THE Joint Doctrinal Commission of Anglican and Orthodox representatives, which met in London, in October, 1931, "to prepare a joint report on the theological points on which there is difference and agreement between these churches," proposed for discussion the thirteen terms which Anglican theologians had submitted formerly to the Oecumenical Patriarch as a basis for Sacramental Communion between the two Churches. The said Commission did not occupy itself with the three last of these terms, inasmuch as they had been sufficiently discussed during the meeting of the representatives of the two Churches in London in 1930, and the others were comprised into six subjects.
Before the discussion of these subjects, that of Sacramental Communion between the Churches was put forward. This question is regarded as most important in the Anglican Church and it also concerns us very closely, because many Orthodox live in Europe and America and elsewhere in places where there is neither an Orthodox Church nor priest and where formidable propaganda is carried on by Latin and Protestant heresies.
There the Orthodox are either deprived of the means of satisfying their religious needs, or they neglect them or they fall victims to the propagandists or they have recourse to the Anglicans, in order that the latter may meet their needs.
In the last case the Anglicans are asking for leave to do so, recognizing the same right to the Orthodox Church for the Anglicans who find themselves in similar circumstances.
The Orthodox representatives stated that "Full Sacramental Intercommunion must follow as the last step of the process when complete dogmatic agreement has been established and unity has taken place."
This question certainly requires solution by a unanimous reply from the Orthodox Church and the covering Pro-Synod ought to take it in hand. The Church of Alexandria, however, has already come to a decision as regards baptisms and marriages of Orthodox by Anglicans, which must be supported in the Pro-Synod at Mount Athos.
DISCUSSION OF "THE SUGGESTED TERMS."
Term I.--In Regard to Christian Revelation.
The conception of the Anglicans is that the principal source of the Faith is Holy Scripture, but Oral Tradition is not put parallel and on an equal level. Or more explicitly, they accept the Faith " as it has been handed down to us in the Creed of Nikaea and expounded by the Oecumenical Councils and as accepted by the Undivided Church," but they do not agree that the Faith is a unity which has been defined in part only by the Church, but at the same time is taught in its integrity by her, or that there are still matters of Faith which have not been formulated and denned in a Council.
Term II.--Scripture and Tradition.
The discussion about Faith was continued long and perseveringly on the second question. The Anglicans finally accepted a wider formula approaching the Orthodox point of view. They do not confess verbally that there are two sources of the Christian Faith, Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, but insist that "Holy Scripture containeth everything necessary to Salvation." They added, however, "as it is completed, explained, interpreted and understood in the Holy Tradition, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church." This agreement is certainly not ideal, but it is, however, a satisfactory and important step in advance towards the Orthodox point of view. We doubt, however, whether it will be unanimously accepted by the Anglican Churches. It was not defined exactly, however, as to what Tradition is and what are its contents. The truth is that even in the Fathers of the Church a varying conception is to be found. See passages from Athanasias the Great and Jerome, on the one hand, and Basil the Great on the other. (Report, pp. 11, 13.)
In this question that of the Canonical Books was also included. Agreement was reached as to the number of the Books of the Old Testament and their titles, the term "apocryphal" being deleted as ill-sounding and the term "deutero-canonical" being accepted.
Term III.--The Creed of the Church.
It is gratifying that the Anglican members accepted the Creed of Nikaea-Constantinople, and the statement of the Council of Chalcedon upon it without the addition of the Filioque, as being the principal and outstanding Symbol [Creed] of the Church. It acknowledged that "it is unlawful for any church to put forth any other Creed as the teaching of the Catholic Church or to add or to take anything away from the Creed." This being thus determined, the Orthodox members agreed that the use of other creeds, such as the so-called Apostles' and the Athanasian Creed, in teaching and in the services of the Church, is not unlawful, because they are in agreement with Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition.
This agreement is not wholly satisfactory for the Orthodox Church, which from the first General Council onwards has used one Creed only, but the teaching of the two said Creeds which were in use in the ancient undivided Church is not contrary to the Orthodox Faith. So these may be characterized as a tradition prevailing in the West, but in the East only the Creed of Nikæa will continue to prevail and be in use.
Term IV.--The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
In the agreement reached every proposal and every form of expression suggesting the existence of two principles or two causes in the Holy Trinity was condemned and the teaching of John Damascene was received that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. With this meaning some of the Anglicans were of opinion that the Filioque can be retained in the Creed of Nikæa, as its excision would disturb the consciences of the faithful.
The Orthodox Communion rightly characterized the teaching of St. John Damascene as a theological opinion and not as a dogma of faith and insisted on the excision of the Filioque. We are of opinion that on this point no concession is possible, because in the Creed of Nikaea it is the Eternal Procession of the Spirit from the Father alone which is taught and confessed, and not the Temporal Mission which comes through the Son, and it is this second case only of which Our Lord Jesus Christ is speaking when He says in the Gospel, "Another Paraclete I will send unto you," and "I will send the Paraclete to you."
Term V.--Variety of Customs and Usages in the Church.
This statement is correct and acceptable. But for greater clearness there should be added to the second part, with regard to "the customs which have a local character only, which each Church is free to receive or not," that such do not relate to Dogma or the Faith and are not opposed to what has been handed down by the Catholic Church. We think this is necessary, because St. Augustine, under customs, includes Sacraments, such as Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, Communion in the Body and Blood of the Lord, the decisions of General Councils.
The Anglican President made clear in the discussions that local customs only are contemplated which do not possess the authority of Holy Scripture or a General Council. But this is not made sufficiently clear in the Report.
Term VI.--The Sacraments.
The Orthodox insisted on fixing the number of Sacraments at seven. They allowed that the number has not been fixed either by an Oecumenical or a General Council, but that it has existed in the consciousness of the Church, and that the two, namely Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, stand out pre-eminently. But they maintain that the other five are of Apostolic Tradition, are met with more or less clearly in the Gospel and are necessary for the spiritual life and well-being of a Christian. The Anglicans accept as Sacraments--actually of Divine Institution--the two first, but they recognize that in the other rites there is an outward and visible sign, and an inward spiritual grace, and in this sense they can be regarded as having the character of a Sacrament and are commonly called Sacraments. We observe that the Anglicans carefully avoid specifying seven as the number of the Sacraments, and through their indefiniteness about Sacraments, they both recognize the other five as Sacraments in a sense and are able also to include, under the same term, other sacred rites as Sacraments.
In regard to the formulated statement of this term a real progress is required, i.e., even if it be accepted by the Anglican Church, and the 39 Articles are not in agreement with it on this point. In particular the statement must be completed by laying down that Confirmation (Chrism) and Penance are obligatory and necessary for every Christian. As regards the manner of celebrating the Sacraments, a "variety in customs and rites" was accepted, provided that the essential elements of the Sacrament were retained.
The questions of the Holy Eucharist and of Holy Orders specially occupied the Joint Anglican and Orthodox Discussions in 1930. That which took place there was considered at our Autumn Synod. (See the Minutes in Contact Between Anglicans and Orthodox in London.)
The Joint Commission arrived at two conclusions:--The first was to the effect that certain fundamental questions had been sufficiently explored, but that others remain for another and to-be-hoped-for meeting.
Besides the differences which had been registered, there had also been registered much agreement between the two Churches.
Sacramental Communion must be based on unity in the Faith, the measure of which and the degree of difference permissible must be defined by the competent Synods.
The Joint Commission did not proceed to any decision, not having authority to do so, but submitted the reports and the results of the discussions to the competent authorities of the two Communions.
Finally the representatives of the Anglican Communion submitted a Report and the decisions of the Conference of Old Catholic and Anglican Churches, which the Orthodox representatives promised to submit to the judgment of the Synod of the Orthodox Eastern Church.
Of these three decisions the first recognizes mutually the catholicity and independence of both of the two Churches and the preservation of this independence. If anyone should be doubtful as to the use of the term "catholicity," none the less for the peace of the Church for advancing unity in the Faith, we can accept this term for the two said Churches.
The two other decisions dealt with relate to Sacramental Intercommunion, concerning which all that is necessary has already been said above.
Briefly speaking, the discussions with the Anglicans have marked progress in the relations between the two Churches and in the movement towards unity, and if the labours are continued the results will be gratifying, though not to be expected speedily.
+NICHOLAS OF HERMOPOLIS,
Reporter of the Committee.
March 5th, 1932.