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Anglican Branch Theory Prefers to Ignore Russian Orthodoxy

And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

Jn 8, 32

In early June 2008 the Anglo-Catholic Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius will be marking its 80th anniversary with a Conference. The title is ‘Rome, Constantinople, and Canterbury: Mother Churches?’ This Conference will explore how Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury exercise their primacy around the world.

This event confirms the mindset behind the question which an Anglican vicar who visited our Church last year asked: ‘Why don’t you pray for Patriarch Bartholomew?’ The answer came: ‘Because his jurisdiction extends only to two million Orthodox, nearly all ethnic Greeks in the Diaspora. The vast majority of Orthodox are not in his jurisdiction and therefore this particular Patriarch is not relevant to us’.

This problem is that most of the Anglo-Catholic members of this Fellowship (like some, but by no means all Roman Catholics) appear to think as papists. ‘Since there is a Western pope, there must be an Eastern pope’, so say their logic and nonsensical and simply untrue announcements like ‘The Patriarch of Constantinople is the head of the world’s 200 million Orthodox’. In reality, Christ is our head.

This also explains why many Anglicans and also ex-Anglicans, who so love compromise, also love small but ancient Greek Orthodox Patriarchates, which have been forced to compromise on many Orthodox customs and beliefs. Indeed, the recent book of Patriarch Bartholomew, ‘Encountering the Mystery’, is so syncretistic in some parts that it can read like a compendium of freemasonry.

An Anglo-Catholic Conference on ‘Mother Churches’ is all very well for branch-theory Anglicans and ex-Anglicans. However, most Roman Catholics would not accept Canterbury as a ‘Mother-Church’, but merely as a splinter from Rome. And as for mainstream Orthodox, the subject matter itself is irrelevant. To the more than 97% of the world’s Orthodox Christians, who belong to the Russian, Romanian, Hellenic, Serbian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Polish, Czechoslovak and Japanese Local Orthodox Churches, what the Mother-Church represents is clear and there is no need for a Conference on it.

A Conference on the First Rome and its Canterbury splinter and on the Second Rome is of interest to academics and a small number of Phanariots, but it seems that Anglicans have forgotten the Third Rome. This is Moscow, which today unites 75% of Orthodox. Is this another case of not seeing the wood for the trees?

Exactly twenty years ago I wrote a booklet called Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church, now available on this site as an E-book. In it I described the settlement of English refugees from the Norman Occupation in Eastern Europe. It also describes how they founded the first New England in southern Russia, forming what might be called a ‘Church in exile’, an ‘English Rus’. In other words, if we are to interest ourselves in English Orthodoxy, it is from where it was exiled to that we should start again. It seems that the message of that booklet fell on deaf ears.

Could the reason for this condescending neglect of Orthodox reality, the Russian Church which is the Third and only Present Rome, come from the Anglo-Catholic and ex-Anglo-Catholic realisation that the whole Russian Church, that is 75% of World Orthodoxy, supported by the Serbian, Georgian and other Churches, does not make compromises and has even officially condemned the branch theory? Why does Anglicanism not organise a Conference on the primacy exercised by Moscow over its multinational, multilingual and worldwide Church and its Metropolias? This surely would be far more relevant to the contemporary situation of Orthodoxy in the global world than outdated ecumenical study of the ancient Greek Patriarchates.

There exist tiny, modernistic movements on the fringes of certain Local Orthodox Churches, which desire a sort of Orthodox Second Vatican Council. It is not going to happen. Those movements, which betrayed, spat on, buffeted, scourged, stripped and mocked the crucified Christ of uncompromised Russian Orthodoxy, casting lots for Her garments after 1917, so dividing Her inside and outside Russia, and then danced on what they thought was our grave, will have to be abandoned. We invite those who adhered to such movements to return to mainstream Orthodoxy, adapting to the new reality. This new reality is that the Russian Orthodox Church has risen from the dead.

It would be saddening indeed if those who did not wish to share in our Crucifixion do not now wish to share in the Resurrection of Russian Orthodoxy and the unity in Christ that it can bring, if you will only listen to it.

Priest Andrew Phillips

24 March/6 April 2008
Sunday of St John of the Ladder

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