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a spiritual wanderer - Paul Harrison - 12-04-2007

Its a few months since I posted on this forum, and I have to say that my sense of disorientation and uncertainty over my Christian future is as serious as ever. Last Autumn, about the time of the setting up of the BOF and this forum, I decided that I could no longer worship as a member of the Church of England in spite of more than five years of happy membership at the same church. This is due to the direction the Church of England and the Anglican Communion in general is taking. As I have no liking for Protestantism, I saw three possible options for my spiritual future: Rome, Constantinople or Continuing Anglicanism.

Rome would be easy. My wife is RC and I often attend Mass at her church anyway, to keep her company. Yet I have problems with the Papacy in its present form. The RC's like the Anglicans, have deformed their traditional liturgies beyond recognition to the point that it is a 20 minute Mass in banal Noddy language.

Continuing Anglicans, such as the Anglican Catholic Church which has several Missions in Kent, retain the traditional Anglo-Catholic liturgy of the 1549 Prayer Book and the English Missal. These Rites, along with pre-schism Rites like Sarum are as close to liturgical perfection as it comes, at least to my ears. Yet, far from returning to the source, Continuing Anglicanism is a multi-schismated shambles.

Orthodox Christianity has proved to my satisfaction that its closest to the original Christianity of the Apostles. So logically I should seek admission to an Orthodox jurisdiction. I've visited more than one. They are usually friendly, but I can't relate to Old Slavonic, Greek terminology for everything and Eastern customs being imported wholesale into the proceedings. I also have a certain amount of difficulty with the BYzantine Rites, feeling much more comfortable with our own.

So what have I done wth all this confusion. I've become a spiritual wanderer, belonging to no church, but still going to church most weeks. I sometimes have to work on Sundays. I have visited the ACC. I've been to several Orthodox jurisdictions. I've visited an Orthodox Study Group whose aim is to bring Western Rite Orthodoxy to the UK, which has, but a handful of members and a mountain to climb. I haven't visited the BOC, though I did a few years ago. You'd be surprised how much churches operating under the Patriarchates of Antioch, Moscow or ROCOR look askance if the Copts or anyone connected with them are mentioned. They act as if non-Chalcedonians are beyond the pale of Christianity. I even returned to the Church of England over Advent and Christmas, though I've resisted the temptation to do so again for Pascha.

So I ask all of you to pray for me that I find some sense of direction on these windy seas, rather than blow about for years not knowing what to do.

Spiritual wandering - John Charmley - 13-04-2007

Dear Paul,

How much I sympathise - because I can empathise so much; I recognise the stations on your way.

It took me many decades to finally stop going to my local Anglican Church. Although born into a Methodist family, I became an Anglican whilst at University; it seemed the natural orthodox Church for an English person. As the evidences of its unorthodoxy mounted I think I went into a kind of conservative/liberal denial.

It took the form of trying to convince myself that even innovations such a women's ordination might in fact be the will of the Spirit, and that out of obedience to my superiors in the Church I should accept what was decided. I willed myself to do so. Over the years, however, something began to dry up, as it were, and there came to point when I realised that whatever was happening when I was in Church, it was not communion with the Lord. Then I went down your process, Paul.

Like you, and for the same reasons, I found that Orthodoxy was the only tradition that really contained the fulness of the Faith delivered once for all to the Apostles; but I also found Russian and Greek Orthodoxy narrow, confusing ethnic practices with Orthodox praxis, and inclined at times towards what looked like a form of Manicheanism, where the human being seemed to be worthless and destined only to 'die to himself'. Now I understood where this last came from, and I see a perfectly Orthodox way of understanding it, even in Eastern Churches; but I saw a lot of the other sort, which seemed to ignore that God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us. Calvinism by another name is no more attractive.

Of course there were many good and decent people there, as there are in all Churches, but the attitude of the hierarchy and some of the priests was very odd to someone from an English background. There was an easy authoritarianism in the Russians which dissolved into fissiparous tendencies under any kind of stress; natural in a Russian context; not in an English one. I had less to do with the Greeks, and tried to seek out the Antiochenes, because they seemed closer to Orthodoxy with an English ethos.

It was only when reading Professor Binn's excellent book on the Orthodox Churches that I came across the BOC, which I then looked up on the web. It was the best hour I spent on the web. It was Orthodoxy with an English ethos. No strained arguments about the Western Rite versus the Eastern one; no arguments about ethnicity; nothing incomprehensible. My only worry was the charge of Monophysitism.

I read everything I could on this - and there was a lot of it. The only places where that charge was still made were those where there seemed to be a form of Orthodox Taleban Tendency at work. Most other places acknowledged the reasons for the confusion and the schism, but also acknowledged that the Coptic and Syriac Churches had never ceased to confess two natures in one union, without mixture or commingling; indeed, some acknowledged what I felt instinctively, which was that the Chalcedonians had attempted to define too closely in human words the Infinite Mystery which would always lay just beyond the horizon of our understanding. Just as the Catholics had tried to define how the elements became the body and blood of Our Lord, where Orthodoxy accepted that they did, but stayed away from scholastic definitions. I have found the BOC site <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m --> a great help on this issue

Do go along to Chatham and see for yourself.

I shall pray for you that His will be done.

In Christ,


Spiritual wandering - John Charmley - 27-04-2007

Dear Paul,

One problem which I found difficult to deal with was the legacy of my disillusionment with Anglicanism.

I think that I had spent so long trying to convince myself that I was right to try to stay where I was that I was a bit bewildered when I realised that there was no 'there' there, so to speak. There was a temptation to be a little bitter about Anglicanism - but I realised, I hope in time, that that would be utterly fruitless. It was Anglicanism which had brought me to where I was, and if it wished to go off to its own destinations, that was fine; it was, after all, me who had decided to get off the bus, so to speak.

It did feel very strange though, and there were times when it felt 'Protestant' in the sense that it looked like 'I' was deciding what was and was not Orthodox. But then I realised that I was only accepting the definitions of the undivided Church, and in that sense I was 'original' in that I was faithful to the original; which, being a trifle slow at times, I realised was why I had got off the bus in the first place.

Where I was fortunate was in encountering the BOC, which made no demands about other cultures, and did not confuse ethnic practice with Orthodox praxis. In no time at all I have come to love the Liturgy of St. James, which has all the wonders of the BCP - and more.

I hope that your journey goes well, and that your footsteps are guided.

In Christ,