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ST. MARY OF ZION

ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH - LONDON

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'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'

St Matthew 28: 19

Charity No. 282910

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Inter-Orthodox unofficial dialogue between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches on Christology

The whole Christian world is fully aware of the fact that there had been One Universal Church until Chalcedon (451), and that it is still invisibly one since Christ is one.  After Chalcedon, however, the Church was unfortunately made to be visibly divided among the churches which use different doctrines to confess their common faith and the One Lord Jesus Christ.  The main reason for this difference is that affirmation by the Eastern Orthodox Churches of "two natures, two wills, and two energies hypostatically united in the one Lord Jesus Christ".  While the Oriental Orthodox Churches affirm "one united divine-human nature, will and energy, in the same Christ without confusion, without change, without division and without separation from the very moment of His descent to the Virgin's womb, where He took to Himself from her a human body with a human rational soul, and made Himself one with the manhood which He took from her as formulated by St Cyril with such words "One Incarnate nature of God the Word."

 

The difference in Christological formula has resulted in the schism of the two churches until the present time.  Nevertheless, while this different  Christological teaching has been regarded by the Oriental Orthodox Churches as the main cause for the division, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, on their side took the initiative and stated that there is no basic doctrinal difference between the two sides in belief of the unity of the two natures in Christ except differences caused as a result of analytical interpretation of the basic doctrine, and expressed their readiness to open talks which would lead toward unity.

 

Consequently a new series of seven official and unofficial talks have been held so far.  They are:

 

1. Aarhus, Denmark, 11-15 August 1964

2. Bristol, England, 25-29 July, 1967

3. Geneva, Switzerland, 16-21 August, 1970

4. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 22-23 January, 1971

5. Abba Bishoy Monastery, Egypt: 1989

6. Chambesy, Switzerland, 1990

7. Chambesy, Switzerland, 1-6 November, 1993

 

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church took part in all these dialogues through her representatives.  The main theme discussed during the talks was how to resolve the Christological difference created at the Councils of Chalcedon.

 

During the talks the root causes of anathema of the Council of Chalcedon were thoroughly examined.  Later on, in the Chambesy talks held from 1-6 November 1993, they came to understand that the root cause of the difference in Christology was not doctrinal but differences caused as a result of analytical interpretation of the Basic Doctrine.  This means that those who speak in terms of "two" do not thereby divide all separate, and those who speak in terms of "one" do not thereby co-mingle, mingle or confuse.  It was realised that the two sides have anathematized Nestorius and Eutchyes.

 

In the last three meetings, the two sides have come to the following common agreement on the possibility of lifting the anathemas:

 

1. That both sides share to lift the anathemas.

2. That the anathemas be lifted by both sides at the same time.

3. That the lifting of the anathemas:

a. Would lead to the restoration of the unity of both sides

b. the hitherto anathemas shall be discontinued

c. that the names of the leaders of the two churches shall be mentioned during liturgical services.

 

The Oriental Orthodox Churches have made it clear that they do not accept the Council of Chalcedon and all other Councils held after Chalcedon as ecumenical Councils.

 

The Stand of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church regarding this Common Statement

 

1. Regarding the lifting of the anathemas

 

EOTC believes:

 

a. That the anathemas were imposed upon those concerned Chalcedonian fathers because their Christological formula: “two natures, two wills, two energies, hypostatically united in the One Lord Jesus Christ”, was not felt to be the same as that of the Oriental Orthodox Churches Christological formula of “one nature, one will and one energy in the one and the same Christ”

 

b. Since these anathemas have been observed for about 1500 years by holy fathers as inscribed in our liturgical texts and hymbody they shall not be lifted.

 

c. That there is not canonical authority to lift the anathemas imposed upon those Chalcedoian fathers regarded as heretics.

 

d. That to lift the anathemas imposed in the past upon those Chalcedonian fathers, and to accept them as saints, would dishonour those Oriental Orthodox Church fathers who condemned the Chalcedonians.

 

2. Regarding the mystery of incarnation

 

In the previous dialogues held by both sides from Aarhus to Chambesy for the resolution of their differences, the Christological teaching of the Oriental Orthodox Churches based on the “union of the two natures in Christ without confusion, without change, without division, without separation,” was equally accepted by the Calecedonian sides because they realized that there is no difference of doctrine except differences of analytical interpretation.

 

Nowadays, all churches have come to realise the vital need of unity, collaboration and mutual understanding for a fulfilment of their spiritual and social commitment.

 

If the Chalcedonian churches accept the Christological doctrine of the unity of the two natures in Christ (one nature of the Incarnate God the Logos) without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, "the EOTC, in consultation with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches does not object to the principle of coming together for full union through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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Archbishop Yesehaq. (1997). The Ethiopian Tewahedo Church. Winston-Derek Pub