OCA represented at Commission on Faith and Witness

November 8, 2015 to November 10, 2015

The Commission on Faith and Witness of the Canadian Council of Churches met in Montreal on November 8 to 10, 2015.

Representing the Canadian archdiocese of the OCA were Dr Paul Ladouceur (Rawdon) and Fr Geoffrey Ready (Toronto).  Richard Schneider (Toronto), also of the Archdiocese, is the current chair of the commission.

Prominent among the issues discussed was the response of the churches to end-of-life issues, at a critical juncture as a result of the Supreme Court's decision last February to strike down existing criminal legislation preventing physician-assisted death. That decision comes into effect in February 2016, and in the absence of new laws that will mean that physician-assisted death, or "active euthanasia", will be legal across Canada.

In an agreed statement, the Faith and Witness Commission is requesting the governing board of the Canadian Council of Churches to support a federal governmentrequest to the Supreme Court for an extension to the February 2016 deadline, to allow time for a proper consultation before enacting new legislation. An extension would allow churches to make their case to elected representatives before the enactment of legislation.

The Orthodox Christian representatives on the commission (which also includes representatives of the Greek  and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in Canada, as well as the Coptic Orthodox Church) have consisently and robustly maintained the ancient Christian view that all life from conception to natural death is sacred, and any form of assisted death is wrong. The same view is vigorously supported by the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church on commission, and it is expected that Orthodox and Catholics, together with many other faith groups, will join together to make this case in any eventual consultation. Our opportunity to join with other churches in a common voice makes our voice and presence in the public square stronger and more effective.

Previous agreed statements from the Commission on Faith and Witness of the Canadian Council of Churches on end of life issues have also highlighted the acute need for more resources for hospices and palliative care and protection for the vulnerable who are suffering or facing death.

Other issues tackled at the meeting this month included plans for the development of a new multimedia website for the Commission on Faith and Witness, which will in the first instance include videos on what different Christian groups mean by salvation, including videos featuring the patristic theology of salvation. The meeting also saw ongoing work on the best manner for Christian witness in an age of plurality, all the more relevant given the plight of Orthoodox Christians in the Near East and the rise of refugees and other immigrants to Canada.

For more information about the Commission on Faith and Witness (including free material for downloading), visit the Commission's webpage. For more information on the archdiocese's involvement in the Commission, please contact one of the archdiocesan representatives. A full report on this meeting will be available soon.