Meaningful Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical dialogue has all but died, the Moscow Patriarchate has told the next Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – and it is the Anglicans who have killed it.
On 13 Nov 2012,Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk – the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Russian church – wrote to Bishop Welby extending Moscow’s greetings upon his appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
In a carefully worded letter, Hilarion stated Moscow expected Bishop Welby to discipline the liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Welby had been “entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth.”
Hilarion noted the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England and its progeny had been “bonded by age-old friendly relations initiated in the 15th century. For centuries, our Churches would preserve good and truly brotherly relations encouraged both by frequent mutual visits and established theological dialogue and certainly by a spirit of respect and love which used to accompany the meetings of our hierarchs, clergy and ordinary believers.”
However, Anglican indiscipline in the Twentieth century had strained these bonds.
“Конец XX века и начало третьего тысячелетия, к глубокому сожалению, принесли ощутимые трудности во взаимоотношениях между Русской Православной Церковью и Церквами Англиканского Содружества. Введение женского священства, а теперь и епископата, благословение однополых «союзов» и «браков», ординация гомосексуалистов в пасторское и епископское достоинство – все эти нововведения воспринимаются православными как отступление от традиции Древней Церкви и все более отдаляют англиканство от Православной Церкви, способствуют дальнейшему разделению христианского мира в целом.”
“Regrettably, the late 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium have brought tangible difficulties in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion,” Hilarion said.
“The introduction female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops – all these innovations are seen by the Orthodox as deviations from the tradition of the Early Church, which increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole,” he wrote.
Nevertheless it was not too late. “Мы надеемся на то, что голос Православной Церкви будет услышан Церковью Англии и Церквами Англиканского содружества и добрые братские взаимоотношения между нами возродятся.”
“We hope that the voice of the Orthodox Church will be heard by the Church of England and Churches of the Anglican Communion, and good fraternal relationships between us will revive,” Hilarion said.
The message from Moscow is unlikely to sway Bishop Welby on the question of the ordination of women to the episcopate. The next archbishop has said he will vote for women bishops at the 20 Nov 2012 meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod.
Nor is the warning new. At the 2008 Lambeth Conference, Metropolitan Hilarion – a participant in the gathering of over half of the bishops of the Anglican Communion – urged Dr. Rowan Williams to hold the line on women clergy and gay bishops and blessings.