I am First without equals: Pat. Bartholomew decided to change ecclesiology
The head of Phanar said that the Orthodox need to revise ecclesiology of the Church and recognize that there is a First with "special powers" in it. What does it imply?
A person can, for one reason or another, hide his true worldview, his beliefs and his goals from others. But there are times when he reveals them, displays them to everyone, without any scruples positions himself as he actually sees it. In English, this phenomenon is called "coming out".
Patriarch Bartholomew, who has repeatedly stated that he and the Patriarchate of Constantinople headed by him are the keepers of the purity of Orthodoxy, the dogmas of faith and the canons of the Church, now declares that this has to be changed. Not everything, of course, but the dogma about the Church and everything that follows from this position – for sure. Such self-exposure occured in an interview of National Herald with Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of his stay on the throne of Constantinople.
When asked respectively, "What is your soul worried about most regarding the Universal Orthodox Church?", Patriarch Bartholomew replied as follows:
“Of course, about its unity, for the sake of which the Ecumenical Patriarchate has done a lot over the centuries, and from the first months of my Patriarchal service I attached great importance to it, hence in March 1992 I invited my Brothers-Orthodox Primates to Phanar to the Holy Synod in the form of an advisory body, unofficial and unknown until then.
Since then, a lot of similar meetings of the Primates have been held, the last of which took place in January 2016 in Geneva. The culmination of our efforts to ensure pan-Orthodox unity and cooperation was the facilitation of the preparation and convocation of the Holy and Great Synod in Crete, which mainstreamed Orthodoxy, which boldly gave good testimonies to the world, looked forward to the future and did not passively and nostalgically remember the past.
Those who did not participate in this Synod, but participated in its preparation, will be judged by history. In any case, I am sure that they will not receive praise for this act of theirs.
We Orthodox Christians must subject ourselves to self-criticism and reconsider our ecclesiology if we do not want to become a federation of Protestant Churches.
Since in our Episcopal ordination we swear to obey the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, we must recognize that in the indivisible Ecumenical Orthodoxy there is a “First”, not only in honor, but also a “First” with special responsibilities and regular powers entrusted by the Ecumenical Councils.
This guarantees for the preservation of unity in time and a common witness of Orthodoxy in the modern world."
We Orthodox Christians must reconsider our ecclesiology if we do not want to become a federation of Protestant Churches.
How did the Church Fathers view those who proposed revising its ecclesiology?
We will begin to analyze this statement with the most important thing: "We, the Orthodox, must subject ourselves to self-criticism and reconsider our ecclesiology ..."
Orthodox ecclesiology is manifested by one of the lines in the Creed: "I believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."
The Orthodox Church is alien to the teaching about the evolution of dogmas, their modification or some kind of additional implications. The dogmas of the Church are immutable, no matter what authority the person wishing to “improve” may have and no matter what goals he pursues. The Holy Apostle Paul wrote to Galatians: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1: 8-10).
The revision, as well as the addition or omission of any line of the Niceo-Constantinople Creed is strictly prohibited by the Ecumenical Councils.
Acts 5 of the IV Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon (451) says that those who dare to either form another faith, or preach, or teach, or profess another creed to those who wish to turn to the knowledge of truth from paganism, or from Judaism, or from whatever heresy, those, if they are bishops or clergy, bishops shall be alienated from the episcopate, and clergy – from the clergy; if there are monastics or laymen, let them be anathematized.
Acts 18 of the 6th Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (681) further reinforces this prohibition, focusing on the impossibility of even a textual change in the Creed.
We must recognize that in the indivisible Ecumenical Orthodoxy there is a “First”, not only in honor, but also a “First” with special responsibilities and regular powers entrusted by the Ecumenical Councils.
Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew, when saying about the need to revise the dogma of the Church, defined himself "to be alien to the episcopacy."
Now let's see what exactly he wants to change in the Orthodox ecclesiology.
Answering the question about what his soul is most worried about in relation to the Church, Patriarch Bartholomew answers: “about Her unity”. Indeed, the Church of Christ is One and this unity must be protected. But the question arises: unity around what? Or otherwise, what is the unity of the Church based on? Both the Holy Scriptures and Patriarch Bartholomew give different answers to these questions.
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1Cor. 3:11).
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2: 19-21).
The Lord Himself told the Apostle Peter that the Church stands on the confession of faith, which was pronounced by Peter – the faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16: 15-18).
In his High Priestly Prayer, our Lord Jesus Christ prays precisely for the unity of believers in the Holy Trinity and in nothing else: “... may all be one, as You, Father, in Me, and I in You, so they may be one in Us - let the world believe that You sent Me ”(John 17:21).
The Church has as its foundation and head Jesus Christ: "... Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the body" (Eph. 5:23).
Holy Scripture also speaks of the Holy Spirit as the basis of the unity of the Church: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Eph. 4:1-6).
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
Nowhere in Scripture is there a word that unity is understood as subordination to a single administrative center of church authority. There is no reference to "special responsibilities and regular powers" anywhere. Not a single apostle of Christ has ever had or sought them.
What does the head of Phanar propose?
Contrary to these and many other testimonies of Holy Scripture, Patriarch Bartholomew proposes to base the unity of the Church on ... himself, i.e. on the primacy of power of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Here is what he says: “... we must recognize that in the indivisible Ecumenical Orthodoxy there is a “First”, not only in honor, but also a “First” with special responsibilities and regular powers entrusted by the Ecumenical Councils.This guarantees for the preservation of unity in time and a common witness of Orthodoxy in the modern world."
Consequently, the guarantee of unity, according to Patriarch Bartholomew, is not a common confession of faith, not our Lord Jesus Christ and not the Holy Spirit, but this very "First" with special responsibilities and regular powers. "This teaching is really novel and completely alien to the Holy Scriptures and the history of the Church. Nowhere in Scripture is there a word that unity is understood as subordination to a single administrative center of church authority. There is no mention of "special responsibilities and regular powers" anywhere. Not a single apostle of Christ has ever had or sought them. Even the Apostle Peter, who is called the First Supreme in the Church (however, on a par with the Apostle Paul). Orthodox theologians proved this back in the era of disputes over the primacy of the Roman bishop.
There is also not a single canon of the Ecumenical Councils to endow the Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as any other bishop, with "special responsibilities and regular powers." Here Patriarch Bartholomew is simply telling a lie, for some reason thinking that no one will look into the canons of the Ecumenical Councils and juxtapose it. It's easy to check. Directly about the status of the See of Constantinople, they say: the 3rd Canon of the II Ecumenical Council, the 28th Canon of the IV Council and 36th of the V Council directly say about the status. We will not cite the texts of these Canons here, we will only say that, firstly, they all speak about the primacy of honor and by no means power. And secondly, that the primacy of honor is based on nothing other than the political position of Constantinople as the capital of the Empire, which, as you might guess, is no longer in sight for more than 500 years.
There is not a single canon of the Ecumenical Councils to endow the Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as any other bishop, with "special responsibilities and regular powers".
Thus, Patriarch Bartholomew denounced himself. He directly stated that he intends to redesign the Church in a completely different way from our Lord Jesus Christ. He announced his intention to reconsider the dogma about the Church. He said that from now on, the power of the Patriarch of Constantinople must guarantee the unity of the Church. He said this himself quite clearly and unequivocally: "We, the Orthodox, must subject ourselves to self-criticism and reconsider our ecclesiology ..."
The teaching of Patriarch Bartholomew suggests that the Church is already:
- not One, since it is based not on unity in God, but on the unity of the administrative power of the Patriarch of Constantinople;
- not Holy, since the patriarch of Constantinople is a human and so he is subject to the impact of sin ("every man is a lie");
- not Catholic (conciliar – Trans.), since the main visible governing body of the Church is no longer the Council, but the Patriarch of Constantinople, “First” with special powers;
- not Apostolic, since the apostles of Christ taught quite differently from what the current head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople teaches.
Self-exposure is evident. Patriarch Bartholomew preaches a teaching alien to the teaching of the Church. And if this is so, then the issue that the Local Orthodox Churches should now conciliarly solve is not that of recognizing or not recognizing the OCU, but the issue of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.
It makes sense to once again quote the words of the holy Apostle Paul: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1: 8-9).