St Vladimir’s Seminary and Archbishop Rowan Williams: Facing Up to Our Differences

The Orthodox Christian online community is a buzz with the recent announcement that St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary is going to award an honorary doctorate in divinity to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (see for example the conversation on the American Orthodox Institute’s The Observer). According to the press release from the seminary, Archbishop Williams is being granted this degree “in recognition of his contribution to the academic study of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality.”  It goes on to quote the dean of St Vladimir’s, the Very Rev Dr John Behr who says that “Many Orthodox Christians may be unaware of Rowan Williams’s research and contribution to the field of Orthodox theology.”   In addition to his support of the The Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius, a society of Eastern and Western Christians, Rowan is “a pioneer in this field, with outstanding breadth and depth.”  His doctoral dissertation examined “the work of the great Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky” and was “the first academic study of the émigré theologians.”

Not everyone however is as supportive of Rowan receiving an honorary doctorate from an Orthodox seminary.  Fr Patrick Reardon is the balanced voice among those who disagree with the decision.  In an open letter to His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and President of St Vladimir’s, Fr Patrick writes, “Although the scholarly publications of Dr. Williams may be cited as adequate reason for his lecture at the seminary, news of the plan to honor him is already prompting a popular consternation and even scandal.”  Mincing no words on the matter, Reardon says that “Outside of academic circles,” Rowan Williams “is chiefly known for his public support for sexual perversion within the Anglican Communion.”

Whether or not the decision by the seminary is a source of widespread consternation and scandal is not clear to me.  Indeed outside of a relatively small number of clergy and laity, I suspect most Orthodox Christians neither know about the decision nor, if they know, particularly care one way or the other.

This is not to say that the controversy is manufactured much less that it is unimportant or meaningless.  Far from it.

The real import of the disagreement is (1) that we are PUBLICLY disagreeing with each other and (2) what this disagreement suggests about the underlying social dynamics of American Orthodox Christianity.  In the following series of post, I want to look at each of these and I would invite your thoughts on the matter.

Let’s begin with reflecting on the fact of a public disagreement.

First of all, the public face of Orthodox Christianity in America is one of great unanimity.   We pray the same way, we believe the same things.  Lex orandi, lex crendi has become as much, or more, a marketing tool as it is a description of the Church’s internal life.  To be sure, “Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition” of the Church.

However in Liturgy we never hear simply one voice; nor does one voice ever dominate in the assembly even if that voice is the voice of the presiding hierarch or presbyter.  Liturgy, like truth and like the Holy Trinity, is symphonic both in expression and content.  And this is where the problem arises.  We have come to accept (even if only passively) an ideology of uniformity that obscures  to those outside and within the Church the pluriformity of our shared life in Christ.

The working out this pluriformity is not unlike the experience of Liturgy.  Yes the texts and the rubrics of Vespers, Orthros, the Divine Liturgy and rest of the Church’s daily and sacramental cycle are fixed.  But when we “gather as the Church” (see 1 Corinthians 11:18), we gather as unique individuals and so we necessarily must struggle to sing not simply the same words, but to sing and pray the same words together.  This requires not only a degree of technical proficiency that only comes through practice, but also humility, patience and mutual tolerance in the face of human difference.  If I read St Paul epistle to the Church at Corinth correctly, this can all be summed up by saying that the unity of the Church is the fruit both of the Holy Spirit and our commitment to love one another sacrificially and not simply nominally.

None of this, however, can be the fruit of a mere ideological commitment to the Tradition of the Church and this leads me to my second point.  Faith in the Tradition of the Church, even a shared faith in the Tradition, is different that a shared faith or trust in each other.  Let me go further, I would suggest that whether intentionally or mistakenly I often substitute the former for the latter.

I will, in my next post look at what I would call an ideological attachment to Holy Tradition.

Until then, and as always, your comments, questions and criticism are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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  • http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/ s-p

    I had a seminary professor who, when asked his opinion on debatable issues would say, “Some of my friends are for it, some of my friends are against it… and I’m with my friends.” It seemed like a cop-out, but given he was 35 years my senior I now think it was wisdom that, 35 years later, has just sunk in. The issue for me is, can we speak our minds without confusing them with “speaking the Truth”, and can we speak our minds without objectifying our opponents or those who disagree with us by means of ideologies that may have in our own minds strong ties to the Gospel or the Church’s tradition as we have engaged them within our “journey” (there, I said it), or religious culture. I can honestly see how Fr. Patrick may not have converted if he had seen that happen. I can see others converting because it did. Who’s conversion/non conversion is more important or well reasoned or worthy of considering whether or not to put a speed bump in front of (sorry for the convoluted dangling preposition). In the end its a judgment call and the fact that it is a judgment call says there are those who would judge differently. In the end all we can do is speak our mind (its debatable to me whether that is always NECESSARY), and pray for those who judged differently and those who react either way.
    .-= s-p´s last blog ..Orthograph #30 – Better Discussed Over a Beer =-.

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    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      S-P,

      You make two points that our essential not only to the current debate but also the health of the Church.

      (1) We have I think rather subtly–or maybe not so subtly–emphasized the conversion of conservative Evangelical Christians. As a result we seek to proselytize Christians in other traditions and have made conversion rather than reconciliation our goal. And all of this has come at the expense of reaching out to the increasing numbers of unchurched and unaffiliated people in American society.

      (2) I appreciate so much your warning against objectify others. You are absolutely right about the need to speak our minds, when NECESSARY, and never forget that others can–and often do–evaluate situations differently than we do. This I think is where our proselytizing has harmed us–we want to bring the full dogmatic weight of the Tradition down to on every conversation and every disagreement. This throws us way out balance not only spiritually but psychological and sociologically as well.

      When you have a moment, I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on all this. I have more posts coming on the SVS/ABC matter in the coming days.

      Again, thanks for the comment.

      +FrG

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  • http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/ s-p

    I had a seminary professor who, when asked his opinion on debatable issues would say, “Some of my friends are for it, some of my friends are against it… and I’m with my friends.” It seemed like a cop-out, but given he was 35 years my senior I now think it was wisdom that, 35 years later, has just sunk in. The issue for me is, can we speak our minds without confusing them with “speaking the Truth”, and can we speak our minds without objectifying our opponents or those who disagree with us by means of ideologies that may have in our own minds strong ties to the Gospel or the Church’s tradition as we have engaged them within our “journey” (there, I said it), or religious culture. I can honestly see how Fr. Patrick may not have converted if he had seen that happen. I can see others converting because it did. Who’s conversion/non conversion is more important or well reasoned or worthy of considering whether or not to put a speed bump in front of (sorry for the convoluted dangling preposition). In the end its a judgment call and the fact that it is a judgment call says there are those who would judge differently. In the end all we can do is speak our mind (its debatable to me whether that is always NECESSARY), and pray for those who judged differently and those who react either way.
    .-= s-p´s last blog ..Orthograph #30 – Better Discussed Over a Beer =-.

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    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      S-P,

      You make two points that our essential not only to the current debate but also the health of the Church.

      (1) We have I think rather subtly–or maybe not so subtly–emphasized the conversion of conservative Evangelical Christians. As a result we seek to proselytize Christians in other traditions and have made conversion rather than reconciliation our goal. And all of this has come at the expense of reaching out to the increasing numbers of unchurched and unaffiliated people in American society.

      (2) I appreciate so much your warning against objectify others. You are absolutely right about the need to speak our minds, when NECESSARY, and never forget that others can–and often do–evaluate situations differently than we do. This I think is where our proselytizing has harmed us–we want to bring the full dogmatic weight of the Tradition down to on every conversation and every disagreement. This throws us way out balance not only spiritually but psychological and sociologically as well.

      When you have a moment, I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on all this. I have more posts coming on the SVS/ABC matter in the coming days.

      Again, thanks for the comment.

      +FrG

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  • Michael Bauman

    Fr. Gregory, I’m not sure what either your post or the prior one on this topic even means. Are you saying that somehow its OK for SVS to honor the leader of an increasingly apostate organization? Are you saying that the honor doesn’t mean anything?

    I think we need to understand the difference between pastoral economia within the Church and witnessing to the Truth in the world. When it comes to acquiesing to anti-Christian dogma and/or honoring those who do, there is no room for compromise IMO. SVS has an obligation to hold to the highest standards of public witness. They have failed miserably in this case.

    People of no faith can and do conduct all sorts of scholarship on all matters of the faith. They weaken the faith by their attempts. The English academics especially are quite fond of engaging in egalitarian conversations in which Truth is laid aside and all opinions and points of view are considered equally correct. Such activity is the great weakness of academic inquiry.

    To me SVS’s actions are as if St. Nicholas at the 1st Council had given Arius a kiss and invited him for dinner rather than punching him out. Although the pucnch was excessive, the absolute opposition to Arius’ teaching was not.

    If SVS is neither willing nor able to maintain both a high level of schoarship AND a high level of witness to the Holy Tradition, it has no purpose within the Church.

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    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      Michael,

      I agree with you that SVS has “an obligation to hold to the highest standards of public witness” but then so do we all. Accusing the SVS faculty, however obliquely, of embracing heresy seems to me to fall more than a little short of such high standards. It is not clear to me that anyone on the SVS faculty has acquiesced “to anti-Christian dogma.”

      Is it prudent to honor the ABC? On this reasonable people can disagree. My own opinion is that it was imprudent but I am unwilling to take the invitation and granting of an honorary degree to Williams as prima facie evidence of dogmatic or moral compromise. To be direct about it, unless you are privy to information the rest of us don’t have you accusations are inappropriate.

      Likewise your digs at scholarship done by those outside the Church. Yes, sometimes the work of non-Orthodox scholars in matters of the faith can be harmful. But of course, it was through the work of Jaroslav Pelkin–who was Lutheran for the vast majority of his life–has brought many to the Orthodox Church. David Bentley Hart, though now Orthodox, has made very good arguments in favor of the positive contribution of post-modern thought to recovering the centrality of the Gospel in contemporary scholarship.

      Let me suggest that if you have reason to believe that SVS has failed in its obligations that you take the matter up with His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH? It seems to me that you have very serious concerns and it would be good for you to bring the matter to his attention.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • Michael Bauman

    Fr. Gregory, I’m not sure what either your post or the prior one on this topic even means. Are you saying that somehow its OK for SVS to honor the leader of an increasingly apostate organization? Are you saying that the honor doesn’t mean anything?

    I think we need to understand the difference between pastoral economia within the Church and witnessing to the Truth in the world. When it comes to acquiesing to anti-Christian dogma and/or honoring those who do, there is no room for compromise IMO. SVS has an obligation to hold to the highest standards of public witness. They have failed miserably in this case.

    People of no faith can and do conduct all sorts of scholarship on all matters of the faith. They weaken the faith by their attempts. The English academics especially are quite fond of engaging in egalitarian conversations in which Truth is laid aside and all opinions and points of view are considered equally correct. Such activity is the great weakness of academic inquiry.

    To me SVS’s actions are as if St. Nicholas at the 1st Council had given Arius a kiss and invited him for dinner rather than punching him out. Although the pucnch was excessive, the absolute opposition to Arius’ teaching was not.

    If SVS is neither willing nor able to maintain both a high level of schoarship AND a high level of witness to the Holy Tradition, it has no purpose within the Church.

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    • Fr Gregory Jensen

      Michael,

      I agree with you that SVS has “an obligation to hold to the highest standards of public witness” but then so do we all. Accusing the SVS faculty, however obliquely, of embracing heresy seems to me to fall more than a little short of such high standards. It is not clear to me that anyone on the SVS faculty has acquiesced “to anti-Christian dogma.”

      Is it prudent to honor the ABC? On this reasonable people can disagree. My own opinion is that it was imprudent but I am unwilling to take the invitation and granting of an honorary degree to Williams as prima facie evidence of dogmatic or moral compromise. To be direct about it, unless you are privy to information the rest of us don’t have you accusations are inappropriate.

      Likewise your digs at scholarship done by those outside the Church. Yes, sometimes the work of non-Orthodox scholars in matters of the faith can be harmful. But of course, it was through the work of Jaroslav Pelkin–who was Lutheran for the vast majority of his life–has brought many to the Orthodox Church. David Bentley Hart, though now Orthodox, has made very good arguments in favor of the positive contribution of post-modern thought to recovering the centrality of the Gospel in contemporary scholarship.

      Let me suggest that if you have reason to believe that SVS has failed in its obligations that you take the matter up with His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH? It seems to me that you have very serious concerns and it would be good for you to bring the matter to his attention.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • http://nothinghypothetical.wordpress.com/ David

    It seems to me, none of us are prepared for the gravity of our actions. Perhaps this is the most dangerous thing about being intellectually gifted and/or predisposed. Something about the models we make in our heads which give us such great power, keep our attention away from the fact that a single word misspoken can make a gruesome wound.

    What are we saying to one another but this, “You don’t understand, we need to do thus and so. If I were doing this and that differently I couldn’t do thus and so. You can’t see how important my plan is. The fact that I’m inflicting harm here or there to do what I need to do, … is regretfully unavoidable. Some one will always object to whatever plan I made. So ultimately it’s your fault for being weak and getting hurt. I just have to trust that God’s going to take care of you while I go about my plan.”

    It doesn’t matter if someone consciously makes such a judgment, the effect is the same. I’m not judging anyone any more than I’m judging everyone, myself chief and first.

    We’ve all had serious, meaningful, painful disagreements with others. We all had that moment when we look at our wives, or our kids, a parent or a friend and realized that one of us is not going to get their way even though they believe it to be best (and maybe neither of us will). In fact, some times we realize that the dispute, though well meant and even carefully managed, has done more harm than whatever it was we were trying to fix or prevent from needing to be fixed.

    Lord help us fools. Save us from our plans. Cast down our idols, at any cost. Lord, I am afraid we worship our ideas about you instead of you.

    I believe that folks at SVOTS and all the rest of us, should weep more for the evil we do to one another. There is something radioactive here, something toxic beyond our ability to comprehend. And it is most especially dangerous if we are right. There is nothing more deadly than the truth… we do not handle it as carefully as we should.

    I am reminded of my own particular theory as to why monks don’t/shouldn’t talk much. Because almost everything out of our mouths, especially truth, is as sharp as a knife and we have enough blood on our hands already.
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Wrong Son =-.

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  • http://nothinghypothetical.wordpress.com David

    It seems to me, none of us are prepared for the gravity of our actions. Perhaps this is the most dangerous thing about being intellectually gifted and/or predisposed. Something about the models we make in our heads which give us such great power, keep our attention away from the fact that a single word misspoken can make a gruesome wound.

    What are we saying to one another but this, “You don’t understand, we need to do thus and so. If I were doing this and that differently I couldn’t do thus and so. You can’t see how important my plan is. The fact that I’m inflicting harm here or there to do what I need to do, … is regretfully unavoidable. Some one will always object to whatever plan I made. So ultimately it’s your fault for being weak and getting hurt. I just have to trust that God’s going to take care of you while I go about my plan.”

    It doesn’t matter if someone consciously makes such a judgment, the effect is the same. I’m not judging anyone any more than I’m judging everyone, myself chief and first.

    We’ve all had serious, meaningful, painful disagreements with others. We all had that moment when we look at our wives, or our kids, a parent or a friend and realized that one of us is not going to get their way even though they believe it to be best (and maybe neither of us will). In fact, some times we realize that the dispute, though well meant and even carefully managed, has done more harm than whatever it was we were trying to fix or prevent from needing to be fixed.

    Lord help us fools. Save us from our plans. Cast down our idols, at any cost. Lord, I am afraid we worship our ideas about you instead of you.

    I believe that folks at SVOTS and all the rest of us, should weep more for the evil we do to one another. There is something radioactive here, something toxic beyond our ability to comprehend. And it is most especially dangerous if we are right. There is nothing more deadly than the truth… we do not handle it as carefully as we should.

    I am reminded of my own particular theory as to why monks don’t/shouldn’t talk much. Because almost everything out of our mouths, especially truth, is as sharp as a knife and we have enough blood on our hands already.
    .-= David´s last blog ..The Wrong Son =-.

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  • Michael Bauman

    Fr. Gregroy, you over generalize my comments which probably means I was not clear enough.

    The canons make it quite clear in far more stronger language than I used that we are not to have confraternity with schismatics, heretics and the like. Some would extend such separation to all non-Orthodox. I do not. However, Mr. Williams presides over a communion with denies every fundamental tenent of the Christian faith. His actions and beliefs have harmed many people. He is worthy of no honor.

    He does not demonstrate in his public stances any of the faith of Pelikan and Hart (BTW have you read Mr. Hart’s book Atheist Delusions?). IMO Mr. Williams is a functional atheist. When the activities of our intellect are felt to be separate from our faith, it is a denial of the wholeness of man that Jesus testifies to and calls us to. That denial is Mr. Williams state when he gives verbal and intellectual honor to the the Fathers, but follows none of their example or teaching.

    I in no way am accusing anyone at SVS of heresy, that is foolish. If anything I am comparing them to St. Nicholas (Williams to Arius). You grossly misrepresent and misunderstand my comments in that regard. I do strongly feel that they have made a major mistake that gives the impression that the Orthodox Church endorses the un-bibilical and amoral beliefs of the Anglican communion. It is an impression that is clearly at odds with the written and personal witness of Met. Jonah, Fr. Chad and Fr. John. That makes it all the more confusing and hurtful.

    Please forgive me as I have obviously offended you. Thank you for the suggestion that I address my concerns to Met. Jonah. I have already done so to Fr. Chad.

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  • Michael Bauman

    Fr. Gregroy, you over generalize my comments which probably means I was not clear enough.

    The canons make it quite clear in far more stronger language than I used that we are not to have confraternity with schismatics, heretics and the like. Some would extend such separation to all non-Orthodox. I do not. However, Mr. Williams presides over a communion with denies every fundamental tenent of the Christian faith. His actions and beliefs have harmed many people. He is worthy of no honor.

    He does not demonstrate in his public stances any of the faith of Pelikan and Hart (BTW have you read Mr. Hart’s book Atheist Delusions?). IMO Mr. Williams is a functional atheist. When the activities of our intellect are felt to be separate from our faith, it is a denial of the wholeness of man that Jesus testifies to and calls us to. That denial is Mr. Williams state when he gives verbal and intellectual honor to the the Fathers, but follows none of their example or teaching.

    I in no way am accusing anyone at SVS of heresy, that is foolish. If anything I am comparing them to St. Nicholas (Williams to Arius). You grossly misrepresent and misunderstand my comments in that regard. I do strongly feel that they have made a major mistake that gives the impression that the Orthodox Church endorses the un-bibilical and amoral beliefs of the Anglican communion. It is an impression that is clearly at odds with the written and personal witness of Met. Jonah, Fr. Chad and Fr. John. That makes it all the more confusing and hurtful.

    Please forgive me as I have obviously offended you. Thank you for the suggestion that I address my concerns to Met. Jonah. I have already done so to Fr. Chad.

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  • Fr Gregory Jensen

    Michael,

    The canons are also very clear about laypeople correcting clergy and making false or unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct against others.

    As for your comment that Dr Williams is “a functional atheist” it might be to your advantage to reconsider your words in this matter.

    Please, tone down your rhetoric.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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  • Fr Gregory Jensen

    Michael,

    The canons are also very clear about laypeople correcting clergy and making false or unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct against others.

    As for your comment that Dr Williams is “a functional atheist” it might be to your advantage to reconsider your words in this matter.

    Please, tone down your rhetoric.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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  • http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/ s-p

    I have never met AB Williams nor talked to him, so I have no clue if he is a functional atheist, duplicitous, etc. so I cannot comment on his spiritual life, his beliefs, his faith, his attitude toward the Orthodox Church and its teachings and his personal struggle to keep his Church unified and “orthodox”. Fr. Chad has, Mp. Kallistos has… I don’t know if MP. Jonah has. I would tend to trust the judgment of those who know someone better than I do to ascertain those things about their character. (Though I’ve never met Fr. Chad either, so maybe he is a bad judge of character, a functional atheist, duplicitous and a wolf in sheeps clothing, or he could be virtually a living saint, … I don’t know.) Perhaps they know something about the man that we don’t, who only know him from media bytes and the goofiness of the ECUSA. Personally, I would not judge the Pope by the worst of the weirdness of American Catholicism, (nor would I judge Orthodoxy by the same…).

    We can toss canons and Fathers quotes around like holy water, but here’s one: “Even if you see a man sinning with your own eyes, judge not for you do not know everything.” Personally, that’s harder for me than slapping a heretic down.
    .-= s-p´s last blog ..First Time for Everything =-.

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  • http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/ s-p

    I have never met AB Williams nor talked to him, so I have no clue if he is a functional atheist, duplicitous, etc. so I cannot comment on his spiritual life, his beliefs, his faith, his attitude toward the Orthodox Church and its teachings and his personal struggle to keep his Church unified and “orthodox”. Fr. Chad has, Mp. Kallistos has… I don’t know if MP. Jonah has. I would tend to trust the judgment of those who know someone better than I do to ascertain those things about their character. (Though I’ve never met Fr. Chad either, so maybe he is a bad judge of character, a functional atheist, duplicitous and a wolf in sheeps clothing, or he could be virtually a living saint, … I don’t know.) Perhaps they know something about the man that we don’t, who only know him from media bytes and the goofiness of the ECUSA. Personally, I would not judge the Pope by the worst of the weirdness of American Catholicism, (nor would I judge Orthodoxy by the same…).

    We can toss canons and Fathers quotes around like holy water, but here’s one: “Even if you see a man sinning with your own eyes, judge not for you do not know everything.” Personally, that’s harder for me than slapping a heretic down.
    .-= s-p´s last blog ..First Time for Everything =-.

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  • Timothy

    Excellent coversation here, Fr Gregory.
    I recall our Lord’s words regarding loving our enemies, ‘It is of no great virtue that you love your brothers (those from your community). Rather be like your Father in heaven and love your enemies.’ Likewise, he, at another place said to those complaing aout ‘another group’ for preaching about his coming, with, ‘Those that are with us are with us. This is akin to the Holy Propet Mosen, when the Elders, of whom he was primary in choosing, that there were those outside of Israel prophesizing, said, ‘Were that all were Prophets. Our Metropolitan John seems to choose, if it be so, err on the side of love both within the Orthodox Church without. What concerns me more, as Fr Gregory has said, as well as our Metroplitan has said many places. To, on one hand to respect the Tradition, yet to respect that various Traditions outside of the Church is simply following the Tradition. Pope John Paul II was a good example of how someone could openly participate with those outside the visable commutity of the Church (The Roman Catholic Church), and yet not necessarily affirm those things that separate them from communion with and within the Church. What’s missing, in the Orthodox Church, I would observe, as others have implied or written, is the love for one another, as well as those others outside our communion. It is never good enough to write checks for the work the Church, Orthodox Charities and others. While it is a good thing to do this, it is what and how we treat each person, who is the Image of God as while redeemed by the God who also is human, that matters most. Jesus did not say, how you treat the lonely, the hungry, the naked within the Church. Rather he did say, ‘How you treat the same you’ve done the same unto me.’ He did not equivocate. Next, he did talk about the primary thing that may convert those around us outside our communion, ‘your love for each other — they will say how it is that I have come out from my Father.’ It is the lack or the act of this that brings others to us to hear the Tradition.
    only one man’s opinion at this point.
    timothy

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  • Timothy

    Excellent coversation here, Fr Gregory.
    I recall our Lord’s words regarding loving our enemies, ‘It is of no great virtue that you love your brothers (those from your community). Rather be like your Father in heaven and love your enemies.’ Likewise, he, at another place said to those complaing aout ‘another group’ for preaching about his coming, with, ‘Those that are with us are with us. This is akin to the Holy Propet Mosen, when the Elders, of whom he was primary in choosing, that there were those outside of Israel prophesizing, said, ‘Were that all were Prophets. Our Metropolitan John seems to choose, if it be so, err on the side of love both within the Orthodox Church without. What concerns me more, as Fr Gregory has said, as well as our Metroplitan has said many places. To, on one hand to respect the Tradition, yet to respect that various Traditions outside of the Church is simply following the Tradition. Pope John Paul II was a good example of how someone could openly participate with those outside the visable commutity of the Church (The Roman Catholic Church), and yet not necessarily affirm those things that separate them from communion with and within the Church. What’s missing, in the Orthodox Church, I would observe, as others have implied or written, is the love for one another, as well as those others outside our communion. It is never good enough to write checks for the work the Church, Orthodox Charities and others. While it is a good thing to do this, it is what and how we treat each person, who is the Image of God as while redeemed by the God who also is human, that matters most. Jesus did not say, how you treat the lonely, the hungry, the naked within the Church. Rather he did say, ‘How you treat the same you’ve done the same unto me.’ He did not equivocate. Next, he did talk about the primary thing that may convert those around us outside our communion, ‘your love for each other — they will say how it is that I have come out from my Father.’ It is the lack or the act of this that brings others to us to hear the Tradition.
    only one man’s opinion at this point.
    timothy

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  • Timothy

    Metropolitan John, sorry, I do know that it is ‘Metropolitan.
    timothy

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  • Timothy

    Metropolitan John, sorry, I do know that it is ‘Metropolitan.
    timothy

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  • Egeria

    Have any of the people who are demonising Archbishop Williams actually read him? Or followed his track record as Archbishop of Canterbury more closely than through the sound bites presented by the popular media? I can appreciate (and largely share) the disagreement that many have with his thoughts on homosexuality, the ordination of women, etc. But are you aware that this man who is demonised by the “right” is just as demonised by the “left”? He is seen as having betrayed the progessive cause and there is certainly no love lost between him and the ECUSA. That does not make him right but it does suggest a certain integrity.

    But what find particularly offensive – and ignorant – is the assumption that Williams is simply a liberal academic who has no concern for Truth and who is ignorant of and uncommitted to the spiritual life. Yes, there are many academic theologians like this and I have had more than my fair of frustrations with them, but that is why Williams is so strikingly different.

    I recently read his Open to Judgement, a collection of sermons published before he became Archbishop of Canterbury and which, with one exception, were profoundly challenging. His little book Silence and Honey Cakes is also one of the best (and most challenging) things I have ever read on the Desert Fathers. His Lost Icons is also a really probing discussion of aspects of modern culture. Of course his more academic theological works are also important (if not exactly easy reading) but that is widely acknowledged.

    What I’m trying to say is that people may by all means disagree with Rowan Williams, but to lable him a liberal heretic is far too simplistic. (Of course if the filioque makes him a heretic then Fr Robert Taft SJ who delivered last year’s Schmemann lecture was also a heretic! But Williams is a man who makes mincemeat of the likes of John Shelby Spong, Don Cupitt etc.) And to say that he is a typical western academic with no concern for the ecclesial or spiritual life is manifestly untrue.

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  • Egeria

    Have any of the people who are demonising Archbishop Williams actually read him? Or followed his track record as Archbishop of Canterbury more closely than through the sound bites presented by the popular media? I can appreciate (and largely share) the disagreement that many have with his thoughts on homosexuality, the ordination of women, etc. But are you aware that this man who is demonised by the “right” is just as demonised by the “left”? He is seen as having betrayed the progessive cause and there is certainly no love lost between him and the ECUSA. That does not make him right but it does suggest a certain integrity.

    But what find particularly offensive – and ignorant – is the assumption that Williams is simply a liberal academic who has no concern for Truth and who is ignorant of and uncommitted to the spiritual life. Yes, there are many academic theologians like this and I have had more than my fair of frustrations with them, but that is why Williams is so strikingly different.

    I recently read his Open to Judgement, a collection of sermons published before he became Archbishop of Canterbury and which, with one exception, were profoundly challenging. His little book Silence and Honey Cakes is also one of the best (and most challenging) things I have ever read on the Desert Fathers. His Lost Icons is also a really probing discussion of aspects of modern culture. Of course his more academic theological works are also important (if not exactly easy reading) but that is widely acknowledged.

    What I’m trying to say is that people may by all means disagree with Rowan Williams, but to lable him a liberal heretic is far too simplistic. (Of course if the filioque makes him a heretic then Fr Robert Taft SJ who delivered last year’s Schmemann lecture was also a heretic! But Williams is a man who makes mincemeat of the likes of John Shelby Spong, Don Cupitt etc.) And to say that he is a typical western academic with no concern for the ecclesial or spiritual life is manifestly untrue.

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  • Fr Gregory L

    I have only recently become aware of the teapot tempest that is happening around Dr. Williams and his upcoming lecture at St. Vladimir’s. I must admit that I am quite disappointed. Having gone, in my pre-orthodox days, to a seminary steeped in liberal protestantism, I found Dr. Williams to be a true breath of fresh air: a highly able theologian who could be fair to those with whom he disagreed but still quite orthodox. His writings on the doctrine of the Trinity are quite good, and quite Orthodox. His arguments against pluralism and his rebuke of John Hick (the myth of God incarnate) and John Shelby Spong (a popularizer of the same) are both fair and devastating. Both he and Dr. Nicholas Lash were heavily influential in my own theological development, and honestly they helped pave the way toward Orthodoxy for me. Dr. Lash, by the way, is the brother of Ephraim Lash, himself a noted convert to Holy Orthodoxy.

    In my last days in seminary, I wrote to Dr. Williams. I explained who I was (a “second generation Hauerwassian”) and I asked there was any way that I could study with him (at the time he was at Oxford). He actually responded, and was quite amenable to the idea. But then he became a bishop and that ended particular opportunity.

    In my opinion, when it comes to theology, there is no one in the English-speaking, non-Orthodox world who has the acumen of Rowan Williams. He understands the Fathers, he understands the Orthodox theologians of the French Academy, and in most cases his own positive assertions mirror theirs. He has other concerns now, with a church that is quite irrelevant in its home country, and with all of the fuss here in the states. But as a theologian and a mentor, he is the best that one could hope for. Just ask John Milbank or David Bentley Hart.

    I have no concerns whatsoever about his visit to St. Vlads. It’s not likely that his visit would cause the ground to open up and swallow the school whole. I seriously doubt that he’ll even bring up the homosexuality issue or chastise us for not ordaining women. I suspect that his visit will be brief, barely noticeable, and uncontroversial (except for the fact that he is the current figurehead of a church abandoned by not a few currently Orthodox converts). And while I personally think that “honorary degrees” are a tad useless, I only wish that I could be there and meet him face to face. And yes, I would consider that an honor.

    Fr. G

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  • Fr Gregory L

    I have only recently become aware of the teapot tempest that is happening around Dr. Williams and his upcoming lecture at St. Vladimir’s. I must admit that I am quite disappointed. Having gone, in my pre-orthodox days, to a seminary steeped in liberal protestantism, I found Dr. Williams to be a true breath of fresh air: a highly able theologian who could be fair to those with whom he disagreed but still quite orthodox. His writings on the doctrine of the Trinity are quite good, and quite Orthodox. His arguments against pluralism and his rebuke of John Hick (the myth of God incarnate) and John Shelby Spong (a popularizer of the same) are both fair and devastating. Both he and Dr. Nicholas Lash were heavily influential in my own theological development, and honestly they helped pave the way toward Orthodoxy for me. Dr. Lash, by the way, is the brother of Ephraim Lash, himself a noted convert to Holy Orthodoxy.

    In my last days in seminary, I wrote to Dr. Williams. I explained who I was (a “second generation Hauerwassian”) and I asked there was any way that I could study with him (at the time he was at Oxford). He actually responded, and was quite amenable to the idea. But then he became a bishop and that ended particular opportunity.

    In my opinion, when it comes to theology, there is no one in the English-speaking, non-Orthodox world who has the acumen of Rowan Williams. He understands the Fathers, he understands the Orthodox theologians of the French Academy, and in most cases his own positive assertions mirror theirs. He has other concerns now, with a church that is quite irrelevant in its home country, and with all of the fuss here in the states. But as a theologian and a mentor, he is the best that one could hope for. Just ask John Milbank or David Bentley Hart.

    I have no concerns whatsoever about his visit to St. Vlads. It’s not likely that his visit would cause the ground to open up and swallow the school whole. I seriously doubt that he’ll even bring up the homosexuality issue or chastise us for not ordaining women. I suspect that his visit will be brief, barely noticeable, and uncontroversial (except for the fact that he is the current figurehead of a church abandoned by not a few currently Orthodox converts). And while I personally think that “honorary degrees” are a tad useless, I only wish that I could be there and meet him face to face. And yes, I would consider that an honor.

    Fr. G

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