(This is Neil) A few days ago, Fr George Westhaver conducted an interview of Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia for the Prayer Book Societies at Lambeth 2008 website. The Orthodox archbishop was present at the Anglican Lambeth Conference as an observer, because, as he said, “I think of the words of St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, when one member of the body suffers, all the other members suffer with it; when one member rejoices, all the other members rejoice.”
I’d like to post a few interesting excerpts from the interview, since I think that many of our readers will have missed it.
First, the Metropolitan confirms something that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said at an earlier press conference, “In the conversations I have had with a wide variety of people among our ecumenical friends, the same message has come through – from a commissioner of the Salvation Army to a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. These are everyone’s issues.”
Metropolitan Ware told his Anglican interviewer that, yes, we do seem to be in the same boat:
I will go a further step and say that the questions that you are considering are also questions that are of concern to us. And if they are not particularly on our immediate agenda now, yet they are questions that we will need to consider increasingly in the future. So, yes, you have much here to discuss as Anglicans – specifically Anglican problems. But I see them also as questions that are posed to us Orthodox. For example, the question of women priests and bishops. Most Orthodox would say, we should not ordain women. But if you ask them why not, they will say that it has never been done; they will appeal to tradition. But you press them a little farther, and say that there must be a reason why women have never been ordained as priests. The argument from tradition merely tells you that they have never been ordained as priests, but it does not tell you why. Surely there must be some theological reason. On the one hand, the Orthodox are certain and clear in their answer. Most of us would say, no, we could not ever ordain women. Yet others would say, it is for us essentially an open question. We are not proposing to do so in the near future, but we need to reflect more deeply on it. If all we say is, “impossible, never,” we perhaps should ask ourselves, what are the implications for our understanding of human nature , of the difference between male and female, for our understanding of the priesthood and the relationship of the priest to Christ. That is an example of how your questions are perhaps to some extent also our questions.
Then again the issue that is coming up very much here at Lambeth: the possibility of blessing homosexual relationships. The Orthodox Church would answer, no, this cannot be done – that sexuality is a gift from God, to be used within marriage, and by marriage we mean the union of one man and one woman. But it’s quite clear in the modern world – and the Orthodox also belong to the modern world – that the whole issue of the meaning of human sexuality is going to be more and more explored. And if we are to interpret this traditional teaching to our people, we need to reflect deeply on the basic principles.
So in those two ways I could say, your questions are also our questions; your concerns we also share.
The Metropolitan on the bonds of communion:
I’ve spoken about the need for catholic consensus on issues like the ordination of women or the blessing of homosexual relations. These are departures from Church order and from accepted moral teaching of major importance, and therefore there ought to be some consensus not just within the Anglican Communion but with the other Churches, especially those that preserve the historic apostolic faith and order, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. That is one side of the matter, the need for consensus. But then we might also say, should there not also be the possibility for a prophetic action? Will you ever have change unless some people are willing to stand up and say, this is what we ought to be doing? And even if their testimony is highly controversial, who will nonetheless stand by their position. It could be argued that perhaps the Anglican Communion was guided by the Holy Spirit to lead other Christians into new paths. Now I can see that as a valid argument and I want to balance that against the point that we need to act with catholic consensus. How can we do both these things together – preserve catholic consensus, and yet allow grace for freedom in the Holy Spirit? Christ did not tell us that nothing should never be done for the first time. The whole witness of the early Church points in a different direction. So how do you balance these two things – the need for consensus with the need for freedom in the Spirit, the need for loyalty to holy tradition, with the need to be open to new initiatives? And I think this is at the heart of a great deal of what we are talking about here in Canterbury at this Lambeth Conference.
And, finally, the Metropolitan on an Anglican liturgy he attended a few years ago at Canterbury Cathedral, celebrated according to the 1662 Prayer Book:
But what struck me as very strange was to end the Eucharistic prayer with the narrative of institution, and then have Communion, and then say the Lord’s Prayer, which in all the historic liturgies goes before Communion (but I think I’m right in saying that in 1662 it comes before Communion). I found that very, very strange. I think that all the revisions of the Anglican rite have seen the need to have some further prayer after the narrative of institution. I don’t demand that it should be exactly the same as the Byzantine epiclesis. I hope that the action of the Spirit would be emphasized, in a way it is not in the Roman rite, the so-called Tridentine rite, or in the 1662 rite. If you have an invocation of the Spirit before the words of institution, that would still be all right in my view – you judge everything by the spirit of the total rite. But you need some prayer after the institution and before the Communion. To have the prayer without that I found very strange.