|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Protestantism, Papism and Personal Experiences|
Protestantism in search of Orthodoxy
I can still remember the confusion and pain at Nashotah House Seminary when the news began to spread that the 1976 General Convention had passed, by a razor thin margin, a canon to permit the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. The 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, was teaching theology at the seminary in the fall of 1976. His powerful presence had an almost spell-like effect on everyone and we all looked to him for guidance and wisdom. In true Anglo-Catholic fashion, most, but not all of us, decided to stay and suffer through! We rallied around Lord Ramsey and other sound bishops, like Robert Terwilliger, and we made our threats to stay and not leave!
There are days now, when I wish that I had
been able to recognize that the Anglican house was no longer
In my case, I fell victim to an Episcopalian
bishop who totally ignored the Eames Commission, Lambeth
pronouncements and the so-called conscience clause by trying to
force me to stand with a
The scene was set at the 1993 Convention of
the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, meeting in Dodge City (a
great place for a show-down). When Canon Joseph Kimmett and I failed
to show for the renewal of vows with the
When your house is on fire, you have a moral obligation to warn as many as possible who are in the house with you, but you do not have a moral obligation to stay with those who refuse to leave and to burn up with them! The question was which road would we walk? Like most traditionalist Anglicans, I had been checking out my options.
I had watched the pitiful hissing and fighting within the Continuing Anglican churches for years. I had come to the conclusion that the main vocation of these various groups was to serve a kind of chaplaincy to small elderly congregations. I had admired Bishop A. Donald Davies for his courage in starting the Episcopal Missionary Church, but again, for a younger priest, this body was a cul-de-sac.
The real issue was becoming more and more clear for me. It was really an ecclesiastical issue. I wanted to be, without any debate, a member of the Church of the Apostles. The curse of Henry VIII had become active and I had to admit, with much regret, that Anglicanism is now and always had been a Protestant Church1.
Rome has been the answer for many former
Anglicans who have reached an understanding of this truth about our
Anglican heritage. There are many who have walked in the footsteps
of Cardinal John Henry Newman, and the 11 November 1992 vote in the
General Synod of the Church of England to approve the ordination of
women is converting this steady stream into a fast flowing river.
Recent converts include Charles Moore, the editor of The Sunday
Telegram, the Duchess of Kent, author and priest William Oddie and,
of course, the most senior prelate ever to have left the Church of
England, Graham Leonard, sometime Bishop of London. Surely then,
this is the logical road to walk for people who, according to the
I had learned from Archbishop Michael Ramsey
that the Anglican Communion was
The efforts towards corporate re-union in the
last century, under the leadership of Lord Halifax and the Malines
Conversations, were a rightful inheritance. In our own time we
watched our hopes rise and fall with the Anglican/Roman Catholic
International Commission. The work of ARCIC is now dead. The Pope
has made it clear that the ordination of women is a most serious
obstacle to re-union, calling it
So, why did I not walk the
When wrestling with these questions, I was
often reminded of the old Anglican cure for
Those Anglicans looking to join the Church of Rome need to remember that the much touted book Ungodly Rage was written not about the state of The Episcopal Church, but of the Roman Catholic Church4. While exploring the Roman Church, with my own ears I had heard radical nuns invoking Sophia and the Mother God. Time and again, in theological conversation with Roman Catholics, priests, nuns and laity, I would find myself defending the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger! Did I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I have been doing in The Episcopal Church, only in a larger circle?
As I contemplated my concern that a jump to
Rome was from the fat to the fire, I was reminded of a saying from
the Eastern Orthodox Church—
I remember one Roman priest telling me that
In 1992, I was asked to present a paper at the special convocation marking the 150th Anniversary of Nashotah House Seminary. The focus of this paper centered on two great bishops, Charles Chapman Grafton and the newly canonized St. Tikhon of Moscow. Grafton was deceiving to the eye. He looked every inch a Roman prelate, but to read his theology is to find a strong anti-Roman strain of thought. Grafton wrote that in times of theological confusion it is natural for Anglicans to turn to the East to find our way. Both Grafton and St. Tikhon shared a common vision of Anglican/Orthodox unity in the Faith, but Grafton had few fellow Anglicans who shared his vision.
There were, and still are, a handful of great
Anglican bishops who professed that a strong East wind had affected
their own theological thought. Men like Michael Ramsey, Robert
Terwilliger and Stanley Atkins come quickly to mind. Canon H. Boone
Porter, writing in a forum published in The Evangelical
Orthodoxy is not strange and foreign reading
for classical Anglicans. Father Carl Bell (now Father Anthony Bell,
an Orthodox priest), again writing in the options forum in The
Evangelical Catholic, makes a strong case showing that the
Anglicans have sought the stamp of approval and validity from the Orthodox Church, almost from the very beginning of the Church of England. Great progress was made, especially in the early part of this century, but, as with Rome, our own actions dashed any formal Orthodox recognition of Anglican validity8.
Modern Orthodox theologians had become an anchor for so many orthodox Anglicans, and I was no exception. Lossky, Schmemann, Meyendorff and Hopko are only a few of the Orthodox theologians quoted often in traditionalist Episcopalian circles. I cannot count the number of times I have heard traditionalists repeat how much they felt at home reading Orthodox theologians but they could never become Orthodox because the Byzantine Rite was just too exotic!
There was a time when I would also nod my head in an understanding gesture when this kind of comment was made, so I expect many doubters when I now, in all honesty, after six months as an Eastern Rite priest, write what follows. I understand your concerns, but I can tell you that the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil no longer seem complicated and long. They are now exciting and re-newing. Having made a choice between the modern Roman Rite, formal BCP worship, and the Byzantine Rite, I am now delighted and thankful to worship with the Fathers. Orthodoxy is right belief and right worship.
As a married priest, my wife and family also
had to look at options. The Roman Pastoral Provision would have made
my wife an
Children are also normative in Orthodox clergy families and what a joy it is to see the high priority that young people have in the Orthodox Church. My eldest son was excluded from Episcopalian campus activities due to his conservative Christian views. He found the Roman campus ministry just as secularized and strange as Canterbury House. The only difference was that it was so much bigger. Now, as an Orthodox student, he finds that he is in complete theological harmony with his fellow Orthodox students and faculty. He is, in fact, the President of the University of Kansas Orthodox Student Fellowship, which is a far cry from the reception he got in the other places. In Orthodoxy I no longer worry about what my children will experience or be taught when they attend a church function away from their own parish. I could not say the same if we were part of the Roman Catholic Church. Who can guess what strange ideas Roman nuns promote these days at Catholic Youth events?
In a reflection paper, written by Fr. Peter Geldard, former General-Secretary of the English Church Union, three questions are put to Anglicans who are looking at their options. They are as follows:
In Holy Orthodoxy I can give a most vigorous
1. For a recent theological history on the nature of Anglicanism see: Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Panther and the Hind; Edinburgh 1993.
See Gregory Mathews-Green,
3. Comments made at the 1989 North American Conference of Cathedral Deans in response to questions regarding ecumenism. See also: Robert Runcie, The Unity We Seek; London 1989.
4. Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, San Francisco 1994.
5. See E. C. Miller, Jr., Toward A Fuller Vision, Wilton, Ct. 1984, for a complete development of this Anglican/Orthodox vision.
6. H. Boone Porter,
7. Fr. Carl Bell,
8. See address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaio to the Church of England General Synod, November 1993. Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1993/94.
9. Khouria is the Arabic term for the wife of a priest. Presbytera is the common term for Greek Orthodox Christians and Matushka for Russian Orthodox. Thus, just as I would be addressed as Fr. Chad, my wife would be addressed as Khouria Shelley.
10. Unpublished paper written by Peter Geldard;
Article published in English on: 7-5-2008.
Last update: 9-5-2008.