A Thought-provoking and Path-breaking Treatise born out of First-hand Personal Observations and Experience

Short review by Alex K.Chandy

Email: mindtrans@gmail.com

'The Orthodox Dilemma' is a thought-provoking and path-breaking treatise born out of first-hand personal observations and experience and the thoughtful, well-intentioned, heartfelt yearnings of a spiritual visionary.                      

Lack of knowledge as to 'What is Orthodoxy?' is the crux of the matter (Hos.4:6). Many consider 'Orthodox' as just the name of some Church and not as a belief system rooted and nurtured in the holy apostolic tradition. 'The terminological inscrutability and the linguistic conundrum' of the Christological positions of the Chalcedon Council has made the 'theological confusion' worse confounded for the theologically not-so-well-informed laity.

The Orthodox Church is ‘the body of Christ’. Should it stand 'divided'? (1 Cor.1:13) 'For other foundation, can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' (1 Cor.3:11) The whole gamut of Christology and Ecclesiology, with all its terminological ramifications, boil down to this basic truth

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Alex K. Chandy is a senior pharma professional who began his career in 1967. He is the founder ofMindtrans, an organization for the training and development of pharma and insurance marketing professionals. He holds a Post-diploma from the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Liturgical & Biblical Academy. His areas of interest include theological and liturgical studies. He is a regular contributor to several Syriac Orthodox publications and engages in translating English Liturgical series to regional languages. 

'The Orthodox Dilemma' is composed of interesting & valuable personal observations that express author’s deep & sincere concerns on the fate of the Orthodox Church

Review by Tamar Lomidze

Email: tamar.lomidze@yahoo.com

How many people have at least general knowledge about the Orthodox Faith? How many Christians are familiar with the current situation within the Orthodox World or at least with its theology, tradition, and structure? How many of them are concerned about the plight of abducted Syrian clergy, detained Eritrean hierarch and thousands of Orthodox faithful, who are persecuted all over the world? How many Orthodox believers are informed on the recent developments in the dialog between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches? Do we have a clear vision of Western Churches’ policy toward us and how we should interact with them? All these issues are thoroughly covered in the George Alexander’s new book called “The Orthodox Dilemma” that was offered me for review. Moreover, the publication has very interesting and valuable personal observations that show author’s deep and sincere concerns on the fate of the Orthodox Church.

The main issue raised in the book is why relations between Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches (as well as other non-canonical denominations) gain far less attention than ecumenical ones. Although the publication seems to be of polemical nature; it raises a lot of important questions that definitely worth being discussed by the broad community of Orthodox faithful. In my opinion, this proves the high value of “The Orthodox Dilemma” and surely another advantage of the book is its live and sincere way of narration.

At the same time, I’d like to take advantage of this opportunity and offer several comments on the message of the book. I’d also like to stress that this review is merely my opinion and in no way reflects the position of the Georgian Catholicosate which I belong to.

Firstly, I doubt the reasoning like “if we are so actively engaged in ecumenism, why don’t we seek Pan-orthodox unity at first”. Maybe we should ask: ”If we don’t strengthen relations with the Oriental Churches and don’t seek unity with them, why not to give up ecumenical dialog with the Western Churches?” As for me, such unity is not a goal in itself.

Often it is secular authorities who seek mere unity instead of the Truth, and Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann gave us a bright historical example of how it can affect the Church: “Constantinus might think he had completed his father’s work and achieved the longed-for peace in the Church, but since it was based on a meaningless compromise, the peace was bound sooner or later to end. A year and a half after the triumph of the Homoian party (as the new Church-state coalition was known), Constantinus died. A reaction took place, not against any particular theology this time, but against Christianity itself: for two and a half years (361-63) the mysterious and tragic shadow of the Emperor Julian the Apostate lay across the empire. His first act was to set up complete religious freedom. He is reported to have hoped that the Christians would dispute so bitterly among themselves that they would discredit their faith in all eyes. Actually, the brief reign of Julian demonstrated that the Church, when left to itself might solve its difficulties independently”. On the contrary, in Matthew 10:45 we even can read: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”. Heretics who leave the Holy Tradition representing the action of Holy Spirit in the Church’s life are self-condemned by their own secession from the true faith (Titus 3:11) , and it was alright in Apostolic times to admit they aren’t members of Church. Indeed, they were granted with the Gospel, so why they gave it up? Thus, for members of canonical Orthodox Churches and from the spiritual point of view it seems not a matter of unity but rather a matter of how many people in the world would save their souls and praise the true Lord.

For example, how can Orthodox World embrace such an oath-breaker, a corrupt, immoral and politically biased person as anathematized Kievan "Patriarch" Filaret? Remember that he supported schisms in Bulgarian (1992) and Serbian (2006) Orthodox Churches instead of heal them! How can his dignity be recognized after these uncanonical and anti-Orthodox actions? Does his vision of the Church comply with the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition? In my opinion, Ukrainian situation is rather different from the EO-OO division, because the so-called UAOC and UOC-KP didn't inherit misunderstanding and schism historically, their believers and hierarchy behave deliberately and know exactly what they do.

Of course, putting aside theology, there is a need for a common platform for Orthodox World to discuss social, moral, educational and security issues, to defend the rights of Orthodox believers and help them in need. It also would be good to join our efforts to tell people about Orthodoxy more actively through the media. There are many worthy ideas on this matter in the book!

Secondly, George Alexander refers to the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Old-Calendarists, Old-Believers, various “True Orthodox” and other non-canonical denominations as true Orthodox. At least in the case of Oriental Orthodox Churches he says that their faith is the same as of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I have no theological background and can’t examine Christological issues on my own. On the other hand, a reference to the 2014 declaration of the Joint Commission for the Dialogue between Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches can’t fully change my mind about this matter. And the mere feelings of believers can’t be referred to as a sufficient basis for such an assessment of faith as well. It is only Church as a whole can decide whether the schism happened in the course of Council of Chalcedon due to merely political and linguistic difficulties or there were more profound reasons. And in the former case (I wish it was like that), it is only Ecumenical Council that can correct the mistake.

Thirdly, there is no room for Revolutions in the Church. Decisions shouldn’t be made exceptionally by the hierarchy nor should they be blindly pushed by the laity. There should be mutual trust and consent between them. A common problem (as I see it) is that a lot of people are more or less distanced from the true life of the Church due to the past Communist repressions or the pressure of modern secular society. Their belonging to the Church is fused in the age of aggressive mass culture and social media. How can we define who represents the Church now? That’s why it’s so difficult to keep up true and responsible reception of a Synod’s decision. Thus, to get sure that any future agreement is inspired by the Holy Spirit but not politics, culture or something else, we should bring people back to the spiritual life of the Church. This work should be done simultaneously with the theological dialog. It is Christ who should be the focus of our life. Doing so, we’ll ease the implementation of rightful decisions as well.

Frankly speaking, there are statements like “However, in the efforts to unify, the true faith of Orthodoxy should not be compromised nor should a common platform be used to make liberal theological agreements with non-Orthodox Churches” that inspired me to read the publication to the end. But there are no personal accusations. For me it's obvious that George Alexander's faith and goals are sincere and fair. I just wish above mentioned ideas to be expressed more explicitly. The Orthodox Dilemma" is definitely worth reading, and I will be glad to see it getting attention among Orthodox Christian believers. 

Source:

Independent 

 

‘The Orthodox Dilemma’ Took Me on a Whole New Journey

Review by Tigist Abza – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

‘The Orthodox Dilemma’ took me on a whole new journey. I used to think unification subject is untouchable and it’s already a closed chapter, but this book shows the way how to make unification possible and practical steps to take.

The book is an eye opener for both families of Orthodox Churches and hierarchs. It is not just canonical or dogmatic issues that keep our church separate. The things we missed are love and effort to sit and talk to resolve our problems as mentioned in the book. Both families of Orthodox Churches have so many similarities between them, in comparison with Protestants and Roman Catholics, but all EO and OO efforts have been on having a dialogue with Rome and Protestants.

The book is precise and clear that anyone can understand it with ease. It is interesting as it helps to learn a lot n church history and on different Orthodox churches.  

The book helped me to know more about sister orthodox churches and the thing I really loved is that it consist of author’s personal experience. It is not just wild dreams of the author on Orthodox unity, rather it is so realistic in many aspects and I really appreciate the positive ambiance expressed in the work.  

Source:

Independent 

The Orthodox Dilemma Attempts to Open the Eyes of Many Who Have Been Closing Eyes Purposefully Against Truth

(A short review of the book ‘The Orthodox Dilemma’ authored by George Alexander: Review done by George Joseph Enchakkattil). Email: gjgeorgejoseph@gmail.com

‘The Orthodox Dilemma’ is a work by Mr.George Alexander who has been associating with The Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society as its chief promoter and the one who nurtures it in companionship with a few dedicated delegates. The society engages itself mainly to contribute towards the achievement of Pan-Orthodox Conciliar Unity. This book, as the author claims, can be summed up as his personal reflections on such efforts as well as from like-minded volunteers or delegates.

A quick glance through this volume leads one to infer that this book certainly has been a basic necessity for the world of Orthodoxy as well as for humanity too because some of the narrations contained in this would certainly open our eyes to stark realities which otherwise would have passed on as routine occurring across the global scenario. Though the global Christian population can be classified into three major segments called the Orthodox, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, even in this 21st century, there are sizable number of Christian groups as well as others who do not see Orthodox as a separate entity. We have Church fathers right from the 1st century who have been vehemently teaching the progressive growth of the Christian Church and as centuries moved forward holding on to principled stands that there is a segment despite schisms within and elsewhere as true followers of what were taught by Christ and Apostles without dilutions. Yet, this segment clamor for recognition even now, but they themselves are not unified to face these challenges. What Mr.George Alexander attempts is to open the eyes of many who have been closing eyes purposefully against truth as they have agenda of different sorts. This has to end if Orthodoxy has to be recognized as a powerful entity for which Conciliar unity is what is needed without doubt.

The author has taken pains to convey the message effectively in sum and substance as to what is Orthodox as well as what is Catholic Church, which has its effective birth in 11th century only. In other words, it is well explained how befitting the Nicene Creed to Orthodoxy is. The four facets sustaining Orthodoxy is well documented. The true doctrines taught by ancestral fathers have cemented our faith so deep that the urge to live as Christ lived is the characteristic of Orthodoxy. But how far we are effective in successfully countering false allegations spread against Orthodoxy globally with certain calculated agenda on one side and quite out ignorance on the other!

The strange and unbelievable experiences the author had in his attempted associations with Coptic Church, part and parcel of our oriental fraternity, point out to why Orthodoxy all these years happens to be a plaything with others. Oriental Orthodox and Byzantine or otherwise called Eastern Orthodox believe the same, but how strange, they cannot convince themselves that they believe the same! Efforts of L/L HG Dr. Paulose Mar Gregoriose or Late Fr Dr. V C Samuel are not taken up with any inborn urge for unity by other clergies of contemporary thought processes. Even what was advocated by Mar Chrysostom of Mira in 1979 seems to have been forgotten. Often, the purposes behind efforts to reconcile are not seemingly sincere that they are seen as a different category of ecumenism.

Unfortunately, both Oriental and Eastern Orthodox primates are quite comfortable at sessions with Protestants or Catholics under the term ‘Dialogues’; where have we gone with these dialogues? It will not move even an inch forward apart from eating and drinking together because the forum for such dialogues do not envisage more than that and the scope too is just not there. But we have the other aspect of conciliation attempts between Oriental and Eastern Orthodox fraternities. Here we have scope to move ahead. We have more opportunities. The faith is the same. The practices are the same. The rituals are quite similar with differences not serious enough to result in alienations. What we need is just to convince first ourselves and then others that we are one; here we need willpower. Do we lack it?

The differences of opinion among Oriental Orthodox Churches themselves are to be addressed united. The emotional clashes between Malankara or Indian Orthodox Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch are simply pulled on for years and years unending. The agenda seems to be the schism to persist forever so that there are ‘subjects’ to be preached before the believers. Both these segments within the Oriental Orthodox Churches can look into other Orthodox schisms successfully handled and solved that if need be, can take clues and arrive at solutions. Unfortunately, selfishness rules all.  The Armenian model is one worth emulating. But what we need is willpower. Even Eritrean and Ethiopian settlement can also be studied. The author advocates confidence that this can be done for certain. Sure, he is absolutely right.

The major stumbling block between Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches to come together seems to be a question; “Who is Christ”? And the answer lies in Christological interpretations where use of one particular word in one particular language when, perhaps, interpreted to other known languages could not perceive what was meant in its essence and the two groups of Orthodox Churches, having the very same faith, almost the very same rituals and exactly the very same attitudes to Christ, the redeemer fight each other. Can anyone find a more pathetic viewpoint in Christianity or even in humanity elsewhere? Do we deserve to be called followers of Christ? How much our ordinary laity is concerned over this? How far our ‘not so theologically mad clergy’ are bothered about this? Can’t we do something constructively on these? Fr Dr V C Samuel has redefined Chalcedon through his papers and both sides were very happy that they clapped their hands, but then?

Mr. George Alexander has been boldly addressing these issues not theoretically, but in a practical sense.  He has narrated well and at depth what he saw all over Chalcedon; all over Christology; all over Orthodoxy.  The doors are wide open, but to enter into the arena, one has to guide his feet in; precisely this is not what is happening.  If any of our Primates shows that much love for Christ, OOC and EOC are one, no doubt about that. Christ has said during the days of his ministry here, “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28). These comments were addressed to the then teachers of the law and Pharisees; but are they not equally applicable to the Church leadership of these days too. Or else, how can they turn blind to efforts of conciliatory moves?

This brings to me a strange question, which I agree at the very beginning that it would not be a right thing to raise. Yet, this is worrying not only me but many. We, the Orthodox have a system of the parallel hierarchal administrative system where there are many equals whereas the Catholics, a Church evolved a good 1000 years behind us have grown far and wide with a pyramid hierarchal administration with one head above all. Is this some cause for our attitude of the mutual admonition of Orthodox Primates between them? Maybe my thought is a theological blunder, but if ill effects are arising here, they should be curtailed through a proper system and if such a system is not there now to be effective, certainly, one should be put in place.

Notwithstanding all said above, the book Orthodox Dilemma is readable, understandable and deserves to be a study material in our different forums. Let us come up successful with our efforts to realize Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity. Let there be discussions through global forums. Let a true awareness come up. Let us work out suitable models that would pave the way for unity. Let our Primates understand that the laity wants unity and not discord.

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George Joseph Enchakkattil, a member of Ebenezer Orthodox Church, Manganam, Kottayam has been staying at Cochin or suburbs for close to four decades. He has been working with Union Bank of India and since leaving service, has been engaging himself in the field of writing articles for spiritual publications, reviewing books online and otherwise, translating books from English to Malayalam and from Malayalam to English and similar activities. At Cochin, he is a member of St George Orthodox Valiya Pally, Palarivattom and associates himself as a Coordinating Editor of Georgian Mirror, known as the Journal of Indian Orthodoxy published by this parish. 

Source:

OCP 

'The Orthodox Dilemma' is simple but rich with historical & contemporary illustrations on Pan-Orthodox Christian Unity

Observations by Liju Cherian - Senior Journalist - Sultanate of Oman

George Alexander has an uncanny idea of putting things in a perspective. He has been in the forefront of pan-Orthodox Christian movement for the past decade. The Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE (Registered Pan-Orthodox Christian Society) and OCP Media Network has been his achievement.

It is not far-fetched if he were to pen his thoughts on the personal reflections on global pan-Orthodox Christian unity. His new book (his 5th publication) has been titled The Orthodox Dilemma. The book has so far received rave reviews ever since the online edition has been put out to readers interested in church and Orthodoxy issues.

George has provided readers an overview of the history, current situation, and possible future of Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy. The book is simple but rich with historical illustrations from his various personal attendances at Orthodox conferences. From the book he also seeks to address how the Orthodox Churches have found themselves in their present circumstances.

George belongs to Oriental Orthodox and is also in the know of Eastern Orthodox and the problems that exist between the two. This off course forms the central idea for him to write a book which he claims has taken about 10 years. He goes on to cite several examples of the meetings held in this regard.

The Orthodox Dilemma can go a long way towards urging for a Pan-Orthodox unity of witness on a global platform. George perhaps has done his homework well. A well-done promo trailer designed by OCP’s Department of Technical Support had all the reviews by theologians and laypersons published online. This book is the first of its kind calling for an extensive world platform for all Orthodox Churches.


Theologians, layperson of all Orthodox Christian groups will find it interesting and worth debating his ideas.

Source:

Independent 

The Orthodox Dilemma is made very interesting by the anecdotes author offers about individuals in the Eastern & Oriental Orthodox churches which brings the discussion to a very human level

Review by Matthew Celestine - (www.liturgicalmonarchist.blogspot.com)

The author of this book, a member of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church, explores the subject of pan-Orthodox unity. He looks at the divisions not only between Oriental an Eastern Orthodox Churches, but also between canonical and non-canonical bodies. He suggests practical solutions for greater co-operation and eventual reconciliation of these divided bodies. He also offers some thoughts on how Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches can develop better relations with the Assyrian Church of the East, which he fears might opt to join their brethren in the Chaldean Catholic Church under the Papacy. This book is made very interesting by the anecdotes he offers about individuals in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches he has known or corresponded with. This brings the discussion to a very human level.

Alexander argues that Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches have invested too much time in seeking unity with the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, while neglecting co-operation with each other, all the time maintaining old attitudes of suspicion and hostility. He tends to portray the Roman Catholic Church as a bit of a Darth Vader, accusing her of imperial ambitions and seeking to play the Orthodox churches off against each other. He brings up a lot of stuff about past persecution of Orthodox by Catholics, while neglecting to mention Orthodox persecution against Catholics. Regarding the Eastern-rite churches, while there may have been a good deal of political manipulation involved in their creation, it is unfair of our author not to mention the persecution they have suffered at the hands of Orthodox and Communist regimes. I also find his sympathetic stance towards Vladimir Putin a bit worrying.

Source:

http://liturgicalmonarchist.blogspot.ae/2016/05/the-orthodox-dilemma-by-george-alexander.html

 

Eastern Union - Review by John G. Panagiotou - Touchstone Magazine (May/June 2016)

The Orthodox Dilemma: Personal Reflections On Global Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity by George Alexander [OCP Publications, 2015; 202 pages, $12.00, paperback] reviewed by John G. Panagiotou

  
In George Alexander's "The Orthodox Dilemma" the reader is given a highly accessible overview of the history, current situation, and possible future of Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy. Through personal vignettes and historical illustrations, the writer, himself Oriental Orthodox, seeks to explain and address how the Orthodox Churches have found themselves in their present circumstances. 
 
To those with a relatively undeveloped knowledge of Eastern Christianity, many examples that Alexander cites regarding these churches in both Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox expression may seem esoteric and obscure, but his central reason for writing the book is plain—to issue a plea for greater Pan-Orthodox unity of witness on a global platform.
 
He begins by asserting that before any sort of coordinated form of Orthodox Christian witness can be made, the official estrangement and sacramental division between the Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Russian, Serbian, Antiochian, Romanian, and Bulgarian) and the Oriental Orthodox (Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian, Syriac, and Indian Malankara) needs to be addressed. He makes very compelling arguments that this “Eastern Schism” is the result of linguistic misunderstandings in Christology that have long since been theologically resolved, and he notes that it has been the long-­standing pastoral practice that Oriental Orthodox receive the sacraments in Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is high time, the author believes, that official communion should be acknowledged and proclaimed on the hierarchal level.
 
Nowhere is this point more pointedly made than where he observes that both Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox bishops and theologians have made great efforts to dialogue and ecumenically interact with the Western Church in both its Roman Catholic and Protestant expressions (in the World Council of Churches and elsewhere) while the Eastern Church has yet to get its own house in order, for which he provides multiple examples from the Council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451) on down to our own time. In the words of the famed Greek Orthodox theologian John S. Romanides, whom he quotes in the book, “The two traditions (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) survived the complexities of history, while always maintaining essentially the same Orthodox Faith.”
 
The official declaration of reunion of the Eastern Churches would aid much in dealing with the cultural estrangements, prejudices, and suspicions of its members for one another. The irony Alexander notes, however, is that ultimately this needs to be a “grass roots” movement from the bottom to the top, issuing from the laity and the clergy, and facilitated by the hierarchy through better communication and public acknowledgment that the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches are sisters.
 
This, coupled with greater opportunities for interaction between the members of both churches, should be happening throughout Orthodoxy. Concerted efforts along these lines would serve to mitigate prejudices, of which the author provides copious examples. Among the paradigms for reunion that the author cites to demonstrate the achievability of this are the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (aka ROCOR) with the Patriarchate of Moscow in 2007, the Patriarchate of Moscow’s recent outreach to the Old Believers’ Church, and the Pan-­Orthodox pioneering work of the Oriental Orthodox theologians Metropolitan Gregorios Paulose and Fr. V. C. Samuel.
 
It is important to note that Alexander is not calling for a one­world administrative hierarchical bureaucracy, but rather for an integrated Orthodox Christian witness, which will serve as a platform compatible with the concilliar nature of the Church’s episcopacy. This platform would be an expression of sacramental unity in all of its spiritual aspects of love and shared faith. It is not a call for a single form of worship or administration based on ecclesial jurisdiction, but an incorporation of St. Irenaeus of Lyon’s theme of “unity in diversity.”
 
The author provides numerous suggestions for realizing a unified Orthodox platform through better theological education for clergy, better use of the modern means of communication and media, and work in social justice ministries. To my knowledge, this is the first published book to provide thoughtful detail on the execution of this vital project. In many ways, it is a seminal work. 
 
John G. Panagiotou is a Greek Orthodox theologian and writer, a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Wheeling Jesuit University. He can be reached at johnpan777@gmail.com.
 
Source:
http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/issue.php?id=196

If Orthodoxy ignores Alexander’s concerns for healing inner schisms, it will only be at the cost of the sacred analogy Orthodoxy holds very dear

Review of Alexander, George.  The Orthodox Dilemma: Personal Reflections on Global Pan-Orthodox Conciliar Unity, 1st Edition.  Alappuzha District, Kerala, India.  OCP Publications.  202 pp.  

Review by Bradley R. Cochran -(www.theophilogue.com)

Given the seemingly endless proliferation of Protestant denominations that appear to make the Protestant movement doctrinally unstable in comparison with the other two major Christian Traditions—Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy—it might come as a surprise that an Orthodox author would feel the need to call for healing of schisms with one of these other two Traditions; and yet Alexander’s recent publication The Orthodox Dilemma is precisely such a call to all who claim Orthodoxy.  The following may come as a revelation to those not on the “inside” of the Orthodox Tradition: significant tensions, and even bitter schisms can exist within what seems like a unified front.  Despite the ubiquitous assumptions of Orthodoxy’s unchanging identity that are often taken for granted in various ways, those on the inside of the Tradition are in the best position to shine a spotlight on the inner divisions that appear in tension the Tradition’s reputation for having a common identity based on the same ancient teachings of the Church Fathers. 

The discerning reader will take away one important truth: being unified under a common name such as “Orthodoxy” (or “Catholic” for that matter) does not necessarily imply the kind of Christian Unity most Christians expect for a divinely instituted and guided community understood to extend the Body of Christ in a suffering world.  Christians do not believe the left hand of Christ rejects the right, or that any part of his Body rejects another part.  When it appears the Body of Christ is at odds with itself, this raises questions that do not have easy answers for Christians who employ such religious analogies to describe the glory of the Christian Church. If Orthodoxy ignores Alexander’s concerns for healing inner schisms, it will only be at the cost of this sacred analogy Orthodoxy holds very dear.[1]   

The experiences and reflections of Alexander help underscore what should be seen by Christians as a tragic disorder—not from an abstract theological perspective, but on a very personal level.  It is important to understand that the author makes important disclaimers at the beginning of this book that he believes should put his reflections in proper perspective: “I am not a learned theologian nor an expert on Orthodox Christian theology and I have not attempted to examine deep Christological aspects” (Preface). The book contains, “random thoughts” and “life experiences” rather than heavy technical discussions of Christology (Preface).  These thoughts and stories are intended to “open the dialogue” and challenge Orthodox Christians to think more about the need for the various Orthodox Churches to take more seriously the need for unity within the Tradition—which simply means between the various Orthodox Churches around the world.   This desired unity is referred to by the author as “global Orthodox unity,” or as the title indicates: “Pan-Orthodox Conciliar Unity” (preface). As is always the case, the author’s perspective is shaped by his own personal experiences. Chosen narratives frequently address, for example, the church schism in Malankara (India & Ukraine) and between Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox, but are believed to be symptomatic examples by the author.  Shaming is not the only goal of the author—he is careful to balance the book with positive models of unity from his personal experience as well and aims to encourage his target audience (Orthodox believers) to strive towards healing the inner schisms as a way forward. 

The critical reader should not make the mistake of assuming this call for unity comes from a place of unlimited tolerance or generic liberality rooted in the spirit of the age.  The Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE’s mission statement is presented at the outset: this includes a commitment to the traditional belief that the Orthodox “are the true heirs to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ, which was the Church of the apostles and the holy fathers” (Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Mission Statement, Preface).  Although the author still stands by Traditional Christology—that the one person of Christ is “truly God and truly man,” he believes the differences between the OO (Oriental Orthodox) and EO (Eastern Orthodox) can be plausibly understood as “due to cultural, linguistic, and political influences” that coalesced into different expressions of the one true faith (Ibid.). 

The author provides a narrative in which the Church he was raised in was an intellectual/spiritual ghetto: he was never taught about “the global Orthodox family” (Chapter 1).  Inevitably, however, as the child grew into adulthood and was exposed to “the world of the internet,” this modern medium reshaped his parochial perspective (Ibid.).  His “haunting” (as he describes it) developed from this experience as his curiosity and knowledge about the broader Orthodox Tradition seemed to be at a disconnect with his disinterested local Orthodox community.  One particular sore point for the author that becomes a repeated refrain throughout the book is expressed well in the following quotation:

Most Orthodox Churches are full-fledged members of WCC (World Council of Churches) and other ecumenical bodies that engage in annual dialogue with the Vatican for unity. … If the Orthodox Churches around the world had shown the enthusiasm, the energy and the time invested in bringing Orthodox Unity rather than investing it in WCC or in other ecumenical bodies, we should have attained Unity within the Orthodox Family many decades ago. (Chapter 1).

Whether or not this claim reflects a naivety concerning the possibilities, the frustration of the author stems from a perceived irony: that the Orthodox have been more concerned with healing schisms with others than schisms within.  

Of the many stories told in this book, a story from the first chapter about his visit to an Eastern Orthodox church “in the Middle East” best illustrates the personal motivations of the author’s advocacy for Pan-Orthodox Unity.  Providing “the official letters from “the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia” authorizing fund raising for the “Orthodox Mission in Pakistan,” the people at this church were very warm and friendly, but the priest asked:

“Do you belong to our ethnicity and to the Eastern Orthodox Communion?”  We said that we were from the Oriental Orthodox family.  He then replied, “you are not from our ethnicity, so go to any of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, but not here.”  He asked us to get out of the Church and not to return as we do not belong to his ethnic background, nor to the Eastern Orthodox Communion.  He did not even say hello nor did he have a welcoming face.  He did not even bless us when we kissed his hands seeking his blessings.  He told us to get out of the church and never to return. … He should not have said this to even a non-believer,… (Chapter 1).

For those concerned about the true status of Oriental Orthodoxy, the author argues that the “pastoral letter of Patriarch John X of Antioch and All East” urged the need to seek unity between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches and hoped to “accomplish all steps towards a full sacramental unity with our brethren in the Eastern non-Chalcedonian Churches,” based on a extensive dialogue between the two Orthodox traditions in Chambesy (Ibid.). The unfriendly spirit of the priest of that Orthodox Church is therefore implied to be not only painful for the author’s experience, but counter to official Orthodox guidance provided by higher authority figures within the Orthodox Church.  A group he refers to as “old generation Eastern Orthodox Christians” stubbornly and dogmatically hold to an “ultra-conservative” identity that is counter productive to the official priorities of the Church as stated by the Patriarch. 

Striking a virtuous balance, the author also reports “at the same time it gives us immense happiness to understand that several Oriental Orthodox Churches share the Eastern Orthodox Church for liturgy and vice versa in several places” (Ibid.).  He tells an equally vivid story about his “enchanting” experiences in the Russian and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches where ethnic and language barriers were overcome by universal expressions of kindness, love, and acceptance.  In places where this is sadly not the case, the author reminds the reader that “the Indian Malankara Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches in India are true heirs of St. Thomas the Apostle in India” and attributes the misfortune to the blindfold of schismatic intolerance (Ibid.).  He places all such narratives within a recent timeframe (2012 to 2015) lest his target audience dismiss them as reflecting an outdated state of affairs.

One of the major emphases in the book pertains to the ignorance of many Orthodox believers.  Having interacted with a variety of Orthodox believers from various places, he notes that some perceive a very happy situation in which “all Orthodox communities have inter-exchanges and have mixed marriages between different communities” (Chapter 2).  This is the understanding of one of his Greek Orthodox friends who has not ventured to “any Oriental Orthodox Christian centers nor has he ever attended an Oriental Liturgy” (Ibid.).  He also laments how another Eastern Orthodox friend in Lebanon who is a graduate in Orthodox Theology had never visited the Armenian Orthodox headquarters in Lebanon and says “there are hardly any mutual visits made by Eastern Orthodox Christians to Oriental Orthodox Churches and centers and vice versa unless they are obliged to attend ceremonies like Baptism, weddings, or funerals” (Chapter 2).  This concern extends even to the leadership of the Orthodox families.  For example, when one of the Oriental Orthodox Bishops was asked whether he was planning to visit any Orthodox congregations on his trip to the Philippines, or whether he knew about “the existence” of Orthodox Christians in that country, he was not planning on visiting nor did he even know they existed (Chapter 2).  This “limited awareness” is a deep concern of the author who views it as a case of vincible ignorance, though he doesn’t use that language to explain why he colors such ignorance with a tone of shame and godly grief.

[2]  It is no excuse, he argues, to defend such ignorance merely on the grounds that the other group is “non-canonical” in their faith (Chapter 6).  Here he is facing the challenge of overcoming the stigma often given to the term “ecumenism” among the ultra-conservative faithful.  In one of the most quotable passages in the book, the author argues that even secular concerns warrant inter-faith dialogue between Orthodox Churches:

Inter-faith dialogue and inter-religious dialogues are important aspects of the modern world and they cannot be ignored.  We need dialogue with all religious groups and Orthodox churches have a greater role in establishing peace with other religions. (Chapter 6).

Resolving the problem will include Eastern Orthodox leaders ensuring the removal of ignorance concerning the nuances of Oriental Orthodox Christology in relation to the so-called “Monophysite” heresy, as well as a better understanding and appreciation of the diverse theological perspectives within Eastern Orthodoxy itself (Chapter 6).  On the part of the Oriental Orthodox faithful, this involves “an increase in education within Oriental Orthodoxy itself, so that we are in a better position to correctly convey our faith, beliefs, and practices to those outside the Oriental Orthodox Church” (Chapter 6).    

 Bradley R. Cochran - theophilogue.com

______________________________________________________

 [1] For those unfamiliar with the Orthodox Tradition, a good place to start would be: Ware, Timothy (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia). The Orthodox Church, 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1993. 359 pp.  For a quick summary and review, see Bradley Cochran, “Review of Ware, Timothy (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia).  The Orthodox Church, 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1993. 359 pp,”  PDF Catalogue: https://theophilogue.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/book-review_ware_orthdoxy_4.pdf (theophilogue.com, accessed 05.03.16).  To listen to the review in audio format see “Part One: Introduction and History of the Orthodox Church” and “Part Two: Orthodox Tradition and Theology,” audio posts: https://theophilogue.com/audioposts (theophilogue.com, accessed 05.03.16). 

 [2] Vincible Ignorance is a Catholic concept that suggests that some types of ignorance result from lack of due diligence in proportion to one’s circumstances.  This type of ignorance can be overcome voluntarily if the person only willed to know.  Vincible Ignorance is distinguished from Invincible Ignorance.  The latter results involuntarily and does not imply fault in the subject who cannot be considered blameworthy for not overcoming such ignorance.  Although the concept is official only in Catholic theology, it is ubiquitously implied in moral, legal, political, philosophical, and religious discourse.  As with many concepts that have found utility across multiple genres, the notion was popularized by the eloquent parsing of Aristotle.  E.g. See his employment of the concept in his treatment of “justice”: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 2nd ed., Book V, trans. By Terence Irwin (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1999), I.5.  Catholic developments of the concept depend largely on Thomas Aquinas’ channeling of Aristotle.  E.g. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. The Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 5 vols., rev. ed. (1948; repr., Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1981), Prima Secunda, 76.1-4.         

Let the One true Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Orthodox Church Unite

Review by Alwin P Varghese - Punjab, India.

A new beginning has been put forward by George Alexander for the Pan-Orthodox Unity. A unique book in this area which includes the personal reflections of the author himself. The best part about the book is the author's genuine call for unity among different orthodox churches around the globe.

It’s necessary not just to include the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox (the two largest bodies of Orthodox Christianity) together in communion but to also include the Old Believers, Old Calendar, Traditional, Unrecognized New Generation Orthodox Churches. Being himself an Indian Orthodox Christian belonging to the Oriental Orthodox family, he has seen the schism in the two main Orthodox churches in India though they both belong to the Oriental Orthodox family. He also shares the concern of Orthodox Churches involved in so-called ecumenism with the Vatican (RCC) and WCC while ignoring to share a common platform for the sister churches following the same faith. The basic Christological differences which were the main reason for the first split in the church could be and has been sorted out and the fact is that all Orthodox Churches follow the same uncorrupted true faith. He calls for the leaders of different Orthodox churches to come and resolve the differences that has existed for centuries due to political and ethnic reasons as well.

This book gives a lot of positive examples as well as suggestions through which this unity can be attained. The OCP society is playing a great role in this regard. I must congratulate OCP Society of which George is a part of for taking such pain for this great cause. A lot more needs to be done and I certainly know that this book will play a vital role in this regard. The Clergy and laity must be given proper education in this subject and its importance for the Orthodox faith. This book has opened my eyes and I can feel the need to do more from my side as an Orthodox Christian. Like George, I am also not against ecumenism but we must first set our house in order first.

My best wishes, prayers and support for this book, the cause and the OCP society. Let the One true Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Orthodox Churches unite together. It’s a tough task, but God is with us. +++++

A less than optimistic view on Christian Unity

KNEWS 

Book: The Orthodox Dilemma: Pers onal Reflections on Global Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity

Author: George Alexander

Reviewer: Dr Glenville Ashby

Early this year, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba, delivering a historic joint declaration that partly outlined the following:

– Notwithstanding [our] shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years, Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour.

– Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples.”

Undoubtedly, the Great Schism in 1054 remains a thorny issue. And despite the climate of interfaith dialogue between the leaders of the Roman and Orthodox Church there is still a sense of an irreparable centuries-old damage caused by competing theological and political positions. While the meeting heightened expectations that “the one holy catholic and apostolic church” will one day signify a single body, many are doubtful. But beyond the Roman and Orthodox divide, there is an unnerving discord within the Orthodox Church itself.

Not surprisingly, there is a mood of pessimism that seeps through the pages of George Alexander’s “The Orthodox Dilemma.” His thesis is as lucid as it gets: The Orthodox Churches are the true heirs to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, but a centuries-old schism between Eastern and Western orthodoxy threatens its identity and survivability more than ever before.

According to Alexander, there is disinterest and lassitude in resolving theological misunderstandings concerning Christology, in particular, the nature of Jesus. Political and ethnic differences have also fanned the flame of distrust.

Although some steps have been taken toward compromise and accommodation, the author presents a fractured Orthodox Church rife with internal strife. He cites tensions between the Antiochian and Jerusalem patriarchates over canonical rights regarding Jerusalem; conflicts between the Serbian and Macedonian churches; the separation of Old Calendar Greek churches from the Greek Orthodox Church; and Old Believers parting ways with the Russian Orthodox Church.

He decries the use of term, ‘heretical’ against Eastern Orthodoxy, reminding accusers that Oriental believers are not monophysites as commonly held. Relatedly, he invokes the stature and wisdom of St Cyril, the ostensible father of both families of Orthodoxy, who comprehensively explained the mystery of Christ.

Both bodies, Alexander opines, define the same truth through their own political and cultural prisms. Compellingly, he chronicles his ostracism by Eastern Orthodox prelates during a visit to the Middle East, and recounts similar anecdotes to cement his exigent call for dialogue. “For me,” he writes, “the acceptance of the seven Ecumenical Councils [by Oriental Orthodoxy] and the subsequent removal of anathemas should be modeled upon step by step constructive dialogue…” Alexander laments the failure of the 1964 Addis Ababa conference to address disunity, although he is marginally encouraged at efforts toward rapprochement between 1964 and 1984.

Further, he cautions against meddling in orthodox affairs by the Roman See, arguing that its overtures to some oriental churches work against orthodox homogeneity. While Alexander does not denounce ecumenism, he views the Vatican as surreptitiously and subtly attempting to bring orthodoxy under its control. He emphatically states that “the pope cannot be a coordinator for orthodox unity,” and warns against falling “prey to the pomp and glory of the Vatican,” and the divide and conquer tactics it employs.

Instead, he advocates prioritizing inter-orthodox dialogue at local, regional, national, and international levels; the establishment of theological and secular institutes; and the use of mass media to promote pan-Orthodox issues. ýHe also asks that the faithful be vigilant against the evangelizing efforts of Christian churches. It is a point that he advances throughout his work.

Alexander’s passion is heartfelt, almost palpable. The historical mission of the body of Christ – the Church is marred by disunity

But he has an able response. His “bloodless revolution” calls for full sacramental communion. It is a broad based. Beyond canonical churches, he welcomes an all inclusive platform that invites old believers, old calendar, non-canonical, new generation, recognized, and traditional orthodox churches to heal the wounds within the orthodox body. Robust pan-Orthodox institutions do not require full communion among churches, he argues.

The Orthodox Dilemma offers a detailed panorama of the Church History and is a boon for researchers and proponents of interfaith dialogue. It is revelatory and timely, especially in a period riddled with internecine violence and religious tribalism. Ironically, in his uncompromising, strident promulgation of Orthodox supremacy, Alexander may be an inadvertent contributor to the global divide he is determined to fight.

The Orthodox Dilemma: Personal Reflections on Global Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity by George Alexander 2015

By George Alexander

OCP Publications, $9.60, 202 pages, Format: eBook

ISBN: 9781329629783

Available at Amazon

Ratings: Recommended

Source:

http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2016/04/17/book-reviewa-less-than-optimistic-view-on-christian-unity/

 

The 'Orthodox Dilemma’ deserves high appreciation for reminding the hierarchy about the real need of strengthening the foundation of their acceptance by the people of God together with divinely granted authority being successors of the Holy Apostles

Review by Fr. Dr. Jossi Jacob- Faculty- Holy Trinity Theological University College - Addis Ababa- Ethiopia. 

Email: jossijacob@gmail.com 

Being a genuine and serious attempt of a non-clergy believer of Orthodox Christianity, ‘The Orthodox Dilemma’ deserves high appreciation. It is obviously an outcome of George Alexander’s deep conviction and passionate longing for establishing unity among Orthodox Churches of both ecclesial families.  For me, the author of the book is not simply an individual, rather a representative of the young who ardently wishes the Orthodox Churches to have a global vision, and complete unity in faith and functionality to discuss the challenges of modernity and globalization with proper witness of the true way of Christian living in new time.

The venture of publishing such a book shall be an eye-opener to all the Holy Sees and hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches, of both Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox families, who are apparently more inclining to Cyprianic concepts of ecclesial authority and functioning of the Churches. This emerging consciousness, concern and sense of responsibility among the lay members of the Church shall open the eyes of the successors of the Holy Apostles in all the Orthodox Churches. This book implicitly reminds the hierarchs about the real need of strengthening the foundations of their acceptance by the people of God together with divinely granted authority being successors of the Holy Apostles.

I would see this project as a clear expression of ‘sobernost’ in practice, as the strength of fellowship and awareness of the Church from within to empower the body of Christ by healing her age-old wounds caused by the schism. I would wholeheartedly wish that this book will be a beginning in bringing the Orthodox Churches together and eventually to complete full conciliar unity. May God Almighty abundantly shower His blessings to make the ideas in the book to spread like a fire burning in the hearts of the Orthodox believers for bringing unity in the Holy Church, the Body of Christ.

 

The Orthodox Dilemma of Unity

 Review by the Lausanne- Orthodox Initiative (LOI) 

As Orthodox Christians of the Eastern family (as distinct from the Oriental Orthodox Churches) prepare for their Holy and Great Synod in Crete this coming June a new book has been published which calls for even greater unity within the Orthodox community.

In The Orthodox Dilemma: Personal Reflections on Global Christian Conciliar Unity, George Alexander, the founder and director of Orthodox Cognate PAGE, shares a passionate plea for a new conciliar approach to unity between all Orthodox Churches, both Oriental and Eastern.  In the early pages of this moving book the author shares some of his personal experiences of rejection when trying to enter and share in worship in Orthodox Churches which were not of his ethnicity or tradition. These experiences, he claims, are not exceptional and he quotes the experiences of others who have experiences similar rejections.

Throughout the text he argues that there are no substantive theological differences between the different Orthodox Churches (a point which many would dispute) and that the historical, cultural, ethnic and linguistic differences which keep people apart could be overcome by the adoption of a conciliar approach to unity. In arguing this approach he uses the examples of other world communions of Churches such as the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran World Federation.  Despite drawing on these other conciliar models of Church, Alexander is not afraid to begin his book with the bold statement, “[The] Orthodox Church is not one of the “churches” because she is the ONLY true Church of Christ. This naturally is not pride but the TRUTH. Since the Lord instituted only one Church, how can we speak of many?”.

The book deals with many of the sad divisions within the wider Orthodox community and calls for reconciliation and greater efforts towards inter-communion.  Alexander touches on the Nestorian Dilemma, reminds us of the problems in the Eritrean Church and the divisions in India, Ukraine and Macedonia and gives credit to the many who have worked tirelessly to overcome division. In the end, however, he leaves us with little hope. His plea for unity is passionate but he fails to explain how the conciliar model adopted by many other churches (see the list on page 119) and the World Council of Churches itself can be applied to the one and only true Church of God, the diverse community of Orthodox Churches.

Of relevance to the work of LOI, Alexander suggests (Pg. 56) that Inter-Orthodox ecumenism is relevant to the “heterodox” churches because a united voice from the Orthodox would help “heterodox Churches to guide and find their lost Orthodox past … Each dialogue with heterodox should help them to gain insights into their Orthodox past, their original history, the true Traditions of Christ and His Apostles, the life of Church Fathers. At the same time, strategic working relationships in the field of charity and social outreach, Christian persecution and other common areas of concerns should be discussed.”

http://www.loimission.net/the-orthodox-dilemma-of-unity/

 Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative

The Orthodox Dilemma is a passionate & heartfelt plea for Orthodox Churches everywhere, but especially at the local level, to find a personal way - demonstrating basic Christian principles - to get along

Review by Joel Dennstedt- Readers Favourite 

Important to consider with any informative evaluation of The Orthodox Dilemma by layman George Alexander is the necessarily circumscribed focus of his attention – the historical delineations, early schisms, and later separations of Orthodox Christianity into various Churches, along with a specific concern for a conciliar unification of all the separate Orthodox Churches – as well as his own confession to having a highly restricted and non-definitive personal objective in writing this exhaustive treatise: “This book does not have any guidelines for Orthodox unity as such, but contains random thoughts, wild dreams, reflections and life experiences [of someone] who deeply desires to see the Church of Christ united in conciliarity,” defined as “the adherence of various Christian communities to the authority of ecumenical councils and to synodal church government.”


Therefore, The Orthodox Dilemma by George Alexander is a passionate and heartfelt plea for Orthodox Churches everywhere, but especially at the local level, to find a personal way - demonstrating basic Christian principles - to get along, while at the same time adhering to fundamental Orthodox doctrines such as the very nature of the One Lord Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect Man, and the history of the Church traced in unbroken continuity from Christ and his Apostles. Alexander believes that these fundamental Orthodox canons, if pursued with sincerity, can still be the foundation on which conciliar unity is achieved and founded upon a common universal platform. The author stresses conciliarity “because the nature and structure of administration and decision in Orthodox Churches is always based on councils.” 

The interested reader may find much of value in The Orthodox Dilemma, including several anecdotal experiences of both severe division and blessed unity within the Church. He may also feel, however unfairly, that George Alexander does not articulate much more of a practical agenda than his passionate demand for unification, heartfelt as that may be, though he is careful to enumerate in relentless detail the seemingly overwhelming odds against it, including a severe lack of Orthodox religious education among the membership in general. Still, if his purpose - as stated - is mostly to provoke the same desire and passion in others and to stimulate further ideas and plans for unifying actions, he may consider this book to be a particular success.

Source:

https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-orthodox-dilemma

 

 

 

 

Revelatory and timely, especially in a Period Riddled with Internecine Violence and Religious Tribalism

 

Review by Dr. Glenville Ashby - San Francisco Book Review

Website- www.glenvilleashby.com

Email- glenvilleashby@gmail.com

The Orthodox Dilemma offers a detailed panorama of Church History and is a boon for researchers and proponents of interfaith dialogue. It is revelatory and timely, especially in a period riddled with internecine violence and religious tribalism.

Ironically, in his uncompromising, strident promulgation of Orthodox supremacy, Alexander may be an inadvertent contributor to the global divide he is determined to fight.

 

George Alexander’s thesis is as lucid as it gets: The Orthodox Churches are the true heirs to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, but a centuries-old schism between Eastern and Western orthodoxy threatens its identity and survivability more than ever before.

According to Alexander, there is disinterest and lassitude in resolving theological misunderstandings concerning Christology, in particular, the nature of Jesus. Political and ethnic differences have also fanned the flame of discord. Although some steps have been taken toward compromise and accommodation, the author presents a fractured Church rife with internal strife, citing tensions between the Antiochian and Jerusalem patriarchates over canonical rights regarding Jerusalem; conflicts between the Serbian and Macedonian churches; the separation of Old Calendar Greek churches from the Greek Orthodox Church; and Old Believers parting ways with the Russian Orthodox Church.

He decries the use of term, ‘heretical’ against Eastern Orthodoxy, reminding accusers that Oriental believers are not monophysites as commonly held. Notably, he invokes the stature and wisdom of St Cyril, the ostensible father of both families of Orthodoxy, who comprehensively explained the mystery of Christ. Both bodies, Alexander opines, define the same truth through their own political and cultural prisms. Compellingly, he chronicles his ostracism by Eastern Orthodox prelates during a visit to the Middle East, and recounts similar anecdotes to cement his exigent call for dialogue. “For me,” he writes, “the acceptance of the seven Ecumenical Councils [by Oriental Orthodoxy] and the subsequent removal of anathemas should be modelled upon step by step constructive dialogue…”

Alexander laments the failure of the 1964 Addis Abba conference to address disunity, although he is marginally encouraged at efforts toward rapprochement between 1964 and 1984.

Further, he cautions against meddling in orthodox affairs by the Roman See, arguing that its overtures to some oriental churches work against orthodox homogeneity. While Alexander does not denounce ecumenism, he views the Vatican as surreptitiously and subtly attempting to bring orthodoxy under its control. He emphatically states that “the pope cannot be a coordinator for orthodox unity,” and warns against falling “prey to the pomp and glory of the Vatican,” and the divide and conquer tactics it employs. Instead, he advocates prioritizing inter-orthodox dialogue at local, regional, national and international levels; the establishment of theological and secular institutes; and the use of mass media to promote pan-Orthodox issues. He also asks that the faithful be vigilant against the evangelizing efforts of Christian churches. It is a point that he advances throughout his work.

 “I feel that we have not done justice to Jesus Christ and His Church because we still keep the body of Christ divided.” (p.47)

Alexander’s “bloodless revolution” calls for conciliar unity and full sacramental communion. It is a broad based. Beyond canonical churches, he welcomes an all-inclusive platform that invites old believers, old calendar, non-canonical, new generation, recognized, and traditional orthodox churches to heal the wounds within the orthodox body. Robust pan-Orthodox institutions do not require full communion among churches, he argues.

 http://www.sanfranciscobookreview.com/2016/02/the-orthodox-dilemma/

Clearly Focused and Prophetically Articulated

Fr Dr Jacob Kuiren on ' The Orthodox Dilemma'

 Email- frjacobkurian@gmail.com

"The Orthodox Dilemma is a clearly focused, prophetically articulated and uniquely challenging book." Fr Dr Jacob Kurien - Theologian, Author, Academician and former Principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary (India).

Innocent & Rightful Questions on the Unity of the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ

 Dr. Wa’el Adnan Jabbour  on 'The Orthodox Dilemma'. 

 Email: ph.waeljabbour@hotmail.com

“The ‘Orthodox Dilemma’ echoes innocent and rightful questions on the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and gives mature reflections, suggestions and an honest call to global pan-orthodox Christian conciliar unity” - Dr. Wa’el Adnan Jabbour – Medical  Lab Diagnosis Specialist  & Faithful of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & All East (Latakia- Syria). 

 

 “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15). 

 

If you let a little child attend any Oriental Orthodox church and any Eastern Orthodox Church at the same time with his inner innocence and positivity, he will not notice any differences except these three things: language, vestments and choir. For him, those two churches will be the place where he finds peace and love. For him, they will be nothing but two different editions for the same beautiful" toy".

 

But when you push this innocent child to eat from the forbidden fruit of details, the sin will be upon you, not upon him. Because the child's immediate response will be crying and asking loudly:" Why the schism? You are the same!! I will not attend your churches anymore ".

 

The Orthodox Dilemma by George Alexander echoes the same innocent rightful question of that little child mixed with the deep knowledge of the past of the One Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church and Theological, Christological and political conflicts throughout the history. The Orthodox Dilemma doesn't stop there. It gives us mature reflections, suggestions and an honest warm call to global pan-orthodox Christian conciliar unity. The author invites every true orthodox faithful and clergy to open their hearts for love and humility to the other side, and to sit together for a "cup of coffee" which is the simple yet convincing expression used in the book.

 

 

 

Enthusiastic and Sincere Quest on Orthodox Christian Unity

The Orthodox Dilemma- Review by Fr Thomas Ninan- M. Th.  Priest of the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church. 

Email- frthomas.ninan@gmail.com

The book reflects an enthusiastic and a sincere quest on one of the most debated issues in the History of Christianity, that of Church Unity, specifically on having a common Orthodox platform, with due reference to the Byzantine and the Oriental Orthodox churches. While giving a glimpse on some of the historical issues debated among the Orthodox churches with respect to the schisms, the author tries to find relevance in today’s context by raising questions which emanate from the sharing of the real life experiences he and various other laity have had while interacting with the different churches. In essence, the book raises the pertinent question of addressing the lack of understanding at the grassroots level about the relevance of the Universality of a radiant Orthodox spirituality and life, as practised by the Early Church, for a common and effective Orthodox witness today.

In a context where very little has been dealt with among the different Orthodox churches regarding what “Unity of churches” would mean, it sadly continues to be just a concept, discussed once in a while among interested church leaders engaged in Church dialogue. The prevalent Ecumenical Movement which came into being in the mid 20th century has unfortunately had a negative impact on the various Orthodox churches, in the way it was eventually practised. And because there was very little understanding of this within the Orthodox churches then, it became obvious that the word “Oikumene”, as introduced in the Acts of the Apostles, is more a taboo word among the Orthodox churches today, in the way it has been practised so far. Hence, in reality, the ancient Orthodox churches are yet to realise and practise what a true “Oikumene” would really mean as the Early Church practised. To this end, this book is a great inspiration to anyone who would want to dream and engage with what, Unity in this sense would mean in a distinct way, which the world is yet to see and realise. The author, while dreaming of such a Unity, has sincerely tried to give a glimpse of some of the realities the differences between the Orthodox churches has brought forth. It is in a way, a mini encyclopaedia for anyone wanting to delve into what these differences are all about.

The need for a sincere approach towards the understanding of “Oikumene” among the Orthodox churches remains a decision that needs to be taken today. This is in fact more a fundamental Biblical decision that needs to be taken, independent of what the history of the Church and Christianity has expressed itself with. The book gives a glimpse of the possibilities of what such a unity among the Orthodox churches can bring about, through the few attempts that have happened so far, at the grassroot level. After the various schisms that have happened in the history of Christianity, significant efforts towards Church unity by a pool of stalwarts from the Orthodox churches took place during the 20th century.

Like a star shining in the dark sky, their efforts continue to be a beacon today for all those who dream of such a reality. In fact, in the history of Ecumenism, their efforts stand out as one of the most daring features that brought together the two Eastern churches to a common table of learning. Much has happened after that in the Ecumenical World, both in the East and the West, to be able to reach a situation today where on one side, a few unsung heroes continue to bear the flag of unity while on the other side looms large the question of the relevance of such a Unity. Make no mistake, if it were for political reasons that there happened divisions in the history of the churches, there is no reason why one cannot comprehend the fact that the divisions today continue between the churches more because of the political reasons prevalent today, locally and regionally. Ethnicity, property disputes and other internal matters feed on to the political interests which keep alive the divisions between the churches. These factors are not just challenges to the cause of realising unity among the Orthodox churches today, but, in reality are challenges to the practice of basic theological tenets of Orthodox life today, as it were in the early periods of church history. It was Aldous Huxley who commented, “Medical science has made such tremendous progress that there is hardly a healthy human left.”

Can we see a similar line in the stream of theological studies today, where theological knowledge has made so much progress that it is very difficult to find an ounce of godliness in human beings today. If Orthodox spirituality, as it is practised today, cannot aim towards achieving godliness as its ultimate outcome, I must say it’s time we call such spirituality as something else. It was the late HH Baselios Geevarghese II, the third Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Church who said, “It is much more important to keep inner purity than to maintain cleanliness in the church. If not, our inner self will become a den of thieves, as Christ taught us...” Can we dream of such beauty? Is it realistic and achievable? Can we call our lives worthwhile otherwise....

Towards A Global Orthodox Christian Conciliar Union

 

The Orthodox Dilemma

Review by

Dina Blokland - M.A. Theol., M.A. Semit.

Ph.D. Candidate at Hebrew University

Email- dina.blokland@gmail.com

 

George Alexander addresses in his newest book ‘The Orthodox Dilemma’ disunity amongst the Orthodox Churches. The book carries the subtitle ‘Personal Reflections Global Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity’. The Author calls for dialogue between Eastern, Oriental, Old Believers, Old Calendar, Traditional, Un-recognized, New Generation Orthodox Churches. Since the foundation of the Orthodox Cognate PAGE Society (OCP) in 2007, Alexander is committed to promote Orthodox Christian Unity and Faith.

The book is written in a personal style, and is refreshing in a sense that it does not split theological hairs, but speaks to the heart of Orthodox Christians.  Alexander does not deny the existence of theological differences between the Orthodox Churches, but goes beyond, and calls for dialogue and interaction in Orthodoxy.

The book contains seven chapters; in the Introduction an overview is given of various Orthodox Churches worldwide, and the concept of Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity is explained.  Alexander describes the common ground of Orthodox Christianity and present situation in Orthodox Unity, illustrated by personal experiences with Orthodox Churches.

The schism between the so-called Oriental and Eastern branches of Orthodoxy is brought to the attention of the reader and historically explained, interlaced with personal encounters in Orthodox Churches.

Alexander notices for instance a shortage of theological institutes as well as a limited cooperation between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Theological institutions. Western Christianity seems eager to substitute and fill shortages, therewith however for passing the rich Orthodox-theological heritage. Orthodox Christianity is too valuable to be deprecated, and steps should be made to preserve and continue Orthodox tradition to a flourishing representative of modern Christianity.

Alexander’s book gives many examples and encounters of daily life, personal as well as virtual of the Orthodox Christian in relation with other members in Christian Orthodoxy.

The author calls upon the Orthodox Churches to be aware and proud of the rich Orthodox heritage and to be proactive towards western ecumenism. In Alexander’s view, Orthodoxy can act as a full partner in worldwide ecumenism only after formation of an Orthodox union. The Orthodox voice has to be heard worldwide, and should not be marginalized by ecumenical politics of divide et impera.

The author speaks out in a plea for greater acceptance and tolerance between the various Orthodox Churches as equal members of Orthodox Christianity, in concordance with I Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.”

As the theological differences in Orthodoxy are not as distinct compared to those of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, with which ecumenical relations are established, assembling the diverse branches of Orthodoxy should be even more feasible.

Union cannot and should not be imposed, but has to start with interaction, followed by growth and development from the “grass roots”. Initiatives by members from the various Sister Churches Orthodoxy can overcome borders, created by traditions and the various languages in Orthodoxy.  Apart from laity, clergy should likewise be involved in the process.

The reunification of the Patriarchate in Moscow with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, as well as the making of connections with the Old Believers, is proof of the viability of a union between various branches of Orthodoxy.

Apart from personal encounters in real life, referrals to virtual meetings are included in the book, too. In our world the internet has become a place where people meet and make friends; a real, but virtual place which has immense possibilities for interactions between Orthodox Christians. Communication through the internet and other mass media can function as a platform, starting with the establishment of Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity, in order to eventually reach a broader Christian unity worldwide.

The book is written from a very personal view, which, I think, is also the strength of the book.  Alexander does not deny the existence of theological distinctions, does not call for the abandonment of specific forms of Orthodoxy, but clearly makes a very personal appeal on the reader.

When reading about the personal meetings, the conscious reader will ask himself or herself the question if his or her behavior is in accordance with God’s commandment.  Jesus Christ has worded this in the Gospel of John 12:34 ff   A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

When meeting others we aren’t always aware of the consequences of our words or deeds, the personal descriptions in this book however call our attention to become mindful of our behavior.

The quoted Bible texts therefore are to be seen as a command- each member of the Body of Christ has a different form and a different function, the body works optimal when they cooperate- with a loving attitude, as tells us the Gospel of John.  On these terms, we can start, maybe slowly, but surely and steadily towards Orthodox Conciliar Unity.

© Dina Blokland - M.A. Theol., M.A. Semit.

Ph.D. Candidate at Hebrew University

January 2015 

Dina Blokland <dina.blokland@gmail.com>

dina.blokland@gmail.com

All in all a very enjoyable and important read, I highly recommend It

 John Tsambazis - Award Winning Executive Producer at Clapstick Pictures

 
Email: jtsambazis@yahoo.com

IMBD PROFILE:

I am really happy that this book is out there and someone else shares my beliefs. For a long time, I have pondered on this issue, which, I believe, is one of if not the most important issues facing the Orthodox Church today.

 

With all the threats and dangers facing the Orthodox Church in these troubling times it is vitally important that cooperation and unity are something that is discussed and implemented. United we stand… is a famous phrase and it certainly applies here.

 

Although this book has no concrete solution, the author never claims to have the absolute solution, he just states he wants to get the discussion going, which is the important first step in securing our faith and traditions. I believe that in the future this can be seen as an important book which got the ball rolling on the much need process of unity within the Orthodox Churches around the world.

 

From a technical standpoint, the book is very well written and a joy to read. George Alexander’s passion comes through and his lack of arrogance in proclaiming that he knows he doesn’t have all the answers is super refreshing as many theological writers cannot admit that they don’t know the absolute truth. All in all a very enjoyable and important read, I highly recommend it.

 

 John Tsambazis

 

 

This book is a much-needed piece in the broader "puzzle" which will help to make our struggle for Orthodox Unity become a reality

 

Visit Joslyn Photography at Flickr

 Email- joslynramey@gmail.com 

 

"The Orthodox Dilemma" is a well-researched, well-written document that examines the conflicts and rifts within Holy Orthodoxy. The author echoes the cry of Our Lord when he prays that his flock may be one (John 17:21). This cry wells up within the hearts of many Orthodox Christians throughout the world, though not many have been so bold or as straight-forwardly as George Alexander.

 

The work discusses important issues such as the dream of Orthodox Christian conciliar unity, the healing of the East vs. East schism, and ecumenical concerns while also addressing the need for Orthodox Christian outreach, consensus, and a unified world-wide witness. Major formative historical events are highlighted, various voices throughout the Orthodox world are heard, and the call for Christ's Church to be one finds its way to our present age-- where we must deal with the divided reality we find ourselves in. 

 

All of the Orthodox faithful can take up the cause for unity-- laymen and women as well as monastics and clergy alike. We each must do our part. Disunity and separation are sins which, with the help and guidance of the Holy Trinity, we must repent of and heal from. 

 

As a former independent fundamentalist Baptist, former traditionalist Roman Catholic, and now an Orthodox Christian, I see clearly the divisions within Christendom. I weep for the deep divisions. While modern-day ecumenical efforts between the Church and the divided sects of Christianity and other faiths are noble, I strongly believe that we Orthodox Christians need to repent, heal, and unify ourselves so that we can present a tremendous witness to the world.  We are members of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church with holds to the Orthodox faith, handed down to us from the apostles. We are the Body of Christ. It is time to come together as one, to reach the world with both truth and love.

 

This book is a much-needed piece in the broader "puzzle" which will help to make our struggle for Orthodox Unity become a reality.

 

Joslyn Ramey

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Joslyn Ramey – Orthodox Writer, Travel & Photography Expert

The Unity of World Orthodox Churches

The Unity of World Orthodox Churches - The Orthodox Dilemma – Brief review by John D Kunnathu - Orthodox Christian Author and Academician. 

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Email: johnkunnathu@gmail.com

 

The Orthodox Dilemma is a book that promotes the idea of a worldwide unity of the Orthodox Christian Churches. George Alexander, the author, is an authority in this field. He is the founder of Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society as well as the author of several books on this topic. As its subtitle states, it consists of the author’s personal reflections on global Orthodox Christian unity, and it is also a call for dialogue among all varieties of Orthodox churches around the globe.

As the author rightly admits, he is not an orthodox theologian, nor does he claim to have in his possession any formula for Orthodox unity; however, he calls himself an Orthodox layman who has a deep desire within him for worldwide Orthodox unity. All he presents in this book, as he claims, are his random thoughts, wild dreams, reflections and life experiences. Hence this book is an expression of the deep yearnings of the Orthodox Christian men and women all over the world. The author does not claim any authority to his ideas. He is simply initiating a discussion, in which people from the entire orthodox world may eventually participate, and work out ways of unity.

The author does not think that perfect unity of all the orthodox churches by coming under one head is either possible or desirable. He would rather have them stand as separate bodies but stand united without any enmity among them. They need to accept one another in spite of their differences. They need to agree to disagree. Such a unity of the Orthodox churches will help them tremendously to grow together and contribute to the wellbeing of humankind.

The introductory chapter introduces the Orthodox churches and their historical development. Chapter one traces the development of the author’s dream of Orthodox unity and the birth of Orthodox Cognate PAGE Society. Chapter two analyses the historical schism between the Eastern and oriental Orthodox Churches. Chapter three deals in some depth the kind of unity to be sought among the orthodox churches. Chapter four deals with some online encounters for unity. Chapter five deals with the Orthodox Christian Outreach using mass media. Chapter six calls for a genuine unity among the Orthodox churches. Chapter seven calls the world Orthodox churches for a united Christian witness.

The book is published by the publishing division of the Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society (OCP), whichis a Pan-Orthodox society for the promotion of Orthodox Christian unity and faith established in the year 2007.

In conclusion, this book is an exciting introduction to the amazing attempts made by a committed Orthodox Christian for the unity of the Orthodox churches. This writer sincerely wish and pray that these baby steps may eventually lead to gigantic leaps that will successfully unite the Orthodox world!

John D Kunnathu