Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Resolution for all Orthodox Churches in the USA: Bolt the NCC

I like to read the publications of other Christian confessions and writings of various Christian and non-Christian authors.  I often find gems but lots of crap (I'm sure the same thing can be said of my meager writings here), but I continue to do so simply because in today's world, it does no good for anyone in any faith, Christian or non, especially in a society as religiously pluralistic as ours, to remain ignorant of what others are doing or believing. 

One of the publications I read when it first hits the internet is the ELCA's (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a liberal Lutheran denomination) publication, The Lutheran.  From my reading, the issues in the publication are generally more human interest stories, e.g. stories of congregations or families.  There is much advocacy for certain social justice issues, e.g. the environment, social welfare projects and some, though not a great amount, of theology.  Oftentimes, the ELCA confuses theology with social justice.  There are some stories about what goes on in other denominations.  And there is always an article submitted by the presiding bishop, who is brand new.  In short, it's not an exhaustive read, but it does give you a pretty good idea of what is important to the ELCA and how it practices and lives its brand of Lutheranism.  It is free on their website and is usually available a few days before the start of the next month.

Kathryn Lohre of the ELCA.  Former NCC President.
While reading January's issue, I read an article by Kathryn Lohre who is a member of the ELCA, its director of inter-religious and ecumenical relations and also a former president of the NCC (National Council of Churches).  People who have read my rantings over these past few years know well my hostility to Orthodox participation in both the NCC and WCC (World Council of Churches). Member churches of the NCC are generally the liberal Protestant mainline churches.  They desperately need the Orthodox to remain involved in the NCC because the Protestant mainline churches are dieing and to give legitimacy to the positions that are blatantly contradictory to traditional Christianity.  It was the NCC's unfettered support for abortion-on-demand, among other things, which caused the Antiochian Orthodox jurisdiction in North America to sever ties with the NCC in 2005.  The Greek Archdiocese and the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) still remain members as well as the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.  I'm not sure about other Orthodox groups.  Why they do is beyond me.

With regards to the article by Kathryn Lohre, which you can read here, the same rallying cries are repeated about how vital the NCC really is.  Any Orthodox Christian who reads this article and who is honest about the faith should come to the conclusion that continued participation in this group by any Orthodox Christian jurisdiction is self-defeating and does nothing to help those who have rejected traditional Christianity to return to their roots.  Here are a couple of tell-tale snippets from this article:

Lohre:  While evangelical, Pentecostal and ethnic churches report significant growth, many of the council’s member churches have been in steady decline over the past few decades.
Response:  At least she's honest, but she doesn't  say why the evangelical, Pentecostal and ethnic churches (i.e. Orthodox, I'm sure as well as other churches that still have some nationality component, e.g. Croatian/Italian/Irish churches) are growing and the mainline churches  are declining.  Of course, she can't come right out and say what the reasons are (liberal social advocacy issues, among others), but that's a big reason, if not the predominant reason.

Lohre:  Many churches, like other institutions, are turning away from top-down approaches and embracing their roles as that of convener.
Response:  This is typical.  When you have a problem, rather than identify it, simply give it another name.  For her, the church is not a place of salvation, a hospital for sinners, but a place to bring people together.  Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but when you make the church only responsible for bringing people together with no particular goal, then is it any wonder why you have 30,000 different interpretations of what God's revelation is to mankind?  Also, notice the slight towards hierarchy.  The ELCA still has bishops, but they don't function with the same kind of oversight that a bishop in the Orthodox Churches has.  The implication is that the church should not only bring people together but be democratic about what it should believe.

Lohre:  Without a doubt, seeking unity in Christ holds renewed purpose in today’s multireligious society where people of other faiths and no faith are our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.
Response:   What does unity in Christ have to do with what our non-Christian or atheist friends believe and think?  Actually a lot.  There is a divided witness in the world. But she fails to lay out what unity in Christ is.  It is NOT unity of administration, but is Unity of the Faith.  The ELCA are no different than other mainstream liberal Protestants:  whatever you believe is fine. Doctrine is unimportant.  Just believe in god and liberal social advocacy issues and that's enough.    If you believe, though that marriage is between one man and one woman, then you are threatened with excommunication because Jesus would never have said the same thing (sarcasm alert).

Lohre:  A compelling Christian witness that promotes God’s justice, peace and the healing of the world is very much needed in an era of competing voices and visions.
 Response:  God's justice, peace and healing of the world?  Read liberal social values such as gay marriage, no fault divorce, abortion on demand, forced welfare, radical environmentalism, anti-capitalism, etc.    Nothing about Christ's incarnation, death and Resurrection to restore man to God; it's all about liberal advocacy.

Lohre:   But the age-old church-dividing issues, including eucharistic sharing, haven’t been resolved.
 Response:  Yes, it has been resolved.  It's been resolved that Unity of the faith and the unity of schismatics and heretics to the una sancta must happen first before any common reception of the eucharist.  The liberal Protestants just don't get this.  They see unity as merely some joint statement without the underlying unity of the faith.  It's a unity built upon sand.  But they keep insisting they need Eucharistic unity with the Orthodox and Roman Catholics because they know that their churches are dieing.  They know the Orthodox and Catholics have a high theology of the Eucharist.  To get them to break on this issue would be the first domino of many other issues to come.
Lohre:   The council’s future will be defined by how effectively it engages as convener and co-convener of people in local, regional and national settings — weaving a compelling narrative of the movement for Christian unity in all of its expressions and contexts “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21)
 Response:  Again, notice the use of "convener."  The churches are simply buildings to get people together, that's all.  Unity in all its expressions is code for unity of the diversity of opinions.  In other words, all beliefs are tolerated and accepted as Christian, that Christianity represents a widespread diversity of beliefs.  These same people probably view the early councils at Nicaea and Ephesus and Chalcedon as intolerant.  As the Orthodox Church is the Church of the Fathers the emphasis on diversity of belief as acceptable would be a total non starter in any discussion.

Now I will concede that Lohre does not have the time to go into the theology behind a lot of what she has said and I will admit that I am not 100% accurate of what I think are her justifications for writing such general statements.  However, I know Lutherans (I used to be one) and I know ELCA Lutherans and though they are not as monolithic as one might assume them to be, when it comes to ecumenism and the faith, they are not friends to traditional Christians and not to the Orthodox.  I know how they think.

Orthodox hierarchs, priests, monks and laity involved in any discussions with the ELCA or any other liberal Protestant confession who is a member of the NCC should be well aware of the heresy and schism that the NCC member churches openly declare for.  The NCC is nothing more than common statements affirming such heretical views.  The Orthodox Church, to them, is like the tribal elder that the young ones need approval from even though they despise that elder and speak ill of him when he's not around.  Continued dialogue with the NCC or its member churches is futile and should cease.  They're not interested in the Orthodox position on anything. They only want our name affixed to their organization to give them legitimacy.  Their fruits have betrayed them.  So, for this new year, I beg the other Orthodox Churches to end their relationship with the NCC once and for all.  Get out now.

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