Project Canterbury

The Lambeth Conference and the Orthodox in America
A Study of One Path Toward Reunion

New York: Ecclesiastical Relations,
The National Council of the Episcopal Church, 1930.

There is nothing exclusive in the approximation of the Anglican and Orthodox Churches. Their Union would both prepare the ground for the general Union of Christian Churches and would be the greatest practical contribution to the cause of international goodwill and brotherhood that has been made in modern times.

CANON J. A. DOUGLAS, PH.D., in The Christian East, Autumn 1930.


THERE is a mistaken idea prevalent that at Lambeth the entire group of three hundred and seven bishops was in daily conference, from July 7th to August 9th, discussing and debating the various issues brought before them. As a matter of fact full sessions were held from the 7th to the 12th of July and again from the 28th of July to the 9th of August. In the two weeks which intervened between these full sessions the subjects proposed for consideration were given detailed study by six committees of bishops. Each of these groups submitted a comprehensive report with suggested resolutions.

The third committee had the responsibility of dealing with "The Unity of the Church." Of the seventy bishops appointed to formulate a report on this vital subject, fourteen constituted a sub-committee on "Relations of the Anglican Communion to Episcopal Churches" (such as Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, the Church of Sweden).

It is the work of this sub-committee to which we must give our attention. For several days it conferred with the most weighty official Delegation ever sent by the Orthodox Communion to any Western Church. It was in response to the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople designated representatives from the Churches of Alexandria, Constantinople, Roumania, Yugoslavia, Antioch, Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus and the Orthodox Church of Poland. The Church of Bulgaria also sent a delegate. Of this Delegation the Encyclical Letter issued by the Lambeth Conference says: "They came to tell us that they desired definite and practical steps to be taken for the restoration of communion between their Churches and ours. This is a notable advance crowning a long period of increasing friendliness." We are "now approaching the phase of definite action" (p. 25, Report, Lambeth Conf.). The results of the discussions which took place between the sub-committee and the Orthodox Delegation are found on pp. 131-140 of the Report of the Lambeth Conference.

What is this Orthodox Communion which sent so important a delegation?

It is a fellowship of National Churches, some of them existing since Apostolic days, all teaching the same Faith, having the same historic Episcopate, and (except for minor, local variations) using the same forms of worship. All look to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in much the same way as we look to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

They are Catholic, but strongly anti-papal, a position which they have maintained throughout their history. Up to the time when the Turks enslaved the lands in which most of the Orthodox were to be found they proved themselves zealous missionaries. And after Turkey had secured dominance in the Near East and the Balkan States and made the extension of Christianity impossible, the Russian Orthodox Church engaged in "home and foreign missions" with unremitting zeal, translating the Bible into dialects and languages previously unknown.

A business man glancing at the resume (pp. 138-140) will be tempted to dismiss it as "just another one of those unimportant, abstract theological disputations." We must remember that the Orthodox and Anglican Communions have much in common. Therefore, it was unnecessary to discuss anything but those few differences, or shall we call them misunderstandings, which seem to prevent reunion. The theological differences were discussed by true pastors mindful of those entrusted to them by the Good Shepherd. Actual martyrdom, a remote possibility for us, has ever been a possibility, in several parts of the world a strong probability, for Orthodox prelates such as those who visited Lambeth. The chairman of this Delegation, Meletios II (now Patriarch of Alexandria) was saved from death when he was Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople only by the swift action of British military authorities who practically kidnapped him. Two minutes later,--they would have been too late. We respect and revere such men, and their staunch upholding of the message of Jesus as it has come down to them through the ages.

Furthermore, most of the Anglicans present had an adequate knowledge of Orthodox teaching and practice, and on the other side, Anglicanism, in England and America, was well-known to the Orthodox. The conferences were also favored with the presence of a "mere" deacon, the Rev. Leontios Leontiou. In 1928, he came to the United States to study American church life. He had been a brilliant student at Athens. He spent two years at our General Theological Seminary, where his work was recognized as unusually good and from which institution he received, in May 1930, the degree of Master in Sacred Theology. A few weeks before the degree was conferred he was informed by cable that he had been elected bishop of the Apostolic See of Paphos, in the Isle of Cyprus. A later cablegram, from the Ecumenical Patriarch, designated him representative of the Church of Cyprus at the Lambeth Conference. Metropolitan Designate Leontios always loved his own Church and has learned to love ours. In a very real sense, he represented both Communions. No one is more jealous for the preservation of Orthodoxy, no one more zealous for the salvation of the thousands of Orthodox men and women, boys and girls in the United States of America. Humbly yet wisely he gave his witness.

Our own Presiding Bishop was Vice-Chairman of the sub-committee, and our own revised Book of Common Prayer was referred to again and again. Would that we could deal at length with all the personalities and issues involved! Surely we have said enough to show that the interchange of opinions was far from abstract, far from coldly theological, if there be such a thing. Anglicans and Orthodox were immediately concerned with living men and women in America.


Between the Patriarch of Alexandria with the other Orthodox
Representatives and Bishops of the Anglican
Communion at Lambeth Palace

1. It was agreed that a Joint Commission of Orthodox and Anglicans should be appointed for the consideration of questions of Doctrine.

2. It was agreed by the Anglican Bishops that the "Terms of Intercommunion suggested between the Church of England and the Churches in Communion with her and the Eastern Orthodox Church," published under the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Eastern Churches Committee in 1921, though not officially communicated to the different Provinces of the Anglican Communion, are not inconsistent with the mind and doctrine of the Anglican Church.

3. It was agreed by the Orthodox Delegation that the suggested "Terms of Intercommunion," though they had not yet been officially considered, would form a useful basis of discussion with certain modifications.

4. It was stated by the Anglican Bishops that in questions of faith the authentic decision would be given in the Anglican Communion by the whole body of Bishops without, however, excluding the co-operation of clergy and laity during the discussions.

5. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation that the final authority in matters of Doctrine in the Orthodox Church lies with the whole body of Bishops in Synod, without excluding the expression of opinion by clergymen and laymen.

6. It was stated by the Anglican Bishops that in the Anglican Communion the Bishop has jurisdiction in questions of discipline through his own court in the first instance, with due provision for appeal to the Provincial Court or a similar body.

7. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation that in the Orthodox Church spiritual causes are tried in spiritual courts, sentence being given in the case of a Bishop by a court of Bishops, in the case of other clergymen by the Bishop through his own court.

8. It was stated by the Anglican Bishops that in the Anglican Communion Ordination is not merely the appointment of a man into a particular post, but that in Ordination a special charisma is given to the person Ordained, proper to the Order, and that the nature of the special gift is indicated in the words of Ordination, and that in this sense Ordination is a mysterion. [The Greeks prefer to speak of "the Holy Mysteries" rather than of "the Sacraments." The latter is a Latin term which we have inherited.]

9. It was stated by the Anglican Bishops that the Preface to the Ordinal declares "that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests and Deacons," and that to preserve unbroken succession the rules regarding Ordination have been framed "to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed, in the Church of England."

10. The Orthodox Delegation stated that they were satisfied with regard to the maintenance of the Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church in so far as the Anglican Bishops have already accepted Ordination as a mysterion, and have declared that the Doctrine of the Anglican Church is authoritatively expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, and that the meaning of the XXXIX Articles must be interpreted in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer.

11. It was stated by the Anglican Bishops that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist "the Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper," and that "the Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner," and that after Communion the consecrated elements remaining are regarded sacramentally as the Body and Blood of Christ; further, that the Anglican Church teaches the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice as explained in the Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII on Anglican Ordinations; and also that in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice the Anglican Church prays that "by the merits and death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion," as including the whole company of faithful people, living and departed.

12. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation that the explanation of Anglican Doctrine thus made with regard to the Eucharistic Sacrifice was agreeable to the Orthodox Doctrine, if an explanation were to be set out with all clearness.

13. It was stated by the Anglican Bishops that in different parts of the Anglican Communion, Anglican Clergy, at the request of Orthodox Clergy, provide sacramental ministrations to Orthodox laity, who are out of reach of their own Church's ministrations; that such clergy always desire to keep the Orthodox to whom they minister faithful to the Orthodox Church and are ready to teach them the Orthodox faith and to notify Orthodox Bishops or priests of persons thus receiving their ministration or instruction.

14. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation that the whole question of arrangements in such circumstances is to come up for discussion at the forthcoming Synod of the whole Orthodox Church.

15. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation that it is the practice of the whole Orthodox Church not to re-baptize after Anglican Baptism.

16. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation that in its forthcoming Pro-Synod the Orthodox Church would probably not object to recognizing the Baptism of children and their instruction from Orthodox books by Anglican clergy, or to marriage, or any other rites being performed by Anglican clergy (in case of need and where no Orthodox priest is available), provided that all persons baptized or married are properly registered as Orthodox, and their names notified as soon as possible to the competent Orthodox authority.

17. It was stated by the Orthodox Delegation with regard to the Holy Eucharist that, pending a formal decision by the whole Orthodox Church and therefore without giving the practice official sanction, for which it has no authority, it is of opinion that the practice of the Orthodox receiving Holy Communion from Anglican priests in case of need and where no Orthodox priest was available, might continue, provided that an Orthodox authority did not prohibit such a practice.



The report of the sub-committee on Relations of the Anglican Communion to Episcopal Churches, including the above document, was accepted by the Committee on the Unity of the Church (con-listing of seventy bishops) for presentation to the Lambeth Conference meeting in full session. It must be kept in mind that the Conference as a whole does not accept responsibility for opinions and statements expressed even unanimously by its six committees. But nevertheless it rendered judgment, on the matters discussed, by means of the following formal Resolution.


The Eastern Orthodox Church

33. (a) The Conference heartily thanks the cumenical Patriarch for arranging in co-operation with the other Patriarchs and the Autocephalous Churches for the sending of an important Delegation of the Eastern Orthodox Church under the leadership of the Patriarch of Alexandria, and expresses its grateful appreciation of the help given to its Committee by the Delegation, as well as its sense of the value of the advance made through the joint meetings in the relations of the Orthodox Church with the Anglican Communion.

(b) The Conference requests the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint representatives of the Anglican Communion and to invite the cumenical Patriarch to appoint representatives of the Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches of the East to be a Doctrinal Commission, which may, in correspondence and in consultation, prepare a joint statement on the theological points about which there is difference and agreement between the Anglican and the Eastern Churches.

(c) The Conference not having been summoned as a Synod to issue any statement professing to define doctrine, is therefore unable to issue such a formal statement on the subjects referred to in the Resume of the discussions between the Patriarch of Alexandria with the other Orthodox Representatives and Bishops of the Anglican Communion, but records its acceptance of the statements of the Anglican Bishops contained therein as a sufficient account of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and of the Churches in communion with it, in relation to those subjects.

In a fair appraisal of this Resolution it will be noted that some of the bishops may have desired a stronger statement, that some may have considered one or another part of the résumé too strong; but they joined in voicing "the common mind" of the Anglican Communion.

34. The Conference expresses its sympathy with the Church of Russia in its persecution and sufferings, and prays that God, in His mercy, may give liberty and prosperity once more to that Church, that it may again take its place with greater freedom and power of self-expression among the other great Churches of Christendom.

Let us pray that before long, spiritual successors of the hundreds of recently martyred Russian bishops will assist in the final reunion of Anglicanism and Orthodoxy.


The last five sections call upon Orthodox and Anglicans for immediate action consistent with the respective claims and duties of Anglicanism and Orthodoxy. It is no secret that the conclusions reached were in large measure determined by the fact that over two million Orthodox communicants are scattered throughout the United States. It is possible that over one half of them are, ordinarily, beyond the reach of their own pastors. Roman Catholicism tries to absorb them. Protestant denominations sincerely offer to them "true Christianity". But they are more deeply prejudiced against Rome than we are and, for the most part, do not find in modern American Protestant denominations satisfaction for their spiritual needs. Not knowing where to turn they become hopeless, indifferent, agnostic, materialistic, Communist--unless they have heard of our Church.

What is the duty of the ministers and people of the Protestant Episcopal Church?

First, in communities where Orthodox national Churches are represented it is our duty to come into personal touch with them, to respect them, to learn about them, to give them moral support. Joint study groups on Lambeth and Reunion, using this leaflet and our Prayer Book, perhaps also our Hymnal, might be formed. Wherever our priests find it possible to join local Ministerial Associations they should see to it that resident Orthodox priests are included.

But such communities are few and far between. More often it is the case that an isolated Greek, Roumanian, Russian, Serb or other Orthodox comes to the priest of the Episcopal Church, or else one of our rectors finds in his parochial bounds a large group of Orthodox communicants, hundreds of miles distant from an Orthodox clergyman. It may be that the Orthodox priest is fairly near but not interested, just as some of our own priests sometimes are not interested. Very often the initial contact can be made through one of our laymen; it is important that he understand the provisions made in the above practical paragraphs of the résumé.

It must be remembered that Anglican and Orthodox Churches are not in communion with each other. It is true that in 1922 the Greek Church of Constantinople accepted our Orders as of equal validity with those of the Roman Church, and that Jerusalem and Cyprus registered their agreement. But these decrees do not imply intercommunion. For the Orthodox as for the Anglicans, intercommunion is the goal of, rather than a means to, the restoration of union (Resolution 42).

However, the Churches of the East understand that we cannot but seek to fulfill our duty,--to minister to all souls in need; and they recognize their own inability to look after their scattered children. The resume is very explicit: the fact that our bishops and priests are endeavoring to minister in every way possible to unshepherded Orthodox communicants was deliberately considered and the official Orthodox Delegation, far from protesting, were of the opinion that such ministrations might continue pending the possibility of official approval. But in every case the proper Orthodox bishop is to be notified and in no case are such ministrations to be offered to communicants whose Orthodox bishop has definitely declared his objection. The name and address of the "competent Orthodox authority" can be ascertained by writing to the Rev. W. C. Emhardt, Church Missions House, 281 Fourth Ave., New York, N. Y. Such objection ought to be registered directly with our Presiding Bishop.

A few words are in order as to the treatment of Orthodox children in our Church schools. Most certainly they ought not to be segregated from other children of their grade. But they ought to meet occasionally for special Orthodox instruction with the rector of the parish church who will use "The Shorter Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church" with the children, and "The Greek Orthodox Catechism" with young people and adults.

It is evident that the rites of our own Prayer Book were, for the present, accepted as adequate by the Orthodox Delegation. But surely we can reach the hearts of Orthodox by accommodating ourselves, at least to some extent, to the ceremonial with which they are familiar. With the express permission of his bishop, a priest might add to the Prayer Book services such features as may be found in "An Aid to Churchmen", by the Rev. H. H. Spoer.

The Orthodox in our land desire to be real Americans. In the Episcopal Church they will recognize an American Christian community somewhat like their own. We, for our part, know that they can retain all their accustomed religious practices without being un-American. It is especially important that this fact be brought home to the youth of Orthodoxy.

Project Canterbury