Project Canterbury


Eastern-Orthodox Church

A brief description
of the Orthodox Church of the East
together with

Some Thoughts on Reunion



Department of Missions and Church
Extension of the Episcopal Church
281 Fourth Avenue - New York



Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010


THE interest in the Eastern Orthodox Church is not merely one of ecclesiastical interest or of antiquarian delight; it really has become a practical consideration in American life and members of the Episcopal Church are learning to appreciate more and more the close relationship between the Orthodox Church of the East and their own Church. The East still delights in looking back to the early days of the Church and discovering that history shows the Orthodox Church to be an organization which has changed but little since the days of the Ecumenical Councils. In these modern days when members of different Churches are brought into close contact each with the other, the actions and re-actions of the various branches of the Church of Christ must affect the whole Church. We are learning to look beyond mere re-union to the essential unity of the Church of Christ. We are no longer satisfied with union as an element of strength, but are demanding unity as the essence of corporate life. In America the problem takes a more practical form. Our fellow-Christians of the Orthodox rites are to be found in almost every community, rural as well as urban. In many places it is possible for those who take merely an ecclesiastical or antiquarian interest in the Orthodox Church to take part in the unchanged service of antiquity according to the rites of Saint Chrysostom or Saint Basil, as the season demands, in any of the large cities or great industrial centres [1/2] of the east and middle west. In many places, however, these fellow-Christians are found in such small numbers that they cannot establish churches or procure the service of a priest of their own rite. In such cases the Episcopal Church has more than a social or moral responsibility for these people. They pride themselves in a close ecclesiastical kinship which necessarily involves spiritual responsibility. This responsibility is not always appreciated because Christian people fail to recognize the true relationship of the Churches. There was a period, extending from 1862 to 1874, when the attention of the Church was largely directed toward the Russo-Greek Church and its claims. Following that period, the large immigration of Italians has caused the American to identify most immigrants of the newer type with the Roman Catholic Church, and through this identification, interest in the immigrants from the Near East, belonging to the Orthodox Church, lapsed.


Preeminent place of Religion

It is possibly necessary to consider the mental and psychological background of the constituents of the Orthodox Church. Here we are brought face to face with conditions strange to the Western mind. With us religion has always been considered essential in educational development; in the East it is at once the main-spring and back-ground of the life of the people. Much as Greek, Slav, Bulgar and Syrian differ one from the other, in customs and manners, they have back of their lives the same guiding and sustaining power of a religion that is essentially personal and ever-present. Belief is not so much an act of faith as a condition of life. Public worship is not an occasion for inspiration, but of the exercise of a dominant force in life. When the Western Christian neglects his act of worship, his development is arrested; when the Orthodox is guilty of this neglect, his moral and spiritual nature weakens from malnutrition.

[3] Reticence in things spiritual is a characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon. On the other hand, the assurance of the constant nearness and friendship of God so governs the daily life of the Orthodox that religious acts and expression are as natural and instinctive as breathing and speaking. Religion is interwoven with all the other forces of life and naturally and yet unobtrusively assumes a conspicuous and often dominant place in the individual life without ever seeming to be forced or jarring.

Spirit of Worship

One cannot come into contact with the Orthodox or their land without realizing that the atmosphere is charged with the consciousness of the Presence of God. Immediately upon crossing the Russian frontier, for instance, the constant presence of icons or sacred pictures as the essential guide in the natural desire to worship reveals the pervasive nature of Orthodox religion. In these days of horror which has overwhelmed Russia, the people flock to the churches. The Metropolitan of Odessa has said that his Cathedral, which has a capacity of twelve thousand people, is always so packed that one cannot "drop an apple." In response to a summons for four days' devotion in behalf of destroyed monasteries in the spring of 1919, more than fifty thousand people gathered in a remote and inconvenient place.

No priest-craft

Back of all this there is no idea of priest-craft, as such, or of obtrusive exercise of priest-hood. The form of absolution is a prayer to God by the priest for the forgiveness of the penitent; sacraments are administered with an invocation that God may act; the expression used concerning the celebration of the Liturgy does not betoken the act of the individual as does our English expression "celebrate or administer." They speak of "serving" at the Liturgy.


[3] With the exception of the Bulgarians, all of the Orthodox people are drawn from races which are essentially democratic and independent. The heel of the oppressor, both without and within, has often ground hard, but the spirit of independence has never been lost. The Greeks have suffered often from discord within and terror and oppression without and yet always maintained the dominance of this independent and democratic spirit. The recovery of the Greek race from five hundred years oppression by the Turk, has been one of the marvels of history; and the triumph of the Grecian spirit in the Near East today will assume a place in history among the great conquests of democracy. It is the Grecian spirit which has dominated the Near East, not through physical or governmental control, or political intrigue, but through a gift which has always characterized the race; a spirit which was crystallized into the free religious spirit of Christianity. It is the same spirit which, generally speaking, made possible the maintenance of democratic ideals and preserved religion for a free people. Into darkened Russia the Orthodox Church penetrated and ministered to the same free spirit. The love of freedom in the Russian has been such that the people were willing to give tribute of the first fruits of their land in order that they might preserve the real freedom of the spirit. Beneath the external tyranny of Russian life has survived a spirit which is now making itself manifest. We have learned recently that peasant life in Russia has been essentially democratic. We have yet to teach people that in their religion also there has been a democratic spirit.


In Serbia the hand of the oppressor was heavy. The external manifestations of liberty were blotted out; education was impossible. There were no schools for a period of almost five hundred years. The only men who could read and write were the priests and these faithful priests kept alive, not merely the spirit of religion, but the spirit of democracy. When the opportunity for freedom came, the people willingly offered their lives for this cause; and [4/5] again, when the German had threatened to blot out their freedom, they were there with the readiness to dedicate life itself in its defense. The words of their Prime Minister should live forever, "Better to die in beauty than to live in shame."


In returning to the Greeks themselves we must never forget that they have been the idealists of the human race; that their ideal of freedom is the one which all other nations have followed, and in which most of the world glories today. Combined with this there is the same love of truth, the same seeking after the summum bonum, or the highest good, as the ideal life. In these days, such thoughts and such aspirations come not only from the design or even desire of man but because they have linked up with their religion the revelation and gifts of the Church of Christ.

An older civilization

Throughout the Near East one must be ready to find a contradiction of the Western idea of these peoples. We think of them as a cunning, crafty, intriguing body of men. On the contrary, they are in reality men of simple mind and desires. They represent an older civilization than ours. They have tested one by one the things that lead to external culture. They have of necessity placed these things in the crucible of affliction and have recovered, with the enduring principle of life, the gifts of simplicity, truth and honor.


Most books on the Eastern Orthodox Church emphasize the hierarchical side, pointing to the Church organization as a typical oligarchy. It cannot be denied that the Orthodox Church controls the life of the individual member to a much greater extent than does the Western Church. This is due, however, not to the autocratic rule, but to the deeply rooted religious sentiments of the people. When we study the ecclesiastical organization at close range, we discover that [5/6] no religious system has ever been more democratic. Even the decisions of an ecumenical council would not become binding unless they received the universal approval of communicants.

A Religion of the People

In this matter of the councils in general we are quite conscious that there exists some difference of opinion in the East and West concerning the forces or powers which give them validity. The Eastern Church has been more careful than the Western in defining the Church as a "living organism of faith and love," or, as one of them puts it, "faith and love as an organism, the Body of which Christ is the Head, and of which all those who have been, are, or shall be brought into it are the members, fulfilling itself indeed in time, but nevertheless constituting not an imaginary or allegorical, but a true and substantial unity." Under these conditions it is the whole Church and not the hierarchy which establishes the ecumenical authority of a council. The Anglican Church approaches the same end by making representatives of all the clergy and laity join with the Bishops in councilar action. [No Supreme Pontiff] Our Church also can sympathize with the criticism of the Latin distinction between Ecclesia docens and Ecclesia Discens which lead to patriarchal reply to the Encyclical of Pius IX in the year 1843 in which it plainly stated: "We have no worldly office of inspection, or sacred direction, such as his Holiness speaks of, but are united in the unity of the faith only by the bond of love and zeal for our common mother. . . . With us neither Patriarchs nor Council could introduce anything new, for the guardian of religion with us is the body itself, that is to say, the people, of the Church." This was quite recently discussed in a conference between the Metropolitan of Athens and his theologians and representatives of the Episcopal Church. In this conference it was fully agreed that neither Church could accept as ecumenical any action of the Bishops in Council apart from its universal acceptance by the people of the Church.


[6] The organization of the Orthodox Church followed along natural lines. The threefold order of the ministry was received from the Apostles. Naturally, in a growing Church, there was a necessity for a more comprehensive organization. The political organization of the Roman Empire naturally influenced the ecclesiastical organization.

The Metropolitans

In the division of the Empire the Metropolitan City was nearer the center of Provincial life. In like manner, the Bishop of the Metropolis was considered the Metropolitan Bishop and given that title. The  pre-eminence of certain cities among the Metropolitan districts gave logical pre-eminence to the dioceses associated with those cities. Even among the Metropolitan Sees there were certain capitals of the various divisions of the Roman Empire that took precedence. These were known as the Great Patriarchates.

It is impossible to understand rightly the Greek Church unless we grasp the idea of these Patriarchal thrones. There is no one in the Eastern Church who holds an office similar to the Pope of Rome, nor even the same exalted position of primacy as is held by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their whole system centres around the five Patriarchal thrones.

The Patriarchs

Although this is an apparent oligarchy, it is built upon a system of gradations, most democratic in its origin and dependent upon an extension of the democratic principle even to the election of the Patriarchs themselves.

For many centuries the Orthodox Church was supposed to have rested upon the pillars of these five Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. When the pillar of Rome became shaky, it was replaced in time by the Patriarchate of Moscow and, in later years, by the Holy Governing Synod of the Russian Church. The [7/8] oldest Patriarchates were those of Antioch, Rome and Alexandria. The first two claimed to have been founded and occupied by Saint Peter, the latter by Saint Mark. Naturally in the establishment of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, the Patriarchate of Rome assumed preeminence. Second to Rome in importance, the prior to that See in time, is the Patriarchate of Antioch.


The Antiochan Church was the most flourishing Church until it was almost swept away by the invasions of the Mohammedans. The present Patriarch resides in Damascus and governs the Church of about eighty thousand communicants. His title is "The Most Blessed and Holy Patriarch of the Divine City Antioch, Syria, Arabia, Cilicia, Iberia, Mesopotamia, and All the East; Father of Fathers and Pastor of Pastors."


The Patriarchate of Alexandria was the great seat of Eastern learning and flourished as such until it too was destroyed by the Mohammedans. It was largely the church of the Greeks. The ancient Egyptian Church, known as the Copt Church, is considered an heretical body and is not in communion with the Orthodox Church. The present Patriarch still resides in Alexandria and governs about thirty-seven thousand communicants. Like the Bishop of Rome, he enjoyed the title of "Pope." His full title is: "The Most Blessed and Holy Pope and Patriarch of the Great City Alexandria, and of All Egypt, Pentapolis, Libya and Ethiopia; Father of Fathers, Pastor of Pastors, Archpriest of Archpriests, Thirteenth Apostle and Ecumenical Judge." The last title was given because to him was allotted the duty of determining the exact date of Easter.


The founding of the imperial city on the site of Byzantium naturally lead to the creation of the Patriarchate of New Rome. The removal of the court of the emperor to this city, which was afterwards Constantinople, probably determined its status as a patriarchate. They soon discovered that the Apostle Saint Andrew, [9/10] had been at Byzantium and he was made patron of the See. Henceforward there was always much discussion concerning the relation of the Patriarchs of Constantinople to the Patriarchs of Rome. This, as we know, was the real cause of the great schism between the East and West. The Patriarch was director of the Church of Turkey, in Bosnia, Herzegovina, part of Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean Sea, formerly belonging to Turkey. He resides in Constantinople and is known as "The Most Entirely Holy Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch." He governs five million people.


The Jerusalem Patriarchate is, curiously enough, of much later origin. It was not separated until A. D. 451. Its glory is almost departed and there are today but fifty thousand native Christians within its jurisdiction. Its greatest privilege is acting as custodian of the holy places, including the Church of the Resurrection, commonly known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The present Patriarch is friendly disposed towards the Church of England, and has allowed English priests to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the Chapel of Abraham, connected with that Church. The Patriarch resides in Jerusalem and is known as "The Most Blessed and Holy Patriarch of the Holy City Jerusalem, and All Palestine, Syria, Arabia beyond Jordan, Cana in Galilee, and Holy Sion." There are fifty thousand communicants in this episcopate.



In addition to the patriarchates there are a number of so-called autocephalous or "self-headed" churches. Chief among these was the Russian Church, in its earliest days, before it took upon itself the lost position of the Patriarchate of Rome. It contains about 100,000,000 communicants. Until the downfall of the Russian Empire, it was governed by the Holy Governing Synod. [9/10] In 1918, it was again made a patriarchate, the present patriarch being Tikon, the former Archbishop of the Russian Church in America, who resides in Moscow.


Upon the declaration of freedom of Greece, the Church of Greece, of about three million communicants, also became independent and, after the example of Russia, in 1833 created the Holy Governing Synod of the Kingdom of Greece.

Smaller Churches

Other smaller independent churches have been created. The Most Blessed and Holy Archbishop of Nova-Justiniana and All Cyprus, who lives in Nocosia, governs about one hundred and sixty thousand communicants.

In the Serbian Church there are about 2,300,000 communicants. The present head is the Metropolitan Dimitrie, whose title is "The Archbishop of Belgrade and Metropolitan of All Serbia." He resides in Belgrade.

In the Church of Montenegro there are about 206,000 communicants, who are governed by the Metropolitan of Scanderia and the Sea Coast, Archbishop of Tsettin (Cetinge), Exarch of the Holy Throne of Pek, who resides in Cetigne.

The Orthodox Eastern Church in Austria-Hungary, of 1,570,000 communicants, is divided into three independent National Churches. The Metropolitan Province of Bukowina and Dalmatia has 550,000 communicants, of which the Most Reverend the Archbishop of Czernowitz, Metropolitan of Bukowina and of Dalmatia, is the head. He resides at Czernowitz.

The Most Holy and Reverend the Archbishop of Carlowitz, Serbian Metropolitan and Patriarch, residing in Carlowitz, has charge of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Hungary, Croatia and Slavonia, which has 800,000 communicants.

The 220,000 communicants of the Roumanian Orthodox Church in Hungary are governed by the Most Reverend the Archbishop of Hermannstadt, Metropolitan of the Orthodox [10/11] Roumanians in Hungary and Translyvania, who resides in Hermannstadt.

The Church of Roumania has 4,550,000 communicants and is governed by the Holy Synod of Roumania. The title of the president of the Synod is "The Archbishop and Metropolitan of Hungaro-Wallachia, Primate of All Roumania."

There are several branches of the Church which are out of communion with the rest of the Orthodox Churches having been separated through misunderstandings which were considered heresies. These are the Church of Armenia, with nearly 4,000,000 communicants; the Church of Bulgaria, with 4,000,000; the Coptic Church with about 2,000,000; the West Syrian with 400,000; the Assyrian with 200,000; and the Christians of Saint Thomas, at Travancore and Cochin, which has 200,000. The cause of separation in all these cases is so slight that the Churches should again be brought together. There is but little doubt that they can be easily united. In all there are communicants of the Eastern Churches amounting to over 130,000,000.


Philaret’s Comparisons

There is little need of informing the Church members of today concerning the essential doctrines of the Orthodox Church, yet a few words may be advisable. In the year 1815, His Eminence Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, possibly the leading theologian of the century in the Orthodox Church, made a comparative statement of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic doctrines. Among the points emphasized by him are:

(1) Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures as a source of the "doctrines of Faith." The reading of the Holy Scriptures is constantly enjoined upon the people. They are made to take precedence to the decisions of the councils and to traditions of the Church.

(2) [12] In the matter of sin, the need of the Mediator, and the doctrine of Grace, the doctrine advanced agrees with that of the Episcopal Church in every point in which the Episcopal Church differs from the Church of Rome. In the matter of the Eucharist the doctrine is identical. The Orthodox Church has also the practice of communicating both kinds.

(3) The marriage of the clergy is commended.

(4) The spiritual power of the Church in matters of faith and doctrine resides in the whole body of the Church. Even the decrees of the General Councils are not binding unless agreeable to the clergy and laity of the whole Church.

(5) The Churches agree in condemning the doctrine of purgatory and indulgences and supererogation.

The one matter in which the Orthodox Church disagrees with both the Episcopal Church and the Church of Rome is that of the addition of the words, "and the Son" in the so-called "Filioque Clause" in the Creed. Historically this was taken as an occasion for a rupture between the East and the West. The best Russian theologians do not condemn the teachings of the doctrine of a procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father through the Son; they do, however, object to this addition to the Creed. They carefully distinguish also between "an eternal procession such as should be from the Father alone, and a temporal procession which is from the Father through the Son in His mediation." From the earliest Council of the Anglican Church at Hatfield, 680, the procession from the Father and the Son has been held as a doctrine of the Church, but I think, there is no recorded acceptance by legislative action of the Anglican Church of the amended Creed. The emphasis upon the double procession has been recognized as part of the defense of the Church against the encroachment of Unitarianism. It is difficult to see how even so necessary a change may be made in the Creed.

Naturally, one would look for points of difference between the two Churches in formal religious acts.

Baptism and Confirmation

[13] Baptism through three-fold immersion is required, even in the case of infants. This is followed by an anointing with oil called Chrism, corresponding to Confirmation. In both of these cases, however, the form of our Church is recognized. The Russian Church has accepted Baptism by effusion as valid and the catechism of the Russian Church distinctly states that Confirmation by the laying on of hands was the original form. We should not forget to make due allowance for temperament and external conditions in these matters. In our Church, Baptism by immersion is the recommended form. Custom alone has established the almost exclusive use of the alternate form. In the matter of Confirmation of infants we should remember that in the East, from its earliest day, the child lives in an atmosphere in which religious life is very demonstrative. In the West, the spiritual awakening occurs later in life and is identified mostly with thoughtful consecration of self to a new and higher calling. In the East the child naturally participates in a condition into which it was born.

The use of unleavened or wafer bread is forbidden and communions are made from leavened bread cut from a loaf. In public Communion the elements are administered by intinction, the Bread being dipped in the Wine and administered to the communicant from a spoon. This sacrament, however, is administered to the clergy after the manner common in the Episcopal Church.


Filioque Clause

The doctrinal differences of the two Churches are more apparent than real. We have already referred to the misunderstandings concerning the doctrine which centers around the introduction of the "Filioque  Clause" into the Creed. This was used as an excuse for the separation between the East and the West, although traditional misunderstandings concerning jurisdiction [13/14] were the actual cause. An interesting discussion took place with the Reverend F. W. Puller of the Anglican Church, who was sent to Russia at the request of the Russian Church. The conference was held with Professor Brilliantoff in the presence of the Bishop of Kholm and Bishop Innocent of Yakutsk. In this discussion the interpretation of the addition was so clearly set forth and the justification of the addition to the Creed so clearly stated that Father Puller was able to report to his Russian audience, that, "at the close of the conference the presiding Bishop, the Bishop of Kholm, authorized me to tell my audience . . . Though the Russian and the English differ in the wording of their respective formulas, yet the conference had, after hearing explanations, concluded that the two Churches are agreed as to the substance of the teaching concerning the Eternal Procession of the Holy Ghost." Theologians of the Anglican Church, almost without exception, agree with the learned American theologian, the late Bishop Arthur Cleveland Cox that "the words of the Filioque are yet in the Symbol although our most learned divines agree that however true they may be they are not part of the faith." This statement was accepted as part of the report of the Committee of the General Convention, and inserted in the official report, 1862.

We must not forget, however, that they have come to be a recognized part of the Creed as used in the West, and are especially viewed as our official condemnation of the Unitarian doctrines found in many parts of the country. An absolute rejection of the phrase, at this time, would doubtless be viewed as a rejection of the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. At a recent conference with the Metropolitan of Athens, the writer submitted the following proposition, which we asked His Eminence to consider.

Suggested Compromise

"We have had recourse in our Prayer Book to the use of optional phrases as when in the Baptismal office we say 'He shall dip or he may pour.' It will be necessary, most [14/15] likely, in administering the sacraments of Confirmation or Chrism after the manner which I suggested in the letter which I have handed your Grace, that some optional phrases or directions be added. In fact the Longer Catechism and the Catechism of Peter Mogola speak of one form as the Biblical form and another as having the warrant of Apostolic use. Would it not be possible in the same manner for the Creed to be authorized in either form, permitting the optional use or disuse of the words of the Filioque, with some qualifying note, such as, on the one hand, 'provided that the use of these words does not imply two Sources in the Godhead,' or on the other hand, 'provided that this omission does not imply a denial of the Deity of the Son.' In some such way I believe the Creed could be used satisfactorily by all." [* Quoted from Report of an Unofficial Conference on Unity.]

The Eucharist

Some misunderstanding has always existed regarding the doctrine of the Eucharist, by an unfortunate translation which was later repudiated by the great theologian, Philaret. The term of "transubstantiation" was used in explaining the doctrine of the Eucharist. The doctrine has been so carefully explained in subsequent discussions that it has been found to be in substantial agreement with that of the Episcopal Church on this subject. This point was likewise considered by the committee of the General Convention mentioned above and its findings officially reported and accepted. The Reverend J. B. Young, afterwards Bishop of Florida, reporting on this subject, states: "The Catholic Church of the East, and likewise the Russo-Greek Church used, it is true, the word "transubstantiation"; (Greek: Melousiosis) understanding thereby not a physical and carnal transubstantiation, but sacramental and mystical. . . . The manner of the Lord's Presence in the Blessed Eucharist is a mystery to be apprehended by faith and not a matter to be speculated and dogmatized upon or reasoned about. All definitions or [15/16] pretended explanations such as the use of the word 'transubstantiation' are but attempts to penetrate the mystery and in so far tend to overthrow the very nature of the sacrament."

Anglican Orders

The validity of the Orders of the Anglican Church has always been pushed to the front by the machinations of the Church of Rome. A treatise, Enquiry into the Hierarchy of the Anglican Episcopal Church, by Professor Basil Sokoloff, of Moscow, admirably states the latest opinions of the Orthodox Church. This book is significant not merely for its soundness in research, but for its acceptance by the Most Holy Governing Synod of Russia as the thesis of Professor Sokoloff for the degree of Doctor of Divinity. While the acceptance of the book as a thesis does not assume the character of a synodal endorsement, we are led to believe that the Most Holy Governing Synod found therein nothing that a priest of the Orthodox Church should not believe and teach. We would likewise refer to the learned work of the Reverend C. Androustos on Anglican Ordination, and of A. Bulgakoff, The Question of Anglican Orders, which, while lacking such official recognition as that accorded the thesis of Professor Sokoloff, are, we understand, generally received and recognized as authoritative and satisfactory considerations on the whole subject of ordination in the Anglican Church.

The conclusions of Professor Sokoloff are (1) that there can be no doubt of the regularity of the consecration of Bishop Parker; (2) that the intention of the Church is the same as that of the Orthodox Church; (3) that even if a suspicion of heresy in the Anglican Church was justified, there does not exist sufficient heresy to prevent the free operation of the Holy Ghost in the ordination of her ministers.


We, of course, know that even so sympathetic a theologian as Sokoloff finds difficulty in the scant references to the gift of Orders as a sacrament. This omission is due largely to the desire of English-speaking people to confine the word "sacrament" to those sacraments which [16/17] are essential to salvation and are described as Sacraments of the Gospel. The other sacraments, known by theologians as Sacraments of the Church, are not considered of the same necessity. Very often in conversation, both the Russian and the Greek terms are translated "mysteries," which is a more general term than the English word "sacrament." We should never forget that there is a tendency in the English language to narrow the use of words to a technical meaning, based upon the essential use of the object or action described. "Coal," for instance, has lost its general meaning and is now applied merely to a substance dug from the earth. In like manner the term "sacrament" has come to be applied to the two sacraments absolutely essential to life in Christ. This is merely a development of the tendency of both Eastern and Western Churches, which in former centuries had chosen seven particular sacraments from the number of so-called sacraments, and had decreed that these and these alone should be considered as sacraments in the theological sense of the word. Careful study of the Article on Sacraments in the Thirty-nine Articles will show that in no respect is the sacramental or mystical nature of the word "sacraments" as more extensively used, denied.


Domestic Legislation

We now come to the consideration of certain misunderstandings concerning matters, not of faith, but merely relating to Domestic Legislation. These cover many points of divergence in practice and expression which arise neither from departure from the Faith nor radical innovations in the customs of the Church. Such points are a part of an historical setting, and should be viewed and explained as such. Legislation which is prompted by historical exigencies of one race should not be considered a bar to social or ecclesiastical intercourse. It would seem quite far from the tolerant spirit of Christianity [17/18] to refuse intercourse with another body of Christians because of dislike of some domestic practice; and, equally wrong for the second to ground cause for disunion on the non-conformity of the other to that practice.

Seventh Council

(a) Much confusion in a conference on union of the two branches of the Church could be avoided if the Seventh Ecumenical Council which treats of Relics and the Invocation of Saints were classified as domestic legislation, applying especially to conditions obtaining in the Eastern Church. While the Council has been accepted in spirit by the Anglican Church, it has never been officially accepted or rejected. The question and practice therein contained are those that bear upon the ethnic rather than the ethical inheritance of the race. The Easterns are naturally more demonstrative in their ceremonial expression of honor than the Anglo-Saxon race. Where Orientals prostrate themselves before superiors whom they have no intention of adoring, Anglicans reserve such methods of honor to God; and do not always realize that other races may prostrate themselves before created things without idolatrous meaning. This possibly explains the prejudice of many modern Anglicans against the authorization of veneration and reverence, not adoration or worship, by the Seventh General Council. We ask the Orthodox to recognize this difference of ceremonial custom, and not to think because prostration is only rare or occasional that we are lacking in the proper spirit of reverence. It is always to be remembered that the Anglican Church has a two-fold mission. While on the one hand, for her own spiritual consolation and strength she clings lovingly to her Catholic inheritance and yearns for the inspiration and help of a closer union with her sister Church of the East; at the same time her daily mission brings her in close contact with Dissenting and Protestant bodies differing from her either in faith or practice. She shares with them the same national hope and finds in them co-workers in the great social and ethical problems of the race. [18/19] Instinctively she is guarded in her utterance. Christian love does not permit the use of language so unsympathetic in the Protestant direction that it repels those who should be attracted and won. By speaking in terms which they can understand she hopes that they may discover in time that in religious practice she relies on something not possessed by them, and that the hope of attaining this will lead them ultimately to assume the Panoply of Faith. We ought not to be expected to apologize for language used in charity nor to claim our right to its use without constant attestation that the quality of our language does not betoken a forsaking of the Catholic Faith and Order.

Thirty-nine Articles

(b) In the same category, we would place the Thirty-nine Articles which were intended, not merely to correct the abuses of the Middle Ages, but even more especially aimed to combat modern innovations introduced by the Anabaptists of Germany and the Netherlands. They were drawn up during a time of ecclesiastical change and strife, which was characterized by confusion in many things rather than by a coherent state of error which could be accurately defined and condemned. The peace, both of the Realm and of the Church, seemed to call for quieting controversy rather than for setting forth definitions. The Reverend Dr. Hall, at the conference with the Metropolitan of Athens, compared them to one side of a telephone conversation of which the other was a medley of conflicting remarks.


The worship of the Orthodox Church naturally centers around the Divine Liturgy or the service of the Holy Eucharist. After the Oriental manner, the form of worship is elaborate, ritualistic, allegorical and full of mysticism. It is the worship of one who has been taught from infancy to feel the presence of God and to realize his personal share in the [19/20] religious life of his nation. With the Orthodox, to a much greater extent than to the Western Christian, the priest is but a leader, while the laity take conspicuous part in the service. This is especially possible because the services are always in the native tongue. In the case of Greek and Russian Churches, it is true that the older classic language is used, but then, the difference is not nearly so great as that between modern English and the English of Chaucer. A Russian book explaining obsolete words and phrases in the Liturgy, contains not more than a hundred words and could have been bought for about an English penny.

Service for Preparation / The Sanctuary

The Liturgy is often described as a very long and tiresome service, where as a matter of fact, it lasts not more than an hour and a half, even with a long sermon. Preceding the Liturgy, however, there is an office of preparation lasting about an hour, consisting mostly of hymns and chanting conducted for the most part by the laity. This service takes place in the nave of the Church. The Liturgy proper takes place in the sanctuary, which is separated from the nave by a large screen, called the iconostasis, usually brilliantly adorned, having large folding doors in the middle and smaller doors on either side. Within the sanctuary the conspicuous furniture consists of the Holy Table, which is placed immediately in front of the middle doors of the iconostasis. On the left of the sanctuary, against the rear wall, is a small table called the Table of Prothesis. At this table occurs the preparation of the elements used in the Divine Liturgy. The space on the right is generally reserved as a vestry and very often is not separated from the rest of the sanctuary. The actual consecration of the elements occurs at the Holy Table, upon which parts of the Book of the Gospels, branched candlesticks and the pyx, for the Reserved Sacrament, are to be found.

The Service / Symbolism

[21] The Liturgy opens with the following benediction: "Blessed be the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, now and forever, and to ages and  ages. Amen." This is followed by a procession of priests, usually accompanied by a deacon, around the Holy Table. After a series of litanies, invocations to the Holy Trinity and special supplications, the Epistle or the Apostle, as it is generally called, is read by the deacon or reader from a desk in the body of the nave. After this the Book is borne to the sanctuary and the priest, turning to the people, says, "Wisdom, stand up. Hear the Gospel." The Gospel is then read or sung with much ceremony. At this place the sermon should follow immediately, after which the doors are closed and a heavy veil drawn across the altar. Now follows the oblation or consecration of the Holy Eucharist. The recital of the Nicene Creed forms an important part of this service. Always, although with much more ceremony, the service is similar to that used in our Church, containing the Sursum Corda and the Sanctus; the same Words of Institution, the Oblation and Invocation of the Holy Spirit as contained in our Prayer Book and the recital of the Lord's Prayer, as provided for in the suggested amendment to our Liturgy. The interesting ritual acts which are peculiar to the Eastern Church are thrusting the spear into the Bread and covering the consecrated Bread with the cruciform, star-like covering, called the asterisk, symbolizing the star which stood over the place where the Incarnate Lord lay. In the consecration of the Wine the elements are fanned, symbolizing the breath of the Holy Spirit, and there is a mixture of warm water, symbolizing the warmth of Christian devotion. The service closes with the communions, when they are made; and the benediction, which is given by the priest holding a cross aloft in his hand. At the close of the service there is a distribution of the portions of bread not selected for consecration. This is called [21/22] the antidoron, which means "in place of the gift" and corresponds to the "pain bene" in certain Western Churches and reminds one of the "agape" of early Christian days. Those receiving the antidoron consider that while they are not partaking of the Holy Communion, they do enjoy the fellowship of the Saints.

Other Sacraments

All the other services of the church are centered around the Liturgy. Baptism is already described as taking place by a triple immersion. Confirmation immediately follows and the body is anointed with oil blessed by a bishop. This oil is blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and is distributed throughout the Orthodox Church. The Confession is made face to face with the priest, and in the open church. The form used is not "I absolve thee," but "Our Lord absolve thee." The Ordination service is similar to ours, the congregation, however, taking conspicuous part by proclaiming the worthiness or unworthiness of the candidate. The Marriage service is of elaborate nature, conspicuously Oriental. It is preceded by a lesser ceremony of betrothal and the exchange of rings. The burial service likewise differs very largely from that in the Western world.


A Practical Problem

For centuries the question of inter-communion and reunion has been discussed as a spiritual necessity of the Church of Christ. Today we must face the whole problem at close range and with a wider and more personal view. To that spiritual necessity is added a moral and social necessity. The conditions obtaining in America are such that in order to serve the best interests of American life we must provide religious opportunities for all the people of our land after a manner that will meet existing spiritual needs.

[23] Two factors enter largely into the determination of the nature of the need for such service. Unlimited industrial opportunities draw members of the Orthodox Church to all parts of our vast domain. In some places it has been possible for the several hierarchies of the Orthodox Church to provide both churches and priests for the people. In other communities priests have been sent, but the congregations have not been able to erect churches. In many such places the use of an Episcopal church has been offered and accepted. There are many places which no priest can at present visit or where only a rare visit can be made. Concern for the souls of these children of the Orthodox Church especially moves us to devote prayers and energies towards hastening the day when the Episcopal Church may appease their spiritual hunger until the arrival of the Orthodox priest fully meets their need. We would hope, therefore, that full consideration of the claims of the two Churches to a lawful and historic ministry, to the teaching of a doctrine substantially the same, to the administrations of sacraments conveying the same spiritual refreshment and strength, may reveal such great similarity in mission and identity of purpose, that each may effectively administer to the communicants of either Church.

Shifting Conditions / An Economic Question

A second consideration arises from the changing condition of American life by which, in some centres, the older inhabitants are being replaced by those who accept the ministry of the Orthodox Church. It is quite probable that already there exist communities where an Episcopal Church has lost almost all its members and Orthodox abound; or it may be that in some communities, newly created by industry, a few members of the Episcopal Church may be employed among a large number of Orthodox. It would seem neither to the glory of God nor the welfare of man that such conditions should lead to the multiplying of churches. It ought not to exist where the spiritual needs of the two groups approach identity. Is it not possible, so to [23/24] adjust the relations of the two Churches that there be neither a duplication of effort nor separation in worship merely because of ethnic differences.


In the light of the foregoing thoughts it will be seen that the hope of reunion in this age is neither impossible nor forlorn. So close does the dawn of the day when brethren shall dwell together in unity appear, that after discussion with all the leading prelates of the branches of the Eastern Church in America--the Russian, Roumanian, Syrian, Serbian, Greek, Armenian, Assyrian--we would suggest the following as a programme for reunion.

Referring to the results of the historical researches of the last century, should not the whole Church accept the judgment of the learned theologians and historians of the Orthodox Churches, and the unanimous testimony of the whole Anglican Communion regarding the validity of the Orders of the clergy and of the Anglican Church; and of the intention to bestow and receive mission similar to that received at Ordination in the Orthodox Church?

Acknowledging, as we must, the unfortunate forms in which the doctrine of our Church is sometimes expressed, and which often divides the Church of Christ, should not the evidence of an intention on the part of writers and compilers not to depart from the traditional teachings of the undivided Church, be accepted as a final interpretation of these matters?

We acknowledge the marked divergence in the devotions and pious customs of the Churches, but these should be considered as matters of domestic polity, and should be regulated by the individual branches of the Church.


[25] Concerning the sacraments we are in substantial agreement as to intention and efficacy. Differences in mode or method are not sufficient either to prevent free operation of the grace conveyed or to cause confusion in the minds of the unlearned, and under such conditions the following plan for the charitable administration of the sacraments seems worthy of consideration:


(a) In the matter of Baptism, first, a priest of the Episcopal Church, acting in the absence of the Orthodox priest, should baptize children of Orthodox parentage by triple immersion when so desired. Second, priests of the Orthodox Church, acting in the absence of an Episcopal clergy-
man, should baptize children of Episcopal parentage after the manner of the Episcopal Church, when so requested. Third, in neither case should such Baptism be considered irregular, nor be repeated as a condition to the reception of the other rites or sacraments.


(b) In the matter of Confirmation, we would suggest that it would seem most desirable that there be a mutual recognition of the manner and matter of administration treasured by the two Churches. Orthodox bishops should express a willingness to lay their Apostolic hand upon members of the Episcopal Church when presented by priests of either the Episcopal or Orthodox Church. Likewise bishops of the Episcopal Church should be prepared to anoint with oil, consecrated by themselves or some other bishop, members of the Orthodox Church, who offer themselves for Confirmation. And priests of the Anglican Church administering to Orthodox, should be ready to use Unction according to Orthodox custom. In neither case should the omission of the canonical form in one Church be considered by the other as a bar to the reception of the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.


(c) [26] In the matter of the Eucharist, it would seem charitable that neither communicants nor clergy should insist upon the use or reception of either form or matter unacceptable to the other.

Holy Orders

(d) In the case of Orders, there should be some formal expression upon the indelibility of Holy Orders, and a full understanding that re-ordination of those legally ordained, even though deposed, is contrary to Christian comity.


(e) In the matter of Matrimony: While recognizing the right of the individual Churches to legislate upon the question of re-marriage of divorced persons, we would hold that it would not be for the good of society for one Church to sanction the marriage of members of the other Church who have been inhibited by the canons thereof.


With a program such as this in view a series of conferences has been conducted recently in the interest of Reunion. During the spring of 1916, a series of Conferences was held between Archbishop Evdokim, acting for the Holy Governing Synod of Russia, and the clergy of the Episcopal Church. At these conferences the question of validity of Anglican Orders and the substantial agreement between the Churches in the matter of faith was determined. In October of 1918, the Metropolitan of Athens and his theologians conferred with bishops and other clergy of the Episcopal Church with the same result. This discussion was continued in England, where matters of ecclesiastical practice and domestic legislation were discussed to the satisfaction of both parties.

It is necessary for the moral and social welfare of America, that the Orthodox be kept in close contact with their native Church, or else receive sacraments from clergy of other Churches, whose administration is duly sanctioned by their own Church. We do not believe that Protestantism or excessive literalism in religion will help the Orthodox to get the best from their American life, and we as surely believe that [26/27] the influence of those returning to their native land imbued with negative or ultra-liberal ideas in matters of religion can only engender a harmful form of individualism in religious and ecclesiastical life. We are led, not merely to protest against Protestant propaganda as conducted in the Near East, but to do all in our power to forestall its extension through the misguided enthusiasm of American Protestants. The excesses of the Old Believers in Russia and of the Non-Conformists, Dissenters and Protestants in England and America reveal how both Orthodox and Anglicans, acting apart from the grace and strength of the sacraments of the Holy Apostolic Church, press Eastern tendencies to rigidity in matters of discipline, as well as faith, and the Anglo-Saxon delight in logical deduction, to extreme or negative conclusion.

It would be impossible to Anglicize the East and equally impossible to Orientalize the West. Union by fusion at this time would seem to be but an idle dream; yet "It is a joyful and pleasant thing to dwell together in unity." This unity should be furthered if we recognized national and racial difference and tried to assist each other in maintaining those things usually believed by the undivided Church and administering those sacraments ordained by our Blessed Lord for the help and salvation of all believers.

Moved by such thoughts and conscious of the searching challenge of the momentous days through which we are passing, we read again the prayer of the Holy Synod of Greece in an address to the Primate of All England, June 11, 1870: "May the all-blessed Spirit, who from Heaven visiteth men, lightening their understanding with divine light, and guiding them into all truth, and warming their hearts with divine love,--guide all into concord in Christ, and unity of faith, or if not all, at least the Christians of the Eastern Church and your own, which abiding by the enactments of the Apostles and holy synods, neither admit of any absolute, arbitrary and irresponsible monarchy in the flock of Christ, nor all the faith to be defined after each man's fancies."

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