by the Archbishop of Canterbury
[Wednesday, January 31, 2007]
In the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, and the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox for Theological Dialogue
Your All-Holiness, Your Eminences, dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
The dialogue between the Anglican and Orthodox families of churches is not a new thing. Only last year, we saw the publication of a fine collection of essays to mark the 300th anniversary of the short-lived but significant experiment of a ‘Greek College’ in Oxford; and the wide-ranging scholarship of the late Judith Pinnington gave us recently a comprehensive and quite challenging overview of some of the questions that had arisen for both ecclesial families in the course of their relationship over the centuries.
We have always had an instinct that at root, despite many superficial differences, our understandings of the Church of God have grown on the same soil. We have looked to the definitive moments of doctrinal history, in the early centuries of the Church, for our standards of faith and worship, recognising that the creeds and definitions of the Councils lay out for us a field large enough for the freedom of mind and spirit to flourish in the way God intends. We have striven to remain focused on these great central themes - of the revelation of the Threefold Godhead, and the inseparable yet distinct life of divinity and humanity in the one Person of the Eternal Son, in communion with whom through the Spirit we pray, act and love in the life of the Church.
In the last century especially, Anglicans have become more and more aware of the theological and spiritual resources of their brothers and sisters in the East; it is not too much to say that both the thinking and the piety of Anglicans would have been unrecognizably different without this growing and thankful awareness; and many of the ways in which we as Anglicans now seek a way forward for the unity and coherence of our own Communion have been shaped by the inspiration of the Christian East.
But in the last seventeen years, this instinct of common emphasis and purpose has been probed and tested at a new depth in the work of our International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue.
The Commission has not sought to negotiate an agreed position between rival views; it has begun from first principles, reflecting at length on the foundations of the Church in the triune life of God and the interpenetration of divine and human nature in the incarnate Son, and has advanced from there to offer a fresh perspective on the challenges that we face today - within the Church itself and in relation to the world that is hungry for words of life from us. It is a document that seeks unashamedly to lay out the foundation for proclaiming good news to our world: a bold and inviting vision of God’s will for his Church that is more than just the record of an ecumenical encounter.
It reflects many dimensions of our indebtedness to the Orthodox theological perspective; and you, Your All-Holiness, have yourself been a powerful spokesman in East and West for many of the themes that come into focus here. You have taught us, as no other global church leader has, the imperative significance of a moral and spiritual understanding of our material environment as the natural outworking of our faith and participation in the communion of the divine persons. You have witnessed to the difficult task of holding diverse Christian communities together in charity and right doctrine without the sanctions of centralised control. And in this connection we are all sharply aware of how your leadership and witness is exercised in local circumstances of real difficulty and constraint. We wish to assure you of our strong support for you and your fellow - Christians in Istanbul and our continuing gratitude for your courage and clarity as a voice in the Orthodox world and in the Christian world in general.
So it is with the warmest sentiments that we greet you on this historic occasion, as a welcome guest in Great Britain, a welcome guest of the Church of England, and a welcome guest in Lambeth Palace. We have seen, through the work of our Commission, a great harvest of God’s goodness to us all; and we pray that on these foundations we may continue to labour for that lasting and visible reconciliation between Christian believers that is Our Lord’s will, and to labour together to show Christ to the world –Christ who, to take the words of the Epiphany kontakion, has come, who is manifest, who is the Light Inaccessible.
+ Rowan Cantuar:
Reunion with East not beyond hope
The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury
at Westminster Abbey