This week, Archbishop Foley Beach, at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill of Russia, led a delegation from the Anglican Church in North America to Moscow for formal ecumenical meetings with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The delegation made a pilgrimage to the monastery of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius on Monday, August 24th before beginning meetings with Metropolitan Hilarion , chairman of the Department for External Church Relations on Tuesday, August 25th. Later in the day, the conversations continued when the delegation was officially received by Patriarch Kirill at his residence.
Patriarch Kirill gave thanks for the Anglican Church in North America’s courageous witness in the midst of the dual challenges of an increasingly secular western culture, and an environment of religious compromise:
“Your church went through a very difficult period of its history, and the faithful took courage and had the ability to respond to a great temptation. There are two models of the behavior of the Church and of Christians. One involves obedience to the secular power and the powerful forces that have an impact on social development. The other model involves the ability to speak the truth and to remain faithful to the Christian message.”
During the communist era, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered decades of severe persecution. This week the Anglican delegation saw a transformed religious landscape in which Christian symbols now dominate Red Square and Moscow, and new churches are being planted across the country (on average 1,000 per year for the last 27 years).
Both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church in North America expressed a desire to see the growth and deepening of relationships between Orthodoxy and faithful, global Anglicanism. Archbishop Beach delivered a letter of greeting from Archbishop Wabukala, the Archbishop and Primate of Kenya, and Chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON).
As the realignment of Anglicanism continues to unfold, Archbishop Beach gave thanks for the common ground that the faithful of both churches are finding on the practical moral issues that confront our societies:
“Globalization has increased the effect that we have on one another, and at a time when the family is being threatened by forces that would seek to redefine marriage, normalize sexual compromise, and fund the slaughter of unborn children, it is an encouragement to have a strong and unwavering partner in the Russian Orthodox Church on these issues.”
The relationship between Anglicans and Orthodoxy has a rich history dating back to the English Reformation where the recovery of the biblical Gospel was accompanied by a recognition of the common Patristic heritage the two churches share. Cranmer incorporated an Eastern Orthodox prayer, called the epiclesis, into his 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, which eventually made its way into the American prayer book. The mutual affection between Anglicans and Russian Orthodoxy has had a variety of expressions over the centuries, from Bishop Grafton and Patriarch Tikhon to Archbishop Ramsey and Patriarch Alexei.
The armed conflicts of the 20th century and the liberal theological innovations of some Anglicans in the early 21st century have hindered the relationship between the churches, but this meeting constituted an important step toward a new era of ecumenism between Anglicanism and Russian Orthodoxy.
The delegation from the Anglican Church in North America was headed by Archbishop Foley Beach, Bishop Ray Sutton (Dean of Ecumenical Affairs), Bishop Kevin Allen (Chair of the North American Anglican – Orthodox dialogue), Bishop Keith Ackerman, Dr. Moheb Ghali, and The Rev. Canon Andrew Gross.
They were also joined by Fr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York and a member of the North American Anglican-Orthodox dialogue.
In addition to the official meeting, the delegation visited the Donskoy Monastery, the Church of St. Catherine, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and worshiped at the church of The Joy of All Who Sorrow.