Anglicans, Oriental Orthodox prepare for theological breakthrough

By ACNS staff
Posted Aug 11, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Senior theologians in the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox churches are to confirm an agreement on their understanding of Christ’s Incarnation.

The co-chairs and co-secretaries of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission who met near Beirut, Lebanon last week reviewed responses to the 2002 Agreed Statement on Christology, which had been sent to the churches of the two church families for consideration.

The statement considered the question of how the two natures, human and divine, were united in one human being: Jesus Christ.

Noting overwhelming approval for the agreement from both sides, the steering committee considered minor adjustments and will prepare a Preamble for consideration by the Commission.

His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Rt Rev. Geoffrey Rowell of the Church of England, Archbishop Nareg Alemazian of the Armenian Orthodox Church were joined by the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director for unity, faith and order for the Anglican Communion, who said, “Such an agreement on the fundamental theological question about the Incarnation marks a breakthrough in over 1600 years of division.

“It is a blessing that the churches can proclaim together in such a time as this the great good news that God in Christ became human in order to enter into and save our world.”

Barnett-Cowan said that throughout the meeting the group was conscious of the violence breaking out in so many places in the Middle East.

“Anglicans and Oriental Orthodox alike, together with Christians worldwide, are united in prayer for the peace of God to come again to the region.”

The committee was received by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Cilicia, who expressed gratitude for work which brings Christians together in solidarity.

The Anglican members were also received by His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, who was at his summer residence in Beirut.

“There we heard more about the suffering of so many people in Syria and Iraq,” said Barnett-Cowan, “and of the need for Christians and people of good will to assist with relief efforts, but also to encourage the powers of the world to ensure security.

“The Patriarchs of local churches issued a joint statement on August 7 about the situation, and Anglicans everywhere are encouraged to read it and take action as they are able.”

This statement, together with a statement of Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem from July 23, are available here and here.

The next full meeting of the Commission will take place in Cairo October 13-17, 2014.


Comments (19)

  1. I’m so glad that Mary said yes to God before there was an agreed-to Doctrine of the Incarnation.

    1. Grace Cangialosi says:

      Hear, hear!

    2. Grace Cangialosi says:

      But it’s always been easier to talk about religion and develop dogma and doctrine than to actually live the Gospel…

  2. Chris Epting says:

    Sigh…how sad that we think a theological breakthrough has been achieved when 21st century theologians find convergence on 4th century categories no one finds adequate, or even meaningful, anymore.

  3. Randall Warren says:

    I find the fourth century categories very meaningful. In fact, I led a group in my parish through the Council of Chalcedon statement on the two natures as found in the historical documents of the BCP. People told me it was hard, but also really interesting and emotionally touching. Our ancestors were trying to say really important things about all that God has done to be with us and to have us be with God. We don’t teach that enough to our people. If the Anglican/Oriental Orthodox group has found a way to connect with that passion while recognizing that the two groups share in that passion, I think that’s a good thing.

  4. Jan Rudinoff says:

    It is beyond comprehension that we in the 21st Century are discussing this and not reinterpreting the entire understanding of our “Christology/theology using the knowledge of science and scholarship available today. It is embarrassing!

  5. Jessica Rose says:

    1600 Years is a long time there is so much suffering and poverty all over the world and war in the Middle East only so much we can do in the world to help those who are hurting

  6. Harry W Shipps says:

    On the contrary, I think it is good news. On SCER I worked with the Armenians. They are delightful Christians and are so grateful to us. Granted ancient theological disputes seem remote, that is nevertheless where they are.
    Harry W Shipps

  7. Susan Russell says:

    Let me know when they figure out the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin-thing!

  8. Ian Montgomery says:

    I agree with Bishop Shipps. I rejoice that we — Anglicans — have agreed and continue a dialogue about something — anything — with dis-enfranchised Christians on the other side of the world. With respect, I suggest to my sisters (and Bishop Epting), above, that we should not be glib or smug when dealing with REAL ecumenical theological breakthroughs while our government is complicit (directly or indirectly) in the support (arms to Quatar who funds ISIS) in the death and maiming of Christians in the East.

  9. Davis Dassori says:

    While I agree with and applaud Dr. Kaeton’s comment, I think that as Anglicans we should be wary of belittling the concerns of others. Obviously the Oriental Orthodox, and indeed many Anglicans, find such historical categories meaningful and, as a framework for reflection, adequate. The distinctive Anglican approach to theology, which we’re pleased to think of as “practical.” leads us to emphasize other concerns; but that we prefer it shouldn’t blind us to the fact that some other traditions, falling into a similar trap of their own, see it as sloppy and even beside the point.

    Let’s hope that the present agreement bespeaks at least a recognition that the theoretical and the practical aren’t mutually exclusive.

    1. Thomas Bushnell, BSG says:

      I think Kaeton’s comment was simply a lighter hearted, but equally offensive, version of Russell’s mockery.

      I get it, peeps, caring about dogmatic theology isn’t your thing. But is it really necessary to mock the successes of others?

    2. Davis Dassori says:

      This is a content-free test of whether a Reply is individual or public.

  10. Thomas Bushnell, BSG says:

    Susan, do you have useful comments to make? Or is theology just too hard?

  11. cory dupont says:

    If this dialogue and subsequent agreement serve the singular purpose of leading Anglicans into the Orthodox faith, into the Church, and out of that Erastian farce, the “Church” of England (the “church” of Parliament, really), then great. If, however, it serves to further delude them (i.e. Anglicans) in believing that they are now or ever were in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” Church, while their bishops and priests consecrate women “bishops,” officiate gay “marriages,” and ordain indulgent homosexuals to the presbyterate, then shame on the Orientals for their utter lack of backbone and moral discretion. Anglicanism has one option: leave behind the “church” that was founded upon the family values of Henry VIII and enter the House of the Lord for the first time since!

  12. Jesse Sierke says:

    The ivory towers behind which many hide today in order to take pot shots at ideas which they did not originate are generally not those of academia, which has embraced and innovated peer-oriented knowledge sharing to a laudable degree. They are the “towers” of personal computers, which enable anyone to use open public discussion about serious issues as a means to vent our personal frustrations. We don’t like it when people in power do it. Why is it acceptable to do it in a crowd? During the Occupy Movement, protesters started getting tired of having their causes railroaded by loud people with personal axes to grind that weren’t related to the common good. The crowds of protesters, as groups, found the will and means to prevent such railroading while still allowing everyone a chance to be heard. People still vented their frustrations, yet at the end of the day, groups were able to come to consensus about what to do and take meaningful action. That’s just the kind of response I believe would be most helpful on the issue of finding the right balance of peace and justice for all in Syria and Iraq, especially as it pertains to our Christian brethren and all those finding themselves disenfranchised and oppressed by religious extremism coupled with tribal warfare. Here is what I’m taking away from what is going on between Anglicans and the Oriental Orthodox Church: they (the Oriental churches) are crying out for help, both on the physical and theological planes. We (the Anglicans), in turn, could really use their spiritual help, too. They have unbroken apostolic connections to the people who broke bread with Jesus Christ. We have received Christ through a succession of cultural and linguistic filters that have the tendency to water down the message, yet we somehow believe ourselves to be morally and theologically superior to the rest of the world because our Christianity is “Rated G”. Let’s do whatever we can to keep this door open. Lord only knows when we’ll come knocking, asking for sanctuary.

  13. The Rev'd Dr. Andy Anderson says:

    Thanks to Harry Shipps and Ian Montgomery for their balanced and respectful insight on healing divisions and helping us move towards “being one” as Christ prayed earnestly. Certainly, there are many, many important matters for us to address as God’s people charged with bringing blessing, peace and healing to a broken world, but this is one step in the right direction. Our Oriental Orthodox brothers and sisters have a beautiful and faithful tradition….I was blessed to spend my sabbatical a few years ago in Armenia and met with Armenian Orthodox Church officials…if ever in Jerusalem, I highly recommend services at St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter. The Armenian story of faith is remarkable…we should all know it.

  14. Alda Morgan says:

    This has been an informative set of responses for me about where we are with regard to the relative importance for the Episcopal Church of theological struggle versus political and humanitarian activism. It does seem as if the pendulum has swung pretty heavily on the activist pole. What was dismaying about reading these responses, though, was that the tone–overall–hardly rises above the rudeness that characterizes so much of media discussion. There were exceptions, to be sure, and I read those with gratitude.

  15. Jason Matthew says:

    It is really sad to see some of the hateful and rude comments being made toward the theological achievements being made with our Oriental Orthodox brothers and sisters. Christ’s prayer that we may all be one seems to be lost on some people….really sad….

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