The Russian Orthodox Church suspended its membership in the Conference of European Churches (CEC) until the adoption of the Estonian Orthodox Church (EOC, Moscow Patriarchate) into this international Christian organization. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said this from Cyprus, where the meeting of the Central Committee of the CEC ended.
“Today at a meeting of the CEC Central Committee, it was announced that the ROC suspends its membership in this organization. This decision was caused by the reluctance to consider the application for membership in the CEC of the Estonian Orthodox Church, which is a self-governing part of the Moscow Patriarchate,” said Chaplin.
At a previous meeting in November 2007, the CEC Central Committee adopted a positive decision regarding the application for membership of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EOC), which is part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The EAOC is established on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate and is not recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as by many other local churches of the world.
The application from the EOC came to the CEC later than the application of the EAOC and was submitted to the next meeting of the Central Committee. The KEC Secretary General was entrusted with the task of examining the compliance of the EPC with the criteria for membership in the KEC and “to prepare, in accordance with the current rules, a recommendation for decision by the Central Committee in 2008.”
“The EOC fully meets the criteria for membership in the CEC. This was confirmed in the report of the CEC delegation, which I entered and which visited Estonia in April this year, met with Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia Cornelius, the clergy of the EOC and representatives of other churches of the country,” Chaplin.
Based on the delegation’s final document, the CEC Secretary General Priest Colin Williams recommended that the EOC be accepted as a member of the CEC.
“However, this recommendation was immediately put on the shelves, since the president of the CEC, Pastor Jean-Arnold de Clermont, with the support of representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, began to delay the consideration of the EOC’s application for membership in the CEC. It was proposed to postpone the consideration of this application for an indefinite time,” the source said.
The delay was explained by the need to seek consensus and the lack of agreement in Estonia between the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates on the status of Orthodox jurisdictions. “All these were very weak justifications, since when the EAOC was accepted, no one demanded consensus. In general, the issue of canonical status has nothing to do with the criteria for membership in the CEC. These criteria are very simple: the church must accept the teaching of the Holy Trinity, baptize in the name of the Trinity, it should be independent of any church authority located outside Europe, etc., “said Chaplin.
Despite the fact that the day before he had put to the vote three times the question of accepting the EOC as a member of the CEC, a general discussion on this topic continued, and the vote was postponed until the last day of the meeting of the Central Committee, when many of its members were already absent. “Before the vote, the delegates of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and other Greek churches defiantly left the hall, as a result of which the quorum was violated and the voting did not take place,” the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate summed up. Now it becomes impossible for the ETC delegation to participate in the CEC assembly in Lyon next year.
“There is a bias in the leadership of the CEC, an absolutely unequal attitude towards the two churches that have the same grounds for membership, disrespect for the previous decision of the CEC Central Committee and the criteria for membership adopted in this organization,” Chaplin said.
“In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Estonia, the Russian Orthodox Church decided to suspend its membership in the CEC until the issue of accepting the EOC in this organization was positively resolved,” the source said.
He is convinced that the leadership of KEC, primarily President-Pastor de Clermont, is personally responsible for what happened.
“I’m afraid that there are political reasons behind this kind of bias,” Chaplin emphasized.
As a result, the role of KEC as a reconciling and unifying force is weakening, the organization is losing its historical mission – “to be a bridge between East and West.”
At the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church will continue its relations with the churches that are members of the CEC in order to jointly uphold and affirm Christian values in the life of modern Europe.
KEC, which unites the Orthodox and Protestant churches of the continent, was established in 1959. The Russian Orthodox Church joined this organization in the same year and still has not suspended membership in it.
CEC includes 126 Christian churches – Protestant, Orthodox, Old Catholic from all European countries. KEC was formed in 1959 during the Cold War in order to promote the reconciliation of the peoples of Europe, divided into eastern and western zones. The Russian Orthodox Church took an active part in creating the organization.