In early 2016, the Orthodox Theological Society in America (OTSA) in collaboration with Fordham University’s Center for Orthodox Christian Studies sponsored a project of collaborative theological reflection on draft documents the Orthodox Primates released in February in advance of the Great and Holy Council scheduled for June of that year on the island of Crete.
OTSA invited scholars of diverse areas of theology and related disciplines to form Working Groups to discuss and produce papers, jointly or individually authored, responding to the draft documents which variously addressed the topics of Mission, Ecumenical Relations, Marriage, Fasting, the Diaspora, Autonomy, and Rules and Procedures of the council.
The response to the Working Group Project was much greater than initially anticipated. In the end, 73 scholars participated and nearly 30 papers were produced on the range of topics indicated above. Although most of the 73 participating scholars were Orthodox, important areas of discussion and debate were also highlighted by perspectives drawn from Byzantine Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, and Episcopalian contributors whose affiliations were indicated in the published papers and reflected the broad interest of the council for Christians beyond the canonical limits of the Orthodox Church. All essays were reviewed by a team of six scholars and revised; many were posted on Fordham’s Center for Orthodox Christian Studies website publicorthodoxy.org.
While OTSA’s own membership is North American, contributors from elsewhere in the world who requested to be involved included participants from Greece, Albania, Canada, and the UK. Many of the essays have been translated and re-posted on websites in Russia, Greece, Ukraine, and elsewhere. The dialogue that has been generated has been significant and dynamic, and we hope that it will be extended and deepened in the life of the Church as a whole.
In addition to their online publication, the essays produced by the Working Groups were published in print form in as Volume 3 in the Faith Matters series, edited by the V. Rev. Nathanael Symeonides, Director of the Ecumenical Office of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Hundreds of copies of the book were distributed to the hierarchs and other delegates of the local churches gathered in council on the island of Crete from June 19-26, 2016.