Meeting The Orthodox (Page 18 of 25)

By: Fr. Thomas HopkoRead time: 40 mins11778 Hits

18. Ecumenism

How do you reconcile this position of not only with the past history of the Orthodox Church which seems to have violated it, but with the Orthodox participation in ecumenical groups as the World and National Councils of Churches which have taken positions on concrete political issues?

In the first place, relative to the Orthodox past, it is impossible to find any saint or teacher of the Church who would say that Christians can be perfect while participating in the secular, political, and military affairs of this world.

In societies where the rulers were Christians, however, the Church would always urge the most humane government, and there have been cases in which saints blessed the national powers to bear arms, as the only alternative to what was understood to be a human catastrophe. Nowhere however can you find the Church itself recruiting soldiers or blessing the use of violence as such.

As we have mentioned, there have been intimate alliances of Church and state in Orthodox history, but the number of churchly prophets, saints, and martyrs who have resisted the identity of church and nation is endless and can be easily documented.

About the present participation of the Orthodox in ecumenical organizations, we can say generally that the Orthodox have understood the necessity of their participation, or at least their representation, as following from the desire that all men would be united in the truth and love of Christ. There are, of course, unhappy exceptions where some Orthodox participate for less worthy reasons, and these should be lamented.

Concerning the secular policies of these ecumenical organizations, the record is rather clear that all of the Orthodox, regardless of their motives for participation, have been virtually unanimous in their lack of sympathy for this type of political action and have generally made their dissatisfaction known.

It bears repeating also on this point that the Orthodox have never been opposed to statements of Christian principles on any issue: social, economic, legal, military … What has been opposed however is the assumption on the part of churches or ecumenical agencies and organizations of the right to promote or support specific policies, actions, parties, candidates, etc.


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