Monday, 13 September 2010

We don't like to say it, but we told you so

These are excerpts from a significant recent address given at Lambeth Palace by Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
My emphases in red

"We are equally concerned about the fate of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England.........
 The first difficulties in relation to the Church of England emerged in 1992 when its General Synod agreed to ordain women to the priesthood. The Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church came out with an official statement expressing regret and concern over this decision as contradicting the tradition of the Early Church.

One might ask why our Church should have concerned itself at all with this matter? By the early 90s the Protestant world had already ordained many women pastors and even women bishops. But the unique point here was that the Anglican Community had long sought rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. Many Orthodox Christians recognized the existence of apostolic continuity in Anglicanism. From the 19th century, Anglican members of the Association of Eastern Churches sought ‘mutual recognition’ with the Orthodox Church and its members believed that ‘both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments’.

Much has changed since. The introduction of the female priesthood in the Church of England was followed by discussions on the female episcopate. In response to the positive decision made by the Church of England’s General Synod on this issue, the Department for External Church Relations published a new statement saying that this decision ‘has considerably complicated dialogue with the Anglicans for Orthodox Christians’ and ‘has taken Anglicanism farther away from the Orthodox Church and contributed to further division in Christendom as a whole’.

We have studied the preparatory documents for the decision on female episcopate and were struck by the conviction expressed in them that even if the female episcopate were introduced, ecumenical contacts with the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches would not come to an end. What made the authors of these documents so certain? There was a second controversial statement. The same document argued that despite a possible cooling down in relations with Catholics and Orthodox, the Church of England would strengthen and broaden its relations with the Methodist Church and the Lutheran Churches in Norway and Sweden. In other words, the introduction of the female episcopate ‘will bring both gains and losses’. The question arises: Is not the cost of these losses too high? I can say with certainty that the introduction of the female episcopate excludes even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the apostolic continuity of the Anglican hierarchy.
We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.
Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture."

"Summing up, I wish to assert that today we have new divisions in Christendom, not only theological but also ethical. Regrettably, many Christian communities, which once maintained fraternal relations with the Orthodox Church for many years and were in dialogue with it, have shown themselves to be incapable or unwilling to assume obligations stemming from our dialogue. We accompany our reactions to these developments with assurances of respect for the right of all churches and communities to make decisions which they deem to be necessary. Yet, at the same time, we state with sadness that neither the official dialogue nor the most valuable relations and contacts in the past have kept some of our Anglican brothers and sisters from steps which have taken them even farther away from our common Christian Church Tradition.
On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church I would like to stress that we continue to be fully committed to the dialogue with the Anglican Church and will do our utmost to keep this dialogue going. We do not betray our commitment to the dialogue. However, we feel that many of our Anglican brothers and sisters betray our common witness by departing from traditional Christian values and replacing them by contemporary secular standards. I very much hope that the official position of the Anglican Church on theological, ecclesiological and moral issues will be in tune with the tradition of the Ancient Undivided Church and that the Anglican leadership will not surrender to the pressure coming from liberals.
........Today, too, we do not abandon Christian love for our Anglican brothers and sisters. We do not abandon the hope that they, who once defied every danger during the hard years of war, will share with us that trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which rests on the solid foundation of the faith of holy apostles, the Fathers of the Nicean Council and the tradition of the Undivided Church."
Read it all here

Archbishop Hilarion, a considerable and increasingly influential figure in the Orthodox world, has to be commended for his plain speaking, something of a rarity among those whose business is ecumenism. However, the Anglican establishment will neither willing receive his message nor want you to hear it, and they also won't want you to know that they have absolutely no intention of responding positively to it. In fact, even in the utterly unlikely event that they wished to do so, it would be impossible: there is far too much of a vested (no pun intended) interest against a return to orthodoxy within those western Anglican provinces which have definitively rejected traditional (and universal)  interpretations of apostolicity and taken liberal revisionism into their very life-blood.
Of course, there is nothing new in all this, only chickens coming home to roost; and it gives me nothing but sorrow to say that this response from Archbishop Hilarion is only what so many of us have predicted for a considerable period.
But it's now too late: the die is already cast, the Rubicon crossed.
Those Anglicans loyal to Catholic faith and apostolic order must now extricate themselves in whatever way they can.

1 comment:

  1. To quote Sir Alex Fergusson, it must have been "squeaky bums time" for Rowan and gang at the time the speech was being made. Wish I was there to have seen it.


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