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OCA Synod ‘Enthusiastic’ About Dialogue with ACNA: TLC 6.24.09 June 25, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Living Church, Orthodox Church in America.
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First printed in The Living Church

If Anglicans foreswear Calvinism, female priests, and the filioque clause, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) would be ready to begin a dialogue leading to the possible recognition of Anglican orders and full Eucharistic fellowship.

In a June 24 address, His Beatitude Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the OCA, said the Orthodox and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) shared a common apostolic heritage and shared morality. He also announced that his church had switched ecumenical ties, abandoning all relations and dialogue with The Episcopal Church in favor of the ACNA.

“We can come together as the bastion and bulwark of an authentically orthodox church,” the archbishop said. “We can come together to bear witness to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as handed over by the fathers.”

Metropolitan Jonah told the ACNA assembly the OCA’s synod of bishops was “enthusiastic about the opportunities” dialogue would bring. His offer of a dialogue on full communion was made only on behalf of the OCA, he said. He added that he was traveling from Fort Worth to New York for a meeting of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the umbrella group of all Orthodox churches in the Americas. The SCOBA bishops were “anxious to hear of my report on this meeting,” he said

The Presiding Bishop’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, told The Living Church he was not aware of the OCA’s plans, but said the announcement was not unexpected.

“We’ve not had formal ecumenical relations with the OCA since I joined the Presiding Bishop’s Office” in 2001, he said. Bishop Epting said he had sought to foster dialogue with the Orthodox churches in America based on the Anglican-Orthodox agreed statement, The Triune Faith. However, the Orthodox had not responded.

The archbishop, 49, told the assembly that he had been raised as an Episcopalian at St James by the Sea Church, La Jolla, Calif., but as a college student came to Orthodoxy through a study of the Tractarians in search of the true church.

“The goal of my life is to live and actualize, to participate in as fully as I can, the full integrity of the Catholic Church, the full integrity of the Orthodox Church,” he said.

There have been relations between Anglicans and the Russian Orthodox Church since the Elizabethan settlement, he noted, and said 100 years ago that “that relationship became extremely strong” in the United States under the leadership of Metropolitan Tikhon.

“St. Tikhon had a vision of unity … that vision of unity resulted in the time of the proclamation by about half of the Orthodox churches of the validation of the Anglican orders,” he said. However, “it fell apart on the Anglican side with the affirmation of a protestant identity more than a catholic identity. This shattered the unity. We need to pick up where they left off.”

To complete the work of St. Tikhon, who hoped The Episcopal Church could be “declared a fellow Orthodox church,” he proposed a dialogue whose goal was a “unity in faith” where it “can be celebrated together in the sacrament of the Eucharist.” To get there, “there are some issues we have to resolve,” he said.

“One hundred years ago, St. Tikhon came to the Anglican Church with arms wide open. I am the successor of St Tikhon. I occupy the place, the throne, that St. Tikhon held as the leader of the OCA. Our arms are wide open,” he said to a standing ovation from the delegates.

In response to the Metropolitan’s address, the dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, the Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, said that “in times of crisis Anglicanism by nature always turn east.” It is a “time for a huge opportunity, let’s not miss it.”

Reactions from the ACNA delegates broke along party lines. One Fort Worth delegate said there was hardly anything the OCA had proposed that Anglo-Catholics could not accept. However, an AMiA delegate was less sanguine, saying rejecting Calvinism was tantamount to rejecting Anglicanism.

Turning back on women’s orders was also problematic for many of the evangelical delegates, and is a point of contention within the new province.

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