Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has not had a good few years. He has aroused disapproval, if not outright ire, from the Churches in almost every Orthodox Christian jurisdiction in the world. Even the Church of Greece took almost one year to accept his action regarding the “establishment” of a Ukrainian independent Church (that is not really independent, but under Patriarch Bartholomew’s jurisdiction). He has long been known for his euphemistic title “the Green Patriarch” because of his stance on environmental issues. These, too, are met with mixed reactions, even from the Orthodox world, as the Orthodox Church itself does not champion social issues as salvific in importance.
However, Patriarch Bartholomew appears to be doing this. According to The Pan-Orthodox Synod, an EP website concerning itself with the (now past) 2016 Council, Patriarch Bartholomew likened contamination of water to sin:
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended the International Water Week Conference in Amsterdam on Tuesday afternoon shortly after his arrival in the Netherlands.
The organisers were informed of the arrival of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Amsterdam for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Holy Metropolis of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and invited him to give the closing speech of the conference.
It is the first time a spiritual leader has been invited as a speaker, giving the Church the opportunity to express its view on such a precious good such as water.
In his speech, the Ecumenical Patriarch praised, among other things, the important role water plays in human life and in the world, supporting every effort designed to save water and to find new ways of water management.
He said, “All the efforts to improve water management are the cry of the human soul which recognises that water is a gift, which is an issue for all His creatures. We share the miracle of water with all the Creation. Every human being here and everywhere is essentially a tiny ocean. That is why, two decades ago, we declared that ‘for human beings to contaminate the waters of the earth is tantamount to sin.’
He added, “It is our responsibility, as political and religious leaders, as communities and individuals, as companies and industries, to provide sustainable, clean and safe water resources for the future of our cities and our citizens, and of all people and our planet.”
This is not the responsibility of Orthodox religious leaders. At least, nowhere near the main one. In fact, these two statements are not Christian at all. They are in lockstep with the “new religion” of Environmentalism, which is the creed and screed of globalism.
The problem is that these actions do not appear to have anything to do with “Rightly dividing the word of Thy Truth” at all, nor do they line up with the Gospel in any way.
There is no implicit or explicit environmentalist message in the Gospel, though in Genesis there is certainly the issue of man being placed as steward of the Earth. However, this teaching, though important, is tertiary to the matter of personal salvation. By not sticking to the message, it appears that the Patriarch has lost his way, big time. This has admittedly become the subject of some jokes, including my own, but it is really sad to see this.
Orthodox Christian history is full of accounts of holy people who manifested their sanctity at times by their dominion over nature in beautiful and peaceful ways. This dominion is not “domination” but harmony with nature and all creatures. However, such events happen as a by-product of the persons involved getting their souls right with God. They are never, ever, the main drive or focus of any Christian’s work on his or her personal salvation.
The secular humanist “religion” of environmentalism flips this relationship, to imply that by glorifying nature, man achieves some sort of relief from the guilt for existing, of being a consumer of nature, and therefore an unwanted element in creation.
(Ever notice how pro-abortion views go hand-in-hand with secularism? We are the problem, our existence is the problem, so the fewer humans, the better, so the reasoning goes.)
Environmentalism is the creed of humanism, and as the movement has gained power we have already seen resumption of practices that are notably pagan. Environmentalism is not synonymous with Christian teaching in any way.
Many Orthodox believers find reason to completely disagree with what the Patriarch is doing, for it is clear that this sanctification of water over humanity, like the “territories in the diaspora (automagically) fall into the jurisdiction of the EP”, and the Ukrainian Church madness which is severely uncanonical – all of these positions and actions are not in line with what the Orthodox Church has always believed, upheld and proclaimed.
Patriarch Bartholomew has gone notably astray in his efforts to represent, defend, and grow the Orthodox Church. By picking and choosing socially attractive memes and themes to promote, it is not a far reach to say that he has turned his back on the Gospel, on Christ, and is instead seeking a different goal.
This goal appears to be for Patriarch Bartholomew to gain relevance in the world.
Perhaps all of this comes from this poor man not dealing correctly with the severe persecution his Church is experiencing in Turkey, a place where no Christian evangelizing is allowed, and where the Patriarch and his 3,000 or so parishioners are palace captives of the regime. It is possible that the Patriarch thinks that by gaining relevance in the world he can help his people in their beleaguered situation, but in reality he is denying Christianity, wholesale, to do it. This cannot work.
The Patriarch may think he is gaining relevance and perhaps a voice strong enough to help the people in his homeland, but in reality he is betraying his See, his faithful and Christ Himself.
This is a major tragedy.