Orthodoxy, Anglicanism and Pentecostalism
In an interesting blog post Bishop David’s Blog: Orthodoxy, a Vicar in Sunderland, and Pentecost Bishop David Chislett traces some links between Orthodoxy, Anglicanism and Pentecostalism.
On 6th January this year, Father Michael Harper died. He was one of the early leaders in the charismatic renewal. You can read my tribute to him HERE. In 2008, as an Archpriest of the Antiochan Orthodox Church he delivered a lecture for the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge in which he looked at the relationship of Orthodoxy to successive movements of Christian renewal. The title of the lecture is: “THE WAVES KEEP COMING IN : THE EVANGELICAL, CHARISMATIC, ORTHODOX AXIS“. It can be downloaded as a pdf document. Histories of British pentecostalism refer to Sunderland and the Reverend Alexander Boddy.
Bishop David also refers to a paper by Bishop Kallistos Ware, in which he said:
This unexpected connection between Orthodox Christianity and the origins of the twentieth-century Pentecostal movement in Britain naturally leads us to ask: can we discover other links, on a more specifically theological level, between Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism? How far is the Christian East sympathetic to a ‘charismatic’ understanding of the spiritual life? At first sight it might appear that there is but little affinity. Orthodoxy, it might be said, is liturgical and hierarchic, whereas Pentecostalism is grounded upon the free and spontaneous action of the Spirit; Orthodoxy appeals to Holy Tradition, whereas Pentecostalism assigns primacy to personal experience.
Anyone, however, who searches more deeply will soon realize that stark contrasts of this kind are one-sided and misleading. In actual fact, many of the Greek Fathers insist with great emphasis upon the need for all baptized Christians to attain in their own personal experience a direct and conscious awareness of the Holy Spirit. No one can be a Christian at second-hand: such is the frequently repeated teaching of the Fathers. Holy Tradition does not signify merely the mechanical and exterior acceptance of truths formulated in the distant past, but it is in the words of the Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky – nothing else than ‘the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church’ here and now, at this present moment.
Father Alexander Schmemann describes attending an ecumenical gathering where he was allocated a place among the “liturgical” and “hierarchical” denominations of the West, because that was where Western Christians thought that the Orthodox belonged, whereas he himself would have felt equally at home among the Quakers, whose view of the Holy Spirit was closer to that of the Orthodox.
In an earlier post I wrote about Anglo-Catholicism, and these are among the “liturgical” and “hierarchical” Western Christians who are assumed to have an affinity with Orthodoxy, yet in my experience it is not so. If Anglicans are drawn to Orthodoxy, it is more likely to be the charismatic ones, like Father Michael Harper, who became Orthodox.
In our English-speaking parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Johannesburg we have occasionally had Anglican visitors. On one occasion, when we has a special celebration of the millennium of Christianity in Russia, we invited people of various denominations to join us, and a group of Anglo-Catholics turned up at one service. One of them told me that he found the culture shock of Orthodoxy too much — and that was at an English service, not a Greek or Russian one. On another occasion we had some Anglo-Catholic visitors, who genuflected at various points in the service, and were rather shocked to find that the Orthodox never did. The culture shock was because the Orthodox did not do things according to Ritual Notes. For more on how culturally alien many Anglo-Catholics find Orthodoxy, Father Hunwicke’s post on an Orthodox ordinariate, and the following comments, should make it clear.
When we’ve had Pentecostal visitors, on the other hand, I’ve usually found it easier to explain Orthodox worship to them. Yes, there are cultural differences, but they are somehow easier to explain. We don’t pray in tongues in public worship, but many Pentecostals have found that Orthodox hymns and prayers often express their experience of the Holy Spirit as well as, if not better than their own tradition, and the same can be said of the ikons.
When I attended a series of ecumenical meetings to formulate standards for theological qualifications in South Africa, the person I felt closest to at the meetings was a Zionist bishop, Mshengu Tshabalala, and we found that we could understand each others language better that we could that of the “mainline” people at the meetings. Bishop Mshengu and his wife visited our Orthodox Church once, and did not need much explanation of what was going on. He later told me that one night he had woken suddenly during a thunderstorm, and his wife told him “You must be becoming Orthodox; you jumped out of bed and made the sign of the cross.”
So I found it interesting to learn that Alexander Boddy’s pentecostal experience came some years after he had visited an Orthodox monastery. I had not known that before. In many ways it seemed that the Pentecostal movement was a reaction against the over-cerebral turn that the Western Church had taken. Initially, in the Pentecostal movement, it appeared in separate denominations, but in the mid-twentieth century charismatic renewal movement, it appeared in the so-called “mainline” churches as well.
One of the prominent figures in the charismatic renewal movement in the Anglican Church was Bishop Bill Burnett. I first met him fifty years ago today, when he was the Anglican Bishop of Bloemfontein (and in those days he was known by his second name, Bendyshe — perhaps the Anglicans of the Free State thought it was too infra dig to address their bishop as “Bill”). He came to Modderpoort to speak at the first conference of the Anglican Students Federation, and his was the first paper read at the conference. He spoke on The theological roots of Anglicanism, and it is interesting to see what he said about the role of the Holy Spirit, though he only got involved in the charismatic renewal movement about 12 years later. I don’t have a copy of his paper, only the notes on it that I made in my diary.
24-Jul-1960, SundayWe got up, still shivering, at 6.30 am, and went to Mattins and Mass (in the Priory Chapel). The Bishop of Bloemfontein, Bendyshe Burnett, celebrated. After breakfast we made our beds, and then went to a classroom for the first address, by the Bishop of Bloemfontein, on The Theological Roots of Anglicanism.
He said that the church roots were the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, the three creeds of the undivided church, the sacraments and the threefold ministry. A non-papal Catholic church emerged from a political settlement, which became the Anglican Communion. Political influence enabled it to retain its Catholic nature. Today most Anglican Churches have no state connections. It has been shown that papal supremacy is not necessary to church order. The Anglican Communion has no objection to papal primacy which is quite different from papal supremacy. The Roman Church has attacked episcopacy as much as the Protestants – the Holy Spirit is virtually replaced by a ruler ex-cathedra. Episcopacy in the Anglican Church reminded the English that it was not a merely English institution, but the utterance in England of the universal Christian Church. The Pope describes himself as the “Vicar of Christ” – it is a false conception that the ministers are deputed to do what our Lord did years ago. They regard themselves as representing a sometimes-present Christ — a practical loss of faith in the Holy Spirit. Anglican ministers are representatives – they represent to the church the ever-present Christ. The ministry is a divinely ordained order.
The Protestant view is too subjective. The Anglican Communion has no faith in itself. We are concerned with the Church of God. The words used at the consecration of a Bishop — “receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God” are alone sufficient evidence of this. The use of Scripture to establish doctrine must be done in the Church. Scripture in the context of the Church is the standard for doctrine. The appeal to Scripture by Anglicans is different from that of Protestants who approach Scripture in a vacuum.
Because the Anglican Communion is both Catholic and Reformed some make the Bible and some make Tradition the more important. The liturgy preserves us from ultimate loss by pressure from the spirit of the age. The Anglican Church became too tolerant, liberal, and thus worldly until the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The reaction from this led to the formation of three streams – Liberal, Catholic and Evangelical, basing their ideas on reason, tradition, and scripture respectively. The church must not be tied down by the spirit of the age, but some latitude is necessary. The Reformers liberated us from Mediaeval thinking by the emphasis on Justification by Grace, rediscovering the social nature of the Church. Until recently the Roman Church has been thoroughly individualistic and Protestant in their approach to the Mass. The whole Church is the people of God, a priestly body.
With Protestantism the evangelical principles become too vague and pietistic. The Catholic stream emphasises the fact that the Church, Sacraments etc. are all given. The Church mediates Christ to the world. All members of the Church are becoming more and more into the full manhood of Christ into which they have already been baptised. These three are all necessary to the Catholic Church of God, although sometimes we do not appreciate all of them. Even Rome is now catching up on the positive insights of the Reformation. The mistake of Evangelicals is that they think baptism gives no status. They emphasise conversion and think that one must be able to state how and when it happened. The Romans also, for all practical purposes, regard their members as unbaptised, and emphasise repentance and a series of penitential acts. The West thinks of the dying Christ – the East thinks of the risen Christ, but the Anglican Church has a structure which embraces both.
In the afternoon several of us climbed the mountain behind the Priory, and walked along the top for a while, before coming down a gully, with Liz Tucker leading the way like a mountain goat. We had tea, and evensong in the Priory chapel at
6.00 pm with the SSM, which was followed by supper.
After supper the Bishop of Bloemfontein gave another address, on The Church of the Future. He said that people are generally unsuccessful in relating the rapid advance in technical knowledge to what really matters. The Church must bring a theological basis back to the centre of our lives. Intellectuals are out of touch with modern theologians. People must become more aware of the theological purpose of what they do in everyday life. Many church buildings in this country are mock-Gothic and out of touch with reality. This could be rectified if architects knew what a church is for. The church should use modern skill, knowledge and materials to build more functional buildings.
In music we wallow in Victorian slush – as far as art is concerned, the church is wearing clothes which are out of date. Modern art is symbolic, and ideally adapted to the use of the church. In the experimental liturgy there is no blessing – the congregation is told to go out into the world and “be the church.”
The Church of the future must be reunited, and the Ceylon scheme of reunion is a good pointer in this direction. Denominational apartheid is an evil which must be remedied. The Ceylon scheme will keep the ancient scheme of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. The Church must become indigenous in each locality, but this must not be paramount, as the word “Anglican” seems to suggest. The emphasis is often too much on “Anglican” and too little on “Communion”.
The church over the whole world is too “Anglican” – too “English”. How can we be indigenous and yet remain Catholic? Nationalism must not cause us to lose our Catholic principles. We must really BE the people of God. The Church must be built around the altar, font and pulpit as the buildings are. We must live as if we really are in the dying and rising community which is the Church. You do not become a Christian and then join the Church. We are baptised into a body, a community – the Church, which is the Body of Christ. We must become what we are by virtue of our baptism. The altar and pulpit enable us to do this. We are Christians, and we must become what we are.
We neglect the Holy Spirit too much. One cannot see God and live – our preaching must say this, but because we are dying with Christ, we must also rise with him. Worship is not merely one of the things the Church does -= the Church is a worshipping community. We place our lives and all that we have on the altar, and receive all this back to become the Body of Christ. The perfect union with Christ will come at the Last Day – at the consummation. At every Mass we are waiting for the bridegroom.
 “the three creeds of the undivided church”. The undivided church had only one creed, the Symbol of Faith, sometimes (erroneously) called the “Nicene Creed”. The so-called Apostles’ and Athanasian Creeds are purely Western. I am not sure whether Bishop Bill, in referring to “the undivided church”, had only the Western Church in mind, or whether, like many Western Christians, he was ignorant of the fact that that the undivided church had only one creed, not three.
 This was before the Second Vatican Council, which made several changes in the penitential discipline and practice of the Roman Catholic Church.