Project Canterbury

The Non-Jurors and the Eastern Orthodox

by the Revd H. W. Langford
Vice-Principal, St Chad's College, Durham

A Paper read to the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius Conference at Durham 26 June 1965

Transcribed by Ian B. Pitt
AD 2001

Copyright The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. This material may not be reproduced without permission.


From the start of the modern Ecumencal Movement, say 1910, the history of various schemes for the reunion of Christendom has interested many, not only church historians. One is the attempt of the eighteenth-century Non-Jurors to establish some form of communion with the Orthodox of the East. Popular accounts usually maintain that between 1716 and 1725 the Non-Jurors entered into correspondence with the Orthodox Church with a view to reunion, but that their efforts failed. If any reason is given at all, it is either that Tsar Peter the Great died, or that Archbishop Wake put a stop to the scheme. Though this account is true in outline there are some odd features, which need careful investigation. [1]

In the Church Quarterly Review of October 1931, Chrysostom, the then archbishop of Athens, printed the correspondence between Archbishop Arsenius of Thebas and Chrysanthus, patriarch of Jerusalem (1707-1713), which throws an interesting light on the whole matter. Archbishop Wake’s letter of September 1725, to the patriarch of Jerusalem – of which we shall hear again – was printed by George Williams (see footnote) and again recently in Dr Sykes’s magisterial two-volume biography of Wake in 1957.

It has been thought that the whole matter of the relationship between the Non-Jurors and the Orthodox is worth a fresh examination. I entirely agree: hence this paper. I would maintain that detailed investigation shows that what was at issue was not reunion at all, but something quite different, namely submission to the Orthodox, and this the Non-Jurors refused.

In 1712 the patriarch Samuel of Alexandria sent Arsenius, archbishop of Thebas, on a mission to ask help for the patriarchate from Queen Anne. Arsenius was accompanied by the archimandrite Gennadius, the protosynkellos (i.e. chief bishop’s chaplain) James, and a deacon named Simeon, also by a number of relations of the archimandrite Gennadius, who were to act as interpreters. Henry Compton, bishop of London (1675-1714) received them cordially, and we hear that the presence of the Greek clergy in London created a mild stir among English clergy and laity. Arsenius wrote some letters to Chrysanthus, patriarch of Jerusalem. Among other things he said that many – one wonders how many – English people approached him and asked to be received into the Orthodox Church. He says he received only a few and gives as his reason that he had no church. In fact about thirty years before, in 1677, Bishop Compton had allowed the visiting archbishop of Samos, Joseph Georgerinos, to found a Greek church in Soho, but this project was soon abandoned, and the church building was handed over to French Huguenot refugees. Arsenius could not get possession of this building again, nor had he the means to build another one. He therefore converted a private house into a Greek chapel, where he celebrated the Orthodox Liturgy every Sunday. Some English clergy and laity attended. There is a significant remark in Arsenius’ letters, where he states that conversions to Roman Catholicism were forbidden, but that the authorities put no obstacles in the way of possible converts to Orthodoxy. It does appear again and again, and particularly in his correspondence with the patriarch of Jerusalem, that he saw his role not so much as a negotiator of reunion but as someone who might be helpful in easing the submission of the Non-Jurors and possibly other Anglicans to Orthodoxy.

In July 1716, five Non-Juror bishops met in London to discuss a number of controversial points which had arisen in their small group of followers: this eventually became the dispute about ‘usages’ – mixed chalice, prayer for the dead, epiklesis in the eucharistic consecration, prayer of oblation in the 1549 position, chrism at Confirmation. These bishops were Jeremy Collier, who became the Primus, Nathaniel Spinckes, Henry Gandy, and two Scotsmen, Archibald Campbell and James Gadderar. There was, eventually, in 1719 a schism in the non-juring body over the ‘usages’, but things were smoothed over at this stage in 1716. At this same meeting Campbell acquainted the other bishops with conversations he had had in private with Archbishop Arsenius, and intimated to them his plan for reunion with the Orthodox. The other bishops accepted Campbell’s ideas, and the meeting drew up a series of proposals, which it was decided to send to the Orthodox, and not only to the patriarchs but also to Peter the Great who at that time was travelling in western Europe and had intimated considerable interest in the matter. The Non-Juror bishops suggested to Arsenius that the whole question should be handled by Chrysanthus, patriarch of Jerusalem, whom they knew, since he had studied in England: also that the whole matter should be kept secret, so that the Established Church might not persecute the Non-Jurors and foil the scheme.

Arsenius declared himself willing to meet Peter the Great in Holland, and afterwards went to Petersburg. He also sent the protosynkellos James to the East to maintain close contact. In 1716 he also wrote to the patriarch Chrysanthus that, if a synod concerning reunion should be convened, the matter should be kept secret.

Forbes, one of the Scottish bishops later in the century, has this note in his papers:

'Arsenius, Archbishop of Thebas, was sent in 1712 by Samuel, Patriarch of Alexandria, from Grand Cairo in Egypt to represent to the Protestant Princes and States in Europe the truly deplorable circumstances of the Greek Church under the severe tyranny and oppression of the Turks and to solicit a sum of money, particularly for the patriarchal see of Alexandria. Archibald Campbell [2] interested himself greatly in the matter and persuaded Collier and Spinckes to join in the preparation of a proposal for a concordat, which was entrusted to Arsenius for transmission to Russia. Peter the Great forwarded the proposal to the Eastern patriarchs, and a long correspondence followed, but the death of Peter in 1725 brought the negotiations to an end. Among other extraordinary details there may be noted the proposal that Jerusalem should be regarded as the Mother See, thus altering the order of the patriarchal thrones, and the establishment of a church in London to be called Concordia, and to be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Alexandria. The Non-Juror bishops showed in their correspondence a strong reluctance to ‘go behind’ the English Reformation Settlement, and were obviously very ill at ease in dealing with Orthodox belief on such subjects as transubstantiation and invocation of saints. With regard to the nature of the worship due to Our Lady the patriarchs replied with some sympathy but with a possible touch of ridicule. "It is not to be wondered at for being born and bred in the principles of the Luthero-Calvinists and possessed with their prejudices they tenaciously adhere to them like ivy to a tree." The patriarchs endeavoured, but to no purpose, to explain to the Non-Jurors the difference between latria and doulia and sought to allay their suspicions by quoting the text, "they were in great fear where no fear was".'

And there is also this letter from Thomas Brett, dated 30 March 1728, i.e. three years after the scheme failed: 'In the month of July 1716, the bishops called Nonjurors meeting about some affairs relating to their little church, Mr Campbell took occasion to speak of the Archbishop of Thebas then in London; and proposed that we should endeavour a union with the Greek Church and draw up some propositions in order thereto, and deliver them to that Archbishop, with whom he intimated as if he had already had some discourse upon that subject. I was then a perfect stranger to the doctrines and forms of worship of that Church, but as I wished most heartily for a general union of all Christians in one communion, I was ready to have joined with Mr Campbell on this occasion. But Mr Lawrence being in the room, drew me aside, and told me that the Greeks were more corrupt and more bigoted than the Romanists, and therefore vehemently pressed me not to be concerned in the affair: but Mr Collier, Mr Campbell, Mr Spinkes joined in it and drew up proposals, which Mr Spinkes (as Mr Campbell informed me) put into Greek, and they went together and delivered them to the Archbishop of Thebas, who carried them to Muscovy, and engaged the Czar in the affair, and they were encouraged to write to his majesty on that occasion, who heartily espoused the matter, and sent the proposals by James, Proto-Cyncellus to the Patriarch of Alexandria, to be communicated to the four Eastern patriarchs. Before the return of the Patriarch’s answer to the proposals, a breach of communion happened among the Nonjurors here, Mr Hawes, Mr Spinkes, and Mr Gandy on the one side, and Mr Collier, Mr Campbell, Mr Gadderer and myself on the other. So that when the patriarch’s answer came to London in 1722, Mr Spinkes refused to be any further concerned in the affair, and Mr Gadderer and I joined in it. After Mr Gadderer went to Scotland, Mr Griffin, being consulted, joined with us. The rest of the story relating to this matter may be gathered from the letters and the subscriptions to them. Mr Collier subscribes Jeremias, Mr Campbell Archibaldus, Mr Gadderer Jacobus, and I Thomas.’

Here are the proposals of the Non-Jurors in detail:

  1. The primacy of Jerusalem is postulated. This is seen as a primacy of honour, even if the phrase "acknowledged as the true mother church and principle of ecclesiastical unity whence all the other churches have derived" is used. There are no suggestions as to jurisdiction.
  2. All the same, the bishop of Jerusalem is to have "principality of order"
  3. The three other patriarchates are recognized as ancient.
  4. Equality of Constantinople with Rome is stressed.
  5. The "Catholic remnant of the British Churches" claims descent from Jerusalem prior to the mission from Rome. This could be an appeal to the Glastonbury legend.
  6. They want the ancient godly discipline of the Church.
  7. They seek liturgical conformity subject to lawful variants.
  8. "The most ancient English liturgy" is to be restored since it is nearer the Eastern liturgy. This may be one of Thomas Brett’s fancies: 1549 can hardly claim antiquity nor nearness to Orthodox liturgical custom. The Mass of the Sarum Use is certainly more ancient, but hardly nearer to Orthodox patterns. What, in fact, the Non-Jurors sent to the Orthodox on a subsequent occasion was the Scottish version of the 1718 Non-Juror Liturgy in two copies, one Greek and one Latin.
  9. St John Chrysostom’s and other Fathers’ homilies are to be translated for use in preaching.
  10. They will pray for the Eastern bishops in the Liturgy.
  11. They ask that "the faithful and orthodox remnant of the Britannick churches" be prayed for by the Easterns.
  12. Communications should be maintained.

They then set out their doctrinal position:

  1. They accept the 12 articles of the Creed of Nicaea and Constantinople, and repudiate 12 additional articles of Rome (i.e. the creed of Pius IV).
  2. They affirm the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, and that God the Father is the arch.
  3. The procession of the Holy Spirit is understood as "from the Father by the Son".
  4. The Scriptures are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  5. The Holy Spirit assists in General and particular Councils.
  6. The number and nature of "charismata of the Spirit" are agreed.
  7. Christ is the sole foundation of the Church; prophets and apostles have a derivative authority.
  8. Christ alone is the head of the Church. Bishops have a vicarious headship. The Non-Jurors own the independence of the Church in spiritualia of all lay powers.
  9. Every Christian ought to be subject to the Church. Disciplinary authority is affirmed.
  10. Communion in both kinds is strongly asserted, and Roman practice condemned.
  11. Eucharist and Baptism are generally necessary to salvation. Other sacraments, though not in this sense so necessary as Baptism and Eucharist, are to be celebrated with reverence and Catholic use.
  12. Purgatory and purgatorial intercession in the Roman sense are repudiated, but the intermediate state is affirmed.'

Finally they list disagreements with the Orthodox:

  1. Canons of ancient General Councils are not on a par with Scripture. They may be dispensed with by the governors of the Church where charity and necessity require.
  2. They refuse to give our Lady the glory of God – i.e. they are against doulia and hyperdoulia.
  3. They have qualms about the direct invocation of saints.
  4. They will not pronounce on the manner in which the elements in the Eucharist become the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a mystery which we cannot pronounce upon. They want to leave it indefinite and undetermined – since there is nothing stated beyond this in scripture and tradition, i.e. they are firmly against transubstantiation.
  5. They are apprehensive about images as leading the unlearned to superstition. They want canon 9 of Nicaea II explained in such a way as to safeguard against this.

"Lastly, a Church, to be called the Concordia (?µ????a),0 is to be built in London and placed under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Alexandria; there the English Liturgy, as acceptable to the Easterns, shall be celebrated. Conversely the Greek bishop at any time resident in England shall be allowed to celebrate the Orthodox Liturgy in St Paul’s, removing any secondary phrases which may offend!"

For further comment we must single out proposal No. 1 regarding the primacy of Jerusalem. This is perhaps not quite so preposterous as it sounds. The Non-Jurors know very well that the problem of the jurisdiction of a ‘universal ordinary’ on the papal model does not apply in the East, but on the other hand they are quite unaware of the strength of Orthodox tradition and they simply fail to see what an unheard-of novelty they propose to the Orthodox.

On transubstantiation, the Non-Jurors are quite clear; and in their thought, even if not in their language, they are very modern (even very modern Roman) indeed. Here is a series of quotations from John Johnson, rector of Cranbrook, Kent, who was acknowledged by the Non-Jurors as an authority on the doctrine of the Eucharist. He was not himself a Non-Juror. His main work is The Unbloody Sacrifice, part I, 1714, 2nd edition 1724, part 2, 1718. A very large and rambling work. His eucharistic theology dominates the eucharistic thought and liturgy of the Non-Jurors. He is careful to state that the Bread and Wine are the Body and Blood ‘not in substance’; and indeed throughout his writings he repudiates emphatically the doctrine of a substantial presence and sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, while at the same time he proclaims with equal emphasis the reality of that presence and sacrifice. He maintains: ‘I. that the primitive church believed the Body and Blood in the Sacrament to be Bread and Wine. II. that they believed them not to be the Body and Blood of Christ in Substance; and therefore often called them Types, Figures, Symbols, of the Body and Blood. III. that they did not esteem them such cold and imperfect types as those before and under the Law, nay IV. they believed them to be the true spiritual Body and Blood of Christ, though not in substance, yet in power and effect’ (i-ii-i, p.146).

‘And the ancients believed this to be the mystery couched in the sacramental bread and wine, i.e. that they were in substance what they were before, but by the especial presence of the Spirit rendered the Body and Blood of Christ, as carrying with them all the beneficial effects that his natural Body and Blood influenced and anointed by the Holy Ghost could have done, if it had been capable of oral manducation’ (i-ii-i, p. 208).

He condemns the papist doctrines, which he states as follows: ‘That in the sacrifice of the Mass the whole Christ, God and Man, is offered up hypostatically to the Father in the Eucharist and is to be worshipped there by men under the species of bread and wine. The papists assert the substantial presence of Christ’s Body and Blood under the species of Bread and Wine in the Holy Eucharist; and that the sacrifice of the cross and altar are substantially the same; that the sacrifice of the Mass is available for remission of sins to the dead as well as to the living.’ (pp.5, 6). And he contrasts his own teachings: ‘That not the divinity and human soul of Christ Jesus, but his Body and Blood only are offered in the Eucharist. That not his substantial, but sacramental body and blood are there offered. That the oblation of the Eucharist is a representer of that of the Cross, and therefore can only be offered for the sins of the living; for the representer cannot have a greater efficacy than the principal. The primitive church believed that there is but one Body, one Blood, of Christ in the sacrament. This Body and Blood the primitive church sometimes called the true and very Body and Blood. The ancient church did not believe that the true substance of Christ's Body and Blood was given by the celebrator or by any other means, either with or without the bread’ (i-ii-i, pp.222-3).

He seems to me to be groping after what modern Roman Catholic commentators have called the 'doctrine of sacramental signification.'

'I conclude therefore that though the eucharistical elements are not the substantial Body and Blood; nay they are the figurative and representative symbols of them; yet they are somewhat more, too; they are the mysterious Body and Blood of our ever-blessed Redeemer. By the mysterious Body and Blood, the reader will easily perceive, I mean neither substantial nor merely figurative, but the middle between these extremes, i.e. the Bread and Wine made the Body and Blood of Christ by the secret power of the Spirit, and apprehended to be so, not by our senses but by our Faith, directed and influenced by the same Holy Spirit; and made the Body and Blood in such a manner as human reason cannot perfectly comprehend' (i-ii-i, pp. 230-2).

Johnson does not therefore believe in a materialist version of transubstantiation (seventeenth-century misunderstanding of ‘substance’), but neither is he a virtualist. He is definitely against ‘Receptionism’: ‘And indeed if the Eucharist were not the Body and Blood before distribution, it could not be made so by any post-fact of the communicants; for faith can give existence to nothing, cannot make present that which is absent(i-ii-i, p.249).

So much for one of the chief theologians followed by the Non-Jurors. For confirmation of this teaching, let us go to Thomas Brett, their most eminent liturgist.

His magnum opus, A Collection of the Principal Liturgies, used by the Christian Church in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist (London 1720), p.169 reads:

'I do not believe the bread and wine to be annihilated, and the substance of them, the accidents remaining, to be changed into the natural Body and Blood of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered on the Cross, and is now in heaven, which is the doctrine of the Church of Rome. Neither do I believe with the Lutherans, that the substance of the Bread and Wine remaining, the very individual Body and Blood of Christ is by a certain ubiquity so united and incorporated with them, as to be eaten and drunk by the faithful in the Lord's Supper. Neither do I believe with the Calvinists, that the Body and Blood of Christ, which are now in heaven, are sacramentally or in an inconceivable manner united to the Bread and Wine, so as to be received together with them by the faith of the communicants. But I do believe the Bread and Wine to be the only Body and Blood appointed to be received in the Holy Eucharist. And I believe them to be made his sacramental Flesh and Blood, that is, the full and perfect representative of his Body and Blood his very Body and Blood in power and effect.'

There is also extant a letter by Thomas Brett, in answer to a letter by Sir R. Cox. who argued against infant communion, by saying, ‘Christ cannot be eaten in the Sacrament but by faith; infants have no faith; ergo . . .' Brett denied the major premiss:

'If Christ can only be eaten by Faith, then it is not the consecration but the faith of the communicants or of the single communicant for himself that makes the Bread Christ's Body. If so, when Christ himself consecrated the Bread and Cup at the institution, He did not make them his Body and Blood, but his disciples made them by their faith. But Christ said they were his Body and Blood before his disciples could have faith to believe them to be so, and therefore he made them his Body and Blood by consecration; the disciples did not make them so by their faith, and when Christ had made the Bread his Body and the Cup his Blood they eat and drink that Body and Blood with their mouths and not by their faith.'

I think this evidence is definite and incontrovertible, and it is high time that modern writers stopped perpetuating the erroneous judgment of the good George Williams who charged the Non-Jurors with Lutheran and Calvinist ideas.

It was very unfortunate that the Non-Jurors’ proposals were addressed to the Orthodox patriarchs at a time when the East was gravely suspicious of anything that sounded like Protestant ideas. This was the reaction to the teaching of Cyril Lukaris, who had attempted to force the Greek Church into Western controversy as a witness in favour of Calvinism, or at least something very near it. The Jesuits had recovered their ascendancy in the East through the diplomatic skill of the French Embassies, and the Council of Bethlehem, 1672, under Dositheus, patriarch of Jerusalem, was convened in the Jesuit interest, much of its language being adopted under their inspiration. Cyril Lukaris' 'Eastern Confession of the Orthodox Faith' provoked the extreme ‘Latin’ formulations of the Councils of Constantinople (1638), Jassy (1642) and Bethlehem (1672), in all of which his teaching was condemned, though at Bethlehem his memory was vindicated.

The reply by the Orthodox to the Non-Jurors was, for various reasons – some beyond their control – delayed for five-and-a-half years. Although the reply itself dates from April 1718, it did not reach this country until 1722. And when it came, it must have caused a severe shock to the Non-Jurors.

The tone of the document is very proud, and its position immutable, also specifically anti-papalist about, for example, communion in one kind, the papacy itself, the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox maintain that the Calvinist-inspired ‘Confession of the Orthodox Oriental Church’ published under the name of Cyril Lukaris is a misrepresentation, if not a forgery. As to the Non-Jurors’ opinions in the proposals, here is the general comment of the Orthodox in the introduction to their reply:

'. . . who also do well, in that they have sent us some propositions to procure an Union with us. There are indeed some difficulties attending this affair; for, though these gentlemen are benevolent and fervent lovers of truth, yet being prepossessed with some old prejudices nourished and grown up with them, they cannot easily part with them. Therefore also they are disposed to receive some of our holy doctrines with readiness, but in others they require condescension: and some opinions not conformable to truth, which long prejudice has bred in them, they will by no means part with: for length of custom has riveted them in their minds. Upon this account they desire emendations, answers and corrections to the proposals they have made.'

How self-sufficient they are is seen in their remark about the pope: 'Some time since, the Pope of Rome being deceived by the malice of the Devil, and falling into strange novel doctrines, revolted from the unity of Holy Church and was cut off, and is now like a shatter’d rag of a sail of the spiritual vessel of the Church, which formerly consisted and was made up of five parts; four of which continue in the same state of unity and agreement, and by these we easily and calmly sail through the ocean of this life, and without difficulty pass over the waves of heresy, till we arrive within the haven of salvation: but he who is the fifth part, being separated from the entire sail, and remaining by himself in a small piece of the torn sheet, is unable to perform his voyage; and therefore we behold him at a distance tossed with constant waves and tempests, till he return to our Catholic, apostolical, oriental, immaculate Faith, and be re-inserted in the sail from whence he was broken off.'

The proposals about the primacy of Jerusalem and the order of the patriarchates are dealt with at length: the Orthodox say that order of precedence must in no way be altered, but if the Non-Jurors, or rather, the Catholic and Orthodox remnant of the British Churches, want to submit to the patriarch of Jerusalem, well and good: they could be received into his patriarchate; but then, he, and only he, would be canonically empowered to consecrate British bishops (which means presumably he would also have to re-consecrate the Non-Juror bishops): what the Orthodox want, then, is not reunion or inter-communion, but complete submission to the patriarch of Jerusalem.

To the Non-Jurors’ 7th proposal, about uniformity in liturgy, save for different national customs, they say that this is obscure: they will accept only such deviations as do not conflict with orthodoxy.

In their 8th proposal, the Non-Jurors offered the use in England of the ancient English liturgy. In answer, the Orthodox stress that that means, necessarily, that the present English liturgy, i.e. the Book of Common Prayer, is gravely defective, if not heretical – and they suggest to the Non-Jurors that this is in fact what they themselves are saying; also, there was no need for an ancient English liturgy, which they have not read and of which they have not heard (quite rightly!), and if Chrysostom and Basil are good enough for all sorts of national Churches in the East, they ought to be good enough for the English. All the same, they would like to see the ancient English liturgy, and would then correct it according to Orthodox theological and liturgical principles: then it might conceivably be used in England.

They agree to proposals 9 – 12 about mutual intercessions and communications. Then they go into the doctrinal statement: they cautiously agree with the affirmations, make it clear that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father (and therefore neither ek nor dia tou huiou – these words must not be added to the Creed). Also, not only do prophets and apostles speak by the Holy Ghost, but also Councils and Fathers. To the other affirmations of the Non-Jurors they agree, and that with a lot of verbosity!

But to the disagreements of the Non-Jurors with the Orthodox, they say very hard things: ‘Being born and bred in the principles of the Luthero-Calvinists and possessed with their prejudices, they tenaciously adhere to them like ivy to a tree, and are hardly drawn off’. They re-state emphatically the infallibility of Oecumenical Councils; charity or necessity cannot set them aside. There is a fiery outburst against all Western Councils, and especially the Council of Florence, which is called a ‘band of robbers, which at the same time had the pope a criminal at the bar and a judge upon the throne, giving sentence according to his own pleasure in a tyrannical and illegal manner’.

About the Non-Jurors’ objection to the veneration of Our Lady and the saints, they make much use of ridicule, ‘They were in great fear where no fear was’ (Ps. 53, 6 – and that psalm means by ‘they’ the fools and the ungodly!). They set out in detail the difference between doulia (to the saints), hyperdoulia (to Our Lady) and latreia (to God only), but they imply that the English do not understand that, because they are still prejudiced. They will be patient with them until they come to a better mind.

They are furious about the Non-Jurors’ denial of transubstantiation (after the Bethlehem synod) and they call the Non-Jurors’ denial, criticism, even hesitation, blasphemous. It seems that the Non-Jurors had in mind a physical notion of ‘substance’ and therefore ‘transubstantiation’-and the Orthodox had not; they had not been influenced by the rise of the method of the natural sciences in the seventeenth century - and so they simply talk past the Non-Jurors’ objections. Again, they blame them for ‘Luthero-Calvinist’ doctrines.

As to the relative doulia due to images, they stress that this is lawful and justified, and that they were not concerned with the scruples of illiterate Jews and Muslims: intelligent ones would understand, and in any case true doctrine must be maintained, and what of it if it were to offend non-Christians?

They gladly agree to the other provisions, the Church of the Concordia, the Orthodox bishop to celebrate at St Paul's. Language difficulties can be overcome.

This complete answer was drawn up by Chrysanthus of Jerusalem and agreed to by the Orthodox patriarchs, metropolitans and clergy at Constantinople. To this is appended a ‘Synodical Answer to the Question, What are the sentiments of the Oriental Church of the Greek Orthodox’ which was originally sent to English sympathizers with the Greek Orthodox in 1672, which is the year of the Bethlehem synod. This sets out a compendium of Orthodox belief. There is another appended synodical answer, especially about the Eucharist. This emphatically stresses transubstantiation, and repeatedly uses the term metousiosis. They also emphasize that metousiosis means the same, no more and no less than metabole in patristic literature, notably St John of Damascus. This is the copy of a document, dated 1691, to which are appended fearsome and explicit anathemata against anyone who shall teach or even read any doctrine which gives to metabole any lesser interpretation.

By way of a postscript to these documents, let me quote a passage from a letter written by Arsenius to Chrysanthus, patriarch of Jerusalem, in March 1723. Here are two Orthodox corresponding about Protestants, as they think them to be. Again, it does not sound much like a reunion matter: ‘First, as to transubstantiation, since in the answer which you sent them you write of transubstantiation in the 4th answer to the 4th proposition. How was it possible that pious people should not be horrified at hearing such, I dare say, blasphemies? They assert that transubstantiation comes from the Latins, since, so they say, there is no mention of this transubstantiation in the old doctors of the Eastern Church. They say the Latins alone began it. They admit that a change takes place, but not transubstantiation, for they cannot understand the latter, and indeed the word appears to them very hard - as I dare to say, blasphemous. Secondly they do not accept the veneration and intercession of the saints. The third question is about the intercession with which Christ intercedes for original sin, and whether the Mother of God and the saints intercede for faults committed after baptism. They assert that Christ is sole intercessor in all things. They request that you give them an answer to these three questions with early evidence, and they desire that this evidence shall be from the old fathers of the Eastern Church, to convince the simple laity and certain persons who have doubts on these three questions.'

The Non-Jurors sent a firm, dignified, and extremely learned answer to the patriarchs, full of massive patristic quotations. They remained very friendly in tone, and themselves did not blame the Orthodox for their intransigence. But when all has been said and done, the attempt of the patriarchs to impose the decrees of the Council of Bethlehem on the Non-Jurors as an indispensable condition of intercommunion was an act of arbitrary authority. It was an un-Catholic attempt to exalt a local synod to the level of an ecumenical council. This was in fact an ultimatum which the Non-Jurors could not accept. Peter the Great and the Church in Russia could have exercised a moderating influence – they were not bound by the Bethlehem decrees – but Peter died.

Meanwhile, too, the Easterns had become acquainted with the true, uncanonical, schismatic position of the Non-Jurors and lost interest. Indeed, Archbishop Wake’s letter to the patriarch is two years later than the last letter of the patriarchs to the Non-Jurors, but it is highly probable that the facts had already come to their notice through the British embassy in Constantinople: Thomas Payne, the embassy chaplain, had informed Canterbury of the correspondence the year before. It is remarkable that Wake, enthroned in 1716, did not know about it until 1724. The correspondence had gone on undetected for eight years.

Wake's letter, while disavowing in the name of the English Church all complicity in the proceedings of the Non-Jurors, regards the existing relations of the Anglican to the Eastern Church as most intimate. His ground of complaint against the Non-Jurors is that 'they have endeavoured to draw you off from the communion of our Church.' He recognizes the faith of the two Churches as identical on all points of greater moment; and intimates that it is distance alone that hinders anything more than communion in spirit and intention. [3]

The letter is a masterpiece of ecclesiastical diplomacy and, we must add in all fairness, it does give a true picture of the aifair. The ecclesiastical position of the non-juring bishops was very precarious indeed. Of the canonical consecration of the substituted bishops there had never been any doubt, and the question of their jurisdiction had been determined by the death of Lloyd in 1710 and of the last survivor of the original non-juring bishops, Ken, in 1711. The newly consecrated non-juring bishops did not even pretend to be the legitimate successors of the deprived bishops in their several sees, for they never assumed territorial titles; and the presumptuous claim of Jeremy Collier to be 'Primus Anglo-Britanniae Episcopus' was a distinct usurpation of the metropolitan’s rights. In all fairness to the Non-Jurors they were more honourable and respectable.

What the whole matter looked like to a leading Non-Juror, one of the bishops who had signed the correspondence with the others, may be seen from this letter by Thomas Brett to his friend George Smith, dated 30 April 1730, i.e. five years after Wake had given the show away:

'And now, dear Sir, I will proceed to another subject and inform you of a proposal for a union with the Greek Church. In July 1716 when Mr. Collier, Mr. Spinckes, Mr. Campbell and I met at Mr. Gandy’s, Mr. Campbell said he had discoursed with the Archbishop of Thebas, then in London, concerning an Union between our Church and the Greeks and believed the matter not to be impracticable. I soon went out of town and Mr. Gandy did not care to meddle with it, but Mr. Collier, Mr. Spinckes, and Mr. Campbell joined in it and drew up certain propositions (among which was one to restore the first liturgy of Edw. VI), upon which they were willing to unite. And Mr. Spinckes (as Mr. Campbell informed me) put the proposals into Greek. And they went together and delivered them to the Archbishop of Thebas who carried them to Muscovy and engaged the Czar in the affair and they were encouraged to write to his majesty on that occasion who heartily supported the matter and sent the proposals to the patriarch of Alexandria to be communicated to the four Eastern patriarchs. Accordingly they were so communicated. And a very kind affectionate answer was returned by a synod held in the great Church of Christ at Constantinople April 12th, 1718, under Jeremias, patriarch of Constantinople, Samuel of Alexandria, Chrysanthus of Jerusalem and several metropolitans. This answer we received not till November 1721. But upon the breach between Mr. Collier and Mr. Spinckes, etc. Mr. Sp. would no further concern himself in this affair. So we that held with Mr. Collier joined with him in a reply to the patriarchs' answer which we subscribed May 29th 1722. We had a rejoinder to this reply dated Constantinople September 1723. Besides these papers several letters passed between us and the archbishop of Thebas, the Russian Synod, the great Chancellor of Russia and others. And the Czar, by his great chancellor, sent to us to send over two persons not to conclude anything, but only to debate our differences with such as we should appoint, offering to bear the charges of the persons we should send. But the Czar died, which put an end to this whole affair. We were surprised soon after with a pamphlet written by Mr. Lewis of Margate in this diocese, an old opponent of mine, against Mr. Collier in vindication of Bp. Burnett. For by several passages in the pamphlet we found that Mr. L. had seen what had passed between us and the Eastern patriarchs, which we could not imagine how he came by, and he made several scurrilous reflections on Mr. Collier and me on that occasion. Soon after we understood that the papers we had sent to Constantinople were now at Lambeth. It seems the patriarch of Constantinople was desirous to know who they were who called themselves ‘the Orthodox and Catholic remnant of the British Churches’, which was the title those took who sent the proposals. And understanding that there was an English clergyman in Constantinople, chaplain to the factory, he sent for him and gave him the papers and he sent them to the Archbishop of Canterbury at whose house Mr. Lewis had sight of them. But I believe his Grace was not pleased with Mr. L.'s scurrilous treatment of Mr. Collier on the occasion and obliged him to suppress his pamphlet. . . .I had a letter not long since from Dr. Jebb who lives at Stratford by Bow, who sent me word that making a visit to his neighbour Mr. Chisul [Edward Chishull 1671-1731, vicar of Walthamstow, Essex, from 1708], he was surprised to see our Constantinople papers before him. Mr. C., it seems, is writing an account of the Greek Church, and he designs to put our papers or an abstract of them into that account.'

Brett gives a further note as a postscript: ‘Had not the Czar died before we could send two persons to debate matters before him and his Council, I know not how far we might have proceeded towards an Union with that part of the Greek Church which is settled in Russia. The Russian Synod wrote thus to us. "Making no doubt that these designs of yours spring not from any earthly root, but spring from an heavenly seed, we faithfully promise our best assistance to further this your, nay our also, so holy negotiation. And now, what is of great moment in this case, we have acquainted his Imperial Majesty, our most gracious Lord, with your proceedings which both you desired and we also thought ourselves obliged to. The most potent prince received them with a very serene countenance, and as we believe esteemed this as one of his just consolations after an happy but laborious expedition. What his opinion is concerning this affair we will ingenuously tell you. He thinks it proper to send two of yours to have a friendly conference in the name and spirit of Christ with two that are to be taken out of our brethren. Hereby the opinions, arguments and persuasions of each party may be more sincerely produced, more clearly understood, and it may be more easily known what may be yielded and given up by one to the other, what on the other side may and ought for conscience sake to be absolutely denied".'

Jebb’s letter, quoted above, runs: ‘17.11.1729: I lately made a visit to my very learned and worthy neighbour, Mr Chisul, and was surprised to see in his hands copies of our Greek papers, which had been transmitted to him from Constantinople. He designs with the leave of the Archbishop of Canterbury to publish them at the end of a large work he is preparing upon the subject of the Greek Church, if he lives to finish it. I suppose you know he passed many years in the East as chaplain to the factory at Smyrna.’

Finally, a letter from Collier to Brett, 20.4.1725, states: 'Mr Cassano is ready to embark for Petersburgh to feel the pulse of that court with relation to the union with the Greek Church, and whether any persons from hence will be welcome there next summer. I confess by the patriarchs' answer I despair’.

And well he might. The Non-Jurors had hoped for reunion negotiations. The replies they received, however courteously phrased, demanded only one thing – not reunion, not intercommunion, but unconditional submission. Here is one of the later letters of the patriarchs, of September 1723. It reaffirms the Orthodox stand, as given in the first answer: nothing to add, nothing to change: '. . . and that those who are disposed to agree with us in the divine doctrines of the Orthodox faith, must necessarily follow and submit to what has been defined and determined bv the decision of the ancients and Fathers of the Holy and Occumenical Synods from the time of the Holy Apostles and their holy successors, the fathers of the Church to this time. We say they must submit to them with sincerity and obedience, and without any scruple or dispute.'

Two hundred and thirty years is a long time: we have learned much in charity and mutual understanding, in further recovery of the Catholic Faith, through now long-continued and friendly association, strengthened by reciprocal good offices. Much of what the Non-Jurors stood for theologically is now an Anglican commonplace. Indeed, the Catholic impetus in the Church of England as a whole has gone much further. Also, the Orthodox diaspora, so grievously imposed by political conditions, and so heroically borne by our Orthodox brethren now in the West, has had the beneficent effect of allaying much of the natural suspicion the Eastern Church has had for centuries of the Latin West and of the Reformation, which in many ways is the direct progeny of the Latin West, both by development and by reaction. Let us go back beyond Cranmer and Lukaris, beyond Jassy and Bethlehem and Wittenberg and Geneva, and Trent, to the Scriptures and the truly Oecumenical Councils, in patience, in faith, in hope, and in charity.


[1] In his still readable and reliable History of the Non-Jurors (1845), Thomas Lathbury gave a fairly full account of the proceedings. In 1868 the learned George Williams, fellow of King's College, Cambridge, published all the available evidence in English in his monograph, ‘The Orthodox Church of the East in the Eighteenth Century, being the correspondence between the Eastern Patriarchs and the Non-Juring Bishops’. In the first volume of the Journal of Theological Studies (1900) Bishop John Dowden made a complete bibliography of the relevant material in the possession of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which includes some correspondence not available to George Williams. In 1905 Jean-Baptiste Martin and Louis Petit published all this in Greek and Latin in their Collectio Conciliorum Recentium, tomus i, Londinenses et Constantinopolitanae Synodi: pro ineunda concordia Anglicanos inter et Orthodoxos, which forms vol.37 cols.369 – 624 of the Mansi collection of conciliar documents. In 1925, Henry Broxap published his masterly History of the Later Non-Jurors, which contains some material relevant to the issue of the reunion proposals and correspondence, but which mainly deals with the internal history of the Non-Jurors of a somewhat later date. I shall also have to refer to works published by the Non-Jurors themselves, especially The Unbloody Sacrifice by John Johnson, rector of Cranbrook, Kent, published 1714, 1718 and 1724, and A Collection of the Principal Liturgies used by the Christian Church in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, 1720, by Thomas Brett.

[2] A Scottish Non-Juror bishop.

[3] Here is part of his letter: ‘And now, as I am writing these things to your illustrious Reverence, I ought by no means to pass over what I heard a year ago from one of my presbyters, who is still among our merchants in Constantinople: to wit, that certain schismatic priests of our own church have written to you under the pretended titles of archbishops and bishops of the Church of England, and have sought your communion with them; who having neither place nor church in these realms, have bent their mind to deecive you, who are ignorant of their schism.’

'. . . a few of the clergy, fewer still of the bishops, have seceded from us; have persuaded many of the people to their side; and have established congregations separating from the Church. Finally they have reached such a degree of madness that, upon the death of the first authors of this schism, they have consecrated for themselves new bishops to succeed to their places; and it is these who have presumed to write to you. These have tried to seduce you from the communion of our Church.'


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