This is an email response I received from a friend with whom I usually correspond with. I usually find this man's opinion on particular issues, insightful and thought-provoking, and so I just wanted to share it with you all:
In the airplane back to [..x..], I was blessed-cursed (I'm not sure yet) with an impossibility to sleep and I read thru the complete "special edition" of St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly dedicated to fr. Sergius Bulgakov. Very interresting were the articles concerning his ecumenical activity and radicalism.
In the early and mid 20-ieth century there was a long standing, dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox at St. Sergius and St. Alban's Institute (founded by both Orthodox and Anglicans for this purpose). After long years of discussing differences, they had reached a stalemate. All doctrinal issues had been dealt with, a certain, essential, doctrinal unity had been accomplished, but nothing beyond that happened. It remained but a dialogue,.. mere words,.. Reunion simply wasn't happening.
Than Fr. Sergius delivered a speach wherein he suggested a very radical proposal. "Limited, and partial intercommunion between the Anglicans and Orthodox members of the Fellowship of St. Sergius and St. Alban's.":
"Our common prayer at these conferences is a revelation - we are people who have been separated from each other for ages, praying together. We are called by God to be together. It is spiritually dangerous to continue forever in mere discussion of differences. We have been led up to the high wall of partition and we cannot continue to stare at it. Having come to this point we face a personal responsibility for the work of reunion. We must do what we can in the present historical conditions... God calls us to action here and now."
Fr. Bulgakov prophetically saw that "mere talk" would wreck havock on ecumenical activity. And indeed, the poor state that ecumenism is in today, including the interOrthodox dialogue's impasse is a result of too much talk and too little action.
The action Fr. Bulgakov suggested was twofold. It is a twofold reaction to a Divine call to unity. Fr. Bulgakov correctly perceived that the "spiritual unity" that allowed common prayer between the Anglicans and Orthodox members of the Fellowship of St. Sergius and St. Alban was gift form God and at the same time a taskÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š to be performed equally given by God. God revealed this oneness and he demanded a human response.
This respons would sidestep certain canons of both Churches. First because the ancient canons were drawn up for heresies such as gnosticism, [Nestorianism], monophysitism, Arianism, etc. Heresies concerning the fundamentals of the Incarnation, Trinity, Salvation, separate one from the Life of the Church and prayer with such an heretic is excluded since there is no common life of the spirit, whose active expression prayer is.
Having established that neither the Anglicans at the Fellowship, nor the Orthodox are guilty of such heresies, these canons no longer function to regulate Church life at this point. Remember that canons are NOT infallible teachings of the Church, but simply practical rules to regulate Church-life. It is in their nature that they MUST change as time progresses and Church-life continues to develop thru the ages. They have here become unnecessarily obstructive of further life in the Spirit and spirit. A new situation arises in spiritual and historical consciousness, an awareness revealed by God demanding a human response.
The twofold response would be:
- the local Bishops of both Churches must allow for limited and regulated intercommunion.
- there is to be an exchange of "sacramental blessings" where Bishops of both Churches could even "lay on hands" in recognition of each others full sacramentality, though it does NOT constitute reordination of any sort.
This, to Bulgakov, was the next step to be taken in the spiritual and doctrinal life that they allready shared. Not to take this step would be "spiritually dangerous" because it would be the wrong response top God's invitation to unity. The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is about to enter a new stage of realization, the unity of worship in Spirit and Truth is about to be given practical shape. But,.. as history shows,.. The edenic fall was repeated. The snake once again was given preference over God. Paradise is still lost, and sin is still perpetuated. The schism exists still,.. The results are clearly seen in Anglicanism today, and even Orthodoxy is suffering the sins of this fall. To point at the other is to mimic the edenic fall even more,..
Now the Anglicans of today are by no means the Anglicans of so many years ago. But the situation that occured ath St. Sergius and St. Alban's Fellowship is even more true of the inter-Orthodox dialogue. For us to continue "mere talk" and not "walk the walk" is spiritually dangerous. The time has come that local bishops use their God-given canonical authority and that intercommunion be established on the grassroots level where possible. This way our brokenness ( a burden and "original ecclesial sin" weighing on the both of us, EO and OO) will be allowed to form "crusts" under whose protection by Local Bishops/Synods, the healing of the schism be realized so that in the near future a Holy and Pan-Orthodox Synod may establish new, contemporary, canons of full unity and oneness of ecclesial life.
The "Agreed Statements" [referring to those here: http://orthodoxunity.org/statements.html
], I believe, constitute enough "doctrinal gound" to speak of "essential, doctrinal, union. To NOT unite, and to continue "mere discussion of differences" is a sin. It is a slap in the blessed face of Christ our Lord, another strike of the cruel whip on His back, another hammer-blow on the nails in His blessed hands and feet. It is also a staring at the grave, and a lingering in Jerusalem, mourning the dead Jesus, in defiance of the message of the womand and the angels that Jesus has risen and a new, wholesome life in Him in His Spirit is awaiting those who travel to Galilee, to the Pentecost, to the Spirit who baptizes us into One Body. Anti-ecumenism is a heresy. A heresy of Church-life, it is the heresy of disobedience, the heresy of Eden.