Monday, September 20, 2010

Tough Talking and Tough Love

Reading Glosses From An Old Manse, I see that the Bearded One of Canterbury is also having ecumenical talks with the Bearded One of Volokolamsk (I wonder what the Holy Father would look like with a beard... Do you think it would help East West relations?). Metropolitan Hilarion was doing some tough talking:
We are concerned about the fate of [the Anglican-Russian Orthodox] dialogue. 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 liberalization of Christian values continues in many communities of the Anglican world.

Now, Sentirists will know that I am no supporter of the liberalisation of Christian doctrine, but reading Metropolitan H.'s comments made me realise that there is in fact a difference in the way Catholics do ecumenism compared to the way Orthodox do Ecumenism, and it is basically summed up in my unofficial motto for my day job: "We're not fussy, we'll talk to anyone!"

Pope Benedict has just been meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and recommitting to another round of ARCIC dialogue. This is despite (on their side) the ordination of women and homosexual bishops and (on our side) Anglicanorum Coetibus. In spite of? No! Because of! It is precisely because of our disagreement over these fundamental issues of Christian praxis that we must continue our dialogue with our brothers and sisters by Christian baptism. The Russians, of course (and the Lutherans for that matter, which is why Pastor Mark was so drawn to Met. Hilarion's comments), utterly reject an ecumenism of compromise, a "kissy-kissy" ecumenism as Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali put it. Well, for the record, so do does the Catholic Church (although I will admit to our shame that there have been plenty of Catholics willing to practice that kind of ecumenism). But we cannot accept proposals such as that which Archbishop Williams has apparently made to the Russians; we cannot dialogue only with those with whom we already agree! What, then, would be the point of the dialogue! Rather, we conduct dialogue as an opportunity to witness to the truth, to attempt to persuade others of the truth as we have received it, and hence to seek the truth together - not on the basis of compromise, but on the basis of the Truth once received by the Church.

You can "talk tough" in ecumenical dialogue, but unless you are also ready to practice "tough love", it ain' worth nuthin.


At Monday, September 20, 2010 6:43:00 pm , Anonymous Salvatore said...

Perhaps I misread the Metropolitan, but I didn’t get the impression he was threatening the severing of all relations between the Patriarchate and Canterbury; merely the abandonment of formal dialogue towards unity. And I’d have to say that I have some sympathy for this position. After all co-operation on areas of common interest is all to the good, but surely the point of formal, œcumenical* dialogue is the movement towards some sort of unity, of ‘coming together’ of Christian institutions? If that’s not (realistically) not going to happen, if indeed the different communities are actually moving further apart, is there really any point to all this talk?

*I may not know much about œcumenism, but I know how to spell it! 

At Tuesday, September 21, 2010 4:02:00 am , Anonymous Bear said...

I read the Metropolitan's speech and he does make many good points.

The one that I agree with strongest is that the principal contradiction in Christianity today is liberal-traditionalist schism. The good Archbishop also observed that this schism is also geographically based - affluent societies sliding into comfortable liberalism.

Unfortunately for the Anglican Ecclesial Communion, this rift runs through it. A protestant friend characterises it by two (lay)men*: the Anglican "bishop" of Sydney, Philip Jensen and the American "bishop" Gene Robinson. This friend tells me that some conservative Episcopal parishes in the USA have applied to come under African "bishops".

Dr Rowan Williams, who is one of the most capable, considered and sane churchmen in the world, is fighting a losing battle to keep it together. We have seen the Traditional Anglican Communion leave and look for other options.

However, at some point, we all need to be honest with ourselves, our brothers and sisters and the whole world, and admit that this is more than just a schism - we have two separate and distinct faiths: one Christian, and one not (although it may be close).


* Just practising the "tough love" advocated.

At Tuesday, September 21, 2010 7:42:00 am , Anonymous The young fogey said...

Although of course there are credally and morally orthodox Protestants I think 'traditionalist vs liberal' ultimately really means Catholic vs Protestant: infallible vs fallible/fungible church.


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