Declaration on Behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Church

The Rt. Rev. Archbishop GERMANOS, Metropolitan of Thyateira, then presented to the Conference the following declaration, in English, on behalf of the delegates from the Orthodox Church:


Brethren, on receiving the invitation of the Organising Committee of the World Conference on Faith and Order seven years ago, the


Orthodox Church answered readily by sending representatives from her particular Orthodox Churches to the preliminary Conference in 1920 at Geneva. That delegation of the Orthodox Church put before the Conference a united declaration in general terms of the teaching of their Church in the matter of faith and order and at its conclusion recommended that before any discussion of the reunion of the Churches in faith and order, a League of Churches should be established for their mutual co-operation in regard to the social and moral principles of Christendom. Further, when the Orthodox Church was invited a short time ago to take part through her representatives in the present Conference, although many of her particular Churches are in distress so grave as to threaten their very existence, she hastened to send her delegations to it.

Accordingly, we, the undersigned, delegates of the Orthodox Church, being inspired by a sincere feeling of love and by a desire to achieve an understanding, have taken part in every meeting held here for the purpose of promoting closer brotherhood and fellowship between the representatives of the different Churches and for the general good and welfare of the whole body of Christians. But while sharing the general labours of the Conference both in delivering addresses as arranged in the programme and in taking part in the open debates, as also in the work of the Sections, we have concluded with regret that the bases assumed for the foundation of the Reports which are to be submitted to the vote of the Conference, are inconsistent with the principles of the Orthodox Church which we represent.

Therefore, we judge it to be a matter of conscience that with the exception of the first we must abstain from voting in favour of the two Reports which are now ready. Although both in the papers read, in speeches, in debate and in statements made in the three Sections, we Orthodox have already made plain and clear what are the points of view and the conceptions of the Orthodox Church in regard to the subjects under discussion, we hold it to be of importance that we should specify here certain points in order to make manifest the differences which separate us from other members of the Conference. For example, while the Report on the Message of the Church, since it is drafted on the basis of the teaching of the Holy Scripture, is in accordance with the Orthodox conception and can be accepted by us, it is otherwise with the two other Reports, on the Nature of the Church and upon the Common Confession of the Faith of the Church. The drafting of these two latter was carried out on a basis of compromise between what in our understanding are


conflicting ideas and meanings, in order to arrive at an external agreement in the letter alone, whereas, as has often at other times been emphasised in statement by representatives of the Orthodox Church, in matters of faith and conscience there is room for no compromise. For us, two different meanings cannot be covered by, and two different concepts cannot be deduced from, the same words of a generally agreed statement. Nor can we Orthodox hope that an agreement reached upon such statements would remain lasting.

That the drafting committees have realised the existence of this disagreement is apparent from many of the notes which they have placed in the Reports and which leave full liberty upon matters which at least we Orthodox hold to be fundamental. Thus for example, we Orthodox cannot conceive a united Church in which some of its members would hold that there is only one source of divine revelation, namely, Holy Scripture alone, but others would affirm that apostolic tradition is the necessary completion of Holy Scripture. While the full freedom so accorded in the Report to each Church to use its own confession of faith would make those confessions of indifferent value in themselves, on the other hand, nothing but confusion as to the one common conception of the Faith of the so united single Church could arise.

The Orthodox Church adheres fixedly to the principle that the limits of individual liberty of belief are determined by the definitions made by the whole Church, which definitions we maintain to be obligatory on each individual. This principle holds good for us not only as to the present members of the Orthodox Church, but also as to those who, in future, may become united with it in faith and order. Moreover, the symbols which would be accepted by the united Church acquire their importance (in our conception as Orthodox) not only from the fact of their being historical witnesses of the faith of the primitive Church, but above all because the Church has affirmed their validity in her Ecumenical Councils. It should be unnecessary for us to add that the Orthodox Church recognises and accepts as an Ecumenical Symbol only the Creed of Nicea-Constantinople.

That which holds good for us in regard to the Ecumenical Symbol, holds good also in regard to the dogmatic definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the authority of which no Orthodox would be justified in shaking.

Therefore the mind of the Orthodox Church is that reunion can take place only on the basis of the common faith and confession of the ancient, undivided Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils and of the first eight centuries.


Although the Reports of the other three Sections are not yet to hand, the process of debate upon them makes it evident that agreement on them can be reached only by vague phrases, or by a compromise of antithetical opinions. Thus, for example, we cannot conceive how agreement can be made possible between two conceptions which agree that the existence of the ministry of the Church is by the will of Christ, but differ as to whether that ministry was instituted by Christ Himself in its three degrees of bishop, priest and deacon. In the same way we judge there to be no practical value in an agreed formula as to the necessity of sacraments in the Church when there is a fundamental difference between the Churches not only in regard to their number but also as to their general significance, as to their particular essential nature and as to their particular effects.

This being so, we cannot entertain the idea of a reunion which is confined to a few common points of verbal statement; for according to the Orthodox Church, where the totality of the faith is absent there can be no communio in sacris.

Nor can we here apply that principle of economy which in the past the Orthodox Church has applied under quite other circumstances in the case of those who came to her with a view to union with her.

In consequence, while we, the undersigned Orthodox representatives, must refrain from agreeing to any Reports other than that upon the Message of the Church, which we accept and are ready to vote upon, we desire to declare that in our judgment the most which we can now do is to enter into co-operation with other Churches in the social and moral sphere on a basis of Christian love. Further, we desire to add that as Orthodox Delegates we should view a partial reunion of those Churches which share the same principles with satisfaction as a precedent to general reunion, inasmuch as it would thus be easier for our Orthodox Church to discuss reunion with the Churches which had so united into a single Church and had a single faith, than with many Churches with different faiths.

In making it plain that we have arrived at our decision only in obedience to the dictates of our conscience, we beg to assure the Conference that we have derived much comfort here from the experience that, although divided by dogmatic differences, we are one with our brethren here in faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Declaring that in the future we shall not cease to devote ourselves to labour for the closer approach of the Churches, we add that we shall pray to God without ceasing that by the operation of His Holy


Spirit He will take away all existing hindrances and will guide us to that unity for which the Founder and Ruler of the Church prayed to His heavenly Father: " that they all may be one as we are one."

We close with the intercession that our Lord will richly give His blessing to one and all who labour in sincerity and in His fear for the establishment of His kingdom among men.

Orthodox Delegation at the First World Conference on Faith and Order, Lausanne, 1927.

Orthodox Delegation at the First World Conference on Faith and Order, Lausanne, 1927.

In the centre of the first row (l. to r.): Met. Dionisy (Waledinsky) of Warsaw and All Poland; Met. Germanos (Strinopoulos) of Thyateira; Met. Evlogy (Georgiyevsky) of Paris and Western Europe. Fr. Sergius Bulgakov is standing in the second row behind Met. Germanos and Met. Evlogy.
Photo: WCC Archives.

Delegates from the Ecumenical Patriarchate:

Archbishop of Thyateira, GERMANOS;
Dr. PARASKEVAIDIS, Archimandrite;
C. VALIADIS, Archimandrite.

The Patriarchate of Alexandria:

CHRISTOPHOROS, Archbishop of Leontopolis;
NICOLAS, Archbishop of Nubia.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem:

KALLINICOS, Archimandrite

Archbishopric of Cyprus and the Church of Greece:

AMBROSIOS, Metropolitan of Naupactos;

The Patriarchate of Serbia:

IRINEY, Bishop of Novi Sad.

The Patriarchate of Roumania:

NECTARIE, Archbishop of Cernauti and Metropolitan of Bukovina.

The Church of Bulgaria:

Proto-presbyter Prof. Dr. STEFAN ZANKOV;

The Church of Poland:

DIONISY, Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland;

Russian Delegates:

EULOGIOS, Metropolitan of the Russian Church in Western Europe;
Archpriest Prof. Dr. SERGIUS BULGAKOV.

Georgian Delegate:



THE CHAIRMAN: We sympathise with our Orthodox brethren in their difficulty and appreciate most sincerely the tone in which this declaration has been offered to us, and we welcome with great thankfulness the indication of their desire as far as possible to continue in spiritual unity with us. It is too great an issue for me to venture to say anything about it, and I will call upon the President of the Conference, Bishop Brent, to indicate what seems to him the proper course of action.

BISHOP BRENT: A Conference such as ours, which pays mutual deference to the consciences of all present, cannot take any exception to the statement made on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox brethren by Archbishop Germanos.


We appreciate his frankness, but I would point out the fact that the paper is but a declaration of the manner in which the Orthodox Church will act with regard to the Reports when finally presented, and being such—and in this Archbishop Germanos agrees with me there should be no discussion of it. I should, however, like to point out one or two things.

In the first place, this Conference was not called to provide a sufficient basis for unity in its first inception; it was stated clearly that it was to be a Conference in which both agreements and disagreements were to be carefully noted, and we thank our Orthodox brethren for making so distinct the differences which prevent them from taking a more positive position in relation to, the Reports, We thank them because we are now in a position to consider the stand they take with more clearness than we could otherwise have done.

I would further say that in our Reports we have tried to be frank, and have tried to avoid compromise. We have given the Eastern Orthodox every opportunity to express their differences. They have expressed them to a certain extent, and we are glad to have their statements incorporated in the Reports in the final form in which I believe this assembly will receive them, But their further statement gives us a large responsibility, and we only hope that they will study the positions which are contrary to their own position with the same earnestness and lack of prejudice that the balance of the Conference will study their position.

I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more. This is not a Conference that aims at a complete agreement, and there can only be a complete agreement reached when everyone faces the convictions of others with honesty, and we congratulate our Orthodox brethren on the frankness with which they have made their statement, because I recognise that it is an extremely difficult thing to take the position which they have taken and which I will say they have taken with great grace.

THE CHAIRMAN: The matter now before the Conference was not on the agenda for to-day, but Bishop Brent and myself felt it to be a matter of such importance that it was due to our Orthodox brethren that they should have an opportunity of bringing the matter forward now. It does seem to me, however, that it would be a departure from the proper order of business if we were to engage in any discussion of it at the present stage. The proper occasion for such a discussion would be at the time of the discussion on Report VII or when we are debating the question of the reception of the various Reports.

Source: H.N. Bate, ed., Faith and Order: Proceedings of the World Conference, Lausanne, August 3-21, 1927 (London: Student Christian Movement & Garden City NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1928). Numbers in square brackets [xxx] are the original page numbers.