Friday, July 16, 2010

Orthodox priest offers gentle, but firm, admonition to Presbyterians

Bringing "ecumenical greetings" to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Fr. Siarhei Hardun of the Orthodox Church of Belarus was cordial, soft-spoken, but quite firm in admonishing the post-modern descendants of John Calvin about their embrace of what is known in polite circles as "moral relativism." Fr. Siarhei, however, used a different term.
“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? Is it 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).
Here is the video of the entire address.

Now, in case you're having a little trouble understanding why this address is such a big deal, Terry Mattingly at GetReligion dissects Fr. Siarhei's words.
So what is Father Siarhei saying? He is saying something highly offensive and potentially newsworthy, especially since some of the Presbyterians in the room applauded (I would assume because they understood his words and approved of them). He is saying that the divisions inside the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may be rooted in a clash between those who are heeding the God of the Bible and those who are hearing the voices of, literally, another god. He is asking if part of the assembly is, in a very real way, possessed by a false spirit.
One is reminded of similar sentiments expressed by Bishop John Rucyahana of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.