Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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.



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