The Orthodox church will need to define itself in the future as an arbiter and peace-maker in an increasingly violent world, said several participants at a major international conference looking at the role of the church in society.
The conference, meeting from October 3-5 at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology near Boston, Massachusetts, examined the future of Orthodox churches in the light of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and a rapidly changing international environment. The World Council of Churches was a joint sponsor of the event, along with Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Co-operating were the Boston Theological Institute and the Initiatives in Religion and Public Life program at Harvard Divinity School.
Violence and the need to build a more peaceful world were major topics of the conference, under the theme of the 'Orthodox Churches in a Pluralistic World,' as were questions of globalization, human rights and ethnicity. 'We live in a new situation, and we need to discuss the challenges the church faces,' Emmanuel Clapsis, a theologian at the school and one of the organizers of the events, told ENI prior to the conference. 'We must unite our voices with those of other Christians.'
Another participant, Rodney Petersen, the executive director of the Boston Theological Institute, said the Orthodox church's geographic particularity--'the arc from the White Sea to the Black Sea'--with its proximity to many Muslim nations makes it a unique institution in the process of peace.