Friday, October 28, 2016

The Office of Primate and the Authority of Councils Volume One (SVS Press)

The Office of Primate and the Authority of Councils is the first volume in a series of books entitled Primacy in the Church. The book begins with a Foreword by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware and an Introduction by John Chryssavgis. In both of these  sections, they stress the importance of the primacy issue, not only for the Orthodox Church but ecumenism, specifically with the Catholic Church. The book is then divided into five parts:

1. Insights from the Early Church
2. Primacy and Councils
3. Theological and Liturgical Developments
4. Contemporary Evolution and Assessment
5. Select Sources from the Recent Past

As evidenced by the topics, it is clear to see that this book is going to take a chronological approach to the issue of papal primacy. Within each of these parts are individual essays written by some major names in Orthodoxy - Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, John Chryssavgis, John Behr, Alexander Schmemann, and John Meyendorff to name a few. Refreshingly, the Catholic and Anglican voices are also represented by Paul McPartlan and Paul Valliere respectively.

As a Roman Catholic, I of course enjoyed reading Paul McPartlan's Catholic perspective. I knew that the recent Popes were making a more ecumenical effort both with the titles with which they referred to themselves as and in the joint-meetings they have had with the recent Ecumenical Patriarchs. What I did not know was that this effort extended as far back as Vatican II and Pope Paul VI. After that I enjoyed reading on Primacy, Collegiality, and the People of God. Perhaps, this is because I am admittedly biased toward Metropolitan Kallistos, but all the times I have heard him speak, the knowledge, holiness, and respectful tone of this sensitive subject just permeates his every being. Overall, I would say that the section which spoke to me the most had to do with the Early Church. It is in these pages where the term "Primacies of Honor" was more fleshed out as well as the Apostolic Tradition and the Early Church Fathers. Near the end of the book, the Ravenna Document is included, which is essential reading for this topic, so I am glad that they chose to include it in the book, rather than make the reader find it independently.

Overall, I found this volume to be a very thorough, objective, and respectful look at the issue of Primacy within the Church. The essays were historical accurate and proved to be a challenging read at times, but after making your way through them, you felt spiritually enriched. I look forward to reading Volume Two of this series and seeing the progression in this topic from one of history and development of the idea of Primacy to a more contemporary nature of the Church and current practices. If this is a topic you have an interest in, like myself, then I highly recommend this book to you.

This book was provided to me for free by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press in exchange for an honest review.