Russian Orthodox Metropolitan’s grim letter to the new Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury

Here is the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion’s letter to the new Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury:

Dear Brother and Lord Bishop,
I would like to extend to you wholehearted congratulations on your election as Head of one of the oldest episcopal chairs founded by St. Augustine of Canterbury in the 7th century. [Problematic statement, that, since Anglican bishops aren’t really bishops at all … but let’s go on.]
You have been entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique [shrinking] union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ (Tit. 1:7) the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth (cf. Jn. 18:37).
The Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion are bonded by age-old friendly relations initiated in the 15th century. [! Indeed.] For centuries, our Churches would preserve good and truly brotherly relations encouraged both by frequent mutual visits and established theological dialogue and certainly by a spirit of respect and love which used to accompany the meetings of our hierarchs, clergy and ordinary believers [, and anti-papists].
[Watch this…] Regrettably, the late 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium have brought tangible difficulties in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The introduction female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops – all these innovations are seen by the Orthodox as deviations from the tradition of the Early Church, which increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole.
We hope that the voice of the Orthodox Church will be heard by the Church of England and Churches of the Anglican Communion, and good fraternal relationships between us will revive.
I wish you God’s help in your important work.
“May the God of love and peace be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11).
+Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

A little grim, but, hey… who can deny that Anglicans are going off the cliff?

Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

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  1. dmwallace says:

    Any ideas on the Orthodox world’s response to Leo XIII’s Apostolicae curae, which declared that attempted Anglican ordinations are “absolutely null and utterly void”? Does Metropolitan Hilarion hold that the “Archbishop” of Canterbury possesses valid holy Orders?

  2. No official statements were forthcoming from Orthodox Churches on the question of validity of Anglican Orders much before the Faith and Order Movements toward the end of the 19th centuries, and with the rapid growth of the High Church movement in Anglicanism. Then the position of recognitio on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate along with some other of the Churches seem to be favorably stated. However, as time went on and the Orthodox became more aware of the diversity of theology with the A C , the position shifted clearly to questioning that earlier position. For some time now Anglican clergy who enter the Orthodox Church and seek to become clergy must submit to ordination de novo, since there is now no question about the lack of grace in the ceremonies of the Episcopal groups.

  3. dominic1955 says:

    One of the unfortunate consequences of having a ill-defined conception of validity and liceity and playing ecclesiastical power politics. Even all the way back then, I cannot see how the Eastern Orthodox could have possibly thought the Anglicans were legit other than being ignorant of history and swallowing hook, line, and sinker the branch theory nonsense of the Anglo-Catholic party of the Church of England.

  4. anilwang says:


    The Orthodox aren’t as united in their understanding of the sacraments as Catholics. Some think non-abortificant contraception is okay for marriages, while others think even NFP is sinful. Some allow up to 3 remarriages, while others never remarriage (unless you’re an emperor). Some will rebaptise and remarry all Catholics and Anglicans while others will accept Catholic and priests (sometimes with Chrismation). Some allow Anglican Priests to keep an Orthodox modified version of the Anglican liturgy (i.e. Western Rite), while others think the Western Rite is an abomination and that Anglican Priests must use the “One True Byzantine liturgy with no ‘western corruptions'”.

    If the planned pan-Orthodox council ever happens, they’ll have a full agenda.

  5. RuralVirologist says:

    I can’t find a reference to the new Canterburian’s claims to apostolic succession, but I have read that a significant number of Anglican bishops have an Old Catholic or Orthodox bishop in their recent ancestry (what Fr Hunwicke calls the Dutch Touch). If a co-consecrating Old Catholic or Orthodox bishop does what the Church intends, and the form is fine as well (as has been claimed by some re the current form) than is it remotely possible that the Anglicans do have some real bishops, and that even Justin Welby could be a real bishop? Or is this still completely excluded?

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I believe the point here is that, although the Russian Orthodox have traditionally been totally okay with tsars appointing their bishops, they are not okay with bishops going totally off the Christian reservation. Of course, I could be wrong here, as studying Russian church history would undoubtedly be a degree in itself.

  7. Father K says:

    Unfortunately Pope Benedict’s letter to him never mentioned any of these issues but confined itself to what amounted to a weak handshake of congratulation.

  8. Simon_GNR says:

    RuralVirologist’s comments sum up the position on the validity of Anglican orders pretty well, I believe. Some Anglican priests and bishops have been validly ordained, but it is very difficult to determine who has and who hasn’t.
    It is my understanding that when the former Anglican Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, was ordained as a Catholic priest a few years ago, he was ordained conditionally. There was “prudent doubt” about his previous ordination in the Church of England, because at Leonard’s own consecration as bishop in 1964 a bishop of the Old Catholic Church had been among the bishops who consecrated him. Interestingly, Monsignor Leonard (as he later became) did not receive ordination as a Catholic deacon before being ordained priest as most ex-Anglican clergy who become Catholic priests do.

  9. RobertK says:
    Byzantine Texas has also covered this story. The Orthodox Churches as well as the Catholic Church have lately looked to the recently established ACNA (Anglican church of North America) for Anglican relations. The ACNA head, Archbishop Duncan, had given his blessing to the Ordinariates when they were announced.

  10. Pingback: Letter to Canterbury

  11. off2 says:

    Considering that His Eminence is a pretty sharp cookie, I would parse as follows –

    “Dear Brother {in Christ} and {Dear secular}Lord Bishop,
    I would like to extend to you wholehearted congratulations on your election as {***} Head {not Bishop***, but occupant ;>)} of one of the oldest episcopal chairs founded by St. Augustine of Canterbury {a bishop of the ancient undivided church} in the 7th century . [Problematic statement, that, since Anglican bishops aren’t really bishops at all … but let’s go on.]”

  12. phbrownacmorg says:

    off2, I also noticed that Metropolitan Hilarion never actually refers to Welby as a bishop, except in the arguably secular (and peculiarly English) phrase “Lord Bishop”. I can’t imagine why Hilarion would want to take a position on the validity of Anglican orders at the very outset of a relationship, so he’s being diplomatic and not really committing himself one way or the other. When Hilarion wants to be unambiguous—as he is later in the letter, warning Welby on ordinations of women and gay folk and blessings of same-sex relationships—he really doesn’t leave a lot of doubt about his position.

  13. Art says:

    An more detailed look into Anglican-Orthodox relations is here and worth a read:

    Maybe some Orthodox readers can comment on its accuracy.

  14. RobertK says:

    Any relationship with the Church of England is pointless and a waste of time. They will more than likely allow so called “Women Bishops”. And continue to promote secular ideologies. If we all hope that tomorrow they will do away with women clergy and gay clergy. Think again!. They are set in their ways and will not change. You can take all the Patriarchs and Pope to advise them, and it will fall on deaf ears. Any relationship will have to be with the Continuing Anglican Movement, like ACNA, etcc. We all just need to plain ignore the mainstream. They will never change!. It’s also ironic that Justin Welby says he has a Roman Catholic Monk to give him spiritual direction. What a waste of time for that Monk. Obviously the Monk is giving poor Catechesis or is just plain speaking to a brick wall. My Rant!.

  15. Fleeb says:

    Fitting that the Obamas make their yearly trip to the local Episcopal church…

  16. off2 says:

    Art, 7:34 pm , I’m not qualified to speak to the page you reference. In the early decades of the 20th century there were some anomalous situations with the Episcopalians and the Orthodox. I offer two anecdotal approaches that reflect the thinking (rather than the dogma) of the Orthodox Church.

    An Orthodox dean (OCA) told me, “We know where the Church is; we don’t know where it isn’t.” That allows for the possibility grace outside the Orthodox Church.

    An Orthodox lay woman recently posted, .
    She does not, of course, speak with authority for the Orthodox Church, but she reflects the way the Orthodox approach the questions.

    Lung theory –
    Anglicans accept three.
    Roman Catholics accept two.
    Orthodox accept one, mostly.

    Hope the above helps. Bill, an aging convert.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    As far as I know, the classic relevant document (prior to – and still, outside of – such things as the “introduction [of] female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops”) is ‘Saepius Officio’:

    The “introduction [of] female priesthood” is also a feature of parts of the ACNA and some of the Anglican Provinces involved in GAFCON.

    In this context, to adapt Robert’s words, “Any relationship will have to be with the Continuing Anglican Movement” in the strict sense.

    In a strictly Church of England context, the November issue of New Directions Magazine has some survey data variously worth pondering:

    Has any analogous survey been done among those for whom Archbishop Vincent Nichols is responsible? If so, it would be interesting to compare the results. If not, to conduct one to discover what differences there are.

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