Orthodox Families Consultations on Unity
An Evaluation of the Four Unofficial Consultations Between the two families of the Orthodox Churches
by Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
1-Concerning the first Consultation (Aarhus 1964)
The theologians declared in the statment: "On the essence of the Christological dogma we found ourselves in full agreement."
We, as orthodox churches, believe in unity that is based on the theological basis, or on the unity of faith and not just through pastoral and social cooperation. This faith must be expressed in theological terms, but sometimes "terminology" may be misunderstood by others. it is our duty to set the term that explains our mutual concepts of Christology overcoming the terms which can be misunderstood. Every family believes that her terminology only can protect the church from heresy. The Chalcedonians accepted their term "two natures" against Eutychianism, while the non-Chalcedonians accepted their term "one nature (of two natures) against Nestorianism.
The two families accepted the unity of the Godhead and manhood without separation or division and also without confusion or changing. We are both in need to set the formula to express this dogma in an accurate way, motivated by the true faith and not as slaves of special terms, so that we can use "the one united nature" or any other suitable term.
2-Concerning the Second Consultation (Bristol 1967)
The theologains studied the formulae of the two families concerning the nature, will and energy of Christ.
Although we affirm the one united divine-human nature, will and energy in the same Christ, the other family believes in two natures, wills and energies, hypo-statically united in the One Lord Jesus Christ. We do not commingle or confuse and they do not divide and separate. (the "without division, without separation" of those who say "two" and the "without change, without confusion" of those who say "one" need to be specially underlined, in order that we may understand each other).
I think now the way towards unity is not far ahead if we sincerely demand it in our Lord Jesus Christ.
3-Concerning the Third Consultation (Geneva 1970)
This consultation raised the problem of the Ecumenical Councils and lifting up the anathemas.
From our point of view the first 3 Ecumenical Councils were sufficient to set the formula of the Church creed and dogma.
Now, concerning the Council of Chalcedon, we know that in this council Anatolius of Constantinople considered our Pope Dioscorus as an orthodox and declared that he was condemned because he dared to condemn Leo of Rome.
Historically, we cannot accept the Council of Chalcedon that condemned our orthodox leader, but we may accept the recent reinter pretation of its Christology which is very close to our traditional concept.
The council will not constitute any problem when both of us lift up the anathemas against Leo, Dioscorus, Severius of Antioch etc... As anathemas will be lifted up and Christological formula will be set, then the acceptance or non-acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon will not be a problem.
Concerning the last three councils, I think if we lifted up the anathemas, we'll find that many of the contents of the acts of these councils deal with subjects and problems we were not exposed to as the defence of Icons. In our area, icons were not attacked at all by any christian in our churches, and we had no need to defend the veneration of icons until the beginning of this century (20th) when some of the western Protestants attacked it.
I think these councils will not represent a true problem.
4-Concerning the Fourth Consultation (Addis Ababa 1971)
The theologians studied-in more details- the lifting up of anathemas by both sides, and who should have the authority to lift up those anathemas. Is there a need of an ecumenical council to do so?
I think we are in need of time to prepare the minds of our people before doing so. This is the job of the holy synods of every church...
Now we can say that the two families can find their way towards Christological common faith through the Cyrillian statement, "mia physis tou Theou Logou sasarkomene (one nature of the Incarnate Word of God)." According to this statement our theologians meeting together found that the Logos who was before all ages begotten from the Father was, in these last days for us and for our salvation, born of the blessed Virgin Mary, and that in Him the two natures are united in the one hypostasis of the Divine Logos, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation Jesus Christ is perfect in His Godhead and is perfect in His humanity and He is the Incarnate God. He is one hypostasis with all the properties and faculties that belongs to the Godhead and humanity.
Finally, we hope to take practical steps towards our unity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to enjoy the exchange of thought to strengthen and deepen our eastern evangelic spirituality and orthodox faith and life, to witness to our Christ and preach the Gospel according to the Patristic thought.