After the failure of last year’s US-backed meeting of some Orthodox bishops in Crete, representing less than 85% of the Orthodox faithful, the rejection of that meeting by many who were present yet whose signatures were on documents which they had not signed, and the general non-reception of those documents throughout the Church, where does the Church go now? After all, the essential lesson of the failed meeting was that the elderly bishops in their 70s and 80s, who had fixed the agenda, still thinking in terms of the old-fashioned, Vatican II-style 1960s, have still to learn about the reality of Church life. This is that they are to represent the bimillennial Faith, not private political agendas.
Those Orthodox bishops who in their old age are still marked by the decadent 1960s (they often studied in Catholic and Protestant Universities in Western Europe at that time) appear to be confused about the role of the Church. Some of them want Her to become a mere nationalist branch of the Vatican or become some Protestant sect, seeing Her as a depository for Balkan history and folklore and banning missionary work by refusing to accept other nationalities and heterodox into Her, especially in the Western world. We can call this peculiar, provincial view ‘Balkanism’. Clearly, in the global world in which we live, this is so old-fashioned and parochial as to be laughable.
However, more seriously, this is also a heresy. The heresy in question is ecclesiological: it is the refusal, inherent in Balkanism, to recognize the Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, but to see Her only as Divided, Secular, Separated from the Universal Church and without Apostolic Tradition. This heresy believes that the Church is divided into nationalistic institutions, each vying with one another to possess the highest Cathedral in the Balkans, controlled by US-appointed Patriarchs and puppet Balkan governments, that She can act in isolation from and without reference to the rest of the Church both in time and in space, and without reference to the Apostolic Tradition.
It seems to us that the time has come for the Patriarch of by far the biggest Local Church, the Russian Orthodox Church with 75% of the faithful and a thousand monasteries, to call a Council of the whole Church to condemn this heresy. Statements on the identity of the Church, One and not Divided, Holy and not Secular, Catholic and not Provincial, Apostolic and not Modernistic, would bring dogmatic and pastoral clarity to the issues raised by the Cretan farce and give elderly and confused bishops the opportunity to retire quietly or else be defrocked in disgrace. Now is the time for lucidity in order to reassure the faithful that they are represented by bishops who are Orthodox in faith.