The structure isn’t exactly a personal prelature, as I predicted, but it sounds awful close. It is a “Personal Ordinariate,” which will be similar to military dioceses (which personal prelatures are somewhat modeled after). This is incredibly wonderful news and I rejoice that Anglicans will have an easy way to enter into the Church in large numbers. I pray that many of these brothers and sisters – both from the Traditional Anglican Communion and from the worldwide Anglican communion – will soon enter into Peter’s barque and celebrate the Eucharist with us.
Archive for the ‘Ecumenism’ Category
Everyone is speculating that tomorrow’s Vatican briefing “pertaining to the relationship with the Anglicans” will announce the reception of the members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into the Catholic Church. If this is true, I will dance a jig and sing praise to the Lord!
Here is my own prediction: they will announce that the TAC will become a personal prelature, à la Opus Dei, within the Church. Just a hunch, but we’ll know soon enough.
This week, the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is meeting in Cyprus to discuss the crucial issue of the role of the “Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church During the First Millennium”. This is THE critical obstacle to unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and I am very happy to see that they are discussing it.
However, some people are not so happy:
MEMBERS of Orthodox Christian unions along with clerics and monks yesterday disrupted a Paphos conference between Orthodox and Catholic Christians.
The unions, monks from Stavrovouni monastery and Larnaca clerics were protesting against the conference and demanding that Archbichop Chrysostomos II cancel it.
It was day one of the conference of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
The protesters claimed the dialogue between the two churches aimed in the submission of the Orthodox Church to the Pope.
The archbishop expressed his displeasure at the protest and asked the participants to visit him on Monday.
The Joint Commission is made up of representatives of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and aims in restoring communion between them.
The two churches split in the 11th century in what became known as the Great Schism.
The protest caused the cancellation of the programme.
Paphos Bishop Georgios said everyone stresses that “there are differences, there are serious differences; a thousand years of division have increased our differences.”
“But times today necessitate reconciliation, despite our Churches going through hate and animosity, today we understand that we need to cooperate,” Georgios said.
I understand the history behind the resistance of some Orthodox to ecumenical dialogue. They are afraid it will be a re-occurrence of the Council of Florence, which most Orthodox see as a capitulation of Orthodox bishops to the demands of papal primacy, mostly for political reasons. Yet I still find their reaction sad. Even if they believe that reunion will only occur if Rome submits to the demands of Orthodoxy, is not dialogue a place to start that process? How can it hurt? No Orthodox bishop today is saying that they accept the Vatican I definitions of papal primacy, so why do they fear that this might occur?
Pray that all those involved in these conferences – as well as the protesters – might have a deep desire for unity in the Body of Christ, have confidence in the Holy Spirit to guide these discussions as He wills, and work to make that happen.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the rumors of a possible reunion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches (rumors which were started by the overenthusiastic comments of a Catholic bishop in Russia). I was very skeptical about the possibility and I later wrote that a forced reunion right now could be disastrous. Well now someone much more qualified than I is saying the same thing: Metropolitan John of Pergamon, a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, who is well-known as one of the most ecumenical Orthodox bishops (and who is also, quite simply, brilliant), states quite clearly that no reunion is imminent:
the ongoing theological Dialogue has yet to span an extremely long course, because the theological differences that have accumulated during the one thousand years of division are many; and secondly, that the Committee for the Dialogue is entirely unqualified for the “signing” of a union, given that this right belongs to the Synods of the Churches
Yet Metropolitan John also criticizes those Orthodox who so quickly condemn any possible reunion with Rome as being prima facie illegitimate and undesirable. It is true that reunion is far off, but both Catholics and Orthodox should desire it deeply and ask for the Lord’s mercy in the face of our continued division.
A division, I might add, that is still quite strong in certain segments of the Catholic world, if this comment on the linked blog is any indication:
Patriarchs Bartholomew and Kiril should catch the next flight to Rome, crawl to St Peter’s on their blooded knees, kiss the Sacred Feet of the Supreme Pontiff, then kiss his ring.
After which, they can beg mercy and forgiveness for a thousand years of schism.
After which, they can prostrate themselves while the Holy Father pronounces absolution, with both his feet resting on their necks.
Then, and only then, will there be reunion.
Hey, a Papophile can dream, can’t he?
Clearly, this was written by someone who never subscribed to the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement.
A number of years ago, I read the book “Becoming Orthodox” by Peter Gillquist, which is the story of 2,000 Evangelicals, many of them members of Campus Crusade for Christ, becoming members of the Antiochian Orthodox Church during the 1980′s. As a former member of Crusade who took a similar journey (although mine ended in the Roman Catholic Church), I found it a very interesting read.
One thing that struck me about Gillquist’s story is that when he was exploring the Orthodox Church, he met resistance from many Orthodox bodies – most of them didn’t want him to join! Talk about not understanding the importance of evangelization to Christianity. However, one Orthodox body – the Antiochian Orthodox Church – welcomed the Evangelical converts with open arms. The Antioch Church traces it origins to the first place where followers of Christ were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26) and that Church has since become a haven for Protestant converts, as this recent article in the New York Times attests:
Yet in its broader outlines, his movement from the Protestant realm into the Orthodox one, specifically into the Antiochian branch, attests to a significant and fascinating example of denominational migration. Over the last 20 years, the Antiochian Orthodox Church — with its roots in Syria and Lebanon and its longtime membership in the United States made up almost entirely of Middle Eastern immigrants and their descendants — has become the destination of choice for thousands of Protestants of Northern European ancestry.
The visible shift began in 1987 with the conversion of nearly 2,000 evangelical Christians, led by Peter E. Gillquist and other alumni of the Dallas Theological Seminary and the Campus Crusade for Christ. More recently, a wave of converts has arrived from such mainline Protestant denominations as the Episcopalian and Lutheran.
Some 70 percent of Antiochian Orthodox priests in the United States are converts, according to Bradley Nassif, who, as a theology professor at North Park University in Chicago, is a leading scholar of the religion. A generation or two ago, Professor Nassif said, converts made up barely 10 percent of Antiochian clergy.
What is attracting these Evangelicals to Orthodoxy? For most, it is a reaction to two things in modern Evangelicalism: (1) the jettisoning of tradition; and (2) the diminishment of the importance of theology. In many Evangelical churches today the emphasis is on watering down both the worship and the doctrines of the Church in order to make Christianity more palatable to modern sensibilities. This is the exact opposite of Orthodoxy, which (proudly) does nothing to make itself attractive to the post-modern world; it revels in maintaining a worldview that lies somewhere between the 1st and 7th centuries. Whereas this might turn off many people with a modern mindset, this attitude can be very attractive to those who recognize the shallowness of much of modern Evangelicalism and want to dive into the deep waters of ancient Christianity.
I pray that more and more Evangelical Christians see the beauty and depth of ancient Christianity and find their home in one of the apostolic Churches.
A recent meeting between the Pope and a high ranking bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church has raised talk of a possible reunion between the two largest Christian Churches. No one would rejoice more than I at a reunion between these two great Churches. However, I would argue that a reunion now would be a potentially terrible thing.
Why do I say that? Because it could easily be the Council of Florence all over again. In the 15th century, bishops from both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches met to discuss a reunion of the estranged Churches. And miraculously, a reunion actually occurred, which led to much celebration and rejoicing in the West. So why aren’t we united today? Because in the East, some bishops and monks, led by Mark of Ephesus (who was the only bishop in attendance at the Council who did not sign off on the decrees), preached against the reunion, claiming that it was a capitulation of the East to Western “heretical” theology. In the end, the people of the East rejected the Council and the schism remained in effect.
It is easy to blame Mark of Ephesus for the disastrous aftermath of the Council of Florence. But the truth is that the groundwork had not been laid in the East for reunion, and thus Mark’s rejection of the Council was widely supported at the grass-roots level. I think the same would be true of any attempts at a corporate reunion today. Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has promoted the importance of reunion with the East, and most Catholics agree with this, but this is not the case in the East, especially in Russia. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge, there is no drive at the grass-roots level in Russia to reunite with Rome. Thus, if a formal reunion were to somehow take place, I think we’d see the same results as we did after the Council of Florence: the grass-roots in the East would reject the reunion and the bishops who supported it would be ousted. Relations between the Churches would then be worse than before the “reunion” took place.
But I think the Pope as well as Russian Orthodox officials realize this fact. That is why no reunion will be happening anytime soon; it will take a long time to lay the groundwork throughout both Churches so that when corporate reunion does come (pray God!), it will be accepted joyfully by all.
Sts. Cyril and Methodius, pray for us!
According to a Catholic Archbishop in Moscow, Catholic-Orthodox Unity could be achieved “within a few months”:
In an interview today in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi said the miracle of reunification “is possible, indeed it has never been so close.” The archbishop added that Catholic-Orthodox reunification, the end of the historic schism that has divided them for a millennium, and spiritual communion between the two churches “could happen soon, within a few months.”
“Basically we were united for a thousand years,” Archbishop Pezzi said. “Then for another thousand we were divided. Now the path to rapprochement is at its peak, and the third millennium of the Church could begin as a sign of unity.” He said there were “no formal obstacles” but that “everything depends on a real desire for communion.”
As much as I fervently desire for the Church to breath with both lungs again, and as much as I believe that the Lord can do the impossible, I think the good Archbishop’s prediction is extremely optimistic. My own experience of interaction with Orthodox Christians, both online and in the real world, tells me that the desire for unity is much greater on the Catholic side than in the Orthodox world. Not that the Orthodox don’t want a reconciliation with Catholics, but they more often than not see reconciliation as a “return” of Catholics to the Orthodox fold, rather than a reunion of two Churches.
I will continue to pray for East-West unity, but when people ask me how long I think it will take for reconciliation to happen, I answer that we have been separated for 1,000 years and it may take that long to repair the damage that has been done during that time.
Before I became Catholic in the early 90′s, I was a practicing Evangelical Christian. Now, for those Catholics who are unfamiliar with exactly what an “Evangelical” is (and what they believe), it basically means that I was a Christian who believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, that I must make a personal decision to accept that salvation, and that I was called to evangelize other people with the Good News about Jesus Christ.
But after I became Catholic, I still believed all of those things (although admittedly my view on what each of these meant shifted a bit). So was I still an Evangelical Christian? I considered myself one (and still do). But many Catholics – and many Evangelicals – are uncomfortable with the idea that one can be Evangelical and Catholic.
One Catholic, however, who embraces the dual designation is Francis Beckwith, the former President of the Evangelical Theological Society, who recently returned to the Catholic Faith of his youth (and which you can read about in Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic). Dr. Beckwith recently had a debate with Dr. Timothy George on the question “Can you be Catholic and Evangelical?” It was held at Wheaton College, the premier Evangelical college in the United States (and one I considered going to for a while). Video of the debate can be found on Wheaton’s website here.
If you are interested in ecumenism or just want to understand better the relationship between the two most dominant religions in our country, you should really watch the debate.
Pope Benedict recently urged members of an ecumenical commission that a better understanding of Western and Eastern spirituality and doctrine will promote “a better, reciprocal appreciation among all Christians“:
Common ground in Eastern and Western spirituality “is the valuable lifeblood for a broader relationship between Catholics and Orthodox,” [Pope Benedict] said.
The pope’s remarks came in a written message to Catholic and Orthodox participants in an inter-Christian symposium Sept. 3-5 in Rome. The message, addressed to Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was released by the Vatican Sept. 3.
The pope said the symposium’s focus this year on St. Augustine [he's everywhere!] in Eastern and Western traditions was important for learning more about Christian theology and spirituality in the West and East and how they developed.
While the fourth-century saint and theologian was of fundamental importance in influencing theology and culture in the West, “the reception of his thinking by orthodox theology turned out to be rather problematic,” said the pope in his written message, which was read at the symposium’s opening session.
That should be an interesting symposium. In the East, Augustine is considered by many as the cause of many of the West’s “problems.” His theology of the Trinity led in many ways to the acceptance of the filioque in the West, and his teachings on predestination and the role of grace in the believers’ life are seen by many as contradictory to the synergistic view of salvation commonly taught in the East. It is Eastern practice to refer to Augustine as “Blessed Augustine,” not St. Augustine, and I’ve often said that never was the term “Blessed” used in a more derogatory tone than when some people put it before the name Augustine.
But I hope and pray that this symposium will find a good deal of common ground between East and West in the life and writings of this great saint. Those interested in this topic would likely be interested in reading The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church by Seraphim Rose, which is a sympathetic reading of Augustine by an Orthodox monk of the 20th century.
Taylor Marshall at his Catholic Perspective on Paul blog asks the interesting question:
I have just begun reading Wright’s works this year, so his theology had nothing to do with my own conversion 17 years ago, but I think this is a valid question. If you have heard Scott Hahn speak on Paul’s writings, you will notice that he often mentions two (Protestant) names: E.P. Sanders and N.T. Wright. These are two leading figures in the “New Perspective on Paul” movement which is attempting to pull Paul and his writings out of the 16th century Catholic-Protestant debates and restore them to their 1st century context.
One of the great disservices that Martin Luther did to the Church was to reinterpret Paul and his debates with the Judaizers so that they matched his own debates with the 16th century Catholic Church. This became the template through which both Protestants and Catholics read Paul: Protestants claiming that Paul supported their rejection of the Church, and Catholics responding that he did not. Yet the underlying premise – that Paul was dealing with the same issues that Luther dealt with – is extremely faulty. As Sanders and Wright show, the Judaizers were not preaching a “salvation by works” and therefore Paul was not countering with “salvation by faith alone.”
How do these findings impact the almost five-century-old Catholic/Protestant debate? To my knowledge, Wright does not directly address this question. But many Catholics (including Hahn) have noticed that if Luther was so radically wrong in this area of biblical interpretation, where does that leave Protestantism?
Take some time today to read a fascinating article entitled “An Ecumenical Moment for One” by Lutheran pastor Russell Saltzman. Saltzman is lamenting the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s acquiescence to modern cultural norms, this time by its acceptance of homosexuality:
It isn’t about homosexuality. That in the moment is merely the presenting issue following a long, long line of revisionist propositions that have found a home with the Christian left. The authority of Scripture, the reality of sin, the name of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all these and other critical expositions on God’s revelation to humanity have been under sustained attack. When these go, well, only sex is left and here we are, about to bless what Scripture, natural law, and common sense itself condemns.
This will not pass without notice, of course…Frankly, the creation of one more Lutheran church body in America is a dauntingly depressive possibility. I’m not entirely certain I want anything to do with it . . . unless we’re talking about a ministerium organized to open dialogue on becoming a Roman Catholic affiliate, congregations, pastors, the whole caboodle, eventually seeking full communion with the bishop of Rome. If Rome cooperates, this ought to be pretty easy. Just think of us as inactive members seeking reinstatement. In my congregation, an officially inactive member is welcomed back to full fellowship by making a contribution and receiving Holy Communion, and sometimes we’ve been known to even skip the contribution part. Couldn’t the Church of Rome handle that? There might be a few subsidiary issues to settle, but get us inside first and everything else becomes manageable. What is needed here is a brave archbishop or two, together taking cognizance of what is about to happen to the ELCA, and stepping forward as potential shepherds. Can’t really call it stealing sheep if the previous shepherd has run off, can you?
No, I’m not being facetious. Not altogether. The original intent of the sixteenth century Reformers wasn’t to start a new church but to be a witness for evangelical reform within the one church. Our Lutheran confessional documents—notably the Augsburg Confession of 1530—forcefully argues that nothing Lutherans taught was contrary to the faith of the church catholic, nor even contrary to that faith held by the Church of Rome. As it has happened, much to our Lutheran chagrin, late twentieth century Rome itself become a better witness to an evangelical gospel than early twenty-first century Lutherans have proved capable of being. And for all the radical Lutheran polemic coming after Augsburg—you know, about the pope being the latest anti-Christ sitting on the throne of the whore of Babylon—truth is, these days, I get far less trouble from the bishop of Rome than I get from my own bishop.
Read the whole article here and be sure to pray for Pastor Saltzman and the whole ELCA.
I’ve always had a positive impression of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and the heir apparent to Billy Graham as “America’s Pastor.” Obviously, I disagree with much of his theology and I found PDL to be pretty much an Americanized (i.e. watered-down) version of classical Christianity. Yet I’ve always sensed that his heart was in the right place and that he is sincere in his desire to follow Christ.
But now he has gone too far and I might have to reassess my opinion of him:
I’m sure that this has been predicted somewhere in the Book of Revelation…
This week the Episcopal church voted to allow the ordination of active homosexuals to the episcopate. This was expected, as most conservative members of their community have left it in recent years. However, this is in direct violation of the world-wide Anglican communion’s moratorium on such ordinations, and thus puts them at direct odds with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
N.T. Wright, one of my favorite scholars and a bishop of the Anglican church, is known to be very careful with his words. Yet he says that this action marks a “clear break” with the Anglican Communion and formalizes a “schism”. Strong words.
Unfortunately, this day has been long in coming, but I still find it sad that a supposed “Christian” body would so willingly conform themselves to the world instead of striving to be transformed by Christ. Pray for all Anglicans, and especially all Episcopals.
My, my, isn’t this charming:
A group of Orthodox clergy in Greece, led by three senior archbishops, have published a manifesto pledging to resist all ecumenical ties with Roman Catholics and Protestants.
“The only way our communion with heretics can be restored is if they renounce their fallacy and repent,” the group said in a “Confession of Faith against Ecumenism” that they circulated recently.
“The Orthodox church is not merely the true church; she is the only church. She alone has remained faithful to the Gospel, the synods and the fathers, and consequently she alone represents the true catholic church of Christ,” says the document.
The funny thing is, I’m more sympathetic to these clergy than this guy:
Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro is a confirmed Roman Catholic who attends an evangelical church and says it’s time to set aside “the differences” in the Christian faith.
The Examinerhas received several calls about what church the MP attends since he met with the Pope at the Vatican on Saturday, after the G8 summit in Italy.
On Sunday, in a statement, Del Mastro said it was an “incredible opportunity,” to meet with the pope, “as a confirmed Roman Catholic and Christian.”
Del Mastro said he’s a member of the congregation at Calvary Pentecostal Church, but is also “a good friend” of Diocese of Peterborough Bishop Nicola De Angelis.
Christianity shouldn’t be “divided up into small little cross sections,” Del Mastro said.
He was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital, baptized at Immaculate Conception, confirmed at St. Paul The Apostle in Lakefield and married at St. Alphonsus in Peterborough.
“I’m a Catholic,” Del Mastro said.
It seems to me that these are the two (faulty) extremes of true ecumenism: either wholesale rejection of all other churches and denominations or glossing over and ignoring our legitimate differences. Neither is the proper attitude. As Christians, we must be humble enough to realize that we can learn a lot from our separated brethren about how to follow our Lord, yet we also must not compromise our fundamental beliefs which we believe have been given to us through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
True ecumenism has its basis in charity and truth, which are not opposing forces, but intimate brethren (after all, God is called both “love” and “truth” in the Scriptures). We must always look for the best in our separated brethren and acknowledge the truth that they possess (as well as recognize that often they are more fervent in their practice of the faith than we can be). Yet we must never diminish the truth of Catholic doctrine, including the “hard” doctrines such as the sinlessness of Mary or the primacy of the pope. Only by engaging in charitable dialogue which seeks the truth can we hope to one day be united at the one table of the Lord.
Years ago I wrote a paper about the history of Catholic ecumenism, and it has always been one of the most visited articles on my website. Most people believe that the Catholic Church started being interested in ecumenism with Vatican II, but my research showed that it actually predated Vatican II by about a century. It is true that the emphasis changed greatly after Vatican II, but Catholics have always recognized the need for all Christians to be united in “one faith.”
Please pray that all Christians might be one someday soon!
The big news in the Anglican world is that a group of conservative Anglicans in North America have established a new communion. Called the Anglican Church in North America, they hope to be recognized by the worldwide Anglican Communion. It has already garnered some headlines:
- Rick Warren, the seemingly ubiquitous “Purpose Driven Life” pastor, has expressed his support for these Anglicans.
- More significantly, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, already called for talks to establish full communion between his Church and this new communion.
Whereas I sympathize with these Anglicans (I can’t imagine how a traditional Christian could stay in today’s Episcopal church), I can’t help but feel sadness that yet another Christian body has been created, when it was Christ’s express wish that we “may be one.” For almost 500 years the solution to discord within Christianity has been schism, which, instead of modeling the unity of the Trinity, reflects a hellish discord. Do we really need yet another Christian body, or could not these Anglicans find an existing Church or communion to which they could join?
I also don’t think anything will come of Metropolitan Jonah’s offer, although I commend him for making the attempt. Even though they are much more conservative than the Episcopal church, this new body still allows some unacceptable practices and beliefs (at least from an Orthodox or Catholic standpoint), such as women priests (by diocesan choice) and Calvinism.
Let us all pray for unity within all of Christendom.