Disclosure of the application by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church for membership in the World Council of Churches was keyed to draw attention to an otherwise uneventful annual meeting of the WCC’s U. S. Conference in Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, last month.
Dr. Franklin Clark Fry, chairman of the 90-member, policy-making WCC Central Committee, announced that a letter requesting admission had been received from Patriarch Alexei of Moscow. A similar announcement was made simultaneously at World Council headquarters in Geneva.
Fry said the request would be acted upon early in the council’s Third Assembly scheduled to begin in New Delhi, November 18, along with applications from eight or more other churches. The other churches include two Pentecostal churches in Chile, and a Moravian church in South Africa.
Patriarch Alexei, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, listed 30,000 priests and 73 bishoprics inside the U.S.S.R., plus 20,000 parishes and 40 monasteries. The eight theological schools maintained by the church in Soviet territory were said to include two academies and six seminaries. No figures on church membership were given (estimates range from 30 to 90 million).
Favorable action on the Russian request was forecast. Fry urged admission of the Russian Orthodox on the ground that this step has less risk now than when the church was invited to the First Assembly in Amsterdam in 1948. Places were reserved at that meeting for Russian delegates.
“Nothing has occurred in the Russian church to make it less acceptable as a member in 1961 than it was in 1948,” he said. “A reversal in the World Council’s position would reflect an alteration in our outlook on ecumenicity.”
Fry declared that the Russian church will now ...1
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