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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Britannic Orthodox Church?


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O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world:
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O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world:
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Almighty everlasting God, Who hast revealed thy glory to all nations in Christ; preserve, we beseech Thee, the works of thine own mercy, that thy Church which is spread throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession on Thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I would love to see an autocephalous, or at least, autonomous, Orthodox Church of Britain. My vision for this would be a jurisdiction in Great Britain, perhaps also encompassing Eire and the Isle of Man. It would be formed of communities from all of the major jurisdictions which currently have a presence here, and, as is right and fitting for the Orthodox Church in western lands, would be primarily Western Rite, with a sobor of mainly "home-grown" bishops who are able to serve the Western Rite, but with liturgical and spiritual provision being made for those from ERite backgrounds. It would be culturally a church of the British Isles, holding to the traditional Church calendar, and the fulness of Orthodox Faith, and would have a strong missionary, indeed Apostolic, ethos, which would be strnegthened by the unity of the Orthodox presence in this part of the world.

So am I away with the fairies or is this actually possible?

Well, at the moment, the jurisdictions with a presence here are:
-The Patriarchate of Moscow (MP)
-The Oecumenical Patriarchate (OP)
-The Patriarchate of Antioch (AP)
-The Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR)

Assuming that the canonical relationship between ROCOR and the MP is regularised, and ROCOR is granted autocephalous status, the jurisdictional situation is likely to be as follows.

The MP
- In full communion with OP, AP & ROCOR.
- Old Calendar
- WRite authorised.

The OP
- In full communion with MP & AP.
- In impaired communion with ROCOR.
- Will not recognise autocephaly of ROCOR as status not granted by OP.
- New Calendar.
- Im unsure of its approach to the WRite.

The AP
- In full communion with MP & OP.
- In impaired communion with ROCOR.
- New Calendar.
- WRite authorised.

ROCOR
- In full communion with MP.
- In impaired communion with OP & AP.
- Old Calendar.
- WRite authorised.

Presumably, those who use the new calendar would not have a doctrinal objection to switching to the old calendar, so that obstacle shouldn't be insurmountable. So it seems to me that any possibility of unity would be approaches to the ecumenist heresy and how to relate to the non-Orthodox, and canonical recognition by the Oecumenical Patriarchate. It would hardly be ideal to form an autocephalous church which is not actually recognised as autocephalous by many but itself, with a plethora of jursidictions operating in its territory, which, as I understand it, is the case in the USA with OCA.

I'm sure that there are other issues which would come into play. Perhaps others could share their thoughts here.

I'm also aware that I have ignored the presence of the so-called "Celtic Orthodox Church" and the ROCiE presence here. I don't know what the chances would be of the former being regularised as part of a Britannic Orthodox Church but I do know that any attempts at such a venture with the latter would be an exercise in futility.

18 comments:

Aristibule said...

Aren't there Romanian Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox in the UK as well? Also, how about Fr. Deiniol in Blaenau Ffeistiniog (I lose track of whom they are with - I think he, the two Romanian monastic fathers in Newport, and Fr. Luke Holden are the whole of the Orthodox clergy in Wales?) My information is probably dated though.

And: "Presumably, those who use the new calendar would not have a doctrinal objection to switching to the old calendar, so that obstacle shouldn't be insurmountable."

I would hope so, as my family has done so - the issue of calendar should not present an obstacle.

Huw Raphael said...

"Presumably, those who use the new calendar would not have a doctrinal objection to switching to the old calendar, so that obstacle shouldn't be insurmountable"

You're right: I know of no theological reason to be either calendar. But a lot of logic behind giving up on our father among the Saints, Julius Caesar's Calendar!

You have a good vision but I imagine you'd have to settle for what happens in the OCA: some parishes are on one calendar and some on the other.

I'm not sure what the situation is in the UK but in the US by a simple majority the NC wins and it would seem very odd for the OC to be anything other than a pastoral allowance. The situation may be reversed in the UK, but I would still hope for a pastoral allowance else you'll have two jurisdictions post haste.

Eric John said...

The calendar issue is my only beef. While I don't mind the Old Calendar, I've always been New Calendar and have actually liked it. I don't want to have to live my life on two different calendars. Plus, I think this unneccessarily divides life into sacred and secular/holy and profane time. Why not sanctify time?

Yes, I think that the implementation of the New Calendar was misguided and its enforcement was brutal. However, it's something that we have to work with now. Despite the anomallies, the status quo has worked out. Perhaps, given time and sobriety, things will resolve themselves, but I hate to make the way time is kept any kind of issue. A calendar is something that we have to have on earth. The universal church has not always followed the same calendar, even before the 20th century. And in heaven, there will be no time. So, to me, what calendar is kept doesn't mean much.

Michael said...

Aristibule, you may well be right about the Romanian and Serbian presence. My summary was what I know of rather than due to any research I've done. If we add them to the pot, the the Serbian presence will be most welcome in my vision, already being in full communion with all the others, and having no problem with the Old Calendar or, presumably, WRite. I believe that the Romanian church will be in much the same situation as Antioch.

I think it would be workable.

As far as the calendar goes, I don't have too much of an issue with which is used, although my preference is for the Old Calendar, partly due to the wonderfully reasoned and unpolemical article by Fr Andrew Phillips in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition, and partly for pragmatic reasons. At the risk of oversimplifying the matter, if those on the OC have doctrinal/canonical objections to the use of the NC, but those on the NC have no such objections to the use of the OC, then surely for the sake of unity and strength of purpose, it would be much easier if we all used the OC and got on with the mission of the Church.

Since having posted yesterday, I have heard tell that Bishop Basil of the Diocese of Sourozh (The MP Diocese of Great Britain) has petitioned Moscow for release to the Oecumenical patriarchate, for him and parishes who wish to move with him. Has anybody heard anything more about this?

paradosis said...

Please note that the churches and monasteries of the ROCOR all follow the Church Calendar - ie the 'Old' or 'Julian' Calendar, not, as advised above, the 'New' or 'Gregorian' or so-called 'Revised Julian' (whatever that means) calendar.

Aristibule said...

"...the implementation of the New Calendar was misguided and its enforcement was brutal."

That is true, but I try not to let that color my thinking. Of course, the 'New Calendar' is not the same as the 'Gregorian' - rather, being the calculation of a Serbian Orthodox layman in the early 20th c. (Malankavic I think?)

I have to admit, I'm partial to the Julian too - but mostly for the reason that I'm on *both* sides of Whitby.

Huw Raphael said...

I'll step out of the calendar debate only noting that such affectations obscure the Gospel.

On the other hand - that news about the Bishop petitioning to come under the EP is interesting. Odd, but interesting. Keep us posted!

Michael said...

Paradosis, you are quite right, and how on earth I managed to type that as a Good Little ROCORite (TM), I will never know. It must have been an error in copying and pasting, which I'll rectify now. Thank you.

I don't know the full details but I do know that Sourozh has been in a rather shaky relationship with Moscow for a while, and that there are parishes in England under the Moscow Patriarchate which, remaining loyal to the Patriarchate, answer directly to Moscow rather than any bishop of the Sourozh diocese. The parish here in Manchester is one such parish, and indeed used to be ROCOR some years ago. The irony is that it left ROCOR because it couldn't get a full-time priest, having to make do with a Liturgy only every few weeks, and now finds itself in exactly the same situation! They should come back to us rather than seeking episcopal affiliation thousands of miles away. Oh well.

Jean-Michel said...

Christ is risen!

"as usual" :-)
Eric John posts here a wonderfully clear comment on the issue. We have to sanctify the time, not to let archeology guide our lives.

I would comment Michael's list on another way. "Write allowed" or not is not the point. Why would a Church "allow" something if it is not necessary in its own context?

First of all, the full unity of the Church is required. Then, naturally, the lacks of evangelisation will appear to some in the clergy and faithfull, and there will be a change. In Belgium, Bruxelles or Charleroi are in much bigger need of Antiochian Arab-speaking parishes than WRO. We first must bring the Gospel to those attacking Christ. Others are just seeing Christ as a folk tale of the past, but unlike with Soviet Russia, they don't attack Christ so directly as they did 1 century ago.

Choices to be based on real Church needs, not on our personal tastes..

holy week
Jean-Michel

Jean-Michel said...

for those speaking French, here are the 2 positions in France, on the "canonical modalities of the jurisdiction of Constantinople abroad"

1. by the Canon-law teacher & vicar of the Greek metropolia in France, archimandrite Grigorios (Papathomas)
Grigorios

2. answers by the scholar Daniel Struve, in the nr 141 of the magazine "Messager orthodoxe" :

Daneil_Papathomas.pdf

needless to say, the only truth in all this is that no-one among the Church Fathers & Counciles of the first Millenium ever thought that Church of Rome would disappear and be replaced by what we know since one millenium. Such an earthquake has not been provisionned in the Canon Law. So any organisation of Orthodoxy outside actual canonical territories is de facto and can't be anything but... non-canonical.
A bit difficult to give lessons of canonicity to others...
Only the overcome of the power-hungryness present in all patriarchates would help to convene the most necessary pan-Orthodox Councile, so to solve that problem on a real canonical way.

O Lord, have mercy of Thy people!

Jean-Michel

Michael said...

Jean-Michel posted:

I would comment Michael's list on another way. "Write allowed" or not is not the point. Why would a Church "allow" something if it is not necessary in its own context?

First of all, the full unity of the Church is required. Then, naturally, the lacks of evangelisation will appear to some in the clergy and faithfull, and there will be a change. In Belgium, Bruxelles or Charleroi are in much bigger need of Antiochian Arab-speaking parishes than WRO. We first must bring the Gospel to those attacking Christ. Others are just seeing Christ as a folk tale of the past, but unlike with Soviet Russia, they don't attack Christ so directly as they did 1 century ago.


I agree that the unity mof the Church of Christ is of paramount importance. This is the natural state of the Church of Christ and is the state in which the Church would be best placed to exercise its Apostolic ministry.

I must disagre, though, with your sentiment that whether or not the WRite is authorised is not the issue. A church that is serious about missionary activity in the British Isles needs to have the WRite authorised to cater for the spiritual needs of many of those whom it is seeking to care. In the context of such a church, it is necessary.

This is simply another regional variation of the need that you rightly pointed out exists in the places you mention for Arab-speaking churches - it's a case of the Church catering for the spiritual needs of those entreusted to her care for the aiding of the salvation of those people.

no-one among the Church Fathers & Counciles of the first Millenium ever thought that Church of Rome would disappear and be replaced by what we know since one millenium. Such an earthquake has not been provisionned in the Canon Law. So any organisation of Orthodoxy outside actual canonical territories is de facto and can't be anything but... non-canonical.

Respectfully, (of course), I'm not sure I entirely agree with all of this either. Certainly, I agree that the apostasy of a large part of the Church is not something that the canons envisage.

However, after this has happened, (as is the case with Rome having left the Church), and a large geographical area is left without the presence of the Church, to my mind, any Orthodox activity in such an area would be no less canonical than missionary activity in any non-Orthodox area. Have I misunderstood?

The trainwreck of a situation that we currently have in Britain, however, is that no one jurisdiction has a presence here, which makes our missionary activity very disjointed and poorly organised, which is what I long to see addressed with an autocephalous church here.

Eric John said...

Of course, the more jurisdictions one has in a certain place, the harder it is to make a unified jurisdiction. Perhaps that will one day happen somewhere in the world. Certain issues, however, seem to stand in the way of this.

These dividing issues are all too easily labeled as "mere politics," but they really go much deeper. No real administrative unity will be at all possible if, for example, clergy of one Orthodox church apply blanket labels to another church. It does more harm than good to make a generalization and call a church "modernist," "syncretist," and the like. When I read comments like that made by an Orthodox priest of another jurisdiction, I want to throw up. If I were that priest's bishop, I would discipline him. We have to realize how delicate issues are, especially when we're dealing with the consequences of past history. Asserting that one is more Orthodox or more traditional than one's neighbor is seriously dangerous for the unity of the church. I think it's a sin. Hopefully, the Orthodox churches and their personnel will come to realize this in the future. Take a lesson from history. How often did the East and West differ seriously before the final rupture? Many times. And each time, tolerance saved the unity of the Church. Granted, it might have been better, in retrospect, to talk over certain issues in further depth, but this might also have done more harm than good. Delving too deeply into mysteries is a very dangerous thing.

Joe said...

I have a few thoughts here.

1. On the calander, said jurisdiction should allow both calanders as people have developed a firmly entrenched attachment to both calanders. I for one don't care all that much, and if I attended an Old Calander church would be Old Calander. However I am new Calander. And I have to admit its nice not trying to come up with excuses at Christmas dinner with the family and ending up hurting a lot of people's feelings due to an archaic calandric institution.

2. On the unity, I wouldn't begin to know how to proceed. Technically as Britain no longer has it's own native Orthodox Church it should fall under the Ommophor of the OP according to some, and to others it doesn't qualify as a barbaric land. Certainly the MP has to play a big role as the Russian church is predominant from my view of the church in Britain.

3. On the Western Rite, I'm not for it personally. I used to be, but after a lot of thought, study, and prayer I came to the conclusion that it wasn't the right time. It's either a stilted piece of archeology or a byzantinized form of Anglican or RC praxis. At least that's it in simple terms. Both seem completely foreign to the organic nature of Orthodox Spirituality. If the local church did it, I would say fine and go there-as it is blessed. But my views on the such are not unique among the Orthodox I have spoken too. At best what can be hoped for is a primarily Eastern Rite jurisdiction with a pastoral provision made for westerners.

IMO at least, what should be done to create an organic western spirituality is to be Byzantine Rite (either greek or slavic in tradition)in the native language, and venerate the saints of the west. Name churches after em, name children after em, hang their Icons in Church.

But then again, I'm a hardcore slavic tradition byzantine rite new calandrist.

Joe Zollars

Ian said...

Very interesting thoughts.

I'm too ignorant to comment, but I believe the same issues would occur down here as well if we had an "Australian Orthodox Chruch".

Re the Western Rite: bring it on, I say. I'd probably stay in the Byzantine Rite (although I have a great affinity for the Western Rite and may even say I prefer it), but I'd be bothering the Western Rite-rs as much as possible.

Jack the Lass said...

I understand that a Romanian congregation meets in an Anglican church in Fleet Street in London. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the church, but I'm sure Google would help overcome my ineptitude :) I'm also pretty sure there was a Serbian congregation in west London where I used to work (near Portobello Market).

Jean-Michel said...

Christ is risen!

dear Michael,

Respectfully, (of course), I'm not sure I entirely agree with all of this either. Certainly, I agree that the apostasy of a large part of the Church is not something that the canons envisage.

I am not to say "I have reason", as I am nothing more than dust.

But I'd suggest following reading:

fr. John Meyendorff : "One Bishop in one city (Canon 8, First Ecumenical Council)", saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 5 (1961), pp. 54-62.

Facts is that it's not me that say "its wrong", but the Canon Law of the holy Church. Since Nicea 325..

holy week!
JM

Michael said...

Dear Jean-Michel,

Mnay thanks for your patient reply. I think that we may be talking at cross purposes, which is perhaps due to my having misunderstood your reference to the situation in Britain as being uncanonical.

I had read this to mean that the situation of Orthodox bishops having communities in what was the geographical jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Rome is uncanonical. it is this that I disagreed with, beliving Rome to have apostasised rather than merely being in schism.

I think I now realise that what you were referring to was not this, but rather the unfortunate situation of more than one Orthodox jurisdiction having bishops with authority here, which I agree is uncanonical, in addition to being confusing and detrimental to the missionary work of the Church of Christ, hence my reference to "the trainwreck of a situation that we currently have in Britain".

I think you and I are on the same page. :-) My apologies for having misunderstood.

Jack the Lass, you have no idea how useful that information is, especially about the community under Serbian Patriarchate. I'll ask more about them in case I'm ever down that way.

Thank you.

Eric John, so much of me wants to agree with you. Yet on the other hand, I think that there are times when drawing distinctions between what is and isn't acceptable is essential. When it becomes sinful is when that turns into pride and triumphalism. It must be done humbly and with the ultimate good in mind, but it must be done.

I also hear your sentiments about labelling entire groups as "liberal", "ecumenist", "schismatic", "arch-conservative" or whatever. The problem is that, because of the very nature of the Church, it doesn't exist as an individual person, or parish for that matter, but as a diocese of the faithful in union and Sacramental communion with their bishop, who is, in turn, in union with other bishops. It is the local church which acts as a whole, under its bishop, and not individuals within it. It becomes difficult, therefore, to avoid labelling jurisdictions with blanket generalisations, be they negative or positive ones. I'm not nsure where that leaves us.

However, I do believe that we must be wary about pointing the finger at others when we have so much to sort out within ourselves, and I don't believe that to do so is the Orthodox way. It is not our place to condemn others. At the same time, we have a Faith to keep, a Lord to obey, and our salvation to concern ourselves with. If we take particular actions to distance ourselves from those whose perceived(?) laxity with regard to these matters is proving a hindrance to our salvation, and we are in the situation where our actions are called into question, then we can only answer honestly, however hurtful that may be. We must do so humbly and sensitively, and not in a condemnatory manner, but we must be honest, for their sakes as well as our own.

Michael said...

It would appear from this reply that Patriarh ALEXEII has declined to grant canonical release to Bishop BASIL of Sourozh. At the same time, the ROCOR All-Diaspora Council has passed this resolution, recommending the reguilarisation of relations with Moscow.

Both are good news for the possibility of the realisation of a Britannioc Orthodox Church. We now await the decision of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops about how to proceed in response to the Council's recommendantion.

Let us continue to pray.