Moscow, July 17, Interfax – A senior Russian Orthodox bishop slammed Monday’s vote at the Church of England General Synod that allowed women to become bishops.
“The Orthodox Church takes a negative stance on so-called female priesthood and female episcopacy. We see this process as representing the diversion of the Anglican Church and a whole range of Protestant denominations from the initial church order and as following modern liberal trends. We regret that such decisions have been made,” Metroplitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax-Religion.
Moves like this do not bring various Christian communities closer to unity “that is still proclaimed at inter-Christian meetings as the aim of such meetings,” he said. “The space for dialogue is narrowing down at the fault of our partners, and it is with great regret that we have to state this.”
“The presence of women in the episcopate shuts for us the door to any discussion on the issue of succession in the Anglican episcopate,” he said, but added that the Russian Church would continue to maintain dialogue with the Anglicans in the hope of its voice being heard.
The Russian Orthodox Church began a dialogue with the Anglican Church immediately after the latter came into being in the 16th century. Since then, the Church of England has repeatedly made various attempts to come closer to the Russian Church but has never sought to resolve their disputes over dogma.
Via its missions in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, the Russian Church also maintained close contacts in the 19th century with the U.S. Episcopal Church, the U.S.-based part of the world Anglican Communion.
Relations between the Russian Church and the world Anglican Communion soured in the second half of the 20th century and remain strained.
The first irritant was the U.S. Episcopal Church’s decision in 1976 to ordain women as priests. In the late 80s, the Episcopal Church started consecrating women as bishops. In the early 2000s, it consecrated open homosexual Gene Robinson bishop in a move strongly condemned by the Moscow Patriarchate.