Friday, November 13, 2009

The Russian Orthodox Church will sever ties with the German Evangelical Church

The Russian Orthodox Church may sever relations with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a major Protestant church of Western Europe that has elected a woman to chair the EKD's council.

The Orthodox clergy say this runs counter to evangelical principles. Analysts fear this could provoke a big inter-faith conflict.

Bishop Margot Kassmann, the first woman to lead the Evangelical Church in Germany, which unites some 24 million Protestants of more than 20 Lutheran and Reformed churches, was elected at the council's meeting on October 28. The 51-year-old bishop of Hanover is divorced and has four daughters.

"We plan to celebrate 50 years of dialog with the German Lutheran Church in late November and early December," Hilarion, the bishop of Volokolamsk and head of the Moscow patriarchy's external church relations department, said on Wednesday. "The celebrations will also mark the end of that dialog."

The Russian Orthodox Church does not accept female clergy.

"A female bishop is a contradiction of the evangelical principles," said Georgy Zavershinsky, the PR head of the external church relations department. "Therefore, there can be no church relations between us. We will most likely have to deal with their church as with a public organization."

Russian Lutherans support the arguments of the Russian Orthodox Church. Alexander Prilutsky, chief secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (Russia), said female bishops were evidence of "a crisis in the Western society."

"Our relations with Western Protestants have recently become more complicated because of their liberal theological practices," said Bishop Konstantin Bendas, director for temporal affairs at the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith. "Unfortunately, the West is departing from the evangelical principles. Sweden, for example, has deviated the most by electing a lesbian bishop."

If the inter-faith dialog stops, "this could lead to severance of diplomatic relations between German Christians and the Russian Orthodox Church," said Roman Lunkin, director of the Institute of Religion and Law and a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Europe. "This could provoke the largest inter-Christian conflict of the past years."


Edward Wolff said...

"The Orthodox clergy say this runs counter to evangelical principles."

Given that media coverage is always somewhat distorted, but...why in the world the Orthodox clergy would think that a woman as a "bishop" runs counter to evangelical principles? My opinion is that this "ordination" is just a little detail amidst the overall theological atrocities that Evangelical Protestants commit.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

That's evangelical with a small "e".

George Patsourakos said...

The Russian Orthodox Church is severing its 50-year relations with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), because a woman bishop was elected to chair the EKD's council.

The Orthodox Church does not accept female clergy; consequently, the Russian Orthodox Church had to sever relations, because having female clergy is in violation of Orthodox Doctrine.

Chris said...

Why this? Why now? There are a great many reasons why the two church bodies should have severed relations a long time ago? Not trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but there's got to be some underpinning reason.

Edward Wolff said...

Ok, but the whole Evangelical theology is a violation of Orthodox Doctrine. I don´t understand why this specific doctrinal point ("electing a woman bishop to chair the EKD´s council") is so shocking in itself. There are numerous (and still more important) doctrinal points that are at odds with Orthodox doctrine.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I think what we are seeing can be filed under the heading of "better late than never." The Russian Church is coming around to the realization that there really are a limited number of partners for viable ecumenical dialogue. And for the most part Protestants don't fall into that category.

This body seems to be an umbrella organization for a large number of the more liberal Protestant sects in Germany. My suspicion is that this was seen by Moscow as a good excuse to lower the boom on a whole group of theologically liberal sects all in one shot.