ARTICLE: A Schism for the Modern Era

ukrainian photo

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I handed the tomos of independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine over to its leader, Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine [Photo Credit UNIAN]

By Erin Rodewald || January 8, 2019
(This article was originally written for and posted to 21Wilberforce)

Readers of history will recall the Great Schism of 1054 as the moment when the western Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church parted ways, a separation that punctuated the end of the Roman Empire. That split, with its religious and political undertones, rocked Christendom in the 11th century and remains a visible wound even today, never fully healed though softened with time.

Ten centuries later, a new schism has formed, this one between the Russian Orthodox Church and the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Metropolitan Epiphanius was elected head of the new church in December, a move condemned by Moscow but viewed by many believers in Ukraine as a safeguard against Russian aggression, which began in earnest with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. This weekend, the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul (the source of authority for the Eastern Orthodox tradition) granted a “tomos,” or decree of independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The separation process could take decades, but the fracture has begun.

The news is not good for Moscow. By some estimates, the division will cost the Russian Orthodox Church some 30 to 40 percent of its members, not to mention valuable church property and bragging rights as the “protector” of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. Yet, while Ukraine’s break with Russia is a dramatic turn of events, an even deeper schism lies between the Russian government and its own people, particularly people of faith. Continue reading