Blogging Ecumenically: Coordination

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on Orthodox-Catholic online dialogue, originally delivered at the “That They May Be One” Conference.

bigstock-dialogue-between-man-and-woman-25597598The third category of dialogue between Orthodox and Catholic writers at Conciliar Post involves what I call “coordination seeking unity.” These types of interaction consist of Orthodox and Catholic voices not only agreeing accidentally or for the sake of defeating a common opponent, but also instances where agreements are sought for the sake of broad Christian unity. In contrast to cooperative approaches where arguments are presented from the Catholic or Orthodox perspective alone, coordinated approaches argue from positions of broad Christian faith (casting the Church as whole) or the perspectives of Orthodoxy and Catholicism together.

For example, I note Gus and Cursae’s discussion surrounding the Immaculate Conception. In this dialogue, both writers recognized the differences in Orthodox and Catholic conceptions of original/ancestral sin and advocated further discussion and clarification of this disagreement, a discussion that was continued shortly thereafter by Gus in another article and its comments section. This interaction was coordinated insofar as Cursae and Gus approached an area of historic disagreement not as a sparring ground but as an opportunity to foster greater understanding and unity. Another example of coordinated dialogue (and, indeed, the one that compelled me to write this paper) comes in Frigus and Gus’s conversation on an article about the Orthodox view of Protestants. This interchange featured both writers taking each other’s comments with charity and emphasizing points of unity, such as the recognition of all Trinitarian baptisms as valid and importance of Eastern Orthodox spirituality. Their exchange was not beyond offering critiques when necessary, but such comments were made “for the sake of encouragement and growth.” In this example of coordinated dialogue, Frigus and Gus mutually recognized where insight could be gleaned, growth could occur, and greater unity could be expressed between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue Commission
Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue Commission

The downside to coordination is its comparative difficulty—writers rarely stumble into a coordinated Orthodox-Catholic effort whilst writing broadly about faith and culture. This approach also requires a mindset that consistently seeks unity and coordination among Orthodox and Catholic Christians. Yet coordinated Orthodox-Catholic dialogue combines the best features of the cooperative and reinforcement positions, not only building upon similarities of theology and purpose, but also allowing for authentic recognition of differences and creative attempts to negotiate those divisions. In trying to answer the question “What may hold the communions of East and West together?”, a “coordinated” perspective on Orthodox-Catholic dialogue suggests intentional approaches to Orthodox-Catholic unity. That is, while professional theologians rightly continue to hammer out differences, in practicality Orthodox and Catholic Christians may intentionally join together to serve, write, and engage the world with the Good News of Christ. A coordinated approach to Orthodox-Catholic dialogue—one that fosters interactions and discussion which intentionally seek unity—offers a fruitful route forward for Christians across denominational and geographical divides.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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