number 9, december 14, 1998

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Bulgarian Orthodox quit WCC

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has written to the WCC formally advising its April 1998 decision to leave the council, but Bulgarian Orthodox participants at the assembly in Harare have released a critical statement expressing their "pain" at the move.

The 27 November letter from Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria to WCC general secretary Dr Konrad Raiser said the church’s Holy Synod had "decided to discontinue its membership " and expressed thanks to the council "for the mutual contacts and the respective mutual aid so far".

He said the synod had acted to "safeguard the fullness of our holy church". It had "taken into consideration that the hopes from its (WCC) membership ... have not been fully justified, as well as the confusion of the Orthodox Christians in this country with that membership".

The statement from the seven Bulgarian Orthodox assembly participants said their church’s decision to withdraw from WCC "has been taken in the context of spiritual and moral tribulations, a long process of recovering from internal division, paralysed mission and interchurch relations".

"Hence the Holy Synod of our church has been unwilling to benefit from consultations with its own advisory bodies and constituencies. It even neglected the call of the Orthodox meetings at Thessalonika (April-May 1998) and Damascus (May) to stay and witness together with the sister Orthodox churches," they said.

But they also expressed greetings to the assembly from inter-church bodies in Bulgaria, and described these as "positive signs" that their church may renew and continue its ecumenical efforts.

The seven people who signed the statement included former WCC central committee member Dimiter Kirov, former WCC deputy general secretary Todor Sabev, and assembly advisors Ivan Dimitrov and Plamen Sivov.

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Read other articles in this issue:

Mandela to WCC: tribute, and the development goal
Four fundamental questions for churches
Experiences people have had: Living the ecumenical connection
Orthodox preachers shares testimony about being lost
Visitors take home gift of a covenant
Bulgarian Orthodox quit WCC
Looking for the vision
WCC to set up commission with Orthodox churches
Trees will be reminder of the 8th assembly
Listen! Children can work
Letters: Provocative, misleading
50 years ago: Report from Amsterdam
Zimbabwe Christians criticise government
WCC celebrates 50th anniversary
Assembly yes to Christian 'forum'

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor