Catholic and Orthodox Commission on Church Unity

Last Sunday, I read the statement of the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission on Christian Unity. There wasn’t much that surprised me in the document. After all, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches aren’t separated by doctrine all that much, even after a millennium of separation. (It might make you wonder why the Protestant Churches have grown so far from the Catholic church in less than half the time. Hint: apostolic succession.)

The one thing that really stuck with me, though, was their joint statement on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome:

Further, they [Catholics and Orthodox] agree that Rome, as the Church that “presides in love” according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos , a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.

Both sides accept that this split should not be; and both sides accept that unity under a Bishop of Rome with primacy is the way things should be. While they do acknowledge that there is disagreement on what that primacy entails (apparently the Orthodox believe it is a primacy of honor, while we Catholics believes there is an administrative and legal primacy as well), I still think this is an amazing statement for the Orthodox to make. They are simply acknowledging that they should be in union with Rome and that unity with Rome is a mark of a Christian Church. The more I think about it, the more amazed I am. Amazed and excited, since this brings us closer to a unity which Christ prayed that we should have. (John 17:11)

4 thoughts on “Catholic and Orthodox Commission on Church Unity

  1. This will continue and both sides will enrich the other. Unity now is the gift of God who in the fullness of time is bringing all of us home to his Bishop. Amen.

  2. To be fair, the major systematic Protestant theologies had stabilized within a generation or two of the reformation. The Wesleyans came later, but their theology isn’t systematic.

    Theologically, I’m betting Catholic and Orthodox are still split on the fundamental conceptualization of the trinity that caused the Great Schism. Organizationally, it seems as if the Orthodox are saying that the Pope ought to be the first among equals instead of the first over all. As a Protestant, I’d have much less of a problem with that than the current organizational structure.

  3. the major systematic Protestant theologies had stabilized within a generation or two of the reformation.

    Can you really say that, though? (And this is a question.)

    The counter-examples that came to my head were:

    1) Pentecostalism: didn’t really spring up until the 19th Century (Although, could this be excluded by your use of the word “systematic”?)
    2) Belief in The Rapture which a significant percentage of Protestants seem to hold (if Tim LaHaye’s bank account is any testament) didn’t really spring up until the late 18th Century at the earliest
    3) The mess that some call the Anglican Communion

    Plus add in that Methodism is an 18th Century phenomenon and any other number of branches shooting off from the Protestant “tree” that have occurred since the Reformation. (Even the Baptists, if I understand it correctly, didn’t really start up until the 17th Century.)

  4. Pentecostals are a product of the late 19th early 20th century.

    Baptists are the inheritors of Calvin called “strict Calvinists” started in the 18th century they were preceeded in the 16th and 17th century by the Prebyterians.

    Methodism stated in England but found its home in Delaware in 1792

    The Quakers and Anglicans spring from the 16-17th centuries

    The Lutherans were the first schismatics following Martin Luther

    -The Orthodox and Catholics are only separated by a hair, if that. And many Orthodox rites are now back into the fold of Catholic like the Byzantines, parts of the Armenian rite, The Assyrian and a few others. As far as I can ascertain both the Orthodox and Catholics are the one church indivisible and want to understand what caused their divide, it has less to do with doctrine and more to do with politics. In a positive respect, with the Orthodox preserving many traditions that have been modified over time in the west; so this look to the traditional eastern church is in some sense a return to the ancient source of faith the united both churches before the Great Schism occurred in the 12th century:

    There were doctrinal issues like the filioque clause and the authority of the Pope involved in the split, but these were exacerbated by cultural and linguistic differences between Latins and Greeks. Prior to that, the Eastern and Western halves of the Church had frequently been in conflict, particularly during periods of iconoclasm and the Photian schism.

    The final breach is often considered to have arisen after the capture and sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 . The sacking of the Church of Holy Wisdom and establishment of the Latin Empire as a seeming attempt to supplant the Orthodox Byzantine Empire in 1204 is viewed with some rancor to the present day.

    I am very pleased that this schism is being healed.

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