Friday, April 3, 2009

Unity and Diversity in the Church

Here is a passage worthy of thoughtful reflection from an interview with Bishop Irinej (Bulović) of Backa, in which His Grace responds to the question of whether there is complete unity within the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church:
How do you define disagreement and how do you define complete unity? I will start with the latter. There is a complete unity between the hierarchs, the clergy, and the faithful even when they have very opposing views on certain issues. For Church unity is neither a monolithic ideology, nor an authoritative leveling instrument, nor an anthropocentric given; Church unity is an ontological unity, a God-Man unity, a unity through grace; one which comes forth from the communion in one Eucharist of the Church. This unity is not impaired by freedom or by the “pluralism” of opinions.

On the contrary, it is a given and at the same time a task to be achieved. Unity is the point of commencement but it is also developed in the spirit of universality. If this were not so, would there even be a need for dialogue in the Church? Would the institution of the Church synods be in existence? Would these synods not be reduced to decorative advisory bodies of a single decision-making person, whoever he may be and whatever historical title he may carry?

Different viewpoints do not impair unity. They strengthen unity insofar as they lead to the universal victory of the viewpoint, which sides closest with the Church, a viewpoint, which becomes the most salvific one. The trouble starts when an individual or a group considers its vision of reality as an absolute and does not allow for concessions even in the fullness of the Church’s synod. This is how heresies emerge (for the primary meaning of the word heresy is the selection of a partial truth instead of the complete truth). Sometimes paradoxically, those who are otherwise against absolutism in the Church, adopt a fiercely papal behavior, a behavior personified in the pretentiousness of Roman bishops already for centuries.
Read the full interview (in which His Grace shares his reflections on the ministry of the late Patriarch Alexy II and discusses current controversies within the Church of Serbia) here; the Serbian original is here.


Anonymous said...


You're link isn't working. I posted this same quote from the interview some months back.

You can link it to here:

Felix Culpa said...

Thanks! Link fixed. The interview is in fact from last December.