NEW YORK - His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew appointed a special commission of theologians to prepare a document on the social teaching of the Orthodox Church, in the spirit of and reflecting upon the relevant decisions of the Holy and Great Council of Crete (June 2016). Commissioned in early 2017, the document assembled input from numerous eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate throughout the world and was submitted to the Holy and Sacred Synod, which, in late 2019, congratulated the commission for its inspiring work and recommended the publication of this text.

For the Life of the Word: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church is now online in twelve languages. The statement does not pronounce clear-cut responses to social challenges, but instead proposes general guidelines to difficult questions. The purpose is to initiate reflection and conversation on what “the Spirit is saying to the Churches” (Revelation 2:7). In the words of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, “This text opens us up to the implications of what it means to be loved by God, and to respond to that love by loving one another.”

While the document was completed prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis of 2020, it nonetheless addresses the importance of social responsibility, the voice of faith in a world of science, medicine and technology, as well as the response of the Church on matters related to health care, social justice, and public welfare. In this regard, the document provides a framework for addressing current challenges as well as challenges we haven’t yet imagined.

For the Life of the World presents a way of reaching out across social distancing at a time of global calamity – as our faithful are either self-isolated and quarantined (a term that literally refers to a period of forty days and reflects the church’s struggle during Great Lent) – in order to address the role of the Church at a time of spiritual crisis, challenge, and concern. Therefore, the document is being released during Great Lent as a period of self-discipline and reflection on our interdependence and vocation to care for one another. It is offered with humility and love for reflection and conversation as all of us “shelter in place.”

It will be published in print (English only) next month by Holy Cross Orthodox Press in Brookline MA.

Click here for the document.

Click here for an executive summary of For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church.