Undoubtedly, the region has been dedicated to Christianity since the earliest days of this faith. The Apostle Paul brought the religion to the Europeans around 50 AD. That was the case then, but is that the case today? Today’s Europe is a multiethnic crossroads of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other denominations – which makes the issue sensitive, especially around the persistent lobbying of churches to mention the continent’s Christian heritage in a key document of the future European Union.
The Convention on the Future of the European Union could become the basis for a Constitution that would replace the Treaty establishing the European Union, and some Christians see this as a rare opportunity to profess the continent’s religious heritage in the preamble to this document. “This is not an attack on the separation of church and state,” said Kate Jenkins, former associate secretary general of the Brussels-based Conference of European Churches (CEC), which spearheaded this initiative (the Conference of European Churches has a wide membership, including the major Protestant denominations and an impressive number of national evangelical associations). – “This is a recognition of history.”
Pope John Paul II also took part in this endeavor. He called the Christian message “also applicable to those who work in politics to achieve European unification.” The pope also said that “in search of its own identity, the continent can only succeed by returning to its Christian roots.” John Paul II emphasized and further developed this case as follows: “The Christian heritage of civilization, which has contributed greatly to the protection of the values of democracy, freedom and solidarity among the people of Europe, must neither be destroyed nor belittled.”
In the decades-long Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement, Orthodoxy has never been betrayed by the representatives of the Orthodox Churches. On the contrary, they have always been completely faithful to the provisions of their ecclesiastical authorities, acting in full accordance with the canonical order, the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, the Holy Fathers and the Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
One of the great hierarchs and head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (the BOC as independent national church has always been a pioneer in theoretical and practical development), Exarch Stefan I, wrote in his personal diary (on September 7, 1942): “International church activity has taken root in our reality for God’s glory and national virtue.” As St. Basil the Great stated in the 4th century, we know what the Church of Christ is, but we do not know how far its borders extend.
Another inter-Christian body is the World Council of Churches – a platform from which the faith of the Orthodox Church, its mission and its views on issues concerning peace, justice, development and environmental protection have become more widely known in the non-Orthodox world. From the European continent only the autocephalous Bulgarian church and two churches with controversial status – the Macedonian and the Ukrainian are not member-churches. A fruitful cooperation was established with the other members of the WCC in order to provide answers to the challenges of modern culture. Proselytism was condemned, and many oppressed churches found support to continue their mission in the world; The WCC underwent a radical transformation to allow for fuller Orthodox participation. Orthodox interests were protected, mainly in places where Orthodox minorities were discriminated against. Orthodox views on political, economic and cultural issues were raised, as was the question of Orthodox relations with various religions.
The history of the ecumenical movement is complex and controversial. Following the assemblies can give an insight into the main moments in the development of ecumenism. Assemblies are held every 7 years. All the member churches of the movement gather there. The Assembly is the governing body of the WCC. Assembly delegates set the strategy of the WCC for the next seven years.
At the turn of the century, the Christian ecumenical movement was a purely Protestant activity and since the 1920’s the Orthodox family of sister-churches largely joined lead by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Then two directions developed – “Life and work” and “Faith and order”, which later grew into the World Council of Churches.
The next phase was the formal establishment of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948 of the First Assembly of the Ecumenical Movement. The theme is “The Fall of Man and God’s Providence.”
The second assembly was held in 1954 in Evanston. The theme is “Christ ¬ the Hope of the World”.
The third assembly is entitled “Jesus Christ ¬ The Light of the World”, held in 1961 in New Delhi.
The fourth is in Uppsala in 1968, and the theme is “Here, I’m creating everything new.”
“Jesus Christ liberates and unites” was the theme of the Fifth Assembly in Nairobi in 1975.
The sixth assembly is on “Jesus Christ: The Life of the World.” Held in 1983 in Vancouver.
The seventh was in Canberra in 1991 on “Come, Holy Spirit, Renew All Creation.”
The Eighth Assembly was held in 1998 in Harare. The theme was “Turn to God – rejoice in Hope.”]
The 9th Assembly of the WCC, February 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil – with the theme: “God in your grace, transform the world.
The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches took place in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 8 November 2013, under the theme “Gpd of life, lead us to justice and peace”.
The 11th Assembly of the WCC will take place in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 31 August to 8 September 2022 at the joint invitation of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Protestant Church in Baden, the Council of Churches in Germany, the Union of Protestant Churches in Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) and the Protestant Church in Switzerland. The assemblyis “Chirst’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”.
Religious communities and leaders must become at the forefront of the struggle for a society governed by law and respect for human dignity. Churches have a pioneering role in outlining issues within a culture of dialogue. Churches and all other denominations and religious and spiritual traditions are called to respond to today’s reality of living in a world terrorized by fears. In such times, the rich resources in religion must be properly pointed out and emphasized to lead us to peace and reconciliation.
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