NCC Places Emphasis on Orthodox Church during Assembly

Delegates to the 55th National Council of Churches (NCC) General Assembly nominated an Orthodox bishop as president-elect and reconfirmed the need to strengthen ties with Orthodox churches within the Council.

Bishop Vicken Aykazian, a Turkish-born priest who represents the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in Washington, was nominated on Tuesday – the first day of the Nov. 8-10 General Assembly in Hunt Valley, Md. If confirmed, he will serve for two years as president-elect and be automatically confirmed as president for the next term.

Also on Tuesday, former NCC president Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky of the Orthodox Church in America encouraged members to become “better acquainted” with one another to avoid misrepresentation and miscommunication.

Both actions came only months after a longtime NCC member – the Antiochian Orthodox Church – withdrew its membership from the Council. The Antiochian Church representatives said they were dismayed by the left-leaning political stances of some NCC member communions as well as the Council’s leadership itself. They described a letter sent by NCC General Secretary Dr. Bob Edgar – in which he criticized right-winged Christian groups – as being too liberal and political.

Following the withdrawal, NCC’s top members requested a visit with the Antiochian leadership, but the Orthodox church refused.

According to Kishkovsky, the Antiochian withdrawal was "particularly alarming to Orthodox" members of the Council because of fears their move "could have been dramatic in the lives of other Orthodox communions."

There was "profound anxiety" about the future of their own ecumenical involvements, Kishkovsky said.

However, Edgar visited leaders of the other Orthodox churches and had largely relieved such anxieties. Through the meetings, the NCC found that it must "become better acquainted and more deeply informed about the lives and processes" of sister communions.

"We realized that we had not been very alert to developments in the archdiocese," Kishkovsky said.

The highlight of the General Assembly is the Thursday Night installation service for the new president and the president elect.