Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Orthodox Church in America Initiates Dialogue with the Anglican Church in North America

An excellent review of the momentous and singularly ground-breaking address given today by Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA to the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America.

More personal observations and comments will soon follow... suffice it to say in brief that the marvellously generous appeal of the Orthodox Church in America will only find its most willing, open and cooperative reception in those who already embrace essential dogmatic unity with the Orthodox Faith, to wit, the orthodox Anglo-Catholic movement within ACNA, with which we Continuing Anglicans share the Faith. Neo-evangelicals, and in particular Calvinists, will, to one degree or another, likely not be eagerly receptive to the dogmatic necessities and non-negotiables of the Orthodox Tradition. Bishop Duncan subtly indicated in his Wednesday night sermon that ACNA participants may already be divided along theological lines by the invitation.

A latitudinarian ecclesial body is ill-prepared to receive the invitation corporately to enter the fulness of the Catholic Faith. Only an Anglican Church that has, as a jurisdictional whole, entirely recovered its own native inherent catholic identity can profess the Faith sought by the Orthodox. We should remember that the Orthodox are not looking to absorb Catholic Anglicans; rather they are searching for the mutual recognition and sacramental communion of equally Orthodox Churches. Only a fully catholic and orthodox Anglican Church, a thoroughly 'Seven Council' Anglican Church faithful to its own unbroken Anglican Tradition, could meet the criteria of mutual recognition and communion, and thus be acknowledged as Orthodox. This conciliarity was the heart and goal of the ecumenical conversation that began with Saint Tikhon and Blessed Charles Grafton a century ago. Anglicanism is being called, not to become something else, but to restore its own historic Anglicanism. Ad fontes. Ressourcement. Back to the sources.

It is good to see a formal and public acknowledgment that half of the Orthodox Communion recognised the validity of Anglican Orders in the twentieth century.

Also, very importantly, the extent to which the new ACNA accepts and expresses the Orthodox Faith in its fulness is exactly the extent to which the Continuing Churches will be able to enter into full communion with ACNA, for the Continuing Churches are already themselves fundamentally patristic, conciliar and catholic in theology and doctrine, in a word, Orthodox. We are truly, as Saint Tikhon proclaimed and hoped, a 'fellow Orthodox Church' - the 'Orthodox Church of the West.'

More on the specific points of His Beatitude's address shortly... Could this yet be another case of an Apostolic Church talking to a mismatched group? Only time will tell.


If Anglicans foreswear Calvinism, female priests, and the filioque clause, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) would be ready to begin a dialogue leading to the possible recognition of Anglican orders and full Eucharistic fellowship.

In a June 24 address, His Beatitude Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the OCA, said the Orthodox and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) shared a common apostolic heritage and shared morality. He also announced that his church had switched ecumenical ties, abandoning all relations and dialogue with The Episcopal Church in favor of the ACNA.

“We can come together as the bastion and bulwark of an authentically orthodox church,” the archbishop said. “We can come together to bear witness to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as handed over by the fathers.”

Metropolitan Jonah told the ACNA assembly the OCA’s synod of bishops was “enthusiastic about the opportunities” dialogue would bring. His offer of a dialogue on full communion was made only on behalf of the OCA, he said. He added that he was traveling from Fort Worth to New York for a meeting of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the umbrella group of all Orthodox churches in the Americas. The SCOBA bishops were “anxious to hear of my report on this meeting,” he said

The Presiding Bishop’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, told The Living Church he was not aware of the OCA’s plans, but said the announcement was not unexpected.

“We’ve not had formal ecumenical relations with the OCA since I joined the Presiding Bishop’s Office” in 2001, he said. Bishop Epting said he had sought to foster dialogue with the Orthodox churches in America based on the Anglican-Orthodox agreed statement, The Triune Faith. However, the Orthodox had not responded.

The archbishop, 49, told the assembly that he had been raised as an Episcopalian at St James by the Sea Church, La Jolla, Calif., but as a college student came to Orthodoxy through a study of the Tractarians in search of the true church.

“The goal of my life is to live and actualize, to participate in as fully as I can, the full integrity of the Catholic Church, the full integrity of the Orthodox Church,” he said.

There have been relations between Anglicans and the Russian Orthodox Church since the Elizabethan settlement, he noted, and said 100 years ago that “that relationship became extremely strong” in the United States under the leadership of Metropolitan Tikhon.

“St. Tikhon had a vision of unity … that vision of unity resulted in the time of the proclamation by about half of the Orthodox churches of the validation of the Anglican orders,” he said. However, “it fell apart on the Anglican side with the affirmation of a protestant identity more than a catholic identity. This shattered the unity. We need to pick up where they left off.”

To complete the work of St. Tikhon, who hoped The Episcopal Church could be “declared a fellow Orthodox church,” he proposed a dialogue whose goal was a “unity in faith” where it “can be celebrated together in the sacrament of the Eucharist.” To get there, “there are some issues we have to resolve,” he said.

“One hundred years ago, St. Tikhon came to the Anglican Church with arms wide open. I am the successor of St Tikhon. I occupy the place, the throne, that St. Tikhon held as the leader of the OCA. Our arms are wide open,” he said to a standing ovation from the delegates.

In response to the Metropolitan’s address, the dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, the Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, said that “in times of crisis Anglicanism by nature always turn east.” It is a “time for a huge opportunity, let’s not miss it.”

Reactions from the ACNA delegates broke along party lines. One Fort Worth delegate said there was hardly anything the OCA had proposed that Anglo-Catholics could not accept. However, an AMiA delegate was less sanguine, saying rejecting Calvinism was tantamount to rejecting Anglicanism.

Turning back on women’s orders was also problematic for many of the evangelical delegates, and is a point of contention within the new province.

(The Rev.) George Conger

3 comments:

John Dieter said...

Given the clandestine latitudinarian views of the ACNA, perhaps the APA should step up -thus permitting a true embrace of the undivided Anglican orthodoxy of the APA and the Eastern orthodoxy of OCA. I see few points of contention between the two beyond the Filioque and that the Eastern Church (to my knowledge) does not reserve the sacred Blood & Body of our Lord.

Anonymous said...

John-
The Eastern Church does reserve the sacred Blood & Body of our Lord within a Tabernacle upon the Altar of every Orthodox Temple.

But yes, the APA should get up to the meetings, along with TAC/ACA as Rome will never help them out.

The Western Rite is a real possibility for you all.

Blessings,
Fr. John

Anonymous said...

Indeed, almost every Anglican jurisdiction, whether "in Communion" with Canterbury or not, comprises inconsistent liturgical and theological parties, making an Orthodox ecumenical dialogue with "Anglicanism" very difficult.

On one hand, the descendants of the Victorian Anglo-Catholics have historically looked to Rome as an ecumenical partner and still tend to have a very Tridentine / Counter-Reformation piety and practice that makes for a dubious joinder with the East.

On the other hand, the Evangelicals are wed to Calvin or at least to Augustinianism, making reunion with the East a non-starter.

In the middle, the English-Use, Prayer-Book Catholics that look the the Caroline-Divines for theological guidance are the most likely to see Orthodox theology as appealing -- as it is essentially their own theology. But, these Anglicans hardly control a single Vestry in the whole world, much less a Diocese! And, as now, even the Western Rite Movement within Orthodoxy has completely overlooked English-Use Rite and Ceremonial, thereby "blowing" its best shot at welcoming nascent Anglo-Orthodox.

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