Tuesday 6 March 2012

Anglicans and return to Eastern Orthodoxy - a tragically lost opportunity


From a memoir by Bishop Kallistos (Ware):

In Britain in the 1950s it was a highly unusual step for a Western person to seek entry into the Orthodox Church, and most of my English friends did their best to dissuade me...

At the time this puzzled me. In my reading about Orthodoxy I had quickly discovered that it claims to be, not just one among many alternative “denominations,” but the true Church of Christ on earth. Yet it seemed as if the Orthodox themselves were telling me, “Yes, Orthodoxy is indeed the one true Church, but you should on no account join it. It is only for us Easterners, Greeks, Russians and the rest.” Adherence to the saving truth appeared to depend on the accidents of birth and geography...

With hindsight I can appreciate better why Bishop James spoke as he did. Forty or fifty years ago there were many Orthodox, and also many Anglicans, who sincerely hoped that the Anglican communion would be reconciled to Orthodoxy in a corporate way.

Individual conversions from Anglicanism to the Orthodox Church were therefore discouraged; Anglicans, it was felt, would do better to remain where they were, and to work for unity from within their present Church, acting as an “Anglo-Orthodox” leaven.

I fear that these hopes for corporate reunion were always unrealistic. But it has to be remembered that, during the first half of the twentieth century, the moderate “High Church” party within Anglicanism — which bases itself upon an appeal to the Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers — was far stronger than it is today, whereas the extreme “liberal” tendency, with its doctrinal and moral relativism, was much less pronounced, although already plainly in evidence.

At any rate Bishop James was by no means alone in his dream that High Anglicanism might eventually develop into the nucleus of a native-grown Western Orthodoxy...

While at Oxford, under the influence of my close friend from school days, Donald (A. M.) Allchin, I became an active member of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, whose aim is to promote rapprochement between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism.

The summer conferences of the Fellowship had a decisive effect on me. Here I listened to such Anglicans as Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Father Derwas Chitty, and Professor H. A. Hodges, all of whom regarded Orthodoxy as the integral fullness of the Christian tradition, to which Anglicanism needed to return.

As they saw it, Anglicans could hold the full Orthodox faith while still remaining in the Church of England, and in this manner we could help to bring our fellow-Anglicans nearer to Orthodoxy.





dearieme said...

You could argue that Rome's flounce-out from the old Catholic Christianity in 1054 took with it people in England, and elsewhere, who might naturally be interested in the old - now "Orthodox" - religion once they had rejected Roman Catholicism. It's odd that it's taken hundreds of years for the penny to drop.

Bruce Charlton said...

Yes - these pennies do take a long time to drop - for me anyway.

But when your beloved Normans conquered England, apparently about 10 percent of the population fled including about 10,000 who made their way to Constantinople, raised a seige and were rewarded by some privileges such that there was an English-descended (and Orthodox) community there for hundreds of years.

I would guess that some of this fleeing from Normans may be been motivated by adherence to the old style Eastern Orthodox traditions (which people nowadays call 'Celtic Christianity' and thus miss the main point of it) - since the Normans imposed a very strongly Roman brand of Christianity: Cathedral and Bishop/ priest focused rather than Monastery and Abbot/ monk focused.

dearieme said...

Queen Margaret was very keen on suppressing Celtic Christianity in Scotland and replacing it by Roman Catholicism. She was an Anglo-Saxon.

Bruce Charlton said...

@dearieme - yes, the Synod of Whitby was Saxon work; but I guess that changes were relatively modest and there was always hope of a counter-revolution until the big bad Normans came along

dearieme said...

But she lived after the Norman Conquest of England and therefore centuries after Whitby. The key point is probably that she lived after the Schism whereby Catholicisnm -> Roman Catholicism in the West.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - sorry, I had her mixed up with someone else.