Metropolitan Kallistos Ware was waxing philosophical in the wake of the Lambeth Conference, presenting a soft approach to Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. There are some interesting parallels with an earlier post of mine, Orthodox EP Soft Like Anglicans on Abortion, in that these comments are given with the intention of being sympathetic with the current Anglican predicament. Still, this cannot be understood as mere diplomatic speech as it was given in the wake of the Vatican’s stunningly frank language on the same matters delivered by Cardinal Kasper just days prior. The full interview is found here.
An interesting exerpt (emphasis mine):
… First, I admire deeply the way in which Archbishop Rowan is fulfilling his role as Archbishop of Canterbury, at this moment of crisis. It’s easy to say, with reference to his position here at the Lambeth Conference or generally in the current Anglican world, that he is in a no-win situation. But granted the immense difficulties that he is facing, he is not doing too badly. Now, what should he be doing here at Lambeth? Should he be offering very firm and clear leadership, insisting on a particular point of view, putting forward resolutions to the plenary gathering of the bishops for their acceptance? He has not chosen to do that. Some people feel disappointed. Some people feel he should be doing that. But if he were to do that, it would create confrontation and division. If you walk through the mountains and you find a large rock in your path, one method is to kick it out of the way. The other is to walk around it and go on with your journey. Now Archbishop Rowan has probably understood that if he tries to kick this particular stone, or this double rock – the ordination of women and homosexual relations – if he tries to confront it head-on and insist on a clear expression of the position of the Anglican Communion, to kick the stone out of the path, he is likely to hurt his toe. The stone perhaps is too sharp and heavy to be moved in that way at this moment. But you can walk round it in the sense of affirming the bonds of unity that exist beyond these divisive issues. And this is what he wants to do with the present Lambeth Conference. To make this a time of shared prayer, shared discussion, strengthening the bonds of friendship. Now some people would be disappointed that as far as we can see, and we are halfway through now, there is not going to be either a major confrontation or a very clear affirmation. But perhaps this is not the right moment – this is not the kairos, the opportunity given by God for such clear statements. Is a very difficult thing to discern, when to insist on a decision, when to say we are not ready. That’s the problem that confronts the chairman of any gathering. And it confronts Rowan in a particularly poignant way.
…I’ve spoken about the need for catholic consensus on issues like the ordination of women or the blessing of homosexual relations. These are departures from Church order and from accepted moral teaching of major importance, and therefore there ought to be some consensus not just within the Anglican Communion but with the other Churches, especially those that preserve the historic apostolic faith and order, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. That is one side of the matter, the need for consensus. But then we might also say, should there not also be the possibility for a prophetic action? Will you ever have change unless some people are willing to stand up and say, this is what we ought to be doing? And even if their testimony is highly controversial, who will nonetheless stand by their position. It could be argued that perhaps the Anglican Communion was guided by the Holy Spirit to lead other Christians into new paths. Now I can see that as a valid argument and I want to balance that against the point that we need to act with catholic consensus. How can we do both these things together – preserve catholic consensus, and yet allow grace for freedom in the Holy Spirit? Christ did not tell us that nothing should never be done for the first time. The whole witness of the early Church points in a different direction. So how do you balance these two things – the need for consensus with the need for freedom in the Spirit, the need for loyalty to holy tradition, with the need to be open to new initiatives? And I think this is at the heart of a great deal of what we are talking about here in Canterbury at this Lambeth Conference.
This is certainly the way in which the outside world, or a large part of it, will view the Lambeth Conference. They will say that when so much of the human population is permanently hungry, ill-housed, suffering from disease which could be cured (if we the rich nations would really set our minds to helping), when so much of the world is suffering in this way, is it not a loss of proportion to be concentrating on women priests, or even on homosexuality? And one could strengthen this point by saying, the Church does not exist for herself. Christ said, “May they all be one that the world may believe”. The Church exists for the world, for the conversion of the world, for mission, and mission doesn’t just mean telling people about Christ (though that is vitally important). Mission means also helping them and ensuring that there is social, political and economic justice – that is all part of mission. The Epistle of James is very clear on this matter, that if a poor man comes to you and is hungry, has no clothes, no home and no food, and you just talk to him about Jesus Christ and say, “Now go away,” that’s not really mission, that’s not preaching the faith. Faith is not words, faith is how we relate to living persons, how we make their joys and sorrows our own, to use the image of St. Paul that I have already mentioned.
…So in that way I do say that those questions we are considering here at Lambeth are not all-important, and not all perhaps the first priority. On the other hand they do need to be discussed, because they do involve our understanding of the basic questions of human nature and of priesthood. And so as long as we do not lose sight of the wider agenda, we are right to try and get clear our minds clear on these issues. And it was extremely significant that yesterday on our London day we didn’t march through the streets of London with placards about homosexuality and women priests, we marched through the streets of London with placards about poverty and justice.
While one must praise the recent ecumenical progress made with the Orthodox, or some of them, one has to be sure that openness to the Orthodox is not an openness to the errors of the age to which some Orthodox leaders seem to be giving ground, at least theoretically. Can one call a bad fruit of the Spirit of the Age a matter of prophetic action and still be a Christian?
Kallistos’ sympathy for Rowan is misplaced. Can one sympathize with Rowan when Rowan is a thoroughly compromised homosexualist and it is his theological party that has cause the growing rift that it is his job to heal? Can one have sympathy with this Rowan who has refused to assert orthodox Christian doctrine? Can one sympathize with this Rowan when he has protracted the debate for 10 more years so that his own liberals will have time to take control of the CofE before decisions are made? Can one sympathize with the anti-Gospel calumny we have witnessed at Lambeth and which was planned for as much as a year ago?