Posted by: Fr. C. | July 13, 2011

Baby, Don’t Go

A friend of “The Ship” offered some interesting reasons for remaining a traditional Anglican rather than cross the Danube or whatever river one crosses to go to Orthodoxy.  Having known a number of folks who have “gone East” (even where East is a Western Rite), The Ship thought that these comments were most interesting and worthy of summarizing here, even though the editor doesn’t necessarily agree with them.  Comments anyone?

Observations on Remaining Anglican by Fr. X.

I had worked diligently for corporate reunion with Rome. I thought it could be accomplished, among other reasons, because: 1.) Rome had signed the Joint declaration on Justification with the Lutherans. 2.) Pope John Paul II issued Ut Unum Sint, which appeared to offer to rethink the papal ministry with non-Roman Catholic Christians to make it more acceptable to them. 3.) JPII had said, “At the dawn of the third millennium, if we are to overcome the divisions of the second millennium, we must return to the consensus of the first millennium.” 4.) I understood from my various sources and contacts that this would be reunion, not submission, a “patching up of things up between brothers”;  5.0 that the Anglican/Roman dialogue was with an eye to the East; and that JPII wanted to prove to the East that there could be reunion without submission or absorption.

Sadly, it all appears to have died with JPII. In April 2006 (if my memory serves me well) the Roman authorities completely changed their tune. They would still “take us” but there would be no more doctrinal discussions, and it would be submission not corporate reunion. I could not embrace an unreformed papacy and an unreformed Roman Catholicism, and that is why I dropped out of the dialogue. Anglicanorum Coetibus followed later, proving that I was correct in many of my thoughts. What many people do not realize is that the Anglicanorum Coetibus “bait and switch” will ultimately set Roman/Eastern Orthodox dialogue back many years and renew a distrust for the West.

The truth is that Rome is not a “safe place” for Anglicans. Few Romanists even attend Mass, and only about one third believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The lower clergy on a whole are liberal and the laity are for the most part uncatechized. The ongoing clergy sex scandals in America and around the world are shocking. And now we have the revelations of the double life of that champion of Roman orthodoxy, John Corapi.  Frankly, I wouldn’t trade our problems for theirs.

I can understand an attraction to Western Rite Orthodoxy. I love Anglicanism because I sincerely believe that (when it is true to itself) it is Western Orthodoxy, so I am a strong supporter of corporate reunion with the East. That said, Western Rite Orthodoxy is something else. It hasn’t worked. The Antiochene Archdiocese has had a Western Rite since 1958 (or ’59), and they have about 18 small congregations to show for it. The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is gaining a lot of clergy lately, but few laity.  Further, many of these clergy seem to be coming from vagante groups that wouldn’t even be taken seriously amongst “continuing” Anglicans.

As a Western Rite Orthodox one would be able to use a Western liturgical rite, but that is all. You lose everything after 1054. Can you imagine not just discarding the Carolines, Tractarians and other Anglican champions of Christ, but Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Peter Lombard, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas,Thomas a’Kempis, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and more? Also, in ROCA you would even have to use the Julian Calendar. Now that’s a real plus for evangelism! Insisting that to be “Orthodox” you must use a calendar that is so inaccurate that if time goes on long enough you will be celebrating Spring festivals in the fall will look just plain foolish to educated people.

In addition, I invite people to think about other theological issues. The Orthodox do not recognize the significance of the fall and the seriousness of Original Sin, and that is why they have problems with Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Many are very weak on the Atonement, holding a position very similar to Peter Abelard’s exemplarist theory, and that is without even mentioning the Toll Houses and other problematic teachings. Orthodoxy is just not as Orthodox as they like to claim.

In addition, Anglicans lose your entire heritage. After more than 300 years in America the Easterners remain in a ghetto. Do you think you can effectively preach the Gospel and bring people into a Russian or Syrian Church in the United States? You would be “Western Rite Orthodox,” but the general public wouldn’t have a clue that you even exist.

The Western Rite sounds good but it has not worked and cannot work. Frankly, if you want to spread the Gospel, win souls, and build the Church, you won’t do it among the Orthodox. They are not growing. Demographically they are isolated and shrinking. They are losing their second and third generations in the West to Western Churches, and in the East they are not having babies, and they really aren’t evangelizing anywhere. When “Western Rite Orthodox” move to a city without a “Western Rite Orthodox Church” they almost invariably end up in an Anglican congregation. University studies in Russia indicate that Anglicanism will surpass Eastern Orthodoxy as the second largest Church in Christendom during our life time. (Editor’s note: We haven’t identified these studies as yet.) Corporate reunion? Yes in fulfillment of Christ’s prayer in John 17. Submission and another dead-end street? No.

So, baby, don’t go.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. X.


Responses

  1. The problem of leaving a communion when you don’t really want to is that you tend to under-invest in understanding the one you might propose joining. For example, is it really that Orthodox don’t understand ancestral sin, or might it possibly be that the heretical extremes of the doctrine of Original Sin and man’s total depravity actually overstates the case? Does it overstate it to the case that man is essentially without a free will? – as this would certainly be the logical conclusion of the polarity suggested. But I say this not to deter you from your point, only that there is a counterpoint you fail to credit. No, Orthodox don’t pretend to be happy go-lucky and free of sin.. paradise on earth awaits the second coming.

    Seems to me that truth is that if what you want is an Anglo-Catholicism without the warts then it is probably better to admit it is indeed a lovely sort of protestant delusion but one that can be happily accepted if you can live with the contradictions, the non-conformists and innovations as part and parcel of the bargain. Some of the harsher catholic views of Anglo-Catholicism point to its best-of-the-best pretense as nothing short of caffeteria catholicism… and anything but Catholic as a result.

    Is it fair to say that things Anglican that sprung out of a bloodthirsty sense of divorce remain bloodied and divorcing?…that what is inherent in the birth is wrapped in the DNA and inescapable? Is it fair to suggest that Anglicanism has fathered everything from Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Puritans, Pilgrims and all the rest… though it admits to far less? Were these really innovations or part and parcel of pretending to settle incompatible theologies into cohabitation? Perhaps the point is that anyone expecting Anglicanism not to continue to do so is missing something, and actually admit that if you don’t want the confusion, the solution will involve more sharply made choices. The pretense that you can maintain 3 distinctives within an institution without the imposition of unity through an external power like the crown… a subjection of the church to the state… simply ignores history and the solution of exporting the true non-conformists to the New World. Truth is that in order to deal with truth, you have to first look at all the facts without the polite stories we’ve told each other for generations. Ask the Roman Catholics about Anglican history and you’ll get a different story… and I at least came ’round to admitting it was probably closer to reality.

    And yet the reality of the Western Rite is not much different than Anglicanism in the sense of being frozen. That’s fair, but not quite without any understanding here. Orthodoxy believes we have the service from the ancient church of the West, but changes to it will come from a restored western partriarchy. Good luck when that happens… but it does result in a healthy hesitancy to change anything. Yet as you say, WR suffers from being frozen in 1054, but correspondingly you fail to admit that Anglicanism is similarly frozen in 1500. Name one saint canonized by any Anglican church since 1900, 1800 or even 1700 and I’ll say you have a living church. Otherwise… what’s wrong? Don’t have a process? I’d say that’s frozen. One distinctive of Orthodoxy is the number of 20th century saints and martyrs… and we have a vast number of the spiritual writings. This is a Living Church…. weird and untamed as it wants to be.

    Two misrepresentations are particularly glaring: 1) Orthodox church growth is actually rather impressive in the number of new parishes in the last 10 years… and the conversion of non-Orthodox folks streaming in the doors rather steady, and the geographic spread is impressive as well. Name one mainline church that doesn’t have a youth problem and I’ll accept the Orthodox youth problem as unique!; 2) Western Rite orthodox do not go to Anglican churches as rule… rather they graduate to ANY english language Orthodox church… especially OCA. Folks who do as you suggest never converted. But the reality is that you convert to a church, not a rite.

    So if you want to remain Anglican, do. If you want to join the Church, do. But whether you pop off to Rome or Orthodoxy, don’t remain an ethnic minority – one that just happens to be WASPy, but become a full-fledged member of the church. As someone who has done that, someone who once worshipped in the Western Rite, there is much there (and yes there are temporal but material problems – but you missed these). Yet there is much more beyond … and that’s where I’ve chosen to make my home. The liturgies, the prayers, and the theology of the Eastern Churches are more consistent with the needs of a modern world and a large reason why they have survived and continue to evolve (Akathist of Thanksgiving for example) within an organic framework. No Western church has managed this… rather they keep seeming to abandon their own (Norvus Ordo substitution, Rite I, 2 or 3, etc) and innovate new whole cloth. I’m not sure how to unpack that, but it’s an observation of a fundamental shortcoming based surely on a theological deficiency of many sorts.

  2. One thing not mentioned is the lack of catholicity in Byzantium, recently, once again proven by the ROCOR and the suppression their so-called western rite (a rite that was so Russified that there was nothing western abut it); any denomination tied to a single ethno-cultural tradition pretending to be catholic is simply confusing catholicity with cultural imperialism.

    Anglicanism may also be an ethnic church in some manner, but we are not pretending to be the single fullness of the true church game that it is a hallmark of Byzantine “orthodoxy.”

    Also, the us not get carried away with novus ordo rites etc. Remember it was Russia in 1666 that instituted a “new rite” causing the huge schism of the Old Ritualists.


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