Skip to comments.Departing priest sees Anglican church hurt by compromises [goes Orthodox]
Posted on 05/02/2005 5:23:35 PM PDT by sionnsar
Orthodox church appeals to ex-Anglicans wanting stability
EDMONTON - David Johnston says he's been troubled for years over "compromises" on faith and doctrine by the national leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Last Saturday, Johnston, a former Anglican priest in Fort Saskatchewan, and seven of his former parishioners, were received as lay members of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Johnston said they chose the Orthodox church because it seemed to be the faith that had been compromised the least over the centuries.
"We're excited about the Orthodox church," Johnston said on the eve of a service of chrismation at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church in the city's west end.
"We were looking for a stability that doesn't exist any more in the Anglican Church. And stability is exactly what we've found -- a stability that is rooted in the doctrines and teachings of the apostles, and that doesn't shift with the last public opinion poll."
The Orthodox church is touted as the world's oldest and second largest Christian church, with an estimated 230 million members worldwide.
There are numerous Orthodox churches locally, catering mainly to a variety of ethnic language groups, but also a few churches where services are conducted in English.
Rev. Elias Ferzli, who presided over Johnston's service of chrismation, said later that his archdiocese has been stepping up its evangelizing activities.
"We respect everyone, but if some people want to learn about Orthodoxy, we'll be willing to talk to them," said Ferzli, a native of Lebanon who's been priest at St. Philip for less than a year.
"We have nothing against other churches, but we'd rather live our faith the way we understand it."
Until last summer, when he handed in his resignation, Johnston had been the priest at St. George's Church in Fort Saskatchewan for seven years. He was ordained as an Anglican deacon in 1982 and became a priest the following year.
Johnston isn't the first priest, pastor or minister to quit a church over differences with policy or leadership, though few leave with as much fanfare as Johnston.
In an interview, Johnston said his motivation for sending out a press release that takes a few jabs at the Anglican church and its national leadership was his wish to inform media, who may not be aware, that "some people have already left" the Anglican church.
A "precipitating factor" in his departure was the same-sex issue, specifically the governing council of the Anglican Church of Canada voting last May to affirm "the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships."
"That was the line in the sand," Johnston told The Journal.
"At that point our eyes were opened to see that there were a whole lot of other things and that it's been compromise after compromise after compromise over the years. We just had the sense that it wasn't going to stop."
On Wednesday, Canada's Anglican bishops unanimously passed a resolution to place a moratorium on future church blessings of same-sex unions. The decision is intended to put a halt to the ritual for the next two years and give the church leadership time to fully study the issue as it relates to the official doctrine of the faith, said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Hutchison cautioned that the moratorium must still be approved by a May 6-8 meeting of the church's Council of the General Synod, which includes the bishops, clergy and members of the laity. The 40 bishops also agreed to officially "withdraw" from a meeting of the worldwide Anglican Consultative Council, slated for Nottingham, England, this June, to appease conservative elements in the international church. Hutchison said that decision must also be approved at the May conference.
Johnston's broadside against the Anglican church came on the same weekend where the Roman Catholic Church's new leader, Pope Benedict XVl, made a plea for Christian unity. One barrier to that unity is the division in Christendom over blessing same-sex unions.
Johnston is currently pursuing ordination to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church. Until that happens, he's been given permission to conduct lay services at an Orthodox Christian mission church in Fort Saskatchewan.
Services are held twice weekly at the chapel of Riverview Funeral Home in Fort Saskatchewan.
Very Reverend Father John Finley, an Orthodox missionary priest from Santa Barbara, Calif., said that at least 30 former Episcopalian priests in the United States are now priests in the Orthodox Church. "Episcopalian" is the term Anglicans go by in the United States.
Finley, who was in Edmonton for the conversion ceremony of the eight former Anglicans, said he's delighted to travel far and wide to provide religious instruction to those interested in joining his church.
"We're not standing there like wolves at the fence looking over into the Anglican chicken coop," said Finley. "(But) if the Anglican Church continues down the path that they are, and people are in search of a true home where they can live the Christian life, we will open our arms to them and say: 'Welcome home!' "
Johnston's decision to quit the Anglican church came as no shock to Victoria Matthews, bishop of the Edmonton Anglican Diocese.
"David Johnston has exhibited signs of restlessness for years and years and so we're not surprised when he spoke of leaving the Anglican church and seeking membership in the Orthodox faith," she said.
Despite his strong rebuke of the national leadership of the Anglican church, Johnston said he bears no grudges against anyone. In particular, he described Bishop Matthews as " a very, very holy woman" and "one of the most capable bishops" in the church.
"My prayer and desire would be that the Anglican Church recover its ancient spirituality and ancient faith, and return to that once more," said Johnston.
"I'm enough of a realist to suspect that that is unlikely to happen. But God can do miracles. I just believe that I wasn't being called to stay and fight that battle."
" "We respect everyone, but if some people want to learn about Orthodoxy, we'll be willing to talk to them," said Ferzli, a native of Lebanon who's been priest at St. Philip for less than a year.
"We have nothing against other churches, but we'd rather live our faith the way we understand it."
The abouna tells it like it is. As I have said, if someone is interested, we're happy to tell them about Orthodoxy. If not, well, have another cup of cafe and perhaps a piece of baklava!
""We're not standing there like wolves at the fence looking over into the Anglican chicken coop," said Finley"
You know, with those beards, longish hair and black robes, some of our priests, especially after the fast of Great Lent, do have a rather lupine look about them, so I see how some could be fooled!
Nashota House (a more "Anglo-Catholic" Episcopalian seminary in Wisconsin) has sometimes been jokingly referred to as American Orthodoxy's 7th seminary, because of how many of its former grads are now Orthodox.
It is rumored that the seminary had to start screening its applicants for a determination to stay in the Episcopal church...
At our Bright Monday party after Liturgy today, we were talking with each other about how nice it was to enjoy our visitors, and not feel like we have to convert them. We just do what we do (it's pretty much all there in the services), answer their questions, and leave the rest to God.
Here's a Q for you:
What is the best description of the "Anglican Catholic Church".
I saw their site, but wished to ask a FReeper to get the straight skinny.
Sigh. Isn't Bright Monday just the most wonderful day?
I went to [what is now] my church for months and nobody even hinted at the notion that I should convert. Or even get educated on what the Orthodox believe. And on the few occasions I was brave enough to ask a question, the answers I received were strangely brief and to the point. I kept bracing for a pitch but it never happened. In the end, despite the apparent backwardness, I had to take the initiative, corner the priest and *ask* to be catechized. :)
There is indeed something very special about Bright Monday. You'd think it would be a let-down, but it's not. This is only the second year I've been to Liturgy on Bright Monday -- and I can't believe what I've been missing all these years...
Yes, that really is a hallmark, isn't it? It was so interesting to find myself, some years after my conversion, giving those brief and to the point answers, rather than expounding as I would have in pre-Orthodox days.
Catechesis is a different matter -- this needs to be detailed and pro-active. But it cannot and must not be a format for evangelizing/proselytizing -- it needs to be for those who have pretty much decided that this is what they want. It is best when informational "inquirers classes" and catechesis are completely distinct and separate.
It is one of several documents that the Bishops refused to endorse at the last General Convention in resolution b001
For more details of the references doc's follow the the big yellow prayer book link above to an actual prayer book and read them yourselves.
In cases like this, where an New World Episcopalian becomes Orthodox, what "rite" or "national church" (apologies if I'm using bad terms here) are they brought into? Is it just the one they first approach?
And Johnson was chrismated at an Antiochene church--but is that a part of one single "Orthodox Church of Canada", or do for example the European national churches Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox etc. have separate metropolitans and hierarchy?
Evcharisto! (Or Spasibo, to cover my bases :)
The Lebanese and the Syrians make the best "baklawa"! :)
Seriously, it makes no difference into which of the Churches a convert is baptized and/or chrismated. It generally amounts to where they first went when they became interested in Orthodoxy. There are different Orthodx jurisdictions in North America, but we can go to any one we want of the canonical Churches.
I dunno. My absolute favorite is Persian baklava.
They learned from the Armenians! :)
In the "old countries" there is only one canonical Orthodox church within a given geographical area. The turmoil in the Ukraine is an exception, and there are always a few of those around.
In the "diaspora" the situation is much more complex. The way that it is supposed to work is that the "Old World" is divided up in areas of mission responsibility: all of Africa under the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Middle East under Antioch, Asia under Russia. Western Europe was traditionally the purview of the Patriarch of Rome, but the Orthodox there are generally either under the Patriarch of Constantinople or of Moscow.
The New World was originally under the jurisdiction of Moscow, because of the Russian missionary activity in Alaska and to a lesser extent along the West Coast. All Orthodox in the Americas, of every nationality, were under Moscow, and Moscow had begun the work of bringing in Arabic, Greek, Serbian, etc... priests. The first bishop that the Russians consecrated on US soil was actually a Syrian, the recently glorified St. Raphael of Brooklyn.
Then, the Russian revolution happened, and it all fell apart. Each "old country" Patriarchate stepped in and took over "their" people and parishes. Unfortunately, all of these Old World patriarchates are chronically short on cash, and they discovered that their American flocks were a major source of income, so we won't see this coming to an end anytime soon. Most of the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Antioch's budget comes from the Greek Archdiocese and the Antiochian Archdiocese respectively, here in America, which are extreme examples, but I'll bet that the Patriarchate of Serbia, for instance, needs American money very much as well, and American and Canadian Ukrainian money flows across the Atlantic as well.
Anyway, the practical solution that has been worked out here is that overlapping jurisdictions are just accepted as a fact of life (albeit one that we hope comes to an end in the coming decades), and there is full mutual recognition, in spite of the fact that everyone is technically "non-canonical." There is certainly no one Orthodox Church of Canada, or of any other country in the Americas, Australia, or NZ. Some day we hope that these things will eventually happen.
As Kolokotronis says, the jurisdiction one enters is up to the convert. In practice, one is usually not so much choosing between jurisdictions as between what parish one feels most comfortable in. Which jurisdiction that is is going to vary a lot depending on where you live and what your background is. I encourage anyone interested in Orthodoxy to visit every Orthodox parish within reasonable driving distance of their homes, and to visit them several times, to find out which parish one is most at home in for exploring Orthodoxy.
And you can't really learn about it without attending services for some time. We just got done with Holy Week and Pascha, and had 16 services in 11 days, with the vast majority of the parish going to at least 50% of those services. It is an experience that one can't even begin to explain or talk about. We had a regularly visiting Protestant clergyman go through Holy Week with us -- I don't think he missed a service. He almost couldn't talk about it, he was so moved. I don't know if he'll ever become Orthodox, and it doesn't matter -- his path is known to God and him alone. But I do know that he now has an understanding of our faith that all of the many books he had read could never give.
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