Archive for the ‘iraq war’ Category

re “10 Questions”

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

A response to the questions posed by Fr Hans Jacobse in this memo “10 Questions To Ask When Orthodox Peace Fellowship Visits Your Parish”

note: the original text by Fr. Hans Jacobse is posted on the Orthodoxy Today web site at:

>> In the document “A Plea for Peace,” OPF posits a doctrine of moral equivalence when it states that, “Saddam Hussein is an enemy of the United States and of the people of Iraq, but we declare that there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.” (

Thank you for including the URL of the OPF’s letter to President Bush. I recommend anyone interested in what the OPF said in its appeal to take a moment to read the letter through.

>> Is the US action in Iraq equivalent to terrorism?

Our letter said that “there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.” What are the hallmarks of terrorism? Surely the most central element is to attack and kill innocent people. We do not yet know how many innocent people (women, children, the pregnant, the aged, the infirm and other noncombatants) have been killed by the US-led war and subsequent occupation in Iraq, but we are talking about an immense number. It is the nature of aerial bombardment to cause numerous noncombatant deaths. Were bombs to be dropped on your town or neighborhood, how would you describe the results? Were you a survivor, would the word “terrorism” seem inappropriate? General Sherman said plainly, “War is hell.”

>> Are the US soldiers in Iraq terrorists?

While no doubt some US soldiers consciously committed acts of terrorism, as became public knowledge following the release of photos about the treatment of prisoners at such facilities as Abu Ghraib Prison, I think the signers of the OPF letter would share my view that soldiers are also victims of war, a war they did not wish for and in which relatively few would take part in voluntarily.

>> Is moral equivalence the governing moral doctrine in all OPF deliberations about warfare?

Our approach to the issue is not moral equivalence but to respond, according to our best understanding, to the example and teaching of Jesus Christ as provided to us in the four Gospels, the commentaries and writings of the Church Fathers, the witness of the saints, and the canons of the various Ecumenical Councils.

>> If so, were the Allied forces during WWII no different than the Gestapo? If not, is the pacifism underlying the doctrine of moral equivalence conditionally applied? What are the conditions? Does conditional application imply that in some cases warfare is just?

Though war crimes were committed by all sides in World War II, there was no branch of the allied armed forces that was in any way comparable to the Gestapo.

However the OPF letter does not address past wars. It was an appeal to President Bush not to launch a war on Iraq. But unquestionably some wars would be generally regarded as being, after a certain point, unavoidable. World War II is a case in point.

Neither does the Orthodox Peace Fellowship identify itself as a pacifist organization. On our web site, these paragraphs touch on the question of violence and war:

“Aspiring to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution, we promote resolution of conflicts by mediation, negotiation and other forms of nonviolent action.

“While no one can be certain that he or she will always find a nonviolent response to every crisis that may arise, we pray that God will show us in each situation ways of resistance to evil that will not require killing opponents.

“We offer support to those whose conscience leads them to refuse participation in war and who struggle against evil in non-military ways. We support their conscientious objection as consistent with the Gospels and Holy Tradition.

“The aspiration to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution is something all sane people have in common, yet few would say that they would never use violent methods to protect the innocent. All we can do is attempt to find ways of responding to injustice that are consistent with the Gospel. Clearly nonviolent methods are to be preferred to violent.”

Returning to your questions:

>> In the same document, OPF asserts that the American populace is “is untroubled by the slaughter of non-combatant civilians” and thus suffers from a “wounded…psyche…and soul” that must be treated by “psychiatrists and priests.”

It is remarkable how quotations assembled out of context can fundamentally distort the actual source. Here is the paragraph the snippets come from:

“Because we seek the reconciliation of enemies, a conversion which grows from striving to be faithful to the Gospel, the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good, and fighting an elusive enemy by means which cause the death of innocent people can be regarded only as murder. Individual murderers are treated by psychiatrists and priests and isolated from society. But who heals the national psyche, the wounded soul of a nation, when it is untroubled by the slaughter of non-combatant civilians?”

Noted that the final sentence is a question. When we look at how many soldiers who returned home from the war in Iraq ended up in states of deep depression, drug dependence and homelessness, or have taken their own lives, the urgency of the question raised in the OPF letter is only underlined.

>> Does OPF believe that support of the Iraqi war reveals a destructive pathology in American culture? What are the nature and symptoms of this pathology? Why does it require therapy and confession?

There is no suggestion in the OPF letter that American culture is pathological, but I think any Orthodox Christian would agree that, in every nation, we are all damaged people. Every structure and culture that human beings belong to inevitably reflects in various ways how damaged we are. No people has a monopoly on violence. None of us is not in need of healing.

>> In the article “The Mission of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship” featured prominently on the OPF website, the author states, “There should be a drive to recruit Orthodox teenagers into OPF. If we do not reduce the number of Orthodox entering the armed forces, how can we feel that we have made any real progress towards transforming the Orthodox Church into a true church of peace?”

There was no special “prominence” given to Timothy Beach’s letter, from which the quotation used here was extracted. It was published in the letters section of our quarterly journal, “In Communion.” Hundreds of other letters published in the same journal are given equal prominence on our web site.

Let me add, however, that it would be to the credit of the Orthodox Church if we were more renowned for being engaged in efforts to prevent war than in fighting in war.

>> Is it official policy of the OPF to keep young men from military service?


>> If so, is this intention revealed when OPF activists visit Orthodox parishes? If not, why is this view promoted on the OPF website?

We encourage young people to discover what God calls them to do — the discovery of one’s vocation — and to follow that calling once it is known. In that regard, it surely would be helpful for not only to young people but all of us to consider our vocation in the light of Jesus’ teaching about the Last Judgement? (See Matthew 25.)

>> Is it the intention of OPF to transform the Orthodox Church into an organization promoting pacifist ideals?

It is not for us to transform the Church but rather for the Church to transform us. In any event, the Church is not an “organization” but rather the Body of Christ.

As previously mentioned, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship rejects calling itself a “pacifist” group. Not only no we not require members to commit themselves not to take part in war, but we find the word “pacifist” problematic. While its Latin roots refer to peace and peacemaking, it sounds in English like “passive-ist” — not an attitude we would recommend as an adequate response to evil. Also, like many words with an “ist” ending, it sounds ideological. We promote no ideologies..

>> Fr. Alexander Webster argues in his book “The Virtue of War” that two parallel strands of thinking about war occur in the Orthodox tradition: 1) pacifism and 2) just war.

>> Does OPF agree with this thesis? Would OPF ever grant the possibility that sometimes war is a tragic necessity? If not, how would OPF propose that a tyrant like Hitler be stopped?

In the Roman Catholic Church one can find a section on “the just war doctrine” in any substantial catechism or other authoritative overview of Catholic teaching, though it must be noted significant adjustments were made to that doctrine by the Second Vatican Council in its final document, Guadium et Spes. If this was the Catholic Peace Fellowship (there is such a group) and were we to ignore it in any statement on war, criticism of our doing so would be entirely justified. But there is no such doctrine endorsed by the Councils recognized by the Orthodox Church. There are Orthodox writers and theologians who have embraced the just war doctrine in one form or another and even regard it as being implicit in Orthodox praxis, but for us implicit doesn’t cut the mustard. Orthodox teaching is that war is always sinful, though in some circumstances it may be the lesser evil. This is a far cry from regarding any war as just.

Regarding “The Virtue of War,” I recommend reading Fr. Andrew Louth’s review. It’s on our web site. See:

>> Has OPF ever received funding from the National Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches or any other organization associated with the left-wing of Protestant Christianity?

We have neither sought or received any funding from the National Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches. Our financial support comes from our members.

>> Pacifism is internally coherent although trying to impose pacifism on others would violate the doctrine. Sometimes a soldier dies in battle fighting a destructive enemy. A police officer may die fighting an evil-doer in order to protect others.

>> Does OPF believe the sacrifice of the soldier holds the same weight and value as the pacifist? What about the police officer?

Few OPF members would label themselves pacifists, so the question is not entirely relevant.

We would regard anyone who sacrifices his life for others, whatever his or her social role may be, as praiseworthy or even heroic. However, the death of a brave soldier in war would not necessarily validate the war in which the soldier was a participant. Many brave soldiers have fought and died in wars that would today be regarded as perfect examples of unjust wars. As for the adjective “destructive,” in war both sides are destructive. That’s the nature of war.

In Christ’s peace,

Jim Forest

Secretary, Orthodox Peace Fellowship

* * *

Christian Soldiers

Monday, October 6th, 2008

by Alex Patico

Returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan

A recent issue of the University of Minnesota’s alumni magazine noted that over five hundred of that university’s current students are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. The U’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs (named for a public servant whose career may have stopped short of the presidency primarily because his association with an earlier, divisive war) has embarked on a project in oral history to preserve the lessons of transition back into civilian life.

Done in collaboration with Minnesota’s National Guard, the project has found that the transition is often fraught with difficulty. Many of those who return find they have come back “a different person” — different both from those who did not experience war, and different from their own former selves. The relative invisibility of the war stateside is troubling. “There’s ordinary people dying and being blown up and burning to death while we sit here drinking coffee,” said Ross Hedlund, who served a year in Iraq. “I don’t think,” said Hedlund, “very many people care. The question,”Did you kill anyone?” is one that alarms the returnees, though it comes up often. This story is being repeated across the United States and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom and other countries that have sent troops. [See: "From Combat to Campus," by J. Trout Lowen, in Minnesota, Sep/Oct 2008]

Mennonite Project

Transforming the Wounds of War (TWOW) is a two-year project for religious leaders working with returning military veterans and their families building on programs already established at Eastern Mennonite University and its Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, including the Seminars in Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) and the Summer Peacebuilding Institute.

An Army-funded study found reports of “severe aggression” against spouses ran more than three times higher among Army families than among civilian families. Domestic violence shelters find that rates of domestic violence have risen. Incidents of child abuse and neglect by the noncombatant parent are three times normal rates when one parent is deployed. Although veterans of all wars constitute 11% of the US population, they represent 23% of the homeless. Veterans’ rates of alcoholism and drug addiction are significantly higher than among non-veterans. While the military does not track suicides once a soldier has been discharged, investigations of veteran suicides have discovered that in 2005 there were at least 6,256 suicides of veterans of this and past wars. This is a rate of 120 every week and an average of 17 every day for 2005.

This initiative will enable communities to develop skills and programs to assist veterans to work through the spiritual issues they face as a result of participating in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to facilitate their successful reintegration back into American society. Once fully funded, this two year project will train 300 religious leaders in 15 communities across the US, and will support a pilot community-wide integrated faith response in a large community.

The leader of the project is a PhD psychotherapist with experience in dealing with trauma, who has also worked as a hospital chaplain. [Contact: Center for Justice and Peacebuilding]

*The title is not to deny that many members of the military are atheists, agnostics or adherents to other faith traditions, but only to focus here on Orthodox Christians who may be in that status.

Forest Talk

At the recent OPF-North America Conference, OPF international secretary Jim Forest gave a presentation on the response of Orthodox Christians in times of war, beginning with Christ and the apostles. “The only one of his disciples to shed blood, a brave action performed in Christ’s defense by Peter,” Forest pointed out, “was immediately admonished by Jesus, ‘Put away your sword, for whoever lives by the sword will perish by the sword.’ His last miracle before his crucifixion was to heal the wound of the man whom Peter had injured. This compassionate gesture provides a powerful example of what Jesus meant in commanding love of enemies to all those attempting to his follow him.”

Forest quoted Hippolytus, one of the first bishops of Rome: “A soldier under authority shall not kill a man. If…ordered to, he shall not carry out the order..If he is unwilling, let him be rejected. He who has the power of the sword or is a magistrate of a city who wears the purple, let him cease or be rejected. Catechumens or believers, who want to become soldiers, should be rejected, because they have despised God.” He cited the theologian Origen: “Christians have been taught not to defend themselves against their enemies; and because they have kept the laws that command gentleness and love of man, they have received from God that which they would not have achieved if they were permitted to make war, though they might have been quite able to do so.” And, Clement of Alexandria: “The Church is an army which sheds no blood…In peace, not in war, we are trained…If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are His laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.” He talked at length about St. Martin of Tours, who came from a military background and yet came, by the age of twenty, to a point where he told the emperor: “Up to now I have served you as a soldier. Now let me serve Christ…I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.”

The talk traced the winding road of steady, but gradual dilution of the principle of non-combat. Even under the Emperor Constantine, who was a protector of Christianity, canons like this were written:

As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military belts, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit, so that some have regained their military stations; let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators. [Hearers and prostrators are categories of penitents who can be present, like catechumens, for the Liturgy of the Word, but are barred from the Eucharistic Liturgy.] But in all these cases it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretense, with fear, and tears, and perseverance, and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers…But those who take the matter with indifference, and who think the form of not entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfil the whole time.” (Canon XII, Council of Nicea, AD 325)

Forest talked, too, about St. Augustine and the “Just War” doctrine, which has actually never been embraced in the Eastern Church. Fr. Stanley Harakas, long-time professor of Orthodox Theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Massachusetts, studied the patristic record of many centuries and concluded, “For the Eastern Orthodox tradition war can be seen only as a ‘necessary evil,’ with all the difficulty and imprecision such a designation carries.” Forest ended with the admonishment: “Whatever choice we make, we must always bear in mind our responsibility to love even our enemies and to recognize Christ in the stranger.”

P.O.V. Documentary: Soldiers of Conscience

By special arrangement, through their community involvement outreach program, the documentary series P.O.V. (Point-of-View) made available to OPF a copy of one of their latest offerings, Soldiers of Conscience, for viewing at its late-September conference in Maryland.

This powerful documentary, by filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg, treats the question of conscientious objection in the context of the current war in Iraq. A project of Luna Productions and recipient of a Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grant, Soldiers follows several men who opted to reject their role in the military and to accept the consequences. While the focus is largely on what led each of them to make that determination, the producers were diligent in including other voices — representatives of U.S. Army public affairs, a gunnery sergeant charged with training recruits, a West Point professor who grapples with the moral and philosophical issues that grow out of the prosecution of a war. Footage of Iraq war combat depicts both the herding of frightened civilians out of their homes and the blowing up of a U.S. vehicle by an IED on a Iraqi street. The viewer is thus made to look at the issues from every side. (One can say that more of the victims of bombs or bullets shown are Iraqi, but of course that is also the reality of the overall conflict in Iraq.)


The individuals introduced to the viewer include:

* Josh Casteel, a self-described “cradle conservative” and former president of his local Young Republicans who served in the 202nd Military Intelligence unit. A graduate of ROTC and West Point, Casteel, still in his twenties, is now speaking against the war. “War is not fought,” he reminds us, “by or for ideas; it is fought by individual persons who possess human will.” (He interviewed prisoners in Abu Ghraib several months after the scandal over prisoner treatment erupted.) His application as a CO was eventually approved.

* Kevin Benderman, a mature man who served during the First Gulf War (though not in combat) and re-enlisted for the present conflict, has a long family history of military service. Two grandparents served in WWI, his father in WWII, an uncle in the Korean conflict and cousins in Vietnam; indeed, Benderman said, members of his family have been in the army “since there’s been a country.” He will serve 15 months in prison and be given a dishonorable discharge for his conviction on “missing movement by design” (failing to ship out a second time to Iraq, where he had served in combat).

* Specialist First Class Aidan Delgado was signing papers to enlist in the Army at the very time that planes were crashing into the twin towers on 9/11. Serving in the 320th Military Police, Delgado saw first-hand the techniques of interrogation that have been examined and re-examined in the press and in Congress. His CO status was recognized by the military.

* Camilo Mejia, a well-spoken Hispanic-American, was in Iraq with the 124th Infantry Division. Joining the military at age 19, he also took part in routines that included sleep deprivation, threats of death and other abuses before reaching his fateful decision. He was interviewed by Dan Rather on CBS’ Sixty Minutes while still on active duty. Mejia was later court-martialed and sentenced a year in prison and a bad-conduct discharge (he was released after less than ten months — for “good behavior”).

As affecting as the very human situations shown certainly are — the face of a nine-year-old girl terrified by a house-search conducted by rough and profane coalition soldiers with big guns, the shock of the up-armored humvee being smashed by a planted explosive, or the wearing tension of sniper duty in an unfamiliar city — the documentary also presents contextual information that is vital. It cites the first recognition of conscientious objection, in one of the first laws passed by the Continental Congress on July 18, 1775. The voice-over and shots of relevant documents make clear that the soldier must object to all war, in order to stand a chance of being granted status as a conscientious objector. We learn that in present-day Germany, which has a provision for mandatory public service, over half of those called now opt for conscientious objection, rather than entering the military of that country (80,000 out of 150,000 in 2004).

A particularly eye-opening segment quoted Gen. S.L.A. Marshall, Historian of the U.S. Army, in his finding that only one-quarter of the soldiers who were in a position to shoot an enemy in World War II actually managed overcome their reluctance to do so. Responding to that fact, the Army improved its conditioning of recruits, instituting “reflexive fire training” that would “by-pass the moral decision” that gave pause to the person with his finger on the trigger. By the time Korea came, 50-60% made (from the view of the military) the “right” decision; in Vietnam, shoot-to-kill rates reached 85-90%. Feedback from military commanders in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate that “people are more lethal than they ever imagined” possible.

What will stay with many of us who watched the documentary are the soliloquies of the objectors:

“I looked at [the detainees] and I saw my own unit, but with brown skin. I was not able to make the jump to turn those people into subhumans, but it is the nature of war to turn them into subhumans.” [Delgado]

“I found myself in the region that the historians say might have been the Garden of Eden. I asked myself ‘why am I carrying around an M-16 in the Garden of Eden?’…We figured out that human sacrifice was wrong. We decided that slavery was wrong. Maybe we will finally say that war is wrong.” [Benderman]

And, the voices of new recruits, responding to their boot-camp drill sergeant cheer-leader:

“Kill, kill, kill without mercy!!! Blood, blood, blood makes the green grass grow!!!”

[Soldiers of Conscience will air on most public television stations on October 16th at 9:00 pm (check local PBS listings for P.O.V.). For more information, visit: ]

* * *

American-Christian Theology and Support for War

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

by Greg Cook

Mine eyes have seen the glory

of the coming of the Lord:

He is trampling out the vintage

where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning

of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

– first stanza of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” by Julia Ward Howe

As I was walking from my home to the credit union the other day, I stopped to read a sign in front of the Baptist church down the street. One side read, “We support our troops and their mission — freedom!” The other side finished the thought: “Freedom is bought with blood — thank God for the Cross!”

I read the words over several times, committing them to memory so I could write them down accurately when I arrived home. The sentiments expressed on that sign frightened and exasperated me, especially in light of recent polls showing many U.S. Christians support the war in Iraq and approve of President Bush’s decision to proceed with conflict, even while many U.S. Christian denominational leaders speak out against war. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in its report, Different Faiths, Different Messages said, “Solid majorities of white evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics favored the U.S. taking military action to end Saddam Hussein’s rule. Support was strongest among Evangelicals, 77 percent of whom supported war, compared with 62 percent of Catholics and mainline Protestants. But only 36 percent of African-American Protestants supported military action, and seculars — respondents who said they were atheists or had no religious affiliation — divided evenly on the question (44 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed).”

These statistics reveal a great deal. Americans are a relatively religious people. The identification of nation with religion goes back to the roots of America. At first this was a Protestant phenomenon, but over time the Roman Catholics and Orthodox have had to face the question: does American or religious identity come first? And, is America a Christian nation? The Orthodox Church condemns the placing of national identity over faith in Christ as the heresy of phyletism. Despite this, nationalism and faith have often gone together, prompting Bishop Kallistos Ware to write, “Nationalism has been the bane of Orthodoxy for the last ten centuries.” (The Orthodox Church, 1997, p. 77)

But in America the problem has been different, because although Protestantism has arguably dominated the nation’s religious landscape since its founding, it might also be said that nationalism has dominated all faiths since the beginning. Fr. Alexander Schmemann addressed that problem in the 1960s. He wrote, “How can we live our Orthodox faith which claims the totality of our existence within a culture which also claims to shape our existence?” (The Mission of Orthodoxy, Conciliar Press: 1994, p. 4)

The question of whom we serve becomes most pertinent in this context. The dilemma is apparent in the Black Christian community, where support for the war is low compared with other Christian groups. I believe it is the legacy of slavery which acts as a damper on Black Christian support for war. Slavery and subsequent oppression taught a different lesson than that learned by white American Christians who bought in to the theology of triumphalism and nationalism.

I am a former evangelical Protestant with a Roman Catholic mother who grew up in a mainline Protestant church. I have known countless Protestant men and women who were doing their best to live a Gospel-centered life, hence my perplexity at significant numbers of evangelicals and other American Christians supporting the war on Iraq. How, I ask myself, can support for war coexist with fidelity to Christ, the Prince of Peace?

One day I happened to be flipping channels on the television when I happened upon a commentator on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (owned and run by Protestant charismatics), heap scorn on those who oppose war on Iraq. This was followed by a man singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a song made famous during the Civil War and resurrected since 9/11 as a new sort of national anthem.

Finally, I thought about a recent Newsweek magazine story about George W. Bush and his faith and wondered how Mr. Bush (who, during the 2000 election campaign, famously claimed Jesus as his favorite philosopher) can believe that a pre-emptive attack on Iraq is not only legal but part of his Christian duty? The answers, I believe, can be uncovered by examining U.S. history, history influenced by many strands of theology—most of them heretical.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,

They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:

His day is marching on.

(Howe, stanza 2)

The fruit of heresy and schism is more heresy and schism. Take for example the Puritans and Presbyterians, Calvinist congregationalists who broke away from the Churches of England and Scotland, themselves schismatic entities ripped from the Roman Catholic Church. These Calvinists applied themselves diligently to make their new homeland truly “God’s country” by transforming the wilderness, killing or civilizing the native population, improving morals by regulating society and establishing schools to teach the Bible and other godly subjects. They wanted to make their commonwealth a “City on a Hill,” a reference to Matthew 5:14. Their successes led them to believe God was on their side with America as a new Israel. One of their intellectual and spiritual descendants, Woodrow Wilson, summed up the Calvinist worldview like this: “The world can be at peace only if the world is stable, and there can be no stability where the will is in rebellion, where there is not tranquility of spirit and a sense of justice, of freedom and right.” But many of the Calvinists’ descendants slipped into liberalism, Unitarianism (like Julia Ward Howe) or free-thinking skepticism. It was up to a new movement to help restore faith in Americans.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:

“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;

Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,

Since God is marching on.”

(Howe, stanza 3)

John and Charles Wesley are fascinating figures: Church of England priests with some Calvinist influence, scholars familiar with a wide range of secular and sacred literature, tireless evangelists and organizers. Their frustration with the low spiritual state of the English church in the 18th century led them to organize religious societies, united groups of men and women sharing the experience of a new birth in Christ and dedicated to methodically living as Christians. Evangelical Protestantism as we know it today (a personal born-again experience, human free-will, emphasis on the Bible, etc.) can mostly be traced to the Wesley brothers and their Calvinistic colleague George Whitefield: all three evangelized America, leading to great revivals; however, the result was not a renewed Anglican Church, but a whole new denomination — the Methodists. Soon enough, because of issues of slave-holding, women’s rights, temperance and the various “holiness” doctrines the Methodists split into many groups.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:

Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

(Howe, stanza 4)

America is a country built by war, including numerous campaigns over 250 years to eradicate American Indians or force them onto reservations, the Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican-American, Civil War and Spanish-American. All these wars contributed to the expansion of American territory. Nineteenth century America came to believe in “Manifest Destiny,” a doctrine based on the assumption the United States was expanding because of God’s favor. Logic then dictated that America’s enemies were God’s enemies. Twentieth century wars showcased the U.S. as a world power. Wilson (the son of a Presbyterian minister) foresaw the next step: world-wide American involvement leading to a new moral order. The rise of communism helped solidify the beliefs of many American Christians (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox): they lived in a free, God-favored nation, and part of their duty as American Christians was to support the American government against the godless communists. To be American and Christian became nearly synonymous. When Christians like Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Archbishop Iakovos marched for civil rights or decried the Vietnam War they were seen by many as unpatriotic and pro-Communist and their faith was questioned.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.

(Howe, stanza 5)

Evangelical Protestant theology in the 21st Century focuses on a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior.” That is the ticket to heaven. Other matters, such as wars, just governance and social justice, take a back seat to that personal relationship, a personal relationship manifesting our culture’s rampant individualism. Non-evangelicals, while not necessarily subscribing to that theology, set aside their faith’s call to fidelity in favor of American identity. By interpreting the Bible outside the patristic tradition, Mr. Bush and his followers justify war, capital punishment, and economic injustice here and abroad. (For example, new heresies such as “Dispensationalism” and belief in “The Rapture” help legitimize support for Israel against the Palestinians.)

Instead of looking for wisdom in the church fathers, nationalistic American Christians put their faith in God’s special plan for the country and trust a President they see as one of their own. Hence the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest single conservative Protestant denomination, supports the pre-emptive attack on Iraq. The SBC website recently profiled a Navy pilot involved in Iraq and how he prays and recites scripture as a good Baptist Christian. That profile is titled, “God & Country, Foundations of a Patriot’s Faith.” On the same site SBC president Dr. Jack Graham mentions that “President Bush’s autobiography, ‘A Charge to Keep,’ is titled from an old hymn written by Charles Wesley that says:

A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify,

A never-dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill;

Oh may it all my pow’rs engage, to do my Master’s will!

Those who support the President and his lead to war believe that “To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill” is their duty as patriotic American Christians and truly their “Master’s will.” Alas that American ears too often hear the strident call of heresies and not the true teachings of Christ’s body, the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Could it be that war supporters have used the mute button on the gospel while turning up the volume on the beating war drums? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6: 21) Where is America’s treasure? In the gospel admonition to seek peace, or in the ability to wage war on those it finds dangerous?

Greg Cook is a writer who lives in the Puget Sound region of Washington State with his wife and their three cats. Some of his memorable experiences include working as a cook aboard an aircraft carrier during the Iran hostage crisis, studying geopolitics at Syracuse University, and being homeless in upstate New York. He is a member of Holy Resurrection parish near Tacoma, Washington.

Copyright by the author.

Continuing debate about the OPF’s Iraq Appeal

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

In March 2003 the North American section of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship sent President George Bush an appeal to not to launch a war against Iraq. The text of that appeal and the list of signers (plus statements by several Orthodox hierarchs) is posted on this web site.

In the November 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine, there is an article by Fr. Patrick Reardon sharply criticizing the OPF’s Iraq Appeal.

Here are several responses to Fr. Patrick’s essay.

To the editor of Touchstone:

It is no easy thing to reply to Fr. Patrick Reardon’s long essay, “Not So Quiet on the Eastern Front.” I am reminded of a line in the film “Amadeus” in which the emperor’s one mild criticism of a Mozart opera is that it contained “too many notes.” I am trying to avoid preoccupation with particular “notes” in his essay and instead to respond to its main themes.

One theme is Fr. Pat’s a critique of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s Iraq Appeal, issued prior to the U.S. attack on that country.

He describes the OPF Iraq Appeal as a pacifist document and refers again and again to a pacifist ethos, pacifist ethic, etc. But our Iraq Appeal did not refer wars in general. It was a statement objecting to a pre-emptive war against Iraq.

If the designation “pacifist” is understood as a description of people who condemn and oppose all war, then the Orthodox Peace Fellowship is not a pacifist association. Our statement of purpose includes these sentences:

“Members of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship try to use life-protecting methods to safeguard life and creation…

“Using our vocation and whatever special gifts and resources God has given us, especially our participation in eucharistic community, we strive to undertake constructive action on behalf of those who are endangered, from the womb to old age…

“Aspiring to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution, we promote resolution of conflicts by mediation, negotiation and other forms of nonviolent action…

“While no one can be certain that he or she will always find a nonviolent response to every crisis that may arise, we pray that God will show us in each situation ways of resistance to evil that will not require killing opponents…

“We offer support to those whose conscience leads them to refuse participation in war and who struggle against evil in non-military ways. We support their conscientious objection as consistent with the Gospels and Holy Tradition…”

The full text is on the OPF web site at

The word “pacifism” poses the additional problem of sounding like “passive-ism.” But no Christian is permitted to be passive in the face of evil. As do several words with “ism” endings, it also suggests an external ideology rather than an effort to be regarded as children of God, a blessing which Christ our Lord promised to peacemakers in the Beatitudes of the Gospel.

In our statement we declared that “the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good.” We did not say that Orthodox Christians have never gone to war or that Orthodox pastors and hierarchs never blessed those who fought in war or that Orthodox Christians are immune to the ideologies of the particular societies in which they live. Certain wars have been seen, if not as just or good in themselves, as a lesser evil. As far as I am aware, however, the Church has always regarded war, even when there appeared to be no nonviolent alternative, as inevitably implicating those who take part in profoundly tragic, even horrific events that could not possibly be described in positive moral terms.

Fr. Pat objected to the use of the word “murder” in the Iraq Appeal. We used the term twice, first in referring to Saddam Hussein (“He came to office by intrigue and murder, and remains in power by the same means; he is his own country’s worst enemy. The Iraqi people deserve to be rid of him.”) and then again in remarking that the killing of noncombatants is murder. The alternatives — for example “collateral damage” — bring us into the world of agnostic Newspeak.

Our statement went on to ask the question: “Individual murderers are treated by psychiatrists and priests and isolated from society. But who heals the national psyche, the wounded soul of a nation, when it is untroubled by the slaughter of non-combatant civilians?”

By “murder” we meant the killing of non-combatants, whether intended or a consequence of targeting non-military objectives. In modern war, it is the very old, the very young and the ill who are the most frequent casualties. It is true that to speak about such killing is profoundly distressing, not least for those, like Frank Schaeffer, who have sons or other family members involved in the fighting. The comfort the Church brings us is the good news of the kingdom of God and the good news of Christ’s victory over death. But in many regards the Church very often discomforts us with a Gospel that requires us to be poor in spirit, to grieve, to forgive, to bear the cross, to care for the least person, not to serve two masters, to turn the other cheek, etc. Just to look at an icon of Christ is often to be made profoundly uncomfortable, realizing the great extent I fail to follow his example or embrace his Gospel in daily life. We often fail to recognize our sins until someone holds us to account for ourselves. We readily deceive and delude ourselves.

A major theme in Fr. Pat’s essay is the idea that God has entrusted the United States of America with a divine mission. He refers approvingly to those who believe “that the Lord of history has laid on the United States of America, now and for the foreseeable future, a unique charge with respect to the preservation of world stability and the well-being of mankind.”

There is, of course, much that is admirable about the United States, but I find it hard to believe that Fr. Pat really buys into the idea that America is the new Zion. Do I misread him? For me, draping the Cross with any national flag is an act of idolatry. I believe we serve our homeland best by being painfully aware of the many ways it falls short of the demands of the kingdom of God, keeping in mind that He whom we are attempting to follow said plainly that His kingdom was not of this world.

Another theme in Fr. Pat’s essay concerns U.S. motives. He wrote: “…in many respects the United States was coerced into this international duty by reason of having decently intervened on behalf of friends, selflessly but with great reluctance, in wars that were not of its own making.”

If U.S. motives for overthrowing the Hussein regime and occupying Iraq were humanitarian, there is a long list of other countries whose tyrants America would be obliged to overthrow even more urgently than Hussein. But I think U.S. motives in Iraq — as Fr. Pat also suggests — had more to with that country’s oil reserves than concern for human rights. Indeed, the U.S. has often supported — even set up — states notorious for massive violations of human rights.

Another theme in the essay is the surrounding culture’s challenge to the Orthodox Church to adapt itself to the American ethos in order to make it a more attractive choice for those who might in the future become Orthodox Christians. I share Fr. Pat’s hope that increasing numbers of people will embrace Orthodoxy Christianity, but I believe it will happen not because Orthodox Christians become model patriots but rather because we become better Christians. Simply to live the Gospel — is this not what Christ asks us to do? Wherever we are? No matter in what country or time? Yet there is hardly a word in Fr. Pat’s essay about the example or words of Christ beyond a passing reference to turning the other cheek.

If anyone in the Church is obliged to be a man of peace, it is the priest. The canons require that those who serve at the altar should have killed no one, not even by accident or in self-defense. Why is it that those most responsible for the Church’s sacramental life must not be guilty of causing the death of another human being? This is a question Fr. Pat can probably answer better than I. Surely one dimension of this canonical principle is that it must have an inward as well as outward reality: the priest should be innocent not only of actual killing but of murderous thoughts or words which could inspire others to kill.

Christ told us that He came “to give life and to give it abundantly.” We learn from the Gospel and through the Liturgy to regard each person, however damaged, as a bearer of the divine image and as someone who may yet find the path to salvation. Thus we struggle to save lives insofar as we are able — whether unborn children or even the lives of our enemies. As the Paschal hymn declares, “Let us call ‘brothers’ those who hate us and forgive all by the Resurrection.”

In Christ’s peace,

Jim Forest

secretary, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

November 5, 2003

I write as Coordinator for the North American chapter of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in the period when we drafted the “Plea for Peace.” It was our hope that the document would remind readers of the obligation to safeguard the sacred gift of life in the context of the Iraq crisis. Fr. Patrick Reardon’s essay suggests that we did not succeed in making this point as effectively as we had hoped.

The OPF’s testimony against abortion offers a similar witness to the sacred nature of life. Note our recent appeal to Orthodox Senators Sarbanes (Democrat, Maryland) and Snowe (Republican, Maine) asking them to reconsider their votes against the ban on partial birth abortion. Here too our letter reminded them of “our Church’s teaching that all human life is sacred.” We hope Touchstone will report on our letter in its news section.

With Newton, I feel like a child gazing with wonder at an ocean of truth. If life is sacred, what does it means to kill a child? Or a civilian? If “murder” means only killing particular people with deliberate intent, our critics are right to contend that our use of “murder” in the OPF’s Iraq Appeal was too strong. But we know Christ lives in the least person. If each person is created according to the image and likeness of God, and our Lord tells us that anything we do to the least, we do to Him, may the word “murder” say too little?

Are we who not, as people who venerate icons, heirs to a theology whose beauty and depth we may never exhaust? Is “Christ in our midst” not only in our liturgy, but in our enemies?

On this last Sunday of Orthodoxy I watched children carry icons to celebrate the victory over iconoclasm. Suddenly I saw not single icons, but pairs: one wooden, one living. At that moment, as we set about to kill living icons in Iraq, I dared to wonder, “Who are the real iconoclasts? Ancients who destroyed wooden icons? We who kill living ones? All of us together? Is a living icon less sacred than a wooden one?”

War, like abortion, dehumanizes brothers and sisters. Some days ago a priest kindly gave me an article in the National Review, “Ministers of War,” in which a chaplain explains that “to prepare soldiers to… kill [the enemy],… they must believe… they are not personally connected with [them], but are acting solely as disinterested agents of the state.” I was as mesmerized as when seeing children as icons, but this time by horror. I thought of the saying of one the Desert Fathers: “I have spent the last twenty years of my life trying to see all humanity as one.”

In this age of ever more terrible weapons of mass destruction, has recognition of the mystery of the sacred character of life ever been so urgently needed? Has it ever been so clear that W. H. Auden was right to say our choices are to love one another or die? Can a faith that sees the icon of Christ in every person and in all creation open our eyes to see enemies in a transforming way?

John W. Oliver

John W. Oliver is Professor Emeritus of History at Malone College, Canton, Ohio.

To the editor of Touchstone:

I am writing in response to Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s article in the November issue of Touchstone. As always, Fr. Pat’s writing was very thought-provoking. However, I will limit my reply to four observations.

Fr. Pat noted that it seemed “that the percentage of those opposed to the invasion of Iraq was higher among the Orthodox than in the American population as a whole.” I will summarize the three possible reasons he listed for this: I) many American Orthodox of Middle Eastern origin share a common historical experience with Muslims; ii) many Orthodox have a great distrust of anything that even faintly resembles a Western invader heading toward the East; iii) the ascetical ideals of Eastern Christianity constantly encourage recourse to non-aggressive ways of dealing with conflict.

I would like to propose a fourth possible reason. Many, if not most, of the Orthodox Christians in America have either experienced the truth of the dictum “War is hell” first hand in their country of origin or they have relatives who have survived to tell them clearly what a war does to a nation over which it is fought. At least one of the lessons of the Civil War seems to have been lost from the consciousness of most Americans.

Later in the article, Fr. Pat listed some of the reasons given for the war against Iraq, and went on to say that “the Orthodox who favored (sic) going to war did so for the same reasons as other American citizens.” I will not here discuss the relative merits of these reasons.

Since these stated reasons for war have no overt reference to the Orthodox faith but very specific references to issues of national survival, I believe this demonstrates that those Orthodox who supported the war in agreement with non-Orthodox Americans have done so on the basis of national interests and their American identity. Conversely, those Orthodox who chose to oppose the war made a moral decision based on their Orthodox faith. Fr. Pat tacitly acknowledged this himself by mentioning “Orthodoxy’s disposition toward war” in general and, in particular, the ascetical ideals of Eastern Christianity which CONSTANTLY encourage recourse to non-aggressive ways of dealing with conflict. This raises the very serious question of where our ultimate allegiance ought to lie. One way of reading Fr. Pat’s article is that if church and state disagree on an issue, the option of obeying the state and disregarding our hierarchs is a perfectly acceptable one.

“Many Orthodox Christians began to wonder, therefore, if their own church, thus committed to a pacifist ethic so out of step with American history (if not incompatible with American patriotism), could ever hope to be more than a fringe religion in this country.”

In the issue of the Saint Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly Fr. Pat cited, Nikolas K. Gvosdev urged Orthodox thinkers not to isolate their moral reflections from practical political discourse by too great an emphasis on ideals. If we begin to abandon the ascetical ideals of Eastern Christianity with regard to war, why should we expect to be taken seriously in other matters such as sexual morality or the sanctity of human life? If one part of the Church’s teaching may be called into question when it is deemed to be unpalatable to Americans, why not other issues which conservative Christians hold dear? And if American history and American patriotism are to be the features which define the Orthodox mission to America, what will the Holy Orthodox Church have to offer America other than reheated americanisms? Balanced missionary sensitivity is commendable, but a faithful witness to the Orthodox faith also requires a call to repentance.

The final issue I would like to address is the one Fr. Pat raises about the role of America in world history. On this point at least, we are in utter agreement. I am grateful that it was America and not the Soviet Union which prevailed in the twentieth century. However, one need not search the Scriptures long to find what usually befalls those nations which God raises up to use as instruments. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, and yes, even the Romans have played their role and been discarded. Even within modern times we can see the peril inherent in shouldering the “white man’s burden.” Within fifty years of Kipling’s 1899 poem, the sun had set upon the British Empire. Serious Orthodox evangelism in America may not succeed in bringing America to Orthodoxy, but may God have mercy on us all if we fail to present the truth of Orthodoxy to America due to the idols of “American history” or misguided patriotism.


Peter Brubacher

Orthodox Americans, the OPF, and Iraq

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

by Michael G. Azar

Desires for international peace which do not comprehend a state of international justice…are nothing else but a participation in international crime.

–Alexander Tsirindanes

Orthodox Americans continue to struggle deeply with the issues raised in these words, as illustrated by the recent conflict in Iraq. In general, Orthodox Christians agree that international peace and international justice remain necessities at the very core of Christian teaching, but, as the recent war indicates, Orthodox Americans have diverged over which path remains best to take when pursuing a state of international justice and international peace. These diverging patterns warrant some reflection.

Reason and Methodology

The proper relationship between faith and politics is constantly becoming a quandary of increasing importance to Orthodox Christians in the United States as they become more imbedded into the sociopolitical discourse of this country. Since September 11, 2001, Christians of all traditions have progressively struggled to use the teachings of their faith to speak out both for and against the foreign endeavors of the Bush Administration. Orthodox Americans have joined in this struggle as well, particularly in the recent controversy surrounding the war in Iraq, as is evident by the actions of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship (OPF) in the opening months of 2003 and the subsequent reaction from Orthodox Americans. In January 2003, the OPF issued a statement that called on the United States to seek a path other than military strikes on Iraq. This statement found many impassioned responses from Orthodox Americans, both in praise and condemnation. Centered on the OPF statement and the subsequent reaction, this essay explores both how Orthodox Americans thought about the recent war and the conclusions many of them reached. In short, this essay investigates how some Orthodox Americans have expressed their faith in politics and politics in their faith.

This project is not intended to be a comprehensive study; thus, in my research, I did not conduct a formal and complete survey. I simply gathered opinions about the war and related issues from various Orthodox Americans. The pattern of research that I followed has become the outline for the essay below: I explored the history of the OPF, issues of war and peace in the Orthodox tradition, and then the OPF Iraq Appeal itself. Subsequently, I researched three articles that were published in response to the statement together with responses to these articles from OPF members. Eventually, I sent a list of survey questions about the issues at hand to people I contacted personally and to three discussion groups: the OPF’s email list, the popular Orthodox discussion list on the Indiana listserv, and I originally intended to include more information from the responses I received, together with a more thorough summary of the opinions expressed, but I eventually came to focus mainly on one response, for reasons discussed below.

The History of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

Our fellowship exists to give witness that peacemaking is something absolutely ordinary. It is an integral part of everyday life. It has to do with how we pray, for whom we pray, how we listen, how we speak, what we do with our anger and frustration, our willingness to forgive, and our attempts to serve as a bridge between those who hate each other.

–Jim Forest, OPF Secretary

The OPF has been founded twice: The first was during the Vietnam War, and the second, which led to its present form, was in 1986. Its history goes back to Mariquita Quita, whose own personal history is a research project in itself. In 1962, while residing in Nyack, NY, she joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which was founded during World War I as an association of people from various churches and religious traditions who shared a commitment not to take part in war and instead committed themselves to nonviolent work to overcome the causes of war. One key member was Martian Luther King Jr.

In 1968, she crossed paths with two recent graduates of St. Vladimir’s Seminary: Fr. John Townsend and Fr. Stephen Plumlee, and with the support of FOR with whom they became increasingly acquainted, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship was founded, modeled after FOR. Nevertheless, for many reasons, including the failure to obtain hierarchical approval and the uneasiness that the antiwar movement and the notion of conscientious objection caused among the St. Vladimir’s faculty, the OPF waned in its infant years. As Jim Forest, the current secretary of the OPF, notes,

While all the details of the OPF’s collapse in the first round are not clear, what is obvious is that, although Orthodox Christians in the US were increasingly disturbed by the war in Vietnam, there wasn’t yet enough of a consensus about how best to respond to the issue of war for an Orthodox peace group to take root, especially if conscientious objection to war was obligatory for its members.

In 1986, the OPF was reborn, and its members drafted a statement of purpose. Footnote Jim Forest took charge in 1989, and one of his concerns was the creation of an advisory board mainly composed of clergy from various jurisdictions: “This was undertaken,” he comments, “both because we saw the need for guidance and also so that it would be clear that OPF is rooted in the universal Church — not simply one segment of the Church — and has the support of a number of highly respected people.” The first hierarch to join the advisory board was Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia.

The major tasks of OPF, as formulated in the past decade include many elements: publications, such as their journal In Communion; theological research; Footnote encouraging the formation of local, national, and regional OPF groups; practical assistance in areas of conflict; the organizing of OPF lectures and retreats; representing a consistent pro-life ethic; and speaking out on matters of controversy, concerning which Forest notes,

We do little of this but a recent example was the OPF Iraq Appeal, written when war with Iraq seemed increasingly likely. It was signed by many bishops, priests and lay people and was corroborated by independent statements issued by Orthodox Churches and individual hierarchs around the world. It continues to stir valuable discussion in the Orthodox community.

The remainder of the present essay will explore the valuable discussion that this appeal has since spurred.

War and Peace in Orthodoxy: A Brief Note

I supported and do support the war. My stand is based on a lifetime of living my faith and loving my country. I add to such faith and life experience knowledge regarding the Bible and Church Fathers.

–Teresa, Orthodox Christian Mission Center

I opposed going to war with Iraq…. I believe that the Savior’s teachings are clear. I also believe that the Church’s traditional stance is valid. The righteous cannot be aggressors. We have the right to defend ourselves and our homeland, but not invade another based on flimsy evidence.

–Archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America

I was and am a supporter of the Iraqi war based on the doctrine of preemption. Sadly the Orthodox Church provided me with no clear moral compass with regard to the war.

–George, layperson of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

In the discussions among Orthodox Americans following the release of the OPF Iraq Appeal, frequent reference was made to the Orthodox Church and its historical stance toward war. In my research, I intended to include information about war and peace in the tradition of the Orthodox Church, but I soon found this to be a task outside of my reach. Therefore, I have included only a few brief notes about the topic.

Whether or not the Orthodox Church has historically held a favorable stance toward war, be it temporal or eternal, remains a highly disputed question. Nevertheless, Orthodox authors do have one statement of acquiescence: The Orthodox Church has never had any tradition of a “Just War Theory” as in the West. In addition, of all the historical sources to which people have appealed in order to support their positions, Canon 13 of the “canonical epistles ” of St. Basil the Great remains the most frequently cited:

Our fathers did not reckon killings in war as murders, but granted pardon, it seems to me, to those fighting in defense of virtue and piety. Perhaps, however, it is advisable that, since their hands are not clean, they should abstain from communion alone for a period of three years.

In discourses covering war and peace in Orthodoxy, this quote from St. Basil has become the focus of more exegesis than the Bible itself.

With those brief points being made, I have provided two sources in the bibliography for further exploration into the issue: (1) An Orthodox Peace Witness? (2001) by John Erickson and (2) Justifiable War as a ‘Lesser Good’ in Eastern Orthodox Moral Tradition (2003) by Alexander Webster. One must keep in mind when reading these sources that John Erickson was a signer of the OPF Iraq Appeal and Alexander Webster was an outspoken critic.

OPF Iraq Appeal

I found [the OPF Iraq Appeal] to be more uninformed dribble from anti-war people. To be honest I found it disturbing. How do you propose we get rid of Saddam? What do you think of those mass graves over there? That’s what inaction does! I’m against the war because we went for lies not for the just cause of killing an evil tyrant. Evil must be confronted not talked with or scolded with a harsh word. I will not sign that list!

–Glen, layperson of Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, veteran of first Gulf War

The OPF statement — like most statements — was good but not perfect given the imprecision of the English language. Its scope was limited to condemning the pre-emptive war against Iraq and the inevitable consequences of that war…. Many of us would support the defense of our earthly homeland, but I think it safe to say very few of us felt this pre-emptive attack was wise or in keeping with the principles of international law, let alone the Gospel of Christ…

–Greg, member of OPF

I cannot believe that so many fine people signed on to a statement that demonstrates so little thinking that it could be mistaken as the musings of indoctrinated college students.

–Anonymous Orthodox priest in the United States

I put my name to [the OPF statement] early on and I still stand by it. It is eloquent and thoroughly Orthodox.

–John, Reader in Orthodox Church in America

Appendix 2 contains the OPF Iraq Appeal in full, thus it is unnecessary to include it at length here; it is also web posted at However, I will highlight four particular lines in the OPF statement that produced an important amount of critical response:

1: “As Orthodox Christians, we seek the conversion of enemies to friends in Christ. Saddam Hussein is an enemy of the United States and of the people of Iraq, but we declare that there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.”

2: “The United States is ready to overthrow him by any means…”

3: “…the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good…”

4: “…fighting an elusive enemy by any means which cause the death of innocent people can be regarded only as murder…”

These comments spurred more controversy than any other portions of the statement. In the months following the release of this statement, Orthodox Internet discussion sites witnessed ever-increasing criticism directed toward the statement, the OPF in general, and even Jim Forest himself. As one person comments,

OPF statement is egregiously simplistic, unsophisticated, uninformed, inaccurate, misleading, ideologically skewed, deeply offensive to men and women in the U.S. armed forces, not truly reflective of our own Orthodox moral tradition, irresponsible, and spiritually dangerous — irrespective of who happens to have signed it…. In short, I consider the OPF Statement on Iraq a new low in the OPF’s public moral witness, and I pledge to oppose it and the dubious ideology that it represents with all the moral means at my disposal.

To say the least, the statement produced a strong reaction: In summary, the countless posts that Orthodox Americans made to the Internet sites include these basic critiques (respective to the numbering above):

1. The statement accuses US intervention of being equivalent to terrorism.

2. The statement suggests that the US will be willing to use unreasonable and unrestrained means against Saddam Hussein.

3. The statement untruthfully notes that the Orthodox Church has never taken a favorable stance toward war in the past.

4. The statement identifies US soldiers as murderers.

Each of these criticisms frequented the published responses to the OPF Iraq Appeal as well.

Three Published Responses

Francis Schaffer “Stripped of Spiritual Comfort”

In this article (first published in the April 6, 2003 issue of the Washington Post), Francis Schaffer describes the state of tension in which he lives: He has a son who has been deployed to Iraq, but he no longer finds comfort in the Greek Orthodox Church of which he is a member. It saddens him that the OPF Iraq Appeal calls “all soldiers who kill in battle murderers, no matter what the cause…” It also accuses “our country of using ‘any means’ to overthrow Saddam Hussein.” The authors are entitled to their own opinions, notes Schaffer, but what is disconcerting to him is the fact that so many Orthodox bishops and priests had signed the statement. “They have dragged not only my church but Jesus into their stand against our government and the war in Iraq,” and he continues,

It is cruel to try to hijack the authority of a church to advance political views for or against this war. I would never sign a letter for a “Council for the Orthodox Pro-War Fellowship” just because my son is serving his country in the military. I’d assume that it would be preposterous for me to speak for my fellow Orthodox Christians on such matters of individual conscience, over which honest and honorable people can disagree.

Given his Church’s failure to provide him with support, Schaffer sympathizes with Roman Catholic families who have sons and daughters in the military, and those of the mainline Protestant tradition as well, because so many of their church leaders also have condemned the war and the commander in chief. “I don’t see my son as a murderer. I don’t see my country as evil. I see my country and my son’s cause as just. But maybe I’m wrong. If I’m wrong I don’t want to drag God down with me” — something he undoubtedly believes the OPF has done. Finally, he concludes, “My son is gone to war. I am sad and frightened. I am also proud of my Marine for his selfless service. But I am being stripped of the comfort of my church in the name of ‘peace’ by people who seem determined to make God as small as we are.”

Jim Forest wrote a response to this article in which he expressed his sympathy for the way Schaffer was feeling with a son at war, but he defended the OPF statement saying that the only person that the OPF Iraq Appeal called a murderer was Saddam Hussein. The only other reference to murderers was about those who kill innocent people. “It is one thing to say that killing innocent people is a grave sin — the sin of murder,” writes Forest, “and another to label those caught up in the war as murderers. We did not do so.” He says that the OPF’s basis for the use of “murderers” was the principle of “hate the sin and love the sinner,” and he provides an example: If he and his wife had a daughter who had an abortion, they would lament the decision, perhaps even be angry at the Church for calling abortion murder, but in time they would need “the Church to be plainspoken about the sanctity of life and to do all in its power to inspire its members not to kill the innocent.” Nevertheless, this explanation did not suffice for the numerous Orthodox Americans who continued to be increasingly opposed to the OPF and their defense of the statement. As one person writes, ” [Mr. Forest's] explanation is most welcome, although…we wonder if he really means it. But let’s assume at this point that he does, and merely fault the OPF for drafting careless language.” Many other responses were less kind.

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse “‘A Plea for Peace’ Flawed by Moral Equivalency”

“[The] OPF has tried to sway public policy before but held back on explaining their views in any systematic way,” writes Jacobse, “[but a] ‘Plea for Peace’ is more comprehensive. It reveals OPF draws deeply from the ideology of the secular peace movement — so much so that the two are often indistinguishable.” Jacobse’s first example of this is the OPF’s statement that there are better ways to respond to Saddam Hussein than to “respond in kind”:

Respond in kind? This is moral equivalency at work. The doctrine of moral equivalency holds that war is the greatest of all evils. Any government engaged in warfare shares the same moral culpability for the conflict as its enemy. A just war is a moral impossibility…”A Plea for Peace” asserts that American action in Iraq is morally equivalent to the terror of the Saddam’s regime. Reports of the brutality of Saddam’s regime prove that OPF is wrong, but don’t expect them to change. Peace activists rarely abandon the doctrine even when the judgment of history is against them.

He then goes on to criticize the religious leaders who are “particularly susceptible to the ideology:” He notes that clergymen were part of the movement to appease Germany before World War II; liberal Protestant churches were apologists for the North Vietnamese, and Soviet Russia manipulated the World Council of Churches: “‘A Plea for Peace’ continues in this tradition.”

Quoting from the OPF Iraq Appeal, Jacobse asserts that moral equivalency shaped its conclusion that there was no difference between the American soldier and murder. “The facts prove otherwise,” he continues, “American military action in Iraq was conducted to avoid the deaths of innocent people…but facts don’t matter here.” He suggests that peace movements themselves contribute to the instability that creates war because “their moral equivocation blinds them to real evil in the world,” and in fact they kill more innocent people than otherwise would die during wartime: “Their ideology has contributed to the death of millions. Iraqi civilians cheered the American soldiers because they brought real liberation from real terror. American soldiers emptied the Iraqi jails, not the peace activists. Let these Iraqis be their judge, not OPF.”

Jacobse states that the OPF’s most serious error is its assertion that the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good. Drawing on St. Basil’s canon (see above), he states that the OPF’s assertion that the Orthodox Church does not accept a just war is “a transparent attempt to join the ideology of the peace movement to the Orthodox moral tradition.” Thus, he concludes suggesting that the Orthodox leaders who signed the OPF Iraq Appeal substituted ideology in the place of moral reason, thereby equating the two: “They should remove their signatures to clear the confusion they have created.”

Jacobse’s article contains many problems that warranted numerous responses from OPF members. His logic is flawed when he accuses the OPF of using “moral equivalency” because his negative reaction to the phenomenon is to repeat the same mistake. Rather than rectify the OPF’s use of moral equivalency, he proceeds to equate the recent peace movement with terrorism. His statement that the ideology of the peace movement has contributed to the death of millions is simply unrealistic, and, in presenting such an assertion, he paints peace activists as murders with the same brush that he accuses the OPF using to paint American soldiers. In addition, one must note that Jacobse does not quote from the second half of St. Basil’s canon, which asserts that soldiers’ hands are not clean and suggests that they abstain from communion. Rather, he simply quotes the first half in such a way that it appears that St. Basil’s canon merely states that soldiers do nothing wrong in war. Jacobse shapes the Orthodox tradition in the same manner for which he censures the OPF.

Fr. Patrick Reardon “Not So Quiet on the Eastern Front”

Fr. Reardon’s article appears to seek competition with the opinions expressed in the OPF statement in the marketplace of American religious thought. It shows that there were, in fact, Orthodox Americans who supported the war, in case Americans were prone to think all Orthodox opposed the Iraq war. He asserts that Schafer’s article was an example of the feelings of many Orthodox Americans when the OPF statement was released and also notes that the number of bishops that signed the OPF statement was relatively small. In the opening words of the article, Reardon states that no religious group was more deeply divided than the Orthodox, and he asserts that he will not take a position on the war but will merely examine the conflicting ways in which Orthodox understood the war — a promise he does not keep in the article.

Traditionally, Reardon notes, the OPF has historically demonstrated an

ascetical dimension, disciplined in tone, modest in aim, and circumspect in language. Even on those occasions when it directly addressed political concerns, it refrained from intruding itself into the ambiguities and complexities of the political process. As far as memory serves, the OPF never before essayed to garner signatures of support for a political statement.

However, the OPF’s pronouncement against the impending war in Iraq, particularly its choice of the term “murder,” represented a distinct departure from these patterns, and he stresses that the unintentional killing of innocent civilians in war has never been regarded by the Orthodox Church “only as murder.” He suggests that such an organization as the OPF, committed to peace, when they make such statements, should “avoid unwarranted descriptions that lead to further strife”—a task at which it failed.

Nonetheless, Reardon does offer one positive comment about the OPF Iraq Appeal:

Notwithstanding its exaggeration in language and ineptitude in logic, however, I do believe that the antiwar pronouncement of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship did achieve one positive and profitable result. It provided a needed target at which to aim the annoyance and frustration that some Orthodox Christians felt about the opposition of their church leaders to the Iraqi war.

Reardon then discusses the statistics of popular opinion, noting that most Americans supported the war, and, while no formal survey of the Orthodox reaction exists, he says most Orthodox probably opposed the war, for three main reasons: (1) Many Orthodox Christians are from the Middle East; (2) Others come from areas that have experienced an uneasy relationship with the American military (i.e. the Balkans), and (3) The East has never glorified war as has the West, let alone having a definite Just War Theory. Despite these factors, however, Reardon explains that many Orthodox Americans supported the war for many of the same reasons as the rest of the American public: self-defense against an aggressor, the liberation on an oppressed people, the extension of a free government to another nation, and so on.

Reardon then takes a surprising turn in his article and begins to hypothetically defend the war in Iraq by asking the rhetorical question, so what if the war was about oil? “The economic well-being of the human race right now is inseparable from the steady flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, for the domestic, industrial, and commercial maintenance of the wealth that keeps people alive.” His arguments and rhetoric that follow reflect something similar to what one would find among non-Orthodox Americans that supported the Iraq war. In this manner, Reardon’s article retreats from a simple survey of Orthodox responses to the war and becomes a near pro-war (or at least anti-antiwar) statement.

Summarizing what troubled so many Orthodox Americans when the OPF statement was released, he states,

If the Lord of history had indeed laid such responsibility on this nation [to preserve world stability and the well-being of mankind], and if occasional recourse to arms was required to meet that responsibility, then a pacifist ethic could not be a central and major guiding theory of American life…. During this past winter and spring, therefore, it seemed to those Orthodox Christians that their spiritual leaders, who had for decades been exhorting them to get out there and “make America Orthodox,” were implicitly retreating from that exhortation.

Continuing, he gathers a “model from tradition” in order to show that the Orthodox Church has never approved of pacifism, and, in doing so, he further departs from his original goal of surveying Orthodox Americans’ feelings toward the war. He admits that there may have been supporters of pacifism within the Byzantine Empire, but they “enjoyed the freedom to do so because other Christians took up the sword to protect them.” Finally, he concludes equating those who honorably sustained peace in the Byzantine Empire with the current American military.

The Survey and a Response

The survey questions that I released on the Internet discussion groups mentioned above returned many helpful responses. As I stated earlier, I originally intended to include more information from the responses I received and a more thorough summary of the opinions expressed. However, a week before I completed my research I received a response from Fr. John, a military chaplain currently serving in Kuwait. His response was the most balanced, and he provided me with more information than I had expected. In addition, since he is an Orthodox military chaplain, I believe his comments are particularly pertinent. Thus, I have narrowed my study of responses to this one person (though I must note that all the other responses have shaped my understanding of the issues at hand and the composition of this essay).

“It may surprise you,” begins Fr. John, “that I start with some kind words to say about the OPF and the positions they take, even the one on the Iraqi war.” Because the Scriptures and tradition of the Orthodox Church uphold peaceful resistance to evil as the ideal, he believes that the OPF “articulates a vital part of the Holy Tradition and its teaching on warfare, which should have always been heard and carefully considered. All that I write is with that in mind.” With that said, Fr. John uses the New Testament, the liturgy, and the history of the Orthodox Church, to explain that, while the Church has never favored war, it has never had room for pacifism. Reflecting on the Just War Theory as it is known in the West, he notes that Eastern Christians have always been less systematic and scholastic in their approach to issues of morality; rather, they have tended to follow the pastoral guidance provided by bishops. His following example elucidates this point:

Our bishops, especially when they speak together, set the ethical course for all of us. In the Orthodox Church in America, our Holy Synod made a pronouncement when the Iraqi war was only in its second day. His Beatitude Herman, on behalf of the Holy Synod, wrote an Archpastoral Message which pled eloquently for prayer and fasting for our soldiers, for our political leaders, for the war’s innocent victims, for a speedy end to the hostilities, and for a lasting and just peace in the Middle East. In the Orthodox tradition, they prayed for peace as the ideal, and regretted the present condition of war. But they did not imply that Orthodox soldiers participating in the Iraqi war are murderers, or call them to abandon their arms. We Orthodox soldiers could take great comfort in the words our hierarchs in that dark hour. In fairness to the OPF, I contacted them and they told me they did not mean to imply that we service personnel fighting against Saddam Hussein’s regime were murderers. I take them at their word. I consider the murder reference in their statement to be a case of a poor choice of words made in a time of high emotion.

He then suggests that if all of our bishops condemn a future war, we should heed to their pastoral guidance: “It would be our duty to ‘obey God rather than man’ and suffer the consequences.” Thus, he gives some moral weight to the OPF statement since it was signed and approved by many Orthodox bishops. He also suggests, “Orthodox proponents of the Iraqi war should note the widespread opposition to the war expressed by Orthodox hierarchs and synods overseas…and consider if there is a moral side to the conflict that others see but they do not.”

Fr. John explains how he grew up “embracing the Just War Theory,” also noting that his service as a soldier and chaplain long preceded his being an Orthodox priest. Having studied the Orthodox tradition, however, he has learned three things: (1) The East’s approach to war is not systematized; (2) The East has always given priority to peace over warfare, while the West has viewed war as a positive good in the past, and (3) the East has frequently deferred more to secular authorities in matters of war. Thus, he writes, “My embrace of Orthodoxy has influenced my views on warfare…. Orthodoxy’s preference for peace has also sharply curtailed my comfort with casual combat. It has also made me respect those Orthodox individuals, and organizations like OPF, who also advocate for peace, even if I disagree with them at times.” He also admits that his support for the war has waned since he was first deployed.

Discussing what should be the proper relationship between the government and the Church, he remarks that the ideal for Christians past was that the “Crown and the Mitre acted in symphaniea, in cooperation to strengthen Christendom.” But after the ages of Constantinople and the Czars, the leaders of the Church have had to influence their societies from outside the political sphere. Now, living in a democratic society, he says, the Church is faced with a new challenge; now they must be “‘salt and light’” to millions of miniature decision makers, instead of merely to the one who wears the crown.” Because of such a situation, “the Church may have to exercise a greater prophetic role than before, and be prepared to criticize conflicts that they deem immoral. Moreover, the Church may have to exercise such a prophetic role through mass appeal since, in democracies, it is in the masses that ultimate political choice rests.” This, he notes, remains the reason why American Orthodoxy has a plurality of viewpoints in the present situation: It has a plurality of decision-makers.

Concerning the question about the conservative/liberal split (see question 5 in Appendix 3), he remains uncertain if Orthodox Church members will become more identified with the right or left: There are problems with being identified with either. He mentions problems on the liberal end of the spectrum, such as abortion, and says conservatives, it seems, “‘never met a war they didn’t like….’ The right has fairly little concern for the morality of the war’s purpose, or take serious account of the human costs involved.” Whatever may happen to Orthodoxy in this county, the one thing he does hope is that Orthodox Americans will never become ” like was once said of the Church of England, ‘the Tories at prayer.’”

Further Investigations and Conclusions

As I stated at the beginning of my essay, I never intended for this project to be a comprehensive study of Orthodox American reactions to the war. I did not intend to gather statistics or make any conclusions as to the characteristics of the Orthodox Americans who did or did not support the war — precisely the reason this topic remains open to further investigation. As Fr. Reardon noted above, a formal survey complete with statistics that has been conducted with other religious groups has yet to be done among Orthodox Americans. Undoubtedly, the results of such a survey will prove fruitful.

In this project, nevertheless, I simply desired to gather opinions from Orthodox Americans about their views on the recent war, namely centered on the OPF statement and subsequent responses, but I had other intentions as well. As my survey questions show, I intended to briefly explore whether or not the divergent opinions toward Iraq was evidence of a conservative/liberal split among Orthodox Americans. Having studied recent Protestant American history and the harm that the conservative/liberal split began to cause to their churches in the early twentieth century, and the harm that it continues to cause, I wanted to see whether this split was evident within American Orthodoxy. The rhetoric of the conservative/liberal debate was prevalent in a few statements about the war. For example, some Orthodox Americans accused the OPF of using theological arguments derived from liberal Protestant theology, and antiwar Orthodox Americans accused those who supported the war of laying down their faith in the face of conservative political ideologies. Nevertheless, I was grateful to discover that there is yet to be a conservative/liberal split among Orthodox Americans to the degree that is found among Protestant Americans (in many responses, people wondered why I even asked such a question). However, I continue to believe that this danger lies ahead as Orthodoxy becomes increasingly linked to the sociopolitical facets of American life. Fr. John’s concluding remarks about this potential political split highlight the focus that Orthodox Americans must keep in the years to come:

These two political poles bracket the range of choices available to Orthodox Christians in democracies. To me, the most important thing is for all Orthodox to keep their focus on following Jesus Christ within His Church. We must not let our political ideologies become idols, which replace our highest allegiance. We must let the Gospel continuously critique us and whatever political philosophies we hold. We must listen to our hierarchs when they speak on the ethics of any war. When voting or publicly advocating for or against a war, we must strive to fulfill all three injunctions of the Prophet Micah, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”


Erickson, John. “An Orthodox Peace Witness?” In The Fragmentation of the Church and Its Unity in Peace Making, 48-58. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.

Webster, Alexander. “Justifiable War as a ‘Lesser Good’ in Eastern Orthodox Moral Tradition.” SVTQ 47 (November 1 2003): 3-57.

For the Peace from Above, a Syndesmos publication dealing with war and nationalism, available at the OPF website.

Born in Casper, Wyoming to Lebanese parents, Michael Azar spend much of his childhood in Cairo, Egypt. In May 2003, he graduated with a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Colorado Christian University in Denver, after having spent a semester reading theology and history at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Oxford University. Currently, he is pursuing an M.A. in General Theology at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. His paper was originally written as a study project.

OPF’s Iraq Appeal: a letter to President Bush

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

A Plea for Peace from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America

[note: In March 2003, shortly before the US-led attack against Iraq was launched, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship drafted a letter to President George W. Bush urging him not to initiate war. The letter was signed by numerous Orthodox bishops, priests, monastics, theologians and lay people.]

Dear President Bush,

As Orthodox Christians, we seek the conversion of enemies to friends in Christ. Saddam Hussein is an enemy of the United States and of the people of Iraq, but we declare that there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.

We do not argue against attacking Iraq because of any admiration for Saddam Hussein. He came to office by intrigue and murder, and remains in power by the same means; he is his own country’s worst enemy. The Iraqi people deserve to be rid of him.

The United States is ready to overthrow him by any means, including an attack which would kill thousands of civilians and maim many more, justifying such an attack on the possibility that Hussein’s regime is producing weapons of mass destruction and preparing to use them against America and Israel and their allies.

Because we seek the reconciliation of enemies, a conversion which grows from striving to be faithful to the Gospel, the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good, and fighting an elusive enemy by means which cause the death of innocent people can be regarded only as murder. Individual murderers are treated by psychiatrists and priests and isolated from society. But who heals the national psyche, the wounded soul of a nation, when it is untroubled by the slaughter of non-combatant civilians?

As Orthodox Christians, we find healing in Christ, Who made us responsible for His sacred gift of life. God created us in His image and likeness, and we best reflect Christ — Who neither killed anyone nor blessed anyone to kill — by loving, helping, and forgiving.

Friends help each other do good things, not evil things. We find echoes of holy friendship in the world’s unfolding reaction to events in Iraq.

Many nations traditionally allied with America — along with many patriotic Americans — oppose an invasion of Iraq. They see how difficult a position the US will assume by attacking Iraq, and seek instead a renewed program of weapons inspection.

Iraq’s closest neighbors are far from supportive of the course the United States is pursuing, even though they are aware of Saddam’s shameful, destructive regime. Not having rallied to America’s side does not mean that they support Saddam.

An attack on Iraq will be seen by many as an attack on all Arabic and Islamic states. America, despite the rhetoric, is perceived as seeing itself under attack by Islam. America helped install and maintain the despotic Shah of Iran, but withdrew its support when Iran became an Islamic republic (itself undemocratic in many ways). Now America is seen as the largely uncritical supporter of Israel, against the interests of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian. Bombing Iraq will confirm these perceptions among Muslims.

An attack by Saddam on any nation would be viewed as proper cause for a military response to Iraq by the attacked nation and its allies, as was the case with Kuwait. This may not be good, but it is true. Saddam now attacks only his own people, and they need help — but not the “help” of being killed in an effort by other countries to bring about “regime change” in Iraq.

“Pre-emption” (the notion that one nation may attack another because of what it might do) is philosophically, ethically, and pragmatically perilous. After all, an enemy may return the favor. Once “pre-emption” is established as a valid principle for international relations, nations which invoke that principle will have no conceptual shelter.

If the world can be convinced that it’s possible to work peacefully to make life more livable for all, we will all be better off. This is the reconciliation we hope for as Christians among individuals. Can it not happen among nations, between Iraq and its neighbors, and for all the good people of the world?

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship calls on the United States and the United Nations to follow diplomatic paths predicated on mercy, honesty, and justice, and to seek peacefully negotiated resolutions to the impasse in Iraq.

We implore Christ, Who is our peace, to bless every endeavor directed toward our complete reconciliation with each other, and with Him.

The Council for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America:

John Brady, Jim Forest, David Holden, Daniel Lieuwen, John Oliver, Deacon John Oliver III, Alex Patico, Sheri San Chirico, Monk James Silver and Renee Zitzloff

A partial list of other signers as of 19 March 2003:

Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, Orthodox Church in America, External Affairs

Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Bishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America

Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada, Orthodox Church in America

Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Administrator of Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in the USA

Bishop Basil of Sergievo, Diocese of Sourozh, Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain

Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain

Rebecca Alexander , member, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Nashville, Indiana

Fr. Paisius Altschul, St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, Kansas City, Missouri

Hierodeacon Amvrosi, Communaute de St Serafin de Sarov, Rawdon, Quebec

Sadie Barchini, Vice President, Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Timothy Beach, director, Agape School; Reader & lay missionary, Orthodox Church in Taiwan

Carol Bebawi, Centre for the Study of Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations, University of Birmingham, member of St Aidan & St Chad parish, Nottingham, England

Fr. John Behr, Associate Professor of Patristics, St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Alexander Belopopsky, Programme Executive for Europe, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland

Carmela Biggs, R.N., case manager, Raphael House, shelter for homeless families, San Francisco, California

Brother Pierre Blais , ThD, Monastic Society of S. Silouan the Athonite, OCA, Canada; Instructor, Dep’t of Religion, University of Toronto; Orthodox Church in America representative, Justice & Peace Commission, Canadian Council of Churches.

Rev. Ted Bobosh, priest, St. Paul’s Orthodox Church, Dayton, Ohio

Hildo Bos, Acting President, Syndesmos: the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth; member, St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Dr. Peter Bouteneff, Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology, St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Marie Boyko LaGuardia, member, St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, Denver, Colorado

V. Rev. John Breck, Professor of Bioethics and Patristic Exegesis, St. Sergius Theological Institute, Paris, France; Director, St. Silouan Retreat, Charleston, South Carolina

Catherine Brockenborough, Esq., attorney, Nashville, Tennessee

Rev. Marcus C. Burch, St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church, Greenville, South Carolina

Prof. Sheila D. Campbell, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, Canada

Fr. William Christ, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Brother Christopher, Hieromonk; Brother Elias, Monk; Brother Stavros, Monk, New Skete Monastery, Cambridge, New York

Fr. John Chryssavgis, Professor of Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Emmanuel Clapsis , Dean and Professor of Dogmatics, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Gregory Cook, writer and teacher; member of Holy Resurrection Church, Tacoma, Washington

Fr. Michael Dahulich, Dean, St. Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary, So. Canaan, Pennsylvania

Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, Oakton, Virginia

Fr. Demetrios Demopulos, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Helen Breslich Erickson, Lecturer in Liturgical Music, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

John H. Erickson, Dean, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Fr. Dragan and Mirjana Filipovic, St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio

Fr. Thomas FitzGerald , Th.D., Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Hilarion Frakes, St.John of Kronstadt Orthodox Mission, Reno, Nevada

V. Rev. Thomas Gallaway, St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church Lexington, Kentucky

Fr. John Garvey, priest of the Orthodox Church in America; Commonweal columnist; New York City

Fr. Paul Gassios , St. Thomas the Apostle Orthodox Church, Indiana

Eleni Geanon , MA, Director of Alumni Relations Office, Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Hieromonk Alexander Golitzin, Associate Professor of Theology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Rev. Anastasios Gounaris, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

Archimandrite Michael Graves, Maison Orthodoxe, Petion-Ville, Haiti, West Indies

Deacon James Gresh, Diocese of the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America, Canton, Ohio

Fr. Alexander Golubov, Academic Dean, St Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania

Fr. Stanley Harakas, retired Professor of Orthodox Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Gregory Havrilak, Associate General Secretary, Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, New York City

Fr. Stephen C. Headley, priest, parish of St. Stephen and St. Herman, Vezeley, France

Dr. Jurretta Jordan Heckscher, cultural historian, writer, and member of St. Mark Orthodox Church, Bethesda, Maryland

Fr. Oliver and Matushka Lorie Herbel, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York.

Fr. Mark Hodges, St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church, Lima, Ohio

Seraphim Alton Honeywell, Warden, Russian Parish of the Annunciation, Oxford, England

Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Chris Horattas , Board Member, St. Nicholas Orthodox School; member, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Akron, Ohio

Fr. Stephen Hrycyniak, Associate Pastor, Saints Cyril & Methodius, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fr. David Hudson, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America & Canada, Alpharetta, Georgia

Hegoumen Irenee, Communaute Monastique de St Serafin de Sarov, Rawdon, Quebec

Father Frederick & Presbytera Carol Janecek, Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Demetra Velisarios Jaquet, M.Div., member of St. Catherine Greek Orthodox, Greenwood Village, Colorado

Fr. John Jillions, St. Ephraim Orthodox Church, Cambridge, England

Victoria Jones, OCA Focus Curriculum Team, Parishioner of Holy Trinity, Overland Park, Kansas

Joan Kakascik , Ed.D., Psychologist, Parishioner of Christ the Saviour, Paramus, New Jersey

Fr. George E. Kalpaxis, retired priest, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Baltimore, Maryland

Barbara Karol, parishioner, Christ the Saviour, Paramus, New Jersey

Valerie A. Karras, Th.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Greek Patristics, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri; member, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri

Fr. Robert Kennaugh, St Nicholas Church, Narol, Manitoba, Canada

Nikola D. Kostich , M.D. and Carol M. Kostich , members of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

Charlie Kroll, Chief Financial Officer, Hellenic College/Holy Cross Seminary, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Bratso Krsic, Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Butte, Montana

Fr. Alexander Kuchta, pastor, Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Palatine, Illinois

Paul Ladouceur, webmaster, ‘Pages Orthodoxes La Transfiguration, Rawdon, Quebec, Canada

Archpriest George Larin, Rector, Parish of the Russian Orthodox Holy Virgin Protection Church, Nyack, New York

Kevin Lawrence, Chair, String Department, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of North Carolina; Choir Director, Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church, Greensboro, North Carolina

Dr. Violet E. Leathers, Associate Professor- Emeritus, College of Education, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio

Fr. Brooks Ledford, Director of San Antonio Catholic Worker House, priest of the Orthodox Church in America, attached: St. Anthony Orthodox Church, San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Philip LeMasters, Professor of Religion, McMurry University, Abilene, Texas

Rev. Gregory Long, Saint Anthony Orthodox Church, Butler, Pennsylvania

Claude Lopez , Language Professor, Switzerland

Serge R. Lopoukhine, Parish Treasurer, Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Church, Nyack, New York

Dr. Andrew Louth, Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, England

Fr. Timothy Lowe, priest, SS Peter & Paul Church, Meriden, Connecticut

Nun Macaria, St. Xenia Metochion, Indianapolis, Indiana

Anne Glynn Mackoul, Princeton, New Jersey

Fr. John Manuel, Richmond, Virginia

Fr. Lawrence Margitich, Santa Rosa, California

Mother Mary Ann, Presentation of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Monastery, Canton, Ohio

Frederica Mathewes-Green, author, Baltimore, Maryland

Daniel C. Mathewson , Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio; teacher, St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian School, Mogadore, Ohio

Joe May, director, Matthew 25 House of Hospitality, Akron, Ohio

Mother Brigid McCarthy, St. Moses House, Kansas City, Missouri

V. Rev. Rade Merick, Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church, Steubenville, Ohio

Dr. Paul Meyendorff, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Fr. Thomas Moore, priest, Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, West Columbia, South Carolina

Fr. Elijah Mueller, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Jamaica Estates, New York

Fr. Thomas Mueller, Dean, Chicago Deanery, Orthodox Church in America; pastor, Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Presbytera Gina Mueller, Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Very Rev. John Nehrebecki, Dean of New Jersey, Orthodox Church in America

Fr. Anthony Nelson, rector, St. Benedict Russian Orthodox Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; director, Oklahoma Orthodox Christians for Life/Oklahoma Pro-Life Action Network

Evangeline Newton , Director of the Center for Literacy, University of Akron; member, Annunciation, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Akron, Ohio

Rick M. Newton , Chair of the Modern and Classical Languages Department, Kent State University; member Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Akron, Ohio

Archpriest Michael J. Oleksa, Dean, St. Innocent Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska

Archpriest Sergei Ovsiannikov, rector, St. Nicholas of Myra Russian Orthodox Church, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Fr. George C. Papademetriou, Associate Professor of Theology, Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

Fr. Harry Pappas, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Alexander Patico, Senior Program Manager, Institute of International Education

Archpriest Stefan Pavlenko, Orthodox Church of All Russian Saints, Burlingame, California

Rachel Catherine Peters, M.Div., Orthodox Church of St. John the Russian, Ipswich, Massachusetts; Department of Internet Ministries, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Fr Michael Plekon, professor, Sociology/Anthropology, Program in Religion & Culture, Baruch College of the City University of New York

Fr. Victor S. Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Washington, D.C.

Fr. Theodore Pulcini, Associate Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

Dr. Albert Raboteau, Professor of Religion, Princeton University, New Jersey

Fr. Patrick Radley, rector, Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Great Walsingham, England

Fr. Geoffrey Ready, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Mother Raphaela, Abbess, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, New York

Archpriest Basil Rhodes, rector, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Saratoga, California

Dr. Gabriel Jay Rochelle, teacher, Saint Sophia Theological Seminary, South Bound Brook, New Jersey

Jessica Rose, choir director, Russian Orthodox parish, Oxford, England

Fr. Dmitri Ross, St.Dunstan Orthodox Parish, New Zealand

Fr. Yakov Ryklin, St. Mary Magdalen Orthodox Church, New York City

Archimandrite Michael Rymer, Stockton, California

Fr. Herman Schick, pastor, St George Orthodox Church, Buffalo, New York; president of the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches on the Niagara Frontier

Fr. Paul Schroeder, Chancellor, Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco

Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, parish priest in Boise, Idaho, and president of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund USA

Eleana Silk , Librarian, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York

Fr. Alvian Smirensky, Schenectady, New York

Susan E. Steinhaus, member, St Paul’s Orthodox Church, Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Catherine Sullivan, member, St. Nickolas Orthodox Church, Charlotte, North Carolina

Philip Tamoush, Orthodox Christian Communications Network, Torrance, California

Juliann and Catherine Tarsney, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

Professor Nikolai S. Tchertkoff , Chestnut Ridge, New York

Fr. Rastko and Vickie Trbuhovich , St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church, Lackawanna, New York

Very Rev. Andrew Tregubov; iconographer; rector of Holy Resurrection Church, St. Claremont, New Hampshire

Fr. Luke Veronis, adjunct professor at Holy Cross Theological Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary

Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, parish priest, Wappingers, New York

Rev. Aleksandar Vlajkovic, St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, Boston, Massachusetts

Fr. Theodoor van der Voort, Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church, Deventer, the Netherlands

Michael and Theodora Ward; editor, Orthodox Outlook; members, Greek Orthodox Church of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England

Martin D. Watt, C.P.A., St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Parish, Dayton, Ohio

Donald L. Westcott, member, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio

Deacon Timothy Wilkinson, Diocese of the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America, Canton, Ohio

Fr. Gregory Williams, St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, Tennesee; administrator, Haitian Orthodox Mission (ROCOR)

Mary Winterer-Papatassos , member, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Xenia Woyevodsky , member, St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Lena S. Zezulin, Attorney, Washington, DC

Dn. Moses Zorea, St. James the Just Russian Orthodox Church, Anchorage, Alaska; attorney-at-law

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship in North America is a branch of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship International.

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