It seems to me that the orthodoxy and unity of the Eastern Orthodox churches is preserved, to a large extent, by not putting them to the test. Not calling an ecumenical council nor issuing a comprehensive catechism, for example, make it easier to ignore lack of real unity.
An excellent article in the American Orthodox Institute’s Observer brings this to mind. Speaking of Metropolitan Bartholomais of Chalcedon’s troublingly unorthodox views, John Couretas writes:
…But who will defend the defenseless if the Church does not? If a clear teaching on the sanctity of life and, more importantly, actualizing that teaching in our witness to American society, is dismissed as morally “rigid,” then we are simply lost as a Church.
This is not merely an interesting philosophical or theological problem. The Phanar’s moral failure on witnessing to life issues has a concrete effect on the lives our our faithful and especially our youth in the largest Orthodox Church in America. The youth have been cut adrift. The “spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians” is telling our youth that the Orthodox Church “refrains” from clear teachings on social and moral questions. And little wonder that so many Orthodox Christian young people have absolutely no idea what the Church’s teachings are on marriage, sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells and other important life issues. . . .
The entire article (linked above) is well worth reading, both for sanctity of life issues and also for reflecting on how this example relates to issues of ecclesiology in general.