Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Russian Orthodox Church greets the new Archbishop of Canterbury

The following message of congratulation has been sent to Bishop Justin Welby by Metropolitan Hilarion, the Chairman of  the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate [link here
The letter, which pulls no punches, spells out just how difficult ecumenical relationships have now become:

"Dear Brother and Lord Bishop,
I would like to extend to you wholehearted congratulations on your election as Head of one of the oldest episcopal chairs founded by St. Augustine of Canterbury in the 7th century.
 You have been entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ (Tit. 1:7) the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth (cf. Jn. 18:37).
 The Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion are bonded by age-old friendly relations initiated in the 15th century. For centuries, our Churches would preserve good and truly brotherly relations encouraged both by frequent mutual visits and established theological dialogue and certainly by a spirit of respect and love which used to accompany the meetings of our hierarchs, clergy and ordinary believers.
 Regrettably, the late 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium have brought tangible difficulties in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The introduction female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops – all these innovations are seen by the Orthodox as deviations from the tradition of the Early Church, which increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole.
 We hope that the voice of the Orthodox Church will be heard by the Church of England and Churches of the Anglican Communion, and good fraternal relationships between us will revive.
 I wish you God’s help in your important work.
 ‘May the God of love and peace be with you’ (2 Cor. 13:11).
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk"
One of the problems which orthodox, 'Catholic' Christians within the Anglican Communion face is the a priori belief of Anglicanism's liberals and revisionists, who now run our western provinces, that somehow "reason," the currently over-promoted leg of the traditional*  'three-legged stool' of Anglican polity, is synonymous with the prevailing view of contemporary secular culture and, in practice, has an infallibilty accorded to it by our modern would-be reformers which they deny to papacy, Church, Holy Scripture or sacred tradition or any possible combination of the foregoing.
It would certainly explain why, in the face of such catastrophic decline, they insist the correct response to our present problems is to slam their feet hard down on the accelerator of radical change, rather than engage in a good, hard, prayerful, reflection about where exactly this course of action may be leading us as an ecclesial body.
From the recent past [see here and here], it is far too late to expect messages like that of Metropolitan Hilarion, from the representatives of formerly serious and engaged ecumenical partners, to have any effect whatsoever upon our leaders, but we must pray nevertheless - even in the face of bitter experience - that such pleas will not be completely disregarded.

*  even if it is a formulation which is somewhat unclear in its practical application


  1. some positives to take from the Metropolitan's letter:
    1. he addresses the ABC-elect as 'Dear Brother and Lord Bishop'- it signals respect & recognition;
    2. Orthodoxy hasn't washed their hands of Anglicanism yet (though we have pushed them from hard);
    3. he clearly spells out where the main problems lie that are a cause of estrangement (it is good for hererodox Anglicans to know that this isn't just an issue for the few 'old fuddie-duddies' who still remain within the Communion).

  2. Yes, I agree with you, up to a point.
    But we all know that there are those (and they are now 'running the show' in the Anglican West) who will see even such small signs as an indication they can proceed with impunity along the course they have set.
    Of course, neither Rome nor Orthodoxy can ever give up on the Lord's command that we all be one, but neither the 'tough love' expressed by Metropolitan Hilarion or the (deceptively) gentler words of Pope Benedict seem to be having the slightest effect upon those who view their actions as 'prophetic' and as constituting the only future for the Christian faith, rather than as a catastrophic betrayal of the Gospel which will end in disaster. I'm sorry I can't be more hopeful about our situation.

  3. Still, Father, as long as Rome & Orthodoxy don't give up, there remains a door open to some form of unity available to those who wish to take it ... perhaps those who wish to be both Anglican & in Communion with the wider Church must be willing to explore creative options to achieve that goal ...

  4. Well, the unitive challenge is on. The libs, of course, aren't part of the project. In North America the the debate's in the ACNA/FIFNA camp and there's more traction than perhaps meets the eye.

    How UK trads deal with the situation is sadly more complex...

    Good luck with a new Province; I fear you'll need one.

  5. By the way, Father, I did my own post on this topic:
    And of course I gave a link to your post. :-)


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