Stephen Noll: The Orthodox-Anglican Divide

The GAFCON statement notes a third sad fact about the Anglican Communion today:

The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ”˜Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008. To make matters worse, there has been a failure to honour promises of discipline, the authority of the Primates’ Meeting has been undermined and the Lambeth Conference has been structured so as to avoid any hard decisions. We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ”˜we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’.

This third fact is also in line with the observation of Metropolitan Hilarion that the source of false teaching and lax discipline in the Communion has its origins in the “North and the West,” that is to say, in Canterbury’s own jurisdiction. I have noted elsewhere that the “Instruments of Unity” as currently constituted are under the sway of the “Lambeth bureaucracy,” and hence the ecumenical failure of Anglicanism can only be laid at the door of Canterbury himself. This tough fact is exactly what Hilarion has brought to the banquet table at Lambeth Palace.

So GAFCON and the Orthodox share the sober critique of contemporary Anglicanism. It would be facile to say that today’s Anglican confessors are of one mind with the Orthodox. Surely there are issues of substance and ongoing discussion between the two.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Instruments of Unity, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Windsor Report / Process

30 comments on “Stephen Noll: The Orthodox-Anglican Divide

  1. nwlayman says:

    I don’t see why what the Orthodox say matters too much. It’s always been about a handful of Anglicans who had any interest at all. If what believing Anglicans say doesn’t get any attention it won’t matter if a cassock and beard says it in an interesting accent.

  2. justice1 says:

    He writes:

    [i] We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure [/i]

    I really liked the article, but isn’t the above obvious? It is the [i] Anglican Communion.[/i] The name says it all.

    And here’s my two cents: any reorganization of the Communion that tries to remain in communion with Canterbury as a unifying centre will err colonially, just as to do so around a single man in the Vatican errs Romishly. There is no need for a particular Englishman in a mitre to unify the communion, any more than the early church needed James or Paul to do it. Covenanted primates and bishops from all over would suffice just fine.

  3. St. Nikao says:

    Most notable is Dr. Noll’s contrast of the theologies of +Rowan Williams and Benedict XVI at the end of this article. Particularly, +Williams’ definition of holiness and how he uses it as a substitute for truth.

  4. St. Nikao says:

    justice1 – The Holy Spirit alone creates, builds and sustains the Church. It is an act of God that exists by His will alone.

  5. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Embarrassing isn’t it? Yet another foreign prelate having to come and tell us what our own won’t! There is a vacuum of confidence in Christ and His work at the heart of our church leaders.

    Prayers that they may have the courage and the confidence to put Him back as acknowledged head of His church.

  6. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Colonialism is a cheap shot from the FCA/ACNA crowd I keep hearing. The problem is not with the colonialism of a Canterbury-centered Communion but of the confidence of Canterbury in leading a Christ-centered Communion.

  7. A Senior Priest says:

    The difference, #1, nwlayman, is that the Orthodox have street-cred and the Anglicans don’t. Period. And I’m Anglican, so I can say it.

  8. art says:

    And that “street-cred” is getting translated often into a number of ex Anglicans moving into Eastern Orthodox Churches, becoming members on account of their desiring allegiance to a true confession.

    Secondly, if we see how John’s Gospel uses “holiness” as a criterion, then it is inseparable from his notion of “truth” – which of course is not mere propositional accord, but rather genuine correspondence with the Father’s reality, faithful acknowledgement of his words and works, the mission of divine glory. In which light ++RDW’s criterion is very peculiar indeed … and so especially sad.

  9. justice1 says:

    #4 I am not sure I get the jab. Are you saying that the Holy Spirit constituted the Anglican Communion around Canterbury and Catholicism around Rome, a divided house, or did you hear me saying that somehow the Church is not constituted by the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ as Her Head? The point I was making may not have been clear, namely, that to somehow hold to an English centre for one expression of the Church (the Anglican one) at the cost of true Communion would be a foul. I was not trying to speak to what the Holy Spirit’s role in it all is. I would surely agree with you.

  10. St. Nikao says:

    justice1 – I wasn’t jabbing you…just reinforcing the point you were making. It is Truth, Love and Life and all spiritual blessings – bestowed and mediated to us by the Holy Spirit, Christ, our Great High Priest and the Father, that creates, sanctifies, sustains and moves the Church for His Good Will and Purposes.

  11. justice1 says:

    My apologies St. Mikao. Blame it on the French press.

    I rarely comment on these blogs anymore. Much of it is just more about the slowest train wreck in history – the global Anglican Communion. From where I sit, it seems to me that the colonial structures (contra #6 Pageantmaster above) or their afterglow are the very reason why the majority in the communion have not been able to exercise the last paragraph of Article 26 in the Prayerbook against the wealthy heretical minority in the West.

    And on the ABC, it is clear enough that his office is Colonial in provenance. Just read the website:

    The Queen of England appoints the commission. The Prime Minister announces the appointment. Sure, one can shuck and jive to explain away what is obviously problematic here, but it is surely one of the aspects of Anglican Polity that attempts to mimic Rome without being Romish, and which needs to be freed from it’s Englishness, as our name should be, so that our communion may rest on those things the Reformers often died for, and not rusty outdated and reified bureaucracies that have often left their reason for existence behind, and found their energy in money and power.

  12. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    “needs to be freed from it’s Englishness, as our name should be, so that our communion may rest on those things the Reformers often died for”
    Well, if you want to rest on those things the Reformers often died for, all the original churches are still there, in myriad form for the lutherans, the Calvinists, the Zwinglians and so on.
    Similarly if you really do believe that the Pope is infallible, you like the to me oppressive order of the RC church and its quirky infallible teachings like the assumption of Mary, then indeed you would want to cast of the Reformed aspects of Anglicanism and Pope.

    However, if like me, you think there is something dynamic and special in the Anglican mix of being Catholic AND Reformed, possessed of beautiful liturgy, psalmody, and hymnody, and with a vitality expressing itself in new forms through Alpha, New Wine and so on across a world-wide Communion, the third largest Christian denomination, you won’t be quite so ready to eject the baby with the bathwater. I do admit however, that there is a crisis of people [notably TEC and ACoC] flying off to a degree that they are becoming unrecognisable as Anglican, at the same time that we have a crisis of the center under Rowan Williams not holding. We will have to see what the coming week brings.

  13. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #2 “There is no need for a particular Englishman in a mitre to unify the communion”
    He is Welsh.

  14. justice1 says:

    Pageantmaster, I am reluctant to comment on your first paragraph as I am not clear on it.

    As for the second paragraph, I do think so. But I am not sure how my comments on Canterbury are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It seems clear enough that Anglicans all over the world (my own parish in Canada, for example) are able to live and breath in the world you describe with little to no reference to Canterbury as a unifying centre. I’m not saying ditch the office, or primacy, just it’s place as an instrument of communion. It seems to me that all you describe can be upheld to the glory of God by primates and bishops in communion, without one of them being a particularly special instrument chosen by English politicians and monarchs. Surely any chief among equals should be chosen by said equals.

    To my thinking, Lambeth, is a more biblical expression of our communion globally. Yet, the ABC, again chosen as he is, sends the invitations and sets the agenda. And from where I was sitting, the last Lambeth was a flop. A huge swath of bishops were not there, and the so-called Indaba groups…well, it was an expensive pomp, with no substance.

    Anyway, I am a frustrated priest, low church evangelical I admit, who finds it troubling that Article 26 moments of late in our communion (such as disciplining +Michael Ingham nearly a decade ago) have failed, as will the covenant no doubt, all for the reasons hiding in the above page of comments, and throughout this website. It is not the office of Canterbury that has caused the failure, I admit, but without a functioning way to insure the office holder cannot short circuit the rest of the communion as +++Rowan has (in my opinion), we are going to see more GAFCON and less Canterbury, and a future in which the majority of global Anglicans will not care or notice.

  15. justice1 says:

    Yes, he is Welsh (and I know how much the Welsh dislike being called English), a Welsh Druid at that. But my point had less to do with the current ABC’s native land, than the primacy he holds, which is, I think, English.

  16. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #14 I have some sympathy with the points you make.

  17. justice1 says:

    #16, ditto. And yes, it is embarrassing as you said in #2. I should be praying for these folks more. It’s easy to back seat drive.

  18. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    God bless you in your ministry justice1.

  19. Fr. J. says:

    [blockquote]”And here’s my two cents: any reorganization of the Communion that tries to remain in communion with Canterbury as a unifying centre will err colonially, just as to do so around a single man in the Vatican errs Romishly.”[/blockquote]

    Your comments seem to have stirred interest from different angles. The question of Canturbury’s historical claims is fascinating to me. It rests on the idea of the apostolic authority of Rome which created the English Church when the pope sent Augustine to England. Canterbury became the Primatial or principle sea of the English nation. If one holds to an apostolic understanding of ecclesiology (which was universal until about 1520) Canterbury makes sense for England, sort of. This reasoning fits with the Catholic wing of Anglicanism. But, it has little place in an evangelical concept of church, except as a residue of history. This, I take, is your perspective.

    I say “sort of” because the national primatial sees in Catholicism remain dependent on Rome. Rome has never named a primatial see in the United States. If it had though, that see would most likely be Baltimore. I cant think of any Catholic, even the most liberal, who would consider an American Catholic Church centered at Baltimore as having anything near an independent claim. Catholic ecclesiology has always understood Rome to be the universal see. So, the idea of an independent primatial Canterbury doesn’t make much sense from either a catholic nor an evangelical point of view, at least to my understanding.

  20. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #20 Hello Fr J
    I think it is a bit more complicated than that. There was of course a church here before St Augustine, linked through to the apostles including St Andrew, although Augustine was an important development for the future of the English Church. In terms of authority, England has always been a dual province, consisting of the Sees of York and Canterbury, and Canterbury has not always been preeminent in domestic affairs. Cardinal Wolsey was for instance, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor. Generally though Canterbury has been given precedence. There were long-running arguments about the role of Rome in England long before the Reformation, in much the same way as there were arguments between the bishops and the abbots.

    The Reformation did however settle these matters, as the 39 Articles declare “XXXVII …The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England. …” Similarly the bishops won, rather brutally, over the abbots.

    Really since the 19th Century and the start of the Lambeth Conferences, Canterbury has taken more of a central role. Initially the Archbishop of York boycotted the first Lambeth Conference rather than yield primacy to Canterbury and diminish his office – so a compromise on titles was worked out Now we have a whole host of resolutions on file telling us what a focus of unity the Archbishop of Canterbury is etc etc, mostly drafted by his office, and he does occupy the role domestically of “Primate of All England” leaving the ABY with his role as a Primate of England.

    We are an episcopally led church, both catholic and reformed, and both catholic and evangelical ends trace their lineage back to the apostles of the early church, but we are just not agreed on the primacy of the current bishop of Rome. Obviously he takes a different view of his status and role, and that has been one of the issues for ecumenical discussion over the last century or so.

    It is also worth remembering in terms of precedence and focus that HM the Queen remains the Supreme Governor of the Church of England under God, and that remains domestically the focus of our loyalty, with the ABC running third.

  21. Fr. J. says:


    Yes, I am aware of all of that.

    I was simply speaking to the question of Canterbury’s claims and its historical place within the CofE and by extension, the AC. Canterbury’s claim does in fact rest on an argument dependent on Rome.

    One can argue that English Christianity is not dependent on Rome because it antedates Augustine. Fine. But, one cannot argue for the centrality of Canterbury to the English church without reference to Rome and the ecclesiology that such connection implies.

    Also, while all Anglicans have an episcopal order, not all Anglicans share the theological perspective that undergirds such order. Evidence of this is found regularly in the comments here on T19 and at Stand Firm. Comment 2, as I read it, is an example of the evangelical position which has historically accepted episcopal order as a matter of compromise rather than of theological coherence.

  22. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #21 Thanks Fr J.
    Ah, but you have missed what I was saying – otherwise you would not have made your comment: “Canterbury’s claim does in fact rest on an argument dependent on Rome”. That is with respect a ‘Roman’ perspective. We are an apostolic church, but that is not dependant on the current occupant of the see of Rome; merely the historical descent from the early apostles, some of whom may include Rome. We no more depend on adopting a Roman Catholic view, than the Orthodox do.

    I can’t speak for #2, but suspect that what he is talking about is the biblical references to leadership in the church, and as you know, Anglicans are not required [again see the Articles] to believe that anything is necessary to salvation which is not found to have Scriptural Warrant. You may of course believe in such things [such as the assumption of Mary] but since it is not in the Bible itself, it is not to be “required” to be believed by us. As far as our episcopal orders go, all we require is a succession from the apostles for the consecration and laying on of hands, and that need not have been anywhere near Rome in the recent past, and if #2 is an Anglican, as he tells us he is, then he will also accept the validity of his bishop’s orders and consecration. He may however emphasise headship as it is found in the Bible, more than others.

    It is a mistake to try to define Anglicanism by Roman Catholic doctrine for us, because we simply don’t accept it, but that does not mean, by our own doctrine that we are not an episcopal, apostolic church, any more than the Orthodox regard themselves as such. To define one church in terms of the doctrine of another is, in philosophers’ terms a ‘category mistake’ and rendered meaningless. Apples and Oranges. You however do accept Roman categories and doctrine, which is why you are a Roman Catholic.

  23. Fr. J. says:

    22. No, I never made a connection between Canterbury and the present pope. My point is not doctrinal as such, but ecclesiological. This is getting a bit exhausting. But my point is that there is an implied ecclesiology in the claims of Canterbury. That ecclesiology is driven by the concepts of succession and apostolicity, which are not exactly the same thing.

    The concept of succession implies an inherent sense of authority, however one defines that authority. It also implies a sense of perduring ecclesial relationships through time and geography.

    In catholic theology, Apostolicity has two senses, a general and a quite specific. All bishops of historical churches claim apostolicity in the general sense. That is, they can trace their orders to one or another apostle. In that sense, all apostolic churches are apostolic, which seems a tautology, but it isn’t. The second sense of apostolicity refers specifically to succession from Rome.

    I suppose a third sense of apostolicity is Protestant–that anyone who shares the biblical faith is an apostolic Christian. But, this sense is not really relevant to the claims of Canterbury.

    As you said correctly, Canterbury was predated by an earlier evangelization (around 400ad, so two centuries prior to Augustine). So, chronologically there is no reason for Canterbury to have a claim over any of those earlier sees. However, over time the rest of the English Church did accept Canterbury a primatial (even if it is the difference between “of England” and “of All England.” What made for the Canterburian claim was that Augustine was sent by Rome, the Apostolic See. If he had simply been sent to England from Normandy by a local bishop there, his place in history would long since be forgotten.

    So, back to the dual irony of Canterbury. Canterbury’s claims are not justified among theological evangelicals by a claim of apostolicity. Canterbury’s claims among evangelicals is a matter of historical residue and political compromise.

    Canterbury’s claims are specifically grounded in catholic theological categories, apostolicity and succession. Ironically, the claim that there is in some sense a fealty due to Canterbury owed by other English Sees (however you define it) and by extension other churches of Anglican decent is impressively one sided. The claim is that fealty is owed to a see founded from the Apostolic See but it does not in turn owe fealty to the See which grounds its own claim, is indeed ironic.

    The claim that Anglicanism is both Catholic and Reformed makes perfect sense at first blush. A little from here and a little from there and stir it up. But, this politically forced compromise has not resulted in a theologically cohesive whole. The ironies in the claims of Canterbury is just one case among many.

    This of course leads me to the original point that the argument made in #2 is quite ironic, if made by an Anglican.

    BTW, my father who is Anglican evangelical would make the same point as #2, and we have discussed these ironies many times.

  24. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #22 Fr J.
    Yes, that is correct – English orders, including their bishops come in line from the apostles.
    Ecclesiology and validity of bishops
    You make the common mistake of assuming that there was any break in orders or episcopacy at the Reformation. There wasn’t – all of us have been very careful to ensure that the customs by which these have been passed on including the laying on of hands by those already validly ordained/consecrated continues.
    “Protestant Apostolicity”
    There is no such thing in the Church of England. You will find that evangelicals such as John Stott have always maintained their that they are catholic priests, and that includes both the apostolic succession and the correct procedures for ordination and consecration. We do have a few baptists and Calvinists in our church who might disagree, but that is what evangelicals maintain.
    Fealty in England
    Taking an oath of obedience to obey the doctrine of the CofE as it has received it and obedience to one’s bishop [and in the case of a bishop to one’s archbishop] does not equate to the medieval secular concept of fealty to one’s lord.
    Obedience is probably a better term. There is an oath taken to the Monarch in her capacity of Supreme Governor, but that is a reflection of her oath in turn to defend the religion of the Church of England and the Church taken at her coronation.
    The offices of our bishops and our archbishops and their relationships have not changed since the Reformation in their relationship to one another, save that it is clarified that the Bishop of Rome does not have jurisdiction here, which as I say was contested before the Reformation in any event.
    Fealty in the Communion
    Once again this is a category mistake. Since the founding of the Communion of Anglican Churches and in particular the Anglican Communion structures, there has never been any ‘fealty’ or overlordship of Canterbury. Among the Primates of the Communion, Canterbury is accorded a place of honor as primus inter pares, first among equals, and he is himself defined in the modern Communion as an ‘Instrument’, but this is no ecclesialogical overlordship or papacy. It is a practical and an institutional relationship. Just try telling the Primate of Canada, or the Primate of the West Indies that he owes fealty and obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and you will get fairly short shrift. They have taken no oaths to the ABC, and he has not participated in their consecrations. Again you are using modern Roman Catholic doctrine. These Primates do however descend in their ordinations and consecrations from the apostolic well from which they draw, and which we acknowledge in the creeds.

    So once again I say, to use the doctrine and internal understandings of the modern Roman Catholic church and to apply it to Anglican relationships is a category mistake. There is no such reliance on Rome or its claims. There is no inconsistency, because there is no jurisdiction for Rome, and thus claims of political compromise and theological incosistency do not make sense as you seek to apply them to structures which are not your own. It is a common mistake one regularly hears from some [usually ex Anglicans] on this site, but it does not become any more true in the repeating than the claim that “the Malvinas are Argentinas”.

  25. The_Elves says:

    I would however add that there is respect and affection here for the Bishop of Rome – not because of any RC doctrine or Roman claims, but arising out of a position he has earned with us as a teacher and a leader through his writings, scholarship and pastoral leadership as the servant of the servants of God. That is perhaps a greater title, given not taken, than any legal one some in the RC Church might assert.

  26. Fr. J. says:

    24. Once again you are ascribing all kinds of things to my “pen” that I did not write.
    [b]Break in Orders[/b]
    I have not written anything about a break in orders. That is disputed territory into which I have not waded. My point is only that at the institutional break with Rome there is an irony that Canterbury retains some sense of hierarchical superiority in the CofE while rejecting the claims of the see upon which Canterbury’s claims are founded.

    However Canterbury exercises its role, and whatever that role may be, that mere fact that it is Canterbury that exercises the role is ironic. This is because Canterbury’s role is predicated not on chronology but apostolic priority. It would not matter what Canterbury’s distinction was among other English sees, even if the only distinction were that he painted his toenails a slightly different hue, even that ever so slight distinction would still be based on a claim of apostolic priority inherent in Augustine’s mission having been sent by Rome.
    [b/]Protestant Apostolicity[/b]
    I was not saying that Anglicans as a whole rest their apostolicity on the Protestant model, merely that from an evangelical point of view, only the Protestant model is justifiable. Clearly all Anglicans de facto ascribe to a catholic sense of apostolicity, but there is a lack of theological ground for such from an evangelical methodology–the same methodology applied regularly in topics at Stand Firm and by many commentators here. And, that IS ironic.
    I did not say that whatever debt of honor Anglicans owe to bishops or primates is the same as medieval fealty. I used the term for lack of a better one. I explicitly wrote with regard to episcopal authority, “however one defines it.” For the irony lies not in the particular mechanics of the relationship between Canterbury and other sees, but that there is any distinction whatsoever.

  27. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #25 Hello again Fr J.
    Canterbury’s Authority
    “the claims of the see upon which Canterbury’s claims are founded.” Once again you make the category mistake that you seem unable to get over. Canterbury is a see in the Church of England. It has been before, at and since the reformation. It operates as the first see in the established Church of England and its authority is derived from God and English law particularly Ecclesiastical law for our Synodically governed church. Appointment to the see has been exercised by the Crown, even before the Reformation, and appointment is one of those parts remaining to the Royal Prerogative. The Bishop of Rome has no part of it: no power of appointment, no seniority, no source of authority which he delegates, and no authority whatsoever in this realm.

    “based on a claim of apostolic priority inherent in Augustine’s mission having been sent by Rome”
    Once again [see above] this is not the basis of Canterbury’s authority. Canterbury is a see independent of Rome, and is not dependant on it for authority, apostolic or otherwise.

    You might as well claim that the United States has no authority because it does not recognise the authority of the British Crown.

    Protestant Evangelicalism
    “from an evangelical point of view, only the Protestant model is justifiable”
    Just not the case at all. As I explained above evangelicals in the Church of England do not reject the authority of bishops, nor do they reject their apostolic basis. We are a creedal church and ascribe fully to the apostolic basis of the church set out in the creeds. It is really not fair to set up a straw man which evangelicals do not believe, solely for the purpose it seems of proving that they are not apostolic or creedal.

    The position of Canterbury is dependant on the constitution of the Church of England, nothing to do with Rome.

  28. Fr. J. says:

    26. With all due respect, the poverty of your theological training is showing, as well as an understanding of English church history.

    First, the CofE understands itself to be identical to the Catholic Church in England before the Reformation. That is why Canterbury is the principle see and none other. The basis of Canterbury’s claim and always has been the mission of Augustine. Yes, there is the crown and law, etc. But theologically speaking the CofE understands itself as the ongoing Catholic Church of England. The CofE claims a continuity with the church as it existed prior with some limited reforms put into the practice. That is, the crown did not make the CofE, and cannot unmake it. It’s existence is embedded in history and not something from thin air.

    Second, while there are plenty of evangelical Anglicans who accept the concept of apostolic succession, they do so as Anglicans but not as evangelicals. You seem to be unaware of evangelical theology apart from Anglicanism. I assure you, there is no such thing as an unalloyed evangelical who accepts apostolic succession.

    Now if you need evidence for Anglicans who dont hold what you claim is common to all Anglicans in regard to apostolic succession, you need only look here:

  29. Sarah says:

    RE: “With all due respect, the poverty of your theological training is showing, as well as an understanding of English church history.”

    ; > )

    No it’s not.

    RE: “You seem to be unaware of evangelical theology apart from Anglicanism. I assure you, there is no such thing as an unalloyed evangelical who accepts apostolic succession.”

    Actually, there’s no such thing as “an unalloyed evangelical” period, so your previous sentence is dull and void too.

    RE: “they do so as Anglicans but not as evangelicals. . . . ”

    Nope — they do so as both Anglicans and evangelicals, since again, there is no such thing as an evangelical without another tradition behind the evangelicalism.

    Good work, PM — but I think you’re debating a matter with someone who isn’t on the same playing field at all, in regards to Christianity so it really does no good other than demonstrate the poverty of his ideas to readers like me.

    Probably a waste of time, considering his biases.

  30. Sarah says:

    And what a lot of fun — I see that Fr. J. linked to a commenter who is not a member of any Anglican church at all.