Religion & Liberty Executive Editor John Couretas interviewed Hilarion in October 2012 at the Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wis. He was at the Anglican seminary to receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree. noted composer as well as an accomplished Orthodox Christian theologian, he delivered a talk at Nashotah titled, “The Music of J.S. Bach as a Religious Phenomenon.” In the interview, the Russian bishop talks about the situation in the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa, and ecumenical relations. You can read the whole interview here.
R&L: I’d like to close with a question about ecumenical relations. You spoke earlier here at Nashotah House about your warm feelings for traditionalist Anglicans, but also about the drift away from tradition as you see it in the wider Episcopal Church. How would you describe the state of inter- Christian relations with Protestants and Roman Catholics vis-a-vis the Moscow Patriarchate?
Metropolitan Hilarion: I think the whole field of ecumenical relations can be divided into two major sectors—for us at least. One is the relations between the Orthodox and the Catholics. And another one is the relations between Orthodox on the one hand and the Protestants—Anglicans, Baptists, and others. And here I see two very different tendencies. With regards to Orthodox-Catholic relations, I see that generally, on the worldwide level, these relations are constantly improving and that there is a sense of rapprochement between the two traditions. We more and more realize that we are not competing structures but that we are allies in the process of evangelization and the mission. We don’t have many common missionary projects, but we have a similar missionary strategy and I think we, in spite of certain differences in theology, essentially are united on all social and moral issues. And this provides us with the possibility to form a common front to defend traditional Christianity, in particular against the challenges of militant secularism and atheism.
With regards to Anglican and Protestant communities, of course the situation is very different. In many Protestant communities of the West and of the North, the process of liberalization has gone very far. And we can no longer regard these communities as representing the authentic church tradition. On the contrary, we see that theological teaching, moral teaching, as well as church order is gravely affected in these communities by liberal trends. And with some of them we have to break relations. For example, we had to break the dialogue with the Episcopal Church of the USA in 2003 in spite of the fact that we had been in dialogue with this church for over 30 years. We had to suspend this dialogue because of the unacceptable events happening in this church, in particular the ordination of an openly-practicing homosexual into the episcopate. And we are now more involved in dialogue with the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church, in particular with the newly formed Anglican Church of North America, with the representatives of whom I met here at Nashotah House. And I believe that we will continue to support them.