I understand your objections entirely. I was myself in near exactly the same position about two years ago, being a broad-high church Episcopalian with a strong foundation in Hooker. The exclusivity claims were at the time my strongest objection to becoming Orthodox. It's hard to explain how exactly I overcame these objections, as there were a number of personal and spiritual factors in getting from point (A) to point (B) that quite overshadowed the rational objections. I suspect being in a strong liberal Episcopalian diocese with absolutely no dissenting parishes contributed a little.
Yes. The last time I seriously looked into Orthodoxy was in about 2004 when living in New Jersey. I also, of course, thought seriously about the RCC during those years, as I had done for a long time previously. Since moving to Northern Indiana I find remaining Episcopalian much easier, although I remain concerned about the big picture.
The problem here is that the Roman ecclesiology you speak of is indeed post Vatican II.
In its developed form, yes. But as I said, it is rooted in the ancient affirmation of the validity of schismatic baptisms. That is not a modern position, and it is one I would like to see the Orthodox affirm unequivocally. If there is one doctrinal issue between East and West on which I think the West really is correct, it would be this one.
I would have to suspect pretty much any teaching coming from this council (more so than I already suspect Roman councils) given the fruits that VII has shown so far.
Why are you so sure that Vatican II itself is to blame? Aren't you jumping too quickly to this conclusion? If, as the Orthodox say and as I believe, the West has been dominated for a long time by a rather distorted understanding of what orthodox Christianity is, and if the RCC in particular has tended to overemphasize juridical authority and hierarchical control, then it follows that a loosening of the reins would have the immediate result that people would fall into a lot of deplorable errors. It seems rather hasty to blame Vatican II itself unless you can point to specific teachings of that Council that you believe to be a movement in the wrong direction vis-a-vis previous RC teaching.
This hostile attitude to Vatican II is probably one of the main things that divides me from converts to Orthodoxy, especially ex-Anglicans. I am thoroughly convinced of the basic validity of "ressourcement" Catholicism as found in theologians such as Henri de Lubac, Louis Bouyer, Jean Danielou, etc. (I would put the Orthodox theologian Olivier Clement in essentially the same theological camp--I find Clement's account of the Papacy entirely convincing.) The problem is that in many ways the reality described by these theologians corresponds much better to Orthodoxy than to Latin Catholicism. Post-Vatican-II Catholicism in its most official manifestations--the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for instance--shows the strong influence of Eastern Christianity.
I understand that much of the objection to post-Vatican-II Catholicism focuses on liturgy. But there again, the problem goes back arguably to the sixth century when the traditional Roman Rite took shape. According to Aidan Nichols (in _Rome and the Eastern Churches_), the Latin Rite was from the beginning written in a classicizing Latin largely inaccessible to the common people--it reflected the takeover of the Western Church by the Roman aristocracy. The Byzantine Rite, from the other hand, developed organically out of a liturgy that was deeply participatory. Thus, while the traditional Latin Mass may superficially seem very similar to the Byzantine liturgy, in my experience the two are radically different. (Admittedly, not having lived before Vatican II, I'm basing my judgment of the TLM on two Low Masses I've attended, one SSPX and one indult. I'm sure a High Mass would be somewhat different--but again, the very existence of the "Low Mass" is a Western distinctive.)
I can only reiterate that agnosticism is actually a sensible position regarding other Christians, we can only know that Grace operates within our Church and in our Sacraments.
If Rome was right against Cyprian about the unrepeatability of schismatic baptism, then given what orthodox Christians have always believed about baptism we may have grounds to know a good deal more than that.
I've never quite understood why this wasn't an issue in the early Church, given that Rome clearly differed with Cyprian on this point in the 3rd century, and it's the sort of thing you'd think someone would have made a fight about on one side or the other if the East similarly differed from Rome that early on something this important. I have to wonder whether the "Cyprianic" position of the Eastern Church is genuinely ancient--but I'd have to do further research on the subject.
But either way, the Western distinctives were not originally rejections of the ancient Faith. The Filioque is an excellent case in point. It was added in the context of Western Trinitarian heresy, and Western Christians were genuinely surprised to find that it wasn't used in the East.
is not quite so excellent a point. The East and West lived alongside each other for several centuries with the understanding that the filioque
was merely a "local practice", and that the official creed was still that of Nicene-Constantinople. The Pope even went so far as to put the Creed on display outside his own church in Greek and Latin without the filioque. When things finally came to a head in 1054 it was the Papal Legates that excommunicated the East for not having it.[/QUOTE]
Indeed. And that's my point. The West genuinely thought that this was the ancient position of the Church. The problem was cultural estrangement.
The issue between East and West has always been more about Papal Supremacy than the Filioque, the latter being but a symptom of the infection of the former.
That makes absolutely no sense. The Filioque originated in Spain and was resisted by the Papacy.
"Papal Supremacy" is a complicated issue. I agree with the Orthodox that the way the Papacy has been exercised in the past millennium is disordered, and that many of the standard RC apologetic claims against the Orthodox betray a juridical approach to ecclesiology that is at odds with the Tradition. However, at the same time it has to be noted that there is no dogma called "Papal Supremacy"--that's a polemical catch-all term used by the Orthodox (and many Anglicans). The closest one could come to it is the concept of "plenitudo potestatis," which is unfortunately reaffirmed in the CCC, and/or the claim of "ordinary, direct jurisdiction" made at Vatican I.
The problem I have is that the choice in practice is between a disordered Papacy and no papacy at all. And I'm just as certain that the Petrine ministry of Rome is an integral part of the right ordering of the Church as I am that the way Rome has exercised this ministry has become deeply disordered. Insofar as I have an excuse for remaining Anglican, that is it!
Well, I don't want to bring specific denominations into this, the Episcopalians might be one of the more noticeable but certainly not the worst.
I said "one of the worst."
John Shelby Spong is about as bad as you get. . . .
Going in the complete opposite direction you have pretty much every other denomination falling to Montanism and Donatism.
I don't think the choices are that stark at all. Most evangelicals recognize the problems with Donatism, though in practice they often wind up practicing a kind of Donatism because of their weak ecclesiology and the realities of American Protestantism. I frankly find your injunction to "flee to the ACNA" to be a form of Donatism. . . .
As to your denomination specifically, the Episcopalians have reached a point where finding anything remotely "Christian" is becoming more and more difficult every day.
I have never found it difficult, even when I lived in New Jersey.
Either your experience is radically different from mine, or you are working with a much more draconian definition of "remotely Christian" than I am.
Even one of the more radical churches near me in the Diocese of Newark (I lived practically on the diiocesan border, and attended church in the Diocese of New Jersey, which is more middle-of-the-road by Episcopalian standards), which did not use the Nicene Creed, replaced it with a statement saying "Jesus is Lord and we are God's people." That's vague and implicitly unorthodox (inasmuch as this substituted for the Creed), but certainly more than "remotely" Christian!
I can point to one or two dioceses which remain (and yet there are even parishes in those dioceses that have fallen) where inter-faith gatherings, gender-neutral "Our Father"s, and rewriting of the Creed to absolutely no recognizable form aren't common place occurrences.
I am not sure what you mean by "absolutely no recognizable form." I haven't experienced this myself. A gender-neutral Our Father is certainly at least remotely Christian! And "interfaith gatherings" can mean a lot of things. It seems to me that a lot of conservative ex-Anglicans use the phrase "not remotely Christian" to mean what I'd call "clearly Christian but of dubious orthodoxy at best."
If you wish to remain Anglican, flee, flee I say, to the ACNA (because at this point not being recognized by Canterbury is a good thing.
I find that to be very odd advice, though unfortunately I've heard it before. The reason I remain Anglican is that I do not wish to go into schism from the body of Christians with whom I am presently associated. Why on earth would I or anyone else leave that body to join yet another sect of Protestant schismatics, which is essentially what the ACNA are at this point (well, minus the three or four dioceses that came over from the Episcopal Church as geographical entities--if I lived in those parts of the country, I'd happily be ACNA)?
I don't care about being Anglican per se. I care about the unity of the Church defined as the whole company of the baptized. And that is my basic point of difference with Orthodoxy. This conversation over the past few days has clarified that point for me.
Would that were true. Unfortunately, every time the Orthodox Church allows some leniency in this regard you have band of non-Orthodox more than willing to take it the wrong way. Not to pick on the Episcopalians, but St Raphael (Haweeny) looked into the possibility of Orthodox Christians who had no nearby parish to attend Episcopalian services and next thing you know there were Episcopalian priests announcing to one and all that the Orthodox and Anglicans were in full communion and telling Orthodox Christians there was no need to travel that extra mile to their Orthodox parish because the Episcopal Church was just as good, Bishop Raphael said so.
That's a valid point. "I'm-as-good-as-you" is the worm in the apple of Anglo-Catholicism. . . . if Anglo-Catholicism had been willing from the beginning to take a humble and penitential attitude to churches of more undoubted orthodoxy and apostolicity, the story might have been very different. Unfortunately, Anglo-Catholics have from the beginning played a shell game of trying to persuade RCs and Orthodox (mostly Orthodox because RCs knew better) that they (the Anglo-Catholics) spoke for Anglicans as a whole. And non-Anglo-Catholic Anglicans, who don't actually accept the teachings of the "undivided Church," have been happy to piggyback on those claims of Catholicity. Never mind the fact that many folks (including very conservative ones) claim to be Anglo-Catholic while in fact rejecting basic parts of the "undivided Church" package. (The wife of one "Continuing Anglican" archbishop told me confidently that her particular jurisdiction rejected the practice of asking for the prayers of the Theotokos--and this group has the word "Catholic" in its name!) I've been guilty of this too--I've used Anglicanism as a place to work out my remaining issues with pre-Reformation Christianity, while claiming basically to adhere to it.
When Sts Priscilla and Aquila came across St Apollos preaching the Christian faith in Ephesus they did not rebuke him for it. They took him aside and instructed him in the fullness of the faith, and he accepted the teachings. When St Paul came across a few of Apollos' earlier converts he baptized them into the Church (though they had already had the Baptism of St John the Forerunner) and instructed them about the Holy Spirit. In neither case did the saints come across someone and say "Oh, well, all is fine. Continue as you did before." This is the position of the Orthodox Church.
I have no problem with what you say here. I think Metropolitan Jonah's address to the ACNA convention was marvelous--it was an excellent example of what I meant when I said earlier that the Orthodox can be "of great use to us."
Please, don't confuse forum policy as any sort of official teaching by the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox Churches. The fact is this board was founded by both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians and the policy reflects this fact.
I can see that. I imagine that if Orthodox and Eastern Catholics were to found a board together, the tone might be rather different toward the Roman Communion.
So are you denying altogether that the majority of Orthodox take a much more lenient view toward the OOs than toward Western Christians?