Metropolitan Jonah speech at ACNA

As you may have heard there were some high-profile guest speakers at the recent convention of the Anglican Church in North America. That convention ratified the canons and constitution of the new aspiring Anglican Province, elected former Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, as its first Archbishop, and set the direction for the new Church group.

One of the much talked-about features of the Convention was the speech delivered by Metropolitan Jonah, the leader of the Orthodox Church in America and a former Episcopalian, in which he signaled a new willingness - indeed an enthusiasm - among the Orthodox to begin ecumenical dialogue with the Anglicans, with full recognition of the new Anglican group as an authentic Orthodox Church as a realistic possibility.

Metropolitan Jonah named three major issues, on the Anglican side, that need to be resolved for such a union to occur: 1) the removal of the filioque clause from the Nicene Creed, which many Western Churches are beginning to consider anyways, 2) the rejection of Calvinism, which was condemned as a heresy by the Eastern Churches centuries ago, but is held by many evangelical Anglicans and 3) the rejection of the ordination of women as bishops or priests (he made no mention of deacons, and I assume this is considered negotiable).

The Anglican Church in North America has already declared that it will not ordain women as bishops, but left the issue of priests up to the individual dioceses and sub-divisions of the Church.
On the whole, this could represent a remarkable step forward in the cause of ecumenical reconciliation, and I'll be excited to see what happens in the coming years. As a side note, it seems evident to me that this new Anglican Church in North America will be much closer to United Methodist doctrine and discipline than the Episcopal Church is likely to be in the coming years. Perhaps we should shift some of our ecumenical energies to work with this new group.

The video below includes the whole address.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how the Metropolitan's point 3 squares with what Kallistos Ware says, i.e., that really the orthodox church has no position on women in the priesthood because there has never been an ecumenical council about it. It's unfortunate that the Metropolitan feels that the work on this issue need only be done on the Anglican side.

1:36 PM, July 20, 2009  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I have also heard Ware's comment someplace, and I was thinking that the willingness to accept female deacons might reflect this.

I have highlighted the three main points that Metropolitan Jonah discussed at length - he did indicate that the Orthodox church has its own issues that need to be worked through, and was (I thought) basically pretty gracious. His main talking points were, I think, intended to let the newly forming Anglican group - even now in its formative period -know just what the Orthodox are looking for to make unity happen.

2:00 PM, July 20, 2009  
Blogger Juan said...

I would hope that the ordination of women to the presbyterate and consecration to the episcopate would be non-negotiable points for UM's as we continue in conversation with other groups. It does not mean that we should not "talk" what it means is that in order to truly be in communion with another they must recognize our stand on the ordination of women.

By the way my father is one of the bishops of ACNA (as a bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church)and one of the reasons where I disagree with REC and ACNA is on this issue.

It will be interesting to watch the developments in the years to come!

11:43 AM, July 24, 2009  
Blogger Stephen said...

Long time no comment, but I find this fascinating.

The ACNA is a newly formed body of the church which depending on which side you are on has leaders who were consecrated by a round about means (i.e. flown to Africa and consecrated as Bishops and flown back reminds me of Wesley in a way).

Yet the Metropolitan's speech is almost welcoming them with full recognition on the spot. I wonder is this really helpful ecumenical dialogue or is this new body just becoming Orthodox. The word "dialogue" implies conversations and growth both ways, but in this instance it seems to imply "you change and you too can be Orthodox like us".

I must agree with my friend Juan that maybe dialogue with the UMC involves some sort of discussion about the ordination of women. Because I don't really understand if you can ordain women to be priest then why can they not also be ordained as Bishops?

10:07 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Hey Juan and Stephen,

Good to hear from you both.

It seems to me that the point of "ecumenical dialogue" is nothing short of full communion between the various seperated churches, in accordance with the will of Jesus our Head. If the ACNA were to enter into full Communion with the OCA it would be the first time in all of Church history (to my knowledge) that a group derived from the Reformation (in this case, Anglicans) had entered into full communion and recognition with one of the Ancient Churches (that is, Rome or Constantinople). The implications are astounding for all who hope that they church really might "all be one."
For this reason, I am very hopeful.

Such unity is, in my opinion, worth a great deal of effort and sacrifice, but I think you mis-read it, Stephen, if you think it would simply be the ACNA becoming Orthodox (and therefore no longer being Anglican). From the OCA's point of view, there simply is no other church besides the Orthodox Church. If ACNA, or the Roman Church, or anyone is recognized as a legitimate church at all - it is as a legitimate Orthodox Church. This does not mean, as Jonah clearly says, that they must abandon their own distinctives. The Anglican liturgy and spiritual heritage would simply become gifts bequeathed by the Anglican tradition (back) into the Orthodox Churches. This is part of the goal for all ecumenical discussions.

It is just as if the Roman Church were to recognize the UMC and enter into full communion with us - it would only be because they decided we really were a Catholic Church. These two ancient groups both claim to be THE Church of Jesus Christ, and so this is how they must approach ecumenical unity. Certainly, we do not make such a claim and so would not need to recongize the Orthodox as a "true Methodist Church" (in the same sense) to enter union with them. Does that make sense?

As far as the ordination of women - I am quite certain that the ACNA is trying to come to a moderating position on this issue. They are not banning it altogether (as Rome does), nor are the allowing it at all levels (as the UMC does). Rather they are pursuing a compromise position. Like all compromises, it cannot make everyone happy.

The main reason for excluding women from the episcopate has to do with ensuring legitimate ordinations and a legitimate Apostolic Succession of bishops (in the eyes of Anglo-Catholics who make up a large part of ACNA). I suspect women presbyters will be rare in the new body as most dioceses (or equivalents) currently do not ordain them.

This is an issue where the UMC and the ACNA are likely to disagree, since it is doubtful either church will change their position. But on other issues, I suspect strongly that in 10 years we will see ourselves much closer theologically to the ACNA than to the Episcopal Church. But that is a prediction; only God knows.

12:01 PM, July 27, 2009  

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