THE Russian Orthodox Church has threatened to withdraw from dialogue with Anglicans because of the “liberalism and relativism” of some Anglican Churches, and the development of women bishops in the Church of England.
In a speech at Lambeth Palace on Thursday of last week, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk attacked the Anglican Church for what he described as “betraying our common witness by departing from traditional Christian values and replacing them by contemporary secular standards”. He urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to resist pressure from liberal Anglicans.
Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, was speaking at the Nikaean Club annual dinner. His prolonged attack on liberalism in the Anglican Church stunned Dr Williams, onlookers said.
In his speech, the text of which was released later by the department for external church relations, the Metropolitan said: “The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the ‘traditionalists’ from the ‘liberals’.
“Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models, and the Church should become appropriately ‘inclusive’ to recognise alternative behavioural standards and give them official blessing.
“Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother’s womb, or that one can terminate one’s life at will. Christian ‘traditionalists’ are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.”
The Metropolitan continued in strongly worded terms: “Regrettably, it has to be admitted that the Orthodox Church and many in the Anglican Church have today found themselves on opposite sides of this abyss that divides traditional Christians from Christians of liberal trend.”
He said his Church was “extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes” in 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.”
By contrast, he praised “traditionalists” among Anglicans, and those who mounted “protests against liberalism” — citing the resolution of the recent All Africa Bishops’ Conference (News, 3 September), which stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
He spoke of how Orthodox-Anglican dialogue “has come under threat”. “We appreciate the proposal Archbishop Rowan Williams made this year to exclude from the dialogue those Anglican Churches which failed to observe the moratorium on the ordination of open homosexuals. But we regard this proposal as not quite sufficient to save the dialogue from an approaching collapse. The dialogue is doomed to closure if the unrestrained liberalisation of Christian values continues. . .
“Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals.”
The Russian Orthodox Church suspended contact with the Episcopal Church in the United States after the consecration as bishop of Canon Gene Robinson in 2003; and with the Church of Sweden in 2005, when it blessed same-sex unions.
Relations with the C of E have been strained since the ordination of women as priests, and look as if they may deteriorate dramatically: “I can say with certainty that the introduction of the female episcopate excludes even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognise the apostolic continuity of the Anglican hierarchy,” the Metropolitan said.
Instead, he suggested that any future collaboration lay with the Roman Catholic Church: “Together we are considering the possibility of establishing an Orthodox-Catholic alliance in Europe for defending the traditional values of Christianity.”
Different versions of the Metropolitan’s speech were circulating this week. One text, which appeared to have an even harsher tone, was at www.virtueonline.org.
Diary, page 18