Tough Talking and Tough Love

Reading Glosses From An Old Manse, I see that the Bearded One of Canterbury is also having ecumenical talks with the Bearded One of Volokolamsk (I wonder what the Holy Father would look like with a beard… Do you think it would help East West relations?). Metropolitan Hilarion was doing some tough talking:

We are concerned about the fate of [the Anglican-Russian Orthodox] dialogue. We appreciate the proposal Archbishop Rowan Williams made this year to exclude from the dialogue those Anglican churches which failed to observe the moratorium on the ordination of open homosexuals. But we regard this proposal as not quite sufficient to save the dialogue from an approaching collapse. The dialogue is doomed to closure if the unrestrained liberalization of Christian values continues in many communities of the Anglican world.

Now, Sentirists will know that I am no supporter of the liberalisation of Christian doctrine, but reading Metropolitan H.’s comments made me realise that there is in fact a difference in the way Catholics do ecumenism compared to the way Orthodox do Ecumenism, and it is basically summed up in my unofficial motto for my day job: “We’re not fussy, we’ll talk to anyone!”

Pope Benedict has just been meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and recommitting to another round of ARCIC dialogue. This is despite (on their side) the ordination of women and homosexual bishops and (on our side) Anglicanorum Coetibus. In spite of? No! Because of! It is precisely because of our disagreement over these fundamental issues of Christian praxis that we must continue our dialogue with our brothers and sisters by Christian baptism. The Russians, of course (and the Lutherans for that matter, which is why Pastor Mark was so drawn to Met. Hilarion’s comments), utterly reject an ecumenism of compromise, a “kissy-kissy” ecumenism as Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali put it. Well, for the record, so do does the Catholic Church (although I will admit to our shame that there have been plenty of Catholics willing to practice that kind of ecumenism). But we cannot accept proposals such as that which Archbishop Williams has apparently made to the Russians; we cannot dialogue only with those with whom we already agree! What, then, would be the point of the dialogue! Rather, we conduct dialogue as an opportunity to witness to the truth, to attempt to persuade others of the truth as we have received it, and hence to seek the truth together – not on the basis of compromise, but on the basis of the Truth once received by the Church.

You can “talk tough” in ecumenical dialogue, but unless you are also ready to practice “tough love”, it ain’ worth nuthin.

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5 responses to “Tough Talking and Tough Love

  1. The answer is what Patriarch Jeremias wrote 400 years ago to the Lutherans who tried, nicely, to convert him: now that we understand each other, from now on let all our correspondence be only for friendship’s sake.

    Which is how I’ve tried to approach blogging ecumenism (a sideline to my libertarian main point) the past four years, talking not just with the like-minded – RCs, Orthodox, conservative Anglo-Catholics – but being fair to my old opponents in the Anglican middle and left. (They were right about Anglicanism all along.) Follow the golden rule and you’re welcome in my blog’s comboxes, and we may even become friends whether you’re a female Anglican priest (as at least one commenter is), a partnered homosexual, a committed socialist (as one convert Orthodox regular is) or an atheist for example.

    Like the scope of the Pope is the only real difference between two churches sacramentally the same, infallible vs fallible/fungible church is the Catholic/Protestant one, and Anglicans are Protestants. Both are insurmountable. After a period of dialogue that’s a classroom really, teaching one’s faith and learning the truth about the other so you no longer want to kill each other (which ecumenism has accomplished, as C. Wingate has said), you can go no further.

    By continuing with ARCIC etc. with people who obviously don’t want to come on board and thumb their noses at you every time they make a move farther away from us, Rome looks foolish. Stop.

    State visits and joint services celebrating what we have in common, including with Anglican clergy of either sex and any proclivity? Absolutely. But no more dead-end dialogue with the relativisers chattering away.

    Hooray for Met. Hilarion.

  2. Salvatore

    Perhaps I misread the Metropolitan, but I didn’t get the impression he was threatening the severing of all relations between the Patriarchate and Canterbury; merely the abandonment of formal dialogue towards unity. And I’d have to say that I have some sympathy for this position. After all co-operation on areas of common interest is all to the good, but surely the point of formal, œcumenical* dialogue is the movement towards some sort of unity, of ‘coming together’ of Christian institutions? If that’s not (realistically) not going to happen, if indeed the different communities are actually moving further apart, is there really any point to all this talk?

    *I may not know much about œcumenism, but I know how to spell it! 

  3. Bear

    I read the Metropolitan’s speech and he does make many good points.

    The one that I agree with strongest is that the principal contradiction in Christianity today is liberal-traditionalist schism. The good Archbishop also observed that this schism is also geographically based – affluent societies sliding into comfortable liberalism.

    Unfortunately for the Anglican Ecclesial Communion, this rift runs through it. A protestant friend characterises it by two (lay)men*: the Anglican “bishop” of Sydney, Philip Jensen and the American “bishop” Gene Robinson. This friend tells me that some conservative Episcopal parishes in the USA have applied to come under African “bishops”.

    Dr Rowan Williams, who is one of the most capable, considered and sane churchmen in the world, is fighting a losing battle to keep it together. We have seen the Traditional Anglican Communion leave and look for other options.

    However, at some point, we all need to be honest with ourselves, our brothers and sisters and the whole world, and admit that this is more than just a schism – we have two separate and distinct faiths: one Christian, and one not (although it may be close).

    Bear

    * Just practising the “tough love” advocated.

  4. Although of course there are credally and morally orthodox Protestants I think ‘traditionalist vs liberal’ ultimately really means Catholic vs Protestant: infallible vs fallible/fungible church.

    • Bear

      I would certainly disagree with this statement. There are many very good Protestants whose Theology is much closer to that of St Thomas and the Orthodox Christian faith than many who are formally within the Church.

      Moreover, I consider many Protestants to be my brothers and sisters in Christ and often better Christians than me. So I would disagree (quite strongly) that the ‘traditionalist vs liberal’ dichotomy is Catholic vs Protestant (and who knows where the various Oriental Churches come into it).

      No, the divide is not so much about ‘traditionalist vs liberal’ but more about those who cleave to and believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings vs those who believe that the Church is some sort of social institution and should reflect societal norms (rather than form and inform these norms).