From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC's Raiser Criticizes Serbian Church

Date 04 May 1996 20:38:49


95342         WCC's Raiser Criticizes Serbian Church 
                 by Ecumenical News International 
GENEVA--The Serbian Orthodox Church was sharply criticized Sept. 14 by 
World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Konrad Raiser.  Raiser's 
remarks came at a press conference just prior to the convening of the WCC 
Central Committee here. 
     The Serbian church has been criticized in recent months in ecumenical 
circles and in the media for its alleged close links to the Serbian cause 
in Bosnia. 
     While the church's supporters point out that its leaders have 
condemned all forms of violence and warmongering, the critics -- including 
many in German, Swiss, Dutch and Scandinavian churches -- have expressed 
deep anxieties about statements by the Serbian church's bishops defending 
Serb interests in Bosnia and rejecting internationally brokered peace 
     Raiser said that he "personally" believed that "much of what we are 
seeing in the Serbian Orthodox church" could be criticized in terms similar 
to those adopted by the ecumenical movement with regard to pro-Hitler 
Christians in Germany before World War II. 
     The German Evangelical Church, which was dominated by the so-called 
"German Christians," or supporters of Hitler, withdrew in 1939 from the 
precursor to the WCC after criticisms by the council of nationalist and 
anti-Semitic statements by German church leaders. 
     But, while stressing that dialogue with the Serb church was needed, 
Raiser added that it was also important to speak to "many other" member 
churches of the WCC about the links between churches and nationalism. 
     Raiser defended the role of the WCC in "helping churches to enter into 
dialogue with one another" and bringing together churches which would like 
"to condemn one another to hell" for theological or ethical reasons.  Some 
church bodies in the Netherlands and Switzerland have suggested that the 
Serbian Orthodox Church be suspended from international church bodies, 
including the WCC. 
     A planned visit to Serbia by the WCC this fall to meet representatives 
of the Serbian Orthodox Church has been postponed at the request of the 
Serbian church, Raiser said.  The Serbian Orthodox Church also refused to 
send a representative to a meeting organized in Geneva by the WCC and the 
Conference of European Churches to discuss the situation in the former 
Yugoslavia with members of Western church bodies. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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