The Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude Jonah has called upon the Anglican Church of North America to ditch women clergy, Calvinism and the filioque in the name of Christian unity.
This is an “opportunity to return your church to its original catholic heritage” Jonah told delegates attending the ACNA’s 2nd Assembly at the Lifeway Conference Center in Ridgecrest, NC on 8 June 2012.
The ACNA can “overcome generations of schism, a schism forced upon the English church” by Rome if it eliminates the filioque from the Nicene Creed, the Orthodox leader said. The Filioque – the phrase “and from the Son” is a clause found in the Western Christian Church but not in the Eastern Churches.
The Catholic Church began to add the phrase ”from the Son” to the traditional language of the Nicene Creed between the 8th and 11th centuries, eventually formalizing the creed to state the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”. The Orthodox have long objected to the addition of “and the Son” to the language of the creed and it has been a long standing theological dispute between the Eastern and Western Churches.
In his address, Jonah said the “ecumenical hope is to overcome the schisms of the West.”
“Removing the filioque is not a gesture of ecumenical theology, but a restatement of the orthodox catholic faith,” the Orthodox leader said.
Discussions of the propriety of removing the filioque have been part of the dialogue between the ACNA and the Orthodox Church, members of the ACNA’s theological dialogue commission with the Orthodox tell Anglican Ink. The ACNA’s liturgical commission’s revision of Rite I of the Holy Communion service used in the worship of the Assembly takes note of this issue, placing brackets around the phrase “who proceeds from the Father and the Son”.
However two members of the liturgical commission stated this was a printer’s error, as the brackets should have been only around “and the Son” as there was no question the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.
In a hard hitting address to the delegates, Jonah cited the common moral vision of the Orthodox and the ACNA and the Protestant confessing churches. While the churches were divided amongst themselves over issues of doctrine and discipline – including the propriety of women clergy – the more pressing split was “between those who hold traditional biblical faith” and show who hold a “secularized faith according to contemporary” mores and “who dismiss the moral teachings of the Scriptures and the Fathers as culturally irrelevant.”
“This realignment is not the protestant/catholic, evangelical-charismatic/mainline divide, it effects all churches,” Jonah said.
“As faithful Anglicans you are no stranger to this,” he said. “It is creating a massive realignment” between the true faith and “those who reject it, criticize it and persecute it.”
“This is a radical shift away from traditional Christianity,” where the “secularists reject the virgin birth, often the resurrection, even the divinity of Christ. They reject that his words as recorded in the scriptures “ and see them as being “irrelevant.”
Bishop Jack Spong declared “that ‘Christianity must either change or die,’ referring to orthodox traditional Christianity. But it is not the orthodox Christianity will die,” Jonah said.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that “what the Soviet death camps could not do, western secularism can do more effectively -- whether you call it Soviet atheism or western secularism it is the same enemy. Do not be confused” about the enemy facing all true believers, he charged the delegates.
The Pope has “called for us to stand against this enemy. Without alteration, without change, without revision” we must stand together “against those who would subject their faith to the wisdom of the current age. We must stand together because we cannot stand alone.”
The meetings other ecumenical speakers from the North American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, confessing Presbyterian groups and the Polish National Catholic Church endorsed the message of taking a common stand against the secularist culture of the West.
The affirmation of the mission and ministry of the ACNA by its ecumenical guests was a source of great excitement for some delegates to the convention. Bishop Keith Ackerman told Anglican Ink he was especially pleased to hear the Polish National Catholic Church was considering returning to a state of intercommunion. In 1978 the PNCC ended its concordat of intercommunion with the Episcopal Church after the General Convention approved the ordination of women clergy.
If the question of women clergy could be resolved to its satisfaction, the PNCC would welcome formal links with the ACNA, the assembly learned.