It’s a difficult, painful question. Is the Orthodox Church the Church? It certainly appears that “yes” belongs to Orthodoxy’s self-consciousness—she does not understand herself as a denomination or sect—but what does this mean and what does it imply for the Roman Catholic Church and the myriad Protestant churches?
Readers of Eclectic Orthodoxy know that as a general rule I avoid ecclesiological discussions. I know they are necessary, yet on the internet they inevitably become occasions for triumphalism, self-righteousness, identity politics, and bitter polemic. Many Orthodox do not realize how spiritually dangerous the ecclesiological claim can be. Either it points us to a self-evident fullness of the life of Christ as embodied in Orthodoxy, in which case it hardly needs to be mentioned at all, or it becomes a deadly weapon designed to bludgeon people into becoming and remaining Orthodox for the wrong reasons. Too often I am reminded of the words of our Lord: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15).
One thing I believe: Orthodox Christians need to be infinitely more concerned for the gospel than for “proving” their ecclesiological superiority. The Lord cannot be divided from his sacramental and ecclesial Body—hence the critical weakness of denominationalism—but we proclaim and believe in Jesus Christ, not an institution. God will not bless parishes that are more concerned with being “Orthodox” than they are with proclaiming, knowing, and living the absolute love of the risen Savior. At the pearly gates St Peter will not be asking us to pull out our Byzantine identity cards.
Sr Vassa helpfully addresses this topic in her YouTube video. She only touches the surface, but her talk may suggest avenues of exploration for you.
An English translation of the document on ecumenism that will be discussed by the bishops of the Pan-Orthodox Council may be found here: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” Also see Fr Georges Florovsky’s important essays “The Limits of the Church” and “The Doctrine of the Church and the Ecumenical Problem.”
I am keeping the comments closed, as experience has taught me that this is best for my soul and most likely for yours also.