Bishop Raphael’s New Attitude (1912)

THE daily papers state that Bishop Raphael, of the Syrian mission in the United States, has recalled his permission formerly given to his people to receive the ministrations of our American clergy in the absence of Orthodox Eastern priests, in a letter which concludes:

“I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline of the whole Anglican Communion, are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church.”

Bishop Raphael had some time previously resigned his position as vice-president in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.

We regret exceedingly that Bishop Raphael has reached this determination, particularly at a time when Greek and Russian ecclesiastics in their own countries are showing an increasing desire for friendly relations. It is of course true that there are variations in doctrinal teaching, practices, and discipline between the Eastern and the Anglican communions. Practices and discipline are changeable factors, and at no time has the Church Catholic maintained that they must be uniform in all ages and in all lands. The Anglican Churches will undoubtedly adhere to the principle that their practices and their discipline are subjects for their own internal regulation; and it would be easy for them to point out that laxity in such a serious matter of discipline as the easy re-marriage after divorce which is permitted by Eastern Christians is, in their judgment, a serious blot upon the disciplinary record of the Eastern Communion. If either party deems it profitable to point out the failures of the other to reach the high ideal at which, we believe, both are aiming, it will be an easy task, but it might not promote the cause of comity between the Churches. Variations in doctrinal teaching are more serious; and it is in the hope of finding common ground in this difficult field that the more friendly relations between the two communions are so greatly desired by those who hope and pray for the unity of the Church.

Only the desire to serve strangers in a strange land, and to show the friendship of one of the youngest of the national Churches to one of the oldest, has animated our clergy in their attempts to be of service to the unshepherded communicants of the Eastern Church in this country. And if sometimes our services have been too ardently pressed upon these strangers, as Bishop Raphael appears to intimate, it is because of our intense desire to extend this hospitality, and not because of any desire, in any quarter, to disturb the allegiance of Eastern Christians to their own hierarchy.

We believe Bishop Raphael has made a serious mistake: but in the meantime it behooves our clergy to be very circumspect and to withdraw from any relations with Syrians in this country.

The Living Church, November 2, 1912, p. 5.

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