Address of the Pastoral Vicar, Fr. Anthony (Bondi), Western Rite Vicariate, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, to the Forward in Faith Assembly held on May 25, 2013 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
|Fr. Anthony (Bondi)|
Your Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, Your Excellencies: faithful bishops of the Anglican Continuum, dear Fathers, brothers all in Christ;
It was suggested to me that I give a bit of history from the writings of Metropolitan Hilarion of the External Affairs Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, then focus on the Continuum, and finally to open the floor to any of the questions you may have, keeping in mind that having established the Western Rite Vicariate in The Russian Church Outside Russia, we are still growing into our identity.
The first difficulties in relation to the Church of England 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".
We have studied the preparatory documents for the decision on female episcopate and were 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.
We are 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.
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. 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, Gene Robertson, 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". And recently the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the "bishop" of Stockholm.
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).
We are aware of the arguments used by proponents of the above-mentioned liberal innovations. Tradition is no authority for them. They believe that to make the words of Holy Scripture applicable to modernity they have to be "actualized", that is, reviewed and interpreted in an appropriate, "modern" spirit. Holy Tradition is understood as an opportunity for the Church to be continually reformed and renewed and to think critically.
The Orthodox, however, have a different understanding of Holy Tradition. It is aptly expressed in the words of Vladimir Lossky: "Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church"--the life giving to every member of the Body of Christ the ability to hear, accept and know the Truth in its inherent shining, not in the natural light of human reason".
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. I. 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.
It is appropriate to recall here the words of His Holiness Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and All Russia at the Bishops’ Conference in February 2010. Concerning the liberal novelties introduced by some Protestant communities, he stated: ‘What has happened reveals only too clearly a fundamental difference between Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The principal problem lying at the basis of this difference is that Orthodoxy safeguards the norm of apostolic faith and order as fixed in the Holy Tradition of the Church and sees as its task to actualize this norm continually for the fulfillment of pastoral and missionary tasks. On the other hand, in Protestantism the same task allows for a theological development that can remodel this same norm. Clearly, the search for doctrinal consensus, as was the case with regard to Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry in the multilateral dialogue initiated by the World Council of Churches, has lost its meaning precisely because any consensus may come under threat or may be destroyed by innovation or interpretation that will challenge the very meaning of these agreements’.
Regrettably, 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.
One of the priorities in the work of the Russian Church today is to bear witness to the eternal significance of Christian spiritual and moral values in the life of modern society. In 2000 our Church already made a considerable contribution to the systematization of Orthodox tradition in this area by adopting a Basic Social Concept and, in 2008, a Basic Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights. Today the Church is engaged in major work to compile a Catechesis which will give a clear exposition of Christian doctrine, on the one hand, and will respond to the burning problems of today on the other.
We are not alone in our concern for the preservation of Christian values. Liberal tendencies in Protestant and Anglican communities present a challenge to those Christians and churches that have remained faithful to Gospel principles in doctrine, church order and morality. Certainly, we seek and find allies in opposing the destruction of the very essence of Christianity. One of the major tasks in our inter-Christian work today is to unite the efforts of Christians for building a system of solidarity on the basis of Gospel morality in Europe and throughout the world. Our positions are shared by the Roman Catholic Church, with which we have held numerous meetings and conferences. Together we are considering the possibility of establishing an Orthodox-Catholic alliance in Europe for defending the traditional values of Christianity. The primary aim of this alliance would be to restore a Christian soul to Europe. We should be engaged in common defense of Christian values against secularism and relativism.
And now...The Continuum
When I was asked to speak before you, Mr. Spaulding gave me an easy task. He requested that I announce to you the secret of how the three Russian Orthodox jurisdictions in this country, the ROCOR, OCA and Patriarchal Churches have come together. In this he was hoping to find that magic formula of how to keep the fragmented Anglican jurisdictions from not only fragmenting further, but also re-uniting them.
Perhaps the single most important issue in this is that the FAITH and PRACTICE of the above three referenced jurisdictions are identical. The current faith and practice of the fragmented jurisdictions seem not to be. So the first suggestion is that you need to hold the same faith and practice. For too long the 1928 BCP was the agreed upon document, perhaps even more so than the creed that kept the unity of the body. With the introduction of a new prayer book in 1979 the uniting document no longer existed.
Was the new BCP that bad? For many it was seen as a more patristic document in many ways. But its arrival was commingled with many other movements within the Episcopal Church that were not only on the edge of the Faith once delivered to the saints but in direct contradiction to it. All of this was bundled up and rejected by those who wished to maintain the traditional faith and practice.
The winds of change in the 1960’s were powerful and they blew not only within the Anglican Church but also within the Roman Church, that one-time bastion of stability within the world. In the Episcopal Church A new source of revelation emerged—experience; after all, it was the Age of Aquarius and the sexual Revolution was having its effect and Hedonism infiltrated the most noble institutions of our societies. The effect on society was, and continues to be, devastating.
Those Anglicans who would easily see the Book of Mormon as another form of revelation and thus excluding that sect from Christianity, see no problem with admitting “experience" -- or some other form of revelation...
So my first suggestion to unity is Return to the Faith of the Undivided Church.
Before I entered the Russian Orthodox Church I was the Archbishop of New York for the Former Exarchate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in the Americas. It was and is with great humility that I laid aside the episcopacy for the sake of the unity of the Church and led my Western Rite parishes into the Russian Orthodox Church as there we could find continued stability and opportunity for unity and growth. It is no secret that the Bishop to communicant ratio is the highest it has ever been in the Continuing Churches. My brothers, it is time for a fearless and moral searching inventory on whether the mind of Jesus for the unity of the Church requires yto consider continuing as a bishop. Perhaps a moratorium on any further consecrations might be in order.
So my second suggestion for unity is, if you are a bishop consider resigning for the good of the unity of the Church, and make no more bishops.
Perhaps one of the most difficult issues for you will be that of the ordination of women. There are currently many women who, accepting the discipline of their groups allowed themselves to be ordained. Now, aside from getting into the question of the “matter of the sacrament,” to use Roman terminology, or the historical understanding of the ancient canons that a bishop who does such a thing immediately deposes himself and the ordination never takes place, there are some good, holy, and sincere women who have offered themselves for the service of the Church. Not all who approached the bishops have been feminists fighting for rights. However, the 2,000 year old Tradition of the Church makes it clear that the Orthodox Apostolic teaching and practice of the Church has never allowed women to enter the priesthood. In a strict sense the diaconate is not part of the priesthood though within Holy Orders, and to be clear those women who were ordained to be deaconesses had a very limited liturgical role. The Church of Greece today has a few Deaconesses who are nuns and whose main function is to bring the sacrament to sick nuns within the cloistered community where no man may enter. At the height of the frenzied fight for the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion, an ancient mosaic was referenced. There in glowing colors was a woman next to a presbyter and beneath her image was the word presbytera. There it was at last, proof that there were women priests. The excitement was high! The women advocates were doing the “hokey-pokey” and turning themselves around with glee. But as the days were long gone when Patristics was studied, they missed a very important fact. The wife of a presbyter was called presbytera and still is within the Greek Church. The Orthodox theology of marriage is so strong that we hold that the wife of the priest is mystically present with him at the altar as they are one flesh before God. However, she is not a priest.
My third suggestion for unity is Return to the ordination practice of the ancient Church.
You asked me for the way forward; you already have it in the Chicago “Lambeth Quadrilateral”:
1. Our earnest desire that the Savior's prayer, "That we all may be one," may, in its deepest and truest sense, be speedily fulfilled;
2. That we believe that all who have been duly baptized with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, are members of the Holy Catholic Church
3. That in all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own;
4.. That this Church does not seek to absorb other Communions, but rather, co-operating with them on the basis of a common Faith and Order, to discountenance schism, to heal the wounds of the Body of Christ, and to promote the charity which is the chief of Christian graces and the visible manifestation of Christ to the world.
But furthermore, we do hereby affirm that the Christian unity can be restored only by the return of all Christian communions to the principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence; which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men.
Is there a way that the Anglican Patrimony can be preserved? Yes! Within the Orthodox Church.
In 1978 the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference requested "that all member Churches of the Anglican Communion should consider omitting the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, and that the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission through the Anglican Consultative Council should assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate synodical bodies and should be responsible for any necessary consultation with other Churches of the Western tradition."
In 1985 the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (USA) recommended that the Filioque clause should be removed from the Nicene Creed, if this were endorsed by the 1988 Lambeth Council.
In 1985 The Synodical body of the Anglican Church of Canada approved the original Nicene' Creed to be printed and used in the Alternative Service Book of the Anglican Church of Canada.
In 1988 the conference "ask(ed) that further thought be given to the Filioque clause, recognizing it to be a major point of disagreement (with the Orthodox) ... recommending to the provinces of the Anglican Communion that in future liturgical revisions the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed be printed without the Filioque clause."
At a subsequent joint meeting of the Anglican Primates and Anglican Consultative Council in 1993, a resolution was passed urging Anglican churches to comply with the request that "in future liturgical revisions the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed be printed without the Filioque clause."
Accordingly, at its 1994 General Convention, the Episcopal Church reaffirmed its intention to remove the words "and the son" from the Nicene Creed in the next revision of its Book of Common Prayer.
So, my brothers, when do you stop talking and start acting?
What will coming into Orthodoxy look like? What about our bishops?
The Russian Orthodox Church will receive bishops who bring in their parishes as mitered archpriests. They will be made Deans of their group of parishes and will have the privilege of celebrating the Western Pontifical Liturgy with miter and crosier. This is an honor that Eastern priests who have been in the Russian Church do not even automatically get after 30-40 years of service! So it is a HUGE gift. We follow the ancient canons so, like the Romans, we do not have a married episcopate.
For the record, the Orthodox Church does not make a judgment regarding the orders of other churches. All we know is what is necessary for our own grace-filled Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) and that is that they are celebrated by Orthodox priests who have been ordained by canonical Orthodox Bishops.
The Russian Church follows the ancient Paschalion. Western Rite parishes follow the Orthodox Western calendar.
Parishes who come into the Western Rite Vicariate may continue to use the Anglican Rite or the ancient Roman Rite. Leavened bread is used for communion which may be in the form of prosphora (home baked liturgical bread) or commercially available leavened hosts.
Pastoral Vicar for Western Rite to Metropolitan Hilarion.