By Terry Mattingly
When two global religious leaders embrace one another, someone is sure to turn the encounter into a photo opportunity.
The photo-op on Nov. 7 was symbolic and, for many, historic. The elder statesman was the Rev. Billy Graham, and rather than an evangelical superstar, the man who met with him at his North Carolina mountain home was Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. This visit was linked to a Hilarion address to a Charlotte gathering of Protestant and Orthodox leaders, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
After generations of work with organizations such as the Episcopal Church and the World Council of Churches, the archbishop said many Orthodox leaders now realize that — on issues of sex, marriage, family life and moral theology — some of their ecumenical partners will be found in evangelical pulpits and pews.
“In today’s pluralistic world, the processes of liberalization have swept over some Christian communities. Many churches have diverted from biblical teaching … even if this attitude is not endorsed by the majority of these communities’ members,” said Hilarion, who is the Moscow Patriarchate’s chief ecumenical officer.
The most pressing current issue is the blessing of same-sex unions, which clashes with centuries of Christian tradition on marriage. The Orthodox cannot compromise on this point of doctrine, he stressed.
“The church has always been called to proclaim the truth of Christ and condemn sin, even in defiance of the demands of the society and ‘the powers that be.’ … How little does this resemble the discourse of today’s liberal Christians who seek to adapt the church to the standards of this world, to make it tolerant, not towards people, not towards sinners, but towards sin.”
Ironically, Hilarion’s visit to the United States took place during a semi-public debate about this very issue, on a youth-ministry website operated by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), which has Russian roots. At the center of the storm was an essay entitled “Never Changing Gospel; Ever Changing Culture” by Father Robert Arida. He serves as pastor of the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Boston, which has been praised on the Facebook page of the “Pro-Gay Orthodox Christians” network.
Read the rest of the article on the On Religion website.