St. Paul’s working for unity among Christians

Service of Prayer for Christian Unity at Pentecost hosted by St. Paul’s in 2007

“May all of them be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
I have given them the glory that You gave Me that they may be one as We are one.
I in them and You in Me, that they may become completely one,
so that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”
John 17:21-23

Since the early years of the last century, the Orthodox Church has been actively engaged in dialogue with other Christians. Orthodox Christians believe that the purpose of conversation with other Christians is twofold: First, to identify differences in teaching and worship among those who claim Christ as Lord and Savior, to clarify disagreements and work to overcome, if possible, all errors and divisions; and second, to cooperate in doing good works where such cooperation for the good of humanity – such as feeding the hungry, aiding the poor, settling refugees, etc. – is possible and desirable.

In doing this, Orthodox Christians are following the example of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well (known in our tradition as St. Photini) and even drank water from the cup she offered Him, contrary to all Jewish law and practice of His time, because Samaritans were:

1.) heretics who did not worship at the Temple in Jerusalem but had set up their own Temple in Samaria; and
2.) not a part of the chosen people but an ethnically different stock than the people of Israel.

Heretic and sinner that she was in the eyes of the Judaism of her time, we believe that her encounter with Christ Jesus led her to holiness and eternal life. Orthodox Christians must act as did our Lord Jesus, being willing to speak with anyone, knowing that the Holy Spirit may use even our poor witness to His glory. In doing so, we follow not only the example of our Lord but the witness of canonized saints such as Philaret of Moscow, Tikhon of Moscow, Nicholas of Zica and Nicholas of Japan.

An excellent introduction to the challenges and opportunities presented by the participation of Orthodox Christians in the ecumenical movement over the last century is:

The Challenges and Potential of Orthodox Participation in Ecumenical Dialogue

This is an article written by Dr. Eve Tibbs, a parishioner here at St. Paul’s and an affiliate professor of Theology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA who has also served as a lay representative of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to the National Council of Churches, based in New York.

Another excellent resource is the collection of numerous articles on Orthodox participation in the Ecumenical Movement – and the internal debate within Orthodoxy as to the value of such participation – is found at the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and is entitled:

Orthodoxy and Ecumenism

This resource, compiled by Peter Bouteneff, a professor at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York and Jim Forest, a well-known writer and lecturer, contains the texts of foundational ecumenical documents such as the 1920 Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate addressed “To the Churches of Christ everywhere” as well as articles by leading Orthodox theologians such as Fathers John Meyendorff (1926-1992) and Thomas Hopko (1939-2015), both of whom served as deans of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York.