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WCC makes an historical decision to allow the Orthodox to improve their witness

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  • Thomas Daniel
    RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH DEPARTMENT FOR EXTERNAL CHURCH RELATIONS Office of Communication =================================================== Press-release,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2002
      Office of Communication
      =====================================================================================================Press-release, Sep. 03, 2002

      http://www.russian-orthodox-church.org.ru/ne209032.htm http://www.russian

      http://wcc-coe.org/>The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee
      meeting on September 2 at the WCC headquarters in Geneva approved and adopted
      the results of the work of the Special Commission for Orthodox Participation
      in the WCC.

      The Commission was set up in 1998 by the 8th WCC Assembly in Zimbabwe in
      response to the deep concern of the Local Orthodox Churches for their status
      in the WCC, under which their voice was virtually unheard and their stance
      often had no influence on decisions taken in the WCC.

      All the Orthodox Churches are members of the World Council, except for the
      Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia, which withdrew before the 8th Assembly,
      and the Oriental Orthodox (non-Chalcedonian) Churches. The overwhelming
      majority of the 342 WCC member churches belong to various Protestant
      traditions. Cooperation of member churches in their common search for the
      God-commanded Christian unity (cf. Jn. 17) is carried out under agreement
      with the Basis of the WCC: "The World Council of Churches is a fellowship
      of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according
      to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling
      to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit". The WCC is not and
      cannot be a "church" (The Toronto Declaration, 1950), nor does it have the
      right to speak for churches without their apparent consent or substitute
      particular churches (WCC Constitution, Article IV), but only serves as an
      instrument of cooperation among churches. The continuously growing numerical
      superiority of Protestant member churches as a consequence of fragmentation
      in the Protestant world, on one hand, and the unchanged number of Orthodox
      Churches preserving unity among themselves with their total flock no inferior
      in number but even exceeding that of the Protestant member churches, on the
      other, often led to situations where that the position of the Orthodox was
      marginalized in a mechanical way through the democratic procedure of decision
      -making by a simple majority vote adopted by the WCC. For the same reason, the
      WCC, due to the considerable diversity of its membership, sometimes became an
      agent of certain ideas and theological views alien to Orthodox Tradition and

      The Orthodox delegates kept stating their disagreement with such innovations
      (see, for instance, The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement. Documents
      and Statements 1902-1975. Geneva, 1978). However, the practice of making
      occasional statements proved to be little effective and unsatisfactory. There
      was awareness that the WCC was in fact the only world-wide inter-Christian
      forum both for discussions on theological issues and joint actions for social
      service and missionary work and that it would be historically wrong to lose
      such a unique instrument. The growing Christian solidarity contributed to
      rapprochement indeed, sometimes not so much between theological attitudes as
      human souls and helped to reduce conflicts on religious grounds. At the same
      time, the historical mission of Orthodoxy could not be fulfilled properly due
      to certain obstacles, including those of administrative or legal nature.
      Considering this and the fact that the theological liberalization of the
      Protestant world strongly affected the nature of the WCC discussions and the
      directions they took, the Orthodox Churches at their meeting in Thessaloniki
      in May 1998 demanded that radical changes should be made in both the
      structure and working style of the Council to make the Orthodox
      participation "more significant".

      For three years the Special Commission for Orthodox Participation in the WCC,
      with active involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church, carefully studied and
      discussed - in its subcommittees and four plenary sessions in Switzerland
      1999). Egypt (2000), Hungary (2001) and Finland (2002) - all the difficulties
      caused by the crisis in the inter-confessional dialogue.

      Working concurrently with the Commission was a special group which considered
      the issues of membership and which was accountable to the WCC Executive
      Committee. As a result, concrete and detailed recommendations were worked out
      on changing the WCC decision-making system, memberships, practice of joint
      prayers and approach to solving social and ethical problems. In fact, never
      in its fifty-year-long history the WCC has given so close attention to the
      problems of Orthodox participation. It should be mentioned for the sake of
      justice though that some Protestant churches were also disturbed by many of
      the above-mentioned problems and shared the Orthodox concern before. The
      Special Commission, just as the results of its work, represents an
      unprecedented phenomenon not analogous to anything in history.

      According to the decision made by the Central Committee on September 2, 2002,
      a new method of decision-making will be introduced to the WCC practice. It is
      based not on a majority vote system but on a consensus model that provides for
      taking into account the opinion of a minority in the Council regardless of its
      confessional proportion. This will allow avoiding situations where the WCC
      decisions, which, though not obligatory for member churches, sometimes
      presented a challenge to the Orthodox worldview, doctrine and Tradition, were
      adopted by a majority vote.The Special Commission consisting of 60 members was
      made up of an equal number of Protestant and Orthodox participants. The same
      parity will be observed in the work of a 14-member Standing Committee which is
      to monitor the programmatic work of the WCC.

      From now on, cooperation in the WCC will be carried out on the two levels: full
      membership and association. Unlike the traditional membership ("belonging to
      the fellowship of the WCC"), the status of "a church in association with the
      WCC" implies participation in the work of the Council "from outside", without
      the right of vote and participation in the consensus procedure. This status
      will apply primarily to those churches and Christian communities which do not
      consider it possible for themselves, for any theological or other reasons, to
      adopt membership and bear responsibility for its implications. The WCC Central
      Committee, which started its work on August 26 and will continue it till
      September 3, has also adopted a number of statements on public issues
      concerning the situation in the Holy Land, South Asia, Colombia and the threat
      of military action against Iraq. On Sunday September 25, celebrations were held
      in Lausanne, devoted to the 75th anniversary of the Faith and Order movement.

      Participating in the work of the WCC Central Committee from the Russian
      Orthodox Church were Bishop Hilarion of Podolsk, vicar of the Moscow Diocese
      and representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the international European
      organizations, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a DECR vice-chairman, Rev. Mikhail
      Gundyaev, secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate representation at the WCC, and
      Ms. Margarita Nelyubova, DECR secretariat for inter-Christian relations. Two
      Central Committee members from the Russian Orthodox Church were temporarily
      substituted by S. Chapnin, editor-in-chief of Moskovsky tserkovny vestnik, and
      V. Kalinchuk, student at the Institute of Orthodox Theology in Chambesy,
      =====================================================================================================RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
      Office of Communication
      Address: 22, Danilovsky val, St.Danilov monastery, DECR, 113191 Moscow,
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