NCC has concerns about Orthodox withdrawal, bishop says
Sept. 29, 2005
Bishop Thomas Hoyt
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) - The president of the National Council of Churches has
reassured United Methodists that the ecumenical organization is
concerned about its Orthodox members.
Bishop Thomas Hoyt was responding to a letter from the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, which
expressed sadness about the recent withdrawal of the Self-Ruled
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America from the
council. The letter also implored NCC leadership "to take immediate
steps to understand this action and reach out to leadership" in the
Hoyt, a bishop in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, said he also
had been saddened by the unexpected decision of the archdiocese, which
has only modestly participated in council activities over the years.
"Indeed, in June, when the general secretary (Bob Edgar) received from
Metropolitan Philip a congratulatory letter about the NCC statement
concerning the war in Iraq, we dared to hope a new level of
participation might be forthcoming," Hoyt wrote in a Sept. 26 letter to
United Methodist Bishop Ann Sherer, the commission's president. "We were
dismayed, therefore, when, without consultation apparently, the
Antiochians took the decision to withdraw their membership."
When the letter from Metropolitan Philip arrived, NCC officials sought a
meeting with him, but no response has been received, according to Hoyt.
After further discussion and with counsel from the Rev. Leonid
Kishkovsky, a former NCC president, it was decided to schedule meetings
with several Orthodox church leaders and convene a meeting with the
ecumenical officers and membership and ecclesial relations committee.
"We hope and trust that United Methodist participants will share
suggestions of other responses we might make and join in implementing
those efforts," he wrote.
Hoyt also mentioned a NCC fund-raising letter that the
Commission on Christian Unity expressed concern over because of its
"partisan political tone." He said Edgar "has acknowledged that the
letter was sent from the development office without proper review."
Procedures have been put in place to remedy that, he added.
"We are unaware how, if at all, this letter relates to the Antiochian withdrawal," Hoyt said.
The Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the Commission on Christian
Unity, said he believes the NCC is concerned about the loss of an
Orthodox member. "I think it was a necessary step on the part of the
president of the national council to respond to the Antiochian church,"
Current NCC Orthodox members include the Coptic Orthodox Church in North
America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Malankara Orthodox
Syrian Church, Orthodox Church in America, Orthodox Church in the
U.S.A., Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A. and Canada, Syrian
Orthodox Church of Antioch, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America and the
Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America.
Pickens believes it is important to strengthen these relationships and
recruit new Orthodox members. "There is a sense that without the
Orthodox, the legitimacy of the council would be called into question,"
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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