Hieromonk Seraphim on Ecumenism

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

This brings us to a fundamental question of definition: what is ecumenism? Some would-be zealots of Orthodoxy use the term in entirely too imprecise a fashion, as though the very use of the term or contact with an “ecumenical” organization is in itself a “heresy.” Such views are clearly exaggerations. “Ecumenism” is a heresy only if it actually involves the denial that Orthodoxy is the true Church of Christ. A few of the Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement have gone this far; but most Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement have not said this much; and a few (such as the late Fr. Georges Florovsky) have only irritated the Protestants in the ecumenical movement by frequently stating at ecumenical gatherings that Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ. One must certainly criticize the participation of even these latter persons in the ecumenical movement, which at its best is misleading and vague about the nature of Christ’s Church; but one cannot call such people “heretics,” nor can one affirm that any but a few Orthodox representatives have actually taught ecumenism as a heresy. The battle for true Orthodoxy in our times is not aided by such exaggerations. (In Defense of Fr. Dimitry Dudko)


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Fr. Rose on this statement, but I do have one question. What about the joint-prayer services that are conducted by some Orthodox? How are we to view this in the context of ecumenism and the canons? Old Calendarists always say the canons explicitly call for excommunication of those who pray with heretics and the OC’s ask why aren’t the bishops, such as Patriarch Bartholomew who participate in said practices dealt with when he does them while being fully aware of the canons against such actions?

    Thank you

  2. Dear Admin,

    I agree with Fr. Rose wholeheartedly on his explanation of ecumenism, but I do have one question. How exactly are we to defend against the Old Calendarists accusations of us being heretics because of joint-prayer services? I know these should not happen and give the false impression of unity where there is no common faith, but the old calendarists use the canons explicitly forbidding prayer with heretics as a reason as to why we are heretical and why are bishops should be disposed and/or excommunicated. What is a response for such accusations?

  3. Aaron,

    I ask the same questions? Why isn’t he disciplined?? Pat. Bartholomew’s actions are a scandal to us more traditional types and I have no excuses as to why he does what he does and as to why no one besides certain Greek bishops and Athonites have attempted to take him to task. If some hierarch is caught in some bad situation where heterodox are present and it appears that one of our hierarchs is participating in a joint prayer service, that’s one thing, but Pat. Bartholomew plans joint services and makes ambiguous joint statements that appear to use heterodox ecclesiology (e.g. two lungs, sister churches, etc.). The Ecumenical Patriarchal Synod, in my opinion, is the Achilles heel of World Orthodoxy. It is their actions that fuel the perpetuation of schisms and allow us to be ridiculed by True Orthodox.

    How do I defend it, though? Well, I can’t defend something that’s wrong. Plain and simple. However, just because the EP follows the actions of his predecessor Pat. Athenagoras, does that mean that I should accept that the Calendar issue is a dogmatic one and that millions of Orthodox that happen to be in communion with an EP in error through no fault of their own are graceless? That’s what it would mean if I joined the GOC-K.That’s not a remedy for me and I know too much to naively believe Old Calendarist claims of Orthodox purity.

    Check out this dialogue that Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos had with a young man, who had acceded to the Old Calendarists:

    -Why did you depart from the Church of Greece?
    -So that I wouldn’t be in communion with heretic ecumenists.
    -Are all the Bishops of Greece ecumenists?
    -No! No! But they are in communion with the ecumenist Patriarch, so I don’t want to be in communion with persons who are in communion with heretic ecumenists.
    -Do you believe that the calendar is a Dogma of the Faith, and that the New Calendarists are exempt from Grace and are in need of re-Chrismation, like those who have returned from heretics?
    -God forbid! I in no way believe that nonsense by the Old Calendarists. I acceded to them, for the sole purpose of avoiding even an indirect communion with heretic ecumenists!
    -But in no way did you avoid communion with another heresy, because the assertion by the Old Calendarists (that the change in the calendar deprived the Church of Grace) is not a simple piece of nonsense, as you mentioned previously. It is a grave blasphemy and heresy.
    -But I don’t believe in those things!
    -And yet, you are in communion with people who do believe those things!
    -What else can I do? I am forced to tolerate them, for the sake of providence.
    -Then why didn’t you tolerate – likewise for the sake of providence – those Bishops of Greece who were in communion with the Patriarch?
    -…………(no response)……………..
    -Can you see what kind of quandary you were drawn into? You acknowledge that most of the Bishops of Greece are Orthodox, but you refuse every communion with them because they are in communion with the Patriarch. In this way, you are not accepting communion with ecumenists – even indirectly – but you are accepting a direct – a clearly direct – communion with people who preach another kind of heresy: one that claims salvation is dependent on… calendars!!! So, how exactly have you benefited??? But even so, you should not imagine that you have actually avoided indirect communion with ecumenists.
    -And how is that?
    -Listen, you poor victim of cunning propagandists: the Old Calendarists will yell until their lungs explode, that even common prayers with the Patriarch (and others who are similarly minded to him) will render us alike to them, even if we don’t believe what they preach. Well, if they at least remained consistent to this position of theirs….but consistency is not one of their fine points!http://molonlabe70.blogspot.com/2010/01/ecumenism-and-schismatic-old.html

    Now, I don’t want to open a can of worms but many eminent persons that the True Orthodox venerate have actually concelebrated with the heterodox and it’s not very hard to prove. St.Tikhon of Moscow (there is a photo), Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky (there are photos), and Met. Anastassy (mentions it in his own writings) of ROCOR participated in Anglican services; and unbelievably, an Anglican bishop was actually in the altar when Met. Vitaly (Ustinov) of ROCOR was consecrated (I obtained info on this from ROCOR, EP and SiR sources)! I’m also sure the ROCOR fragments would cringe if they knew. Met. Philaret of New York (unbelievable, I know) actually participated in a procession in France with a RC bishop (there is a photo). As a matter of fact, I just read the autobiography of Met. Evlogy,and this Russian bishop casually mentions that Patriarch Photius of Alexandria, whom Greek OCists hold to be a calendar zealot, communed Anglicans under certain conditions! Why weren’t they deposed? My main point in saying all this is that none of us are untouched by concelebrations, we’re all in the same boat since the True Orthodox either received their hierarchy from these men, were in communion with them or venerate them as saints.If we’re going to be consistent, we’ve all fallen short of the canons and that’s a fact.

    A bishop has the right to use oikonomia except where matters of faith are concerned, perhaps Pat. Bartholomew thinks he’s evangelizing. I think he’s making nicey-nicey to gain advantages for the Christians in the Middle East. He is violating the canons, but he has yet to sign a heterodox confession, so other hierarchs let him continue, I guess. That’s all I got on this one, brother. God help us all!

  4. A thought provoking response as always. I very much so appreciate it. Is there any way you could e-mail me these photos you speak of of Met. Anthony, St.Tikhon, Met.Anastassy, and Met.Philaret? I believe I have seen a couple photos of Met.Anthony in regards to this topic, but none others. In addition if there is any writings on these mean in regard to some of their mistakes in attending Anglican worship, etc. could you send them to me? I would love to read them.

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