Mark Stokoe: "The Great Counci Is The Probem It Seeks to Resolve"
ENGLISH VERSION: The Great Council Is The
Problem It Seeks to Resolve. Interview with Mark Stokoe, the former
editor of OCANews.org and long-time Orthodox activist
"Portal-Credo.Ru": Why won’t there be a
Pan-Orthodox Council? Or do you think otherwise? Do you still hope to see in
Chambesy the triumph of Orthodoxy? The ambition of the ecclesiastical authority
of the Moscow Patriarchate have gone beyond reason, and their actions do not
What do you think of such a primitive course as fragmenting the
ROC’s dioceses and increasing the number of bishops to represent it at the
Pan-Orthodox Council? And what about the Greek churches? - Should they tremble
at the sight of the vast hordes of the Russian episcopate?
By the way, what can the Greek world do to counter the ROC, in
order not to lose its dominant role in the Orthodox world. And, can anyone else
intervene in dispensing grace among the Orthodox?
Mark Stokoe: The problems with holding a
future Great Council are both one and many. There are many practical problems:
location, composition, procedures, finances - not to mention political, social,
and ecumenical considerations.
It was so much easier when there was an Emperor!
The heretofore insurmountable obstacle, however, has been the one
theoretical problem: that is, how to reconcile the symbols of Orthodox ecclesial
power with the realities of it. For 650 years, since the Fall of Constantinople,
the Greek Churches, who possess all the symbols of ecclesial power, have had
increasingly held less actual potentas.
Conversely, the Russian Church, which
has few symbols of power, has increasingly gained in actual power.
A sort of equilibrium was achieved in the 16th century with the
recognition by Constantinople of Russia’s autocephaly; but this solution grew
increasingly unstable as the Ottoman Empire continued to wane, and Russia
continued to wax, i.e., to grow. For much of the 20th century equilibrium was
again achieved as the Russian Church suffered under the Communists. Since 1991,
however, the theoretical problem has come to the fore again, as Constantinople
continues to decline, and Russia is resurgent.
The current dichotomy between symbolic power and potentas is stark
and undeniable. Russia is the fifth Patriarchate in the order of dyptichs, and
thus unable to initiate or promote anything inter-Orthodox apart from the
Greeks. Yet all the Orthodox Christians in the four ancient Greek Patriarchates,
including their dependencies around the world, don’t even equal half the
population of the city of Moscow itself! It is an absurd situation.
Russia tries everything to accrue symbolic power equal to its
actual power: to re-establish itself as the Russian State Church, promoting ties
on moral and social issues with the Vatican, ecumenical ties with everyone,
establishing countless parishes and dioceses throughout the world, even on the
territory of other Local Churches.
And still they cannot outflank the Phanar’s "dominant role in the
Orthodox world" as you put it.
Until this theoretical problem can be resolved, no Council can be
held --- for this theoretical problem lies at the basis of all the practical
problems as well: location, composition, finances, procedures, etc.
Constantinople cannot allow a Council that would be dominated by
Russians, lest their monopoly be lost forever. Russia cannot allow a Great
Council that might be seen as re-confirming Constantinople’s monopoly of
And so the Great Council remains a dream desired by everyone -- as
long as it is never held.
--- And will we, that is, the OCA be summoned to the Pan-Orthodox
Council if it suddenly takes place? And where will Metropolitan Tikhon sit?
Generally, is there a possibility that the Greek world will begin to recognize
us? In exchange for what? Or perhaps the time will come -- there’s no avoiding
it -- that the Greek world will recognize us? Isn’t that so?
- This reminds me of an old ecumenical joke. "Question: Where
does the Archbishop of Canterbury stand on authority in the Church? Answer: He
is standing because there is only one seat of authority in the Church, the Chair
of Peter, and the Pope is sitting in it."
The Greeks have no intention of inviting the OCA to any Great
Council because it would diminish their symbolic power, since they did not give
us autocephaly -- Russia did. Until the theoretical problem discussed above is
resolved, the Greeks will not recognize us, because they can only see the
theoretical problem as a zero -sum game. I win, you lose. You win, I lose.
Alas, then, should a miracle happen and a Great Council be held,
Metropolitan Tikhon will not be sitting. He, like the Metropolitans of Karelia
and All Finland, the Metropolitan of Tokyo and All Japan -- and all the Orthodox
bishops in the Americas, Western European, Asia, etc. will be kept standing
As St. Justin Popovich warned 50 years ago about any Great
Council: it most likely will create more problems than it resolves. But that is
Can anything ever change, then? Of course it can, but I have to
confess I don’t much care which of these contemporary sons of Zebedee (Mark
10:34ff) achieves its goal. My hope in this world is not that Jesus will
"change" things. My hope is for the next: that ‘He Who Sits on the Throne’ will
keep his word: "Behold I make all things new." (Rev. 21.5). That is the change
for which I am waiting.
Interview by Svetlana Vais,
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