At the risk of having you bypass the entire paper–which you should read in full!–I want to cite the paragraphs of the conclusion, as they really hit upon the heart of the matter.
In the current Christian setting, both in the United States and globally, there are more Protestants and Pentecostals outside the ecumenical organizations such as the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) than there are within these organizations. Furthermore, neither the NCC nor the WCC can count the Roman Catholic Church among their member churches. It should be noted, however, that the Catholic Church does hold membership in such ecumenical organizations as the Canadian Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, as well as participates in some aspects of the work of the NCC and the WCC, such as the commissions on Faith and Order, which engage in theological dialogue. It should also be noted that the majority of the Orthodox Churches participate in the WCC and the NCC.
Nevertheless, for the most part the Orthodox Church in America participates in ecumenical organizations which represent a minority of Christians. Furthermore, the ecumenical organizations in which we participate, in their theological and social views, are oriented towards policies which are not in harmony with Orthodox views. Thus our participation and the participation of other Orthodox Churches lend credibility and legitimacy to ecumenical organizations which, in the public perception, are espousing beliefs often antithetical to the Orthodox convictions.
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.
The Orthodox Church in America’s withdrawal from the NCC and WCC should also be done in consultation with the other Orthodox Churches which are members of these ecumenical organizations. The purposes of such consultation would be to discern the common mind of the Orthodox Churches. This means that some Orthodox Churches would continue to hold membership in the ecumenical organizations, some would withdraw, but the respective positions and motivations would be respected.
While such a policy by us would be seen by some as a voluntary “marginalization” of the Orthodox Church in America, it is important to remember that marginalization is a matter of perspective and interpretation. Another perspective would show us acting responsibly, with care and concern for the other Orthodox Churches, yet adhering firmly to principle and a realistic assessment of the prevailing ecumenical reality.
In following a policy of distancing itself from the ecumenical organizations and their liberal advocacy role, the Orthodox Church in America will need to exercise similar caution with regard to conservative Christian groups and movements. Political agendas are obviously present in conservative Christian organizations. Conservative Christians in the USA are similar to liberal Christian organizations in one specific quality – both can be politically-driven. For Orthodox Christians, this means that our alliances need to be formed on an issue-by-issue basis. Withdrawal from groups which are liberal advocacy groups, rather than religious bodies, should not be a pretext for joining organizations which are conservative advocacy groups, rather than religious bodies.
There are conclusions and implications to be drawn from the above recommendations. First, the Orthodox Church in America will need to expend considerable resources, time, and energy to maintain relationships of consultation and common action with other Orthodox Churches. Second, we will need to dedicate resources to discern in other Christian bodies, whether conservative or liberal, those persons and convictions which are in general harmony with Orthodox beliefs and convictions, in order to find a basis for common action in society. Third, the Orthodox Church in America will need to find the resources and people to do serious thinking about ethical, social, and political issues, so that the specifically Orthodox witness and perspective can be well-articulated, thus ensuring that the agendas of other Christian bodies, whether conservative or liberal, do not co-opt the Orthodox. Fourth, we will need to be in the forefront of Orthodox theological thinking on Christian unity. It is not enough to be “against” the distortions we see in the present ecumenical environment. It is important to present a vision of Christian unity we are “for.”
If the Orthodox Church in America fails to follow the recommendations enumerated above, it will indeed slide into a passive role, accepting a “marginalized” existence in Orthodox and ecumenical settings. This will mean the slow but sure re-orientation of the Orthodox Church in America towards a “sectarian” way of thought, and an abdication of the “catholicity” of the Orthodox faith.
At the risk of a redundancy, this gets a hearty “Amen!” from this Ortho-wannabe.