Many Orthodox Christians are familiar with decrees, proclamations, canons, and doctrines promulgated by the major Ecumenical Councils of the Church and other local synods. But they rarely wonder: “Who drafted the texts I’m reading? What method did the drafter use?”
To answer those questions, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Assistant Professor of Canon Law at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, will be offering a course to seminarians during the Spring 2018 Semester, titled, “Contemporary Issues in Canon Law.” The class will provide seminarians an opportunity to study conciliar theology and the conciliar process that began in the 20-century and led to the Council in Crete in 2016. After this reflection, the class will become hands-on and seminarians will collaborate on drafting a message from a mock council.
Students will work with a visiting expert, the Reverend Dr. Protopresbyter Nicolas Kazarian, who assisted the drafters of the Message and Encyclical promulgated by the Council of Crete held June 19-26, 2016. This practical work will allow the seminarians to ensure the continuation of the “lost art” of notating proceedings and drafting accurate statements of conciliar meetings. Funding for the guest lecturer in this course was provided by the Ganister Orthodox Foundation Fund, a fund of the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania.
“Church councils and synods formulate dogmatic teachings and canons for two reasons,” said Father Alexander. “One, to fight against heresies and schisms; and two, to promote the common and unifying tradition of the Church found in Scripture and patristic writings. Clergy and laity—since the inception of the Church—have depended on these formulations for many reasons, including, clear knowledge, pastoral direction, Church order, and liturgical guidance.
“For example,” Father Alexander continued, “these formulations help us answer questions like: What do we believe about the divinity of Jesus Christ, or how does the priest perform an inter-faith marriage, or how do we celebrate Annunciation within the Great Fast?”
Father Alexander Rentel will be the course instructor and facilitator of all class work. He participated in the Council of Crete as a member of the Press Office of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Father Nicolas, who is a research associate at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, Paris, France, and a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, will collaborate with Father Alexander for the last three classes. He will introduce the process of drafting a conciliar message and will then oversee the drafting of such a message by the students. Father Nicolas was also a member of the Press Office of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Council of Crete.
“Through this course,” Father Alexander concluded, “we want to ensure that future Church leaders know how to record Church proceedings and how to apply Church.