Archbishop Germanos on Anglicanism.
By Canon J. A. Douglas, Ph.D.
The Christian East, Spring, 1929, pp. 11-20 This essay responds to "Progress Towards the Re-Union of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches," by Archbishop Germanos of Thyatira.
TO see ourselves as others see us is very wholesome, even when the observer is ill-informed and unsympathetic. But when he is as shrewd and competent, and withal is as well disposed towards us Anglicans and as versed in our affairs as is Archbishop Germanos of Thyatira, then we are wise to study carefully what he has to say about us, and ought to be grateful for the opportunity.
Accordingly, when Orthodoxia, the official organ of the Oecumenical Patriarch, published a series of articles from him describing the final stages of the Revision of the Prayer Book and the controversies which accompanied its passage through our Convocations and the Church Assembly and its presentation to and rejection by Parliament in December, 1928, we read them with marked attention and salutary profit which have been redoubled by our study of them and by their reprinting in pamphlet form under the title of AnaqewrhsiV tou Neon Eucologion Agglikanou, sc. The Recent Revision of the Anglican Prayer Book, by the Patriarchal Press, Constantinople, 1928.
For the more part they present to their readers simply the narrative of that dramatic and historic struggle, in which, largely by his personal influence and in the face of an obscurantist and violently biased beating of the Protestant drum, Archbishop Davidson came very near to persuading the House of Commons, and did persuade the House of Lords, to approve that Revision of the Prayer Book which the State itself had invited and commissioned our Episcopate to undertake, and which undoubtedly represented the considered judgment not only of our Bishops, but of the great majority of the clergy and laity of the Church of England as to what was necessary in order to appease the conflicts of opinion among us, to further solidarity in our Church life and work, and in some measure to bring our lex orandi et credendi up to the requirements of the Twentieth Century.
Archbishop Germanos is no stranger to us. Even when he arrived in London in 1922 to take up his office as Exarch of the Oecumenical Patriarchate and as its aprokrisarios to our Archbishop, he was as familiar with England and with the King's English as book knowledge and assiduous study could make him. Since then he has been immersed in the atmosphere of our national, and especially of our religious life. If he does not understand us, no-one ever will. Moreover, he is instinct with goodwill towards us Anglicans, and, as witness the paper which he read last autumn to our Church Congress at Cheltenham, and which is printed in the present issue, even where formidable obstacles are pointed out to him, he remains an optimist in regard to Anglican and Orthodox Re-union, and maintains sturdily the ultimate possibilities of our movement.
None the less, he is not of those who imagine that formal Anglican-Orthodox Intercommunion can rightly be reached per saltum. He is prepared to make any concession that can be made without compromise of Orthodox principles, and he is eager to make it. But he is quite plain and definite as to what are the principles of Orthodoxy --and progressive, modern-minded man that he is, and devoted though he be to the great socio-religious movements of the day, he holds fast with conscience and conviction to those principles as to a rock--and neither for the great end of Re-union itself, nor for its fruitful results in Christianizing the twentieth-century world, is he ready to contemplate an Unio haud vera of the Ferrara-Florence kind it the price of veiling a compromise in ambiguous phrases. On the contrary, he is of those--and very humbly we crave leave to range ourselves alongside of him--who believe that the general cause of Christian Re-union and the other great causes which are involved n it, the evangelization of the heathen at home and abroad, the Christianization of social and economic civilized life, the rolling back if materialism and of the godlessness which enterprises the reconstitution of human life on the basis of purely materialistic and naturalistic categories, is best to be served by logical thinking on first principles. He knows that if, as happens even in our day, when heir knees are under the same table with us at Conferences, Orthodox delegates make concessions and burk essential issues, they will be repudiated at home, and that in the issue he will better subserve the cause which we all have at heart, and will manifest himself as our truer friend by telling us frankly and remorselessly what may be unpalatable truths than if he did as do some of the lesser Orthodox theologians who have attended Conferences, such as those of Stockholm and Lausanne, and are feted in Anglican and Liberal Evangelical circles in England and on the Continent, and speaking smooth things declared the circle to be easily squared.
In other words, while he misses no occasion to speak the attractive word and to do the kindly thing, he makes no bones about pointing out that as the Orthodox Church is now, and as the Anglican Church is now, their Re-union is not possible. For him as for the whole Orthodox solidarity, Re-union is unthinkable except on the basis of full dogmatic agreement. He tried to make that clear at Lausanne in 1927, when, unpleasant though the task was, he did not shirk reading a blunt reasoned Declaration to the Faith and Order Conference to the effect8 that he and his Orthodox colleagues must disassociate themselves from all its Reports except the first. And he was at no small pains at the Cheltenham Church Congress last autumn to point the same moral in other form.
In all that, he is, of course, well aware that more suo the intolerant and well-informed Modernist or Liberal Evangelical will pronounce him--a certain Dr. Barton, a congregationalist, I understand, of the very American variety, actually did so almost ipsissimis verbis--to be an anachronism, a medievalist whisked into our wonderful, progressive, egocentric era. As a matter of fact, he happens to have studied at Lausanne and other very up-to-date European Universities, and is himself as thoroughly a scientific theologian and twentieth century man of the world as is Dr. Streeter or Dr. Deissmann. Only he believes his religion, and can be untrue neither to his individual experience of it in his inner life nor to the traditional position of Eastern Orthodoxy. No doubt he is no less well aware--it may be surmised that maybe he is even better aware than are the American and other Protestants who are insistent on reforming the Orthodox Church out of itself and into their own likeness--of just what are the weak points of Orthodoxy to-day, of where it needs to be vivified and awakened in order that it may be able to appropriate the discoveries of modern science, thought and criticism, and readjusting itself to handle the problems which confront it in general, to address itself to its vocation to christianize the natural lives of its people in particular. But assuredly he is altogether unwilling to treat the Orthodox Faith as an open question. He believes in it for himself, and he knows that while once it were thrown into the melting pot, Orthodox life and solidarity would disintegrate, the residuary legatee of the Orthodox Church would certainly be neither Rome nor Evangelicalism, but either a materialistic agnosticism with purely naturalistic categories or a positive and aggressive atheism of the Bolshevik Marxian type. If the speculation be a pardonable liberty, he might be expected to say, that while Orthodox theologoumena, e.g., doctrinal explications of dogma are altogether open to restatement and to development, Orthodox dogmata are of the essence of the Faith, and as such are incapable of restatement or development except by an Oecumenical Council. But in making that avowal, he would almost certainly be found to add that even in the region of theologoumena, there must be no sudden and challenging transformation of form and content. As the Russian Khomiakov used to put it,, the Church is far more than the custodian of an unalterable deposit of belief, or even than a guide into unchangeable truth. She is illumined by the Holy Spirit, and is the Body of Christ. As such she is the organism of Hope and of Life. Assuredly shipwreck of her divinely revealed Faith must not be made; for in itself heresy is a disease and a disaster. But to insist upon addition, diminution, or innovation upon the tradition of Faith even if it is not a sin against the Truth, is certainly a grievous sin against Love: for to tell your brother that he is wrong and that you, being right, intend to pluck the mote out of his eye, is to copy the egocentricism of Lucifer and to infringe the unity which is in Christ. Therefore, while he would not only not deny but would avow the desirability of progress in regard to everything within the region of Orthodox theologoumena--e.g., he would probably approve Dr. Androutsos' view that the proved results of the Higher Criticism's interpretations of Holy Scripture ought to be accepted, and are in no way precluded--he would almost certainly contend that in the readjustment of the Form and Content of Orthodoxy o modern conclusions and to the Zeitgeist, the principle of a tender solicitude for the consciences--the prejudices, if you will--of others should be predominant over intellectual assumptions and tendencies, and that, whatever the individual thinker may think, he should adjust his opinions to the common outlook and way of life of his brethren, and should not pose as their corrective, but should rather make himself "all things" to them. In other words, he would have the advanced and progressive Western Christian be first and foremost helpful and constructive and not destructive to Orthodoxy, would have him get that beam out of his own eye which makes him self-satisfied, superior and hustling, and maintain the bond of love even at the expense of patience with that which he neither understands nor likes.
Accordingly, since while he is a zealot for Re-union alike for its own sake and for the practical consequences which it must bring, and while he is prepared for dynamic evolution in the form and content of Orthodoxy, he cannot compromise upon its principles, his narrative of the history of our attempt at Prayer Book Revision is necessarily a human document and peculiarly illuminating. If it is quite true that for the more part that narrative does no more than record events, none the less in its analysis of the forces which made for the legalization of the Composite Book or against it, it reveals the anxious watchfulness and is replete with the shrewd observations of one who is interested not so much in the result of that controversy as in the issues which produced it. The study of his brochure will leave the reader in doubt as to whether Archbishop Germanos regretted the final rejection of our Revised Prayer Book by Parliament--probably he did regret it--but it will leave him in no doubt that as he watched the stages of the controversy upon it in our own ecclesiastical bodies, i.e., in Convocation and the Church Assembly, and in the country, e.g., in the Dioceses and in our secular press, he was continually seeking for indications as to how far the Church of England is a Church with which the Orthodox Church can unite or indeed can be in close brotherly relations.
That, although he had studied Anglicanism by book for over 20 years before he came to London in 1921, and though since then he has had a rare immersion in the atmosphere of our Church life, not only in daily contacts but also through his free access to our inner ecclesiastical circles, his analysis of the various and often conflicting "schools of thought," "tendencies," and "sections" which present themselves to the student of the complex of our English religious life should need rectification in its details is necessarily inevitable. The wisest and most judicial estimate of it which the most impartial among ourselves could achieve would not approve itself to us all! But the picture which he gives is on the whole amazingly good, and if it needs correction here and there, and if it needs supplement, it is neither angular nor distorted. Thus, it is out of perspective, e.g., when
(I) it classifies, p. 24, the Bishop of Birmingham and our extremely aggressive Modernists--we imagine that our historic Evangelicals would be as indignant as Dr. Barnes would be startled at the identification, and that both would repudiate it sharply--as an extreme offshoot of our Evangelical party;
or (ii) when, by overlooking the fact that a considerable section of moderate High Churchmen was averse--and no less averse than Anglo-Catholics--not to the introduction of an Epiklesis in the revised Canon, but to the position assigned it after the words of Institution at which it is customary among us to hold that the Consecration takes place, he misconstrues their opposition in that matter by inferring (p. 18) that it was motived by a dislike to an approximation to the Eastern Liturgies and a differentiation from the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, the romanesque among us are an exiguous and relatively insignificant section, and for the more part critics of the Epiklesis in the revised Canon among High Churchmen were either old-fashioned Anglicans or liturgiologists.
These and similar relatively trivial misapprehensions being rightly ignored, I venture to appreciate the imponderabilia of the Metropolitan's exposition of our Prayer Book Revision controversy as making it unique in intuition and in constructive sympathy towards the approximation of Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism. Where it states an emphatic non possumus, there is no un kindness in that statement. On the contrary, the Archbishop is governed always by that golden rule of theological discussions: "When the conditions of conference are polemical, emphasize agreements. But when charity and mutual attractions prevail precise your disagreements." Until you do so you will not know what you have to reconcile, and if you do not do so you will suddenly find yourself in controversy when you imagined that you were near striking hands.
For example, taking as his text the present Archbishop of York, Dr. Lang's, declaration in his speech in the Church Assembly on February 7th, 1927, that the Composite Book was based not on compromise but comprehension, he says (p. 18) under the title of "The Conflict of Parties in the Church over the New Prayer Book," "There will be no need to give a further description after what has been said in Orthodoxia (No. 17, p. 194) about the parties which exist in the Anglican Church, and which Anglicans designate as 'schools of thought' or 'elements of religious life,' or 'different aspects of one and the same truth,' which for every impartial judge are nothing other than radically inconsistent convictions in regard to questions which at least from the Orthodox point of view are essential. These parties, to which as I have said above, the Archbishops made frequent reference, are in effect two in number, the Evangelical or Protestant Party and the Catholic or Anglo-Catholic. Further and over and above these, there have developed particularly in recent years on the one hand the Modernist Party, as an offshoot of the former, and as having some continuity with the old Broad Church Party, and, on the other hand, the Romanizing Party, which represents the extreme of Anglo-Catholicism and in a measure corresponds to the Modernist. By the avowal of the Archbishops we know that the views of the Evangelical, the Catholic and the Modernist parties were taken into consideration in the compilation of the New Prayer Book, and that an attempt was made as far as possible to satisfy all three of them for the sake of the comprehensiveness of the Anglican Church. Anglicans habitually avoid the usage of the term compromise as designating concession in regard to two or three opinions, and prefer the term comprehensiveness. The majority of the Bishops hold that their Church has possessed this peculiar characteristic since the days of the Reformation, and regard it not as a defect but as a good quality. In order to understand this term, we must think of the significance which so-called theologoumena possess among us, only with this difference, that theological opinions in the Anglican Church are not concerned as among us simply with matters as to which no precise doctrine is found in Revelation, but as to which there exists clear doctrine either in Holy Scripture or in Apostolic Tradition. Thus, e.g., during the recent Eucharistic controversy which an inopportune exhibition of free thought on the part of the Bishop of Birmingham had kindled, it was demonstrated that in the Anglican Church the right to be is equally justified of the receptionist, i.e., of those who admit the existence there of the Body and Blood of Christ only for those who receive Him with faith, and of the followers of the doctrine of the Real Presence, i.e., of those who accept their objective existence independently of the recipient. Moreover, over and above these chief categories, there are wanting neither those who defend transubstantiation nor those who are partisans of Calvinistic doctrine as to the Sacrament--nor, indeed, of the extreme liberal point of view that the Holy Eucharist is simply bread and wine which we receive in memory of the Saviour. It would be futile for the Orthodox to wish to get at the heart of the secret of this Comprehensiveness, inasmuch as it is inseparably connected with a religious consciousness and mentality which are the product of long centuries of conflict between the two elements in the Anglican Church, from which neither has emerged conqueror, and which have rendered it necessary that they should become tolerant each of the other, and should live together in order that a specifically Anglican Church should exist at all. In truth that this Comprehensiveness approximates rather to Protestant principles, and became possible both through the Reformation which the Anglican Church accepted and owing to the way in which it accepted it, is quite plain. Comprehensiveness of such a kind is something incomprehensible to anyone who finds himself outside its orbit."
All round reflection upon what Archbishop Germanos has to say about us to the Orthodox and to ourselves induces two conclusions.
The first is not so chilling as prima facie it would appear. It is that as the Orthodox Church is to-day with its strict insistence upon its traditional dogmatic position, and as it views the Anglican Church of to-day with its "comprehensiveness," full corporate Re-union is not thinkable. That conclusion, however, is far from slamming the door upon Re-union in the near future, as it is slammed between us and Rome. Nothing would appear more outside all possibility than that in these latter days the Orthodox Church will recast her dogma, her doctrine and her life, by an overt Reformation. On the other hand, if she is "unreformed" and must remain "unreformed" or break up, she is not cumbered by the accretions of a scholastic period. Give her time--and the water flows very quickly nowadays down the Bosphorus--and without changing a whit her identity with the past, she will readjust her outlook to meet her present-day needs. The process of that evolution is already observable. Soon it will be quick, and when it has become marked, the stark lines of difficulty which at present make Orthodox and Anglican Re-union impracticable, will shift and be softened. So that, given a similar and converse change in our own complex, such as the Archbishop postulated in his paper at Cheltenham, the situation will become increasingly favourable.
The second is this. We do not quarrel with the Archbishop's description of Anglican Comprehensiveness as incomprehensible to a non-Anglican. He himself is manifestly dissatisfied with the only explanation of it which he can find, viz., our necessity to live together, if there is to be an Anglican Church at all, but none the less he is clearly conscious that there is an unknown factor which, if apprehended, would make it comprehensible. That factor is that, while as between the Anglican Catholic and Evangelical, the differences of belief in reality are more on the surface than he imagines, they are knit together by a common spiritual life, by common spiritual experiences, by common inspiration and vocations, and above, all by common love. The solidarity of a family is often obscured for an outsider by the sharp words spoken during a quarrel, and the period during which he has been getting our atmosphere, has been that of our Prayer Book Revision controversy. During that contention we have no doubt exhibited ourselves at our worst. Our verbal differences have been sharpened and our conflicts of doctrine maximized. No doubt our Romanizers and Modernists are fundamentally divided from the rest of us, but the distinctions among the great mass of Anglicans are superficial and not fundamental. It is true, certainly, that when crises of controversy arise, our Evangelicals and Catholics become very precise, e.g., as to the doctrine of Eucharist. But in practice and normally they forget all about their differences, communicate side by side and look for and obtain the same experiences in the reception of the Eucharist. Indeed, when they forget technical terms and exchange confidences with each other in spiritual intimacy, they use much the same language, for they are describing the same thing. Of course, there are differences between them which approach to being fundamental. But they are not nearly so great in themselves as their terminologies, derived from bygone centuries of party strife, lead the outsider to conceive. In fact, we Anglicans are a bloc, a graded solidarity in belief of which either extreme might snap off, but of which the main body is almost incapable of schism. In our controversies we Anglicans still hit hard and emphasize our disagreements--it is our national habit--so that the onlooker judges by what we say rather than by what we are. The Anglican complex, as indeed the whole English religious complex, is changing very rapidly. Where 30 years ago we religious folk were divided into parties, the cleavages of which touched public and private life throughout the nation, and influenced our politics greatly, we are now drawn together to form a common front against an aggressive materialistic atheism which aims at destroying everything dear to us. There is no bite nowadays in a Chapel versus Church campaign, and may be the Protestant drum gave its last rather feeble, if so far as the Revision of the Prayer Book goes fatal, reverberation at Sir Joynson Hicks' manipulation last year. At any rate, nothing is more certain than that fifty, and maybe only ten years hence, to set the public by the ear over a controversy between Evangelical and Catholic on the doctrine of the Sacrament of Love and Unity will be as hard as it would be to-day to set it by the ears over a controversy upon Baptismal Regeneration. The craving to get together ut unum sint is upon us, and we are all eager to set about the christianization of English life and the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven among the nations. What we need is a religious Esperanto into which we can translate our party doctrinal terminologies. As with the Orthodox, so with us. Things are moving quickly. When by God's goodness we Anglicans achieve that Esperanto, we shall find that our differences belong to that region of theologoumena, i.e., of doctrinal opinions, as to which Archbishop Germanos predicates permissibility, and our domestic controversies will disappear in the realization of our unity of principle, i.e., of faith and experience in the Lord Jesus as our personal Saviour, and in His Church as the covenanted medium and extension of His Grace. If, as we may be very sure they will, the Orthodox, while retaining their tradition and their character, advance also in their evolution, they will meet us and we shall understand each other. We and they will discover that we mean the same thing, and that our faith and our life are of a piece, and their and our Re-union will be instinctive and irresistible. But until that consummation presents itself we should sin against the light if we attempted to antedate it. Festina lente must be our motto. The rainbow of hope is very bright and many coloured. But optimism must neither shirk labour nor rebel at inevitable delay. Accordingly, we are grateful to the Archbishop for his frank speech, and we cannot show our gratitude better than by expressing our concurrence with him that as things are, Anglican and Orthodox Re-union is not above the horizon. Nevertheless, Anglicans and Orthodox draw nearer and nearer together, work together, pray together, and are good to each other. In the end, without compromise, a rightful Comprehensiveness, we believe, will bring them together into full Communion, and they will find that they have all along been altogether one in the One Lord and in His One Church.