Browse By Person
Coptic Orthodox Church
It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
Coptic Orthodox Church
The Canonical Problem: One Church, One Eucharist, One Bishop
Alrighty, here's my response
. I hope this lengthy response helps clarify my frustration with our ecclesiological practices today. But when you read this, I hope no one thinks I'm attacking any person who disagrees with me. I do enjoy this conversation, which is why I went overboard and wrote a seven page explanation of my beliefs. The reason for the length is perhaps my views sound like they were not coming across very clearly in its brevity. Anyone who has lamented the use of general bishops share these opinions and understand the historical development of these issues, and also wish to avoid a Roman Catholic model of ecclesiology. I went through the alternatives to "general bishops", the reason for the historical development of what he have adopted today in many Orthodox churches, and why they all abuse or misuse the canons in their intentions and spirit.
If I made any mistakes, I would be more than willing to correct them.
Pray for me.
I also want to add to the above post on Roman Catholic ecclesiology that imagining yourself in the place of Rome and seeing all the other ancient archdiocesan centers fall away into Islam also probably had an effect in seeing itself as the last bishop standing as the dogmatic leader and upholder of the Catholic Church.
edited October 2014
Yes, you're right in the case of diocesan bishops. But the general bishop who is the vicar is acting on behalf of the pope. So the Pope does have rightful authority over that diocese.
Regarding diocesan bishops (and this might appear as a loophole): If a person complained to the pope, and assuming it was a legitimate grievance, the pope can initiate disciplinary action as president of the Synod. Of course, this would require synod approval to have effectual results. Truthfully, I have never seen disciplinary action against a diocesan bishop by the Synod and the patriarch. Maybe others have more knowledge of such things. Regardless, my point was simple. The vast majority of complaints to the HH seek to go over some local authority. The original post questioned the efficacy of a general bishop in the archdiocese because people simply went over the general bishop's authority to the pope. This is a symptom of the misunderstanding of proper ecclesiology, not necessarily the efficacy of the general bishop.
I wrote a small response to mina's last post on titular bishops (not his long post).
I think my long post anticipated your short response
Great minds think alike. Although, no one can compare to the magnanimity called minasoliman. He is so magnanimous that he doesn't have to capitalize his name.
lol...oh stop it...i'm blushing
One of the things I do want to reiterate though. Your mentioning of titular dioceses that transcend time. I want to say that an Ignatian (or pre-Nicene) view of ecclesiology does not deny the eternal/eschatological dimension of the Church, but that the geographical areas are only important in a temporal fashion.
Remember in another thread, I quoted St. Clement of Rome's first sentence of his epistle, "Church of God in Rome writing to Church of God in Corinth". To be in a place does not mean that the place is forever honored for a future titular see. Every bishop is primate/patriarch of the Church of God, assigned to a specific flock in a specific area. The name of the Church is not defined by area or culture, but it is defined by its eternality, i.e. it is not the Church of Rome or the Church of Corinth, but the Church OF GOD. And it is not "a" church of God in a particular place, but THE Church of God, that happens to sojourn in that place.
So titular sees seem quite useless on this point. Ecclesiology should be an expression of something that transcends time and place. To admit to titular titles is to, in my view, limit the Church. In a temporal function, that bishop must have a real flesh and bones flock to serve, and not a flock that already is being served in the afterlife.
It is true, just as a Church building or monastery is sanctified, so is the land that is blessed by the members of the Church. It is a blessing to walk in Egypt, where our ancestors bled and walked on. Imagine walking in Alexandria and thinking "this may have been where St. Mark was, or at least where people were talking about a certain Mark making Christians out of people." However, church buildings have come and gone, as well as monasteries, as well as whole nations (I lament the fact that ancient Christian traditions of the Arabian gulf, Persia, and China no longer exist). It's all sad, but that does not mean we make titular archmandrites of non-existent monasteries or titular hegumens of a burnt parish and driven-out flock. I think we need to learn that the most valuable Church is not a building or a land, but the people themselves. Where the baptized are, there the Church of God is, and there a bishop (and presbyter and deacon) is obligated to exist and serve.
edited October 2014
Regarding diocesan bishops (and this might appear as a loophole): If a person complained to the pope, and assuming it was a legitimate grievance, the pope can initiate disciplinary action as president of the Synod. Of course, this would require synod approval to have effectual results. Truthfully, I have never seen disciplinary action against a diocesan bishop by the Synod and the patriarch. Maybe others have more knowledge of such things. Regardless, my point was simple. The vast majority of complaints to the HH seek to go over some local authority. The original post questioned the efficacy of a general bishop in the archdiocese because people simply went over the general bishop's authority to the pope. This is a symptom of the misunderstanding of proper ecclesiology, not necessarily the efficacy of the general bishop."
Any bishop can initiate disciplinary action against another bishop through the Synod. This is not unique to the Pope.
When you say 'misunderstanding of proper ecclesiology', are you saying that a general bishop in NJ should not be bypassed and go straight to the Pope? If so, I disagree. The Pope has authority over the diocese, the general bishop does not - he can do nothing without the Pope's permission.
I say that the real 'misunderstanding of proper ecclesiology' is in the ordination of general bishops in the first place. If someone takes advantage of this and complains to the Pope, bypassing a general bishop, it shows that they have in fact UNDERSTOOD the (faulty) ecclesiology inherent in the rank of general bishop.
edited October 2014
You've just contradicted yourself:
And what makes you think "bypassing Sayedna's suggestion or pastoral decisions" doesn't happen to diocesan bishops? It does." - you then followed this up by saying that it was not an aberration.
Yes, you're right in the case of diocesan bishops. But the general bishop who is the vicar is acting on behalf of the pope. So the Pope does have rightful authority over that diocese." - your comment about general bishops here is irrelevant since we were talking about the ultimate authority of DIOCESAN bishops.
Here's a repost of Mina's text
Yes any bishop can initiate disciplinary action but the synod is accustomed to the pope as president of the synod to lead and initiate the resolution. This doesn't mean the pope is the monarch/dictator of the synod. There is a difference.
Regarding the general bishop having authority as vicar, one must remember that the appointment as vicar gives the general bishop the authority of the pope. So if one complains to the pope because he doesn't believe the general bishop is an actual position, then it is an attack on the pope himself. You can't have it both ways. You can't say we will only listen to the pope when it is the pope who has given the authority to the general bishop.
Regarding complaining about a diocesan bishop as an aberration. There is a difference between an aberration of what should happen and aberration of what does happen. What should happen is that no one should frivolously complain to the pope over a diocesan bishop. It is an aberration of proper behavior and ecclesiology. But when everyone complains, and the behavior is seen as normal - like all children complaining of their parents to their uncle, then it is no longer an aberration.
No one is arguing that a Church of one diocese is not THE Church of GOD. Organizationally, Christ set an example of how to administer and preach. (2 by 2 in every land). The Church followed a similar scheme, sending a bishop to every land, following the civil organization of the time. It seems like a temporal scheme. But the Church viewed it as an eternal understanding of how the Holy Spirit guided the Church. Theoretically, there should have been one bishop for all of Egypt. That way if a bishop could not attend in Alexandria because of barbarian attacks, he would serve in Thmuis and it would still be his diocese with no canonical problem. However, this never happened. The Church was administratively separated into provinces following civil administration with special honors and privileges to each major metropolis. Eventually, this caused some awkward scenarios. As the reference I gave showed that many bishops sought permanent asylum in Constantinople and literally served in Constantinople while their diocese was eradicated. But the Spirit guided the church to use this evil (i.e., inaccessibility to their diocese) for good. Even if a diocese was eradicated, the Church knew that God lived in these eradicated, "barbarian" diocese even if there was not a single baptized Christian there. Such a diocese was established by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, historically had a bishop, understood God would bring the spiritual harvest, why not continue and acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit already established instead of dismissing that diocese? The concepts of titular bishop and councilarity evolved and took a more developed form than what St Ignatius had described. I think it is unwise to dismiss such development as an aberration of the canons when the Church as whole (especially outside of Egypt) did not see it as an aberration.
Additionally, St Ignatius' model (Church=1 bishop + presbyter + deacon) is not the only acceptable model of his time. If you think about it, this model would necessarily dismiss ecumenical councils. If a bishop is in charge of the Church sojourning in a land, with ultimate authority as handed down by Christ's commission, then no other bishop, bishops, synod, or council could have authority over that bishop. The basic premise of ecumenical councilarity states that if two or more bishops disagree on essential matters, then all the bishops will meet and find a binding solution for the whole church. This binding solution would contradict one of the bishops in the original yet the Church would still prevail. Therefore, a more realistic model found in pre-Nicene antiquity is Church=(n bishop + x presbyters + x deacons) to the n-th degree, where n=number of cities where the Church of God sojourns. n is finite at one point in time but infinite in reality. So you can see, sticking to St Ignatius model because it is documented in early Christian history over this other model doesn't hold water since both are contemporaneous. You should also notice that nothing in the second model disqualifies general bishops, titular bishops or auxiliary bishops.
Finally, I want to reiterate what we said before in the Canon 15 thread and oc.net. Church canons are guides, not laws. Otherwise, they would be called Church nomos. We are not sola scriptoria (Scriptures alone), sola fida (faith alone), solum legis litteram (letter of the law alone) and solius canonius (canon law alone). (Don't quote me on the Latin. I got it from Google Translate.) Orthodoxy takes faith, scriptures and canons together, not elevating one over another but understanding the place of each one respective to a global understanding called the "mind of the Orthodox Church". There are plenty of canons that forbid most of the common practices now enjoyed by the Church (like bowing on Sundays or joining the army). If a broader view of canon application is used for most of these canons, why do we think it shouldn't be used for the general bishop (especially where there is a precedence in antiquity and modern day ecclesiology - the mind of the Orthodox Church)?
edited October 2014
The Church of God:
The point is that there is no "Church of Alexandria" or "Church of Antioch" or "Church of Rome". But it's the "Church of God" sojourning in Alexandria, the "Church of God" sojourning in Antioch, and the "Church of God" sojourning in Rome. I contend that this is the proper way of understanding ecclesiology, and the former descriptors are incorrect based on pre-Nicene model. To say
will acknowledge that the Church transcends time and place, and leads to a more dignified, more worthy, and an Orthodox ecclesiology. To say "of" is only nothing but a replica of an RC model.
I made the argument already that if one understands ecclesiology as, for example, NOT the Church of Alexandria, but the Church of God
Alexandria, then you would understand that titular sees do not make sense theologically. There are sees of people, not of lands or buildings.
Synodal model neglected?
Absolutely not! When I say Ignatian, I'm saying he pretty much articulated it the most. But the Apostolic Canons also agree with the model. It is this model that the RC explicitly contradicts, and it is the best model that refutes RC ecclesiology. Notice in the canons how already bishops had to meet in a council twice a year. There were punishments for bishops as well, depositions and excommunications. There were rules to abide by. Furthermore, you have proof already someone like St. Clement, who although bishop of Rome, wrote to Corinth, as a spiritual leader to them. St. Ignatius (the model of ecclesiology who I advocate), although bishop of Antioch wrote to several communities. One can safely assume they were precursors to the present-day patriarchates. We already know Alexandria had a powerhouse of theological education, and bishops were educated from there. That is why I said these three patriarchates were logically the fulcrum of imperial unity as well as ecclesiological unity. By the way, St. Cyprian also gave hints in his writings in his letters to the bishop of Rome of an Ignatian model as well. So the Ignatian model not only allows conciliarity, but in fact makes it necessary. How do we know that the bishop is not abusing his power unless there be a group of bishops that acknowledge one another in an area under an agreed upon spiritual head? That is what the Metropolitanate/Archbishopric is all about that I already stated in my long post.
Finally, your legitimate question on the canons as guidelines.
I think it is fair to say that not all canons are created equally. We have to find out which canons were meant to be guidelines and which canons were meant to be taken very seriously, almost to the point that this is connected to a dogmatic approach of ecclesiology. And what I have seen is that the dogmatic approach is always that a bishop is the ultimate authority of the Catholic Church, the highest of grace, the one who holds the keys of the Kingdom, who binds and looses, who is the Peter of the Church of God of the people he is assigned to. Once we know that is what a bishop dogmatically is, then a bishop that has no people should be extremely rare if it is not necessary. It should be an exception, an economia, not a commonality. However, if the only important thing is that the archbishop is the visible Peter of the Church, then, as I argued in my long post, the RC Church was right all along. There requires one visible world-wide head of the Catholic Church, and he is the Pope of Rome. But if the Orthodox/Ignatian model is correct, then the head of the Catholic Church is the bishop of every flock, and the bishop must be for a living, breathing, walking flock. And as I showed in my post, I know EOs are complicit in that same practice, but many in their church are starting to recognize that practice is not really valid because it comes from a caesaropapist point of view as well. It is after all, an
an EO bishop
that mentions all of this, except they are more concerned about overlapping dioceses before moving on to other episcopal matters.
HG Bishop Raphael defending the concept of General Bishops:
Watch from 14:47
edited October 2014
I'd like to point out the amazing thing about Metropolitan John Zizioulas. He is actually a titular Metropolitan who is undermining his very own rank. So, it is possible to find a "general bishop" opposing "general episcopacy" once he is convinced of this.
I think the problem is asking a general bishop in the Coptic Church if his rank is wrong. I think that is a question reserved for others since they are too shy to see this in themselves. Instead, they try to find a reason the Church allowed this rather than admit that this is a mistake.
The problem HG Bishop Raphael is not realizing is that his interpretation that "Jesus did not tell the disciples to create deacons" and "a saint in the Church created general bishops" seems to put a certain infallibility on the establishment of ranks (once they're established, you can't remove them). The idea of the ranks of hegumens and metropolitans "cannot be removed" is a strange argument as well. First of all, they are only titles of honors, and not in the actual way as it was really used in the past. Second of all, they were used not as an elevation of rank, but an elevation of arbitration among equals. Third of all, if the Church can "add titles" within an ecclesiological rank, it can surely "remove them".
However, it certainly sounds like a "bishop or priest" is not necessary then, since Christ did not create "bishops or priests", but "disciples and apostles." What prevents us from having female priests or a Protestantizing "clerical" system (or a Cardinal system of the Roman Catholics) if they do not take seriously the dogmatic nature of ecclesiology, or if they don't see ecclesiology as dogma? Why assume that because a saint did it that it is okay?
If one reads Metropolitan John Zizioulas (as I am doing right now), one will start to be convinced from him, a bishop of an EO Church that takes metropolitans to be patriarchs that that practice also should not be done. It is quite an amazing thing that an EO bishop is starting to tell his fellow EOs we should go back to taking non-bishops to become patriarchs. Being the only Orthodox Church that keeps this strictly does not mean it should be allowed. It only means we have the freedom to change ecclesiology the way we feel is right to "adapt for changing times". I find that a troubling position. Jesus also did not tell people what type of music to use for liturgy, and even that we are strict on. How then can we be lenient on ecclesiological practices?