Jad Ganem: Our Lost Conciliarity

Arabic original here.

There are words that lose their force and meaning by too much use and repetition, both appropriately and inappropriately. Perhaps the word “conciliarity”, which the Orthodox boast of as the foundation of their ecclesiastical order is one of these words. Orthodoxy’s lived reality has unambiguously revealed, especially in light of the crisis that the Orthodox world is experiencing today, that everyone calls for conciliarity but everyone practices a deadly individualism at every level.

There is no conciliarity at the level of the universal Orthodox Church but the individualism of some churches met with the rigidity of other churches, accusations traded by everyone in a climate free of dialogue or of a dialogue of the deaf.

Nor is there conciliarity at the level of the local churches, but rather seasonal meetings of bishops with their primate, usually dominated by convulsive atmospheres and governed by the dialectic of disagreement around individualism and independence in the conspicuous absence of constructive cooperation.

Nor is there conciliarity at the level of the dioceses, but bishops who surround themselves in the best case with a group of aides and advisors or with mercenaries and arrivistes whose thefts and crimes occasionally give off an odor, while no one takes into account or asks about the near total retreat of capabilities and the lack of engagement in common work.

Nor is there any real collective work at the level of parishes, but rather groups and committees whose members often accuse the priests of being controlling, while the priests accuse the members of being domineering and all the while both sides are totally content with replacing the living parish with its representative bodies.

Has the time come for the Orthodox to have some humility, stop extolling their lost conciliarity, and make use of the administrative expertise that is abundant these days? Perhaps it will teach them the principles of actively listening to each other, constructive means for consensus-building and problem-solving, and sound foundations for interactive administration, where everyone participates in making plans, carrying them out, supervising them, evaluating them, and deriving lessons from their implementation transparently and effectively. When will the time of talk end and the time of action begin?

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