Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Met. JONAH Renews St. Tikhon's Dialogue with Anglicans

Met. JONAH presents an icon of St. Tikhon (Bellavin) to the ACNA assembly this morning.

As I noted yesterday, Met. JONAH of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) spoke to the inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) this morning (10:30 CDT/8:30 PDT). One observer described his speech as nothing less than "a 'barn burner' complete with numerous standing ovations and cries of agreement." He recorded that Met. JONAH:
reopened a dialogue with this Anglican group. With arms open he hopes to pick up where St. Tikhon left off. He gave an historical account of how the Episcopalians forced the dialogue to end by their actions and listed off (in "truth in love" and in a way "sure to offend some of you") about those things that they would have to do to if they wished to share the chalice. Most of you can guess what he listed: removal of the filioque, a rejection of Calvinism, no female ordinations, no gay marriage, and an extensive scholastic discussion about what unites and divides the two groups. In October at Nashotah House the OCA and the ACNA will meet to begin this dialogue. It is being billed as a picking up where the talks broke down and as such Metropolitan Jonah presented an icon of St. Tikhon to Archbishop-elect [Robert] Duncan. (Emphasis added.)
Note: adoption of the Byzantine Rite, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom/Basil, was not among the conditions.

Met. JONAH intends to take St. Tikhon's move to reunite Anglicans with the Holy Orthodox Church serioulsy. Even the ACNA's press release says, "This significant gesture represents the possibility of full communion being exchanged between the churches." It adds that the metropolitan's message "focused on unity but did not fail to address areas of contrasting beliefs between the two churches. Though united in upholding the authority of the Bible and uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Church and Anglican Church in North America have differing opinions on matters such as the ordination of women and other doctrinal issues. Despite this, the Metropolitan told the audience that 'our arms are open wide.'"

Following his 45-minute speech, Met. JONAH presented the assembly with an icon of St. Tikhon (Bellavin). The conscious invocation of St. Tikhon is most significant. St. Tikhon had been approached by a group of Anglicans while he was bishop of North America, and as ruling prelate asked the mother church in Russia about the possibility of allowing them to use some form of the Book of Common Prayer. Although the Episcopalians withdrew before the Russian church sent observations intended to "serve in the negotiations as materials for the determination in detail of the conditions on which Anglicans disposed to Orthodoxy can be received," St. Tikhon clearly and undeniably acted to bring former Anglicans into a Western Rite within the Orthodox Church while retaining some form of the BCP.

Today, Met. JONAH followed in his foosteps. May he bring about the goal for which St. Tikhon longed.


The Next Western Rite?

Here's an interesting news item: an Orthodox metropolitan has been invited to deliver a keynote address to a group of conservative Anglicans in the formative stages of "a new denomination." News reports described the formation of the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA):
After years of preparation, evangelical, orthodox and traditionalist Anglicans from across North America, many of them recently departed from the Episcopal Church, will meet in Texas this week to formally launch the new denomination. ACNA unites eight Anglican groups under a single Archbishop and positions itself as an alternative to the U.S. Episcopal Church within the global Anglican Communion.
It is fascinating whom they wanted to hear from:
Ecumenical speakers including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America will offer keynote addresses.
In fact, Met. JONAH will speak later today at 10:30 a.m. to noon CDT. It appears you can watch his speech live here.

His Eminence certainly makes an interesting contrast with Rick Warren. (Warren is author of The Purpose Driven Life and a favorite of the ACNA's evangelical members.) Despite boasts of their alleged death, there are yet a number of Anglo-Catholics who rejoice that, in their view, the ACNA constitution affirms "the Seven Ecumenical Councils" and its "Canons recognize that we embrace the faith 'once for all delivered to the saints' of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church." They may not know they are seeking the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church, but they are.

And Met. JONAH surely knows.

As a former Episcopalian, His Eminence has personal insight into their views. It is also significant that just this April Met. JONAH acknowledged, "It doesn't matter if we Eastern Rite or Western Rite, doesn't matter the language in the service is...we are one indigenous Church." This is in accordance with the views of some Russian New-Martyrs, St. Tikhon (Bellavin), St. Nicholas of Japan, St. Raphael of Brooklyn — and even of the OCA's own founding hierarch.

One can hardly say this meeting will result in new waves of Western Rite Orthodox, though it cannot hurt. As I have noted, Anglicans are largely impervious to moving anywhere, no matter the difficulties, and there are many places easier to enter than Orthodoxy, much less the Western Rite of Orthodoxy.

It is good this meeting of traditionally minded Christians did not go wtihout an Orthodox voice. Perhaps as the speech commends their step of faith away from apostasy, it will show them the limitations of the ACNA: it has essentially restored a slightly more conservative status quo of 1979. In addition to being a big tent church open equally to "Puritans and papists" (to paraphrase Fr. Alban Waggener), fully one-quarter of its dioceses allow women's ordination to the priesthood. The ACNA's Anglo-Catholics write its constitution will not force priestesses upon any diocese, and parishes will retain their property rights...but the fact remains: this is not the faith of their fathers. That can be found only in the Holy Catholic, Apostolic, and Orthodox Church. Lord willing, this will prove a first step to that destination.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The 140th Anniversary of Dr. J.J. Overbeck's Conversion Remembered

According to the Dean of the ROCOR Cathedral in Chiswick, London, today is the 140th anniversary of the conversion of Dr. J.J. (Julian Joseph) Overbeck, the instigator of the modern Western Rite Orthodox movement. Today, his home church is remembering his historical contributions. Fr. Nicholas Savchenko wrote:
Next Sunday there will be a 140th anniversary of doctor Overback [sic.] conversion to Orthodoxy as it is said in our parish registration book (21 June 1869). I'll be making a speach after Liturgy about him. His book was translated to Russian and Holy Synod and Pobedonostsev supported him. He was a member of our parish untill 1905 when he died and his wife and children were members too.

fr. Nikolay
Incidentally, Pobedonostsev was no small supporter and "had connections," as they say. Overbeck pressed for a Western liturgy that resembled that of the Roman Catholic (and, more to the point, Old Catholic) churches of his day, with only the modifications he deemed necessary to bring that living tradition into line with Orthodox theology and practice -- and his plan received widespread support, including that of multiple patriarchates including (temporarily) the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Although his attempts to woo the Union of Utrecht failed, the Orthodox Church accepted the concept of a revived Western Rite, specifically one that began by taking the Roman Mass as its starting point.

The idea of Western Orthodoxy did not come to fruition in his lifetime, but it is unlikely it would have come about at all without his actions, all of which began with his conversion to the Orthodox Church 140 years ago today. Our most profound thanks to Fr. Nikolay and the rest for the remembrance. (Hat tip: Hieromonk Michael, for forwarding it.)

Below are links for further reading about Dr. Overbeck:

Dr. J.J. Overbeck and His Scheme for the Reestablishment of the Orthodox Church in the West
by David F. Ambramtsov.

Catholic Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism, by J.J. Overbeck (1866)

A Plain View of the Claims of the Orthodox Church as Opposed to All Other Christian Denominations by J.J. Overbeck, D.D. (1881)

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