What do we mean by Sister Church ?
- I have seen various individuals say let the two factions in the Syriac Church of India, sort out our issues and establish peace. We have two choices for peace:
1) Have full unity and relationship with the Patriarch as per the 1934 constitution amended appropriately as per the 1995 Supreme Court judgment.
2) Don't have fully unity, establish peace and live as sister churches.
There are proposals and protocols floating on the internet for option#1 and unity. Many including myself believe given our history of 1958 to 1973, option #1 may not be practical. So I feel option#2 has a better likelyhood of succeeding. However I have not seen any clear definition or protocol for option #2. What does living as Sister Church mean?
I would like to have a healthy discussion on here about, what do we mean when we say let us live peacefully as "sister churches".
Here are examples of two kinds of sister churches:
A) The Syriac Orthodox Church considers the Coptic Church, the Armenian Church , the Ethiopian Church and the Eritrean Church as sister churches. These sister churches share the exact same faith and consider the sacraments administered by each other as having the same grace and validity as if it was administered by the Syriac Church. However they don't interfere in each other's administrative affairs.
B) In Malankara we use the term sister church more loosely. We even consider the Marthoma, CSI etc as sister churches, even though we don't share the same exact faith. The CSI and Marthoma rejects a lot of aspects of our faith, especially with respect to intercessory prayers thru St. Mary and other Saints, prayers for the departed etc. We do not consider their sacraments as having the same validity and grace as if it is administered by the Syriac Church.
In peace proposals when we say let the JSC and IOC live peacefully as Sister Churches, do we mean (A) as Sister Churches that share the exact same faith, where we consider each other's sacraments as having the same validity and grace? Or are we talking about (B) more in terms of like we consider the CSI church?
If it is the latter (Sister church type B), how can we justify it. Because the IOC has the same faith of the three councils as the Ethiopian Church. There will have to a good justification provided, why the Ethiopian Church is a sister church and why the IOC is not.
If it is the former ( Sister Church type A), then the relations between the IOC and the SOC will be normalized. In that situation, in the future IOC will invite the Patriarch for Catholicose enthronements. Will we as the JSC oppose that? The IOC will also expect their Catholicose to be invited to Patriarchal enthronements. Will we as the JSC oppose that?
The fact is that we cannot have the present condition go on forever. We need peace. For peace we have to choose option#1 or option#2.
If it is option#2 , then we need to clearly define what 'sister church' means. Is it type A or type B?
We need to start thinking in these terms and start developing some consensus around it.
Mathew G M
- Dear Mathew GM,
What you are demonstrating seems to be exactly what the protocol is trying to establish and that's discussion and developing clarity for the sake of all parties involved. I think your thoughts are great and I hope more and more people read the protocol and write to those developing it so it can grow into a better, living & breathing document and one day the IOC and SOC people will be looked as a true beacon of truth, justice, and examples of Christ.
Let's face some facts. SOC and IOC are intertwined by history and are indeed one in the same faith. There is no disputing that. Why are we so caught up in the mundane, when Christ is right there in front of our face? There are ideological differences and what others may feel are fundamental arguments but in the grand scheme, they are in a small speck compared to the issues both groups as a collective Church (IOC & SOC combined) face that are not being addressed. The short-sightedness of these ideologues, radical clergy, fundamentalist lay-folk, and other unmovable elements are holding back progress. To be quite frank, in my humblest opinion they are wasting time, effort, physical, and mental strength on things that are not relevant to us in this day and age where we as Orthodox Christians are facing greater threats. They are draining the strength of the people too. We are also missing huge opportunities for development and growth. The Bible should be our guide to these things. Collectively, we are not thinking clearly because were are focused on the minutia. There has to be real change in everyone's hearts and minds and focus on the big picture at hand. I will pray for unity and hope that more and more SOC and IOC will see this as the way toward real spiritual and physical growth and development of The Church.
I commend the writers of the protocol and hope that it blossoms everlasting peace. May God Bless us all!
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