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Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis participates in Ecumenical Conference in Belgrade

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis, Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology, recently took part in an international theological ecumenical conference held in Belgrade, Serbia. Representatives of various ecumenical centers from Central and Eastern Europe together with prominent theologians reflected on political theology, the state of Church-State relationships in different countries, and the role of religion in secular society. The conference was organized by St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute within the framework of the Development of Ecumenical Leadership in Mission Network (DELM) and with the support of ICCO-Kerk (Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, Utrecht, Netherlands) and held in Belgrade from November 4-5, 2015.

In his paper, Fr. Clapsis spoke about how human rights can be an indispensable part of the Church’s public witness in plural democratic societies. “An Orthodox appreciation of human rights requires first that these rights be viewed in their original historical context and then be cognizant of the pragmatic political needs that led to their modern formulation and expression,” writes Fr. Clapsis. “Orthodoxy should embrace human rights,” argues Fr. Clapsis, “after it has theologically justified their importance for the political life of the modern world.” He noted that Christian churches need to look for the common theological foundations which could be understandable and accepted by the modern world.

Participants of the conference also had a chance to hear about fundamentalism in Eastern Christianity, the fruits of the Reconciliation Commission of the churches in Canada, and the risks of the politicization of the churches in the Western Balkans. Participants of the event arrived at the conclusion that the current political situation, formed by a secular worldview, offers not only a threat to the Churches but also provides opportunities for dialogue and witnessing the Gospel. Christians should not afraid of new circumstances but search for the effective instruments of fruitful communication with the state, develop their political theology, and offer a common voice in promoting Christian values in social and political life of modern society.

Fr. Clapsis has extensive experience in inter-Christian and interfaith dialogue. He has served as the Vice Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (1991-1998) and commissioner of Faith and Order Commission of the U.S. National Council of Churches (1985-1991). He has also participated in the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the Evangelical Lutheran Church (USA) and the Roman Catholic Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed him in its formal delegation to the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Assemblies of WCC in Canberra, Australia (1991), in Harare Zimbabwe (1998) and Porto Alegre, Brazil (2006).