The Orthodox Church in America on Slavery, Past and Present
October 23, 2012 1 Comment
My heart was gladdened when I read the new pastoral letter published by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) today. The letter is titled “Pastoral Letter on the Emancipation Proclamation: One Hundred and Fifty Years Later.” In this letter several bishops and archbishops sign their name to a document that confesses the historical complicity of the Church in the sin of slavery. In addition, it pushes Christians to think beyond legislation as the answer to such a perduring human evil. And, as someone in the midst of writing a dissertation on the role of justice in reconciliation through the lenses of the doctrine of the Trinity, I found a couple of passages in the piece especially compelling. First was their situating the Christian confession that human beings are created in the image of God within the context of the doctrine of the Trinity – a major part of my dissertation.
Because Orthodox theology is grounded in the person, it has, over the course of 2000 years, sought to articulate and uphold the equal glory, honor and dignity of every person as being created in the image and likeness of God. Indeed, each person is a reflection of the Tri-Personal God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And second is their call for repentance and the need for social and economic change to adequately address both the scourge of human trafficking and the complicity of the Church in that scourge.
In the desert of human despair – in the wilderness of human trafficking – it is Christ our Lord and Savior who calls us to repentance. The historical record shows that Christians and Christian churches supported institutions of slavery and were implicated in these institutions. Christ’s call to repentance requires radical social and economic changes. (italics mine)
The letter is less than two pages long and is packed full of historical and theological insight. I encourage you to read the letter in its entirety here.
Again, kudos to the OCA for an important confession and call to repentance and justice. This is the Church at its best.