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Anglicans and Orthodoxy

21 October 2009

The news that the Roman Catholic Church has set up a new mechanism for receiving disaffected Anglicans has caused a bit of a flurry in the Christian blogosphere. The Orthodox have also been talking to disaffected Anglicans; recently Metropolitan Jonah, of the Orthodox Church in America, addressed a breakaway group, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

As a former Anglican I’m quite interested in such things, but I do not think that the Orthodox should be actively proselytising among disaffected Anglicans. If God should choose to interest such Anglicans in Orthodoxy, it’s another matter, but before we urge such people to join the Orthodox Church, we should first make sure that they undertstand the differences between Anglicanism (in its huge variety) and Orthodoxy. It will do no one any good if they join the Orthodox Church for the wrong reasons.

The Ochlophobist: on recent Anglican matters….: points out some of the pitfalls, not least of which (in the case of ACNA) is the following:

I have another worry about the ACNA. Many of the groups within the ACNA are made up of a lot of folks who stayed in ECUSA through WO, Spong, and outright heresy and left only after an openly homosexual bishop was ordained. The ethos of the ACNA is not traditional. It is not catholic. It is white, middle class Republican – Dobson in vestments. It is moralist. Heck, these folks promote on their own website the fact that they are ‘conservative’ and ‘biblical’ on the issue of homosexuality. Their ecclesial identity is tied up in the fact that they reject the Church blessing homosexual unions. Friends, that may be correct but it does not have staying power, and it does not necessarily make a person or group somehow a more significant candidate for communion with Rome or Orthodoxy than another person or group. To pursue them on the basis of their manner of conservatism is the sort of demographic association seeking that political parties make use of, but going after particular religious groups because of their cultural conservatism strikes me as a rather repugnant form of evangelism. It reeks of that peculiar pathetic display of religious forms that feel increasingly isolated culturally and so desperately want a few more friends on the playground of culture.

It reminds me of a Pogo comic of some years ago, The Jack Acid Society Black Book, a satire on a right-wing American group, the John Birch Society. In the comic someone asks the founders of the Jack Acid Society, Deacon Mushrat and Molester Mole, what the Jack Acid Society stands for, and gets the answer “We won’t stand for much, believe me.”

I may be wrong, but groups like ACNA, and their supporters, manage to give the impression that they are more united by what they are against than by what they are for, and in this case it seems to be anti-homosexuality, or, as some like to call it, homophobia (dreadful word!) [1] And, as the ocholophobist points out, they appear to have been willing to condone far worse errors.

[1] As a language pedant, I tend to think of “homophobia” as meaning “fear of the same”, the kind of person contemplated in the Gilbert and Sullivan song:

And the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone
every century but this and every country but his own

In that sense, the opposite vice to homophobia is xenophobia. I realise that those who use the word do not mean this, but I’m still reluctant to use such a barbarous nelogism.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 October 2009 6:14 am

    I agree with you that disaffection with one ‘denomination’ shouldn’t be the basis for joining or coming into communion with another, quite different denomination. When I left the Anglicans it was over a period of about 2 years and with much thought and prayer but the driver was more of a pull than a push.

    But saying that TAC made their request to look for a process just about 2 years ago to the day. I think they must know what lies at Rome and I’m sure they would have informed their parishioners of the same.

  2. 22 October 2009 6:15 am

    Oh, and agree about the ‘homophobia’ in terms of meaning but I think any objection to such a use is trumped by it seeming to have been universally accepted!

  3. Gregory permalink
    22 October 2009 6:48 am

    A very wise post. There’s a huge difference between converting to Orthodox Christianity because one is drawn to the ancient roots and richness of Christian faith and spirituality one finds it, and converting to Orthodox Christianity out of reactionary desperation and disillusionment over one’s previous religious group. Motive and motivation make a difference. The first scenario tends to result in converts who end up joyful and healthy; the second, with converts who remain angry and resentful. The evangelistic mandate of the Orthodox Church is to present not “traditionalism” or “conservatism” to those who would have it, but nothing other than Jesus Christ. He has to be our message, measure, motivation and appeal. Given that the ACNA is neither as traditional or homogeneous as advertised, and appears to be fixated on one particular issue, caution is advised, lest we “travel over land and sea to make a single convert,” only to have both of us turn into “children of hell” in the end (Matthew 23:15).

  4. Gregory permalink
    22 October 2009 6:52 am

    Actually, the literal opposite of “homophobia” would be “heterophobia,” since “homo-” means “same” and “hetero-” means “other” or “different” in Greek. “Xeno-” actually means “alien, foreign, strange.”

  5. 25 October 2009 5:11 pm

    As I read this post, I couldn’t help being saddened by the thought that the primary reason for so many sub-denominations and sects within the church is more to do with secular prejudice than spiritual enlightenment!

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