#78 A Church of Councils (featuring Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh)



The Church isn't run by a single person. Instead, we come together in councils to keep the Faith and guide the Church through challenges. From the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem (in the Book of Acts) through the upcoming Great and Holy Council, this spirit of togetherness opens us to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And this spirit of cooperation and service can guide us wherever we are, no matter our role in the Church.

Special thanks to His Eminence Metropolis Savas of Pittsburgh for teaching us this week! 



1) Why does the Church do as many councils as they do?

2) How did the Church come up with the idea of a council?


Bible Gateway, Acts 15

Mystagogy, Saint James the Brother of the Lord



Hey everybody, this is Steve, and the Church isn't a one-man show. Last week, Bishops around the world met in Istanbul for a really important meeting. They gathered to pray and worship together, of course, but also to discuss the state of the Church, and to prepare for a really historic event. Next year's Great and Holy Council. When representatives from all the Orthodox Churches from all over the world will gather to discuss what's going on in the Church and to work on difficult problems. You may have noticed that in the Orthodox Church, we get really excited about councils, which sometimes confuses people. After all, isn't the Church just run by a single Bishop? To clear up some of that confusion, I thought I'd ask a Bishop, His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh. 

"Hello to you Steve, and to all the believers out there. It's a bit of a mistake to say that any Bishop runs the Church. And to know why, we have to understand what the Church is. The Church, as mentioned in past episodes, is the Body of Christ. We are all members of this Body. Arms, and legs, and hands and feet, each with our own job to do. But only Christ is the head. When Christ ascended 40 days after the Resurrection, He didn't simply leave the Holy Spirit to particular people, He left it to the Church. His Body gathered together. This togetherness, is important. Not only do we pray together, but we work through our problems together, as councils, just as the Church always has. In fact, one council was even recorded in the Bible." That's right! In the Book of Acts, Chapter 15, we read about the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem. And how the first Christians dealt with the disagreement they had. The Church was drawing lots and lots of new converts, including people who unlike Christ and the Apostles, had never been Jewish. So, the disagreement was whether these new Christians had to follow the Jewish law. "At that time, James, known as the Brother of the Lord, was Bishop of Jerusalem. Yet he did not answer the question on his own. Instead, the Apostles and the elders of the Church came together as a Body.

As we read in Acts, "After much dispute, Peter, and then Paul and Barnabas spoke, and described how God was sending the Holy Spirit to all people, both Jew and Gentile, and working wonders among them." So only then did James, the Bishop of Jerusalem spoke. He repeated the wise words of the Apostles, who spoke before him, saying that it wasn't necessary to burden non-Jewish converts with the requirements of the law. He even quoted the Old Testament, to show how the faith they preached was rooted in Scripture and fulfilled prophecies that God would call all people to Him." So did James announce this decision as his own, since he was the Bishop? "When we go back and look at the Book of Acts, we see something beautiful. We read a letter, saying that Gentile converts did not need to follow the entirety of the Jewish law, but this letter did not simply come from James. Instead it came from the Church." It says here that the Apostles and the elders wrote that "It seemed good to Holy Spirit and to us to only require certain laws of the new Christians, and not things like circumcision." 

That language is so interesting because it wasn't the decision of only one leader of the Church, or even of a group of leaders of the Church. Instead, we see cooperation not only among people, but between us and God. We see the Church, the Body of Christ working with the Holy Spirit. Because we, as the Church, are full of the Holy Spirit. "In the centuries to come, whenever faced with disagreements over the faith, the Church came together in councils. Not to reason or argue, but to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in them and guide them to the truth. For example, Archbishop Demetrios resides over the Eparchial Synod, that guides the Archdiocese of America. Just like his All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew presides over the Patriarchal Synod that leads the Church of Constantinople, which we are a part.

Together, as a Synod, we reflect upon the challenges that we face as a Church, in this place and this time. And we pray that the Spirit will guide us to find the appropriate solutions to difficult problems. We seek to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and God's will because we seek not to rule, but to serve." It's incredible that so many Bishops met in Istanbul for the Synaxis. And it's unbelievable that we're less than a year away from the Great and Holy Council. When the entire Church will come together to work on the challenge and the problems that we all face. It's a historic even centuries in the making. Yet we should remember that this conceal your spirit isn't just for faraway places like Istanbul. It should shape the way we live our lives on a daily basis. Whether were leading our GOYA, or OCF, or the REAL group in our parish, or otherwise volunteering in the Church. We should remember that our leadership and our strength is grounded in Christ. It's not our job to solve problems or settle disputes on our own authority, but rather to open ourselves up to be guided by the Holy Spirit together. So that the timeless truth in the Christian faith can be expressed through us, the Body of Christ. Our goal in the Church isn't to dominate or take charge, but rather to work together, to share the good news. For each of us to offer our talents to the glory of God. 

"As you've mentioned before, Steve, our goal is to offer ourselves, each other, and our whole lives to God. To live Eucharistic lives, with thanks and offering. Not just on Sunday, but all day everyday. To live humble lives, of cooperation and service. Stepping out of the way of ourselves to allow God to work through us. That's something we can all do, wherever we are. As we come together in peace and fellowship. To serve each other and to serve our Lord." So let's Be the Bee, and humbly work together so the Holy Spirit can work in us. Be the Bee and live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all... "Hey wait, you said I can do that."

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