1979 (2) Baptism of Heretics

This post is NOT yet checked against the original.

This document was originally translated into English and published in Orthodox Life, Vol. 29, No. 2, 1979, pp. 35-43



This decision of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad of 15/28 September 1971 reads:
"On the question of the baptism of heretics who accept Orthodoxy, the following decree was adopted: The Holy Church has believed from time immemorial that there can be only one true baptism, namely that which is performed in her bosom: ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ (Eph. 4:5) In the Symbol of Faith there is also confessed ‘one baptism,’ and the 46th Canon of the Holy Apostles directs: ‘A bishop or a presbyter who has accepted (i.e., acknowledges) the baptism or the sacrifice of heretics, we command to be deposed.’
"However when the zeal of some heretics in their struggle against the Church diminished and when the question arose about a massive conversion to Orthodoxy, the Church, to facilitate their conversion, received them into her bosom by another rite. St Basil the Great in his First Canon, which was included in the canons of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, points to the existence of different practices for receiving heretics in different lands. He explains that any separation from the Church deprives one of grace and writes about the dissidents: ‘Even though the departure began through schism, however, those departing from the Church already lacked the grace of the Holy Spirit. The granting of grace has ceased because the lawful succession has been cut. Those who left first were consecrated by the Fathers and through the laying on of their hands had the spiritual gifts. But, they became laymen and had no power to baptize nor to ordain and could not transmit to others the grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves fell away. Therefore, the ancients ruled regarding those that were coming from schismatics to the Church as having been baptized by laymen, to be cleansed by the true baptism of the Church.’ However, ‘for the edification of many’ St. Basil does not object to other rites for receiving the dissident Cathars in Asia. About the Encratites he writes, that ‘this could be a hindrance to the general good order’ and a different rite could be used, explaining this: ‘But I am afraid of putting an impediment to the saved, while I would raise fears in them concerning their baptism.’ 
"Thus, St Basil the Great, and by his words the Ecumenical Council, while establishing the principle that outside the Holy Orthodox Church there is no valid baptism, allows through pastoral condescension, called economy, the reception of some heretics and dissidents without a new baptism. On the basis of this principle the Ecumenical Councils allowed the reception of heretics by different rites, in response to the weakening of their hostility against the Orthodox Church.
"The Kormchaya Kniga gives an explanation for this by Timothy of Alexandria. On the question ‘Why do we not baptize heretics converting to the Catholic Church?’ his response is: ‘If this were so, a person would not quickly turn from heresy, not wanting to be shamed by receiving baptism (i.e., second baptism). However, the Holy Spirit would come through the laying on of hands and the prayer of the presbyter, as is witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles.’
"With regard to Roman Catholics and those Protestants who claim to have preserved baptism as a sacrament (for example, the Lutherans). In Russia since the time of Peter I the practice was introduced of receiving them without baptism, through a renunciation of heresy and the chrismation of Protestants and unconfirmed Catholics. Before Peter, Catholics were baptized in Russia. In Greece, the practice has also varied, but after almost 300 years after a certain interruption, the practice of baptizing converts from Catholicism and Protestantism was reintroduced. Those received by any other way have (sometimes) not been recognized in Greece as Orthodox. In many cases such children of our Russian Church were not even admitted to Holy Communion. 
"Having in view this circumstance and also the current growth of the ecumenist heresy, which attempts to completely erase any difference between Orthodoxy and any heresy — so that the Moscow Patriarchate, notwithstanding the holy canons, has even issued a decree permitting Roman Catholics to receive communion (in certain cases) — the Sobor of Bishops acknowledges the need to introduce a stricter practice, i.e., to baptize all heretics who come to the Church, and only because of special necessity and with permission of the bishop it is allowed, under the application of economy or pastoral condescension, to use a different method with respect to certain persons, i.e., the reception of Roman Catholics, and Protestants who perform baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, by means of repudiation of heresy and Chrismation." ("Church Life," July-December 1971, pp. 52-54)

No comments: