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Anglicanism and Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 03-12-2006

I was delighted to see the message of support from the Bishops of Ebbsfleet on the website; he is quite right to point out that in these rather aggressively secular times, Christians should be supporting each other, and his voice, is a welcome addition to those within the Churches who are standing up for the Faith.

His comments made me think though about the relationship between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy.

There was a time, and amazingly it was not that long ago, when some of us thought that there would be a convergence between the two 'branches'; indeed, if memory serves me correctly, the C of E even decided to phase out the use of the filoque in the Creed (please correct me if this is a rose-tinted delusion).

However, events over the past quarter of a century have made this impossible - and not because of shifts within Orthodoxy. This has certainly left some Anglicans, of whom I was one, bereft; I hope it will not seem arrogant to say that I feel that I have not moved, and have ended up with the Church leaving me.

I did my best by way of obedience, but could not see how what my Church was doing was reconcilable with Orthodox belief. That, of course, raises the question of why this should matter in our syncretist age?

Two good friends of mine who are Catholic converts cannot see why I do not do what for them was the 'sensible and obvious thing', which is to 'pope'. There is a complicated answer to that, which I won't trouble anyone with, but part of it is that to me Roman Catholicism is far more 'foreign' than British Orthodoxy. One of my Orthodox friends says this does not matter, since all that is important is 'right worship'; however, that is not how it feels to me - or rather, 'right worship' involves feeling 'at home' as well as everything else.

Is this just irretrievably shallow of me? For me, British Orthodoxy is a key path to Orthodoxy since it is one I feel can follow without having to pretend to be Greek or Russian. In that sense, it corresponds to the Anglicanism I never abandoned, but it supplements it, makes it whole, and takes me further than the C of E could. I do not see myself as having abandoned Anglicanism, but having found the Truth more fully within the BOC.

I wonder if others have thoughts on this?

In Christ,


- Michael Kennedy - 05-12-2006

Dear John,
Fr Lev Gilet, after he moved from Roman Catholicism to the Uniates and then to EO, said something about going 'not where a different light was shining but to a place where the light burned more brightly'. I've always found this helpful as an ex-Anglican and I certainly feel with you that the CE moved away from me. But one must not discount the possibility that God led me to my present position and for a purpose - I don't know what that is and perhaps I don't need to know. All I do know for sure is that Orthodoxy is right: right belief, right worship, and right for me. And specifically the BOC for all the reasons that you list. It is important to be 'at home' and I think it is also Orthodox to be culturally rooted. The history of the Orthodox Churches certainly suggest so.
as ever,

Anglicanism and Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 05-12-2006

Dear Michael,

Many thanks for this; the quotation is so apposite.

I do share your view, and like you do not seek to know why God decided that this should be the way I came to Orthodoxy. When I first began to know Orthodoxy one of the things that puzzled me was 'which Orthodoxy'? So many converts who are EO are so because that was how they first encountered Orthodoxy, but the path set out for me was not that one; but I see now that this way brings me to Orthodoxy with a British ethos.

Elsewhere, Peter and I have been in discussion with EO folk about this question of ethnicity, and I have been struck by the way in which they (quite right too) emphasise the importance for them of their ethnic roots, but seem blind to the fact that I have my own roots which I cannot locate in their tradition. I respect their position, but mine is actually the same as their position. As you say, it is important to feel 'at home'. It seems unlikely that being Greek or Russian is the qualification for salvation, had it been so we should have been told it.

For me, that is part of the wonder of having found the BOC. It gives me right worship in a language and ethos I can understand and relate to; He does, indeed, not make the yoke too hard to bear.

In Christ,


- admin - 06-12-2006

Since you are discussing Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, I would be interested in reading something of the things that you find are a fulfillment in Orthodoxy of the aspirations you already had in Anglicanism, and also some of the difficulties you are experiencing and overcoming as Anglicans who have been drawn to Orthodoxy.

Nothing of value is ever straightforward and easy, and so I am sure there are issues that you have reflected on. But I am also sure that you have found blessing in the satisfaction of hopes that perhaps were only partially met in Anglicanism in the late 20th century.

As ever


Anglicanism and Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 07-12-2006

Dear Peter,

A difficult one to answer, not only because of its intrinsic complexity, but because it involves saying something about myself - and like many of us, I have a natural English reticence on such matters! But, briefly, here goes.

What I am finidng in Orthodoxy is in part the spiritual refreshment that I had ceased to find in Anglicanism. The emphasis upon Holy Tradition helps me towards a deeper and fuller understanding of Christianity and the scriptures; I suppose one might say there was nothing in Anglicanism to stop this happening - but it never did, and that was in part because like so many of us, I need encouragment to look in the right places; this, and advice as to where those places are, I am now finding.

I was, as an Anglican, looking for the holy, catholic and apostolic church, and in the balance struck by Orthodoxy, that I seem to have found. Not by the Bible alone, nor by my own light, but not without the Bible and my own lights either; instead there is a loving guidance that does not deny me the use of my intellect, but encourages my spiritual growth.

The Liturgy does lift me up to focus upon God, in the way I had often wished were so in the Anglican Church; it does, indeed, seem an insight into a greater eternal liturgy.

The BOC seems to remove one of my major problems with Orthodoxy, namely the ethnic element; I have nothing but admiration for ethnic Orthodox traditions, but it is Orthodox praxis, not ethnic practices, which I seek.

As a highish sort of Anglican I don't have a problem with veneration of the Virgin, or with Incense, kissing the bishop's hand or those sorts of things; and the insight I am finding into the use of icons is a blessing.

My single biggest problem is with my own situation, which at the moment prevents me from doing the three hour round trip to the nearest liturgy on a Sunday. I know that one needs to live Orthodoxy and to experience it, and so much of this, for me, is 'virtual'. I am fortunate in so far as we have been able to have an Orthodox vespers every fortnight only a short distance away; but I still long for the experience of the liturgy.

As a catechumen, I have found great and kind guidance, for which I am grateful. Obviously absence from the eucharist is a sacrifice, but we are called to make sacrifices, and that is my great fast. Moreover, I knew that, as part of a dispersed community, there were always bound to be problems with having anything like a real parish - although the 'virtual' one is a good substitute!

There is spiritual growth of a sort that is not familiar to me, as well as a sense of being part of tradition which bolsters me without wishing to control me.

The frustrations are familar, and often stem from my own inadequacies; the comforts are not familiar, and stem from right worship.

In Christ,


- Michael Kennedy - 07-12-2006

As someone originally from the high end of the C of E I too have had no problems with venerating the Saints, especially the Mother of God, nor with incense, nor icons, kissing the cross or the Bishop's/priest's hand, and so on. All this I rather like, but it is more than just a preference - I believe it is all part of right worship and right belief. More to the point, what I found in Orthodoxy was a wholeness, which as a word is not too far removed from holiness. I did not find this in Anglicanism, in fact I found the reverse. I experienced fracture and discord - obviously in the turbulent times around the decision to ordain women to the priesthood - but more generally in the very spirituality of the church, my own spirituality and others around me. All that is gone - I'm not suggesting Orthodoxy is free of discord, of course it isn't, although the BOC is remarkably calm and for that I'm very thankful. But the wholeness of Orthodoxy is very real. I think its something to do with a coherent ecclesiology and with a sense that doctrine is rooted in the Fathers, and I've tried to express this elsewhere on the Forum. I'm not suggesting that everything is easy because it isn't. There are all sorts of difficulties that we all have to face, sometimes as a result of our personal circumstances or of our own sinfulness. But the light shines brighter here, of that I have no doubt.

Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 08-12-2006

Dear Michael,

What an excellent description - especially when you write 'what I found in Orthodoxy was a wholeness'; it is from that place that I feel a real spiritual growth.

One of my first difficulties was something I have come to see as a continuing source of inspiration. I have noticed that many converts to Orthodoxy in the UK and the USA tend to be, for obvious reasons, Greek or Russian Orthodox, and that when asks why they became so the response is that that was where they found Orthodoxy. I, however, first found a welcome here with the BOC - to be told by the Eastern Orthodox that I had not found proper Orthodoxy.

That was a problem for me. Having supposed that the C of E was the English Orthodox Church and discovered that, at least to me, it had moved away, I was, to say the least, disconcerted by the notion that I might be getting into something else that would not be Orthodox.

However, what a difference I found between these EO attitudes and those of the members of the BOC. With an eirenic attitude and no defensiveness at all, both Abba Seraphim and Peter Farrington showed me an Orthodoxy that was in no sense Monophysite; but even more remarkably, they showed me an Orthodoxy that was happy to engage in discussion, dialogue and debate.

This was not, however, the fudge that I had become used to in Anglicanism, and it lacked, quite wonderfully to me, that knee-jerk deference to whatever was modish; it was a discourse founded in Holy tradition and the scriptures. It was also one that encouraged thinking and questioning, and yet did so within a context where ecclesiology, theology and spirituality all worked in harmony. The contrast with the defensiveness and suspicion of all matters intellectual that I had found in some of the EO was marked.

I suspect that my decision to seek the catechumenate came when I attended the inauguration of the Coptic Cathedral in Stevenage. The Copts themselves have been so welcoming and quick to share the Faith they have preserved at such a price. The ceremony itself was uplifting - and there was a real sense that the Holy Ghost was there.

Thus far I have found in the BOC all that I had looked for in Anglicanism - and much more, including things I had not known I was even looking for.

In Christ,


- Edward - 08-12-2006

Quote:I, however, first found a welcome here with the BOC - to be told by the Eastern Orthodox that I had not found proper Orthodoxy.

Can anyone tell me what, if any, the EO objections are towards Coptic / BOC Orthodoxy?



- Michael Kennedy - 08-12-2006

Only some EO Christians object to Oriental Orthodoxy - we have three regular EO members of our small congregation at Chatham, one English convert to Russian Orthodoxy and two cradle Bulgarian Orthodox, and also two recent (possible) additions who are Romanian Orthodox. At a higher level Abba Seraphim has a very good relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarch and with other EO clergy, especially here in the UK. In my personal experience (perhaps like John?) objections have come from British EO converts. I know that elsewhere there are objections, from members of ROCA for example and perhaps from the Moscow Patriachate generally, though I have had no personal experience of this. The objections are very difficult to define as it seems that many of those who object are not very able to articulate what their problem is. John and Peter have come across this, I think, on other lists. Officially there is theological agreement across nearly all EO churches that both 'families' of Orthodox have held the same Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox faith over many centuries, and that the disagreements of the fourth century that divided the church post-Chalcedon were a misunderstanding on both sides. It is certainly not true as some would argue that the Oriental Orthodox adhere to the Monophysite heresy - if it were I would not be here. Since converting to Orthodoxy in 1994 I have seen no evidence at all to support such a claim, and I should add that objections on a personal level from EO members over that time can easily be counted on one hand. Objections such as they are, I think, are made from a standpoint of ignorance - it seems that the ancient misunderstandings persist in some quarters.

EO/OO - John Charmley - 09-12-2006

Dear Edward,

Michael has outlined succinctly the problems one sometimes encounters. It is mainly with ROCOR EOs, and then mainly with converts, who, having adapted themselves to a very traditionalist old Church Slavonic way of Orthodoxy, seem to think it is the only way.

It worried me when I knew little about these things, but in the search to know why such EO fears were unfounded, I have been able to discover how rich Orthodoxy is. Like all Churches there will always be those who cannot see their way to behave as St. Peter said in Acts 15; but the BOC seems mercifully free of these.

I am sure those of us who have made the journey or who are on it would all agree with Michael - were the Copts Monophysites we should not be here. The ecclesiastical politics of Chalcedon produced a startlingly unjust set of results, more on which can be found in the OO Library volume produced by Fr. Sellars.

Tradition is something we all treasure, but the shadow of the memory of old injustices and mistakes is one part of tradition that ought to be abandoned. If you follow the links on the BOC website to the 'Unity' website, you will find some excellent papers dealing with these issues. And, of course, Abba Seraphim's arguments in 'Towards a common Christology' are an enormous help.

It is always sad when some people get terribly defensive about their own tradition, and think a respect for it requires disrespect towards others; one of the greatest blessings of the BOC is the absence of such rancour.

In Christ,


Being contextual - Edward - 09-12-2006

Reading the various posts within the forum I'm struck by how much people identify and cherish the traditions of Orthodoxy and how they have been preserved over the centuries / years.

Whilst I would regard myself as a traditionalist Anglican my own theological training and study has been within 'contextual theology' (working within a particular context to make Christ known and to proclaim the Good News).

This has often included finding new ways of 'being Church'. The buzz phrase of the moment is 'fresh expressions of Church'. That is not to say for a minute that Church teaching or the centrality of the Mass (Eucharist) are watered-down, but they are presented in new and different ways.

The whole 'fresh expressions' movement has created some notable successes within the various churchmanship groups of Anglicanism. As people look to the future they are seen as becoming ever more important if the C of E is to survive.

Looking at the BOC I can see how in many ways it constitutes a pioneering example of Orthodoxy being presented in a new and particular context. On the other hand it can also be seen as being particularly traditional in its structure.

How do the members of the BOC see the future? How will it seek to attract and develop sustainable congregations including young people? Is the BOC aiming to establish a quasi-parish system or something different?

If someone with a family embraced Orthodoxy within the BOC would they become part of something that had a definite future? Will there still be a BOC for their children or the next generation?

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Many thanks,


Re: Being contextual - John Charmley - 09-12-2006

Edward Wrote:How do the members of the BOC see the future? How will it seek to attract and develop sustainable congregations including young people? Is the BOC aiming to establish a quasi-parish system or something different?

If someone with a family embraced Orthodoxy within the BOC would they become part of something that had a definite future? Will there still be a BOC for their children or the next generation?

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Many thanks,


Dear Ed (if I may)

Some very interesting thoughts and thought-provoking questions here.

Would you feel able to share some of your experience of the 'fresh expressions' movement with us here? It does have resonances with what the BOC is doing, I suspect, and may be of wider interest to our fellow posters here.

Others must provide contextual answers to your questions, but I cannot but say something, as a catechumen. Our long term future, like that of us all, is in His hands; if we are the Orthodox Church we believe we are, then the gates of hades will not prevail against us. A look at what has happened since Abba Seraphim became Metropolitan suggests growth and a spirit of mission; we are part of the historic Orthodox Church based at Alexandria, and that has survived against formidable odds.

How we shall prosper here depends upon us, as well as Him. If those of us who convert sit back and say 'well, I'm home' and then do nothing more, then I suspect not much will happen; if we get engaged with whatever talents we have, then we shall grow.

I shall leave the mission team to say more about their hopes and plans, but I am glad to feel that in whatever way He wishes, I can be part of that.

In Christ,


- admin - 18-12-2006

Hi Edward,

I'm sorry to have taken a while to add my own thoughts but I have been in Finland on business for a while.

I am absolutely committed to the development of the BOC (in God's will) as an established Christian community in which my children and their children will be at home. Indeed next Sunday I expect my youngest son will be made a server and will then be able to assist me as I serve my own priest at the Liturgy. There is another young lad who will also be made a server, and we are only a small community. It takes imagination but it is possible to develop a family feeling even in a mission context. In January I hope that we will be taking all the children and young people associated even loosely with us out for an evening bowling.

My vision, as someone active in the BOC and mission, is to see a BOC community in every county as an urgent matter of prayer and activity. This would require about 55 communities of varying size. If we looked further (as I have done) at the number of communities of more than 50,000 people then this would require a target of 225 communities. None of these are beyond God's action by the Holy Spirit, and neither are they outside the realms of what has happened in the past in the UK as Christian movements have developed.

I have no sense that God does not will the BOC to grow and be established as a vibrant British Orthodoxy. Quite the opposite. There is much happening which seems to be witness to the Holy Spirit at work. But as always, it requires sacrificial commitment of those who are engaged in mission, and an active, spiritual imagination to see what is possible with God.

One of our priests has a son currently studying theology at university, who knows if he might not become a priest himself in due time, as God wills. And my own young son enjoys participating in the liturgy and is looking forward to becoming a server, who knows what future opportunities for service might be opened for him?

So I grow more excited, not less, as time goes by. It seems to me, as an ex-Evangelical, that the BOC is becoming more aware of God's desire and will, and is seeking, within the limits of the resources God has so far provided, to commit itself to serving that will.

I do know that this is an exciting time to be part of a missionary organisation and that anyone who walks with us and is willing to give themselves to God's plan will find their ministries and abilities used to the full.

In Christ


Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 20-12-2006

Dear Peter,

Well said! I suspect that the answer lies with us. If we will be the instruments of the Lord's work, it will be be done; if we sit and wait for others to be the instruments, there will be a lot of waiting around. Of course, we need direction, which is why we have a Metropolitan and our priests, and the way in which the BOC is moving shows how wise that leadership has been.

Being what we are, we are always going to be impatient and think progress is slow or non-existent - until, perhaps, we stop to ask ourselves what it is we have done to move things along. :o

The Fellowship is not yet six months old, and we have a good number of members, but those of us who are here and who have joined really have to be part of the answer to Edward's excellent question.

What do others think on this one?

In Christ,