Friday, February 02, 2007

Anglicans and Orthodox: Reunion Not Beyond Hope?

In the Church Times today, there is a report from the ecumenical Metropolitan to the Archbishop of Canterbury that took 16 years to create. The report speaks of the 'innovations' of women's ordination as 'hindrances' to this visible union along with the 'internal' debates on sexuality. The ABC spoke favourably of the report's work as it 'had returned to the “wellsprings” of faith, to take a long run up to the present problems between the Churches.' The Orthodox Church asks: 'What do you say to us?'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was interested to read the Church times report, and look forward to getting the full version. Recently, my attention has also been drawn to a collection of papers, published in the Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2002, number 3, pp. 489-752. These are papers to come out of two ecumenical conferences held between Orthodox and Old Catholic participants. The Old Catholics, of course, ordain women as priests and, in theory, as bishops. I have yet to read all the papers but the conclusion is somewhat surprising: 'The participants in the consultation were not able to recognize any "compelling dogmatic or theological reasons" for not ordaining women to the priesthood. This means that the ordination of women could not fundamentally call in question or destroy the communion and unity of the church or the moves toward restoring broken communion and unity. Difficulties might occur in practice, because the ministries of priests might not always be interchangeable (p. 503)' Likewise, on the 'rationale often put forwards for the male character of the priesthood': 'We have reached the common conclusion that there are no compelling dogmatic-theological reasons for not ordaining women to the priesthoo. The soteriological dimension of the church and its mission is decisive for us: the salvation of humankind and the entire creation in Jesus Christ in whom the new creation is being accomplished. We were especially guided by the conviction that was central to the ancient church: only that which has been assumed and united with God has been saved. It is human nature, common to men and women, that has been assumed (p. 505).'
Also of interest is what prefaces the first of these quotations: 'The non-ordination fo women throughout history...is a matter of fact. However, the participants in the consultation regarded the related patterns of explanation and criticism to be the result of certain cultural factors. Whereever those factors are still in existence, the church might want to hold on to the corresponding practices. However, wherever those factors have changed, the fundamental question is bound to reappear (p. 503).'
These arguments are clearly not new, and are a summary of many papers, all of which I have not read. It also has to be said that the statement does not represent an official statement of any church, but the conference did happen with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch, as well as the Archbishop of Utrecht, which makes this conclusion of particular interest.
Jeff, I still have the book out on loan from the university library, but will return it shortly.
Fr Kevin Walton

8:53 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

These papers sound as though they are a translation of what was originally published, in German, in the April-June 1998 issue of the *Internationale Kirchliche Zeitschrift*, a European Old Catholic journal published in Switzerland. I have a copy. I asked a number of Orthodox clergy friends of mine about this at the time, and from a number of them I was told that the whole thing was a great embarassment to Orthodoxy and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The two symposia at which the papers were presented were indeed under the patronage of Constantinople and Utrecht, but the Orthodox presenters (most of them Greeks) were, for the most part, either Greek Orthodox academic theologians from Western European, often German, universities, while those from Greece professed disciplines other than Theology. Whatever the purpose of the symposia, their effect was to impel the European OCs to proceed without further ado to "ordain" women -- and to convince Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland, who had previously been a great proponent of Orthodox/OC rapprochement, that its likelihood had become remote (and even in 1989 he had stated that for the OCs to come into sacramental communion with the Orthodox they would have to repudiate their communion with Anglican churches).

There are some Orthodox hierarchs who clearly have no strong opposition to WO. One might cite in this context, the then Metropolitan Michael (Staikos) of Austria who, at the ordination of the first Austrian OC priestess in 1999, sent a long letter about how, while he regretted that he could not attend the event, he would have loved nothing better than to cry out "axia" at it. On the other hand, when the former ECUSA Bishop of California (Swing) visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate some years ago, and (as he himself wrote afterwards) told the EP that he was eager to share with him his experiences of the goodness and fruitfulness of WO, the EP told him bluntly that he didn't want to hear it.

10:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Kevin,

Welcome to posting here and please feel free to continue. I have not read these papers and it would be good to see them and to have some discussion here about them. I will look forward to having more time on this. I am quite interested in the Orthodox way of things and have been for some time. I hope to be a participant in the exchange program that our Diocese here in Durham has with the Orthodox that Fr. Jeremy participates in.

Thanks for posting Fr. Kevin and I will get that 'promised' reflection to you as well. I actually need to call you to ask you a few things before I send it on.

12:38 am  

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