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Orthodox set conditions for ACNA talks
By George Conger
Source: Online, July 7th, 2009

Calvinism, women priests, and the filioque must go before the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) establishes full Eucharistic fellowship with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and recognizes the validity of Anglican orders, His Beatitude Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, told the ACNA’s founding convocation last week.

While the two churches were separated by historic issues of doctrine and modern questions of discipline, Metropolitan Jonah told the ACNA that it was time for the Orthodox and traditionalist Anglicans to resume talks leading towards full communion that had been derailed in the 1970s by the Episcopal Church’s ordination of women.

The leader of the Orthodox Church in America’s offer to resume talks with Traditionalist Anglicans leading toward intercommunion comes as a significant ecumenical achievement for the ACNA. The offer also highlights the potential divisions with the 39th province-in-waiting of the Anglican Communion, as the hand of unity from the Orthodox may be stronger for some traditionalists than their ties to Calvinists or women clergy in the new province.

Jonah also told the 900 delegates and guests gathered under a tent on the precincts of St Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, that his church had switched ecumenical hors es, abandoning all relations and dialogue with the Episcopal Church in favour of the ACNA.

“We can come together as the bastion and bulwark of an authentically orthodox church, we can come together to bear witness to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as handed over by the fathers.”

The 49-year-old leader of American Orthodoxy told the assembly that he had been brought up as an Episcopalian at St James by the Sea in La Jolla, California, but as a college student came to Orthodoxy through a study of the Tractarians in search of the true church. “The goal of my life is to live and actualize, to participate in as fully as I can, the full integrity of the Catholic Church, the full integrity of the Orthodox Church,” he said.

There have been relations between Anglicans and the Russian Church since the Elizabethan settlement, he noted, and 100 years ago that “that relationship became extremely strong” in the United States under the leadership of the Metropolitan Tikhon.

St Tikhon had a vision of unity. That vision of unity resulted in the time of the proclamation by about half of the Orthodox churches of the validation of the Anglican orders,” however, “it fell apart on the Anglican side with the affirmation of a protestant identity, more than a catholic identity. This shattered the unity. We need to pick up where they left off.”

To complete the work of St Tikhon who hoped the Episcopal Church could be “declared a fellow Orthodox church,” he proposed a dialogue whose goal was a “unity in faith” where it “can be celebrated together in the sacrament of the Eucharist.” To get there, “there are some issues though, we have to resolve,” he said.

Anglicans must make a make a “full affirmation” of the seven ecumenical creeds. It must “return the [Nicene] creed to its original form,” removing the filioque. In 589, the Third Council of Toledo added the phrase "and from the Son" – the filioque -- to the Nicene Creed. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum qui ex patre filioque procedit ("I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and from the Son"). Whilst used by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and most Protestant churches, the addition was rejected by the Orthodox Church.

Jonah also asked Anglicans to abjure the heresies of Rome and “reject papal ecclesiology, papal infallibility” and the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. He also said that for the Orthodox, “Calvinism is a condemned heresy” and called for a rejection of the Protestant urge towards iconoclasm --- the rejection of the place and power of icons in Christian life.

For a “full restoration” and intercommunion “the issue of the ordination of women has to be resolved,”he said. “I believe in women’s ministry,” he said, “but I do not believe it is in the presbyterate and the episcopacy” as this was the “universal position of the Greek, Roman and non Chalcedonian churches.” “One hundred years ago, St Tikhon came to the Anglican Church with arms wide open. I am the successor of St Tikhon, I occupy the place, the throne that St Tikhon held as the leader of the OCA. Our arms are wide open,” he said to a standing ovation from the delegates.

These differences, however should be weighed against a common apostolic heritage and common moral ethic, Jonah said. The Orthodox and traditionalist Anglicans were united in their “absolute condemnation of abortion” and by a shared concern of the destruction of family life.

For the Orthodox, the “blurring of gender” may have created a “larger core of workers” for American industry, but it had “destroyed personhood, destroying masculinity and destroying perfect womanhood.”

The destruction of the American family through “endless divorce,” cohabitation and the “unspeakable things that happen,” had destroyed children, leaving boys to seek fathers and girls mothers. The result had been the “explosion of the gay identity, which is a yearning of the parental embrace.” The church should not judge or condemn those “who have fallen into the gay identity” but seek their healing and restoration to wholeness of life.

Metropolitan Jonah told the ACNA assembly the OCA’s synod of bishops was “enthusiastic about the opportunities” dialogue would bring. He added that he was traveling from Fort Worth to a meeting of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) --- the umbrella grouping of all Orthodox Churches in the Americas. The SCOBA bishops were “anxious to hear of my report on this meeting,” he added.

The Dean of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, the Very Rev Chad Hatfield stated that “in times of crisis Anglicanism by nature always turn East.” It is a “time for a huge opportunity, let’s not miss it.”

Reactions from the ACNA delegates broke along party lines with one Fort Worth delegate stating there was hardly anything the OCA had proposed that Anglo-Catholics could not accept.

However, an AMiA delegate was less sanguine saying rejecting Calvinism was tantamount to rejecting Anglicanism. Turning back on women’s orders was also problematic for many of the evangelical delegates, and is a point of contention within the new province.

Archbishop Robert Duncan noted that it was “hard to hear the words” offered by Jonah “of the things that separate us from the Orthodox, because the things that separate us from them separate us from one another.”

In his sermon following his investiture as archbishop of the ACNA, Archbishop Duncan said, “We are Calvinist Anglicans. Right? And we are not all agreed about that. And there are women in holy orders and we are not agreed about that. The Lord has brought us together not papering over the differences but to stand and be prepared to talk with brothers and sisters about the truth and unity that comes in Jesus Christ.”

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