Severing Communion and Reconciliation

St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, Redondo Beach, CA

A brief follow-up to my post on Moscow’s breaking of communion with Constantinople yesterday. We take ex-communication for granted, especially in the Orthodox Church, because it is traditional. Excommunication is supposed to be cathartic, bringing the offenders to their senses during exile, and protecting the community from the offenses committed.

Churches also use excommunication as a method of protest. In the most recent dispute between Moscow and Constantinople – the Ukrainian issue is just the latest in a longer series – the first step of protest is to cease commemorating the ruling bishop of the other Church as a warning. Severing Communion is the next step, and it is more than cathartic exile: it is also designed to punish the Church that is excommunicated by isolating them and publicly exposing their alleged offenses. This tradition dates to late antiquity, so while no one in Orthodoxy particularly cares for these canonical sanctions, they remain unchallenged because of their assumed apostolic origin.

What if we have misread tradition and missed the opportunity to find a better method to resolve disputes? What is the risk of attempting to increase intercommunion as a way of demonstrating commitment to unity despite our differences? Please consider this as a public appeal to not only restore intercommunion within the Orthodox Churches, but to increase its intensity, to receive the gift of the Communion of the Holy Spirit together and allow God to heal our infirmities by granting us the privilege of worshipping together, side-by-side. I have low confidence that Orthodox readers will agree with me; but we all have to answer to God for choosing division when Christ prays that we would be one.

How do Catholic and Protestant readers feel about my proposal?

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