Clicking here goes to information on the icon.Welcome to the St. Luke Web Page.
Search the site.Listen to Father Borichevsky's restored radio programsSee What St. Luke Orthodox Church has planned.Visit and sign our guest book.Contact the St. Luke Orthodox Church Web Development Team.
Find something on the site in a hurry.
St. Lukes Orthodox Church Home PageDonate Now!Shop for Orthodox goods from your Computerchurchdirectory Pages that deal with St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church. What's the news at St. Lukes.View all the previous and current Evangelist newsletters.View the Sunday bulletin.Information about St. Luke Orthodox Church including the Mission and Vision statements. Pages for 'keeping in touch' with God. Information on prayers and prayingView the prayer of the week and all other previos prayers of the week.Need to pray for something? What is the Orthodox Church and how/why do Orthodox Christians worship? What is the Orthodox Church of America?Who were the Saints, and why do we honor them?Find and explore many different liturgical texts we have available, including the Divine LiturgyWhat is Pascha?  See what it's like at St. Luke's.How is Orthodoxy playing a role in the present times?Learn what are icons and how are they used in the Orthodox Church today.BellsSee what we have to offer!Current Issues Pages for Organizations of St. Lukes. Christian Education, Youth Group, Music, Church Resource Center, Adult Education, and Junior Olympics.Maintenance, New Building, Strategic Planning, Cell Phone Tower, Inventory, Cemetery/Memorial Book, and Historian.Outreach, Charities, Internet, Evangelist Newsletter, Media, Prison, Sanctity of Life, and Mission.Liturgical, Altar Servers, Bell Ringers, Cemetery, Readers, Greeters, Choir, and Vestments.Fellowship, Supply Coordinator, Prayer, Women's Ministry, New Americans, Sunshinem, Flowers, and Vestments. Some stuff Study the bibleSearch the bibleOrthodoxy on the lighter side...Words of Wisdom...If you've got the taste for great Orthodox foods, this is the place to be.Children friendly section of the pageMessages


III.1. The Church, as a divine-human organism, not only has a mysterious nature, not submissive to the elements of the world, but also has an historical component, which comes in touch with the outside world, including the state. The state, which exists for the purpose of ordering worldly life, also comes into contact with the Church. Relationships between the state and the followers of genuine religion have continuously changed in the course of history.

The family represented the initial cell of human society. The holy history of the Old Testament shows that the state was, not formed at once. The Old Testament people had no state before Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt. The state was gradually formed in the epoch of the Judges. As a result of a complex historical development guided by Divine Providence, complicated social relations led to the emergence of the state.

In ancient Israel, before the period of the Kings, there was genuine theocracy, i.e., the “rule of God,” which proved to be unique in history. However, as society moved away from obedience to God as the organizer of worldly affairs, people began to think about the need to have a worldly ruler. The Lord, while accepting the people’s choice and authorizing the new form of government, regrets their rejection of divine rule. “And the Lord said to Samuel: Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them... Therefore, listen to their voice, but give them a solemn warning, and show them what sort of king shall reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7, 9).

Thus, the emergence of the temporal state should not be understood as a reality originally established by God. It was rather God’s granting human beings an opportunity to order their social life by their own free will, so that this order-as a response to the earthly reality distorted by sin -- could help avoid a greater sin through opposing it by means of temporal power. At the same time, the Lord says clearly through Samuel’s mouth that He expects this temporal authority to be faithful to His commandments and to do good works: “Now therefore behold the king you have chosen, and whom you have desired! and, behold, the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and not rebel against the Commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you are faithful to the Lord your God, well and good. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers” (I Sam. 12:13 -15). When Saul violated the Lord’s commandment, God rejected him (I Sam. 16:1) and ordered him to anoint His other chosen one, David, a son of the commoner, Jesse.

The Son of God Who reigns over heaven and earth (Mt. 28:18), by becoming man, subjected Himself to the worldly order of things, obeying also the bearers of state power. To His crucifier, Pilate, the Roman procurator in Jerusalem, He said, “You could have no power at all against me, unless it were given to you from above” Jn. 19:11). The Savior gave this answer to the tempting question of a Pharisee about whether it is permissible to pay tribute to Caesar: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mt. 22:2 1).

Explaining the teaching of Christ on the right attitude to state power, St. Paul wrote: “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God; and they who resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him who does evil. Wherefore you must be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’s sake. For this cause pay tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:1-7). The same idea was expressed by St. Peter: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as to those who are sent for the praise of those who do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God” (I Pet. 2:13-16). The apostles taught Christians to obey the authorities regardless of their attitude to the Church. In-the apostolic era, the Church of Christ was persecuted both by the Jewish and Roman State authorities. This did not prevent the martyrs and other Christians of that time from praying for prosecutors and recognizing their power.
III.2. The fall of Adam brought to the world sins and vices which needed public opposition. The first of them was the murder of Cain by Abel (Gen. 4:1-16). Aware of this, people in all known societies began to establish laws restricting evil and supporting good. For the Old Testament people, God Himself was the Lawmaker Who gave rules to regulate not only religious life proper but also public life (Ex. 20-23).

God blesses the state as an essential element of life in the world distorted by sin, in which both the individual and society need to be protected from the dangerous manifestations of sin. At the same time, the need for the state arose not because God willed it for the primitive Adam, but because of the fall and because the actions to restrict the dominion of sin over the world conformed to His will. Holy Scriptures calls upon the powers that be to use the power of the state for restricting evil and supporting good, in which it sees the moral meaning of the existence of the state (Rom. 13:3-4). It follows from the above that anarchy is the absence of proper order in a state and society, while calls to anarchy, and attempts to introduce it, run contrary to the Christian outlook (Rom. 13:2).

The Church not only prescribes for her children to obey state power regardless of the convictions and faith of its bearers, but also prays for it, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2). At the same time, Christians should avoid attempts to make state power absolute, and should recognize the limits of its purely earthly, temporal and transient value, conditioned by the presence of sin in the world and the need to restrain it. According to the teaching of the Church, power itself has no right to make itself absolute by extending its limits up to complete autonomy from God and from the order of things established by Him. This can lead to the abuse of power and even to the deification of rulers. The state, just as other human institutions, even if aimed at the good, may tend to transform itself into a self-serving institution. Numerous historical examples of such a transformation show that in this case the state loses its true purpose.
III.3. In church-state relations, the difference in their natures should be taken into account. The Church has been founded by God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, while the God-instituted nature of state power is revealed in historical process only indirectly. The goal of the Church is the eternal salvation of people, while the goal of the state is their well-being on earth.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” says the Savior (Jn. 18:36). “This world” is only partially obedient to God, but for the most part it seeks to become autonomous from its own Creator and Lord. To the extent the world disobeys God it obeys “the father of lies” and “lies in wickedness” (Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 5:19). But the Church - as “the Body of Christ” (I Cor. 12:27) and “the pillar and ground of truth” (I Tim. 3:15) - in her mysterious essence can have no evil in herself, nor any shadow of darkness. Since the state is part of “this world,” it has no part in the Kingdom of God, for where there is Christ, “Who is all and in all” (Col. 3:11), there is no room for coercion, nor is there opposition between the human and the divine, hence there is no state.

In the contemporary world, the state is normally secular and not bound by any religious commitments. Its cooperation with the Church is limited to several areas and based on mutual non-interference into each other’s affairs. However, the state is aware, as a rule, that earthly well-being is unthinkable without respect for certain moral norms - the norms which are also essential for the eternal salvation of mankind. Therefore, the tasks and work of the Church and the state may coincide not only in seeking purely earthly welfare, but also in the fulfillment of the saving mission of the Church.

The principle of the secular state cannot be understood as implying that religion should be radically forced out of all the spheres of the people’s lives, nor that religious associations should be debarred from decision-making on socially significant problems and deprived of the right to evaluate the actions of the authorities. This principle presupposes only a certain division of domains between church and state and their non-interference into each other’s affairs.

The Church should not assume the prerogatives of the state, such as resistance to sin by force, use of temporal authoritative powers, or assumption of the governmental functions which presuppose coercion or restriction. At the same time, the Church may request or urge the government to exercise power in particular cases, yet the decision rests with the state.

The state should not interfere in the life of the Church or her government, doctrine, liturgical life, counseling, etc., or the work of canonical church institutions in general, except for those aspects where the Church is supposed to operate as a legal identity, and is thus obliged to enter into certain relations with the state, its legislation and governmental agencies. The Church expects that the state will respect her canonical norms and other internal statutes.
III.4. Various models of relationships between the Orthodox Church and the state have developed in the course of history.

The Orthodox tradition has developed an explicit ideal of church-state relations. Since church-state relations entail two-way traffic, the above-mentioned ideal could emerge in history only in a state that recognizes the Orthodox Church as the greatest people’s shrine, in other words, only in an Orthodox state.

Attempts to work out this form were undertaken in Byzantium, where the principles of church-state relations were expressed in the canons and the laws of the empire and were reflected in patristic writings. In their totality these principles were described as a symphony between church and state. It is essentially cooperation, mutual support and mutual responsibility, without one side intruding into the exclusive domain of the other. The bishop obeys the government as a subject, but his episcopal power does not come from a government official. Similarly, a government official obeys his bishop as a member of the Church, who seeks salvation in it, but not because his power comes from the power of the bishop. The state, in such a symphonic relationship with the Church, seeks her spiritual support, prayer for itself and blessing upon its work to achieve the goal of its citizens’ welfare, while the Church enjoys support from the state in creating conditions favorable for preaching and for the spiritual care of her children who are at the same time citizens of the state.

St. Justinian in his Sixth Novella formulates the principle lying at the basis of the church-state symphony: “The greatest blessings granted to human beings by God’s ultimate grace are priesthood and kingdom: the former (priesthood, church authority) involves taking care of divine affairs, while the latter (kingdom, government) involves guiding and taking care of human affairs; and both have the same goal-the enhancing of human life. Therefore, nothing lies so heavy on the hearts of kings as the honor of priests, who on their part serve them, praying continually for them to God. And if the priesthood is well ordered in everything and is pleasing to God, then there will be full harmony between them in everything that serves the good and benefit of the human race. Therefore, we exert the greatest possible effort to guard the true dogmas of God and the honor of the priesthood, hoping to receive through it great blessings from God and to hold fast to the ones which we have.” Guided by this norm, Emperor Justinian in his Novellas recognized the canons as having the power of state laws.

The classical Byzantine formula of relationships between state and church power is contained in the Epanagoge (late 9th century): “The temporal power and the priesthood relate to each other as body and soul; they are necessary for state order just as body and soul are necessary in a living man. It is in their bonding and harmony that the well-being of a state lies.”

This symphony, however, did not exist in Byzantium in an absolutely pure form. In practice it was often violated and distorted. The Church was repeatedly subjected to caesaro-papist claims from the state authorities, which were essentially the demands that the head of the state-the emperor-should have the decisive say in ordering church affairs. Along with the sinful human love of power, these claims had also an historical reason. The Christian emperors of Byzantium were direct successors of the Roman pagan rulers who, among their numerous titles, had that of pontifex marimus, chief priest. The caesaro-papist tendency manifested itself most bluntly and dangerously for the Church in the policies of heretical emperors, especially in the iconoclastic era.

Unlike a Byzantine basileus, Russian tsars had a different legacy. For this and other historical reasons, the relationship between the church and state authorities was more harmonious in Russian antiquity. However, there were also deviations from the canonical norms (under Ivan the Terrible and in the confrontation between Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich and Patriarch Nikon).

As far as the Synodal period is concerned, the evident distortion of the symphonic norm for two centuries in church history is associated with the distinct impact that the Protestant doctrine of territory and established church (see below) made on the Russian perception of law and order and political life. An attempt to assert the ideal of symphony in the new situation when the empire collapsed was made by the Local Council of 1917-1918. In the declaration that preceded the Action on Church-State Relations, the demand to separate church and state was likened to the wish that “the sun should not shine and fire should not warm up. The Church, by the internal law of her being, cannot renounce her calling to enlighten, to transform the whole human life, to imbue it with her rays.” In the resolution of the Council on the legal status of the Orthodox Church of Russia, the state is called upon to accept, in particular, these provisions: “the Russian Orthodox Church, being part of the one Universal Church of Christ, shall have the pre-eminent public and legal status among other confessions in the Russian State, which befits her as the greatest shrine for the overwhelming majority of the population and a great historical force that built the Russian State... As soon as they are made public, decrees and statutes issued by the Orthodox Church for herself, according to the order she established, as well as actions of the church government and court shall be recognized by the State as legally valid and authoritative unless they violate state laws... State laws concerning the Orthodox Church shall be issued only with the consent of the church authorities.” Subsequent Local Councils were held in situations when history made it impossible to return to the pre-Revolutionary principles of church-state relations. Nevertheless, the Church asserted her traditional role in the life of society and expressed readiness to work in the social realm. Thus, the 1990 Local Council stated: “Throughout her millennium-long history the Russian Orthodox Church has educated the faithful in the spirit of patriotism and love of peace. Patriotism is manifested in the concern for the historical heritage of the Fatherland, in active civil capacity by sharing the joys and hardships of her people, in zealous and conscientious work and in concern for the moral state of society and for the preservation of nature” (from the Message of the Council).

In the European medieval West, a doctrine of “two swords” was formed, not without influence by the work of St. Augustine entitled The City of God. According to it, the power of both church and state-the former directly, the latter indirectly-go back to the Bishop of Rome. Popes were absolute monarchs ruling over the Papal States, a part of Italy, the remnant of which is the Vatican today. Many bishops, especially in feudally divided Germany, were princes with state-like jurisdiction over their territories, with their own governments and armies of which they were the leaders.

The Reformation left no ground for the popes and Catholic bishops to preserve their power in the territories of countries which became Protestant. In the l7th-19th centuries, the legal conditions in Catholic countries also changed -- so much so that the Catholic Church was in fact removed from government. Along with the Vatican, however, the doctrine of “two swords” helped to retain the practice of concluding agreements in the form of concordats between the Roman Curia and states in which there were Catholic communities. Due to this, the legal status of these communities was determined in many countries not only by internal laws, but also by the law regulating international relations, to which the Vatican State was subject.

In the countries where the Reformation triumphed and later in some Catholic countries, the territorial principle was established in church-state relations, giving the state full sovereignty over a territory and the religious communities found in it. This system of relations was expressed in the phrase cujus est regio, illius est religio (the religion of the sovereign is the religion of the country). If realized consistently, this system implies that those whose faith is different from that of the bearers of the highest state power should be banished from the state (a practice realized more than once). In real life, however, this principle gained a foothold in a softer form described as the established church. It gives to the majority religious community, to which the sovereign belongs and which he officially heads, the privileges of the state Church. A combination of this system of church-state relations with remnants of the traditional “symphony” inherited from Byzantium determined the peculiarity of the legal status of the Orthodox Church in the Synodal period in Russia.

In the United State of America, where there has been a multi-confessional state from the outset, the principle of radical separation of Church and State has been established, whereby the power system is neutral to all confessions. However, absolute neutrality is hardly feasible at all. Every country has to reckon with the real ,religious composition of its population. No Christian denomination taken separately makes up a majority in the United States, yet the decisive majority of people in the U.S. are specifically Christians. This reality is reflected, for example, in the fact that the president takes the oath of office on the Bible, Sundays are official days off, etc.

The principle of church-state separation, however, also has another genealogy. In the European continent it has resulted from the anti-clerical or outright anti-church struggle, well known particularly from the history of the French Revolution. In these cases, the Church is separated from the State not because of the multi-confessionalism of the citizens, but because the State identifies itself with a particular anti-Christian or altogether anti-religious ideology, making it pointless to speak about its neutrality towards religion and even its purely secular nature. For the Church, it normally means restrictions, limited rights, discrimination or outright persecution. The history of the 20th century has given many examples of this attitude of State towards religion and Church in various countries of the world.

There is also a form of church-state relations, intermediate between the established church and the radical separation of Church from State, whereby the Church has the status of a private corporation. It is the status of the Church as a legal public corporation. In this case, the Church can have some privileges and obligations delegated to her by the state without being the Established Church in the proper sense of this word.

Today a number of countries, such as Great Britain, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Greece, still have Established Churches. Other states, which increasingly grow in number (USA, France), build their relations with religious communities on the basis of full separation. In Germany, the Catholic, Evangelical and some other Churches have the status of legal public corporations, while other religious communities are fully separated from the state and regarded as private corporations. In practice, however, the real status of religious communities in most of these countries depends little on whether they are separated or not from the state. In some countries where Churches have retained the public status, it has been reduced to collecting taxes for their upkeep by the public fiscal administration and recognizing church baptism and marriage records as valid legally as civil status certificates registered by public administrative bodies.

Today the Orthodox Church performs her service to God and people in various countries. In some of them she represents the nation-wide confession (Greece, Romania, Bulgaria), while in others, which are multinational, the religion of the ethnic majority (Russia). In still other countries, those who belong to the Orthodox Church comprise a religious minority surrounded by either heterodox Christians (Finland, Poland, USA) or people of other religions (Japan, Syria, Turkey). In some small countries the Orthodox Church has the status of the state religion (Cyprus, Greece), while in other countries it is separate from the state. There are also differences in the concrete legal and political contexts in which the Local Orthodox Churches live. They all, however, build both their internal order and relations with the government on the commandments of Christ, teachings of the apostles, the holy canons and the two-thousand-year-long historical experience and in many situations, find an opportunity to pursue their God-commanded goals, thus revealing their other-worldly nature-their heavenly, divine origin.
III.5. Given their different natures, Church and State use different means for attaining their goals. The state relies basically on material power (including coercion), and on respective secular ideological systems, whereas the Church has at her disposal religious and moral means to give spiritual guidance to the flock and to attract new children.

The Church infallibly preaches the Truth of Christ and teaches moral commandments which came from God Himself. Therefore, she has no power to change anything in her teaching. Nor has she the power to fall silent and to stop preaching the Truth, whatever other teachings may be prescribed or propagated by state bodies. In this respect, the Church is absolutely free from the state. For the sake of the unhindered and internally free preaching of the Truth, the Church has suffered persecution by the enemies of Christ many times throughout her history. But the persecuted Church is also called to endure the persecution with patience, without refusing to be loyal to the state persecuting her.

Legal sovereignty in the territory of a state belongs to its authorities. Therefore, it is they who determine the legal status of a Local Church or her position, either giving her an opportunity for the unhindered fulfillment of the church’s mission, or restricting this opportunity. Thus, state power makes judgment on itself and eventually predicts its own fate. The Church remains loyal to the state, but God’s commandment to fulfill the task of salvation in any situation or circumstance is above this loyalty.

If the state authorities force Orthodox believers to apostatize from Christ and His Church and to commit sinful and spiritually harmful actions, the Church should refuse to obey the state. The Christian, following the will of his conscience, can refuse to fulfill the commands of the state that would force him into a grave sin. If the Church and her holy authorities find it impossible to obey state laws and orders, after a due consideration of the problem, they may take the following action: enter into direct dialogue with the authorities on the problem; call upon the people to use the democratic mechanisms to change the legislation or review the authorities’ decision; apply to international bodies and world public opinion; and appeal to her faithful for peaceful civil disobedience.
III.6. The principle of the freedom of conscience, which emerged as a legal notion in the 18’h- I 9h centuries, has become a fundamental principle of interpersonal relations only after World War I. It was confirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and included in the constitutions of most states. The emergence of this principle testifies that in the contemporary world, religion is being turned from a “social” into a “private” affair of a person. This process in itself indicates that the spiritual value system has disintegrated, and that most people in a society that affirms freedom of conscience no longer aspire for salvation. If initially the state emerged as an instrument of asserting divine law in society, freedom of conscience has ultimately turned the state into an exclusively temporal institution with no religious commitments.

The adoption of freedom of conscience as a legal principle points to the fact that society has lost its religious goals and values, and has become massively apostate and actually indifferent to the task of the Church and to the overcoming of sin. However, this principle has proved to be one of the means by which the Church exists in a non-religious world, enabling her to enjoy a legal status in a secular state, and independence from those in society who believe differently, or do not believe at all.

The religious-ideological neutrality of the state does not contradict the Christian concept of the Church’s calling in society. The Church, however, should point out to the state that it is inadmissible to propagate such convictions or actions which may result in total control over a person’s life, convictions and relations with other people, as well as erosion in personal, family or public morality, insult of religious feelings, damage to the cultural and spiritual identity of the people, and threats to the sacred gift of life. In implementing her social, charitable, educational and other socially significant projects, the Church may rely on the support and assistance of the state. She also has the right to expect that the state, in building its relations with religious bodies, will take into account the number of their followers and the place they occupy in forming the historical, cultural and spiritual image of the people and their public position.
III.7. The forms and methods of government are conditioned in many ways by the spiritual and moral condition of society. Aware of this, the Church accepts the people’s choice or, at least, does not resist it. Under the rule of the Judges (the civil system described in the Book of Judges), power was exercised not through coercion, but authority, which was sanctioned by God. For this authority to be effective, the faith in society should be very strong. Under a monarchy, power remains God-given, but for its exercise it uses not so much spiritual authority as coercion. The shift from the judges’ rule to monarchy indicated the weakening of faith-it was this fact that caused the need to replace the King Invisible by a visible king. Contemporary democracies, including those monarchal in form, do not seek divine sanction of power. They represent a form of government in secular society that presupposes the right of every able-bodied citizen to express his will through elections.

Any change in the form of government to that more religiously rooted, introduced without spiritualizing society itself, will inevitably degenerate into falsehood and hypocrisy and make this form weak and valueless in the eyes of the people. However, one cannot altogether exclude the possibility of such a spiritual revival of society as to make natural a religiously higher form of government. But under slavery one should follow St. Paul’s advice: “if you should have the chance of being free, accept it” (I Cor. 7:2 1). At the same time, the Church should give more attention not to the system of the outer organization of state, but to the inner condition of her members’ hearts. Therefore, the Church does not believe it possible for her to become an initiator of any change in the form of government. Along the same line, the 1994 Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church stressed the soundness of the attitude whereby “the Church does not give preference to any social system or to any of the existing political doctrines.”
III.8. The state, including the secular state, is normally aware of its calling to build the life of the people on the principles of good and justice, taking care of both the material and spiritual welfare of society. Therefore, the Church can cooperate with the state in affairs which benefit the Church herself, as well as the individual and society. For the Church this cooperation should be part of her saving mission, which embraces comprehensively the concern for man. The Church is called to take part in building human life in all spheres where it is possible and, in doing so, to join efforts with representatives of the secular authority.

Church-state co-operation should be realized on the following conditions: the Church’s participation in the work of the state corresponds to her nature and calling; the state does exercise control over the Church’s social work; and the Church is not involved in the spheres of public activity where her work is impossible for canonical and other reasons.

The areas of church-state cooperation in the present historical period are as follows:
  1. peacemaking on international, inter-ethnic and civic levels, and promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among people, nations and states;
  2. concern for the preservation of morality in society;
  3. spiritual, cultural, moral and patriotic education and formation; d) charity and the development of joint social programs;
  4. preservation, restoration and development of historical and cultural heritage, including concern for the preservation of historical and cultural monuments;
  5. dialogue with governmental bodies of all branches and levels on issues important for the Church and society, including the development of appropriate laws, by-laws, regulations and decisions;
  6. care of the military and law-enforcement workers and their spiritual and moral education;
  7. efforts to prevent crime and care of prisoners;
  8. science and research;
  9. healthcare;
  10. culture and the arts;
  11. work of ecclesiastical and secular mass media;
  12. preservation of the environment;
  13. economic activity for the benefit of the Church, state and society;
  14. support for the institution of the family, for motherhood and childhood;
  15. opposition to the work of pseudo-religious structures presenting a threat to the individual and society.
Church-state co-operation is also possible in some other areas if it contributes to the fulfillment of the tasks enumerated above.

At the same time, there are areas in which the clergy and canonical church structures cannot support the state or cooperate with it. They are as follows:
  1. political struggle, election agitation, campaigns in support of particular political parties and public and political leaders;
  2. waging civil war or aggressive external war;
  3. direct participation in intelligence and any other activity that requires secrecy by law, even in making one’s confession or reporting to the church authorities.
Among the traditional areas of the social efforts of the Orthodox Church is intercession with the government for the needs of the people, the rights and concerns of individual citizens or social groups. This intercession is a duty of the Church, realized through verbal or written interventions by appropriate church bodies with the governmental bodies of various branches and levels.
III.9. In the contemporary state, power is normally divided into the legislative, executive and judicial branches at the national, regional and local levels. This determines the specifications of the Church’s relations with the authorities at various branches and levels.

Relations with the legislative power consist in dialogue between the Church and the legislators on the improvement of national and local laws pertaining to the life of the Church, church-state cooperation and the spheres of the Church’s social concern. This dialogue also concerns the resolutions and decisions of the legislative power that have no direct bearing on legislation.

In contacts with the executive power, the Church should conduct dialogue on making decisions pertaining to the life of the Church, church-state cooperation and the spheres of the Church’s social concern. To this end, the Church maintains contacts on the respective level with central and local executive power bodies, including those responsible for solving practical problems in the life and work of religious organizations and those responsible for monitoring the observance of law (organs of justice, prosecution, interior) by the above-mentioned bodies.

The Church’s relationships with the judiciary on various levels should be limited to the representation, if necessary, of her interests in court. The Church does not interfere in the judicial authorities’ exercise of its functions and powers. Except for absolute necessity, the interests of the Church are represented in court by lay people empowered by the church authorities on the respective level (Chalcedon 9). Internal church disputes should not be brought out to secular court (Antioch 12). Inter-confessional conflicts, and conflicts with schismatics that do not touch upon doctrinal matters can be brought to secular court (Carthage 59).
III.10. The holy canons forbid the clergy to approach the government without permission from the church superiors. Thus, Canon II of the Council of Sardica reads: “If any bishop or presbyter or generally any one of the clergy dare to go to the ruler without permission and credentials from the bishop of the province and even more so from the bishop of the metropolis, let him be suspended and deprived not only of communion, but also of the dignity he enjoyed... If an urgent necessity makes one go to the ruler, let him do this with consideration and permission of the bishop of the metropolis and other bishops of that province and let him be sent with credentials from them.”

The Church’s contacts and cooperation with the highest state authorities are carried out by the Patriarch and the Holy Synod directly, or through representatives who have powers confirmed in writing. Her contacts and cooperation with the regional governments are carried out by diocesan bishops, or through representatives who also have powers confirmed in writing. Her contacts and cooperation with the local authorities and self-government bodies are carried out by deaneries and parishes with the blessing of their diocesan bishops. The representatives of the church supreme authorities empowered to maintain contacts with the governmental bodies may be appointed both on a permanent and an ad hoc basis.

If a matter considered previously on the local or regional level is referred to the highest governmental bodies, the diocesan bishop is to notify the Patriarch and the Holy Synod about it and ask them to keep in contact with the state regarding further consideration of this matter. If a legal case is transferred from a local or regional to the highest level, the diocesan bishop should make a written report to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod about the earlier court examination. Those presiding over self-governed church districts and the administrators of dioceses in particular states have a special blessing from the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to maintain contacts with the leaders of these states.
III.11. To avoid any confusion of church and state aMirs and to prevent the church authority from acquiring temporal nature, the canons prohibit the clergy from participating in the affairs of state government. Apostolic Canon 81 reads: “It does not befit a bishop or a presbyter to enter the affairs of the people’s government, but to be always engaged in the affairs of the Church.” Apostolic Canon 6 and Canon 10 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council speak of the same thing. In the contemporary context, these provisions apply not only to administration, but also to participation in the representative bodies of power (see V. 2).
Previous Next   TOC