Despite Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s partial hiatus, we are pleased to serve the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by disseminating this petition as has been requested of us. The link where you can add your signature is provided below. 

St. Sophia (Holy Wisdom) Cathedral. Kyiv, Ukraine.

On the eve of the enthronement of Metropolitan Epiphanius (February 3, 2019), an initiative group of priests and laity from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine published a document with proposals for an agenda for the newly created autocephalous Church, which would help it to perform its vocation better in the present circumstances.

First published at Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU), they include appeals for the following: true conciliarity and a renewal of parish life; greater involvement of the faithful in the affairs of the Church; the production of a high-quality translation of liturgical texts; the undertaking of a “new evangelization;” the rejection of old paradigms of church-state relations; the enhancement of transparency and accountability in church life;  the expansion of the Church’s social ministry; the development of a reform in church education; and a call for dialogue and openness.

Signed by clergy and laity, the petition says: 

Divine providence is calling the Church, and granting her a gift, an ability to commence her renewal, to become all things for everyone and the salt for the earth. On the other hand, there exists the temptation to remain satisfied with the current status quo, or to rely on the state, which carries the danger of replacing God with a king, and in this way, pushing many Ukrainians away from the Church.

The 10 Theses are supported by Archimandrite Cyril (Hovorun), professor at the University of Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles; Father Andriy Dudchenko, teacher at the Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy; Deacon Mykola Denysenko, professor at the University of Valparaiso in Indiana; Father Bohdan Ohulchanskyi; Father Vitaliy Eismont;  Konstantin Sigov, director of the Spirit and Letter Publishing House; theologian Antoine Arjakovsky; Vasyl Kmeet, director of the Ivan Franko National Scientific Library; journalists Nelly Kovalska, Viktor Trehubov, and Tetiana Derkach; religious scholars Viacheslav Horshkov, Dmytro Horievoi, and Yuriy Chornomorets; Giacomo Sanfilippo, founding editor at Orthodoxy in Dialogue, religious commentator at the Kyiv Post, and PhD student in Theological Studies at the University of Toronto in Canada;  and many, many others.

In the future the organizers, united around the Facebook community Мережа Відкритого Православ’я (Merezha Vidkrytoho Pravoslav’ya, Open Orthodoxy Network), are planning to discuss these theses with Metropolitan Epiphanius, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

If you wish to sign the 10 Theses you may do so here. Note the following if you do not read Ukrainian:

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10 Theses for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

The Tomos of Autocephaly which we received from our Mother-Church in Constantinople has become a great feast for our Orthodox people. This is a true gift of God and the success of many generations, one that inspires new achievements. These successes inspire us, and joy obliges us to persevere in our common efforts. Our Orthodox Church received the independence that it had sought for the last century. The whole Church confronts an epoch of new challenges and opportunities. Divine providence is calling the Church, and granting her a gift, an ability to commence her renewal, to become all things for everyone and the salt of the earth.

On the other hand, there exists the temptation to remain satisfied with the current status quo, or to rely on the state, which carries the danger of replacing God with a king, and in this way, pushing many Ukrainians away from the Church.

In this document, we invite all Ukrainians to be in communion and communication, to be engaged in the work of the Church always, today and forever, in the process of the deification of the faithful (theosis), and in witnessing to the Gospel as we face the new challenges and circumstances of our times.

We propose the following changes for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (hereinafter the OCU):

  1. True conciliarity. Virtually all members of the Church constitute the Body of Christ and fulfill different roles. In practice, members of the laity, the royal priesthood, are excluded from the major processes of church life; and relations among bishops, clergy, and the laity are hierarchical, following a rigid imperial paradigm. Changes are urgently needed for all members of the Body of Christ to be valued and given responsibility, assuming diverse roles but equal dignity. Decentralization of church management, where parishes themselves will be responsible for decision-making in various aspects of church life, will allow the OCU to achieve this goal.
  2. Renewal of parish life and Eucharistic renewal. In theory, a parish is a Eucharistic community, the basis of the Church, the living cell of its Body, its self-sufficient unit. In practice, the agenda of parish life (where it exists) is often defined by the priest and is limited to the liturgical services, and the parish is self-isolated. We believe that a way toward effective changes in the Church is in the mutual responsibility of bishops, priests, deacons, and laity, with acceptance and promotion of parish ministries such as charities, youth activities, Bible studies, and services to individuals with special needs, among others; which, like blood vessels of the Church, will promote an exchange of ideas for service to God and people. We can find examples of such movements in the L’Arche, Taizé, and Syndesmos communities. Unfortunately, similar movements are practically absent in the OCU as it is today, despite our historical tradition of church-based brotherhoods. The time for change has arrived.
  3. Involvement of the laity. Criticism of the “nominal Orthodox” phenomenon has become common. The current church practices of baptisms, weddings, and funerals contributes to the formation of a large number of nominal believers who treat the Church as a service-provider with limited understanding of its doctrinal and moral norms. We need to reconceptualize our understanding of church membership in order to fulfill the meaning of the high dignity of an Orthodox Christian. We need catechesis as an essential part of preparation for participation in the Mysteries. We can use the positive experiences of other local Churches to develop appropriate catechetical sources.
  4. High-quality translation of liturgical texts in Ukrainian, and a Liturgy that speaks to a person of the 21st century. The Church’s Liturgy is truly a unique treasure, an expression of theology and poetry. However, contemporary faithful neither understand nor appreciate this treasure. The cause of this is not limited to the Old Church Slavonic language or low level of education. The structure of the Liturgy divides the church community into active and passive participants who are not fully engaged. We have to renew the clarity of the Liturgy and the meaning of the liturgical offices, retaining the fullness of the Liturgy, adapting it (as needed) for understanding, and renewing Ukrainian liturgical traditions. We propose an active search for ways toward an improved understanding of the Liturgy, to enable our faithful to understand and actively participate in the common prayer. We recognize the need for creative cooperation among theologians, homilists, and all God’s people for our participation in a full-fledged liturgical life, while preserving our diversity and freedom in Christ.
  5. Promotion of Christ-centrism and renewal of the Bible as the source of the Church (New Evangelization). 85% of nominal Orthodox Christians have not read the Bible or cannot summarize the Gospel. Unfortunately, the place of Bible-reading and study for many believers is replaced by the teachings of various monks or elders, mythical beliefs, superstitions, and other elements which at times become ritualistic, or even by overblown ethnographic, patriotic, or cultural elements. But the Word of God is the main source of Truth and the inspiration of the Spirit. This is why a new evangelization of Orthodox Christians is necessary. We can achieve this goal through special attention to the Bible during liturgical services, and sessions of reading and discussing Scriptures outside the Liturgy. Consistent revision of Ukrainian translations of Biblical texts and the repository of liturgical texts rooted in the Scriptures is needed to accomplish this task. In the enterprise of renewing the Bible in the life of the Church, space must be made for a creative approach and an open theological dialogue.
  6. Withdrawal from “church-state relations” paradigms, and “symphonies” of the Byzantine or Western types, and disavowal of the Church’s political engagement. First of all, the OCU has to witness to the Kingdom of God and His Truth, but not to passing things in this world. The ideal way to witness is to learn how to live in Christ, beginning with seminaries and academies in order to embody this life in Christ in churches and beyond them, to renew and strengthen preaching about the Kingdom of God in academies and parishes. The OCU as a community of Ukrainian citizens with Christian values and beliefs, as well as a right and a call to their proclamation, has to play an active role in social processes and discussions at all levels while being firmly grounded in Christ’s Gospel, love, and humanity to strengthen peace and dialogue in society. Relations between the Church and civil society must be prioritized, not the Church and the state. In relation to the state, the Church has to renew its traditional service as an advocate and mediator in the dialogue of the state and society in support of all citizens, their protection from violence and repressions. An ideal Ukrainian example of this position was the Church’s presence during the Euromaidan revolution.
  7. Transparency, accountability, unity in diversity, and representation of all the Church’s people. The Church as a social institution requires accountability, transparency, systems of control and balances, and mechanisms to prevent the abuse of power. Clear rules, options for the election of clergy, and just ecclesiastical courts will support the faithful of the Ukrainian Church to grow in piety and truth. The key point here is rethinking the roles of bishops as caring shepherds who obtain first-hand knowledge of the people and their problems because they live among them and ensure their unity.
  8. Social ministries and the active social position of the Church concerning various aspects of social life. The members of the Church have to learn how to have and assert their active social position in positive social transformation and building communal life on the basis of Christian values of humanity, freedom, and justice. They need to carry out their ministries as lights to the world, helping those in need, and to sanctify society, responding to the most urgent challenges of our times. Within the Church we need to embrace the principle of “less magnificent buildings but closer to the people,” because “the Most High does not dwell in temples made by hands.” It is particularly important to propose an open budget for parishes and the whole Church, which provides transparency for parishioners. The budget lines require a change in priority, to emphasize the Church’s social programs and projects, and to support ordinary clergy in difficult financial situations. It is also important to encourage the mutual support of parishes, laity, and clergy, and especially to help poor parishes and clergy, with those in better situations to be regulated by a special church structure.
  9. Reformation of church education. The existing system of church education was established in the 17th and 18th centuries. Currently this system does not fulfill its objective: to educate contemporary, open, and active preachers of the Word of God and teachers of the Orthodox faith, true leaders who can lead Christian communities in an anxious and changing world. The possibilities for the laity in church education are even worse. However, the education of church members is the basis not only for their understanding of the Church and her doctrine, but also for their dialogue with the world. We need to create a contemporary Open Orthodox University, which already has roots in the Orthodox community.
  10. Dialogue and openness. We have been called to a dialogue of love with Ukrainian Orthodox faithful who have not yet joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and to lay aside hostile rhetoric and antagonism caused by societal splits. We in the OCU have been called to realize the approaches that will ensure common life, communion, and cooperation with all Christians in Ukraine. We have been called to all-embracing dialogue with other Orthodox Churches and Christian communities, to restore our unity in the Eucharist, first of all with Churches of Apostolic tradition, but not neglecting other Christian communities. We have been called to a dialogue with followers of non-Christian religions. We have been called to a dialogue with the secular world, inviting all citizens of Ukraine to find Christ and His love among us, in the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Openness, dialogue, inclusiveness, readiness to accept criticism, and self-criticism have to become our principles: “I am made all things for all men, that I might by all means save some”—these words of St. Paul the Apostle have to become a new reality for the new Church, for “perfect love casts out fear.”

See the extensive Ukraine section in our Archives by Author.
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