Roger T Beckwith: The Limits of Anglican Diversity

The way the individual Orthodox churches have handled international disagreements between them is unfamiliar to Anglicans but well known to the Orthodox.7 The disagreements have often been concerned with rival jurisdictions, which might seem trivial compared with the doctrinal and ethical problems facing Anglicans. Nevertheless, the serious way the Orthodox have handled them is illuminating. Since the various Orthodox churches are independent of each other, irreconcilable disagreements between them have tended to result in excommunication, though this is not necessarily mutual. In 1870 Constantinople excommunicated the Church of Bulgaria for insisting on intruding a Bulgarian bishop into the territory of Constantinople, to minister to its own nationals. The two churches remained out of communion until 1945. Since the Oecumenical Patriarch is only a first among equals, however, his action did not exclude the Church of Bulgaria from the Orthodox Church, and the Church of Russia remained in communion with both contestants.8 In 1996-7 the Oecumenical Patriarch was himself excommunicated for a short time by Moscow for restoring the autocephalous Church of Estonia without Moscow’s consent. Obviously, excommunication is a very serious step to take, expressing not just difference of opinion but the gravest disapproval””a step which needs to be withdrawn as soon as it properly can be; but the experience of the Orthodox is that it does not destroy the church, and may sometimes bring about the necessary change of heart without a long delay.

If, therefore, after the latest Primates’ Meeting, following whatever time for reflection the Meeting has decided to allow, there has been no sign of repentance on the part of the Episcopal Church, and it seems that nothing short of excommunication can bring home to that Church the error of its ways, the individual Anglican churches should not hesitate to take this unprecedented step and the more of them that do so the better, as their action will not be irreversible. If there is disagreement within a province whether to take this step, some of its dioceses may want to take action individually, and
there does not seem to be any reason why they should not do so: in that case, the archbishop will be in the same position as any other diocesan bishop. Provision will obviously need to be made for those who are the victims rather than the culprits in the American tragedy, and determined efforts made to reunite all the scattered fragments of faithful American Anglicanism which exist outside as well as inside the Episcopal Church. It is a task which seems likely to require much patience and understanding, but in the changed situation might be achievable.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Primates, Instruments of Unity, Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007

7 comments on “Roger T Beckwith: The Limits of Anglican Diversity

  1. Crawford says:

    I appreciate Roger Beckwith’s comments, but I am concerned at his repeated reference to the American church — completely forgetting that this whole issue began here in Canada (with New Westminster) and continues with two of our dioceses that have just approved blessing same-sex civil marriages (with more to come). Roger refers to “scattered fragments of faithful American Anglicanism” — we Canadians are increasingly scattered and fragmented too. Global conservatives: please do not forget or abandon us orthodox Canadians at the same time that our church is also abandoning us.

  2. Larry Morse says:

    Well, now some one has proposed a plan of action. This is something we can do, afte all,. tht will rid us of the acne of TEC. Will we act, or just talk? LM

  3. Br_er Rabbit says:

    This [url=]16-page PDF file[/url] is an article from the first quarter 2003 issue of Churchman, a [url=]scholarly journal[/url] in production since 1879, published by [url=]Church Society[/url], which exists to keep the Church of England as a Reformed national Church.

    The Rev’d. Dr. Roger T. Beckwith is a scholar, professor, and retired clergyman of the Church of England who now serves as the President of [url=]California Graduate School of Theology[/url] in La Habra, California. He was formerly the Warden of Latimer House, which was founded in Oxford, England, during the 1960s. The work of Latimer House is continued by [url=]The Latimer Trust[/url], dedicated to providing biblical input and a considered response to significant issues within the Church of England.

    Dr. Beckwith is the editor or author of numerous publications, including [url=]Elders in Every City: The Origin and Role of the Ordained Ministry[/url], published in 2003.

  4. azusa says:

    # 4: his magnum opus is ‘The Canon of the NT Church’ and he has also written many scholarly articles on Qumran etc.

  5. Brien says:

    Roger’s writing and his teaching at conferences are always welcome, even to un-reconstructed Anglo-Catholics like myself. I first met Roger about twenty years ago, and his insights have been valuable to me. Readers may wish to take note that this is a 2003 essay.

  6. Br_er Rabbit says:

    I just went to Amazon and ordered his book Elders in Every City” for ten bucks.

  7. Ad Orientem says:

    A few quick observations on the subject of inter Orthodox conflicts might be in order. First some clarification on terms. Bishops do not generally “excommunicate” one another. Nor do Patriarchs excommunicate other Patriarchs or national Orthodox churches. What transpired in the examples above was breaking communion. Excommunication (on the rare occasions when it is pronounced formally, as opposed to self inflicted) is something done by a person in authority to someone under their authority. No Orthodox church has jurisdiction over another Orthodox church. Thus the most extreme form of response to improper actions on the part of a particular church normally is to sever communion.

    However this is not the same thing as excommunication. Those who are excommunicated are generally seen as being outside The Church. A lack of communion between bishops or churches does not make those subject to either side necessarily non-Orthodox unless the breach is in response to heresy. Thus the Radical Old Calendarists are in open schism from The Church. But they are not seen as heretics. Likewise during the period where the Russian Church Abroad was not in communion with much of the rest of the Orthodox world no one was seriously suggesting that they were not Orthodox or that their sacraments were void of grace. Those who are excommunicated are in a different category. An excommunicated cleric or bishop is generally considered to be deposed and their mysteries are not recognized. Persons excommunicated are truly outside The Church and sometimes need to be re-Chrismated in order for them to return. In some very extreme situations where a particular church is seen as having departed from the Orthodox Faith as opposed to violating church canons or some other discipline, some sort of church council may be required to condemn them for heresy. This is what transpired at the council of Constantinople in 1484 where all of the Orthodox Patriarchates condemned and anathematized the Roman Church for its additions to the Deposit of the Faith.