How Orthodox Anglicans Can be Orthodox

Anglicans Online in their weekly commentary, make some, at least superficially, “surprising” admissions about the term “orthodox”:

It’s become common for Anglicans who are not comfortable with the contemporary church to refer to themselves as ‘orthodox’. That venerable word when applied to Christians has several meanings in the dictionary, but the generally accepted meaning of that word seems to be ‘Of or relating to any of the churches or rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church’.

Well, okay, not so surprising after all. AO, a “liberal” outfit, is actually thumbing their nose at the “conservative” or “traditional” Anglicans who want to use the term “orthodox” to distinguish themselves from heretics and revisionists in Anglicanism, like . . . well, sort of like AO.

So now AO pulls the trigger:

We’ve attended services at Eastern Orthodox churches (which didn’t use the word Eastern in describing themselves) and didn’t get a sense that there was much similarity between the newly-named Orthodox Anglican and the [Eastern] Orthodox.

This is the equivalent of a e-bitch-slap. “So, call yerselves ‘orthodox’ do ya? Well, guess what? Ya’ll ain’t what’s referenced in the dictionary when it comes to ‘orthodox,’ and dang if ya’ll don’t look anything like a ‘real’ Orthodox Church.” In other words: Calling yourselves “orthodox” is a whole bunch of meaningless twaddle.

AO go on to point out the difference in Orthodoxy and orthodox Anglicans. They’ve done some reading, it appears, and have come to some interesting conclusions. You know, thoughtful chaps, what? It seems that Orthodoxy centers it’s life in the liturgy, while orthodox Anglicans center their lives in the Scriptures. (Or so dichotomizes the AO folks.) But let’s hear it from the AO peeps.

It seems to us that the usual intended meaning of the phrase ‘Orthodox Anglican’ is focused more on Biblical literalism than on the Tradition of Orthodoxy.

They read that whole book on Orthodox liturgy (they’re so proud of themselves!), so . . .

We’re confident that the liturgy written down in this book has been properly preserved from the earliest days of the Christian church, probably predating scripture by a century. In the very beginning, as we understand it, the goal of the church was to preserve what believers had been taught by the Twelve, to memorize the liturgy and preserve and protect it for the future. But Liturgy — Λειτ-ουργία, the work of the people of God,

is not a ‘spectator sport’ in which the Priest, Deacon, Servers and Singers are the players and the congregation the audience or viewers. … Together we proclaim our Faith, together we call on God as ‘Our Father’. We do not come to the Liturgy as isolated individuals; we are there as … the members of the Body of Christ.

Pretty amazing admission, isn’t it? They concur that the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is very, very ancient, probably predating Scripture, preserves the Tradition, and so on. What the–? Rubs eyes. Yep. That is, in fact, what they admitted.

But of course, that admission comes with another e-bitch-slap and a shrug. First the slap:

All of this sounds quite the way we think a church should be, and though to us the descriptive ‘Anglican’ implies a liturgical focus, . . .

See?! See?! You nasty orthodox Anglicanses are nothing like the real Orthodox. We are! We’re liturgical, yer not. Nyah, nyah.

And now the shrug:

. . . perhaps the liturgy in our church is not exactly as handed down through the centuries, we suspect and hope that it’s close enough to keep God from thinking we’ve gone astray.

But you know, all that tradition stuff, really makes us tired and cranky. We prefer something more modern and progressive. And donchaknow God’s a good bloke and won’t mind anyway.

And now kitty’s claws get bared:

The Anglican churches that we know are not churches of law or Biblical literalism but of living liturgy in communion with the Saints, balanced among scripture, tradition, and reason. We wouldn’t presume to use the word Orthodox to describe them; it’s already taken to mean something else, after all, but we think that we oughtn’t let our present-day squabbles interfere with our understanding of what the word Orthodox really means, and meant to the generations of saints who spent their lives preserving that tradition of the Liturgy.

The amazing thing is that, with a straight face mind you, the AO crowd can a) admit Orthodoxy preserves the Tradition via the Liturgy, b) admit that their liturgy departs from the Tradition, and c) still claim that somehow they’re connected to the saints who died passing on that tradition, while AO and their crowd would die rather than return to the Tradition.

As another group of orthodox folks might exclaim: Oy vey!

Well, if Anglicans Online has gotten catty, you know the Webelves won’t be remiss in giving it the appropriate once-over.

In a recent commentary, the Binks admits:

The title of ‘orthodox’ Anglican is claimed by many and various stripes of evangelicals, charismatics, Anglo-Baptists, Anglo-Catholics; it encompasses (on the American and Canadian scene) divorce and remarriage, contraception, abortion, the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, Sola Fide, Icons and Marian devotions, the Book of Common Prayer and modernist liturgies– you get the idea. Included in this is the fact that a lot of ‘traditional Anglicans’ agree rather more in what they are against, not what they stand for.

Anglican Orthodoxy has become a self-appointed title, including a grab-bag of ideas and practices. This embodies the war in the heart of English Christianity from the turbulent and violent start of the English Reformation, with the battle of Catholic, reformist and ultra-protestant ideas for supremacy.

But you can always count on the Webelves to be far more reflective than their revisionist counterparts at AO:

The question remains for Anglican ‘orthodoxy’– By What Authority? How is Anglican conservative pick-and-choosery different in principle from the pick-and-choosery of Anglican liberals? How are we not both sectarians, even if a few more items in our grab-bag have some pedigree to them, and agreement with the fullness of Christian tradition? Liberal Anglicans (like most of the broad-churchy Anglican Onliners) are the twins of conservative Anglicans in so many ways. General Synod or General Convention are the symptoms, not the disease.

As Anglicans Online points out, Orthodoxy belongs to Eastern Catholicism and Western Catholicism first of all. Theirs are the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Creeds, the first worship and praises of God in Christ. For them, being “in communion” is about agreement in the faith once delivered, and then, being “In Christ”, about receiving his body and blood as a living part of his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

This is the big question quietly lurking behind all the storms and tribulations of our Anglican situation. After all, if the liberals were all to become ‘orthodox’ Anglican, what would that church look like? How would it avoid falling back into the same problems that beset us now? How are we catholic Christians, and not a collection of sectarians in impaired relationship with one another, and with the wider church?

Being “in communion” with Abuja or Kampala or Sydney instead of Canterbury doesn’t answer the question.

There is a very simple, though often very difficult and painful, way truly to be orthodox, and that is to become Orthodox. And for Anglicans there is a Western Rite the Church has preserved for them. Admittedly the Byzantine rite far outnumbers the Western rite, but there is, nonetheless a way forward for Anglicans. Check out the Faith of Our Fathers lectures available at Ancient Faith Radio.

18 thoughts on “How Orthodox Anglicans Can be Orthodox

  1. Personally, I think the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. The English language is complicated, and it is nothing new for a word to mean different things in different contexts. Personally, I use “Orthodox” to refer to the demonination, and “orthodox” to refer to biblically faithful Anglicans. Anybody even moderately well read would not be confused by the dual use of the term.

  2. This is a very good summary of the problem with “orthodox” Anglicanism. Why would you be an orthodox Anglican when you can be an [O]rthodox Christian?

  3. Ain’t “Orthodox Anglicanism” simply syncretism? I mean, if one is Orthodox, then one is Orthodox…whether Russian, Greek, Serbian, Alaskan or English (Anglican).

    Just a thought…going away to mind my own business now.

  4. perhaps the liturgy in our church is not exactly as handed down through the centuries, we suspect and hope that it’s close enough to keep God from thinking we’ve gone astray.

    Close enough? Close enough? Okay, that is just plain ridiculous.

    We know our church’s liturgy isn’t the full historical liturgy, but hey, let’s hope it good enough because why would we want to try to return to the full historical liturgy? If we’re good enough, that would be silly, right?

    I’m sitting here scratching my head in bewilderment.

    As a friend of mine says, Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

  5. Tripp – I would say that in common usage, “Orthodox” refers to the easten churches, whereas “orthodox Anglican” means biblically faithful Anglican.

    Kellen – I want to be an orthodox Anglican rather than an Orthodox christian because I am a protestant, and there are elements in both Orthodox and Roman Catholic practice that I don’t agree with – mostly the common assertion that protestant Christians aren’t real Christians, and the assertion that church tradition carries the same weight as scripture.

  6. While traditional Anglicans look quite different to Eastern Orthodox, the problem is not how they look. They look fine as hypothetical western orthodox. Nor is there probably much devastatingly wrong with the Book of Common prayer (other than being purged of Orthodox things like venerating the saints). The problem is the doctrine, specifically no Anglicans have an understanding of Tradition, which is why that Church continues to disintegrate. It is in theological no man’s land.

  7. The AO people are picking a silly fight here. When “orthodox” Anglicans describe themselves as such they are not at all suggesting some kind of relationship to the Orthodox Church. To claim otherwise is to be wilfully blockheaded. The term is clearly being used in a different sense, as stated above. But of course the orthodox Anglicans and the revisionist Anglicans all share more in common than they might like to admit. They are both, in their own ways, committed to Protestant distinctives that have cut them off from the apostolic Church. If historical Orthodox relations with the Anglican Church are any indication (19th and early 20th-century talk of reunion and occasional allowances for Orthodox Christians to commune in Anglican parishes), it didn’t have to end this way. But the tiger has shown its stripes and we’re not stepping back into that cage.

  8. Re: “O” or “o” orthodoxy…by syncretism I mean that the body of belief (and/or tradition) really cannot exist outside the institution if one is Orthodox, no? And if “orthodox Anglicans” mean that they are not “progressive” or “liberal” then perhaps that should pull out another term. Color me picky, but somehow it irks me. And I am not sure why.

    “o”rothdoxy is possible anywhere. One can be a very orthodox tennis pro. Little=o orthodox Anglicanism means that they are even more Anglican than the rest of the Anglicans.

    Or something like that.

    Thus endeth the picking of the nits. I’ll get back to my congregational protestantism now. Thanks for not slapping me around, gang. Gratias!

  9. As an Orthodox Christian just thought I would note that I am not aware of our having a copyright on the term. Seems the best way to differentiate is the big ‘o’ versus the little ‘o’. That said the Anglican communion is theologically as screwed up as a soup sandwich. I just don’t see how you cane use the term in reference to just about anything Anglican anymore except just maybe some of the super High Church Anglo-Catholic types (most of whom long ago left the AC anyways).


  10. Why do churches that are not part of the Orthodox Church want to add the word “orthodox” to the name of their churches? Calling themselves “orthodox” does not make them Orthodox. I cannot take such claims seriously. They should be embarassed to try to claim some duality or to be “orthodox-like.” There cannot be anything like “orthodox-lite.” Orthodoxy cannot be diluted by adding to it.

    It’s okay to admire the Orthodox Faith. It’s disrespectful to claim it in some other fashion.

    Just come and see the Orthodox Church, recognize the difference, and maybe decide to join the Orthodox Church and experience Orthodoxy.

  11. My brothers and Sisters in Christ,
    Orthodox as a word means True belief. Orthodox Anglicans as such, must be understood useing the word as an adjective and not a proper noun.
    Orthodox Anglicans as such are, to my personal knowledge, trying to preserving the ancient orthodox faith of the undivided church without any thing added or left out, useing the traditional English catholic form of worship. In the Gospel of St. Luke the apostles brought a man to Christ who was casting out devils in Jesus name. They asked their master, What should we do with him? Jesus answered, He who is not against you is with you ! It doesn’t sound like many of the comment makers ever read this.
    Has any canonical Orthodox group in this country, USA realy tried to support Anglican or Western rite Orthodoxy ? If so I can’t see it. You missed a very good chance after Vatican II and now in the wake of the Episcopal church departing into liberalism. It is very easy to find fault. It takes effort to help !
    Christ calls us to righteous, not self righteous.
    The Very Rev. T.E. Raines Anglican Catholic priest

  12. Fr Raines:

    As a matter of fact, two Orthodox jurisdictions, ROCOR and the Antiochians, have canonical Western rite liturgies which they support. I am not as familiar with the ROCOR efforts, but the Antiochian support is strong and sustained. We are an Eastern rite parish, but our assistant priest is a Western rite priest who travels to assist other parishes (Western and Easter rite).

    That said, it is true that Eastern rite liturgies predominate among all Orthodox groups. There are, of course, clear historical reasons for this, but it is no secret that it is the case.

  13. Benedict Seraphim

    What you are saying sure sounds good to me ! What I have heard in the past is that most priest who join the Antiochian Church as western rite priests usually CONVERT to Byzantine rite in a year oe two. And as for being supportive I have heard also that less than 1% of diocese funds go toward developing a western rite. If These rumors are incorrect please let me know and I am sorry if I reported an untruth. In His Mercies, Fr. Thomas Raines

  14. Came across this whilst doing a search that turned into a surf 🙂 I’m not familiar with AO but I’m probably on the wrong side of the pond. I have to say that as well as sounding not terribly Orthodox I can’t see those Anglicans who genuinely admired Orthodoxy, such as the non-Jurors, queuing up to join. It seems just another example of the prevalent theme in Anglicanism these days… a little bit of what you fancy does you good *sigh*

  15. You can be a “orthodox Anglican” and be a member of a number of jurisdictions. If you want to be an “Orthodox Anglican” you must be a member of the Orthodox Anglican Communion. “The Orthodox Anglican Church” and “The Orthodox Anglican Communion” are Registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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