Hilarion praises Global South stand on marriage. Absence of heresy deplored.
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.
By David W. Virtue
Sept. 13, 2010
In surprise remarks that observers say embarrassed Dr. Williams, Hilarion ripped Western Anglican liberals who have deviated from heterosexual marriage calling it “an abyss that divides traditional Christians from Christians of liberal trend.”
The Patriarch praised “traditionalists”, especially in the South and the East, saying the recent 2nd All African Bishops’ Conference held in late August had it right when they affirmed the Biblical standard of the family as marriage between a man and a woman as its foundation. “One of the purposes of marriage is procreation of children some of whom grow to become the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
“Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to speak of ‘Christianity’ as a unified scale of spiritual and moral values, universally adopted by all Christians. It is more appropriate, rather, to speak of ‘Christianities’, that is, different versions of Christianity espoused by diverse communities.
“All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups – traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the ‘traditionalists’ from the ‘liberals’.
“Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately ‘inclusive’ to recognize alternative behavioral standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother’s womb or that one can terminate one’s life at will. Christian ‘traditionalists’ are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.
“Among the vivid indications of disagreement within the Anglican Community (I am reluctant to say ‘schism’) is the fact that almost 200 Anglican bishops refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. I was there as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church and could see various manifestations of deep and painful differences among the Anglicans.”
“Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology – a theology that prefers to refer to “pluralism” and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences,” he opined.
“Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that ‘there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval’ (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy.”
“Today the Orthodox-Anglican Dialogue itself has come under threat. It is especially lamentable because this dialogue has had a long and rich history, beginning with the numerous talks at various levels held between Orthodox and Anglicans from the 17th century.
Hilarion voiced concerns about the fate of this dialogue. “We appreciate the proposal Archbishop Rowan Williams made this year to exclude from the dialogue those Anglican churches which failed to observe the moratorium on the ordination of open homosexuals. But we regard this proposal as not quite sufficient to save the dialogue from an approaching collapse. The dialogue is doomed to closure if the unrestrained liberalization of Christian values continues in many communities of the Anglican world.
“We are equally concerned about the fate of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England,” he stated.
Hilarion said difficulties in relation to the Church of England first 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’.”
Hilarion noted that his church has studied the preparatory documents for the decision on female episcopate and are 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.”
Homosexuality and same-sex unions
The Metropolitan is 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.
“In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that this Church consecrated a self-acclaimed homosexual, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop. The Department for External Church Relations made a special statement deploring this fact as anti-Christian and blasphemous. Moreover, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to suspend the work of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA, which had worked very successfully for many years. The situation was aggravated when a woman bishop was installed as head of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2006 and a lesbian was placed on the bishop’s chair of Los Angeles in 2010.
“Similar reasons were behind the rupture of our relations with the Church of Sweden in 2005 when this Church made a decision to bless same-sex “marriages”. Recently, the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the “bishop” of Stockholm.”
Liberalism and Relativism
“It is impossible to pass silently by the liberalism and relativism which have become so characteristic of today’s Anglican theology. From the time of Archbishop Michael Ramsay of Canterbury, the Church of England saw the emergence of so-called modernism which rejected the very foundations of Christianity as a God-revealed religion. Among its most eloquent representatives was the Anglican Bishop of Woolwich, Dr. J. A. T. Robinson, the author of the sensational book ‘Honest to God’. The Bishop of Woolwich’s worldview can be described as ‘Christian atheism’. Indeed, he rejected the existence of a personal God, of the Creator of the world and of Providence. He also denied the existence of the spiritual world in general and of the future life in particular. It should be admitted that these views provoked protests on the part of some Anglican bishops, led by Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury.”
Hilarion noted that what His Holiness the Patriarch says about Protestantism can be applied equally to many Anglican communities. “In the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox communities discussed seriously the recognition of Anglican priesthood based on its recognized apostolic continuity. Now we are very far from this. And the gap between the liberal Anglicans and the Orthodox keeps growing.
“What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).”
A senior Church of England official told VOL that the Metropolitans’ remarks confound the lies that “dialogue with the Orthodox and Catholics will not be impaired by WO/HO – the message is clear and simple and straight between the eyes.”