Friday, October 10, 2008

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship is "an association of Orthodox Christian believers seeking to bear witness to the peace of Christ by applying the principles of the Gospel to situations of division and conflict, whether in the home, the parish, the community we live, the work place, within our particular nations, and between nations. We work for the conservation of God’s creation and especially of human life. We are not a political association and support no political parties or candidates".  The international OPF is under the patronage of the Protection of the Mother of God. Their website, InCommunion, is here. While there exists OPF offices in North America and the United Kingdom we are unaware, as of this writing, if these have their own web presence.

In the State of Minnesota their is an OPF chapter, Minnesota Orthodox Peace Fellowship, with an attractive fledgling web log here.

The Intl OPF is not without controversy. Who isn't? The Intl Orthodox Peace Fellowship supports the involvement of the various local Orthodox Church's in the so-called Ecumenical Movement. We at AUOCC are in opposition to such support. In recent years we have seen many local Orthodox jurisdictions withdraw from various degrees of involvement in talks with heretics and heterodox.  It is the position of AUOCC that True Ecumenism must be embraced by all who call themselves "Orthodox Christians". By True Ecumenism we refer to the genuine embrace and active dialogue between mainline or "modernist" Orthodox hierarchs with those of the True/Genuine Orthodox Christians, i.e., the "traditionalist" Churches throughout the world. The purpose of True Ecumenism is for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ by solidifying unity between these seperated sister churches. After some degree of success between "modernist" and "traditionalists" and from their new found unity the Orthodox Church should then turn towards those independent Orthodox such as have decended from Archbishop Aftimos and his American Orthodox Church.

On the other side, the Holland-based Orthodox Peace Fellowship issued a statement in January 2003 entitled, "A Plea for Peace" in which they entreated the Bush Administration and its allies not to invade Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people. Here is an excerpt of the OPF Statement:

As Orthodox Christians, we seek the conversion of enemies to friends in Christ. Saddam Hussein is an enemy of the United States and of the people of Iraq, but we declare that there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.

We do not argue against attacking Iraq because of any admiration for Saddam Hussein. He carne to office by intrigue and murder, and remains in power by the same means; he is his own country's worst enemy. The Iraqi people deserve to be rid of him.

The United States is ready to overthrow him by any means, including an attack which would kill thousands of civilians and maim many more, justifying such an attack on the possibility that Hussein's regime is producing weapons of mass destruction and preparing to use them against America and Israel and their allies.

Because we seek the reconciliation of enemies, a conversion which grows from striving to be faithful to the Gospel, the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good, and fighting an elusive enemy by means which cause the death of innocent people can be regarded only as murder. Individual murderers are treated by psychiatrists and priests and isolated from society. But who heals the national psyche, the wounded soul of a nation, when it is untroubled by the slaughter of non-combatant civilians?

Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse (current president of the American Orthodox Institute) writing in OrthodoxyToday (Revised April 14, 2003) accused the OPF of moral equivalency. Fr. Johannes writes, 

"The doctrine of moral equivalency holds that war is the greatest of all evils. Any government engaged in warfare shares the same moral culpability for the conflict as its enemy. A just war is a moral impossibility.

"A Plea for Peace" asserts that American action in Iraq is morally equivalent to the terror of the Iraqi regime. Reports about the brutality of Saddam's regime prove that OPF is wrong, but don't expect them to change. Peace activists rarely abandon the doctrine even when the judgment of history is against them."

Well known Orthodox convert and publisher of  Regina Orthodox Press, Frank Schaeffer, son of the famous Evangelical Philosopher Francis Schaeffer, was offended by the OPF "Plea for Peace" Statement. With a son on the verge of being deployed to the Middle East, Mr. Schaeffer writes,

"...I believe they have simplistically misrepresented the teachings of my church. But that is not the point. They are entitled to say or believe anything they want, as individuals and private citizens.

I am saddened because so many of my bishops and priests have signed this antiwar statement in the name of my church and my God. They have dragged not only my church but Jesus into their stand against our government and the war in Iraq.

It is cruel to try to hijack the authority of a church to advance political views for or against this war. I would never sign a letter for a "Council for the Orthodox Pro-War Fellowship" just because my son is serving his country in the military. I'd assume that it would be preposterous for me to speak for my fellow Orthodox Christians on such matters of individual conscience, over which honest and honorable people can disagree."

AUOCC is in agreement with Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Barack Obama's position on Iraq as he has stated it in his debates with his opponent, (we paraphrase:), 'The Bush Administration failed in its policy on the war against terror by taking its eye off of Al-Quida and bin-Laden who were hiding in Afghanistan to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.'  We shall address this directly in future posts. In the meantime, you can read more on the debate over the OPF "Plea for Peace" (including Frank Schaeffer's remarks in its entirety) here.

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