Contact: John Lomperis
The nearly 400,000 member Antiochian Orthodox Church of America has voted overwhelmingly to leave the National Council of Churches (NCC) because of its liberalism.
"This decision by the Antiochian Orthodox is good news for all who care about genuine Christian ecumenism, as opposed to the faux ecumenism of the NCC, whose primary concern is politics, not churches," commented the IRD's Mark Tooley.
On July 28, the Archdiocesan convention for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America voted to quit the NCC. The vote, which according to one account was unanimous, was followed by a standing ovation. Metropolitan Philip Saliba, the church's senior cleric, outspokenly supported the withdrawal.
An Antiochian church spokesman told Ecumenical News International that the NCC had "lost its goal of Christian unity on a doctrinal basis." He also said that church officials were displeased by a recent NCC fundraising letter that urged church members to fight conservatives. The Institute on Religion and Democracy was among the groups the NCC fundraising letter attacked.
Support for homosexual causes was also mentioned in Antiochian circles as a reason for leaving the NCC. Bob Edgar, the NCC's general secretary, withdrew his signature from a "Christian Marriage Declaration" with Roman Catholics and Evangelicals several years ago because homosexual groups were upset over the declaration's assertion that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.
The NCC now has 35 member denominations. As it receives less funding from its member denominations, the NCC has been relying increasingly on support from liberal foundations, political advocacy groups and direct mail campaigns. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania and an ordained United Methodist minister, has further accentuated the NCC's political focus and outspoken criticism of the Bush Administration.
The NCC was founded originally over 50 years ago to foster Christian unity. But its focus has shifted over the decades towards political themes. All of its leading mainline denomination members have been suffering membership decline for most of 40 years.
"We hope the Antiochian departure from the NCC will encourage other communions to reconsider their participation in the NCC and seek out alternatives that actually strengthen the Body of Christ rather than divide it with dubious political causes," Mark Tooley concluded.
Read the entire article on the Institute for Religion and Democracy website (new window will open).