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03.06.05 16:16 Age: 7 yrs

World Mission Conference: Orthodox complain of "sheep stealing"

WCC tries to integrate growing Pentecostal movement


ATHENS, Greece — Tensions between Orthodox and Non-Orthodox churches surfaced during the first ecumenical World Mission Conference held May 9 to 16 in Athens. Conservative members of the Greek Orthodox Church protested at the entrance to the conference center against what they perceive as proselytism or "sheep stealing" by Protestant missionaries.

They described Protestants and Anglicans as "heretics" and demanded that conference participants leave the country. They also displayed posters saying "Orthodoxy or death." The conference, with 500 participants, was organized by the World Council of Churches, which represents 347 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican churches. The WCC denounces proselytism.

It is the first time that an ecumenical world mission conference is being held in an Orthodox country. Almost 10 million of the 10.5 million inhabitants of Greece are affiliated with the Orthodox Church. Approximately 65,000 are Roman Catholics and 50,000 Protestants.

In his address to the mission conference the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, said his church had gladly extended the invitation "despite bitter experiences in the past with aggressive missionary activities and hostile actions against our people." (...)