Discussion on Ecumenism

Papist

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Irish Hermit said:
Papist said:
Irish Hermit said:
Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC

http://www.oikoumene.org/en/who-are-we/self-understanding-vision/orthodox-participation.html
Cool.
Well, the documents show the error in the contention that the Orthodox have been willing to compromise their ecclesiological understanding by participating in the WCC. 
Yup. Its good to see the OC standing up for its principles.
 

Jonathan Gress

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Well, let's imagine a hypothetical situation. Some body called the 'Church' proclaims that it believes it is the Body of Christ, and that only members of the 'Church' are members of the Body of Christ. Let's say this 'Church' joins an organization with other bodies, whose members are not members of the 'Church', and that a condition of membership of this organization is that each member considers each other member to be members of the Body of Christ. The original 'Church' joins this organization, thereby accepting this condition. So as a condition of membership the 'Church' accepts the other bodies as members of the Body of Christ, even though it continues to proclaim that only members of the original 'Church' are members of the Body of Christ. Wouldn't you say there's something inconsistent about this situation?
 

Irish Hermit

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well, let's imagine a hypothetical situation. Some body called the 'Church' proclaims that it believes it is the Body of Christ, and that only members of the 'Church' are members of the Body of Christ. Let's say this 'Church' joins an organization with other bodies, whose members are not members of the 'Church', and that a condition of membership of this organization is that each member considers each other member to be members of the Body of Christ. The original 'Church' joins this organization, thereby accepting this condition. So as a condition of membership the 'Church' accepts the other bodies as members of the Body of Christ, even though it continues to proclaim that only members of the original 'Church' are members of the Body of Christ. Wouldn't you say there's something inconsistent about this situation?
Even assuming that your assessment of the situation is correct (and your assessment is very unnuanced) the Church has no great fear of inconsistency.  Several examples of it in the history of the Church in its contact with heterodox groups are documented in "Schismatic Old-Calendarism is an anti-Patristic stance"  Give it a read.
http://www.oodegr.com/english/ekklisia/sxismata/antipater1.htm#_Toc135058238
 

minasoliman

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Irish Hermit said:
minasoliman said:
Jonathan Gress said:
I guess I'd like to hear the arguments that WCC membership does not imply acceptance of its founding principles. I would have thought that, unless Orthodox membership had some special stipulation attached excusing them from subscribing to certain of the founding principles, all the founding principles should be assumed to apply. The burden of proof is on those who say that the Orthodox members are not bound by these principles.
I think the WCC failed to force its decisions on the Orthodox.  For instance, the late HE Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios wrote on article on why the Orthodox Church does not believe in "Eucharistic hospitality" and his tone was quite unforgiving.
You would probably remember that a few years back the Secretary General of the WCC launched an unexpected and stinging attack on the Orthodox at the WCC for not taking communion at WCC services nor offering it to other members.   Most likely what Paulous Mar Gregorios wrote was in response to that.
Yes, indeed.  Here's the article by His Eminence:

http://paulosmargregorios.info/English%20Articles/Euchasristic_Hospitality.html

I also heard that many Coptic bishops have launched attacks back at the secretary general for his heterodox teachings, since they felt their faith were attacked.  But I can't verify that.
 

minasoliman

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well, let's imagine a hypothetical situation. Some body called the 'Church' proclaims that it believes it is the Body of Christ, and that only members of the 'Church' are members of the Body of Christ. Let's say this 'Church' joins an organization with other bodies, whose members are not members of the 'Church', and that a condition of membership of this organization is that each member considers each other member to be members of the Body of Christ. The original 'Church' joins this organization, thereby accepting this condition. So as a condition of membership the 'Church' accepts the other bodies as members of the Body of Christ, even though it continues to proclaim that only members of the original 'Church' are members of the Body of Christ. Wouldn't you say there's something inconsistent about this situation?
I don't think the WCC began as an organization that claims that its members must conform to a branch theory of church.  Wasn't Fr. Florovsky a founding member?  It wasn't until later when Protestant organizations wanted to have a monopoly over other members and force their beliefs on them.  Many in the Orthodox side and the Oriental Orthodox side have rejected such moves.
 

Jonathan Gress

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Well, the Toronto statement is from 1950. Here is the section about assumptions. As far as I can tell these are quite irreconcilable with Orthodoxy:

IV. THE ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

We must now try to define the positive assumptions which underlie the World Council of Churches and the ecclesiological implications of membership in it.

1) The member Churches of the Council believe that conversation, cooperation, and common witness of the Churches must be based on the common recognition that Christ is the Divine Head of the Body.

The Basis of the World Council is the acknowledgment of the central fact that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, even Jesus Christ." It is the expression of the conviction that the Lord of the Church is God-among us Who continues to gather His children and to build His Church Himself. Therefore, no relationship between the Churches can have any substance or promise unless it starts with the common submission of the Churches to the Headship of Jesus Christ in His Church. From different points of view Churches ask "How can men with opposite convictions belong to one and the same federation of the faithful?" A clear answer to that question was given by the Orthodox delegates in Edinburgh 1937 when they said: "In spite of all our differences, our common Master and Lord is one—Jesus Christ who will lead us to a more and more close collaboration for the edifying of the Body of Christ." [From statement by Archb. Germanos on behalf of the Orthodox delegates.] The fact of Christ's Headship over His people compels all those who acknowledge Him to enter into real and close relationships with each other—even though they differ in many important points.

2) The member Churches of the World Council believe on the basis of the New Testament that the Church of Christ is one.

The ecumenical movement owes its existence to the fact that this article of the faith has again come home to men and women in many Churches with an inescapable force. As they face the discrepancy between the truth that there is and can be only one Church of Christ, and the fact that there exist so many Churches which claim to be Churches of Christ but are not in living unity with each other, they feel a holy dissatisfaction with the present situation. The Churches realize that it is a matter of simple Christian duty for each Church to do its utmost for the manifestation of the Church in its oneness, and to work and pray that Christ's purpose for His Church should be fulfilled.

3) The member Churches recognize that the membership of the Church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own Church body. They seek, therefore, to enter into living contact with those outside their own ranks who confess the Lordship of Christ.

All the Christian Churches, including the Church of Rome, hold that there is no complete identity between the membership of the Church Universal and the membership of their own Church. They recognize that there are Church members extra muros, that these belong aliquo modo to the Church, or even that there is an ecclesia extra ecclesiam. This recognition finds expression in the fact that with very few exceptions the Christian Churches accept the baptism administered by other Churches as valid.

But the question arises what consequences are to be drawn from this teaching. Most often in Church history the Churches have only drawn the negative consequence that they should have no dealings with those outside their membership. The underlying assumption of the ecumenical movement is that each Church has a positive task to fulfill in this realm. That task is to seek fellowship with all those who, while not members of the same visible body, belong together as members of the mystical body. And the ecumenical movement is the place where this search and discovery take place.

4) The member Churches of the World Council consider the relationship of other Churches to the Holy Catholic Church which the Creeds profess as a subject for mutual consideration. Nevertheless, membership does not imply that each Church must regard the other member Churches as Churches in the true and full sense of the word.

There is a place in the World Council both for those Churches which recognize other Churches as Churches in the full and true sense, and for those who do not. But these divided Churches, even if they cannot yet accept each other as true and pure Churches, believe that they should not remain in isolation from each other, and consequently they have associated themselves in the World Council of Churches.

They know that differences of faith and order exist, but they recognize one another as serving the One Lord, and they wish to explore their differences in mutual respect, trusting that they may thus be led by the Holy Spirit to manifest their unity in Christ.

5) The member Churches of the World Council recognize in other Churches elements of the true Church. They consider that this mutual recognition obliges them to enter into a serious conversation with each other in the hope that these elements of truth will lead to the recognition of the full truth and to unity based on the full truth.

It is generally taught in the different Churches that other Churches have certain elements of the true Church, in some traditions called vestigia ecclesiae. Such elements are the preaching of the Word, the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, and the administration of the sacraments. These elements are more than pale shadows of the life of the true Church. They are a fact of real promise and provide an opportunity to strive by frank and brotherly intercourse for the realization of a fuller unity. Moreover, Christians of all ecclesiological views throughout the world, by the preaching of the Gospel, brought men and women to salvation by Christ, to newness of life in Him, and into Christian fellowship with one another.

The ecumenical movement is based upon the conviction that these "traces" are to be followed. The Churches should not despise them as mere elements of truth but rejoice in them as hopeful signs pointing toward real unity. For what are these elements? Not dead remnants of the past but powerful means by which God works. Questions may and must be raised about the validity and purity of teaching and sacramental life, but there can be no question that such dynamic elements of Church life justify the hope that the Churches which maintain them will be led into fuller truth. It is through the ecumenical conversation that this recognition of truth is facilitated.

6) The member Churches of the Council are willing to consult together in seeking to learn of the Lord Jesus Christ what witness He would have them to bear to the world in His Name.

Since the very raison d'tre of the Church is to witness to Christ, Churches cannot meet together without seeking from their common Lord a common witness before the world. This will not always be possible. But when it proves possible thus to speak or act together, the Churches can gratefully accept it as God's gracious gift that in spite of their disunity He has enabled them to render one and the same witness and that they may thus manifest something of the unity, the purpose of which is precisely "that the world may believe," and that they may "testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."

7) A further practical implication of common membership in the World Council is that the member Churches should recognize their solidarity with each other, render assistance to each other in case of need, and refrain from such actions as are incompatible with brotherly relationships.

Within the Council the Churches seek to deal with each other with a brotherly concern. This does not exclude extremely frank speaking to each other, in which within the Council the Churches ask each other searching questions and face their differences. But this is to be done for the building up the Body of Christ. This excludes a purely negative attitude of one Church to another. The positive affirmation of each Church's faith is to be welcomed, but actions incompatible with brotherly relationships towards other member Churches defeat the very purpose for which the Council has been created. On the contrary, these Churches should help each other in removing all obstacles to the free exercise of the Church's normal functions. And whenever a Church is in need or under persecution, it should be able to count on the help of the other Churches through the Council.

8) The member Churches enter into spiritual relationships through which they seek to learn from each other and to give help to each other in order that the Body of Christ may be built up and that the life of the Churches may be renewed.

It is the common teaching of the Churches that the Church as the temple of God is at the same time a building which has been built and a building which is being built. The Church has, therefore, aspects which belong to its very structure and essence and cannot be changed. But it has other aspects, which are subject to change. Thus the life of the Church, as it expresses itself in its witness to its own members and to the world, needs constant renewal.

The Churches can and should help each other in this realm by a mutual exchange of thought and of experience. This is the significance of the study-work of the World Council and of many other of its activities. There is no intention to impose any particular pattern of thought or life upon the Churches. But whatever insight has been received by one or more Churches is to be made available to all the Churches for the sake of the "building up of the Body of Christ."

None of these positive assumptions, implied in the existence of the World Council, is in conflict with the teachings of the member Churches. We believe therefore that no Church need fear that by entering into the World Council it is in danger of denying its heritage.

As the conversation between the Churches develops and as the Churches enter into closer contact with each other, they will no doubt have to face new decisions and problems. For the Council exists to break the deadlock between the Churches. But in no case can or will any Church be pressed to take a decision against its own conviction or desire. The Churches remain wholly free in the action which, on the basis of their convictions and in the light of their ecumenical contacts, they will or will not take.

A very real unity has been discovered in ecumenical meetings which is, to all who collaborate in the World Council, the most precious element of its life. It exists and we receive it again and again as an unmerited gift from the Lord. We praise God for this foretaste of the unity of His People and continue hopefully with the work to which He has called us together. For the Council exists to serve the Churches as they prepare to meet their Lord Who knows only one flock.
 

minasoliman

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Does this 1950 Toronto Statement still hold water for the WCC?  I cannot imagine my own Coptic Church would accept such a statement.  I remember when I was a little boy, where it was taken to the extreme that the Coptic Church is the only true Church of God because of Coptic pride and Orthodox dogma.
 

Jonathan Gress

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Well, this is what the official Orthodox churches were saying twenty years ago:

from Section III of the report of the Third Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Conference, Chambesy, 1986

7. The Orthodox member Churches of the WCC, accept its Constitutional Basis, as well as its aims and goals. They firmly believe that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the Toronto Statement (1950) on "The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches" are of paramount importance for the Orthodox participation in the Council. It is therefore self-understood that the WCC is not and must never become a "super-Church". "The purpose of the WCC is not to negotiate unions between Churches, which can only be done by the Churches themselves, acting on their own initiatives, but to bring the Churches into living contact with each other and to promote the study and discussion of the issues of Church unity" (Toronto Statement, 2).

As you can see, they focus on the part of the statement that appears Orthodox, but neglect to mention the part I quoted above that is clearly not Orthodox.
 

minasoliman

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Well, perhaps it wasn't that they focused on that, but clearly 46 years passed by with serious discussion, and the Orthodox seemed to reply precisely the opposite of the gist of the Toronto meeting, i.e. that the WCC should NOT act as a super-Church, neither to promote unions, but rather to have discussions that pertain to ways and impediments to unity.  Perhaps, this the Orthodox Church in a nice way talking to the WCC, "Don't push it.  We like this part of your Toronto agreement, but the rest is rubbish."

The Toronto meeting wanted WCC to be a super-Church, and the Orthodox Church seemed to reject it in 1986, and in a very clever way I must admit.  You should rejoice, Jonathan.
 

Jonathan Gress

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minasoliman said:
Well, perhaps it wasn't that they focused on that, but clearly 46 years passed by with serious discussion, and the Orthodox seemed to reply precisely the opposite of the gist of the Toronto meeting, i.e. that the WCC should NOT act as a super-Church, neither to promote unions, but rather to have discussions that pertain to ways and impediments to unity.  Perhaps, this the Orthodox Church in a nice way talking to the WCC, "Don't push it.  We like this part of your Toronto agreement, but the rest is rubbish."

The Toronto meeting wanted WCC to be a super-Church, and the Orthodox Church seemed to reject it in 1986, and in a very clever way I must admit.  You should rejoice, Jonathan.
Actually you're reading that into what they said. They said nothing about what they think about the 'assumptions', which you correctly discerned are not compatible with Orthodoxy, of either the Oriental or Eastern variety. They said they accept the presuppositions of the WCC, which can be taken as compatible with Orthodoxy in isolation. But being members of the WCC, they technically subscribe to the whole statement. So while subscribing to the whole statement, they trick the reader into thinking that the statement contains only what is compatible with Orthodox participation, while not mentioning what is incompatible.

But I certainly agree with you about the clever part.
 

ialmisry

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well then, we can agree to talk about the EO/OO discussions some other time and place. While there are many conservative New Calendarists who agree with the Old Calendarists that the OO are not Orthodox, and that therefore the decision of the Synod of Antioch constitutes granting communion to heretics, you may disagree with that, although you'd have to agree it constitutes granting communion to schismatics.
So would giving communion to you. Your point?

Two other principle pieces of evidence for ecumenism are the WCC and the lifting of the anathemas by Patriarch Athenagoras in 1965. We can discuss those.

I know that the latter has been disputed by those who claim that the anathemas never existed. This seems to me very strange: why didn't they make that argument back in 1965? It would surely have been a more straightforward way of claiming that the Roman Church had never been anathematized by the Eastern Church, and that therefore the two could be considered estranged 'sister' churches, as the Balamand conference determined.

Another argument is that they did exist, but that they were only leveled against the legates, Cardinal Humbert et al. This seems a little disingenuous, since the papal legates were not representing themselves, but the Pope. And that argument needs to confront the fact that the Patriarch ceased to commemorate the Pope from that time on. Was that just a coincidence, and did the Patriarch simply forget to mention the Pope's name?
The pope of Rome had been stricken from the diptychs before, around 1019.  As for excommunicating just the legates, that is because Humbert was acting 1) on this own, 2) the pope was already dead so Humbert represented no one and  3) the Patriarch decided to not make sweeping generalizations, unlike some.



The question of WCC membership has been thrashed out before. The problem is that the Toronto statement, which all WCC members consider to be the definitive statement of the principles of the WCC, makes apparently opposite claims about just what membership implies ecclesiologically. In one part, it says that the WCC is not a superchurch, and that members need not consider other members part of the one Church. But then later it says that it is an assumption of the WCC that all members be considered part of the Body of Christ! It is the latter part which forms the basis for our refusal to join the WCC or have communion with those who do.
You're right: this has been thrashed out.
 

ialmisry

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Jonathan Gress said:
PeterTheAleut said:
Jonathan Gress said:
The question of WCC membership has been thrashed out before. The problem is that the Toronto statement, which all WCC members consider to be the definitive statement of the principles of the WCC, makes apparently opposite claims about just what membership implies ecclesiologically. In one part, it says that the WCC is not a superchurch, and that members need not consider other members part of the one Church. But then later it says that it is an assumption of the WCC that all members be considered part of the Body of Christ! It is the latter part which forms the basis for our refusal to join the WCC or have communion with those who do.
But are we agreed on the idea that membership in an organization means de facto submission to all of the organization's founding principles?  I know you've argued this with us before, but I'm not sure we had ever come to an agreement with you on this.  Until we agree on what membership in the WCC really means, I'm not sure an argument equating membership in the WCC with ecumenist heresy will be very convincing.
I guess I'd like to hear the arguments that WCC membership does not imply acceptance of its founding principles. I would have thought that, unless Orthodox membership had some special stipulation attached excusing them from subscribing to certain of the founding principles, all the founding principles should be assumed to apply. The burden of proof is on those who say that the Orthodox members are not bound by these principles.
No, the burden is on you to proove your assumptions.
 

ialmisry

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well, this is what the official Orthodox churches were saying twenty years ago:

from Section III of the report of the Third Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Conference, Chambesy, 1986

7. The Orthodox member Churches of the WCC, accept its Constitutional Basis, as well as its aims and goals. They firmly believe that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the Toronto Statement (1950) on "The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches" are of paramount importance for the Orthodox participation in the Council. It is therefore self-understood that the WCC is not and must never become a "super-Church". "The purpose of the WCC is not to negotiate unions between Churches, which can only be done by the Churches themselves, acting on their own initiatives, but to bring the Churches into living contact with each other and to promote the study and discussion of the issues of Church unity" (Toronto Statement, 2).

As you can see, they focus on the part of the statement that appears Orthodox, but neglect to mention the part I quoted above that is clearly not Orthodox.
That's because they are affirming what is comparable to Orthodoxy, and denying validity to what cannot be reconciled to Orthodoxy.
 

Irish Hermit

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minasoliman said:
Does this 1950 Toronto Statement still hold water for the WCC?  I cannot imagine my own Coptic Church would accept such a statement.  I remember when I was a little boy, where it was taken to the extreme that the Coptic Church is the only true Church of God because of Coptic pride and Orthodox dogma.
The 1950 Toronto Statement has never held true for the Copts.

His Holiness Pope Shenouda is quite clear that baptism dies not exist in the Protestant Churches.  The majority of members of WCC are not only NOT members of any Church, they are unbaptized.

His second-in-command Secretary of the Holy Synod Mar Bishoy went even further and declared that baptism does not exist in the Roman Catholic Church.  This caused quite a kerfluffle in Egyptian newspapers.

Given these teachings by the senior hierarchs of the Copts who would ever imagine that the Copts see themselves as in any way obliged to accept the "assumptions" of the Toronto Statement.  ;D

Jonathan, you need to get out more among the Orthodox and you will see that your logically derived contention that the Orthodox must accept such as the WCC Toronto Statement would be met with laughter by Orthodox hierarchs.

 

Jonathan Gress

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Well I know plenty of Orthodox. Since none of them are in the WCC, funnily enough we don't even need to address this problem.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well, this is what the official Orthodox churches were saying twenty years ago:

from Section III of the report of the Third Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Conference, Chambesy, 1986

7. The Orthodox member Churches of the WCC, accept its Constitutional Basis, as well as its aims and goals. They firmly believe that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the Toronto Statement (1950) on "The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches" are of paramount importance for the Orthodox participation in the Council. It is therefore self-understood that the WCC is not and must never become a "super-Church". "The purpose of the WCC is not to negotiate unions between Churches, which can only be done by the Churches themselves, acting on their own initiatives, but to bring the Churches into living contact with each other and to promote the study and discussion of the issues of Church unity" (Toronto Statement, 2).

As you can see, they focus on the part of the statement that appears Orthodox, but neglect to mention the part I quoted above that is clearly not Orthodox.
I invite readers to look at the full statement issued by the Orthodox and you will get a different impression than simply the one quote which Jonathan has culled from it.

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/chambesy_1986.aspx

For a balanced understanding, let us look at the paragraph which precedes the one quoted by Jonathan:

6. The Orthodox Church, however, faithful to her ecclesiology, to the identity of her internal structure and to the teaching of the undivided Church, while participating in the WCC, does not accept the idea of the "equality of confessions" and cannot consider Church unity as an inter-confessional adjustment. In this spirit, the unity which is sought within the WCC cannot simply be the product of theological agreements alone. God calls every Christian to the unity of faith which is lived in the sacraments and the tradition, as experienced in the Orthodox Church.
 

ialmisry

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well I know plenty of Orthodox. Since none of them are in the WCC, funnily enough we don't even need to address this problem.
and yet you continue to feel the need to do so.  Odd.
 

Irish Hermit

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Jonathan Gress said:
Well I know plenty of Orthodox. Since none of them are in the WCC, funnily enough we don't even need to address this problem.
Well, if a Church is not involved with assisting the poor and the ailing, those in prison and those in hospital, it does not need to address these problems either.
 

ialmisry

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Irish Hermit said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Well, this is what the official Orthodox churches were saying twenty years ago:

from Section III of the report of the Third Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Conference, Chambesy, 1986

7. The Orthodox member Churches of the WCC, accept its Constitutional Basis, as well as its aims and goals. They firmly believe that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the Toronto Statement (1950) on "The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches" are of paramount importance for the Orthodox participation in the Council. It is therefore self-understood that the WCC is not and must never become a "super-Church". "The purpose of the WCC is not to negotiate unions between Churches, which can only be done by the Churches themselves, acting on their own initiatives, but to bring the Churches into living contact with each other and to promote the study and discussion of the issues of Church unity" (Toronto Statement, 2).

As you can see, they focus on the part of the statement that appears Orthodox, but neglect to mention the part I quoted above that is clearly not Orthodox.
I invite readers to look at the full statement issued by the Orthodox and you will get a different impression than simply the one quote which Jonathan has culled from it.

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/chambesy_1986.aspx

For a balanced understanding, let us look at the paragraph which precedes the one quoted by Jonathan:

6. The Orthodox Church, however, faithful to her ecclesiology, to the identity of her internal structure and to the teaching of the undivided Church, while participating in the WCC, does not accept the idea of the "equality of confessions" and cannot consider Church unity as an inter-confessional adjustment. In this spirit, the unity which is sought within the WCC cannot simply be the product of theological agreements alone. God calls every Christian to the unity of faith which is lived in the sacraments and the tradition, as experienced in the Orthodox Church.
Father, didn't we spend an excrutiating amount of time filling in Mr. Gress' blanks on this topic on another thread?
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,22406.msg342964/topicseen.html#msg342964
 

minasoliman

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Yes, exactly!  The Coptic Church's Pope had many times taken leading positions in the WCC.  He would be quite irate if he was forced to accept such heretical beliefs.  He and HE Metropolitan Bishoy would not be afraid to proclaim anathema to any theologian who would believe such.

Indeed, we are very strict about baptism.  Only recently have we accepted Eastern Orthodox baptism as valid.

Jonathan, every Orthodox you said that you talked to was not part of the WCC.  Why not ask someone who is to their their view of the story?
 
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