Father Andrew Attends the NCCC General Assembly
By Anton C. Vrame, Ph.D.
Father Andrew Harrison was appointed to represent the Orthodox Church
in America at the National Council of Churches meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, November
14-17, 2000. Other members of the Orthodox delegation included Fr. Leonid
Kishkovsky/OCA Ecumenical Affairs, Fr. Oloff Scott/Antiochian Orthodox Church and
Bishop Demetrios/Greek Archdiocese.
The Orthodox delegation, which includes the Oriental Orthodox Church,
met for dinner at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Atlanta. Among the issues
discussed at this meeting were the increasing number of references, meetings and
activities of the Gay/Lesbian agenda. Rumors have surfaced of another attempt of the
Universal Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC - "The Gay Church")
for membership in the National Council of Churches.
There was a discussion about the downsizing of staff positions, which would mean the
elimination of the position held by an Orthodox Christian - Gabriel Habib. Monetary
pledges from Orthodox jurisdictions would help save the position. Fr. Leonid asked each
jurisdiction to pledge $2000. By the end of the meeting the Greek Archdiocese, OCA and
Armenian Archdiocese would be submitting their pledges.
At the General Assembly meeting Dr. Bob Edger, General Secretary of
the NCCC, reported on the informal meetings with the Roman Catholics and Evangelicals on
their possible membership in the NCCC. A date was determined in the spring of 2001 for
future dialogue. Representatives from the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal Church spoke at
Bishop George Anderson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is
arranging a trip to visit Christian Churches in Israel and occupied territories. He
asked for additional representatives from member churches that have a specific interest
in this area. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Church was
urged to follow-up on the details of this trip.
The financial situation was discussed. Seventeen of the thirty-five
body members have not yet contributed this year. Both Methodist and Presbyterian
Churches were the largest contributors. They are under pressure to reduce their
contributions. Other members will have to step up if NCCC programs are to be viable.
The Assembly was broken down into ten working groups to address the
question, "What innovative strategies should the members covenant on that would
effectively lead us toward achievable goals and objectives in the fight to end poverty,
especially as it impacts on children." The NCCC has adopted overcoming poverty as its
central agenda for the next ten years. The working groups created a time line to
mobilize and initiate programming of this task. An interesting comment was made by
several of the participants They questioned that if the sole purpose of the program on
poverty were to save the institution of the NCCC, then it will fail.
Several new Baptist denominations were admitted to the NCCC. When
the vote was taken for their admittance, several heads of member groups reminded the
Assembly that the "Gay Church" should be admitted. A controversy arose from other
members and there was disagreement on admitting them.
A resolution on the Middle East was made which condemns the
escalating cycles of violence involving Israeli forces and the Palestinians. It called
for all parties to immediately cease all acts of violence and the disproportionate use
of force by Israeli military including helicopters, tanks and heavy weapons against
civilian population in the occupied territories. It called on the NCCC to express
concern and prayerful support of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem and for the
self-determination of Palestinian people and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The last act of business held on Friday Morning before adjourning
was an apology by General Secretary Dr. Bob Edger for signing his name to a joint
statement prepared by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and National
Evangelicals regarding marriage. Specifically it made the point that marriage as a
sacrament is reserved for male and female union.
This apology was made because the NCCC had not discussed the issue
before he signed his name. It was evident that there was a tremendous amount of
pressure being made on member congregations by the Gay/Lesbian communities.