας.


The text in Amilka Alivizatos[1](1949) does something similar but more extensively, naming the other heresies as subjects too, after a semicolon separating out the first part, which is extended to reinforce that those heresies are to be received by baptism then the final clause  is separated by a comma.


…καποιομεν χρονίζειν ν τκκλησίκακροσθαι τν Γραφν, κατότε ατος βαπτίζομεν. Κατος Μανιχαίους δ, κατος Οαλεντιανος, καΜαρκιονιστς, κατος κ τν μοίων αρέσεων, ς λληνας δεχόμενοι,ναβαπτίζομεν. Νεστοριανος δ, καΕτυχιανιστς, καΣεβριανος κατος κ τν μοίων αρέσεων χρποιεν λιϐέλλους, καναθεματίζειν τν αρεσιν ατν, καΝεστόριον, καΕτυχέα, καΔιόσκορον, καΣεβρον, κατος λοιπος ξάρχους τν τοιούτων αρέσεων, κατος φρονοωτας τατν καπάσας τς προαναφερομένας αρέσεις, καοτω μεταλαμβάνειν τς γίας κοινωνίας.


Finally as another reading, the Codex Barberini 336[2]does something similar to this with the Manichians included in those to be received as Greeks.


Νεστοριανος δκαΕτυχιανιστς χρποιεν λιϐέλλους, καναθεματίζειν τν αρεσιν, καΝεστόριον, καΕτυχέα, καΔιόσκορον, καΣεβρον, κατος φρονοωτας τατν καπάσας τς προαναφερομένας αρέσεις, καμεταλαμβάνειν τς γίας κοινωνίας.

Ενομιανος μέντοι τος ες μίαν κατάδυσιν βαπτιζομένους, καΜοντανιστς τος λεγομένους Φρύγας, καΜανιχαίους, καΣαβελλιανος τος υοπατορίν διδάσκοντας, κατερά τινα χαλεπποιοτας, καπάσας τς τοιαύτας αρσέις, γουν τος πατν θέλοντας προστίθεσθαι τληθεία, ς λληνας δεχόμεθα


 Now to rewrite the final sentence with alternate punctuation:


Κατος Μανιχαίους δ, κατος Οαλεντιανος, καΜαρκιονιστς, κατος κ τν μοίων αρέσεων. Χρποιεν λιϐέλλους, καναθεματίζειν τν αρεσιν ατν τος Νεστοριανος, καΝεστόριον, καΕτυχέα, καΔιόσκορον, καΣεβρον, κατος λοιπος ξάρχους τν τοιούτων αρέσεων, κατος φρονοωτας τατν καπάσας τς προαναφερομένας αρέσεις. Καοτω μεταλαμβάνειν τς γίας κοινωνίας.


Considering these the suggested translation of the entire canon in to English taking into account the recommended grammar to apply to the Greek is as follows:


We accept those from heresies being added to orthodoxy and to the portion of those being saved, according to both the service and custom submitted below. We accept Arians, indeed, and Macedonians and Novations, those calling themselves clean and Aristeri and the Fourteenists, considered Tetradites, and Apollinarists, giving documents and anathematising all heresies not thinking as thinks the holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of God, by sealing, that is by anointing first, by holy Myrrh, the forehead and the eyes and the nostrils and the mouth and the ears and sealing them saying: “Seal of gift of Holy Spirit”. And concerning the Paulanists, then taking refuge to the Catholic Church, a rule has been set forth to re-baptise them in every case. However, Eunomians, those baptising unto one immersion, and Montanists, those hereabouts called Phrygians, and Sabellians, those glorifying [teaching] son-father and doing other embarrassing things, and all the other heresies, for there are many hereabout, especially those coming from the Galatian region, all those from them willing to to be added to orthodoxy, we receive as Greeks. And the first day we make them Christians, and the second catechising them then, the third we exorcise them with the act of breathing thrice on their faces and then we baptise them. And also the Manichians and the Valentinians and Marconists, and those out of similar heresies. It is necessary to make documents and to anathematise their heresy, the Nestorians and Nestorius and Eutyches and Dioscorus, and Severus and the remaining exarchs of these heresies and those thinking their things, and all the aforementioned heresies. And thusly to partake of holy communion.


It will be noted that the sentence beginning: “And also the Manichians…” is written in the accusative case, thus the names of the heresies are not the subject of the sentence but the object. This would make this sentence something then adding these groups to the process described about rather than beginning a new thought. The Greek translation of Amilka Alivizatos (1949) captures this reading. So, that these heresies are also to be treated as Greeks and baptised. The version in PG along with the commentary of Theodore Balsamon also puts a full stop at the end of this sentence after similar heresies (τν μοίων αρέσεων).


This sentence then is an addition to the canon of the second Ecumenical Council to include three more heresies by name. These are added to the end of the canon rather than written into it. The Greek conjunctions beginning the sentence and the accusative case of the names of the heresies indicates that these heresies are to be included into the latter part of the canon instructing to baptise them on reception as continuing the application of the verb in the preceding sentence.

The next sentence begins with “[It is] necesssary”. The nouns used in the sentence are in accusative, so there is no apparent subject of the sentence. Some have taken the previous sentence to provide the subject(s) but these were also in the accusative case and belong to the previous instructions about baptising as seen. Rather a solution to this problem is that this sentence ending at “the aforementioned heresies” (τς προαναφερομένας αρέσεις), is an extension of the earlier instruction about documents (λιϐέλλους). This was added to both ensure that those being baptised also provided the documents and to include more heresies as necessary to be named in the documents. This explains why opposed heresies, Nestorians and Eutychesians (Monophysities), are required to be anathematised and that these were not only expected of the heresies mentioned within the documents. Thus, the sentence should begin in English with “It is” so as to provide a general rule for all those being received to provide such documents. The Greek reads as such naturally.


The final sentence or phrase, “And thusly to partake of holy Communion.” (Καοτω μεταλαμβάνειν τς γίας Κοινωνίας.) seems best to be regarded as not an ending to the sentence on the documents, which lacks any specific subject, but as a concluding sentence for the whole canon that once one is received by anointing or by baptism then they are able to partake of communion. This keeps the consistency of the canon with canon 1 of St Basil the Great, in which he decrees that all those received into the Church whether baptised or not must be anointed with the Chrism. Thus, this sentence should be punctuated as a separate sentence in its own right.


Overall, the canon is consistent with other canons, such as Apostolic canon 47, that require re-baptism of converts from heresy as the predominant and default position, “all the other heresies … we receive as Greeks”. There are five excepted groups: Arians, Macedonians, Novations, Tetradites and Apollinarists only requiring chrismation, which is consistent with the economy expressed by St Basil in his first canon, who also states that rebaptism of heretics is the default position. In practice, it seems, following Codex Barberini and the wording of the canon in other collections that Nestorians and Eutychians may have been received only with documents anathematising their heresy among others. This practice, though, is inconsistent with the rest of the Tradition, but the wording of canon 95 being rather unclear in its last part may be to blame for this. Certainly, the reading of the Rudder extending this practice to Manichians and Valentinians and Marconists is not the received practice, which is to baptise them.

[1]ΑμἰλκαΣ. Αλιβιζάτου,ΟἱΙεροὶΚανόνεςκαὶοἱΕκκλησιαστικοὶΝόμοι, (Ἀθῆναι:ἈποστολικῆςΔιακονίας, 1949), p. 114.

[2]L’Eucologio Barberini GR. 336, Stefano Parenti and Elena Velkovska eds., (Rome: CLV-Edizioni Liiturgiche, 1995), p. 155.

Politics, Papism, or the Rule of Law?

11 October, 2018

Before launching into a critique of ecclesiological ideas manifest in the issue in Ukraine, I first want to say with the talk of canons, that the relationship of hierarchs and the relation of Churches is a matter subject to Holy Tradition. It is governed by the canons and rules of the Holy Fathers as they were inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit to set them forth for us. It appears, though, in practice that the matter is governed more by politics and power plays than by obedience to the Fathers. Given our fallen condition, this is undoubtedly going to happen, but nevertheless through the talk of canons, there remains an awareness of the Tradition and the rules that govern relations and it is to these that the article is directed. With politics there are few rules, and should one believe that is how Christ intends us to run His church then may the best patriarch win. However, for those who believe that the Church is governed by the rule of law as manifesting Christ’s continuing headship of the Church, then please read on.


It is attempted herein to explore the canonical claims of the Ecumenical Patriarch to act in Ukraine. An interview with Archbishop Job (Getcha), posted on the site Panorthodox Synodin English, will provide a helpful starting point.


When answering the question, “What special privileges or functions does the Ecumenical Patriarch have…?”, Archbishop Job replied:


The Ecumenical Patriarch is not only one among the patriarchs in the Orthodox Church. He is not only “the first among equals”. Incidentally, the Latin formula “primus inter pares” is nowhere to be found in Orthodox Church law, which, on the contrary, refers to the “seniority of honour” (presbeia timês), indicating a certain hierarchy or at least some sort of order. Having this “seniority of honour” according to the sacred canons, the Ecumenical Patriarch, as the “head” and “protos” in the Orthodox Church, must ensure the unity of the Local Churches and coordinate them… Furthermore, according to canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right to accept appeals (ekkliton) from clerics and bishops (including those from other Local Churches). He also has the right to establish stavropegia (including those on the territory of other Local Churches).


We know from the canons of the Church (2ndEC: canon 3; 4thEC: canon 28; 6thEC: canon 36) that Constantinople, as New Rome, was given the same authority and privileges that Old Rome had among the Churches. We also know that Old Rome was the first See of the Church and this position was manifest in a number of ways that were beyond the normal duties of a bishop, metropolitan or even a patriarch—the three layers of the Church episcopal hierarchy. There is a good case that one of these privileges was to hear appeals from anywhere with evidence that Rome dealt with cases on appeal even from eastern Churches. Constantinople is given the same right, as claimed in the interview above, and this seems justified on the evidence available, such as canons 9, 17 and 28 of the 4thEcumenical Council. Further, St Leo the Great (Letter 14: To Anastasius, Bishop Of Thessalonica) also speaks of the Churches converging onto one See, Rome, for the unity of the Churches; thus, this privilege should also properly belong to New Rome because the need remains, even if Old Rome ceased to maintain the role.


It appears to me that the See of Rome played an essential role for the unity of the Churches and that that role continues today in Constantinople, which should truly be understood as the See of Rome with all the same powers and functions as Old Rome. This is a position that no other patriarch can hold but only that of Rome, which is why the Fathers stressed that Constantinople was New Rome. While Old Rome remained in the Church, it took priority over New Rome, which came second to her, but since the fall of Old Rome, Constantinople, as New Rome, exercises all the privileges of Rome as the first (even head) of the Churches; “Ecumenical Patriarch” is more than a pretty name.


Let’s develop this last point further. There is a major lack of unity in the Orthodox Church at present; it is not seen as one Church but as a number of different Churches. This, I believe, is largely due to the degradation of the patriarchs to national Church leaders, which is properly the level of a metropolitan, as in Ukraine. The patriarchs should be transnationalas a function of unifying national Churches and preserving Church Tradition, rather than being subject to issues of a single nation. There is also need for a bishop, inclusive of flock, to stand ahead of the others as a type of universal witness to the unity of all Churches as One Church. Whatever else may be said about the situation in Old Rome, it is considered a single ecclesiastical body, whereas the world thinks of the Orthodox Churches as separate national Churches that are united by long beards.


What is lacking among the Orthodox Catholic Churches is a consistent universal recognition in Tradition of a first See as being an unchanging centre of unity of one Church, although neither as lord over them nor immune to heresy. Compounding the matter is the disobedience to the ancient principle that each bishop, metropolitan, or patriarch has a fixed geographical territory and that there is only one of each in each territory. This principle is crucial because it prevents the Church from becoming identified with human characteristics, such as ethnicity and class, and thus denying each local Church to be the Catholic Church, the fullness of the Christian faithful in all times and places, in each place encompassing all nations and classes in itself. The principle, enshrined in the holy canons such as canon 2 of the 2ndEcumenical Council, states that bishops are not to act outside their territory, nor metropolitans outside their territory, nor patriarchs outside their territory, that is, not to interfere in the territory of others. These territories need to be defined and respected, or rather, they have been largely defined by the Fathers and we need to keep them intact. Only mission work into undefined areas, such as territory of barbarian nations, can modify territorial boundaries of a patriarchate, but should not cross into the territory of another patriarch. Mission should be coordinated at the patriarchal level because it transcends the national or regional boundaries of the metropolitans.


Each patriarch can conduct mission into barbarian lands, as clearly seen in the history of the Church, not just Constantinople. Nevertheless, patriarchs’ mission work should be within definite parameters too, such as arguably: Antioch to the East until China and even to Australasia; Russia to the North including north China, Japan, Korea; and Alexandria to Africa. Mission should continue contiguous with territory and not disconnected to distant continents. If, as in the Balkans in the ninth century, two patriarchs have reasonable claim to the same territory for mission, then let the locals choose whom they will. Also, since the schism with Old Rome, New Rome should be locum tenens for the former’s patriarchal territory of Western Europe because this territory is already defined in relation to the Church and in principle territorial boundaries should not be changed once set. Therefore the boundaries set by Old Rome as Patriarch in union with the Church should be recognised today and, because the territory is properly the jurisdiction of Old Rome, only Constantinople, as (New) Rome, has a position to be locum tenens for this to maintain the territorial principle. The Americas are an interesting case because if Old Rome had remained in the Church it would have been the main mission patriarch there, at least in the south. Northern and western America had legitimate missions from Russia, so that jurisdiction has legitimate claim, or rather the OCA as continuing the mission but granted independence from the Patriarch of Moscow. There needs to be a discussion as to where a line should be drawn to demark north, Russian northern patriarchate, and south America, western patriarchal terriotory, and again local communities should choose a jurisdiction with reasonably arguable competing claims. No other patriarch should conduct Church activity anywhere without the permission of the territorial patriarch, and only he should establish bishops and parishes, and these should conform to ancient boundaries.


These “troublesome” rules are there to ensure that there is the presence of one Church for all peoples and not a mess of national Churches appointing numerous bishops to the same city as if the other is not, which means Churches are so identified with their national origin that locals joining the Orthodox Catholic Church, the ark of salvation, have to change their nationality in the process because one cannot be saved unless one is [insert nation here.] This even degenerates to Church affiliation being categorized by nationality and not by faith and Tradition. However, if the patriarchates and the Ecumenical Patriarch were respected as transnational then the growth of parishes in Western Europe could start to develop a local character and leadership opening the door for local converts to be local while still catering to the needs of various Orthodox nationalities to worship in a familiar language.


Sadly, the canonical norm of territory was not respected, in favour of the heretical concept of nationality and confusion, as ensued with the world looking on, thus denying the Church as simply ethnic tribalism. Then when children in new lands leave a nation to join the new nation in which they live, they leave the Church too as part of the old nation rather than being part of the new, as it should be. Finally here, the structure of hierarchies as set by the Ecumenical Councils, that is ordered by God through the Fathers, is not open to change. This, like territory, is important to maintain peace, stability, and unity. Arguments over being head will only lead to strife and division and the eventual downfall of the Church, just as civil wars rupture a nation as contenders grasp for rule. The only reason for a lack of continuity in the structure is heresy, such as with Old Rome. Otherwise, the order of the bishops should remain the same until the last day.
Having said that, it is imperative that each nation should have its own synod of bishops to reflect its local national and ethnic identity and needs. This is very important, as the faith does not reject national identity or character, nor does it impose one nationality, but allows each nation to reflect itself in the local Church just as each individual is not conformed to a single character but remains himself, even as united in one body in Christ. There is a danger, though, of the Church being confused with nation and returning to the Jewish situation of identifying the chosen people with a particular ethnic or national group. The Church rather must be seen as above nations, as having a common Tradition applicable to all nations, and as such the patriarchs were give continental-sized jurisdictions over many areas to unite the local Churches of each nation as one. We see this particularly with Old Rome and with Antioch in their vast territories and how they managed the Churches there of many nations,even giving some independencesuch as the Patriarch of Antioch gave to the Church in Georgia in 1010AD; this is evidently a right of each patriarch, not only a right of Rome (Old or New). The Patriarch of Moscow was also called upon to grant independence to Kiev in 1991. (However, Archbishop Job states: “In addition to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the history of the Orthodox Church, no other Local Church has proclaimed autocephaly…  the Orthodox Church in Russia does not have such a prerogative of providing autocephaly”, ignoring the granting of autocephaly by Antioch. Then he answers the question: “Is it possible to consider that the current difficult condition of separation of Ukrainian Orthodoxy is the result of the fact that at one time the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) ignored the appeal of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP) of 1991 regarding autocephaly?Archbishop Job: In my opinion yes!” thus agreeing the MP had the right to grant autocephalous status, so his confusion further undermines his statement opposed to the evidence.) The Patriarch of Alexandria is now recognized over the whole continent of Africa, although, in earlier times, Carthage managed northwest Africa with Rome. Among the patriarchs, Rome was singled out further as the first See and had extra rights to maintain unity among the patriarchs, lest the Church rupture into different Churches or start forming different Traditions. Sadly, Old Rome went on its own way in this until its divergence from the other patriarchs was too great to maintain unity in both faith and practice. As we have seen, God’s providence maintained the rights and privileges of Rome within the Church as they continued with New Rome.


Having accepted that the bishop of Rome was the first and had privileges in this regard, these privileges were also limited to protect the rights of other patriarchs, metropolitans and bishops. This is where there is an issue with the comments of Archbishop Job, who said, “But within the framework of conciliarity, the church canons emphasise that the first (protos) has the responsibility to convoke the synod (or council), and others have the duty to take part in it.” Here it seems that he is claiming that the Ecumenical Patriarch is protos of some form of ecumenical synod that he can call to council and that they have a duty to come; he is set over all the bishops of the Church with authority over them all. This is surprising and there is no evidence of such a right, even with Old Rome before the Schism; its claim to such right lies at the heart of the Schism.


Archbishop Job says that this authority comes from Apostolic Canon 34. However, this canon, as it says itself, applies to metropolitan synods as among each nation or region. While the patriarch stands above these synods, he cannot interfere with the affairs within each metropolis other than to ordain its head: They were autonomous and managed themselves. The patriarch’s jurisdiction only applied to matters beyond those of a particular metropolis, such as missions from them, as well as ordaining the metropolitan alone, and hearing appeals. We see clearly in Canon 28 of Chalcedon that, after confirming the overall rank of Constantinople as New Rome, then went on to limit its actions as patriarch and commanded it to stay out of the business of the metropolises under it. They were to ordain their own bishops and manage their own affairs. The canon was written to properly limit the authority of New Rome, which was being abused. Rome did not have unrestrained authority.


Thus, the application of Canon 34 beyond the scope of a metropolitan council needs to be seen in the context of the limitations on the rights of a patriarch: The bishops under him don’t form one synod to call by the canon but represent a number of synods, each with its own head; the rights of this head cannot be infringed upon or taken by another bishop, even the patriarch. So, Canon 34 is really limited to within a metropolitan context and fails at a patriarchal level, let alone a universal level, unless one is to suggest that the Bishop of Rome had a council of patriarchs under him. There is no evidence to support this at all, let alone the right to call an Ecumenical Council. In this, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in error and this type of authority was claimed by Rome post-Schism and contrary to Orthodox Catholic teaching on the rights of bishops as seen in the canons. It amounts to an ecclesiological heresy as a false teaching on the rights of Rome contrary to the testimonies of the Fathers.


Reinforcing this point, each patriarch was a final court of appeal. Rome could be appealed to instead of a patriarch, but not froma patriarch. This is seen in canons 4:9 and 4:17, in which appeal is allowed to the exarch or to New Rome. It was an either or choice. Once the appeal went to the exarch it could not then go on to New Rome. This indicates that the Ecumenical Patriarch was not above the other patriarchs but played a universal role among them. He did not ordain them nor form a regular synod with them. There was no such regular synod in the history of the Church and the synods with the presence of the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, when they resided permanently in Constantinople, are exceptions due to circumstances rather than being precedent for a rule.


We can see from the evidence that Ecumenical Councils were called by the emperor and not by the Bishop or Rome (Old or New) although they could ask the emperor to call the council because he had the authority as secular ruler to force obedience from all bishops of the “world” to attend. (One must understand positions and relations In the Church in symbolic ways, grounded in tangible structures but not bound to them, but drawing symbolic value from them, such as the universal rule of the emperor, despite it being limited in matter of fact.) No bishop, even of Rome, had the authority to command all bishops to gather together for the reason given above. In this matter, the Moscow Patriarch has good grounds to resist the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


St Gregory the Great refutes such power, of being the single head of all, lest this single head lead the whole Church into heresy by command. So, while being the first head of the Church, the power of Rome was limited to prevent such an event. This issue expresses the model of the Church set in the RavennaDocument (Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, 2007), where the three layers of bishop, metropolitan and patriarch are said to be bishop, regional (patriarch) and universal(bishop of Rome). This reflects post-Schism papal ideas and the distortion of the structure in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This in itself almost justifies the claims of “papal heresy.” So too, as an aside, any claims to change the canons of the Church, such as permitting widowed priests to remarry or intermarriage of Orthodox with non-Orthodox. Perhaps on the quiet these things happen in the hidden economy of the Church, but no change in rule should be publicly applied, else we change our Tradition and follow down the path into barely recognizable Christian worship and piety.

Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch does have an important role with real authority for the unity of the churches that is inalienable from the See of New Rome and this needs to be respected. However, there are limits to this authority to protect the Churches from one head leading them away from Tradition, as happened in Old Rome, and to respect each one’s proper jurisdiction. The privileges to call an Ecumenical Council or to interfere without an appeal in the affairs of autocephalous Churches are not among his privileges nor has he right to modify the canons of the Church. These recent claims are troubling and post-Schism-papist in character. The balance of authority and restraint needs to be kept for the well-being of the Church, and this balance is maintained by carefully obeying all the canons that the Fathers established to guide and protect us. We need to tread the thin line between politics and papism by remaining under the rule of law, or rather the rule of Christ, our Head, Whose will is testified to by the holy canons.

Also, somewhere, I would note, as you ssaid in our chats that Abp. Job “then contradicts himself in implying that MP failed to do so in 1989-92 so created the problem” – failed to give autocephaly

Testimonies of God

2 February, 2016

I have thought for a while why the commandments of God are also known as the testimonies of God. This seems a strange name for them and, in one Canon, its use this term rather than commandments for the canons seemed to carry less force for the need of obedience. However, recently an understanding has dawned on me about the significance of the use of testimonies for the canons. It rather fits in very well with something that I have thought to be true for sometime and it confirms this thought more strongly than the use of the word commandments does. What is this understanding?

The understanding is that the testimonies of God are the witness of God. They testify to the presence of God. Thus, the canons are not merely arbitrary rules or rules to manage a human organisation or system but they are rules that testify to the presence of God. They provide a tangible means of knowing God and of guiding us to live and act in a way that testifies to God’s presence in the Church. This gives the canons much more weight than the idea of arbitrary commandments. Rather, they are the framework of the door through which God is present in the Church in various ways. Just as God did not become Incarnate through any woman but only through the purest virgin, so too God is not present in the Church through any structure or way of life but only through that which He has determined as proper to Himself. These rules are not so much about man qua man but about man qua God. Thus, the rules are required to have God present in man. Because God is unchanging and always the same, these rules too take on an unchanging quality so that the one same God is properly able to be present in the Church and in each of us. They are testimonies of Him and His life and not of ours. They do not change through time because He does not change through time. The Incarnation gives the commandments of God and the testimonies of God even more force than in the Old Testament because God is more fully present in tangible man having taken humanity to Himself and united us to it through baptism and the Eucharist. The form of the door is now fixed as Christ, in both His divinity and humanity, and so the framework cannot change else it will not be fit for the door.

The Great and Holy Council?

30 January, 2016

The proposed Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church is unlike any previous council of the Church. It has had a long period of preparation unlike previous councils but this is not the main issue of concern. The procedure for the Council is unlike any previous Council. The votes are only for each “autocephalous” church and not for every bishop in attendance. This then is not at Ecumenical Council but a council of “Patriarchs” and, while there have previously been non-ecumenical councils involving all the Patriarchs, this type of council has previously been unknown in the Orthodox Church. The Church has no formal institution of a council of Patriarchs and it is important that it does not have such a council. Such a council would imply a permanent head of that council and so head of the whole Church. If this head was to fall into heresy then the whole Church is in danger of going with him. Such a head also has the normal conciliar right to ordain the other members of the council. This is the papal position but unknown and moreover rejected by the bishops of the East. Nevertheless, the Ecumenical Patriarch is not, yet, claiming such a thing but the type of council being called here and its way of procedure is a step in this direction and undermines the ecclesiology of the Church. An Ecumenical Council for this reason cannot be called by a Patriarch or Pope but only by a secular ruler of the “world” who commands the bishops of the “world” to come together to proclaim the common faith of the Church. In this manner, while the bishop of precedence is the “chairman” of the Council, all the other bishops are equal without the priorities of Metropolitans and Patriarchs taking their normal place. Thus, the equality of bishops qua bishop is shown to its fore in this assembly and this allows a true unanimity of faith among  them. The command of the emperor overrides the hierarchal structure of the metropolitans and patriarchs to open the way for the equal representation of the bishops. This would not be the case if the council is called by a Patriarch or Pope who could only do so by his authority within the structure. Without even deciding anything, this council is not one within the Tradition of the Church.  This forebodes badly for the rest of the council. More troubling is that it will claim an authority over the Church in implementing its decisions that it does not have and should not have. This is a recipe for schism and division, the very thing that this “so-called” council is trying to overcome.

Turning to its proposed findings. There are 5 areas that the council wants to address: 1) how the granting of autonomy is to be managed; 2) the mission of the Church in the modern world; 3) the relations of the Church with other “Christian” groups; 4) marriage impediments; and 5) fasting rules.

The first matter does need addressing in that it is causing quite some problems with Church internal unity. However, the intention is more of a procedural matter and could have been better addressed in some form of accord. One may ask though, what is this fairly recent concept of granting autonomy? Such a thing is really not in keeping with the structure and ecclesiology of the Church depending on how this is understood. It portrays another problem within the Church in its understanding of the hierarchal relationships. Rather than returning to the Tradition, this council merely puts in a procedure that gives some form of legitimacy to the present potential deviation from Tradition and the council may rather solidify a way of thinking that is foreign to the Church.

The second matter is the so-called mission to the world. This is a completely unnecessary issue. The Church is to proclaim the Gospel to the world to bring souls into union with Christ. The Church does this through its teaching and way of life. This council is in danger of surrendering the Gospel to the ways of this world and becoming an institution of the world speaking to the world about worldly concerns. The language used is more consistent with secular human rights speak than that of the Gospel and the Fathers. This is far better left out of the council and offers nothing to the faithful that is not already known and it doesn’t even contribute to any unity of the Church.

The third matter is relations to other “Christian” groups. This seems to tie the Church into the heretically inspired WCC and into a process of ecumenism. It even condemns proselytising heretics. Surely the mission of the Church is to snatch heretics from their error and not to give them a sense of being in Christ and that their differences are only a matter of discipline rather than of faith and piety. This should most definitely not be enshrined into some form of official Church teaching. This will certainly cause a deepening rift in the Church and harden the split with the OC churches which should not be ignored in the desire for unity. It will also give grave concern to those who have remained with the Church hierarchs but are opposed to ecumenical behaviour on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the Tradition of the Church. Again, the decision that is being suggested is not helpful to the Church and best left alone if not expelled from the thoughts of those proposing it.

The fourth matter is about marriage impediments. The proposed decision enshrines a particular understanding of marriage and impedes other ways of understanding the mystery. This is again dangerous. There is only one change in the canons but it is very important. As recognised in the proposed decision, the canons strictly forbid marriage with non-Orthodox. The proposed agreement changes this strict position without citing a particular necessity for any particular case. There is only a rule that the children must be baptised in the Orthodox Church. However, marriage is a mystery of the Church and there is much more at stake in the Canons of the Fathers forbidding marriage with heretics. One understanding, which is not addressed, is that there is no marriage union outside the Church because marriage union requires both partners to be Orthodox. The only economy for necessity is in the case of one of a couple converting to Orthodoxy while the other refuses to do so and, rather than split the marriage, it is permitted to remain, especially for the children. This is an economy rather than a sense of true union of marriage, which is seen in that if the non-Orthodox partner wishes to depart then the Orthodox faithful is not bound to the marriage. The proposed decision, in this understanding, means that many faithful will end in relationships in which they do not participate in the mystery of marriage. This decision will also see a watering down of the faith among the faithful and children and increase the position of those who wish to deny that heretics are separated from the Church. The rule against non-Christians remains strict but there is nothing to determine what the boundaries are of what is a Christian. Are Mormons Christian? If not why not? Then what about “Jesus only” pentecostals? What of liberal Anglicans that may deny the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ? The Fathers have always either spoken of all heretics as one group or, if economy is to be measured to them, mentioned each by name. Again, this is the first formal change of a canon of an Ecumenical Council, without a specific necessity being provided for a qualification to meet that need. This is contrary to the spirit of the Fathers and Tradition of the Church. Again, it adds little to present practice and undermines those wishing to remain faithful to the Tradition of the Church.

The fifth matter is on fasting. The decision maintains the fasting rules of the Church and adds nothing to what has been said before other than to apply the canons with economy, which is already been done. This is a pointless decision that does nothing to enhance unity in the Church but, at least, helps to reinforce maintaining fasting as in the past, which is its one positive.

In summary, this council fails to be a council within the Tradition of the Church even before it decides anything. Then, its decisions themselves fail to conform to the Tradition of the Church.  The decisions provide nothing of necessity to the faithful and will not improve unity but rather increase internal division.


25 January, 2016

Having begun Ronald Dworkin’s, Justice for Hedgehogs, I noticed that he treats the view of God and morality in a shallow manner of a school boy approaching the ten commandments for the first time. Morality is set but God from on high as some form of arbitrary rules that are obeyed in grudging faith. Yet, how far this is from the truth of morality for the Christian. Indeed, the infant Christian is trained on obeying the rules of God so he can be trained into the right way of experiencing morality and the way of God because these things are not quickly perceived through the desires of the flesh and delights of this life. After the initial period of training, the obedient student comes to know the way of the Lord and even quickly moves through the desire of reward for doing what God wants and even beyond doing it because God wants. He comes to know the ways of God initially expressed in the rules as being the true ways of man and hence the meaning of being in the image and likeness of God. He does these things because he loves them and experiences the true rightness of these things and even transcends the rules to know the essence of the matter in his relationships with others. Thus, he even at times infringes the letter of the rules because rules are not capable of legislating for every nuance of life, even though we require them as infants to train us on the right path; one cannot gain knowledge of the truth of morality without passing through the path of obedience and those that are mature must never lesson the fear of God for beginners to obey least they deprive them of the truth to be gained.

Christianity and belief in God does not ground morality in rules that God, seemingly for arbitrary torture, gives to man but understands that morality is blueprint that free and responsible persons require to relate well to others in free consent. Freedom means that morality is not something hardwired into humanity but rather it comes in the form of rules and intuitions that may be moulded and shaped by cultural and even distorted but it is nevertheless something that requires the free consent of man. Thus, a man denying the existence of God can still be moral and have good morality. Christianity neither denies this nor that morality can be understood without God. However, Christians recognise that man is not able to fully live as morality would have him and that the full fruits of morality cannot be realised in this life terminated by mortality. Christianity gives the moral man hope and reward not in pleasing God but in being able to continue to love all more deeply and perfectly with the full capacity of true moral relationships in their depth, length, width and time.

Vestments and Nationality

20 September, 2012

Here is a presentation given at a conference of the Orthodox Theological Research Forum recently held in Oxford:

Vestments in UK and US