Statement of the Council of Bishops of the UOC of the USA on the 242nd Anniversary of US Independence
Reverend brothers in the Holy Priesthood, beloved brothers and sisters if Christ, spiritual children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA:
Blessed Independence Day!
Once again, we are celebrating the Fourth of July - Independence Day - the national celebration that makes to wonder how we experience or think about such words and notions as freedom, independence, and liberty.
For some, the terms are used to justify just about anything. “This is a free country!” some people would shout, doing something frightening, or breaking the law, or hurling racist slurs at people nearby.
For some, the notion of freedom means I am free to do what I please, even if it scares other people (e.g., skateboarding on the church steps), endangers those nearby (as we see when people use their phones to send text messages, check email, or dial for calls while behind the wheel), or casts insults to intimidate a “certain” categories of people.
As Orthodox Christians, we are constantly reminded that freedom is always linked to responsibility, liberty means the ability to carry out our mission as disciples of Christ, and that independence does NOT mean we are independent from God and his commandments, but rather independent from oppressive forces which would destroy our communion with God — and God’s people.
In 2018 we have already witnessed various attacks on freedom in our local communities throughout the country. We, as a nation, are at a crossroads, and the Church is facing unprecedented challenges. We find ourselves in a position in which prayer and prayerful action are absolutely necessary to combat the rapid social, moral movements and policy changes currently underway in the modern world, our country and in our culture.
We call upon the faithful and all people of goodwill to play their rightful role in their duty as citizens and residents of this country. The Christian community, guided by the teachings and direction of the Church, are called to uphold spiritual and moral values as we live out our obligation to enhance peace and harmony in our society. Lawmakers and those who implement the law are urged to exercise their civil duties, with fear of God and respect for the human person.
The political issues that occasionally divide us are insignificant when compared to the unifying American spirit that binds us to each other, a shared past, and a promising future.
As you enjoy celebrating the holiday, take a moment to reflect on the fact that God has truly blessed this land. As we celebrate America’s birthday, let us take the time to thank God Almighty for the blessings He has bestowed upon us.
As Ukrainian Americans and Orthodox Christians we celebrate this freedom. We recognize the blessings that freedom has provided to our families and ourselves as we live, work, and worship in this country. We also recognize the value of freedom in emphasizing our heritage and identity. We are free to share this cherished heritage in an environment that values freedom of expression and the open sharing of ideas and diversity.
We have much to offer from our historic heritage. As members of this society and as Orthodox Christians we know we are truly free when our pursuits and goals are not for ourselves but for the benefit and spiritual well-being of others and for the honor and glory of God.
Have a blessed, happy and safe Fourth of July!
By the Grace of God Metropolitan of the UOC of the USA and Diaspora
By the Grace of God Archbishop of the UOC of the USA