Reunion with East not beyond hope

by
01 February 2007

by Bill Bowder

Unity postponed: the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, on his right, with other Anglican and Orthodox clerics, in front of the high altar of Westminster Abbey on Tuesday WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Unity postponed: the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, on his right, with other Anglican and Orthodox clerics, in...

THE DOOR to visible unity between the Anglicans and the Orthodox was said to be still open, after a long-awaited statement by the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue was published this week. But the Orthodox leadership said that new “hindrances” had left that prospect less obvious than it had been.

By ordaining women as priests, Anglicans had been unduly influenced by social change, the co-chairman of the Commission, Metropolitan John of Pergamon, said at a ceremony in Lambeth Palace on Tuesday to launch The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement, which has taken 16 years to produce. The joint statement was handed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.

Neither side on the Commission had been convinced by the other’s reasons on women’s ordination, Metropolitan John said. “The Orthodox are not convinced that the reasons for the ordination of women given from the Anglican side are really so serious and so important as to lead to this change which is, as we all know, an innovation in the tradition.” Ordination added nothing essential to women’s status. Homosexuality issues were internal matters for the Anglicans.

Welcoming the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the document was a very substantial achievement in dialogue. Based firmly on the scriptures and the Church’s tradition, it had returned to the “wellsprings” of faith, to take a long run up to the present problems between the Churches.

Replying, Bartholomew I said that the Orthodox and Anglicans had travelled an extremely long road together. There had been difficult occasions, but the object remained fixed: the visible unity of the Church. “We affirm our readiness, despite existing unfortunate hindrances, to continue on the same path.”

He received “with great joy” the work of Metropolitan John and the Anglican co-chairman, the Rt Revd Mark Dyer, the retired Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, USA.

Metropolitan John said that, although once it had seemed that the two Churches might well achieve visible unity, that prospect was now not obvious. “Anthropological” differences in their approaches to the sacraments and to priestly ordination “must be handled with the utmost care so they don’t become irreversible objects to our communion”, he said.

Bishop Dyer said that he had never worked with people “so Christ-like gentle to one another and so Christ-like direct in speaking the truth”. The document was now for the Anglican provinces and autocephalous Orthodox Churches to consider. “Now what do you say back to us?” he asked.

A full summary of The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue (Anglican Communion Office, £5.95; 6-00000006-1) will follow next week.

www.anglicancommunion.org

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