Presbyterians got a surprise when an Orthodox Priest from Belarus was invited to the podium at their general convention. He spoke not the typical meaningless greeting of someone who treads carefully over disagreements but as an honest friend. His words were not mean or rude but they were blunt and forthright. Most of the time when we invite ecumenical guests to the convention hoopla we invite them for show -- to show that we are nice and people think we are nice. Thank God that one guest had the love to overcome this false nicety and speak the truth in love.
Among other things, he challenged the filioque in the creed, the morality that was being defined to include recognition for gay and lesbian and gay and lesbian clergy, and the idea that those who hold to the unchanging truth cannot grow.
“Christian morality is as old as Christianity itself. It doesn’t need to be invented now. Those attempts to invent new morality look for me like attempts to invent a new religion — a sort of modern paganism.
“When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspires the Holy Orthodox Church not to change anything doctrinal or moral standards? It is really the same Spirit or perhaps there are different spirits acting in different denominations and inspiring them to develop in different directions and create different theologies and different morals?
“My desire is that all Christians should contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints, as St. Jude calls us to do (Jude 1:3). And my advice as an ecumenical advisory delegate is the following: ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ ” (Romans 12:2).
If we Missourians were so bold as to speak thus to the ELCA about their sexuality decisions and about their communion fellowship choices, things might be different. If the ELCA were so bold as to speak thus to Missouri about the oddity of lay people regularly preaching and celebrating the sacraments, things might be different. It is not that what we have said to one another in the past is wrong, it is not as pointed and truthful as this Orthodox priest spoke to those he also called friends in the faith.
Finally, even though he spoke this about the actions of the Presbyterian assembly, he was willing to work together in externals where faith was not compromised. Certainly this too is a lesson for those in Missouri who seem insistent upon eliminating any cooperation (in externals) with the ELCA.
Be careful whom you invite to your church conventions.... sometimes they might surprise you with a candid assessment, the truth spoken in love, and an honest confrontation of the differences that cry out to be addressed (instead of merely niceties exchanged)...