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Church in Wales urges WCC to distance itself from Russian Orthodox Church over Ukraine

Posted on: May 23, 2022 4:12 PM
A local resident walks past a church heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 28, 2022.
Photo Credit: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

The Church in Wales has called on the World Council of Churches (WCC) to distance itself from any members which have shown support for Russia’s “unprovoked war of aggression” in Ukraine, namely the Russian Orthodox Church. 

An emergency motion passed unanimously last month at the Church in Wales’ Governing Body in Newport last week urged the WCC to stand with the oppressed and work for peace, and to take “clear and appropriate action” against any member which supported the war. 

The Russian Orthodox Church is closely connected to the Russian government. Its head, Patriarch Kirill, is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, and has given his blessing to the Russian military action. 

The Bishop of Asaph, Gregory Cameron, a former Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, proposed the motion to the Governing Body. He told the meeting that there were few members of the church who were not “horrified” by the attacks on Ukrainians. He welcomed the WCC’s condemnation of the war and its voicing of support for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a critic of the war. 

“What has been disappointing has been the response of the Patriarch of Moscow himself, who has sided with President Putin, and who has become increasingly vociferous in toeing the official line,” Bishop Gregory said. 

“The Church in Wales’ view is that the war in Ukraine is an unprovoked war of aggression and we are asking the WCC to take appropriate action. We are asking Christians globally to take the stand for peace and to pray for repentance and reconciliation.” 

The motion stopped short of calling for the ousting of the Russian Orthodox Church from the WCC, a move the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Rowan Williams has said may be appropriate.

The Anglican Communion’s Director of Unity, Faith and Order, Dr Will Adam, said: “the relationship between Anglicans and the Russian Orthodox Church goes back centuries. There have been periods where this relationship has been warm and others where it has been cooler. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a personal representative to the Patriarch of Moscow, Canon Malcolm Rogers, who is also the Chaplain of the Church of England’s church of St Andrew, Moscow. Through this, and through personal links, Anglicans maintain contact with the Russian church even when times are hard.” 

The WCC is a fellowship of churches, denominations and fellowships from 120 countries, working towards global Christian unity. It represents about 580 million Christians around the world. The Central Committee of the WCC will next meet in June.