Evlogeite. As usual, [Dr. Moss' writing is] externally compelling and intelligent, and not without some valid points (albeit validity in a typically curious and questionable context). From under the covers of theology and history, I must point out that there peep the following:
1) I have heard this refrain too often: "How dare the Church act without doing what I want. It must do so because it is motivated to reject the Royal Priesthood." Unfortunately, the idea of universalism in the priesthood deteriorates into Protestant-like chaos, when abused. It is as dangerous as it is essential and important. When Father Florovsky was asked about his claim that the people could even remove a Bishop, for example, he quickly said: "Only in times of intense piety and not without the final approval of the Church." This is a very important rejoinder.
2) World Orthodoxy is heretical because it is "clear" to the writer. He has no need for a Synod to declare this. Had such views prevailed in the Oecumenical Synods, the spirit of love and forgiveness, as well as extreme economy in some cases, would have impeded the unity that the Fathers of these Synods, guided by the Holy Spirit, sought to restore.
3) The claim is made that ecumenism is a heresy and is a hundred years old. Thus we do not need the judgment of the Church against it. This is a dangerous view, and especially since ecumenism, which is in fact older than that, was nonetheless not always as deviant as it is today. In its virulent form, it is still developing. We should not look at it as monolithic thing, even in opposing it.
As well, religious toleration is not a heresy. Too many of these firebrands, as demonstrated even more lucidly by what they say in private, lack tolerance and love and have confused ecclesiological opposition to religious syncretism with bigotry and self-elevation. As one woman told me recently, "Orthodoxy began its decline when the Emperor of Byzantium whom you criticize burned the last heretic in the Orthodox East. Our fires should be ready." (This is a reference to Alexios I Comnenos, the Byzantine Emperor who burned Basil the Physician, the Bogomil heretic, around 1118, if I recall correctly. This was one of only four or five instances of violence against heretics in Byzantium, which is something that St. Maximos the Confessor and other Fathers flatly condemn. It is vile transgression of the teachings of Christ.)
This is not an "orthodoxy" in which I believe.
4) We are considered heretics since our ecclesiology is never honestly presented and is reduced to simplistic ideas such as "sick" and "healthy" Churches, without providing our larger Patristic context. We are accused of giving the Mysteries to New Calendarists (which is not our policy), whom we consider to have valid Mysteries and Grace, by those who in fact give the Mysteries to New Calendarists, whom they consider to lack Grace! Nor do these people ever present a justification for their "judgments without synodal authority" from a Patristic standpoint. If they cite the Fathers, they do so by ignoring historical context and with a theological naivete covered by the fact that they can cite something. This is not thinking discourse.
5) Did St. Mark of Ephesus, in his day, act as though he constituted a synod and unilaterally condemn the unionists as heretics without Grace, or did he wall himself off and resist the unionists with the aim of restoring unity? And did he not do just that? The answer from history is quite clear. Moreover, he was dealing in the fifteenth century with a unionist illness that dated back to the thirteenth century.
6) Sectarian thinking is ultimately not compatible with order and with patience and trust in the Church. Ad hoc lay committees do not have the approbation of the Church. The Bishops, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, must act in a synod to adjudicate matters in the end. They constitute the authority of the Church.
That there are false synods and true ones has never impeded us from waiting for God's action. We have the right to protest, to cut ourselves off temporarily, and to organize a temporary ecclesiastical structure; however, we do not have the right to assume we that WE are the whole Church, whether in the name of the Royal Priesthood or some tiny group of people with putative "universal jurisdiction."
Our egos have to suffer, we must act humbly, and we must not make of a short time, in the scheme of things ecclesiastical, an irreversible ill in the Church and create an "Orthodoxy" of our liking and according to an authority that we do not have, whether as laymen or Churchmen.
And let me ask where, in any of this, one finds love for those in error and an expressed desire to restore them? This is all talk about "those who are correct" at the cost of those who are ill, whom these same super-correct radicals disdain. What is missing here is Christianity.
If I am in heresy for writing any of this, so, then, must be many of the great Fathers of the Church. Ego and the desire for power do not trump the power of the Church, the primacy of love, and God, however. So, I am not a heretic.
Least Among Your Brothers,