Russian Orthodox Tell Archbishop of Canterbury: Ordain Women Bishops and Forget About Unity

Damian Thompson blogs:

There’s a quaint Anglican concept of the universal Church known as the “branch theory”. This claims that there are three main branches to apostolic Christianity: Roman, Orthodox and Anglican. It’s much favoured by Church of England clerics who aren’t very keen on “Romans”, as they call Catholics, and convey their anti-Papist sentiment in pro-Orthodox code, forever banging on about the riches of Byzantine spirituality, the mystical power of icons, etc. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, is an example of this breed.

What these pro-Orthodox Anglicans don’t stress is that ordaining women priests was just as great an obstacle to unity with Constantinople and Moscow and it was to unity with Rome. And women bishops? Metropolitan Hilarion, head of ecumenical relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, delivered a pretty blunt message to the new Archbishop of Canterbury last weekend (H/T Gillibrand):

The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow patriarchate recognising the church hierarchy of the Anglican church, the communications service of the Department of External Church Relations reported on Saturday.

Even a theoretical possibility, note. This is exactly the same message coming from Rome (please don’t kid yourself that a change of Pope will make any difference). Of course, Hilarion’s warning won’t stop the C of E eventually ordaining women bishops, but let’s be clear about the consequences: the Orthodox Churches, following the lead of Moscow, will finally conclude that the Church of England is a protestant denomination with High liturgical trappings but outside the apostolic succession. Cue creaking of timber as the branch theory falls apart.



4 thoughts on “Russian Orthodox Tell Archbishop of Canterbury: Ordain Women Bishops and Forget About Unity

  1. What seems so odd is that both Rome and Constantinople appear to find it so hard to tell Canterbury the truth: their heterodox ideas on WO and homosexuality preclude any further discussions with them. And those discusions cannot resume unless and until Canterbury returns to an orthoodox view of these two very important issues. Why can’t we both just call a spade a spade? Let the heterodox on these issues talk to the heterodox. We’ve been “warning” them about WO since the days of the Dublin/Moscow Statements. Enough is enough!

  2. Strange to relate, but the only people from whom I ever hear about so-called ‘branch theory’ always seem to be RCs, or Anglicans about to take the jump. Come on, Fr Smuts–if you post this stuff, please explain to the wider populace how you justify the catholicity and apostolicity of where you find yourself.

  3. But surely both the Orthodox and the Catholic Church have precisely the same objection to the purported ordination of women as priests (first done by the Church of England in 1994, and among the US Episcopalians in 1974, retrospectively approved in 1976)? – so why close the door after the horse has bolted?

    It would be more honest for both to wind back their ecumenical gestures, such as they are, given the ever-widening gap, and instead for the Orthodox to strive to propagate their Western Rite groupings, and the Catholic to do the same with their Ordinariates. If a ship is sinking, it is kinder to rescue the survivors who’ve jumped into the water rather than to give false hope to those still on board by calling out to them that all is well.

    1. Joshua, I think it is valuable for separated Christians to seriously dialog if there is (a) real hope of reunion or (b) an important theological issue that has been dividing them which might be understood in a way that establishes there is no real disagreeement on the issue. Thus, I think it is imperative that we Eastern Orthodox continue serious discussions with our Oriental Orthodox brothers. And I think it greatly helped both Rome and Wittenberg to hash out their Joint Declaration on Justification, even though there is little real hope of reunion with Luterans (e.g., WO, homosexuality, etc.). And I think this may be why lots of groups pursue talks with the PNCC.

      There is neither hope of reunion with Canterbury nor any value in talking to the Anglican Communion about clearly heterodox views of WO and homosexuality. Anglican theology today is so amorphous that I don’t think there is anything distinctly Anglican with which to discuss. Unlike say Justification with Lutherans, the impact of the Sovereignity of God with the Reformed, and Sanctification with Methodists. Orthodox have had some fruitful discussions with Lutherans about Theosis and Justification/Sanctification. And, yes, both our Western Rite and Rome’s Ordinariates provide a clear, viable mechanism for individuals and local parishes to choose..

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