On October 20, the RCA’s Commission on Christian Unity (minus one member) met with representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (UOC-USA) at the Metropolia Center in Somerset, New Jersey. The commission met with His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA, and President of the Consistory, and his assistant. Their goal was to hear about experiences of the Russia–Ukraine war and its impact, both in response to the recommendation of the RCA’s 2023 General Synod and in light of the ongoing war of Russia against Ukraine.
General Synod 2023 directed the commission to meet with leaders of the UOC-USA, “to hear about the Ukrainian Orthodox experiences of the war in Ukraine, to consider further ways of supporting and partnering with the UOC-USA in war relief, and to offer the RCA’s expressions of solidarity and support, with our prayers of intercession and prayers for peace in an in-person setting” (Minutes of General Synod 2023, CU 23-1, page 194).
“We took time to pray with and for them, which is part of the support that they have requested on an ongoing basis from the RCA,” says commission member Anthony Elenbaas. “We explored together other options for what RCA support of the UOC-USA and the Ukrainian community could look like, including options for financial support and actions of solidarity, such as the use of our voice at the World Council of Churches.
“We were encouraged ‘not to let the lamp of support for Ukraine stop burning’ by continuing to tell the story and remind one another of this war—and so the need for prayer—as long as it may continue,” adds Elenbaas.
| Read the full meeting write-up from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
Previously, regarding the war in Ukraine, General Synod 2022 directed general secretary Eddy Alemán to write and distribute a letter to the World Council of Churches (WCC), “calling for the suspension of the Russian Orthodox Church from WCC membership until it repents of and retracts its support for Russia’s unprovoked, unjustifiable and brutally inhumane war against Ukraine” (MGS 2022, ONB 22-9, pp. 109-112).
Additionally, the Commission on Theology and the General Synod professorate were asked to determine if Russia’s actions called for a declaration of status confessionis, a full break in communion with Reformed or Lutheran bodies supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine. Reporting back in 2023, the commission “strongly encourage[d] the RCA to continue to call out the hypocrisy and disgrace of the Russian Orthodox Church, the illegitimacy of its claims to stand for Christian values, the criminality of commending sacrifice in the course of anti-Ukraine military duty as washing away all sin, and the extreme destruction that results from its identification of the Russian assault on Ukraine as a holy war,” and provided further details on status confessionis (MGS 2023, pp. 226-228).
The following prayer was offered by Kitt Jackson, member of the Commission on Christian Unity, at the meeting with the UOC-USA.
God of peace, God of mercy,
We come before you today with heavy hearts as we see so much sadness in the world.
We thank you for this time together to listen and to learn.
We lament the suffering and destruction in Ukraine—
…so many lives lost, people displaced, families torn apart, children taken away, whole cities destroyed.
O Lord, we pray for peace…for an end to the fighting and a just peace.
We pray for world leaders to take bold and courageous steps to help end this war and the conflict in the Middle East.
We lift up those who have welcomed refugees, offered support, and who speak up against the war and stand up against evil.
For those who have fled, grant sanctuary.
For those who have stayed, your protection.
For those who are fighting for their country, courage and strength.
For those who are wounded, healing.
For those who mourn, comfort.
For your Church and its leaders in Ukraine and here in the U.S., help us to be faithful witnesses and servants.
May all glory and honor be yours, Almighty God, now and forever.
We ask all of these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, now and forever. Amen.
Photo courtesy Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas