Lutherans represented at historic Orthodox Church council meeting

Bishop Emeritus Donald McCoid said image of the Orthodox Church in council should inspire all Christians. Photo: ELCA
Bishop Emeritus Donald McCoid said image of the Orthodox Church in council should inspire all Christians. Photo: ELCA

Emphasis on dialogue with other Christians

(LWI) – Lutherans joined other Christians from around the world in offering prayers for the Orthodox Church at its Holy and Great Council held in Crete, 20-25 June. The last time such a council convened was 1,200 years ago. In attendance this year were 220 Orthodox bishops and archbishops, as well as 70 official advisers.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was represented by Bishop Emeritus Donald McCoid, co-chairperson of the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission from 2004 until 2012. McCoid has also served as executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

He described the opening session on Monday of Pentecost, “When the opening session began with the patriarchs, metropolitans and other official representatives invoking the Holy Spirit with the Pentecost chant, I was deeply moved.” 

“After so many years of planning and an uncertainty about when a council might happen, it was finally here. The strong image of the Orthodox Church in council is one that should inspire all Christians. Let us remember Orthodox leaders and members in our prayers so that God's will and way may unfold in all ways,” added McCoid, who previously served as  ELCA executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations.

In his keynote address, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the worldwide Orthodox Christian Church, stressed the importance of unity among the 14 churches that comprise the Orthodox Christian Church. Ten of the 14 churches were represented at the council meeting.

“The voice of the Comforter calls all to unity and calls us to turn our attention and widen our heart toward all people, lovingly embracing the vital problems that concern them, preaching the good news of peace and love to those near and afar,” he said.

Bartholomew added, “We have journeyed together in theological dialogue and ecumenical cooperation in our willingness to respond to the theological divisions of the past and the global challenges of our time.”

Life-giving importance to all

Kathryn M. Lohre, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop and executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations described the occurrence of the Orthodox Council itself as “remarkable.”  She said “the opportunity for Rev. McCoid to be present was a precious gift for deepening our understanding as Lutherans in relationship to the Orthodox and our partnership together. The unity of Christ's church, wherever it is sought, is of life-giving importance to us all.”

“In a time of rapidly changing religious landscapes, Christians around the world are seeking to understand and explore what conciliar life looks like and how it functions,” she said. “This Holy and Great Council has provided a glimpse for all of us into those important questions.”

Ecumenical observers also came from the Anglican church, the Vatican, the Middle East Council of Churches and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The Great Council affirmed dialogue with other Christians but indicated there would not be any compromise in doctrine or matters of faith. It also lifted up commitments toward inter-religious dialogue, human rights and religious freedom.

After so many years of planning and an uncertainty about when a council might happen, it was finally here. The strong image of the Orthodox Church in council is one that should inspire all Christians. Let us remember Orthodox leaders and members in our prayers so that God's will and way may unfold in all ways.
Bishop Emeritus Donald McCoid, ELCA

Its concluding statement reads, “Our church attaches great importance to dialogue, primarily with non-Orthodox Christians. In this way the remainder of the Christian world comes to know more precisely the authenticity of the Orthodox tradition, the value of patristic teaching and the liturgical life and faith of the Orthodox.”

The ELCA is one of the two LWF member churches in North America. It has over 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region.

 

(Edited from an ELCA News release)

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