He who places his hope on thee, O Virgin all-glorious, will prosper in all he does.

Inscription on Byzantine coin during reign of Romanus III

Saturday, June 04, 2011

My Official Position On Anglican Holy Orders

Bishop Peter Robinson of the United Episcopal Church of North America has written a piece on Anglican orders that's been posted at the Continuum blog. I won't be relying on his piece for this posting.

My position on Anglican orders corresponds with the following statement posted by Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Overland Park, Kansas:

1) Six Churches have made declarations which seem to recognize Anglican ordinations as valid: Constantinople (1922), Jerusalem and Sinai (1923), Cyprus (1923), Alexandria (1930), Romania (1936).

2) The Russian Church in Exile, at the Karlovtzy Synod of 1935, declared that Anglican clergy who become Orthodox must be reordained. In 1948, at a large conference held in Moscow, the Moscow Patriarchate promulgated a decree to the same effect, which was also signed by official delegates (present at the conference) from the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, and Albania.

To interpret these statements aright, it would be necessary to discuss in detail the Orthodox view of the validity of sacraments, which is not the same as that usually held by western theologians, and also the Orthodox concept of ‘ecclesiastical economy;’ and these matters are so intricate and obscure that they cannot here be pursued at length. But certain points must be made. First, the Churches which declared in favour of Anglican Orders have not apparently carried this decision into effect. In recent years, when Anglican clergy have approached the Patriarchate of Constantinople with a view to entering the Orthodox Church, it has been made clear to them that they would be received as laymen, not as priests. Secondly, the favourable statements put out by group (1) are in most cases carefully qualified and must be regarded as provisional in character. The Ecumenical Patriarch, for example, when communicating the 1922 decision to the Archbishop of Canterbury, said in his covering note: ‘It is plain that there is as yet no matter here of a decree by the whole Orthodox Church. For it is necessary that the rest of the Orthodox Churches should be found to be of the same opinion as the most holy Church of Constantinople .’ In the third place, Orthodoxy is extremely reluctant to pass judgment upon the status of sacraments performed by non-Orthodox. Most Anglicans understood the statements made by group (1) to constitute a ‘recognition’ of Anglican Orders at the present moment. But in reality the Orthodox were not trying to answer the question ‘Are Anglican Orders valid in themselves, here and now?’ They had in mind the rather different question ‘Supposing the Anglican communion were to reach full agreement in faith with the Orthodox, would it then be necessary to reordain Anglican clergy?’

This helps to explain why Constantinople in 1922 could declare favorably upon Anglican Orders, and yet in practice treat them as invalid: this favorable declaration could not come properly into effect so long as the Anglican Church was not fully Orthodox in the faith. When matters are seen in this light, the Moscow decree of 1948 no longer appears entirely inconsistent with the declarations of the pre-war period. Moscow based its decision on the present discrepancy between Anglican and Orthodox belief: ‘The Orthodox Church cannot agree to recognize the rightness of Anglican teaching on the sacraments in general, and on the sacrament of Holy Order in particular; and so it cannot recognize Anglican ordinations as valid.’ (Note that Orthodox theology declines to treat the question of valid orders in isolation, but considers at the same time the faith of the Church concerned). But, so the Moscow decree continues, if in the future the Anglican Church were to become fully Orthodox in faith, then it might be possible to reconsider the question. While returning a negative answer at the present moment, Moscow extended a hope for the future.

Such is the situation so far as official pronouncements are concerned. Anglican clergy who join the Orthodox Church are reordained; but if Anglicanism and Orthodoxy were to reach full unity in the faith, perhaps such reordination might not be found necessary. It should be added, however, that a number of individual Orthodox theologians hold that under no circumstances would it be possible to recognize the validity of Anglican Orders.


John (Ad Orientem) said...

The Anglicans are heretics who don't even have a unified view of Holy Orders. This is one case where the Romans got it right. Absolutely null and void.

Visibilium said...

You're correct about ECUSA and perhaps the Church of England and others, but what about the Affirmation of St. Louis folks? I'm more interested in the Continuing churches than the Buddhists in Christian clothing.

I have grave concerns with Old Rome's position. First, Apostolicae Curae makes no sense, as Saepius Officio correctly points out. Second, as soon as the Church of England broke off with Old Rome, any Anglican clergy who wanted to convert to Rome had to be reordained. This means that the Vatican took its pissy position even before Apostolic Succession became a fashionable excuse. Bp. Robinson points this out as well.

The Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Cyprus in 1923 articulated my views precisely. Anglican orders could be as valid under oeconomia as Old Rome's, which means that neither orders would be valid ontologically without the acceptance of the Christian Faith, as that Faith has been preserved by the Orthodox Church.