Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Straight Talk From Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion

He was speaking at the Annual Nicean Club Dinner at Lambeth Palace in London. The Most Reverend Hilarion is the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, and Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. Speaking fraternally, he minced no words to an audience that included His Grace Archbishop Rowan Williamson of Caterbury.


"Why do the Churches, both East and West, still remember the Fathers of the Nicean and later Ecumenical Councils with such gratitude? Why are the great theologians of the past, the opponents of heresy, revered in the East as ‘great universal teachers and saints’ and in the West as ‘Doctors of the Church’? Because throughout the ages the Church believed it to be her principal task to safeguard the truth. Her foremost heroes were those confessors of the faith who asserted Orthodox doctrine and countered heresies in the face of new trends and theological and political innovations.

Almost 1700 years have elapsed since the Council of Nicaea, but the criteria that were used by the Church to distinguish truth from heresy have not changed. And the notion of church truth remains as relevant today as it did seventeen centuries ago. Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology – a theology that prefers to refer to “pluralism” and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences.

Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that ‘there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval’ (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy.


All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups – traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the ‘traditionalists’ from the ‘liberals’. Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately ‘inclusive’ to recognize alternative behavioural standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother’s womb or that one can terminate one’s life at will. Christian ‘traditionalists’ are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity."

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