September 1, 2014

Thoughts From Nashotah House

nashotah-house

The recent Anglican/Orthodox Conference at Nashotah House was, for me as an Orthodox observer, an extraordinary experience and one that fills me with hope (albeit, a guarded hope). Over the 3 or so days of the conference I was consistently impressed with the seriousness of all the speakers and the substance of their presentations. Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion of North America I think spoke for many of his fellow Anglicans when he said that “we (the Anglican Communion) come to you (the Orthodox Church) in our brokenness and our need for what it is you have.” This is, in my opinion, an extraordinary statement from a Christian leader.

At the same time neither Archbishop Duncan or the other Anglican speakers were unaware that there remain real, substantive differences between our two traditions. Of these the most serious were seen (from the Anglican side) as the  “filioque” clause, which was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western Church, the ordination of women as presbyters and the Orthodox condemnation of Calvinism. To be sure there are other areas of disagreement, but these three seem to be the main ones that the Anglicans needs to address among themselves.

After the meeting, Archbishop Duncan was in fact on his way to speak with the Anglicans of the Southern Cone (primarily Africa) about recent developments between ACNA and the OCA. Quite prudently, the Archbishop is hesitant to proceed unilaterally and would submit Metropolitan JONAH’s invitation to reconciliation to the collective discernment of those Anglican community with which ACNA is in communion. What the rest of the Anglican world will say, and what ACNA will do if the invitation to reconciliation is rejected, no one at this point knows–including I suspect Archbishop Duncan.

The point was made several times and by both Orthodox and Anglican speakers that the Orthodox/Anglican dialog is the oldest ecumenical dialog on the modern era. In America this dialog flourished especially because of the friendship between St Tikhon on the Orthodox side and Bishop Charles Grafton on the Anglican side. These two men were committed to the reconciliation of the two communities and in life worked worked tirelessly to do so even as (and again as more than one speaker insisted) they do now as before the Throne of Christ.

In his closing remarks Metropolitan JONAH reminded the seminarians that in St Tikhon, who was himself a son of Nashotah House having received his doctorate of divinity (honoris causa) from that institution, they had a powerful intercessor on their behalf as they (like him) fight against the spirit of the anti-Christ who seeks to destroy their church as he sought to destroy the Church in Russia.

While I will write more later, I did want to make one personal observation.

Many of the Orthodox speakers were themselves former Anglicans and in many cases Anglican priests who studied at Nashotah House. These men were greeted by the former fellow Anglicans with evident warmth, affection and respect. To my shame I must confess, I find it hard to imagine myself being so generous in similar circumstances. And I cannot help but think my own shortcomings in this area are shared by many, maybe even most, Orthodox Christians–clergy and laity.

More later.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Comments

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    George Michalopulos says:

    wonderflly put Fr. Perhaps if many Orthodox Christians offered intecessory prayer on behalf of these people, the Lord will lead them to their Orthodox home.

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    Christopher says:

    Being a veteran of the internal conflict within Anglicanism – and having surrendered in the end to the Spirit by being Christmated in the Orthodox Church – the generosity does not surprise me. Anglicanism has always been a “practiced incoherence” if I may put it that way. I still pray for the Anglican Church, and I do think there are many Christians left in the Episcopal part of her (though they are Christian despite of, not because of the church). It always gladdens the heart to see real “ecumenism” such as this. Such a contrast to the EP’s WCC…

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Christopher, excellent point. I’d rather spend decades in fruitless but loving dialogue with the Anglicans than one minute with the neo-pagans in the WCC/NCC.

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    Fr Mark says:

    As one who “practiced incoherence” for a number of years, this report evokes all sorts of memories – not the least of which involves an unfinished Nashotah House STM! I haven’t followed ECUSA politics closely in recent years, but I did glance at the article posted at David Virtue’s website. The comments are most illuminating. Any rapprochement with Orthodoxy will be a grueling challenge for ACNA, given the tense confederation of Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, and Reformed sensibilities constituting traditional Anglicanism in North America.

    A fascinating question will be whether and how this breathes new life into Western Rite Orthodoxy.

    I welcome the initiative, and pray God’s mercy upon us all.

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      Fr Mark,

      You are right, the process of reconciliation will be grueling but not only for the ACNA but also the OCA and the Orthodox Church in the US and overseas. There is, as Fr Chad Hatfield from SVS mentioned in his own talk, a huge risk here for all involved. But as my economist friends remind me, there are no large rewards without equally large risks.

      Like you, I welcome the initiative and pray that God will be merciful to all who are involved.

      Christopher,

      I get your point about “practiced incoherence” and I have experienced this in the past in my conversations with Episcopalians and Anglicans. And, yes, I saw some of that last week at Nashotah House. But in the main though, I think Archbishop Duncan and the other Anglican leaders know what they are risking. They also know what they will receive if they can see this process to its conclusion. For what it’s worth, I think Metropolitan Jonah and the other Orthodox speakers are also aware of what they risk and the rewards they can reap for Christ and the Church.

      I do think that at least in part the “practiced incoherence” at this stage is not a bad thing at all. This process is not just about bring over a core group of unhappy Anglicans, though that may be all that happens. Yes we have seen for example the reception of the former Evangelical Orthodox Church and more recently the members of the Christ the Savior Brotherhood. While not wishing to minimize this and similar events, what I saw at Nashotah House we part of a significantly larger and more complex pastoral task. The publicly stated goal (by both sides) is the reconciliation of the Anglican and Orthodox communities and are meeting each other in the Chalice. This is really, really huge.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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    Silouan says:

    I’ll confess this summary is a surprise to me. I expected the sort of gathering where people listen to speakers and think “How nice, and how varied is Christian experience.” This sounds as if at least some in ACNA are seriously contemplating what it would take for them to become Orthodox?

    …the most serious were seen (from the Anglican side) as the “filioque” clause, which was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western Church, the ordination of women as presbyters and the Orthodox condemnation of Calvinism.

    This part seemed odd to me. I would have expected Anglicans to have more trouble with Orthodox beliefs regarding salvation, grace, the saints, relics, and so on. Are they intentionally addressing just a few items at a time? Or are these less significant issues for Anglicans than I think?

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      Fr Mark says:

      In my limited experience, Anglicans who are willing to give up the filioque, who oppose the ordination of women, and who reject Calvinism are the most likely to embrace Orthodox beliefs regarding salvation, grace, the saints, relics, etc. These would be the Anglo-Catholics who lean East. There are also Anglo-Catholics who lean West who may cling to the filioque and have a more thoroughly Augustinian notion of salvation and grace.

      The problem has to do with which Anglicans you’re talking to.

      Please don’t take that as a glib response; I really do welcome this initiative and hope that something good and holy comes about.

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      Silouan,

      Yes, the conference did address some theologically substantive concerns. You’re right, this was not standard popular ecumenical chat but a meeting of two traditions whose respective adherents are honestly search for reconciliation with each other.

      While the issues you outline are certainly sticking points for some, these were the three that Archbishop Duncan singled out as most important. My guess, and this is just a guess, that “Orthodox beliefs regarding salvation, grace, the saints, relics, and so on,” would all have to be addressed under the broad theme of Calvinism. I think Fr Mark is correct, the significance of these issues for Anglicanism varies depending the particular Anglican with whom you are speaking.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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    Fr Mark says:

    I’ve listened to the first talks by Fr. Chad Hatfield and Fr. Arnold Klukas – I’m still struggling to understand the particular nature of the risks being assumed by the OCA in this. Is it the accusation of “ecumenism” by Orthodox traditionalists? A willingness to consider a Western Rite? Or is there something more?

    The presentations were very frank in identifying periods of warmth and congenial interaction as well as key events that brought silence and distance – such as the ordination of Fr Nathaniel Irvine. Certainly another event to be pondered would be St Raphael of Brooklyn’s 1912 withdrawal as Vice-President and member of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, which occasioned this reflection:

    I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church. I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definitions of truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic-minded members can call out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulous is her pathway in the doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are quite heterodox on others. I speak, of course, from the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic point of view. The Holy Orthodox Church has never perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go astray in finding out what She teaches. Like Her Lord and Master, though at times surrounded with human malaria—which He in His mercy pardons—She is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8) the mother and safe deposit of the truth as it is in Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:21).

    I’ve always appreciated St Raphael’s forthrightness, as well as his acknowledgement of malarial periods in Orthodoxy.

    But can anyone speculate regarding substantive changes the OCA would be willing to consider for the sake of reconciliation with traditional Anglicans?

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    Ryan Close says:

    I was wondering if anyone caught this and what they think of it? A young anglican man asks +Jonah a very perceptive question.

    “The barriar which prevents our full communion seems to be that the Anglican Church has seven problems that need to be addressed. Since you consider us already to be a body of Christians, joined to God through Christ, the head of the Church, why are these issues not seen as problems of the Church as a whole as opposed to an Anglican problem?”

    He answers,

    “Well, that is exactly how we need to look at it. It’s really. Ah. Instead of seeing the Anglicans as a separate body from us we need to see the Anglicans as part of ourselves and that there are these particular issues that need simply to be resolved.”

    How does this compare with the Vatican’s position, also reported on this blog? Namely, that views “Anglicanism as a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine and makes clear that it is not a historic “church” but rather an ‘ecclesial community’ that strayed and now is invited to return to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.”

    Shouldn’t the Metropolitan said that the Anglican Church is an “ecclesial community,” sociologically speaking, with a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition but that it had long ago ceased to be a historic and Apostolic “church.” Our invitation is for them to return to communion with the One Holy Church. Obviously, Archbishop Duncan already believes he is part of the One Holy Church. So the Metropolitan couches talk of reunion in terms of “fuller communion.”

    Instead the Metropolitan says, “we need to see the Anglicans as part of ourselves.” This is accompanied by waffling on our doctrine in regards to the non-Chalcedon Churches who may have an acceptably Orthodox doctrine of the two natures of Christ, but explicitly accept mono-phylitism.

    I am confused.

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    Christopher says:

    Excellent question(s) Ryan!

    Perhaps others will weigh in on the larger question posed by the young man and the very interesting answer give by +Jonah. My first reaction is simply to the Vatican’s position (as summed up by yourself) in that it makes much more sense and is a much more “practical” way to communion. Essentially it states that the Anglican/RC split was a simple schism involving no heresy or doctrinal differences. Thus a re-communion is a simple matter of the will and not of Doctrine. I wonder if the Anglicans really do understand and accept this uniatism and what it implies?

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