Friday, 6 May 2016
The Orthodox Dilemma, by George Alexander
The author of this book, a member of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church, explores the subject of pan-Orthodox unity. He looks at the divisions not only between Oriental an Eastern Orthodox churches, but also between canonical and non-canonical bodies. He suggests practical solutions for greater co-operation and eventual reconciliation of these divided bodies. He also offers some thoughts on how Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches can develop better relations with the Assyrian Church of the East, which he fears might opt to join their brethren in the Chaldean Catholic Church under the Papacy. This book is made very interesting by the anecdotes he offers about individuals in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches he has known or corresponded with. This brings the discussion to a very human level.
Alexander argues that Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches have invested too much time in seeking unity with the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, while neglecting co-operation with each other, all the time maintaining old attitudes of suspicion and hostility. He tends to portray the Roman Catholic Church as a bit of a Darth Vader, accusing her of imperial ambitions and seeking to play the Orthodox churches off against each other. He brings up a lot of stuff about past persecution of Orthodox by Catholics, while neglecting to mention Orthodox persecution against Catholics. Regarding the Eastern-rite churches, while there may have been a good deal of political manipulation involved in their creation, it is unfair of our author not to mention the persecution they have suffered at the hands of Orthodox and Communist regimes. I also find his sympathetic stance towards Vladimir Putin a bit worrying.