Contemporary Orthodox Ecclesiology: Church Unity and Divisions in the Church
St. Philaret’s Institute invites you to take part in a theological research conference which will continue our contemporary Orthodox Ecclesiology series. Previous years’ themes have focused, in particular, upon the understanding, reception and development of Eucharistic ecclesiology, as well as on the current understanding of the nature of the church and the character of its boundaries. The upcoming conference will focus on church unity in its spiritual, theological and empirical dimensions.
We see two simultaneous tendencies in contemporary Christendom. On the one hand, the Eastern and Western churches continue to take steps, if not towards reunion, at least towards increased dialogue and the elimination of historically accrued stereotypes. On the other hand, a number of new challenges to church unity have appeared. In particular, there have been a number of recent events in the Orthodox world, such as the non-participation of several local churches in the Pan-Orthodox Council, the establishment of a new metropolis under the jurisdiction of Constantinople in Ukraine, and the debates around the status of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
The organizers hope that the fact that the conference coincides with the 160th anniversary of the death of Aleksey Khomyakov will contribute a particular resonance to a discussion that is already poignant, in light of current challenges to church unity. It is to Khomyakov, after all, that we owe the practical reinstatement of a focus on church unity from a mystical/spiritual perspective; in his view, church unity “stems necessarily from God’s unity.” “It [the Church] is one and holy,” notes Khomyakov, “because she sanctifies the whole of humankind and the whole earth” and “her very essence is the unity of all her members in spirit and life.”
Drawing on Khomyakov’s legacy and considering the contemporary church context, the Organising Committee suggests the following issues for discussion:
- the nature and character of church unity and how it has been understood across history;
- historical and contemporary ideas about the nature and character of division within the church and what causes division to arise;
- ways and means of embodying church unity;
- forms for restoring church unity, both historical and potential (future);
- church unity as understood from the perspective of the main types of ecclesiology (clerical, Eucharistic, etc.).