ACNA'09: Metropolitan Jonah calls for Full Communion With New Anglican Province
By Michael Heidt
Special to Virtueonline
Speaking on Wednesday morning to the ACNA Assembly, His Beatitude, Jonah, Metropolitan of All America and Canada and leader of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), called for a "full... intercommunion" with the Anglican Church in North America. "What will it take," he asked, "for a true ecumenical reconciliation? That is what I am seeking by being with you today."
This marks the potential resumption of an Orthodox/Anglican dialogue that began a hundred years ago between two missionary bishops, St. Tikhon of Moscow and Bishop Grafton of Fond du Lac, only to be broken off in the 1970s with the ordination of women. Metropolitan Jonah spoke as the successor of Tikhon, "I come to you as the successor of Tikhon... with the same openness, the same invitation, the same love and desire to unify Anglicanism and Orthodoxy."
What would it take for this reconciliation to occur? The Metropolitan was explicit:.
Full affirmation of the orthodox Faith of the Apostles and Church Fathers, the seven Ecumenical Councils, the Nicene Creed in its original form (without the filioque clause inserted at the Council of Toledo, 589 A.D.), all seven Sacraments and a rejection of 'the heresies of the Reformation."
His Beatitude listed these in a series of 'isms'; Calvinism, anti-sacramentalism, iconoclasm and Gnosticism. The ordination of women to the Presbyterate and their consecration as Bishops has to end if intercommunion is to occur.
These are controversial words, especially given the make up of the Assembly, which is admittedly divided on key issues such as the ordination of women, the nature and number of the Sacraments and perhaps the essential character of the Church itself. Still, the delegates welcomed his candor with applause, perhaps because His Beatitude was self-evidently "speaking the truth with love." Less controversially, he called for a true renunciation of sin and immorality, "We must eliminate any shred of immorality in our lives," not least because sin "kills and maims the soul," likewise immorality, which destroys the soul and "demoralizes our culture." Coming from a faith tradition fully alive to the aggressive threat of militant Islam, the Metropolitan issued the following warning:; a culture demoralized by immorality "cannot stand up to the strict asceticism of Islam."
He then spoke to the current blurring of gender identity. Homosexualism not only "destroys authentic masculinity, it destroys authentic womanhood." Again, "gay ideology is neither from nurture or nature... we cannot accept their lifestyle or validate their unions." These are not something healthy, but "something to be healed". His Beatitude was equally emphatic on abortion, "Abortion not only rips out the soul of the fetus from the body of a woman, it rips out her own soul also... We must stand together in an absolute condemnation of abortion." The Assembly rose in thunderous acclamation. There should be no doubt whatsoever that ACNA stands for the life of the unborn child.
The Metropolitan's words on the unity of the Church were equally well received. We must find, "unity of vision, unity of life, unity of being in Jesus Christ" in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is to be found in true orthodoxy, which means, for Jonah at least, not simply "right opinion", but also "right glory", which is discovered in the worship of God. This gives the faithful entry into the liturgy of the Angels and Saints as revealed to Moses, Ezekiel and St. John, being a true participation on earth in the worship of heaven. The same meeting of heaven and earth is to be found in the Church; this "is not simply human, it is divine," and to be believed in as we believe in Jesus Himself - not merely as a man made institution, who may or may not "like the same prayer Book", but as the organic union of Christians with Our Savior in the Body of Christ. Again, this met with spontaneous applause.
The same approval was given to his Beatitude's description of faith and the necessity of surrendering to Christ.
"Faith... is the knowledge of the heart (that) I have died and my life is hidden in the heart of God... it is only Jesus that matters."
This means a total self-oblation:
"We have to surrender to God in the depths of our being," and this "is that spiritual quest... to be transformed by the Spirit." The corollary of this is radical forgiveness and a giving up of all resentments against those "who have offended... abused... (and) slandered you... When you forgive like that, you liken yourself to Jesus Christ."
This, in the end, was at the heart of Metropolitan's message. He called on ACNA to embrace Christ in His totality - in His Church and Sacraments, in the Faith and Morals handed down by Jesus Himself to the faithful throughout the ages, and in that true repentance which is nothing other than complete surrender of self to the mind and Person of Our Lord. With such a spirit in place, his vision of unity between loyal Anglicans and Orthodoxy may be realized. There can be no question that the invitation is on the table, and the prize is big, nothing less than the recognized integration of the Anglican Church in North America with historic Catholicism. Will ACNA rise to the challenge?
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