Orthodox Churches in need of a multilateral institution

The close association between contemporary Orthodox Churches and nation-states has often been highlighted by Orthodox scholars, but Rev. Nicolas Kazarian, an Orthodox priest as well as academic expert in the field of religion and geopolitics, has put the issue in a new light by drawing attention to a crisis for multilateralism in contemporary Orthodoxy. In the blog Public Orthodoxy (February 13), Rev. Kazarian observes that while Orthodox conciliarity is by nature multilateral, embracing unity, reciprocity and dialogue between Orthodox Churches, it finds itself challenged today in the same way that there has been “a global turn against multilateralism.” Thus, what is happening among Orthodox Churches might be mirroring wider trends, besides the consequences of developments in post-communist national environments.

According to Rev. Kazarian, the Orthodox Council that gathered in Crete in 2016 “should have been, and in fact was, a crucial exercise of Orthodox multilateralism, despite the absence of four Churches.” But its aftermath has made it clear that there is actually an absence of an “institutional space for Orthodox multilateralism.” It is true that Orthodox Churches together attend ecumenical gatherings and that there are assemblies gathering all Orthodox bishops in a number of countries, “but there does not seem to be a post-council pan-Orthodox agenda, even though the reception of the Holy and Great Council is determined by their ability to prepare for the next step.” Some Churches, especially the Russian Orthodox Church, develop a multipolar strategy and use commemorations of important events as opportunities for inviting representatives of other Orthodox Churches. But Rev. Kazarian stresses that such initiatives can be seen rather as a way for such Churches to assert their own local or even global leadership. After the 2016 Synod, Orthodox Churches are in need of a multilateral institution or process, he concludes.

(Public Orthodoxy: https://publicorthodoxy.org/2018/02/13/crisis-of-orthodoxy-multilateralism/. To place those observations into context, one can also read the article by Lucian N. Leustean, “Eastern Orthodoxy, Geopolitics and the 2016 ‘Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church,’” Geopolitics, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2018, pp. 201–216.)