Discussion of Bishop Raphael’s Paper on Eastern Orthodox Relations with the American Church (1911)

The Church Times of last Friday devoted its first leading article, which was headed “Approximation,” to some noteworthy comment on the important letter from the Right Reverend Raphael, Syrian Orthodox Bishop in the United States, addressed to the General Secretary of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, and contained in the current number of its official organ, Eirene, in explanation of that Prelate’s original letter, addressed to the Bishops of the Church in the United States, which dealt with the administration of the sacraments to isolated members of the Eastern Orthodox Communion by priests of the Anglican Communion. After referring to the practice of “economy,” by which the Eastern Church allows the reception of the Sacraments from a priest outside the communion of that portion of the Catholic Church, the learned leader writer goes on to say:

So the matter stands; and so the English Church and the Churches in communion with us can gradually draw to a better understanding with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and ultimately to a complete union. We must not be nettled by acts which, if performed in a Western Church, would be a studied insult to us. They are not so intended, and they have not that effect. But neither should Easterns be nettled by an apparent indifference and aloofness sometimes displayed by the authorities of the English Church. What the Eastern Churches expect of us is easily understood. For nearly a thousand years they have stood by their orthodoxy, regarding all Western Churches as more or less tainted with heresy; they themselves, and they alone, are the true fold of Christ. It seems obvious to them that the English Church should in some sort sue for recognition. But this is impossible. The authorities of the English Church cannot take any step which would seem to imply a doubt as to the validity of their ordinations and their ecclesiastical standing. Are things then at a deadlock? No; for the practice of economy makes movement possible. The action of the Syrian Orthodox Bishop in America does not stand alone. Similar steps have been taken elsewhere, and will be taken. Intercourse of the most friendly and the most spiritual character is becoming common. We would send our readers once more to Eirene; there to study the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Smyrna at the funeral of the late Bishop of Gibraltar. On yet another page they will find the words addressed to the same lamented Bishop by a high dignitary of the Orthodox Church in regard to the sporadic acts of charity of which we have been speaking:

The hope of reunion lies in the gradual increase of such acts of informal intercourse as these, not in theological discussions; the two Churches will some day find themselves bound to recognize officially an accomplished fact.”

—The Living Church, September 30, 1911, pp. 731-732.

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