Monday, December 23, 2013



Christmas Midnight Mass

We will celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at Holy Cross parish with a Midnight Mass on December 25th. Jesus is the reason for the season, and there is no better way to begin the celebration of his birth than by coming together for Worship. The Liturgy will include our vested choir and Gregorian chant. Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year! A Christmas party in our new parish hall will follow worship. Everyone is invited to bring Christmas goodies to share at the party.  Our processional hymn will be Adeste Fideles, so "come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem... O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord." Everyone is always welcome!

New Parish Hall

Holy Cross parish continues to expand. In December we moved into our new parish hall which is about twice as large as our old one. 

Ministry to Those in Need

Our final food donation to the Open Door Mission for 2013 was made last week. It totaled 298 pounds of food! When we began this ministry our goal was 100 pounds of food per month, totaling 1,200 pounds for the year.  We finished 2013 with a total of 4,997 pounds of food, more than four times our original goal and only three pound short of 2.5 tons. Imagine, Holy Cross has provided the Open Door Mission with about two and a half tons of food this year! In addition, deliveries of large amounts of donated gourmet bread are made to the Francis and Siena House Shelters every week. We don't just talk about helping the poor at Holy Cross parish, we are impacting the lives of those most in need all year long. 

Holy Cross Parish Website

Our parish website has been updated and it looks great! If you haven't had a chance to visit it yet I hope that you will and that you will tell your friends about it. I have already been getting positive feedback from around the country. The address is:

Christmas Season

Christmas is not a one day event for Christians. The Christmas season begins on December 25th and lasts twelve days until the Epiphany on January 6th. Join us for Christmas Midnight Mass and enjoy the Christmas celebration from Christmas Day until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!

Sunday Morning Prayer is at 9:30 AM, followed by the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Christian Education will resume after Epiphany. Nursery Care for children under the age of four is available during our 10:00 AM Liturgy. Fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall follow Services. Jesus is the reason for the season and wise men still seek him!  We are a faithful and friendly congregation and we have a place for you. I'll be looking forward to seeing you soon! 

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Fr. Victor Novak+

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Holy Cross Anglican Church has been received into full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church and is now known as Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Holy Cross is an Anglican Rite parish of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. 

Fr. Anthony Coniaris, an Orthodox priest and popular teacher has written, "The Orthodox Church has two distinctive features: (1) its changelessness; (2) its sense of living continuity with the church of the early apostles."

Morning Prayer is at 9:30 AM on Sunday morning, followed by the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Nursery Care for children under the age of four is available during the 10:00 AM Liturgy. Fellowship and refreshments follow worship, with a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of each month. Holy Day and week day Services are as announced. Visitors are always welcome. We are a faithful, friendly, active and growing congregation, and we have a place for you! For more information about Holy Cross parish and our journey to Orthodoxy, visit our church Website:

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Dear friends in Christ,

Fr. Anthony, Pastoral Vicar for the Western Rite of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) will be addressing the Spring Conference of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen (FCC)  in Fredericksburg, Virginia this week. He will be accompanied by Metropolitan Jonah. The FCC is the organization that organized the great St. Louis Church Congress in 1977, that launched the continuing Anglican movement.

Early this year I was contacted by Col. Wallace Spaulding, President of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen. He told me that the FCC Board wanted a representative of the Orthodox Church who could speak with authority to address their Spring Conference. I recommended Fr. Anthony, Pastoral Vicar for the Western Rite, and Col. Spaulding asked me to arrange it. Fr. Anthony graciously agreed and will be addressing the Spring Conference with the blessing of Archbishop Hilarion, Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Yesterday I learned that Metropolitan Jonah will be accompanying Fr. Anthony to the Conference.

The FCC Spring Conference is being held Friday, May 24th and Saturday, May 25th, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and will begin at 6:00 PM Friday evening and conclude at noon on Saturday. The Conference will be  held at the Fredericksburg Comfort Suites (541 Warrenton Rd.) through breakfast on Saturday, and at St. Luke's Anglican Church (65 Warrenton Rd.) thereafter. The cost for the meeting and the Friday night dinner is only $25.00. You will be responsible for your own lodging arrangements. 

Fr. Anthony will be speaking on Saturday, May 25th, at 10:00 AM, at St. Luke's Anglican Church. You will want to hear Fr. Anthony speak and to meet both Fr. Anthony and Metropolitan Jonah. Fr. Anthony was an Episcopal priest for many years before he entered the Orthodox Church. He now serves as rector of a Western Rite congregation and as Pastoral Vicar of the Western Rite parishes. Metropolitan Jonah is a former Episcopalian as is Bishop Jerome, Vicar-bishop for the Western Rite in ROCOR.

The goal of the great St. Louis Church Congress was to preserve the historic Faith and Order of the Anglican Church after the Episcopal Church had abandoned that Faith and Order, and to bring orthodox Anglicans into unity with the wider Church. For a generation continuing Anglicans have prayed and worked for Church unity. Full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church, while preserving in perpetuity our Anglican liturgical, spiritual and cultural patrimony, is possible right now. The wait is over.

I know that this may be short notice, but if you are interested in Orthodox-Anglican reunion and are within driving distance of Fredericksburg, this is a Conference that you will not want to miss.  All you need to do is to be at St. Luke's Anglican Church by 10:00 AM on Saturday to hear Fr. Anthony and meet Metropolitan Jonah. I hope that you will share this invitation to the FCC Spring Conference with everyone who you think may be interested in it. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Fr. Victor Novak+

Rev. Victor E. Novak
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
Rectory: (402) 687-9458
Church:  (402) 573-6558

Friday, May 3, 2013


Dear friends in Christ,

This Update is going out to the members and friends of Holy Cross parish. Please feel free to share it with anyone who you think may be interested.

I hope that you are having a good week. It seems that winter has revisited us, but Spring cannot be far away!

Fr. Smith has taken our latest food donation to the Open Door Mission. It totaled 281 lbs! Let us spend our lives doing good, praying and working for the day when no one will go hungry while we enjoy a good meal, or shiver in the cold while we sleep in warm beds, or kneel under oppression while we kneel before our shining altars. Our Lord calls us to be salt and light in the world. We cannot do everything, but each of us can do something, and together we can make a real difference in the lives of real people. 283 lbs of food will feed a lot of hungry people. That said, we must remember that people need to eat every day. Our parish food bin is now empty. Let's begin refilling it this Sunday. Give, give and then give again. Believe me, you will be blessed. You cannot out-give God.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the chapel of Douglas County Hospital scheduled for Saturday morning, May 4th, has been cancelled. 

Last week's potluck luncheon was wonderful. We have seldom seen so much good food! Our monthly potluck luncheons are a real highlight at Holy Cross parish. On the last Sunday of every month we enjoy a wonderful meal and warm fellowship together.

Please be sure to mark your calendar for Friday, May 24th and Saturday, June 8th.  On Friday  evening, May 24th, we will have dinner and a movie at Holy Cross. We will be showing the movie Chariots of Fire and grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. Everyone is invited to bring salads, sides and beverages of all kinds to share. May 24th is the Friday after Pentecost so there will be no Friday abstinence. So mark your calenders, invite family and friends, come hungry, and plan on having a wonderful evening!

On Saturday, June 8th, the Sisters of Holy Cross will hold their annual fund raising rummage sale. Everyone is invited to participate by donating items to be sold. The more you donate the better. Donated goods can be brought to the church on Sunday morning June 2nd, or on Wednesday evening June 5th. I'll give you more details as they become available.

Can you believe that this Sunday is the last Sunday in Eastertide? With the snow we have just had it feels like we should still be in Epiphanytide!  Next week we will celebrate the Holy Eucharist on Wednesday at 12:10 PM as usual. It will be the last Liturgy at which we will light the Paschal Candle until next year. Receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion two or three times a week will change your life. We cannot receive too much grace! Come and experience the transforming love and power of the Lord.

Next Thursday, May 9th, is Ascension Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. We will celebrate the Holy Eucharist for the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord at 6:00 PM. There will be no morning Mass on that day. Please mark your calendar and plan to be at church on Ascension Thursday at 6:00 PM to celebrate this great Feast.

Choir practice will be held Wednesday evening, May 8th, at 6:30 PM. A big thank you to our choir and music director for all of your hard work. You are a real blessing to the parish!

My adult Christian Education class on Church History continues this week. We will be taking a close and careful look at the teaching of Christ in Matthew 16: "on this rock I will build my Church." If you have ever wondered who or what is the rock, or what Jesus meant when He promised that the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church, then you will not want to miss this class! Class begins at 9:00 AM. Come, learn, be blessed and become equipped to bless others.

Sunday School begins at 9:00 AM, followed by Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM, and the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Nursery care for children under the age of four is available during the 10:00 AM Liturgy. Fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall immediately follows worship. Don't let "u" be missing from Ch_rch this Sunday. We are a faithful and friendly congregation, and we have a place for you. See you Sunday!

Wishing you every grace and blessing,


Fr. Victor E. Novak
7545 Main Street
Ralston, NE 68127
(402) 573-6558

Monday, April 1, 2013


Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Easter Sunday was a joyous day at Holy Cross parish as we gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We had one of the largest congregations assembled to pray Morning Prayer that I can remember, and the church was filled for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our Property Warden even put out folding chairs.

The chapel was beautifully adorned with many Easter lilies contributed by members of  the church family, and bright spring flowers were on the altar. Our new church choir sang for the first time as a vested choir. They processed in with the clergy and then out again with them after the Liturgy. 

There were cries of Christ is Risen!, with the response He is Risen Indeed!, at the beginning of the Liturgy, just before the sermon, and again just before the final blessing. The music was glorious as we worshipped before the Throne of Grace with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven; and we heard an Easter Message from St. John Chrysostom that he originally delivered in AD 407 - some 1606 years ago. Though “dead,” he is alive with Christ and still speaks to us today. Christ is Risen and Hades has been razed! O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the demons are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and Life reigns! Christ is Risen, and our lives will never be the same!

During the administration of the sacrament of Holy Communion the choir sang, “O Lord I am not worthy...” as communicants fell upon their knees at the communion rail to receive their Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. At the end of the Liturgy the congregation came forward to receive a red Easter Egg and to be greeted individually with the good news that Christ is Risen! This ancient Christian tradition has always been kept at Holy Cross parish. The recessional hymn was the joyous and triumphant Hail thee, festival day! by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (AD 530-609).

Easter is the Feast of Feasts in the Church and the celebration continues. You can join in the celebration of Christ’s triumph over the grave during the Octave of Easter. The Holy Eucharist will be celebrated during the Easter Octave on Wednesday, April 3rd, at 12:10 PM, Thursday, April 4th, at 7:00 AM, and on Sunday, April 7th, at 10:00 AM.  As St. John Chrysostom has said, “Are there here devout lovers of God? Enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Are there any here who are wise servants? Rejoice and enter into the joy of your Lord!”

Christ is Risen, alleluia! He is Risen Indeed, alleluia, alleluia!

Friday, March 22, 2013




Palm Sunday, March 24th
Morning Prayer 9:30 AM
Holy Eucharist with the Blessing and Distribution of Palms 10:00 AM

Wednesday in Holy Week, commonly called Spy Wednesday, March 27th
Holy Eucharist 12:10 PM

Maundy Thursday, March 28th
Holy Eucharist, Evening Prayer, and the Stripping 
and Washing of the Altar 6:30 PM

Good Friday, March 29th
Morning Prayer and the Ante-Communion 9:00 AM
Stations of the Cross 12:10 PM
Evening Prayer 6:30 PM

Easter Even, March 30th
Evening Prayer, the Litany and the Renewal of Baptismal Vows 6:30 PM

Easter Sunday, March 31st
Morning Prayer 9:30 AM
Holy Eucharist 10:00 AM
Refreshments and fellowship follow Services in the parish hall.

We are a faithful and friendly congregation, and we have a place for you!

Monday, February 11, 2013



For the first millennium of Christianity there was only one Church. Denominationalism as we know it today did not exist. The Church was one. No matter where a Christian lived, whether in Jerusalem, Antioch, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, Ireland, Russia, Africa, or anywhere else, everyone belonged to the same Church and believed the same thing. The Church was known as the “Catholic” Church, and we find that word in use to describe the Church as early as AD 105. The word Catholic means universal, and whole and complete. 

Although the Church was one, there were a variety of rites and languages used in worship. There were Eastern and Western families of rites, and various national and regional rites and uses in each of these liturgical families, yet the Faith was the same everywhere. There was a unity amid cultural, national and liturgical diversity, and the Catholic Church was knit together by a common doctrine, apostolic ministry, sacraments and conciliar Church government. The Catholic Church was the Church for all peoples, of all races and nations, throughout the whole world, and for all time.

As Christianity grew, five great centers were developed for the administration of the Church: Rome, Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (where the disciples were first called Christians) and Jerusalem. These centers are called Patriarchates, and their bishops are known as Patriarchs. The Patriarch of Rome, also known as the Pope, from the Greek word for “Father,” was the primus inter paras (first among equals) and had a primacy of honour, with the right to preside at councils of bishops, because he was the bishop of the chief city of the ancient world.

The Church governed herself through councils of bishops, with the first council meeting in Jerusalem, as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. Throughout history the Church has used local, national and regional councils, or synods, to deal with problems in the Church and to administer its affairs. There have also been seven Oecumenical (Universal or General) Councils of the whole Church which met to deal with global problems, the first in AD 325 and the last in AD 787. The first two Oecumenical Councils, Nicea in AD 325 and Constantinople in AD 381, wrote the Nicene Creed that we say every Sunday during the Eucharistic Liturgy. 


The word Anglican comes from the Latin and means English, and refers to its Anglo-Saxon and Celtic spiritual heritage and roots in the ancient Church of the British Isles. The gospel of Jesus Christ was brought to Britain from Jerusalem by St. Joseph of Arimathea, the disciple who buried Christ after His crucifixion. Gildas the Wise (AD 425-512), an early British historian wrote, “Christ, the True Sun, afforded His light, the knowledge of His precepts to our Island in the last year, as we know, of Tiberius Caesar.” The last year of Tiberius Caesar was AD 37, just a few years after the Resurrection of Christ. William of Malmesbury (AD 1080-1143), the best British historian of his day, says that after the crucifixion of Christ, St. Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain with eleven missionaries, and that the King gave them twelve hides of land at Glastonbury (De Antiquitate Galstoniae Cap. 1). St. Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (16:10), was the first bishop in Britain.

The English Church was acknowledged by five Western Church Councils (Pisa 1409; Constance 1417; Sens 1418; Sienna 1424; and Basil 1434) as the oldest Church outside of the Bible lands; with the Council of Basil declaring in 1434, “The Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain, as the latter Church was founded by St. Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the passion of Christ.”

While the English Church was a national Church, it was not a separate denomination. It was a national branch of the Catholic Church, and after the synod of Whitby in AD 664, was a part of the Roman Patriarchate. The Gospel had come to Britain from Jerusalem, and the British Church was an organic part of the Catholic Church, sending bishops to the Council of Arles in AD 314, and possibly to Nicea in AD 325.


In his classic book, The Ways and Teachings of the Church, which has been a popular Anglican course of instruction for more than a century, author Fr. Lefferd M. A. Haughwout, wrote, “In the beginning all Bishops of the Church were possessed of equal powers. But for convenience of administration the dioceses were grouped into provinces, with an Archbishop at the head of each. These provinces were, in turn, grouped under the Bishops of the five great Christian centers - Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople - each of whom was independent in its own district. These Bishops were called Patriarchs...

“As Rome was at the time the first city in the world, the influence of her Bishop was naturally very great. Little by little he succeeded in forcing his claim [of primacy of jurisdiction] upon the surrounding Churches, until after a while he gained complete authority over every Bishop in western Europe. The English Church was the last to yield; and it was only after an independent existence of more than eight hundred years that she was finally compelled to surrender her lawful rights. The Papal rule was set up by force of arms when William of Normandy conquered England in the year 1066. From that time until the sixteenth century the Church of England was dominated by Rome. Yet even so, it was never thought of as the ‘Roman Catholic Church.’ It was always and at all times the ‘Church of England, or ‘Anglican Church’ — ‘Ecclesia Anglicana.’ The name ‘Roman Catholic’ does not appear in any document relating to the English Church prior to the Reformation. 

“The eastern Bishops, however, were strong enough to resist the power of Rome. The great Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople maintained their independence, and have remained independent ever since” (Morehouse-Barlow Co., New York, c. 1907, 1930 and 1944; pp. 71-73).


At the time of the Great Schism (division) between Eastern and Western Christendom in the year 1054, the Anglican Church sided with the four Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem in rejecting the novel claims of the Bishop of Rome to a primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Catholic Church. In response, the Pope  blessed the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, to invade England and force the Church there into submission to Rome. This was accomplished in 1066, with the Norman invasion. William conquered England, seized the throne, replaced all but one of the native British bishops with Normans, and forced the Anglican Church to submit to papal authority. For the next four and a half centuries the English Church maintained an uneasy, sometimes beneficial and sometimes stormy, relationship with the papacy.

With the separation of the Roman Patriarchate in the West from the other four ancient Patriarchates, the Catholic Church, which had remained united for a millennium, was divided into two. The Catholics of the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem are called Orthodox Christians or Orthodox Catholics, meaning correct doctrine and worship, because they have not changed, and their Church is known as the Orthodox or the Orthodox Catholic Church to this day. The Church in the West was known as the Roman, or the Holy Roman, Church. The Anglican Church, ecclesia anglicana, was part of the Orthodox Church until the Norman conquest in 1066. The last Anglo-Saxon king, King Harold, who died in battle against the Normans on October 14th, 1066, is known as a “passion bearer” because he died to defend Orthodox England, and is considered a saint by many Orthodox Christians in the West.

Lanfranc, a Lombard Abbott, helped gain William of Normandy the support of his barons for the invasion of England by casting it as a crusade to bring the English Church into submission to the papacy.  For doing this he was awarded the position of Archbishop of Canterbury after the conquest.

David Howarth, in his 1066 The Year of the Conquest, explains: “The invasion should not be seen as a merely secular conquest; its highest aim should be, or appear to be, the reformation of the English church. It should become a crusade, a holy war to bring back an errant church to Rome. Lanfranc himself, or the Norman church as a body, was willing to bring accusations against the church of England” (p. 100).

Howarth continues, “Perhaps its principal sin was merely to be different: much of its scholarship and all of its pastoral work were in English instead of Latin, and it was easy for other churchmen to suspect that schisms and heresies were hidden by such a barbarous language. But finally, whatever was said against it, the fact remained that the English then were a devoutly religious people and were satisfied on the whole that their church provided for their spiritual needs” (ibid.). And it should be noted that the English Church not only did its pastoral work in English rather than Latin, but that it had married deacons and priests as well as celibate monks and nuns.

In 1534, the Anglican Church was finally able to renounce papal supremacy and end centuries of papal control that had been uncanonically established by force of arms. In that year, Convocation, the governing body of the Church of England, declared that “the Bishop of Rome hath not, by Scripture, any greater authority in England than any other foreign bishop.”  

“Once freed from the Roman influence, the Church set about to reform some of the abuses into which it had fallen. The old [Latin] service books were revised and translated into English, many wrong teachings and harmful customs were done away with, and the Bible was given to the people in their own language” (ibid, Haughwout, p. 74).

“The reform movement in England was of great benefit to the Church in many ways, but it would be a mistake to assume that everything was 100% perfect. It was very far from that. There were losses as well as gains. Among other things, there came to be divisions in the Church, which in some cases resulted in schisms or separations. Schism is the sin of separating ourselves from the visible communion of God’s Church. The extreme reformers were not satisfied with what was done. They wanted to make the English Church exactly like the newly founded Churches of continental Europe - the Lutheran of Germany and the Calvinist or Presbyterian of Switzerland. Those who favored doing this were called Puritans. Most of them eventually left the Church, but in many ways their influence remained” (ibid, Haughwout, p. 75).

Unfortunately, as Fr. Haughwout says, those who want to make the Anglican Church like the Lutheran and Calvinist denominations are still with us today. But the Anglican Church is not a creature of the 16th century, it is a Catholic Church with roots going back to the dawn of Christianity, that was separated from Orthodox Catholic unity by force of arms in AD 1066. It is a part, that needs to be reunited with the whole; a branch that needs to be fully re-grafted onto the vine. 

The English Reformation was carried out gradually and over a long period of time.  Anglican theologian Vernon Staley writes, “In speaking of the Reformation, we should remember that though this great movement began in the 16th century, it was not confined to that period. The Reformation was continued and brought more fully into shape by the Caroline Divines in the 17th century, whose spirit the leaders of the Catholic Revival in the 19th century so largely inherited” (The Catholic Religion, A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Anglican Communion, by Vernon Staley; A. R. Mowbray & Co., London & Morehouse-Barlow Co., New York; 1893; p. 83).


Beginning early in the 17th century we find Orthodox and Anglican Church-leaders corresponding and building relationships. Patriarch Cyril of Constantinople had many contacts with representatives of the English Church and government. He corresponded with Archbishop George Abbot of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633, and then with his successor Archbishop William Laud. He was also a close personal friend with the English Ambassador in Constantinople and with the Anglican embassy chaplain. Archbishop Abbot invited the Ecumenical Patriarch to send Greek students to be educated in England, and in 1617 Patriarch Cyril sent Metrophanes Kritopoulos to study at Oxford and he remained in Great Britain until 1624. Late in the 17th century a Greek College was even established at Oxford that functioned from 1699 to 1705, but closed because of the difficulty of getting Greek students to England.

The Anglican Non-Jurors carried on correspondence with the Orthodox from 1716 to 1725 seeking corporate reunion. The Non-Jurors described themselves to the Orthodox as "the remnant of the ancient and once Orthodox Church in Britain." The description that they used is accurate and needs to be remembered by orthodox Anglicans today. 

In 1718 the Orthodox Patriarchs wrote to these “British Katholicks” about the Non-Juror version of the Book of Common Prayer: “When therefore, we have considered it, if it needs correction, we will correct it, and if possible will give it the sanction of a genuine form.” Later the Patriarchs wrote to the Non-jurors saying that in regard to “custom and ecclesiastical order, and for the form and discipline of administering the Sacraments, they will easily be settled when unity is effected. For it is evident from ecclesiastical history that there have been and now are different customs and regulations in different places and Churches, and yet the unity of the Faith and Doctrine is preserved the same.” (Orthodoxy & Anglicanism, by V. T. Istavridis; SPCK; 1966; p. 5 ).  

In response to the unity dialogue between the Orthodox and the Anglican Non-jurors, Archbishop William Wake of Canterbury wrote to Patriarch Chrysanthos of Jerusalem saying that the Non-Jurors were schismatics and disloyal subjects, and that any correspondence with them should therefore be closed. Patriarch Chrysanthos replied that the Orthodox were unaware that the Non-jurors were schismatics, and agreed to end discussions with them. In 1725, Archbishop Wake wrote to Chrysanthos saying, "We, the true Bishops and clergy of the Church of England, as, in every fundamental article we profess the same Faith with you, shall not cease, at least in spirit and effect (since otherwise owing to our distance from you, we cannot) to hold communion with you, and to pray for your peace and happiness. And I, as I do profess myself most specially bound to your Holiness, so do I most earnestly entreat you to remember me in your prayers and sacrifices at the Holy Altar of God."

In 1840, George Tomlinson, a priest of the Church of England and Secretary of SPCK, became bishop of Gibraltar and was sent to the Middle East by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Tomlinson was directed to make it clear to the Orthodox that the Anglican Church had nothing to do with proselytizing activities among Orthodox Christians in the Middle East. 

In the mid-19th century the Russian Orthodox theologian Alexis Khomiakov became very interested in the return of the West to Orthodoxy. He encouraged an Anglican Deacon, William Palmer (1811-1879), who had visited Russia, to start a movement in England toward Orthodoxy. The famous Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow, said that while Anglicans who embraced Orthodoxy must be in full accord with the rest of Orthodoxy in regard to doctrine, “every rite not implying a direct negation of dogma would be allowed.”

In July 1869 Archbishop Archibald C. Tait of Canterbury wrote Patriarch Gregory VI of Constantinople, expressing his prayers for unity,  and asking for the Patriarch to grant permission for Anglicans to be buried by Orthodox clergy in Orthodox cemeteries when no Anglican clergy or cemeteries were available. In response, Patriarch Gregory VI declared on September 26, 1869 that Orthodox priests would bury Anglicans who died abroad.

In 1869 and 1870 the Orthodox Archbishop Alexander (Lycurgos) of Syros and Tenos visited England, discouraged proselytism among Anglicans, and said that the Church of England was “a sound Catholic Church, very like our own.” On February 27, 1873, the Patriarchate of Constantinople forbade proselytizing among Anglicans.

The Eastern Churches Committee of the third Lambeth Conference in 1888 stressed that proselytizing of Eastern Orthodox Christians must stop, and that Anglicans should do all in their power to support the Orthodox in their ecclesiastical and spiritual life. The 17th resolution of that Lambeth Conference declared, "This Conference... desires to express its hope that the barriers to fuller communion may be, in the course of time, removed by further intercourse and extended enlightenment."

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Kallistos (Ware) wrote, “This [Anglican] appeal to antiquity has led many Anglicans to look with sympathy and interest at the Orthodox Church, and equally it has led many Orthodox to look with interest and sympathy to Anglicanism. As a result of pioneer work by Anglicans such as William Palmer (1811-1879), J. M. Neale (1818-1868), and W. J. Birkbeck (1859-1916), firm bonds of Anglo-Orthodox solidarity were established by the end of the nineteenth century” (The Orthodox Church, by Timothy Ware, Penguin, c. 1993, p. 318).

In 1925 the Church of England organized jubilee solemnities to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicea (AD 325). Representatives of the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem attended, as did Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). During a Solemn Eucharist in Westminster Abbey, at which the Eastern Orthodox hierarchs were present, the Nicene Creed was read aloud in Greek by Patriarch Photius II of Constantinople. So impressed was he by what he had experienced and seen, that at a special banquet attended by the Anglican and Orthodox hierarchs, Metropolitan Antony of ROCOR said that “if any Anglican Bishop or cleric were to desire to enter the Orthodox Church, then he could be received in the third rank — that is without a second consecration — in other words, in his existing rank.”

These positive and ongoing contacts between representatives of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches led to three important and official Conferences. Two of these were held in London (1930 and 1931), with the third  held in Bucharest in 1935. This last Conference was the high point in Anglican-Orthodox rapprochement.  At the close of the 1935 Conference in Bucharest, the delegates stated, “A solid basis has been prepared whereby full dogmatic agreement may be affirmed between the Orthodox and Anglican Communions.”

With the outbreak of the Second World War there was an unavoidable pause in the  Anglican and Orthodox dialogue; but with the end of the war, dialogue became very difficult to resume. An Iron Curtain had fallen across Europe. The Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe found themselves behind that curtain, and under ever increasing persecution. The beginning of the Cold War which spread world-wide only made matters worse.

However, nineteen years after the end of the Second World War dialogue between the two Churches resumed. “In 1964 the Third Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes unanimously decided officially to resume dialogue with the Anglican Communion, and this was ratified by all the Orthodox Churches... The Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I described Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s 1962 visit to Constantinople as ‘the beginning of a new spiritual spring that may lead to greater rapprochement and the closer collaboration of all churches.’ During his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I in 1982 Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury referred to that earlier remark and then spoke of the first series of Anglican-Orthodox conversations [in the 1930s] as a ‘spiritual summer’ with the Moscow Agreed Statement [of 1976] as its ‘first fruits’” (Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, c. 1985, pp. 1-2). 

Unfortunately, all of that was about to change. “The main part of the 1978 Conference at Moni Pendeli, Athens, was devoted to setting out the Orthodox and Anglican positions on the ordination of women to the Priesthood. In its report the [Eastern] Orthodox members said: ‘We see the ordination of women, not as part of the creative continuity of tradition, but as a violation of apostolic faith and order of the Church... This will have a decisively negative effect on the issue of the recognition of Anglican Orders... By ordaining women Anglicans would sever themselves from continuity in apostolic faith and spiritual life.’ They added: ‘It is obvious  that, if the dialogue continues, its character would be drastically changed’... Following the 1978 Lambeth  Conference’s Resolution 21 on the ordination of women, the Orthodox Co-Chairman of AOJDD, Archbishop Athenagoras, expressed his view that ‘the theological dialogue will continue, although now simply as an academic and informative exercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavor aiming at the union of the two churches’” (ibid, pp. 2-3).

Dialogue between the two Churches resumed in 2009, when Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America spoke at the inaugural Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America.  His talk was enthusiastically received with numerous standing ovations and cries of agreement. The official ACNA Press Release said, “This significant gesture represents the possibility of full communion between the churches.” The Press Release also noted that the Metropolitan’s message, “focused on unity but did not fail to address areas of contrasting beliefs between the two churches... the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church in North America have differing opinions on matters such as the ordination of women and other doctrinal issues.”

Metropolitan Jonah listed the doctrinal issues. Anglicans would have to end the ordination of women to the diaconate and presbyterate, reject Calvinism (and by implication Zwingliism), remove the filioque clause from the Creed (which the Anglican Communion long ago agreed to do, but has never followed through on), reject homosexual marriage and end cafeteria style Christianity, and embrace the fullness of the Faith of the undivided Church. Adoption of the Byzantine Rite, or becoming “Eastern,” was not among the conditions. Anglicans were not asked to cease being what they are and become something they are not. In short, he called for a return to what Anglicans have historically claimed to be. Metropolitan Jonah said to the Assembly, “our arms are wide open.” In 2012, Metropolitan Jonah delivered a similar talk to the second Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America, and again received standing ovations and cries of agreement. 

Unfortunately, while the Orthodox Church’s “arms are wide open,” the Anglican Church in North America has not carried out the necessary reforms. A generation after the cultural revolution of the 1960s, many Anglicans do not know what Anglicanism really is. They think there is an “Anglican religion” and take a “cafeteria-style” approach to Faith and Order.


Orthodox Anglicans are classical Anglicans. What do I mean by classical? The dictionary definition of classical is “of or relating to the ancient Greek and Roman world.” Classical Anglicanism is the Faith of the Fathers of the Catholic Church, those ancient Greek and Latin Fathers (and others) who laid the foundation of orthodox Christian theology. 

In 1562, Bishop John Jewel, the editor of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion said, “We have returned to the Apostles and old Catholic Fathers. We have planted no new religion, but have only preserved the old that was undoubtedly founded and used by the Apostles of Christ and other holy Fathers of the Primitive Church.”

In 1563, Queen Elizabeth I said, “We and our people - thanks be to God - follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consentient mind and voice of the most early Fathers.”

How should the Anglican formularies be understood? The Church gives us an authoritative answer to this question. In 1571, the same year that the Thirty-nine Articles were adopted by Convocation, Canon 5, “On Preachers,” was also adopted. Canon 5 says, “But especially shall they see to it that they teach nothing in the way of a sermon which they would have religiously held and believed by the people save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old and New Testament and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient bishops and doctors have collected from this selfsame doctrine.”

Writing of the 17th century, Dean G. W. O. Addleshaw says, “The Anglicans are thinking and working the whole time in terms of patristic thought, more especially that of the Greek Fathers” (The High Church Tradition).

Classical Anglican theology can be summarized in the oft quoted Canon or Rule of St. Vincent of Lerin’s, which says that the Catholic Faith is that which has been believed “everywhere, always and by all” - universality, antiquity and consent.


Some Anglicans have the idea that classical Anglicanism and the Orthodox Church do not have the same theology. This can be for several reasons: 

First, many contemporary Anglicans do not really understand classical Anglicanism, and have had their theology confused by a resurgent Calvinism, prevailing modernism, contemporary pop-evangelicalism, and other isms. In fact, many are not classical Anglicans at all, but are in reality Calvinists, Zwinglians, and even “Anglo-Baptists” who like elements of Anglicanism, but do not believe in the Catholic Faith. What holds these people together is a cafeteria style theology and a broad “comprehensiveness.” They will never agree with the Orthodox Church or with classical Anglicans. 

Second, Anglicans often do not understand the theological language of Orthodoxy, and do not understand why the Orthodox often do not use our theological terms or have the same hot button theological issues. Western Christians commonly use language shaped by the Reformation/Counter Reformation debates, but Orthodoxy was not involved in the Protestant Reformation or the Counter Reformation. The Orthodox do not think in terms of those debates or use the language of the Reformation era. If postmodernism has taught us anything, it is that we interpret reality through the eyes of our own history, and we must remember that when looking at the Orthodox Church and take that into consideration when Orthodox Christians comment on Anglicanism or Western theology.

Third, sometimes poorly catechized people or fringe elements in the Orthodox Church condemn everything “Western” in general and St. Augustine in particular, but the Orthodox Church is not the only Church that has such people. There are plenty of Anglican Donatists and denominationalists who dismiss 300 million Eastern Christians with an arrogant wave of a hand, and behave as though Christian reunion is not a priority or even necessary, but something to be resisted.


Let’s take a look at several issues that some Anglicans raise. Do the Orthodox reject the atonement; do they confuse justification and sanctification, and teach that salvation is earned; and do they reject St. Augustine of Hippo, as is sometimes charged?

What the Orthodox reject is the Penal Satisfaction Theory of the atonement. The Penal Satisfaction Theory has its roots in the teaching of Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), a Norman Archbishop who was imposed on the English Church in the wake of the Norman conquest. Two years before he died, Anselm wrote his epoch-making book, Cur Deus Homo? In this book he outlined a new theory of the atonement. Theologians call it “the satisfaction of God’s outraged honour theory.” 

Almost immediately another Western theologian, Abelard (1079-1142), began to criticize Anselm’s theory. In The Epitome, Abelard asks the same question as Anselm, Why did God become man?, but his answer is very different. Abelard writes, “The Son of Man came not to redeem men from the devil’s power, but to redeem him from slavery to sin, infusing into him His love.”

Over the centuries, Anselm’s theory of the atonement continued to evolve as it was shaped by the criticisms and contributions of other theologians. Under the Protestant Reformers it became what theologians call “the Penal Satisfaction Theory.” 

In his book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin presents the clearest and fullest statement of the Penal Satisfaction Theory of the atonement. Calvin writes, “He [Jesus] endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. He bore the weight of the divine anger, that smitten and afflicted, He experienced all the signs of an angry and avenging God. How dire and dreadful were the tortures which He endured when He felt Himself standing at the bar of God as a criminal in our stead.” Calvin did not even shrink from declaring that Christ did, in a literal fact, descend into Hell, “to feel the weight of the divine vengeance.” Anglicans, of course, do not believe that Jesus descended into Hell, but to the dead, as the note before the Apostles Creed on page 15 in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer demonstrates.

To the Orthodox, the Penal Satisfaction Theory sounds too much like “good God-bad God.” The Father is filled with anger and wrath, while the Son is loving and gentle. The Son bears “the weight of an angry and avenging God,” and dies on the cross to appease the terrible wrath and vengeance of an outraged Father. As Christos Yannaris has written in Elements of Faith: An Introduction to Orthodox Theology, “In the teaching of Luther and Calvin later, it is not simply divine justice, but the wrath of God which must be appeased by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

As a pastor I can tell you that I have known many Christians who believe that way. The Father is angry, wrathful, strict and bent on judgement and vengeance, while the Son is gentle, loving, forgiving, and bears the terrible anger and wrath of the Father to save us from His vengeance. When Western Christians define the atonement in this way, the Orthodox naturally say that they do not believe in it, and neither should Anglicans. 

Before Anglicans condemn the Orthodox for “not believing in the atonement,” they should remember that the Penal Satisfaction Theory originated in the 16th century, with roots going back to Anselm’s book written about 1107. If this is the doctrine of the atonement that all Christians must believe, then why was it unknown during the first millennium?

What do the Orthodox believe? They are doing their theology with the Church Fathers. When the Reformers and Continental Protestantism speaks of the atonement, they mean the Penal Satisfaction Theory, and when they speak of Original Sin, they mean Original Guilt, depravity, and the bondage of the will. In Orthodox theology what is inherited in Original or Ancestral Sin are the consequences of the fall, not a collective guilt. The posterity of Adam inherited the consequences of his sin, but not his guilt. The effect of Original Sin is primarily corruption, which results in the blinding of man’s spiritual vision, a propensity to sin, and death. Classical Anglican theology agrees, saying that after the fall man “is very far gone from original righteousness,” but not totally depraved; and man’s will is not in complete bondage, but by grace can and must cooperate with God (synergy).

In Orthodox theology the death of Christ is a sacrifice. In De Incarnatione, St. Athanasius (c. 298-373) writes, “By offering unto death the body He Himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from all stain, straightway, He put death away from all his peers...” St. Athanasius sums up his teaching in these famous words: “He was made man that we might become God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit incorruptibility.” Church historians call the Orthodox understanding the “Patristic” or “Classical” view.

While the Protestant Penal Satisfaction Theory dates from the 16th century, with roots in the 12th century, the Patristic view held in the East and West during the millennium of the undivided Church, and still held in the East today, has a very long history. In Patristic theology the starting point of the fallen human condition is death from sin, not guilt, so redemption brings life through Christ. 

The Western Church Fathers focused more on the transactional aspects of Redemption, while the Eastern Church Fathers focused more on its transformational aspects, but these emphases compliment rather than conflict with one another. The Eastern and Western Fathers recognized both aspects in their soteriology, but focus primarily on one of them.  

Interestingly, while Martin Luther taught the 16th century Penal Satisfaction Theory of the atonement, he did not seem completely comfortable with it. He also taught the Patristic or Classical view. In fact, Gustav Aulen, the distinguished Swedish Lutheran theologian, maintained in his popular book, Christus Victor, that Luther’s view of the work of Christ was really the Patristic or Classical view. For instance, in the Small Catechism, commenting on the Apostle’s Creed, Luther writes, “Now when asked: what does thou believe in the second article concerning Jesus Christ?, answer most briefly thus: I believe that Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has become my Lord. What do the words to become my Lord mean? They mean that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death and all misfortunes... So the main point of this article is, that the title Lord, taken in its simplest sense, means as much as Redeemer; that is, He who has led us back from the devil to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and holds us safe.” This is the theology of the Orthodox Church. The Patristic or Classical view can be found in even more detail in Luther’s Larger Catechism and in his Commentary of Galatians.

Some Anglicans accuse Orthodox theology of confusing justification and sanctification, teaching that salvation can be earned, but that is a false charge. In the Byzantine Rite, after a baby is baptized, the priest says to him, “Thou art justified! Thou art illumined! Thou art sanctified! Thou art washed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Justification is the beginning of the Orthodox Christian life!

Eastern Orthodox theologian Dr. Bradley Nassif is a representative of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North America, and serves on the Orthodox-Lutheran Bi-lateral Dialogue in North America. He writes, “In this liturgical setting [the Rite of Baptism] the evangelical theology of the Orthodox Church is vividly confessed... No mistake can be made about the free gift of salvation given by the unmerited favor of God’s grace, or the sufficiency of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross and his triumph over sin, death and the devil. Reflecting a strongly Pauline and Johannine theology, the liturgy confesses that through baptism we enter into the inner life of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19-20) and thus are saved (I Pet. 3:2), regenerated (John 3:5; Titus 3:5-6), united with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-8; Gal. 3:27), adopted (Rom. 8:23; Gal. 4:5), justified (Rom. 5:12-6:12), incorporated into his body, the church(I Cor. 12:13), and made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). All of these biblical and liturgical images are different ways of showing how God makes us his own through Jesus Christ” (Three Views of Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism, pp. 70-71).

Those who accuse Orthodox theology of being pelagian do so because Orthodox theology, like classical Anglican theology, teaches synergism rather than monergism. Synergism teaches that God woos us, and that we must cooperate with God’s grace. Calvinist monergism teaches that God ravishes us, and that His grace is irresistible. 

Pelagius was a British monk and pelagianism was primarily a Western heresy. The controversy did not really effect Eastern Christendom, so it is hardly on the Orthodox radar. The Orthodox Church does recognize the condemnation of pelagianism though, and Orthodox theology is not pelagian. 

Calvinists like to claim St. Augustine of Hippo as a monergist, but he was not. Both the Roman and the Orthodox Churches accept St. Augustine as a Father of the Church and a saint, in fact Rome considers him the greatest of the Western Church Fathers, yet both Churches condemn monergism and teach synergism. The fact that Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism all teach baptismal regeneration, contradicts the monergistic theology of Calvinism, and that is why Calvinism must reject baptismal regeneration. Calvinism teaches that only the elect are regenerated at baptism.

There are members of the Orthodox Church who are not well catechized or on the fringes, just as there are in Anglicanism. Unfortunately, the Internet, for all of its good, does give these elements in both Churches and in every Church a forum for their ideas. 

The Orthodox Church is actively working to counteract the harm done by such people. Unfortunately, due to the terrible lack of authority and discipline in contemporary Anglicanism, little can be done to counteract the confusion caused on the Anglican side.

Metropolitan Philip of the Orthodox Church, writing of the so-called Orthodox fundamentalists, has said, “As our Apostolic Faith begins to take root here in America, we are faced with those who would reduce this faith, ‘once and for all delivered to the saints,’ to the strict observance of rules and regulations, as the Pharisees did in Christ’s time... When they are merely the following of a certain code or law, however, they lead to spiritual death.” 

Archpriest, Fr. John Morris writes, “Despite their meticulous devotion to every custom of traditional Orthodoxy, the judgmental attitude of the Orthodox fundamentalists displays all the characteristics of a condition identified by the Holy Fathers as spiritual delusion” (The Orthodox Fundamentalists: A Critical View, p. 75).

Finally, some Anglicans accuse the Orthodox Church of rejecting St. Augustine of Hippo. Nothing could be farther from the truth. St. Augustine is on the Calendar’s of both the Greek and Russian Churches, there are icons of him, and churches named after him. 

Fr. John Morris, a member of the Orthodox Theological Society writes, “Although St. Augustine held some ideas that Orthodox Christians reject, especially those concerning original sin and the procession of the Holy Spirit, his views on other matters still carry a great deal of authority since the Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, cited Augustine as a father of the Church” (ibid, p. 38). 


In 1973, as Anglicans were moving toward allowing the ordination of women, Patriarch Pimen of Moscow told them that they must interpret their doctrinal statements “in the spirit of the Undivided Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils” before there could be unity between the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Church. 

“Orthodox clergy and laity participating in discussions with other Christians also steadfastly maintain that the truth must not be sacrificed for the sake of unity. They have rejected doctrinal relativism and have informed non-Orthodox that Communion between Orthodox and other Christians can only be possible on the basis of a common acceptance of the Faith of the ancient undivided Church, the Faith of the Holy Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. They have also argued against moral relativism and have defended traditional Christian values on such issues as abortion and sexual morality in ecumenical gatherings. One official statement after another has made it perfectly clear that the Orthodox Church will not compromise its Faith and moral beliefs for the sake of unity with any other group” (ibid, Morris, p. 16). 

God has not preserved the Anglican Communion, but He has preserved orthodox Anglicanism in faithful congregations all across North America and throughout the world.  There is no possibility of corporate reunion between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion or with the Anglican Church in North America. There are too many internal divisions and contractions on everything from women’s ordination, Calvinism vs. Catholicism, the new “three streams” theology, the number of the sacraments, the Liturgy (vital because of lex orandi, lex credendi), morality, and much, much more. The ACNA will ultimately fracture and Anglicanism will continue to divide. The answer is for orthodox Anglican congregations and orthodox dioceses to seek full sacramental communion and visible unity with the Orthodox Catholic Church based on the Faith and Order of the undivided Church, which classical Anglicans have always confessed a commitment too. 

Just over 35 years ago, the great St. Louis Church Congress met and adopted The Affirmation of St. Louis. In that Affirmation the Congress proclaimed, “We declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who ‘worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity,’ and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles.”

In 2003, Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch said, “Our divisions make Christ unrecognizable. We have an urgent need for prophetic initiatives in order to bring ecumenism out of the twists and turns in which I fear it is getting stuck. We have an urgent need for prophets and saints to help our Churches to be converted by mutual forgiveness.”

In 2005, Brother Roger, the founder of Taize, wrote, “When communion among Christians is a life and not a theory, it radiates hope... How then, could Christians remain divided? Reconciliation among Christians is urgent today; it cannot continually be put off until later, until the end of time... Over the years, the ecumenical vocation has fostered an invaluable exchange of views. This dialogue constitutes the first-fruits of reconciliation. But when the ecumenical vocation is not made concrete through a  communion, it leads nowhere.”

Anglicanism has long seen itself as a bridge Church whose special vocation has been to be a healing balm in a divided Christendom. May this year, 2013, be the year that our ecumenical vocation is made concrete in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the Orthodox Church. Then, we can fully fulfill our vocation by being an ongoing bridge between Western Christians and the Orthodox Church, rather than a bridge leading to nowhere. Jesus said, “he who does not gather with me scatters.” If you will join with me in praying and working for Anglican-Orthodox unity, I would like to hear from you. I can be reached at:

Friday, January 25, 2013


The Octave of Christian Unity began with the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter on January 18th, and concludes today with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. On the first day of the Octave I wrote an article titled, Anglicanism, the Universal Church, and the Octave of Christian Unity. That article has been widely read and well received. Anglican journalist David Virtue published it on his popular website Virtue Online, in the evening of January 18th. He then wrote me on the morning of January 19th, to say that the article had nearly five hundred hits overnight. Since then it has been linked on various on-line discussion groups and reprinted or discussed on numerous blogs. With the Octave of Christian Unity ending today, I am following up my first article with a second one, dealing with the future of orthodox Anglicanism.

From the feedback I have received from my first article, and from comments that I have read or heard about it, it seems that there still remains some confusion about what Anglicanism really is. Is it the English branch of the Catholic Church with no distinctive doctrine of its own, but only the Catholic Faith of the Catholic Church; or was essentially a new beginning made in the 16th century, with the Anglican Church being a Reformation era Confessional Protestant Church with its own Confessional statements?  I think that it is important that we go to primary sources to find answers to these questions. Anglicanism has always appealed to history, and to history we must go.


Was the goal of the so-called “Elizabethan Settlement” to set up a Protestant Reformed (Calvinist) Church in England, or to continue the English Reformation with the goal of restoring the Church of England to the Faith of the undivided Church? Since this era is called “the Elizabethan Settlement,” it is important know what Queen Elizabeth’s understanding was.

In 1563, some five years into her reign, and secure on her throne, she could say, “We and our people - thanks be to God - follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which was ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consentient mind and voice of the most early Fathers.”

Were the Thirty-nine Articles intended to be a Reformed (Calvinist) Confession, or a guide to help clergy, who alone were required to subscribe to them, through the controversies of the Reformation/Counter Reformation debates and back to the Faith of the undivided Church?

In his classic work, An Exposition of The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Historical and Doctrinal, Bishop Harold Browne writes, “In the year 1571 the Articles were... committed to the editorship of Bishop John Jewell. They were then put forth in their present form, both in Latin and English; and received, not only the sanction of Convocation, but also of Parliament” (An Exposition of The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Historical and Doctrinal, Edward Harold Browne, D.D., Lord Bishop of Winchester, 1865, p. 15).

Bishop John Jewell was the editor of the Articles. What was his understanding of the goal of the English Reformation? Was it 16th century Calvinism or primitive Catholicism?  Jewell writes, “We have returned to the Apostles and the old Catholic Fathers. We have planted no new religion, but only preserved the old that was undoubtedly founded and used by the Apostles of Christ and other holy Fathers of the Primitive Church” (Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae).

How should the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion be understood? The Church gives us an authoritative answer to this question. In 1571, the same year that the Articles were adopted by Convocation, Canon 5, “On Preachers,” was also adopted. Canon 5 says, “But especially shall they see to it that they teach nothing in the way of a sermon which they would have religiously held and believed by the people save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old and New Testament and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient bishops and doctors have collected from this selfsame doctrine.” This canon is clearly grounded in the Commonitorium of St. Vincent of Lerins.

The Thirty-nine Articles are not, and were never intended to be, a Confession of Faith like the Continental Protestant Confessions. The Anglican Church is a creedal Church, not a confessional denomination. As Bishop John Pearson (1612-1686) said, the book of Articles “is not, nor is pretended to be, a complete body of divinity, or a comprehension and explication of all Christian doctrines necessary to be taught: but an enumeration of some truths, which upon and since the Reformation have been denied by some persons: who upon denial are thought unfit to have any cure of souls in this Church or realm; because they might by their opinions either infect their flock with error or else disturb the Church with schism or the realm with sedition” (cited in A Theological Introduction To The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, Longmans, Green and Co., 1936, E. J.Bicknell, p. 22).

Dr. E. J. Bicknell writes, “The significance of our Articles may be learnt by a comparison between them and Creeds. Both alike are theological statements of belief. Both alike have been employed as tests. Both are attempts to preserve the truth in all its fullness. But while Creeds are a necessity, [to quote Robert Moberly] ‘in a world where all expression of spirit is through body,’ Articles are a consequence ‘not of the Church’s existence but of the Church’s failure.’ ‘The Church, without a Creed, would not in human life on earth, however ideally perfect, have been a Church at all. But if the Church on earth had been ideally perfect, or anything even remotely like it, there would never have been any 39 Articles. The one is a necessary feature of spiritual reality. The other is an unfortunate consequence of spiritual failure’” (A Theological Introduction To The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, Longmans, Green and Co., 1936, p. 23).

Bicknell continues, “Creeds have behind them the authority of the universal and undivided Church. Articles have behind them at most the authority of particular national Churches. ... Hence Creeds have a permanent value, Articles only a temporary value. We do not condemn, say, the Churches of the East, because they do not possess the 39 Articles. We should condemn a Church that rejected the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. We may reasonably doubt if the Churches of the mission-field need become acquainted with the 39 Articles. But they certainly are bound to receive the Creeds. It is possible even to look forward to a day when the Church of England may exchange or discard our present Articles, though that day [in 1935] is not yet in sight. That would not involve any breach of continuity or catholicity. But to reject the Creeds would be to part company with the life of the Universal Church” (ibid, Bicknell, p. 24).

The Church in America did not adopt the Thirty-nine Articles until 1801, and after a lot of debate as to whether the Articles were even necessary for the newly autocephalous Church. And when the Articles were adopted, they were adopted in a revised form and are not identical with those adopted by the Church of England in 1571. One cannot imagine a national Church revising the Creeds, but the American Church saw no  difficulty in revising the Articles of Religion.


Is there such a thing as the Anglican Religion? Are there distinctively “Anglican” doctrines? Does authentic Anglicanism have doctrines that set it apart from all other Christians; or does Anglicanism, when it is true to itself, merely profess the Catholic Faith of the undivided Church? The answer is not hard to find.

As we have already seen, Queen Elizabeth I, said, “We and our people - thanks be to God - follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which was ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consentient mind and voice of the most early Fathers.”

Likewise, the editor of the Articles, Bishop John Jewel, said, “We have returned to the Apostles and the old Catholic Fathers. We have planted no new religion, but only preserved the old that was undoubtedly founded and used by the Apostles of Christ and other holy Fathers of the Primitive Church” (Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae).

Blessed Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), Bishop of Winchester, said, “Anglicanism has no specific teaching other than that of Scripture interpreted by the primitive Church with which it has continuity, historical and doctrinal.” 

Dr. E. B. Pusey (1800-1882) wrote, “The Church of England has, from the Reformation, held implicitly, in purpose of heart, all which the ancient Church ever held.” 

Bishop Frank Weston 1871-1924) of Zanzibar said, “We now stand for the Catholic Faith common to East and West... We are not a party... Our appeal is to the Catholic Creed, to Catholic worship and Catholic practice.”

The delegates at the official Anglican-Eastern Orthodox Theological Conference in Bucharest, Romania in 1935, declared, “A solid basis has been prepared whereby full dogmatic agreement may be affirmed between the Orthodox and Anglican Communions.”

Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher (1887-1972) of Canterbury said, “We have no doctrine of our own. We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these creeds we hold without addition or diminution. We stand firm on that rock.” 

Bishop Jack Iker of the Diocese of Ft. Worth, Anglican Church in North America, has said, “orthodox Anglicans uphold the historic faith and order of the undivided Church. We are nothing more nor less than Catholic Christians, seeking to be faithful to the teaching of the early Church Fathers and the great Ecumenical Councils of the first centuries of Christian witness. With St. Vincent of Lerins, we affirm that the Catholic Faith is that which has been believed ‘everywhere, always, and by all.’ Whenever you find departures from this given faith and received order, you will find sectarianism, heresy and error” (We Are Catholic Christians, by Bishop Jack Iker, January 11, 2011).

“Anglo-Catholicism” and “Anglo-Catholic” are terms that can be used to described all Anglicans, and should not be used to define a School of theology or church party.  All Anglicans are Anglo-Catholics because the Anglican Church is the English (Anglo) Church, and Anglicans are Catholic Christians. 

Anglicans are also thoroughly Evangelical because the Anglican Church is a Bible-believing, Gospel preaching Church, uniting Evangelical (Gospel) Truth and Catholic Order. Classical Anglicanism can de described as upholding Catholic Faith, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness. As the September 7, 1987 edition of The Christian Challenge magazine reported, “Anglicanism, if it is true to its own positions, is Western Orthodoxy.” 


When the Episcopal Church abandoned Catholic Order by embracing the “ordination” of women in 1976, and abandoned Orthodox Worship by replacing the historic Book of Common Prayer with a new liturgy of dubious orthodoxy, the Evangelical Witness of the Episcopal Church came to an end. Having rejected the authority of God’s Word written, the Episcopal Church had no Gospel to proclaim, and no defense against the spirit of the age. Membership began to decline, until it finally became a hemorrhage in recent years.

In response to the Minneapolis General Convention of 1976, faithful Anglicans met in an historic Church Congress in St. Louis one year later, adopted an affirmation of the Faith, and laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Anglican Church in North America. The Affirmation of St. Louis declared, “We affirm our continued relations with the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion. WHEREFORE, with a firm trust in Divine Providence, and before Almighty God and all the company of heaven, we solemnly affirm, covenant and declare that we, lawful and faithful members of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, shall now and hereafter continue and be the unified continuing Anglican Church in North America, in true and valid succession thereto.” 

Unfortunately, the Church of England did not distance itself from the Episcopal Church, and the See of Canterbury and faithful provinces of the Anglican Communion did not recognize or establish relations with the new Anglican Church in North America. This was the beginning of the end for the Church of England. By 1994, the Church of England was ordaining priestesses. It has been said that the normalization of homosexual behavior follows women’s “ordination” like night follows day, and this was the case in England. Soon, the ordination of homosexuals living in civil partnerships was approved. Of course there were those who resisted these innovations, but with the abandonment of Catholic Order in 1994, the end was in sight. 

In mid-2012, an attempt to authorize the “consecration” of female bishops was defeated in the Church of England. Another attempt was made in November of 2012, and that too was defeated. The votes in favor of women bishops at the November meeting was overwhelming, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed among the laity. The vote among the bishops was 44 for, and 3 against; the clergy was 148 for, and 45 against; and the laity was 132 for, and 74 against. A Church of England statement after the vote explained that the rejection closed the door to female bishops for the foreseeable future: “The consequence of the ‘no’ vote of terminating any further consideration of the draft legislation means that it will not be possible to introduce draft legislation in the same terms until a new General Synod comes into being in 2015.”

The defeat of the draft legislation should have given the Church of England an opportunity to look over the abyss and step back; and would have given the orthodox minority and the GAFCON provinces of the Anglican Communion until 2015, to seek to reform the Church of England. 

In the wake of the vote, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury appeared to go so far as to suggest that the vote might be overridden. Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament, “the time is right for women bishops... They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the program.” Get with the program? Bishop Justin Welby, a liberal who is generally described by the media as an “evangelical,” who will be Rowan Williams successor as Archbishop of Canterbury said, “it is clear” that the Church of England will have female bishops. Even the “orthodox” minority, who one would think would be thankful and ready to get to work reforming the Church, only cowered and apologized for the defeat of the draft legislation, saying that they would support it if only the legislation would have a conscience clause protecting their “integrity.” This lot were certainly no Athanasius’s! 

Not surprisingly, the rules of the Church have been overruled and a new vote on women bishops will be taken in mid-2013, at which time it will pass. As if to show that there is no turning back, the bishops of the Church of England approved in January of 2013, a new policy allowing open homosexuals in civil partnerships to be consecrated to the episcopate.

Although Anglicans in America and world-wide have great nostalgic attachment to the See of Canterbury and the Church of England, the truth must be faced that the Church of England is now no different from The Episcopal Church. If Anglicans continue to recognize Canterbury and be in even “impaired” communion with the Church of England, they might have just as well remained in the Episcopal Church. As G. K. Chesterton has said, “Unless we live as we believe, we’ll end up believing as we live.”

The truth is that the Church of England is as dead as the Episcopal Church. Although the Church of England claims twenty-six million members, only one in twenty-six  bother to go to church. The churches are empty and closing, the cathedrals are little more than museums, the men are gone, and those few who remain in the pews are aging. The Religion News Service reports that the Church of England claims some 3,000 “actively serving women priests” and that more than 70% of the Church’s membership is female. 

Conservative MP, Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, who is responsible for taking questions in Parliament on Church matters and steering Church legislation through Parliament, responded to the vote on women bishops by saying, “If the Church of England wants to be a national church, then it  has to reflect the values of the nation.” Well they have gotten what they wanted, the Church of England now reflects the post-Christian secular values of the nation. Rather than seeking to transform the world, the Church has conformed itself to the world.

Where does this leave the Anglican Communion? The liberal provinces will applaud the direction that Canterbury has taken and remain united with it. Even otherwise orthodox provinces will remain attached to Canterbury out of nostalgia or inertia. Others may try to set up a rival center of orthodox Anglican unity in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps in Alexandria, Egypt; but this would be creating a rival See to the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and would be setting up altar against altar. Another option would be to establish a rotating center of unity wherever the president of the GAFCON Primates Council resides, which currently is in Kenya. It is conceivable that scattering Anglicans could divide into separate groups, with some choosing each of these three alternatives, or even finding more options. Whatever happens, the Anglican Communion as we have known it, is finished.

Without connection to an ancient See, Anglicanism would lose a key element of  its self-identity as a historic branch of the Catholic Church. When the historic See of Utrecht abandoned the faith some years ago and the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht broke up, the orthodox Polish National Catholic Church sought to continue on without being united to an historic See, but independent Catholicism has not worked for them. The Polish National Catholic Church which claimed more than 280,000 members in the 1970s reports only around 30,000 members today — a decline of almost 90%! Likewise, the St. Louis Continuum which started with such great hopes in 1977, divided in 1978. Since then there has been division after division, until the list of “continuing Anglican jurisdictions” reads like a bowl of alphabet soup. Without an historic See there has been no credible center of unity and these jurisdictions have divided like amoeba, until today the continuum is smaller than it was twenty-five years ago, is graying, and shows few signs of vibrant life.

Independent Catholicism does not work and cannot work. The Non-Jurors who are now no more than a footnote in Church history, the PNCC, the St. Louis Continuum, and all of the vagante Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican and “traditional” Roman Catholic jurisdictions demonstrate that. A “Jurisdiction” with a free-church protestant ecclesiology doesn’t qualify as “Catholic” simply because its clergy have an historic episcopal succession. Like a branch broken from a vine, without an attachment to an historic See, a Church will sicken, wither, and die. 


God has preserved orthodox Anglicanism, but He has not preserved the Anglican Communion. There are tens of millions of orthodox Anglicans today. Most are in the two-thirds world, but many are also found in Western nations. In the United States alone, there are hundreds of orthodox Anglican congregations in the Anglican Church in North America and its Ministry Partners, and in the St. Louis Continuum, led by Called, well equipped, dedicated, and faithful pastors.

There have been many signs of vibrant life since the gathering of the Anglican Church in North America and its Ministry Partners; but with the final apostasy of the Church of England and the end of the Anglican Communion as we have known it, the clock is ticking. 

If Divine Providence has not preserved the Anglican Communion, should we try to reorganize it or build a new one? “But this time it will be an orthodox Communion,” someone will say. But, did God prosper the “Traditional Anglican Communion” or the older “Orthodox Anglican Communion”? 

An important part of the vocation of Anglicanism is to be a bridge Church, a healing balm in a divided Christendom. Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury taught that the Anglican Communion was only “provisional” in nature; and in a 1989 Conference of Cathedral Deans, the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, said, “our vocation as Anglicans was to put ourselves out of business.” This desire for Catholic unity is also expressed in the Affirmation of St. Louis. Anglicans have never claimed to be a denomination, or the one, true Church. We have only said that we are a branch of the Catholic Church. We are a part, seeking to be united with the whole.

Our vocation is to be a bridge, a healing balm, a repairer of the breach. We have always recognized this special calling, so why do we continue to look for ways to remain independent, to perpetuate needless division in the Body of Christ? I am not suggesting that we abandon who we are and become something that we are not. What I am suggesting is that we become fully what we have always claimed to be.

We are living in a unique time in history. In 2009, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, came to the inaugural Assembly of the Anglican Church In North America and spoke. He did this again at the second Assembly of the ACNA in 2012. A former Episcopalian, Metropolitan Jonah loves and honors our heritage. He understands Anglicanism and has called us into full organic unity with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Unity would allow the Body of Christ to breathe again with both lungs, Eastern and Western. On both occasions he was frank about our problems in contemporary Anglicanism, and what reforms needed to be made; and on both occasions his remarks were met with standing ovations!  Metropolitan Jonah has since stepped down from the primacy of the Orthodox Church in America, but he has been succeeded by another former Episcopalian, Metropolitan Tikhon, and the dialogue will continue.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest national Church in the 300 million-member Eastern Orthodox communion. More than one out of every three Eastern Orthodox Christians are Russian Orthodox. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is led by Metropolitan Hilarion who resides in New York. The Russian Orthodox Church has had Western Rite parishes and monasteries for more than a century now. The Pastoral Vicar for the Russian Orthodox Western Rite is Fr. Anthony Bondi, a Benedictine monk and a former Episcopal priest. The bishop who has oversight of the Western Rite work is Bishop Jerome, a former Episcopalian. The Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church is set up like a diocese. The only reason that it is not a diocese is that it is not yet large enough. The bishop vests in Western vestments and celebrates according to Western rites when visiting Western parishes. These are in deed historic times when there are so many Eastern Orthodox leaders who have Anglican backgrounds, and when Eastern Orthodoxy is reaching out to us and calling us to Church unity. Can we not see the hand of the Holy Spirit in this?

The Eastern Orthodox are reaching out to orthodox Anglicans world wide. Are we justified in continuing to build a separate branch of the Church rather than joining hands with our Eastern Orthodox brethren? Is not division, when it is wholly unnecessary, schism, and grave sin against charity and the unity of the Body of Christ?

Metropolitan Jonah has told us what we must do. What they are concerned about is the Faith. As Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate has recently said, “Fidelity to the Christian Tradition is the proper means for the restoration of unity among Christ’s disciples.” Speaking of the Moscow Anglo-Russian Theological Conference of 1956, Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury related that the Eastern Orthodox said in effect, “The Tradition is a concrete fact. There it is in its totality. Do you Anglicans accept it, or do you reject it? The Tradition is for the Orthodox one indivisible whole: the entire life of the Church in its fullness of belief and custom down the ages...” Likewise, Anglican writer T. M. Parker wrote, “It has been said that the faith is like a network rather than an assemblage  of discrete dogmas; cut one strand and the whole pattern loses its meaning.”

Although the Faith must be kept in its fullness, there is plenty of room for Anglican culture, liturgy and spirituality. The Orthodox Church has long recognized the validity of Western expressions of the ancient faith. As long ago as the early 18th century the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs wrote to the “British Katholicks” (the Anglican Non-jurors) saying that in regard to “custom and ecclesiastical order, and for the form and discipline of administering the Sacraments, they will easily be settled when unity is effected. For it is evident from ecclesiastical history that there have been and now are different customs and regulations in different places and Churches, and yet the unity of the Faith and Doctrine is preserved the same.” And the famous Orthodox archbishop, Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow, said that while Anglicans who embrace Orthodoxy must be in full accord with the rest of Orthodoxy in regard to doctrine, “every rite not implying a direct negation of dogma would be allowed.” 

The Eastern Orthodox have reached out to us and called us into full communion. My prayer is that the bishops, clergy, congregations and religious communities of the Anglican Church in North America, its Ministry Partners, and the St. Louis Continuum, will complete the work of the English Reformation by fully restoring the Faith and Order of the undivided Church, and will enter into corporate union with Eastern Christendom as quickly as possible. Orthodox Anglicans have nothing to lose, and the whole Church will have much to gain from a restoration of Anglican Orthodoxy.  As Pope John Paul II has said, “If at the beginning of the third millennium we are to overcome the divisions of the second millennium we must return to the consensus of the first millennium.” The twenty-first century may yet prove to be the beginning of a new Springtime for the Church.