The Reformed Church in America’s Commission on Christian Unity hosted a meeting in October with a delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Anthony Elenbaas, a pastor at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ont., attended as a member of the commission.
The gathering was to hear about these American Christians’ “experiences of the war in Ukraine, to consider further ways of supporting and partnering with the UOC-USA in war relief, and to offer the RCA’s expressions of solidarity and support, with our prayers of intercession and prayers for peace in an in-person setting," as called for by the RCA’s 2023 General Synod. Elenbaas said they “mandated the Commission on Christian unity to reach out and to have such a conversation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognizing that a number of RCA churches on the East Coast are neighbors and even friends with some of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches there.”
Eight Commission members went to the Metropolia Center in Somerset, N.J., to meet with Archbishop Daniel, ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC-USA and president of the Consistory, and his assistant. The Commission met Oct. 18-20, 2023, ending with meeting Archbishop Daniel on Oct. 20.
Elenbaas said this was a way of the RCA “coming around to support a fellow church in this awful time.” One of the UOC-USA’s biggest requests of their North American brothers and sisters was to pray for peace. Prayer is their primary need; they said that they are open to financial gifts, but they’re not requesting them.
Elenbaas said, “Paul prays in Ephesians 3 that, together with all the saints, we might grasp how wide and high and long and deep is the love of Christ. And in visits like this, I always get that sense of recognizing … the love of Christ is a lot wider than perhaps we imagined. That is one of the things that strikes me most in ecumenical work.”
Elenbaas has been a member of the Commission on Christian Unity with the RCA since 2020, expecting to serve until 2026 at the end of his second three-year term. The nine-member commission is to include one member from a denomination other than the RCA, who has been approved by both the General Synod and the general secretary.
Elenbaas said, “The work of the Commission is very similar to our own ecumenical and interfaith relations committee,” on which he served 2013-2019. “The majority of the work is doing relational work for the church relating to churches outside of the denomination,” and the work includes seeking new trends in the wider church, he said. Serving on the commission is at the invitation of the RCA and not as an official representation of the CRC, though other CRC people also have served on the commission in the past.
The commission plans to report back to the RCA’s General Synod in June 2024 to provide a couple of recommendations on ways that the relationship with UOC-USA can move forward. Those recommendations are not yet public.
About the Author
Kristen Parker is a freelance writer. She has a passion for words and creativity. Kristen and her husband Chris, enjoy board games and thrift shopping. They attend Stratford CRC in Stratford, Ont.