Metropolitan Kallistos on Lambeth and the Anglican Communion

HT to Kendall

Metropolitan Kallistos: First, I admire deeply the way in which Archbishop Rowan is fulfilling his role as Archbishop of Canterbury, at this moment of crisis. It’s easy to say, with reference to his position here at the Lambeth Conference or generally in the current Anglican world, that he is in a no-win situation. But granted the immense difficulties that he is facing, he is not doing too badly. Now, what should he be doing here at Lambeth? Should he be offering very firm and clear leadership, insisting on a particular point of view, putting forward resolutions to the plenary gathering of the bishops for their acceptance? He has not chosen to do that. Some people feel disappointed. Some people feel he should be doing that. But if he were to do that, it would create confrontation and division. If you walk through the mountains and you find a large rock in your path, one method is to kick it out of the way. The other is to walk around it and go on with your journey. Now Archbishop Rowan has probably understood that if he tries to kick this particular stone, or this double rock – the ordination of women and homosexual relations – if he tries to confront it head-on and insist on a clear expression of the position of the Anglican Communion, to kick the stone out of the path, he is likely to hurt his toe. The stone perhaps is too sharp and heavy to be moved in that way at this moment. But you can walk round it in the sense of affirming the bonds of unity that exist beyond these divisive issues. And this is what he wants to do with the present Lambeth Conference. To make this a time of shared prayer, shared discussion, strengthening the bonds of friendship. Now some people would be disappointed that as far as we can see, and we are halfway through now, there is not going to be either a major confrontation or a very clear affirmation. But perhaps this is not the right moment – this is not the kairos, the opportunity given by God for such clear statements. Is a very difficult thing to discern, when to insist on a decision, when to say we are not ready. That’s the problem that confronts the chairman of any gathering. And it confronts Rowan in a particularly poignant way.

Having just hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I am stunned by the aptness of this analogy. And, again referencing the hike in NH, I see the vast implications of all our ecumenical endeavors now in a very similar light. The oft-times huge stones in our path lie over and under and next to myriad others. Bishop Kallistos refers to the stones that stand in the path of the Anglican Communion being one with the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic Church, and yet in our conversations with protestants, for example, the stones are Sacramental Theology, Ecclesiology, and in our conversations with the pentecostals they tend to be things like disspensationalism. Lots to think on here.

read the whole interview here


6 Responses to “Metropolitan Kallistos on Lambeth and the Anglican Communion”

  1. Robert Easter Says:

    As I’ve been “studying on” this picture…
    Three things to keep in mind
    I.That the Church is primarily a spiritual organism rather than a physical organisation. As long as we insist on managing the spiritual on terms temporal, we will continue to meet Dr. Einstein’s definition of insanity. Spiritual management requires elements such as worship, prayer, repentance, study, and koinonia, all in a spirit of personal, and corporate, submission to Christ.
    II.That Christ is her head, and all her teachers and leaders fulfill their ministry as responsive to his leading and responsible to him to teach and lead according to his established guidelines. All of us, regardless our position or ministry, must seek to make this so, and not presume it to be so.
    III.That the current differences and distinctions among various parties is primarily the result of a series of divisions in which each part took away with them a part of the overall vision and message of the Gospel which the other then lacked. Each legitimate group of Christians be they a denomination, communion, fellowship, tradition, or movement, then has a part in the tree from which they have branched; and can find full fellowship with any of the others by finding their way down to the trunk. Any other route, as the Ecumenical Movement of the 20th Century, is a speculation on a mid-air “position” somewhere among the branches.

  2. dpc+ Says:

    Hi Robert, welcome back! Thanks for your comments.
    Re your #1: Doesn’t your first statement (viz “spiritual” vs “physical” ) promote a gnostic view of things? Mary Baker Eddy would be satisfied with that description of reality… However, I do like your mutual submission to Christ in all that we do requirement.
    Re #2: Again I submit that Metr. Kallistos is right about the stones in our path. Agreement about leadership in the church “according to his established guidelines” doesn’t even happen between the RC or the EO, and the protestants have virtually no ecclesiology whatsoever. (Thus the overreaching desire to spiritualize the creed when it defines the “one holy catholic and apostolic church.”
    Re #3: Re a “legitimate” part of the church: Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green wrote a wonderful essay called “Wither the Branch Theory.” Have you read it?

  3. Tikhon V Says:

    Another excerpt from Metr. Kallistos’ interview, which I have to admit, as an Orthodox believer, I find deeply shocking. I can only call this passage a betrayal of Orthodoxy.

    “I’ve spoken about the need for catholic consensus on issues like the ordination of women or the blessing of homosexual relations. These are departures from Church order and from accepted moral teaching of major importance, and therefore there ought to be some consensus not just within the Anglican Communion but with the other Churches, especially those that preserve the historic apostolic faith and order, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. That is one side of the matter, the need for consensus. But then we might also say, should there not also be the possibility for a prophetic action? Will you ever have change unless some people are willing to stand up and say, this is what we ought to be doing? And even if their testimony is highly controversial, who will nonetheless stand by their position. It could be argued that perhaps the Anglican Communion was guided by the Holy Spirit to lead other Christians into new paths.”

  4. dpc+ Says:

    Grace and peace to you, Tikhon, and welcome. I understand that in the inner workings of the Orthodox Community there are those who quarrel with or question the orthodoxy of Metr. Kallistos’s theology. I would like to point out that he is “merely” asking questions that must be asked and raising concerns that must be raised. Whether from an academic stance or a theological position, there are matters in this world which must be examined. The bishop says, “if we are to interpret this traditional teaching [viz that the Orthodox answer to homosex and the ordination of women is ‘no’] to our people, we need to reflect deeply on the basic principles.”
    I remember sitting in a doctoral class with Orthodox priests who stated, quite emphatically, that some of these issues need not be explored; I tearfully responded that if they did not explore these matters and arrive at a faithful, orthodox answer, the Orthodox were in as much danger of being hijacked by the liberal West as the Anglican Church was in the process of being taken over.

  5. Tikhon V Says:

    Thank you dpc+ for your kind remarks. I don’t have any problem with people seeking to explore and explain the Orthodox position better, but my difficulty is with Metr. Kallistos’ idea of the Anglican Communion making ” a prophetic action” which suggests, does it not, that Metr. Kallistos might be in favour of the ordination of women to the Holy Priesthood and in favour of blessing homosexual unions? If that is so, and I’m afraid I find his interview too full of studied ambiguities to know for sure, then he has gone far beyond what an Orthodox Bishop can legitimately teach.

    As an Orthodox who lives in close proximity to the Anglican Church, it is worth pointing out that the majority of Anglicans who actually practise their fiath do not agree that the ordination of women and the blessing of gay unions are “prophetic”. Indeed, the result of these actions has been the unravelling of Anglicanism, which is certainly going to cause a major crisis in English Christianity. It has also brought ridicule from the Muslims – an increasingly visible and vocal group in England.

  6. dpc+ Says:

    You’re welcome! Truly.
    I think I see the dilemma.
    You and I deplore the outcome (the decidedly non-prophetic position of the liberal leaders, and the unraveling of Anglicanism) that we are witnessing. And so when we conjecture that Metr. Kallistos might actually be in favor of these–at best, heterodox–issues, we are indignant. And we are more than a little concerned for the future of Orthodoxy. Have I stated our case?
    As I indicated earlier, I know there are people who have difficulty with some of Metr. Kallistos’s theology. Some think he’s been quite tainted by Western relationships. I can’t say. I don’t know. (I prefer to abide by the motto of the Monks on Mt Athos: Orthodoxia i Thanatos!)
    I do believe however that the matters that lie at the root of the Anglican Communion’s present unpleasantness (e.g., sexual deviance and women’s ordination) are merely the tip of the iceberg.
    As you indicate, our witness is at stake. In fact, our very existence is in question.

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