Since the early years of the last century, and especially since the 1920 Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate addressed “To The Churches of Christ Everywhere,” 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 in the Name of Christ 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: first, heretics who did not worship at the Temple in Jerusalem but had set up their own Temple in Samaria; and second, 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 our Lord Jesus did, 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 as well as theologians and teachers such as George Florovsky, John Meyendorff, Alexander Schmemann, John Zizioulas and Thomas Hopko.
An introduction to the challenges and opportunities presented by the participation of Orthodox Christians in the ecumenical movement over the last century is: