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Orthodox fear for ecumenical future

Metropolitan Hilarionby George Conger, CEN

WOMEN BISHOPS, gay marriage and other innovations of doctrine and discipline will end meaningful Anglican-Orthodox relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) has warned.

At a 26 November meeting in Moscow, Ambassador Tim Barrow and second secretary James Ford met with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the official press statement, “Metropolitan Hilarion greeted the Ambassador and shared his reminiscences of his student years in Oxford and his impressions of the recent visit to London where he attended celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sourozh diocese.”

They also discussed the situation of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, the role the Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic Churches had played in reconciling the “peoples of Russia and Poland” and the state of “Orthodox-Anglican relations at present” – which the Moscow Patriarchate said were at a nadir.

On 13 November, Hilarion wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury designate, Bishop Justin Welby, offering his greetings upon the Bishop of Durham’s appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

However, Hilarion said meaningful Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical dialogue had all but died, and it was the Anglicans who have killed it.

In a carefully worded letter, Hilarion stated Moscow expected Bishop Welby to discipline the liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Welby had been “entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth.

“Regrettably, the late 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium have brought tangible difficulties in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion,” Hilarion said.

“The introduction of female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops – all these innovations are seen by the Orthodox as deviations from the tradition of the Early Church, which increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole,” he wrote.


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