Wholeness in the Orthodox Church
- Dear List,
Concerning the events that have been devastating our Church, it may
be interesting to remember the decisions of the Council of 1917
regarding the role of laity, bishops and Patriarch. To what extend
were we faithful to those decisions? To what extend would the rules
below have avoided what happened? Should we not consider reinstating
1. Role of the laity.
In the elections to the Council of 1917, the necessity of Episcopal
approval of elected delegates was completely abrogated; once elected,
delegates were recognised as representatives of the clergy and laity
of the diocese. At the same time it was decided that there should be
an equal number of representatives - three clerics and three laymen -
from every diocese. Unlike the regulations of the Pre-Council of
1906, the present Council Statute gave the clergy and laity not a
consultative but a decisive voice.
2. Role of the bishops.
Having given the same voting rights to the clergy and the laity as to
the bishops, the new Council Statute simultaneously granted the
bishops the right to veto any decision of the General Assembly of the
Council that seemed to them unacceptable. According to the Council
statute, all bishops present at the Council formed a
special "Bishops' Conference". The latter would "consider each
decision of the General Assembly of the Council, which establishes
general rules or fundamental principles of ecclesiastical
organisation, and measure its agreement with the Word of God, the
canons, the dogmas and the tradition of the Church." (Statute Art.
3. Guaranteeing "wholeness" (sobornost) in the Church
This arrangement guaranteed the supremacy of the episcopate. However,
the bishops could only accept or reject those decisions that had
first been adopted by the General Assembly of the Council, where the
bishops sat side by side with the clergy and laity.
In practice therefore every decision of the Council had to be an
expression of the singleness of mind and common accord of the whole
Church: bishops, clergy and laity. If there was no common accord, no
decree could be passed. The councils of 1917-1918 clearly determined
that the patriarch was to be responsible to a council composed of
bishops, clergy and laity.
4. Power of the Patriarch (Metropolitan in our case).
On November 4th, 1917, the Moscow Council accepted the Patriarch
as "first among the bishops, who were equal to him," and on December
7th of the same year, it gave him a right of protest which raised him
above the Sacred Synod of twelve bishops and also above the Supreme
Ecclesiastical Council (the ecclesial body composed of bishops,
clergy and laity with the Patriarch as president); ...