St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow is ten minute’s walk from the Kremlin. A community of Russians and foreigners, it is, as the chaplain, Canon Malcolm Rogers writes, ‘a witness of what the world can be like, of the future kingdom’.
He adds: ‘There are some things we cannot say in Moscow, but we can still preach Jesus Christ, crucified and risen and reigning… In my 30-plus years of ministry, I have never known a time and a place where people are more hungering for God’.
Canon Rogers writes of his neighbours at St Andrew’s: the young Russian crushed by what has been done in his name; the mother sick with anxiety for her son who has been sent to Ukraine; the foreign student unsure whether or how to leave; the person who has been named on the wrong sort of list; the older person who hears a return to the isolation and economic depression of the 1980s.
The Church of England Chaplaincy in Warsaw has been caring for the constant stream of arriving refugees, providing for their immediate needs, helping them on their way to their next destination or opening their homes to them.
These refugees, some elderly, are traumatised, and possibly without passports or other documentation. To complete their UK visa they need telephones and phonecards. Anglicans from Poland, with the support of the Bishop of Europe, are calling for competent personnel to be sent to assist war victims with their applications at border crossings and at major cities, especially those with airports.
Call for ceasefire
Senior leaders of Anglican Churches around the world have called for ‘an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’. They said: ‘We know from our experience, in the different parts of the world we are from, that conflict causes lasting damage. The longer a war goes on, the longer it takes to heal shattered relationships and bring about reconciliation.’ They regretted that so many people have had to flee their homes as a result of fighting, and called the plight of refugees, migrants and displaced people ‘one of the major tragedies of our time’. ‘We pray for peace and urge those with the ability to do so to bring about justice, sanctuary and reconciliation,’ they added.
The Church Times has reported that former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams backed calls for the Russian Orthodox Church to be excluded from the World Council of Churches (whose 352 member-denominations will meet in Germany from 31 August to 8 September), as Patriarch Kirill of Moscow praised his country’s armed forces for acting in line with the gospel and Christian teaching.
‘The case for expelling is a strong one, and I have a suspicion that some other Orthodox Churches would take the same view. Many in the Orthodox world feel that Orthodoxy itself is compromised,’ Lord Williams told the BBC Sunday programme. He said: ‘The riot act has to be read. When a church is actively supporting a war of aggression, failing to condemn nakedly obvious breaches in any kind of ethical conduct in wartime, then other churches have the right to raise the question and challenge it – to say, unless you can say something effective about this, something recognisably Christian, we have to look again at your membership.’
Lord Williams added that he could not accept the use of Christian terminology to justify ‘a nakedly aggressive, unprincipled act of violence against a neighbouring Christian nation’.
‘I’m still waiting for any senior voices in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy to say the slaughter of the innocent in war is condemned unequivocally by all forms of Christianity,’ he said.
‘I feel rather devastated that the current leadership of the Church is in danger of betraying everything most precious in what Russian Christianity has given to the wider world: the saints, the witnesses, the hugely complex and enriching history in spirituality, art, and literature … All of that is being Tarmacked over by this extraordinary and almost obsessive nationalist fervour.’
Lord Williams said that the ‘minimum’ was for Patriarch Kirill to ‘press for an effective and credible ceasefire’. He warned that the Patriarch was ‘answerable to Jesus Christ’ for the fact that Orthodox Ukrainians were being ‘killed by other members of his own flock’.
Anglican Bishops in the United States joined with over 80 other Christian leaders from all denominations in an open letter to Archbishop Kirill, stating that ‘Before God, we bear witness that there is no religious justification from any side for the destruction and terror the world is witnessing daily. Our first allegiance is always to our Lord Jesus Christ. This transcends the narrow claims of all nations and ideologies.’
An Anglican website in the United States, Virtueonline, published a statement from a distinguished Roman Catholic scholar, George Weigel, saying: ‘If two of the most venal, corrupt organisations on the planet –the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, the world soccer hegemon – can sever relations with Russia because of its lethal aggression, the Vatican can surely inform Patriarch Kirill that the Holy See’s ecumenical contacts with Russian Orthodoxy are suspended until Kirill condemns the invasion of Ukraine, thereby proving himself something other than Putin’s puppet.’
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