26 March 2009


A friend of mine at Lancing, a presbyterian in origin, became Orthodox. At the Church of the Holy Trinity in Brighton (a church under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch), he was Chrismated (his presbyterian baptism, by implication, being deemed adequate). It was a very great and happy day, at which I was privileged to be welcomed.

Later, my friend discerned a vocation to the life of a monk on the Holy Mountain. There, in another part of the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, he was required to be baptised and chrismated de novo.

There are several cumulative implications here. Firstly, that on Athos it was deemed that he had previously been, in effect, an unbaptised non-Christian, outside the Ark of Salvation. I am reminded of an Orthodox community I know in England which appears to take this view and to emphasise that the 'Pope' is not 'the canonical bishop of Rome'. Yes, I am aware that at high levels, for example in the diplomatic-liturgical relationships between the Vatican and the Phanar, the plain meaning of the rituals (for example, on the feasts of S Peter and S Andrew) is that Benedict is Bishop of Rome and Bartholomew is Bishop of Constantinople. But on Athos, no insignificant part of Bartholomew's jurisdiction, a different ecclesiology apparently holds sway.

This is no small matter. The starting point of all ecumenism is the recognition of Christ in the baptised fellow-Christian. I know that some Roman Catholics are very pleased to feel certain that I am not a priest. I find this made easier to bear by the knowledge that some Orthodox do not think that I am even a Christian.

I think Byzantine Orthodoxy could do with sorting this out. And I have some other grievances!


The Religious Pícaro said...

You don't say if your friend was entering a Greek or Slavic monastery on Mt Athos - do you know which?

The Greeks and Russians take different approaches to converts. Greeks generally accept converts from other ecclesial bodies by chrismation alone, while Russians generally (re)baptize everyone.

But I have read that officially even the Greek position is not so much a recognition of "heretical" baptism, as giving it an extension of legitmacy by "divine economy."

Fr. John D. Alexander said...

My evidence is only anecdotal, but it appears to me that the EOs don't have quite the same sense of indelibility / unrepeatability of certain sacraments that the West does. They will chrismate again and again. A friend of mine was ordained a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church, then was received as a deacon in the Episcopal Church (where of course his orders were recognized), then returned to the Orthodoxy (this time in the Antiochian Church), where he was required to be chrismated again even though he had already received Orthodox chrismation many years before. Apparently the apostasy of joining ECUSA was sufficient to cancel out everything that went before!

The Religious Pícaro said...

Yes, Chrismation (Confirmation) is repeatable in the EOC, but Baptism isn't. When an already baptized "heretic" is received by Baptism, it's because they didn't recognize the first Baptism as valid.

Pastor in Monte said...

Does anyone know what the Orthodox (large O) attitude is to the Donatists? This ought to shed some light on the matter. There were Eastern voices raised in defence of Cyprian on the subject of rebaptism, but Constantine having set his face against Donatism ought to have brought them on board.
I have certainly encountered this attitude among the Orthodox, though. A priest of my acquaintance, once of the (RC) diocese of Portsmouth was rebaptized by the Orthodox monks of Brookwood Cemetery (all English, I think, but of the Russian Exile obedience). He left them after, and joined the Society of St Pius X, and thereafter died. RIP. Granted that most Orthodox regard Latins as dreadful heretics, is not their rejection of our baptism substantially Donatist?

Unknown said...

Pastor in Valle,

Indeed! The East have serious problems with their theology on a lot of sacramental points and what you have pointed out is one of their worst ones.

My other favourite is their attempt to deny purgatory by saying that all go to hell and some are released from hell after a while. As if one place could be eternal and transient at the same time! lol

Anonymous said...

It's like the Pope recently said...some folks just gotta have some one to beat-up in order to feel validated. EO's make a career out of it.

Young fogey emeritus said...

Of course it's no small matter and needs sorting out.

As I understand it, the Orthodox only recognise as grace-filled (valid in Western terms) in themselves the sacraments of their own church, part of their one-true-church claim, so they reserve the right to receive a Christian from another church by baptism.

That call is the bishop's.

But most of the time the bishop economically recognises trinitarian baptism with water and the convert is received most often by chrismation or sometimes, if from another catholic church such as Rome, by a simple profession of faith or something like that. (Such have been received by confession and Communion, by concelebration in the case of one priest, or even by fiat as ex-Greek Catholic Ruthenians were in 1800s-1900s America.)

Once the person is received by the authority of an Orthodox bishop (ANY Orthodox bishop, not just the holy ones or the ones one likes), NO-ONE, not even the monks on Athos, can second-guess him and do another baptism! (As BillyD wrote.)

Blasphemous. Donatism indeed and an ecclesiology and sacramentology foreign to me. Superstition meets bigotry not apostolic authority and actually trying to subvert it. Charismatic-like self-righteousness not the mind of the church.

Chrismation is used differently from the West. As Kallistos (Ware) writes, a Greek who apostasised to Islam and came back might be received that way.

123 said...

This is a topic that is subtle and difficult - as theology should be - so is one is interested enough in this topic to do a little studying and not just express an opinion based on one's, well, opinion, see "The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church" by Patrick Barnes:


A little research into the way that the early Church received into Herself "schismatic" and "heretical" Christians would also be useful. For additional Orthodox material on the reception of trinitarian Christian converts (whether by baptism or chrismation or repentance) see George D. Metallinos, "I Confess One Baptism..." (Athens, 1983 [in Greek]; Holy Mountain, 1994 [in English, St. Paul’s Monastery); John H. Erickson, "The Reception of Non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church: Contemporary Practice", St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 41 (1997), pp. 1-17 - a paper presented at the fifty-first meeting of the U.S. Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, Brookline MA, May 29,1996:


Bishop Basil (Rodzianko), "Acceptance into the Orthodox Church", Light of Life, published quarterly by the Diocese of the West, Orthodox Church in America, February 1983:


Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pagodin), "On the reception into the Orthodox Church", originally published in Russian in Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya (Messenger of the Russian Christian Movement), Paris-New York-Moscow, Nos. 173 (I-1996) and 174 (II-1996/I-1997):


See also materials on the Baptism and Chrismation page of A. Green's website:


This is a topic that is hotly debated from both sides in Orthodoxy, as it was in the time of Cyprian. Not only is there a division between the "Greek" and "Russian" practice, there are divergences within each tradition.

It really boils down to the same kind of questions that were dealt with in the early Church - how are those that claim the name Christian to be seen as related/unrelated to "The Church" and how are their sacraments to be viewed on their reconciliation with "The Church". It was far from unknown to have the baptisms of schismatic and heretical groups outside of the Church unrecognized; they were unrepeatedly baptized on their entrance into the Church because their previous baptism were viewed as "not baptism". It should, therefore, be no surprise given this history that some/many Orthodox - especially those tasked with preserving the fullness of maximal Orthodox Christianity (Athos, the Holy Sepulchre, etc.) - do not recognize the sacraments of those separated from "The Church".

A more recent reason has to do with the increasing innovation found in various church bodies regarding the formula of Baptism and its elements. Stories of baptisms into 'the name of Jesus' alone or into some 'Mother, Daughter, Love' kind of renamed 'trinity' or a lack of water used, etc. cause some/many Orthodox to prefer to err toward the side of 'doing it right'.

It should be noted that 'emergency' baptisms are often 're-done' in the Orthodox Church. If someone was quickly sprinkled by a layman for fear of death, but survived, it is not without precedent for that person/child to be baptized in the full, traditional manner by a priest on their recuperation. This, just like chrismation for converts, is seen as a 'filling' and 'completing' of a more or less complete form of the fullness of the sacrament.

Full disclosure: I was baptized in the Lutheran church (and again by my Roman Catholic nana - long story) as a baby, but was received into the Orthodox Church, in New York, by baptism. I have been godfather to a few converts and some have been received by chrismation. (Interestingly, and this follows the argument put forward by Metallinos in "I Confess One Baptism...", my ex-Anabaptist godson had been baptized in the name of the Trinity by triple immersion and was therefore 'ineligible' for the rite of Orthodox Baptism as they minimum requirement of form was met.)

123 said...

George D. Metallinos, "I Confess One Baptism..." (Athens, 1983 [in Greek]; Holy Mountain, 1994 [in English, St. Paul’s Monastery) is really the best resource for an in depth study of the reasoning behind those that would receive RC and Protestant converts by baptism rather than chrismation or confession of faith. Unfortunately, it is not available online.

Just about any of the reasoning available from ROCOR regarding reception of converts will follow Metallinos' line of reasoning, however.

A few random quotes that may also be pertinent are available here:


Anonymous said...

The perennial teaching of the Orthodox (as gleaned from the prevailing practice over the vast majority of the past two millennia) weighs in against re-baptism of Trinitarians, no matter how odd their groups. For example, even a Montanists baptisms was considered valid despite being in the name of the Father, Son, and two charismatic women. This"liberal" position is also clearly stated in the Basilian Canons which were ecumenically adopted at the Quintisext Council.

In sum, the Orthodox re-baptizers have taken up the erroneous position of St. Cyprian (a Saint despite his self-admitted ecclesiological innovations), which is based on dialectics, not noetic reflection on the Tradition and might fairly be deemed "Orthodox 'Feenyism.'"

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

"I think Byzantine Orthodoxy could do with sorting this out."

As an Orthodox who would not even be viewed as a baptized Christian in certain Athonite monasteries, I couldn't agree with you more.

And of course you're not the first Anglican to say this. I seem to recall William Palmer of Magdalen, the phil-Orthodox Scottish Episcopalian who was so bewildered by the Orthodox inconsistency on this topic that eventually he found himself in Rome.

Anonymous said...

There is no "one" view on ecclesiology in the Orthodox Church. Those who claim such a position are usually merely expressing an Orthodoxy of their (personal) preference. In my studies at seminary of Orthodox Canon Law I have noticed that re-baptism is punishable by deposition of the priest/bishop who practices it (being an Athonite monk does not exempt one from this rule).

Distatsteful as it may be to me personally, but a "fundadox" virus is definitely taking hold of Orthodoxy in my experience. Few Orthodox today would be willing o stand with Fr. Nicholas Afanasieff and his spokesperson for our times Fr. Michael Plekon - and proclaim that wherever there is a real Baptism and a Real Eucharist there is the Church. Few - but I am one of them.

No-one baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (in water) can be allowed to re-baptized - unless, perhaps, a conditional baptism under particular circumstances.

Most Orthodox side with Fr. George Florovsky and hold that Eucharistic Communion is an expression of full dogmatic unity in faith. Few Orthodox (me included) hold with Fr. Sergius Bulgakov that Eucharistic Communion is a step in the progression to full unity (perhaps inevitably "unity in diversity" ) of Christians.

Full unity is often defined by Orthodox in such a limiting way that it would mean becoming culturally/spiritually Russian or Greek. I am would side with those who wish to drop such silly demands - and find "unity in diversity" a much more realistic and - if I may - Orthodox - approach.

Fr. Hunwicke: as far as I am concerned you are a Christian in the full sense of that word as well as a priest in the full sacramental meaning of that word. And I know a few other Orthodox, laity and clergy, who think the same way.

Fr. Gregory

Anonymous said...

From my reading of the available literature, Fr. Gregory's summation seems to represent the p.o.v. of the vast majority of Orthodox both today and throughout history.

If the ancient Church considered Montanist baptism to be sufficient so as not to be repeated, then surely Catholics and Orthodox, despite their differences, can take regard each others baptisms as at least as 'sufficient' as that of the Montanists!

123 said...

I agree with Fr. Gregory that "those who claim such a position are usually merely expressing an Orthodoxy of their (personal) preference." That, of course, includes both him and me.

What you see in Orthodoxy is very much like the diversity of views on the same topic in the early Church - with many of the same arguments being used, in fact.

Metallinos goes to great pains to note the difference of belief and baptismal practice in various heretical and schismatic groups in the early centuries of the Church, and how they were received by the Church. His contention is that the form of baptism was actually more important than the actual beliefs of the groups in question. I don't have it at hand, so I apologize for not being able to provide specific examples, but there were examples of quite odd heretical groups that had maintained the proper form of Baptism (triple immersion in water in the name of the Trinity) whose baptisms were accepted - perhaps the Montanists, as Death Bredon has noted - and there were other groups wholly Orthodox in their theology that had split from the Church and had changed the form of Baptism: these baptisms by otherwise 'right believing' Christians were not accepted.

In line with the my quote from Fr. Gregory above, I believe Fr. Ambrosius (Pagodin) comes to different conclusions than Metallinos, and from much of the same material. Such is Orthodoxy, such was the early Church, too.

Of course, for all the rules, Runciman points out that economia played and plays an important part in Orthodoxy. St. Basil is a preeminent authority for economia and dispensation for the sake of reconciliation in such matters.

It is understandable that people get upset about this issue, especially when it is their baptism that is being called into question. At the same time, it should be noted that the reason some/many baptize converts from Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is because their baptism are held to be 'not baptism'. These clergy do not fall under the canon regarding 're-baptism' because they believe that a baptism is only the sacrament of holy baptism when it is in performed in the Church; if one is outside of the Church, by definition one cannot have baptism. One doesn't have to agree with the point, but taking the assumptions for granted, it makes sense. Hopefully a Council will normalize the practice and provide a common perspective on the issues/assumptions that underly each sides position (there are as many assumptions on the side of those that simply chrismate, after all).

The most damning argument against the baptism of those baptized in other churches is the example of St. Porphyrios the Actor - unless one assumes his cohorts were following the strict form of Baptism, in which case it is an argument for the 'rigorists'' position.

As a relevant hypothetical, would a mock baptism performed outside of any church (with or without 'faith', or with an orthodox or highly 'deficient' faith) by valid? If some atheistic performance artist performed a trinitarian baptism with water, would that be valid? what of a syncretist Hindu who has added Jesus to his family's pantheon of gods? what of a shamanistic tribe baptizing for 'imperviousness' in battle?

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

"Few Orthodox today would be willing o stand with Fr. Nicholas Afanasieff and his spokesperson for our times Fr. Michael Plekon - and proclaim that wherever there is a real Baptism and a Real Eucharist there is the Church. Few - but I am one of them."

Hear, hear, Fr Gregory. I'll stand with you. Maybe there are more of us than we thought.

Anonymous said...

Count me in too. This position seems to be entailed by the Basilian Canons (which were given ecumenical in the Quintisext Council) standing regarding reception of para-synogogists and schismatics. Moreover, save a few periods of extreme polemical dispute with Rome, these canons have been the norm of Orthopraxis.

123 said...

It turns out that "I Confess One Baptism" by Metallinos is available online:


Dale said...

Fr. Hunwicke's remarks regarding the rebaptism of Christian converts in Byzantium is indeed problematic. My own experience was one of my theology professors in seminary who had been received from the Greek Catholics as a priest via the traditional Russian method of revesting and concelebration, when he visited Greece they refused to concelebrate with him unless he accepted chrismation, which he did. Later on Athos they rebaptised and rechrismated him before they would concelebrate, but at no time did they demand that he be reordained!
I am myself very troubled by the fact that several, all convert parishes, under the Antiochians in California have been rebaptising converts from the Charismatic Episcopal church, whilst in the same diocese members of this same group (converting as western rite) are being received via chrismation. This makes absolutely no theological sense whatsoever...other than to perhaps show that the Byzantines have about as much theological unity as the Church of England...which is to perhaps insinuate that they need to get off their high horse on this one (and trying to pass off this issue as not theological is ludicrous).
I have tried writing to the Antiochian priests who have been doing rebaptism to explain why they are rebaptising members of the same denomination that elsewhere in their same diocese are received via chrismation only to be answered with some interesting demands to know who I am. One would have hoped that they had better answers than that...but it seems that they do not.

Anonymous said...


Orthodoxy: "The Best in Unorganized Religion."

123 said...

The standard line, even by those that only chrismate Protestant and RC converts, is that no baptism outside of the Church is officially 'accepted', but it is completed or what is lacking is filled by chrismation. Whether one receives by baptism or chrismation is a matter of economia or pastoral discretion - which can be exercised in either direction.

So, the theology is pretty consistent, the practice of that theology is applied pastorally.

I'm not trying to convince, just providing a more postive construction than Orthodox stupidity and hypocrisy mixed with arrogance.

Anonymous said...

This "standard line" first arises with the Rudder, which attempted to reconcile two inconsistent practices.

Indeed, prior to the Rudder -- a very late compilation -- the practice used largely depended on how tensions in Church politic were running. Schismatic baptisms were either considered valid (when tensions were low) or void (when hot disputes were on between separated or warring factions. The older tradition, and the one most often followed, is that schismatic baptisms are "of the Church" and therefore completely valid. Hence, a schismatic is received either by confession alone (so-called Monophysites and Nestorians) or chrismation (Latins).

The Ladder attempts to evade the blatant inconsistency in practice by theorizing that all schismatic baptisms are lacking, but can be completed by chrismation, instead of performing a legitimate baptism in cases where the hierarchy more or less feels generous. Of course, this "standard line" is absurd on its face and is historically revisionist.

Dale said...

The lack of unity regarding what constitutes a baptism shows that regardless of their protest to the contrary, The Byzantines are not fully united in their theology.

One of my seminary professors converted as a priest from the Greek Catholic Church via vesting (In S. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris). When he visited Greece, they refused to allow him to concelebrate with them unless he underwent Chrismation. This he did. Later when he visited Athos they refused to accept him as a priest unless he underwent re-baptism and was once again Chrismated. This he did. They then consented, how kind of them, to concelebrate with him. What is truly strange is that at no time did anyone demand that he be re-ordained. Hence, it would appear that they accepted his ordination to the priesthood as valid, but not his baptism! How strange can it get?

Recently in North America, in the same Antiochian diocese, converting Charismatic Episcopalians have been received via re-baptism by former Evangelical converts (Themselves never re-baptised), yet at the same time, several groups, converting as western rite, have been received via Chrismation. Of course those converting to the western rite have often brought property with them, perhaps this trumps the need for rebaptism?

I have noticed that when these theological inconsistencies are mentioned the normal Byzantine reaction is to do a song-and-dance about economia. But economia, much like a western dispensation, cannot be applied to theological issues. One may apply economia to fasting during Great Lent, but certainly not to the Real Presence, or baptism. It does not hold water.

It would appear that the Byzantines not only suffer seriously from Phyletism, but Donatism as well.

Dale said...

Sorry for posting virtually the same comment twice! My computer has been giving me trouble!!!

Anonymous said...

I think we all must agree with Dale, that uniformity in the Byzantine Commonwealth Churches is, de facto, lack regarding ecclesiology.

1. The smaller part insists on Cyprian's hardline in-or-out, "regardless of what you confess*" ecclesiology. This is the "rebaptism" sect.

2. The larger part follows the "proportional" ecclesiology of the Basilian canons which follow the "ancient tradition.**" (And the Creed.)

3. Then, some trying to mitigate this tension follow the Rudder, which allows for both approaches leaving the choice to pastoral concerns.

* A quote from S. Cyprian himself
** S. Cyprian again.

* * * * *

Of course, lest any should accuse me of picking on the Orthodox, I must note that the DE FACTO theological disagreements among RC Bishops are legion.

123 said...

Again, a perusal of the arguments and proof arrayed by both sides of this debate within Orthodoxy are well worth the time. Just as Pope Stephen and St. Cyprian disagreed on how to receive schismatics and heretics into the Church, so too are Orthodox in disagreement today regarding more recent Christians to be found outside of the Church. While there are many comparisons that can be made between ancient groups and those more modern, there are also significant differences meaning that the spirit and intent of the ancient traditions, canons and pastoral practices may or may not be applied differently in modern times and in changing circumstances.

Disagree on whether either approach is right, I would simply argue for restraint in writing off either side's position based on one's initial instinct rather than with a more sober survey of the issues at hand.

As stated before, the former Dean of the School of Theology at the University of Athens represents the 'rigorist' line. This text can be found here:


Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pagodin)'s, "On the reception into the Orthodox Church", among others (see an earlier comment) is an article that argues for a different line and can be found here:


Dale said...

I know that most of us have moved beyond this issue, having certainly solved nothing, but it has recently transpired that in the Philippines members of the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church must be re-crismated before being accepted for communion in the Greek Greek Orthodox Church in Manila!

It seems that the Greek Greeks are upset that Antioch has accepted several thousands of Filipinos into Orthodoxy and, unlike the Greek Greeks (My this gets confusing) who demand that all converts become cultural Greeks, the Antiochians are allowing them (one suspects for only a short while) to retain the western rite.

It is worth noting that real Arab Antiochians are not being re-crismated, only Filipinos so one is wont to ask how much of this is also generated by racism as well.

One suspects that soon we shall hear the normal song-and-dance about ekonomia about this one as well.

123 said...

...real Arab Antiochians are not being re-crismated, only Filipinos...Again, the question is not whether they are Arab or Filipino (though I would not discount racism, too, but Greek racism puts all xenoi in the same bucket regardless of race) but whether their non-Orthodox baptisms are to be considered baptisms. Those that baptize converts do not consider themselves to be RE-baptizing since they had not been baptized before, properly speaking (meaning only Orthodox baptism is recognized).

One is free to be offended by that or to disagree and claim all trinitarian baptisms with water are true and valid baptisms. This is not a settled fact in Orthodoxy, however, in much the same way that the question was open for many decades in the early Church.

...the Antiochians are allowing them (one suspects for only a short while) to retain the western rite.There is a long, established western rite in the Antiochian church in North America. There are also western rite parishes and monasteries in ROCOR (now reunited with Moscow). There may also be similar communities under the Serbs in Western Europe. The WR was approved by Moscow in the 19th Century.

Again, a perusal of the back and forth, canonical debate on this topic should be looked into if one is interested in doing more than taking snide swipes. It's also a good refresher (or introduction) to the canons and church history, as well as a diversity of opinions beyond one's own 'clique' - and yes, Orthodox need to hear the same advice, I agree.

Dale said...

It appears that the Greek Greeks are accepting their baptisms as valid, mostly from the Romans, but not their crismation into the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church as valid...a denomination to which the Greek Greeks are in full communion. They have not been rebaptising the Filipino Orthodox, only recrismating them.

As to the permanence of the western rite, only recently several communities from the Western Rite Vicariate have gone Byzantine, and ALL communities that came into Antioch in England have been Byzantinised, as has the single western parish in Australia. The list of communities byzantinised in the United States is simply too long to list. One might also add that in both Antioch and the ROCOR the western rite is only the personal opinion of the local bishop, who may Byzantinise parishes on a whim.

Several diocese in ROCOR simply do not permit the use of a western rite. All of the present western rite parishes in Antioch only date from the 80's...hardly long standing. Where are any of the parishes that came over in the 60's? I do know that Holy Redeemer, Los Altos, was taken from the original congregation and given to the local Arab community...services are now not only according to the Byzantine rite, but the last time I was there, last summer, Mattins was almost all in Arabic.