IES organized a Seminar of the Ukrainian Academic Christian Fellowship (UACF) on November 4, 2020

2020-11-06 16:45

The seminar was moderated by Taras Kurylets, IES researcher.

The concept of the event stated: “Lay people consist the vast majority of the church community, but their voice in decision-making is not always heard and taken into account. Today, in our opinion, the role of the laity in the conciliar activity of the church at various levels — from the local to the universal — needs further study.”

The first was the report of Fr. Dr. Cyril Hovorun entitled “The time when there were no laymen: the early Christian era”. The main thesis of this report is that the very term “laity” is quite discriminatory and it doesn’t represent the early Christianity’s ecclesiology, which did not yet know the division into clergy and laity, but instead this term is the consequence of stratification and structuralization of the Church. Moreover, the process of the emergence of “laity” (laitization) and “priests” (sacerdotization) is simultaneous, because so far priesthood regarded all the faithful. According to the speaker, the modern notion of the priesthood is rather a borrowing from the Greco-Roman religion and the late Jewish tradition, which saw the priesthood as a separate group divided from the laity. This group was endowed with the function of establishing contact with the divine and administering the grace which the world lacks and which the priest can receive as a result of performing certain magical acts. Fr. Cyril believes that the New Testament has another approach, because after the coming of the Archiereus of Christ, grace became universal and the role of priest / bishop is rather the role of a spiritual shepherd – “coach” who helps the faithful to assimilate this infinite grace and heads the Sacraments, which are performed by the whole community by the right of the general priesthood. And most importantly, the speaker stressed, in his opinion, the role of the priesthood in the Church is functional rather than ontological.

Respondent Rev. Fr. Volodymyr Vakin, rector of the Volyn Orthodox Theological Academy, stressed the importance of the issue, especially during the pandemic, when we are rethinking the role of the laity in the Church. It is necessary to determine the terminology, agreeing that the concept of “layman” (Ukrainian “myryanyn”, means those who live in the world) is quite discriminatory and is now often mistakenly used as a synonym for “secular man”.

Dr. Anatoliy Babynsky raised the topic of “Lay awakening in the UGCC after the World War II”, presenting in historical retrospect laymen movements and their transformation in the UGCC diaspora in the postwar period. The author stated that: “The experience of laity activation “from below” in the second half of the twentieth century in UGCC shows that it is impossible that laymen would take their responsibility for the life and mission of the Church in the world if they aren’t engaged into the discussion on the important church issues. If the decisions simply “come down” from above, the lay community will remain passive, and its most active representatives will be disappointed and will lose interest in the church affairs”.

Respondent prof. Lyudmyla Fylypovych, Head of the Department of Philosophy and History of Religion at the Institute of Philosophy after H. Skovoroda of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, said that the concept of “layman” is very broad and we need to find another word, which would be most appropriate, for example, the term “believer/faithful” Ukrainian “virynyn”), which indicates not so much belonging to the world, but belonging to the Church, so here the word “believer” is more appropriate.

Rev. Dr. Andriy Chirovsky, the former Head of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, spoke about “Potential Problems Related to the Inclusion of Lay People in the Church Councils (in general and in UGCC in particular)”. He stated that in order to involve the laity in the fruitful work of not only advisory but also legislative and electoral councils, it is necessary to consider not only the positive aspects, but also the potential risks associated with the potential participation of the laity.

Respondent Mr. Taras Dmytryk noted that we lack a culture of conciliarity in all Churches, as the tradition of holding councils in Ukrainian denominations is only recently beginning to revive. In particular, there is the question of which lay people should involve in the council activities, and here the first vote should be for the church universities and academic institutions, which could delegate their representatives to the councils.

In the final speech, Dr. Serhiy Bortnyk, a lecturer at the Kyiv Theological Academy, raised the topic “Theological rethinking of the laity’s importance in solving the ways of development of today's Orthodoxy”. In his speech he identified three levels of the church life and responsibility. The first is the level of hierarchy or episcopate. The second is the level of the Eucharistic community, which is generally identified with the parish headed by the priest. The third is the level of believers, who are aware of their faith and are ready to take various responsibilities for their community and for their Church in general. Thus, the hierarchy, the Eucharistic community and the faithful constitute three aspects of the existence of the Church.

Respondent Rev. Dr. Mykhaylo Dymyd, former Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, added a speaker on “sobornist/conciliarity and laity in the Orthodox tradition”. He focused on the Moscow Council of the ROC in 1917, presenting it as a vivid positive example, the decision of which at certain points can be put on a par with the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. The Council decided that the local Council, and not only the Synod of Bishops, is the bearer of the supreme power in the Church.

Video of the event in Ukrainian is here

Institute of Ecumenical Studies of UCU