Category Archives: Church and Public Life

Open Letter to the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America on the War in Ukraine

by Archpriest Denis J. M. Bradley

Destruction in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Image: Rocket damage in Kharkiv, Ukraine. iStock.com/OLeksandr_Kr

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon
Members of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America

Dear Archpastors:

We[1] write as painfully concerned, truth–seeking, and truth–committed Orthodox Christians: we are chagrined clergy and lay members of the Orthodox Church in America, who as American citizens value religious and political freedom. Conscience compels us to speak. The unprovoked Russian military invasion and indiscriminate bombardment and levelling of Ukrainian cities have resulted in the violent deaths and maiming of thousands and the dreadful displacement of millions of innocent Ukrainian citizens, among them vulnerable non-combatants: women, children, hospital patients, and the aged. We are perturbed that the episcopal leadership of the Orthodox Church in America has not only refused to identify in a public and straightforward manner but, instead, has chosen to cloak and shield through its silence and platitudes about the evils of war, the two primary and immediate agents responsible for commanding and defending the unjust Russian attack on Ukraine: Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, who directly ordered the invasion and continuing attacks, and Kirill (Gundyaev), the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’, who willingly serves as the chief religious ideologist and propagandist for President Putin.

There are beleaguered and oppressed Russian dissenters who, at great personal cost, repudiate President Putin and Patriarch Kirill’s war against Ukraine. Their heroism speaks for itself but it also should speak to our Holy Synod. There should be no need to demonstrate to our OCA bishops what persons throughout the world—of many different political persuasions but with rightly informed consciences—know: that Russian President Putin bears primary responsibility for the morally unjustifiable Russian invasion and continuing barbaric attacks on Ukraine, and that Moscow Patriarch Kirill willingly defends the viciously aggressive and repressive Putin regime. Now if there really is a need to demonstrate such evident facts, may God help the OCA! For, apparently, no merely human political or theological analysis of these facts will ever suffice to motivate the Holy Synod to speak out in defense of truth and justice! Nonetheless, there is such a theologically precise and convincing demonstration available, which was issued by an international group of Orthodox theologians, churchmen, and intellectuals: “A Declaration on the ‘Russian World’ (Russkii Mir).” The Declaration is a cogent theological refutation and strong condemnation of (what it labels) President Putin and Patriarch Kirill’s “heretical” religious–political ideology.

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Jim Forest: My Mentor through Writings and Correspondence

by Volkert Volkersz

Jim Forest and Volkert Volkersz

I first encountered the writings of Jim Forest in the summer of 1969. It was during the height of the Vietnam War. I was 19 years old. The previous December I had dropped out of Fairhaven College in Bellingham, Washington, and sent my draft card back to the Selective Service System with a lengthy note revoking all my ties with the system.

During the next seven months I embraced the hippie lifestyle, hitchhiking to California, traveling to Mexico, and living in a communal house in Washington. During this period my parents forwarded letters from the draft board declaring me “delinquent.” I was aware that I ran the risk of going to jail.

In June I had a “born again” experience, and got involved with the so-called “Jesus Freaks.” During a Bible study in August, I was confronted with St. Paul’s statement in Romans, “Be subject to the governing authorities.” I realized that I needed to get right with the Draft Board, so I sent them a letter letting them know where I was, but also asking for an application for conscientious objector status. (I had been raised in a liberal Protestant denomination where Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, and even Jesus, were presented as role models of non-violence. In 1965, at age 15, I had decided that the Vietnam War was wrong, and that Fall I participated in the first antiwar march in Seattle. I had also spoken out against the war at my conservative suburban high school where I was branded a “communist.” And as a budding folksinger, I had sung at an antiwar event sponsored by the Students for Democratic Society [SDS] when I was still 17 years old.)

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Christians in the Middle East: Towards Renewed Theological, Social, and Political Choices

by Jennifer Griggs | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Map of the Middle East

We Choose Abundant Life is a document issued by Christian intellectuals and theologians who met together in Beirut on September 29, 2021 to launch their vision for Christians in the Middle East. A stark choice for these Christians is presented in this document, to choose the abundant life that is promised to God’s people in Deuteronomy 30:19b (“Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live”), which is both the choice and the challenge taken up by this group of Christian intellectuals, or the stark alternative which is to resign themselves to the gradual death of Christian communities in the Arab world. Certainly, this situation of sharply declining populations of Christian communities in the Middle East is undeniable. The document of intent, We Choose Abundant Life, promotes a progressive vision of the cultural diversity of Middle Eastern society over a narrow focus on Christians as a beleaguered minority in an Islamic world. Instead, the desire is to reinvent Arabism from the failed modernist project of forced Arabization, to become “a cultural space and an inclusive cultural concept.” This reinvented Arabism includes the diverse richness of identities amongst the Churches of the Middle East, from the Syriac and Armenian traditions to those of the Greek and Coptic churches.

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Remembering Jim Forest

by Nicholas Sooy

Jim Forest

On April 5, 1977, Jim Forest received a phone call that his friend and collaborator Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, had been kidnapped by the Argentinian government. The most likely outcome was death. From his office in the Netherlands, Jim and his staff worked to free Adolfo. They nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize as a publicity stunt to embarrass the Argentinian government. Within hours, hundreds of papers picked up the story, and fourteen months later Adolfo was released. Expecting nothing more to come of this, Jim thought he had received a prank call the next summer when the Nobel committee called to inform him that Adolfo had won the prize.

Not wanting to waste this opportunity, Jim arranged for a meeting in Rome with Pope John Paul II. At this meeting, their goal was to ask the pope that Arturo Rivera Damas be appointed as the permanent successor to the recently assassinated Óscar Romero. Pope John Paul went on to grant their request.

Jim was born November 2, 1941, to two communists. Though Jim was at times embarrassed by his family’s outsider status, he attributed his upbringing to teaching him about the plight of the poor, something that paved the way to becoming a Christian. As a child, he also learned about the horrors of war when a minister at a local Methodist parish hosted two victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who had come to the US for reconstructive surgery. Peering at their silk veils, Jim came to learn that hospitality to those in need, those suffering, was far more important than politics. Despite his many encounters with political events over the coming decades, he always kept in mind that it was people who ultimately mattered.

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