Last week in Ecumenism class here at St. Vladimir's Seminary, we had a visit from Dr. Tony Kyriopoulos who represents the National Council of Churches. He was very nice and his presentation was very good and informative. However, the impression I got from the NCC and its mission leaves me with many concerns and reservations about the organization itself. Apparently I am not the only one with a gripe after this presentation. My fellow students also had something to say. Therefore I will be posting a multiple-part post on this subject which will begin with my own thoughts about this issue and will continue with posts from other students within my class. I think the issue deserves the attention since it affects us so much these days. I hope you all enjoy.
My Personal Thoughts of the Issue
It seems to me that out of all the ecumenical bodies that we have encountered in our class, the NCC is definately the most political in its agenda. Judging from Dr. Kyriopoulos' presentation, the NCC is heavily involved in lobbying for human rights issues, famine, genocide, and attacking the local Wal-Mart. This is all good and dandy but where is the theology? It seems that the "Faith and Witness Commission" of the NCC is just a bunch of guys sitting in a small room, fighting the good fight, actually talking about ecumenical issues. However, in the grand scheme of things, they only seem to serve the function of providing theological grounds for the NCC's political agenda.
Don't get me wrong, I think the influence of Christian values that the NCC imposes on the US government isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, I must ask the question: what makes this oragnization different from any other political lobby group? What makes it ecumenical is my question. In my opinion, ecumenism is about coming together to deal with the theological faith issues that separate us so that we may be one as Christ orders us to be one. This seems to be the step that the NCC has passed over. They have agreed that the theological issues will take years to resolve, so in the meantime, why not unite on common issues that we can all agree on (which are ironically the same ones Jews and Muslims would agree as well)and try to make a differnece through politics. I'm not sure that this is the proper goal for an ecumenical organization. I'm not sure that organizing boycots on Wal Mart has anything to do with the true Ecumenistic goal. And uniting on such issues, while avoiding the main problems, sends out the wrong signals to those who would criticize the Ecumenical movement. It shows that the churches are not truly interested in theological reconciliation, but that they are already united on the so-called "Contemporary issues" while avoiding the true issues that divide us. This breeds, I fear, a type of pseudo-union mentality where we become content to agree to disagree as long as we can work together for our mutual political agendas. I may be wrong in my take on this but this is what I got out of the presentation.