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Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion and other Orthodox representatives met with members of the Anglican Church in North America’s Ecumenical Relations Task Force at Nashotah House, October 25-26, 2012. Bishop Sutton is just left of center. (Photo Credit: Anglican Church in North America)

Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion and other Orthodox representatives met with members of the Anglican Church in North America’s Ecumenical Relations Task Force at Nashotah House, October 25-26, 2012. Bishop Sutton is just left of center. (Photo Credit: Anglican Church in North America)

by Barton Gingerich (@bjgingerich)

During the Anglican Way Institute, IRD’s Barton Gingerich had the opportunity to sit down with the Rt. Rev. Ray Sutton, bishop coadjutor in the Diocese in Mid-America of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) and Ecumenical Officer for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). This is Part 4 of a four part series.

Bart Gingerich: We’ve covered Western Christendom pretty well. I now want to know about the East. How is dialogue coming along with voices and leaders within the Eastern Orthodox Church? What steps are being taken to repair or construct bridges between the Orthodox and Anglican Communion in the United States and Canada, particularly in light of the new filioque decision that came down from ACNA.

Bishop Ray Sutton: We actually have had extraordinarily fruitful dialogue with our Eastern brothers and sisters, particularly through the Orthodox Church in America. These wonderful Christians have been among the first Eastern Orthodox believers, to respond to our invitations, to come, and to bring greetings at the national gatherings of ACNA. What we’ve tried to do in our dialogue is basically pick up where the Anglican Communion has been in its discussion with the Eastern Churches. Within Anglicanism, there’s been a long history of relationship and interplay with the Eastern Church. There’ve been a number of official dialogues that began with Archbishop Michael Ramsey who did a great deal for ecumenism with the East and also with the Roman Church. These ecumenical dialogues produced certain agreed-upon statements. You can look up these documents. The result of these agreed upon statements has been that in two successive Lambeth gatherings of Anglican Bishops from around the communion in 1978 and also in 1988 — of course we know what happened in 1998, the issue was no longer the filioque, it was marriage and sexuality because of what the American church was doing. Any way, in ‘78 and ‘88 resolutions were passed by all the Anglican bishops gathered in Canterbury at Lambeth recommending that in future liturgical revision work, the original Nicene Creed be restored and the filioque removed. So we pretty much have tried to pick up where the communion has already brought us. We’ve not tried to do anything innovative in that regard, and that’s why we placed the recommendations we did before ACNA. I think that in the prayer book work that is going on within ACNA there will be something like brackets around the filioque clause with a footnote explaining, as briefly as possible, the history and the Anglican commitment to the original Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. This will allow for and even encourage a return to the original creed. At the same time, we have our own received Western tradition. We don’t want to deny that, it’s there.

A second big development has been our opportunity to meet with Metropolitan Alfeyev of the Russian Orthodox Church. Last fall our ACNA ecumenical dialogue committee met with him at Nashotah House. He is a powerful theologian and wonderful scholar as well as an accomplished concert pianist. His wonderful generosity and openness to extend dialogue with Anglicans in this part of the world through ACNA was quite encouraging to us in Western Anglicanism. He offered some suggestions on how we might pursue ecumenical discussion. We will be following up. Most pressing right now is a statement on moral theology coming out of Anglicanism in the West. So we’re going to go to work on that this fall and try to produce such a statement. Thank you and God bless.