In light of the recent developments in Greece Orthodox Ethos is pleased to be able to present to English speakers the following translation of Fr. Theodore Zisis' enlightening lecture on the development of ecumenism in the theological schools in Greece.
It must be said that the development of ecumenism in the theological schools is marked by two phases. The first phase was when ecumenism was projected, by many of the professors of the theological schools as well as many of the bishops, as an opportunity to bear witness concerning the truth of the Orthodox Faith. This is how it was presented.
In other words, the dialogues with the heterodox would provide us an opportunity to set forth the Orthodox position and bear witness to Orthodoxy. This is what ecumenism was in the beginning and this is how it functioned, and thus many great Orthodox theologians such as Fr. Georges Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides participated in the dialogues and conferences at that time.
However, they participated anticipating that when positions were taken or texts were produced that were not Orthodox, we would set forth the Orthodox position. We would say that we believe that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and that if all are to be united it will only occur through the 'return' of all the heterodox to the Orthodox Church. One might call this healthy ecumenism.
So up to 1961 when I was a student at the Theological School, I was a student there from 1961 to 1965. I received my degree in 1965 and a healthy ecumenism prevailed. The Orthodox representatives at the World Council of Churches even submitted a statement in 1961: "We do not agree with what you say, we believe that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church."
Sadly, things changed after this within the famous ecumenical movement. As things progressed the result was the establishment of Chairs of the ecumenical movement within the theological schools at the behest of the ecumenical organizations, and at the advice and order of Patriarch Athenagoras.
In other words, they instituted a class on the ecumenical movement. Classes were taught about the ecumenical movement. They taught about ecumenism. Previously, there was no such thing. The establishment of chairs marks a new phase.
In Athens, this did not exist, but here in Thessaloniki there was a 'Chair of Dogma and the Ecumenical Movement', held initially by Professor Ioannis Kalogyrou, we ought to hold him in high regard and to say that in comparison with contemporary ecumenist professors, Professor Ioannis Kalogyrou, who taught the ecumenical movement… I had him as a professor, I know about his life, and we were closely linked very up to the end of his life… he was completely different than today's ecumenist professors. He followed the ecumenical movement and taught what was going on, but at the same time expressed himself in a completely Orthodox manner.
All of Professor Ioannis Kalogyrou's publications which speak of ecumenism are entirely Orthodox and they are critical of the strange gestures… the recognition of the ecclesiality and the baptism of the heterodox.
After this phase of what we might call healthy ecumenism, more recent generations of theologians, particularly that group of professors connected with a professor of the Theological School (AUTh) named Professor Save Agouridis… most of the professors who are very ecumenical today are connected with Professor Sava Agouridis. From that point, then, there was created a seedbed of ecumenism in the theological schools, and this seedbed of ecumenism has now taken over the Theological School (AUTh), particularly the Department of Theology, but to a lesser extent the Department of Pastoral Theology.
This seedbed of ecumenism of Professor Agouridis has grown and spread out, and it appears that one of Professor Agouridis' well-known students, Prof. Petros Vasiliades, is one of the leaders of this movement and one of the pillars of ecumenism, together with other professors in the Department of Theology whose names we will not mention.
Certainly, we were all surprised by the apex of this ecumenical activity manifested in two recent displays. These two displays are, on the one hand, the abolition of religion classes of a confessional character in schools… Imagine! Older professors would have lost their minds if they heard what was happening. We prepared Orthodox theologians to teach classes on Orthodox theology in middle and high schools.
Now the professors of the Theological School come along and say, 'No, we shouldn't teach Orthodox catechism, Orthodoxy, to the children. We should be teaching Religious Studies, we should teach them about religions, about Mohammad.' The professors of the Theological School, led by those professors cultivated within Agouridis' seedbed, have fostered ecumenism within the theological schools and ecumenism is now running rampart.
The second great display associated with this apexing of ecumenism in the theological schools is the recent decision that the Department of Theology has made, to found a Centre or Department of Islamic Studies within the Theological School.
So, the period when I was a student, 1961-1965, ecumenism was yet walking a healthy path, a path of bearing witness to the Orthodox Faith. Fr. Florovsky, Fr. John Romanides, and other Orthodox theologians… From that time onward, however, this 'bearing witness' began to be abandoned, and instead of preaching Orthodoxy, we are being influenced by the World Council of Churches.
Most of the theological views being expressed now by the ecumenist professors within the Theological School are Protestant of Protestant-leaning. Instead of bearing witness concerning the Orthodox Faith, we are now betraying the Orthodox Faith.
Sadly, if one bears in mind that the theologians who teach in our high schools, the bishops, and so on, come out of the theological schools, you will understand from this perspective, why ecumenism is gaining strength. I have written many times that we are captive… that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a captive of ecumenism.
The theological schools are in the same situation - the theological school in Athens is in no better shape. There we find a great number of professors who toe the line of ecumenism.
+ ARE THE ECUMENISTS ECUMENICAL BECAUSE THEY ARE SERVING OTHER INTERESTS, OR BECAUSE THEY WANT TO BE?
Here I think we must distinguish two groups of ecumenists. One group are those ecumenists who are consciously ecumenists and are members of bodies where decisions are made; they are connected with the World Council of Churches either by employment or by academic ties, and participate in all these activities.
And certainly - let us say it here… this has been proven - the World Council of Churches is a body directed by the Masons. All ecumenism is under the direction of the Masons. Many professors are Masons, are members of the World Council of Churches, of Zionist, New-World-Order-oriented bodies. Not all, but many are leading figures of these over-arching bodies where decisions are made. And by their presence these lead other professors down the wrong path.
But why do these become ecumenists? Do they become ecumenists out of conviction, or for other reasons?
I think that most of them, are ill-informed about what they are getting into, and they are deceived by the vision of 'the oneness of all' which is often projected. Who is not for unity? All of us are in favor of unity! And the saints were in favor of unity. Saint Mark of Ephesus was in favor of unity. Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios was in favor of unity; St. Gregory Palamas… Can anyone possibly be opposed to unity since the Lord himself said, "that all might be one”? And since we pray at service, "…for the union of all." Everyone is in favor of unity!
The projection of this quest - that there should be love between all, that we should love everyone, that we should all be united so as to provide a united witness to the world since we are fractured - this deceived and influenced us as students, just as it deceives students now.
What young person would not embrace a message of love? Why should we not love the Protestants? Why shouldn't we love the Monophysites? Why shouldn't we love the Papists? Why shouldn't we be united? If we were united then the enemies of Christianity would be stripped of their power.
Here we have to make an absolutely clear distinction:
Love and unity cannot exist apart from truth, because without truth we are left with false-love and false-unity. Love is not something external. Something we show like a sort of 'savoir-vivre'. I love the papist because I treat him well I am nice to him. This is not love. Love must aim at helping others, not only materially, we show love by means of material help, but we must also show love by offering spiritual help.
We must spiritually help the heterodox, the heretics, showing them that they are in delusion, only then we are loving our brothers. When we do not show them that they are in heresy and delusion, when we leave them in falsity, we are not, loving them.
Is it possible to love someone and lie to them? To say, "You are fine there where you are, in your church. You will be saved." You don't love him; you deceive him. The Saints operated by showing the heretic and heterodox that they were in delusion.
All the saints told the heretics the truth. Sometimes they punished them and anathematized them - how many times have we heard the anathemas? They did this to shake the heretics up, so that they might return [to the Church], but also to help keep the Orthodox faithful from falling into delusion.
Many of these professors - those who are not members of the bodies we have spoken of, but who have been deceived by the spirit of unity and love, have not studied the texts of the Fathers of our Church in depth. Each focuses on his own academic specialty, but he does not deepen his knowledge or read. He is not bothered, by these matters, and he is deceived.
There is another very important reason for all this, however, and that is if you are on side with the ecumenists and with ecumenism, it will help your academic career. Also you will get to participate in conferences; you will get to go on trips, they will invite you to dialogues and meetings.
During the period before I began speaking openly against ecumenism, I was first in line to participate in such trips and the like. But once I began to struggle against ecumenism, all doors were closed to me. This does not bother me, nor does it bother me when they criticize me, I will tell you my view on this, which is a great consolation to me.
The Holy Scriptures, say that it is not good for you to be praised, "… For if I yet pleased men", says the Apostle Paul, "I should not be a servant of Christ". If, men like me, if they praise me, I would not be a servant of Christ. All of the saints - the Apostles and others - were not popular; they were persecuted and they suffered.
The road is open before those who are on the side of ecumenism. They get academic positions; they get promotions; they participate in conferences, etc. One of the reasons it is beneficial for them, one of the things that motivated them to support ecumenism and to travel in ecumenist circles is this.
And another secondary reason, which applies particularly to professors at the lower levels - lecturers, assistant professors - is that these need the tenured ecumenists. They hesitate to express their views because the big ecumenist professors will stop their advancement in its tracks. I understand their position from a human perspective, but I do not justify it.
I will use my own case as an example. When I was an assistant professor, during the period that they say I was an ecumenist - I did not hesitate to express my views and at one point I was in danger of being fired. Some of the ecumenist professors of the older generation… from that time they wanted to remove me from the Theological School because they did not like what I was saying or the stances I took.
Even at that time I was speaking my mind, whatever the cost. Because otherwise I cannot speak into the hearts of the younger professors and make them brave, or tell them that they should give this no regard. "God will help you. Don't put your trust in men when it comes to your advancement." It is for these reasons, then, that many professors serve ecumenism.
To sum up my answer to this question, then, the first reason is that a small group of professors belong to the ecumenist bodies such as the World Council of Churches, Masonry, and Zionism.
The second group, are those who want to be in the good books of the ecumenist professors so that they can advance in their careers, go to conferences, live the 'good life', and make a name for themselves, because anti-ecumenists are on the fringes. They persecute us, they slander us and they defame us...
In my case they went so far as to call me crazy. When I was - in their view - within their ecumenist environment, I was not crazy… when I was in the ecumenist environment, they sent me to conferences; they made me director and founder of the Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, I was even the Patriarch's speechwriter. When I served them, they did not slander me, but when I disassociated myself from them, they went to the Synod saying: "Don't listen to Fr. Theodoros, he is crazy!' This in addition to the accusation, that I was once an ecumenist.
There is also a third group of lower-level professors who hesitate to express their opposition because they are afraid that the higher-level professors will end their careers.
- Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis
*This text is a translation of the original lecture given in Greek, which you can find elsewhere on Orthodox Ethos (with English captions). Please check the original Greek if you find any passage obscure.
**Translation by FJ.P. Transcription by M.S.