By Anthony Bartaway, initially published on Medium, on 29/02/2020
Kyiv-Based Journalist covering issues of Security, National Identity, and Civil Rights in the Post-Communist space and Israel
There is no saying whether or not it will even be a single religion in a few years. The recent, but very rough, All-Orthodox Council in Jordan could be yet another step on the road to schism, or it could be nothing.
The close of 2019 brought with it an explosion of controversy within the Eastern Orthodox Church. The first, and more consequential within the faith, is that the Russian Orthodox Church has broken communion with the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The second is in the Balkans, with a law in Montenegro that, on its surface, does not do much, but digs up tensions around the Serbian Orthodox Church. These two issues, on the surface, are based around arcane religious laws that can be difficult to follow and only of interest to devout men in black robes, but they go to the heart of conflicts in their respective countries with political, and even military and intelligence, implications.
On December 27th, 2019, the Russian Orthodox Church convened a Holy Synod where they denounced the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, which is the branch of Eastern Orthodoxy with jurisdiction over the continent of Africa from its center in Alexandria, Egypt. The split between Moscow and Alexandria was over Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Alexander II recognizing the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Russian-allied branches of the Eastern Orthodoxy met in Amman, Jordan on February 26th, 2020 to try and come to some kind of authoritative stance on the issue, along with the situation in Montenegro and others, but its poor turnout undermined the attempt.
This story begins in late 2018, when the Orthodox Church of Ukraine began the process of being given autocephaly, or local independence by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. This angered the Russian Orthodox Church, which sees Ukraine as its own territory.