The battle over Britain’s Orthodox Church

Read it all.

For several reasons, theological, political and topical, I find my sympathies lie with the group who have followed Bishop Basil in a vicariate under the Ecumenical Patriarch. The oddly nationalist caesaropapism of the Moscow patriarchate, in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution and nearly 70 years of officially atheistic Soviet control, is truly puzzling to this Western catholic.

The article also stimulated some interesting reflections for me on the Western enculturation of Orthodoxy. On an aesthetic (and affective) level, I find the Orthodox liturgical accoutrements in a restrained classical Anglican architectural setting, like that of St Andrew’s, Holborn, very appealing.

The homepage for the Episcopal Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland of the Exarchate of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe is here.

Tip of the catercap to Dr William Tighe.

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5 thoughts on “The battle over Britain’s Orthodox Church

  1. … my sympathies lie with the group who have followed Bishop Basil in a vicariate under the Ecumenical Patriarch.

    I am tempted to have the same sympathies (for a number of reasons) but I recommend taking the linked article with a grain of salt. While it seems that the Russian side of this dust-up has been rather heavy-handed, the article bears the marks of having been written from the Greek point of view, by someone with little understanding of contemporary Orthodoxy who relied primarily (if not exclusively) Greek informants.

    The tip-off is this aside, given as an explanatory fact:

    the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople … is the leader of all the world’s Orthodox who are not Greek or Russian.

    But it is of course anything but a fact. It would come as a great surprise to the Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Arabs (and the Aleuts for that matter) that the Ecumenical Patriarch is “their leader” because they are neither Russian nor Greek. Likewise surprised would be the Greek-speaking Orthodox of North America and Australia to learn that the EP (whom they have been commemorating in their Liturgy every Sunday as their Patriarch) is not their leader, because he is the leader of those who are not Greek.

    What is behind this howler, of course, is that someone from the Ecumenical Patriarchate “side” of this dispute told the reporter about the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s claim (presented as “fact,” no doubt) of jurisdiction over the entire Orthodox “diaspora.” This claim, based on a tortured interpretation of canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, is rejected by all of the other Orthodox Churches, and in particular is rejected with particular vehemence by the Church of Russia.

    That the reporter would take this claim at face value and repeat it in his story suggests strongly to me that he spoke mostly to the EP side in the dispute and allowed them to frame the story.

    I think most readers, at least those with enough interest in and sympathy towards Eastern Orthodoxy to care about the story one way or the other, will be more likely to sympathise with Bp Basil and his flock than with Moscow. I know I tend in that direction, principally because the Russians seem to be “ethnifying” their Church in England. But if Bp Basi

  2. [oops — hit ENTER too soon]

    … But if Bp Basil and his flock think that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the place for an outward-looking sort of Orthodoxy that is interested in enculturation for the sake of the Gospel, they ought to take a good close look at the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s North American flock.

  3. Chris, I noticed the mistake regarding the rather grand claim about the Ecumenical Patriarch’s leadership of “all the world’s Orthodox”, but didn’t think it was anything more than the reporter’s mistake. I hadn’t considered the idea that the reporter was fed the information by a representative of the EP.

    And you’re right. If Bishop Basil and his are looking for a sympathetic home for evangelical enculturation, they probably should have considered an episcopal vicariate under the Patriarch of Antioch, not unlike the one that exists in the United States.

  4. One thing that is not mentioned in the article is that there are (or were, when I was more au courant with their goings-on) some liberal-ish tendencies among some of the convert members of the late Metropolitan Anthony’s flock, such as a favorable attitude towards WO (in this they followed Metrop. A. himself, who indicated his own favorable attitude towards WO in the preface he wrote to the book of Elizabeth Behr-Sigel advocating, among other things, WO). The Paris exarchate, itself under very strong pressure in recent years to come back under Moscow, would probably be more willing to tolerate or ignore such eccentricities than that Patriarch of Antioch.

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