Bp. HILARION, on Futile "Dialogue" and Meaningful Action
In a recent interview with Orthodoxy Today, Bp. HILARION (Alfeyev) of the Moscow Patriarchate noted the long and fruitless time Orthodoxy has spent (and is still wasting) on ecumenical dialogue with the most modernist, most radical of Protestants and proposes again proposes combatting modern anti-Christian forces around the world alongside Roman Catholics and Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodox, while retaining our separate ecclesial identities. It is nothing new, but it is well worth a read:
After more than thirteen years of intensive ecumenical involvement I can declare my profound disappointment with the existing forms of “official” ecumenism as represented by the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and other similar organizations. My impression is that they have exhausted their initial potential. Theologically they lead us nowhere. They produce texts that, for the most part, are pale and uninspiring. The reason for this is that these organizations include representatives of a wide variety of churches, from the most “conservative” to the most “liberal.” And the diversity of views is so great that they cannot say much in common except for a polite and politically correct talk about “common call to unity,” “mutual commitment” and “shared responsibility.”This sounds very much like Met. HILARION of ROCOR, who said, "we can see that there is hardly any union reached, and this organization has lost its importance."
I see that there is now a deep-seated discrepancy between those churches which strive to preserve the Holy Tradition and those that constantly revise it to fit modern standards. This divergence is as evident at the level of religious teaching, including doctrine and ecclesiology, as it is at the level of church practice, such as worship and morality.One may go so far as to say what Bp. HILARION leaves implicit: this is less about "Christianities" as Christianity vs. Non-Christianities, which masquerade as Christianity.
In my opinion, the recent liberalization of teaching and practice in many Protestant communities has greatly alienated them from both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. It has also undermined the common Christian witness to the secularized world. The voice of Christendom is nowadays deeply disunited: we preach contradictory moral standards, our doctrinal positions are divergent, and our social perspectives vary a great deal. One wonders whether we can still speak at all of “Christianity” or whether it would be more accurate to refer to “Christianities,” that is to say, markedly diverse versions of the Christian faith.
Under these circumstances I am not optimistic about the dialogue with the Protestant communities. I am also far less optimistic about the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue than my beloved teacher Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. In my opinion, the only two promising ecumenical dialogues are between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, and between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox families. While there are well-known theological differences between these three traditions, there is also very much in common: we all believe in Christ as fully human and fully divine, we all uphold the apostolic succession of hierarchy and de facto recognize each others’ sacraments.The use of the term "de facto" is of importance.
But even with regard to relations between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, both Eastern and Oriental, we need new forms of dialogue and cooperation. It is not sufficient to come once every two years for a theological discussion on a topic related to controversies that took place fifteen or ten centuries ago. We need to see whether we can form a common front for the defense of traditional Christianity without waiting until all our theological differences will disappear. I call this proposed common front a “strategic alliance” between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. I deliberately avoid calling it a “union” or a “council,” because I want to avoid any historical reminiscences and ecclesiastical connotations. Mine is not a call for yet another “union” on dogmatic and theological matters. I am rather proposing a new type of partnership based on the understanding that we are no longer enemies or competitors: we are allies and partners facing common challenges, such as militant secularism, aggressive Islam and many others. We can face these challenges together and unite our forces in order to protect traditional Christianity with its doctrinal and moral teaching.His Grace has long proposed such a strategic alliance, whether formal or informal. At the risk of misinterpreting his comments by tying them together in my own shorthand, those being targeted by encroaching Secular Humanism may better spend their time discussing their defense of the faithful rather than humoring endless, hopeless "dialogue" with those Christians who have so clearly compromised with it. With the deteriorating state of Christendom in the West, especially in the culture of the nations in which Bp. HILARION's spiritual children reside (Western Europe), such an alliance (not "union," "reunion," or "ecumenical council") will come either through its constituent members' deliberate choice or of necessity, as they find themselves sharing a last, desperate foxhole, surrounded by impending darkness.