Friday, November 1, 2013

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Excites Debate in WCC Assembly

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, excited the floor of the Business Plenary this afternoon at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea with the question, "will Christian civilization survive at all?" In his address he wondered aloud if the WCC was ready to commit itself to a more cohesive role in standing up against what he termed "militant secularism" and "radical Islamism". 
The message of the second part of his presentation on the discrimination and oppression of Christians in some Islamic societies may have been lost in the reception on the part of many in the room to the message of the first part, that is the unity of the Church in the face of "militant secularism".
He stated, "One of the main directions of (militant secularism's) activity today is the destruction of traditional notions of marriage and family. This is witnessed by a new phenomenon of equating homosexual unions with marriage and allowing single sex couples to adopt children. From the point of view of biblical teaching and traditional Christian moral values, this testifies to a profound spiritual crisis. The religious understanding of sin has been conclusively eroded in societies that until recently thought of themselves as Christian."
The Metropolitan then went on to cite examples in the Western world of how same sex unions have become accepted as marriages. His challenge for cohesion among WCC members on this point did not go over well. A good number of Western communions are debating this very issue among themselves and some are moving or have moved to legitimate same gender unions already in which homosexual partnering is not considered in terms of sin. Russia's recent passage of restrictions on public expression of gay rights may have also been on the minds of many. 
Yet the Metropolitan made a good point in that such divisive issues are tearing at the fabric of the One Church. His church and many other communions see this as an erosion of the notion of sin in a secularized world; others see it as a question of religious liberty and basic human rights. A middle ground on the issue seems very hard to find. It all made for a rather expressive and exciting afternoon in Busan.
The morning preceding it was a bit more harmonious with an experience of Morning Prayer and Bible studies together, followed by an exuberant morning plenary dedicated to the Church in Asia. At the beginning of the plenary the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, greeted the Assembly and reminded it that, "We cannot be satisfied while there is a lack of visible unity." There was also a breakthrough and bridge building in the greeting of the chairman of the Pentecostal World Fellowship, the Rev Tan Sri Dr Prince Guneratnam.
The morning plenary then went on in song and dance and in presentations by various speakers from different countries in Asia who spoke of the struggles of Asian societies and the need for the unity of the Church in those countries and throughout Asia for the sake of justice and peace.
In the early evening there were Confessional Gatherings. I attended the Catholic gathering with about 50 Catholics who are here in Busan. The Vatican delegation, headed up by Cardinal Kurt Koch and Bishop Brian Farrell led in a discussion of introductions by everyone present, the work of the Council and its relationship with the WCC, a Korean Catholic produced presentation on the Catholic Church in Korea and some questions from the floor. There will be another such confessional gathering on November 7. 
Tomorrow it's off to the border with North Korea and to Seoul for many of us on a Pilgrimage of Peace.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting happenings in Busan! Thank you for sharing the events and insights. Good luck with the border pilgrimage and look forward to reading about it.
    -Kathy W., NYC