On 21 March 2011, the Inter-Council Presence’s Commission on Attitude to Non-Orthodoxy and Other Religions met at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. The session was chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.Source.
The participants discussed the results of the work done by the Commission during its first year and a draft document on the Accession of non-Orthodox Christians to the Orthodox Church. The Commission decided to form a working group and invite experts to study various aspects of the practice of accession to the Orthodox Church through the Sacrament of Chrismation and its history. The Commission set up a working group for study and classification of sects. Other working groups will consider the question of the accession rite for the Pentecostals, Baptists, Adventists, Anglicans, the Reformed, Lutherans, and Old Catholics. (A similar discussion is going on in the American Episcopal Assembly not only with the intake of converts but of the process for clergy as well (e.g. Is vesting sufficient?)
Draft documents on the practice of accession to the Orthodox Church will be submitted to the Commission’s next session in June 2011.
I think this is excellent news. It is time that the Orthodox Church make some effort at establishing some sort of guidelines for the reception of converts that are uniform at least in N. America. The Russian Church also has some division since ROCOR repudiated the guidelines in the Great Book of Needs in the early 1970's and adopted a more rigourist approach to the reception of converts. The Moscow Patriarchate (and the OCA) still follow the guidelines contained in the Book of Needs (last updated during the reign of Czar Alexander III). Those guidelines generally provide for reception by Chrismation and Confession for non-Orthodox Christians coming from Confessional and Trinitarian denominations, including most of the so called Mainline Protestants as well as Roman Catholics provided they received a Trinitarian Baptism that at least approximates the intent of the Orthodox Church from their previous spiritual home.
On the other side, ROCOR, the Serbian Church, the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the monks of Mt. Athos and unofficially many parish clergy in Greece and the Balkans are generally more conservative and require converts to be Baptized in all but unusual circumstances. Many of these jurisdictions have accepted the controversial decree of the Synod of Constantinople (1755) declaring all Western sacraments, including baptisms, to be void of any grace and mandating that they be baptized into the Church when converting.
In addition many Orthodox (including me), while not on board with the 1755 synod, have become increasingly concerned by the doctrinal self destruction now rampant within the Mainline Protestant churches. It has reached the point where it is debatable whether some of these groups are in fact confessionally Christian churches at all. One need only look at what is going on in the Episcopal Organization for an example. The simple truth is that we just don't know what any Episcopal "priest(ess)" is doing, or thinks they are doing when they baptize someone anymore. It is not possible with a striaght face to call the the Episcopal Organization confessionally anything. It has become the church of "What's Happening Now."
During the reign of Alexander III of blessed memory, whatever problems the mainline Protestants had, we knew they were Christian and that they had a sacramental understanding of Baptism. I respectfully submit that in far too many cases this is no longer true. Times and circumstances change. When this happens the Church should reevaluate the relevant aspects of church discipline.
This is a good and overdue topic of discussion.