Is the OCA still involved in Ecumenism?

In a recent article on the World Council of Churches, an Orthodox reader is struck by the contrast between a Protestant commentator referring to the WCC’s work as having “the spirit of Antichrist”– a sentiment echoed by many of our True Orthodox hierarchs– and the vocal presence of an OCA priest in the national assembly calling for an end to the war in Iraq.

The article brings up a question: are the recent claims of the OCA’s apologists that they are considering withdrawal from the Ecumenical movement sincere? To understand this, a search began to look for the documents which supposedly called for the removal of the OCA from the Ecumenical movement. The results were in fact rather disappointing.

The only real reference to the OCA pulling out of the Ecumenical Movement (in fact the one cited by many official Orthodox apologists) is cited here– on the OrthodoxyToday Website entitled “Orthodox Church in America (OCA) considers withdrawal from the NCC”.

Indeed, the title looks promising, but the article itself fails to deliver, stating only that such a pullout would risk the OCA falling into a “sectarian” mindset. (Who are these sectarians is unclear, as the number of people in the United States (and the world) who claim to be “Christian” while not belonging to WCC member churches is increasing.) In fact, the article goes so far as to state that “The most advisable course for the Orthodox Church in America would be eventually to withdraw from the NCC and the WCC. This movement towards withdrawal should not be motivated by any “fundamentalism” or “anti-ecumenism.” To the contrary, the announcement of our withdrawal should be framed in the context of a defense of the proper and necessary ecumenical vision. Those ecumenical streams or contexts which hold theological promise — for example, the Faith and Order streams of the NCC and the WCC –should be affirmed. And ecumenical Christian relations should be sought with conservative Christian bodies.”

In other words, the only real justification for pulling out of the NCC and the WCC would be the formation of a “conservative”, but equally ecumenical body!

The article notes that at the 9th Assembly held last week, “…at a press conference Feb. 18, Leonid Kishkovsky, chief ecumenical officer of the Orthodox Church in America and former president of the National Council of Churches, presented a letter described as representing the WCC delegates from U.S. denominations. The letter portrayed U.S. military actions to thwart terrorism in terms of aggression against innocents…. At the press conference, Kishkovsky appeared with John Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ; Sharon Watkins, general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Michael Livingston, NCC president; and Stanley Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren.”

So much for the OCA “pulling out of the Ecuemenical Movement”!

Contrast that to the statement of Ray Moore, a conservative Protestant pastor, who comments that “Regenerate believers across the world, whatever their denomination or communion, recognize the sprit of the World Council for what it is: the spirit of antichrist.”

And in this, the pastor is not too far from the words of Archbishop Averky of Taushev and Jordanville, who said: “Where one finds the dogmas shaken and the moral teachings of the Gospel and the canonical structure of the Church founded on them undermined, this is clearly the work of servants of the coming Antichrist, no matter what they might call themselves and no matter how they are dressed…. The “gates of hell” will riot prevail against the Church, but they have and certainly can prevail against many who consider themselves pillars of the Church, as is shown by Church history; this happens when they are full of their own conceits, abandon the one mind and one spirit of the whole One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and rely on their own conjectures and imaginings which contradict the teachings of the Gospel, the Holy Apostles, and the Fathers of the Church.”

Joe Suaiden, NFTU