The recent Anglican/Orthodox Conference at Nashotah House was, for me as an Orthodox observer, an extraordinary experience and one that fills me with hope (albeit, a guarded hope). Over the 3 or so days of the conference I was consistently impressed with the seriousness of all the speakers and the substance of their presentations. Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion of North America I think spoke for many of his fellow Anglicans when he said that “we (the Anglican Communion) come to you (the Orthodox Church) in our brokenness and our need for what it is you have.” This is, in my opinion, an extraordinary statement from a Christian leader.
At the same time neither Archbishop Duncan or the other Anglican speakers were unaware that there remain real, substantive differences between our two tradition. Of these the most serious were seen (from the Anglican side) as the “filioque” clause, which was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western Church, the ordination of women as presbyters and the Orthodox condemnation of Calvinism. To be sure there are other areas of disagreement, but these three seem to be the main ones that the Anglicans needs to address among themselves.
After the meeting, Archbishop Duncan was in fact on his way to speak with the Anglicans of the Southern Cone (primarily Africa) about recent developments between ACNA and the OCA. Quite prudently, the Archbishop is hesitant to proceed unilaterally and would submit Metropolitan JONAH’s invitation to reconciliation to the collective discernment of those Anglican community with which ACNA is in communion. What the rest of the Anglican world will say, and what ACNA will do if the invitation to reconciliation is rejected, no one at this point knows–including I suspect Archbishop Duncan.
The point was made several times and by both Orthodox and Anglican speakers that the Orthodox/Anglican dialog is the oldest ecumenical dialog on the modern era. In America this dialog flourished especially because of the friendship between St Tikhon on the Orthodox side and Bishop Charles Grafton on the Anglican side. These two men were committed to the reconciliation of the two communities and in life worked worked tirelessly to do so even as (and again as more than one speaker insisted) they do now as before the Throne of Christ.
In his closing remarks Metropolitan JONAH reminded the seminarians that in St Tikhon, who was himself a son of Nashotah House having received his doctorate of divinity (honoris causa) from that institution, they had a powerful intercessor on their behalf as they (like him) fight against the spirit of the anti-Christ who seeks to destroy their church as he sought to destroy the Church in Russia.
While I will write more later, I did want to make one personal observation.
Many of the Orthodox speakers were themselves former Anglicans and in many cases Anglican priests who studied at Nashotah House. These men were greeted by the former fellow Anglicans with evident warmth, affection and respect. To my shame I must confess, I find it hard to imagine myself being so generous in similar circumstances. And I cannot help but think my own shortcomings in this area are shared by many, maybe even most, Orthodox Christians–clergy and laity.