I can remember in the 1970s a modernist priest of the Parisian School declaring that ‘just as the Catholics had to ‘modernise’ at the Second Vatican Council, so too the same would happen with the Orthodox’. Tragically, that priest later gave up the priesthood and committed suicide. Nevertheless, after over 50 years of talk, a Council of all the Orthodox Churches is being planned for 2016. So was that priest right?
No, he was profoundly wrong. And for the following reasons:
First of all, nobody knows whether that Council will actually take place. In the highly politicized environment of the Orthodox world, in which the USA and the EU are continually meddling, for example in Syria and the Ukraine, nothing is certain. True, the Russian Church is now free, but some of the EU Local Churches are not; in fact two Local Churches have Patriarchs appointed by the CIA. What hope is there for a free Council in such conditions? At present there are free Local Churches and those that are not free.
Secondly, at present this will not be a Council of all Orthodox (‘Pan’- Orthodox in Greek) because the Czechoslovak Church is at present not taking part. Until the Church of Constantinople frees itself from its imperialistic policies, there is little hope for a resolution of this problem.
Thirdly, a Council can be summoned, but it cannot be recognized as a Council until its decisions have been ‘received’ by the people of God. Until that time, it is only a meeting or conference.
Fourthly, it has already been agreed that no decision taken at the Council will contradict the Tradition of the Church and that all Local Churches un catholicity (in Catholicism there is no such real concept, only monolithic papist centralization) will have to be unanimous regarding any decision taken. This is perhaps the most important factor which heterodox cannot get their heads around. In the Orthodox Church there is no centralizing Pope, who can freely flaunt Church Tradition and the Church Councils, that is, who can contradict the Holy Spirit, as happened at the Second Vatican Council, where political appointees, bureaucrats and hirelings ruled the day.
Whether an All-Orthodox Council will take place or not is by no means certain. However, it may do and it may also be a very positive Council, with the affirmation of the Truths of Orthodox Christianity, of which the apostatic heterodox world is in so desperate need.