M mentioned to me that she’d seen something on Facebook about an Eastern-leaning Anglican group.
The Eastern churches are a very interesting bunch.
We—I—sometimes talk about the theology of the Undivided Church in a frequently simplistic fashion. Typically the phrase “the Undivided Church” refers to the things held in common by the churches East and West before the official never reconciled separation of the Great Schism in 1054. But dating the divide strictly at 1054 ignores the tensions between the Greek-speaking and Latin-speaking sides of the church that existed almost continuously through the first Christian millennium. I have written on this before.
There are interesting things that we can and should learn from the Eastern churches. Just as there are interesting things that we can learn from the pre-Reformation Western churches and from the Roman Catholic Church. Just as there are interesting things that we can learn from non-Christian Eastern and Western thought…
We are Anglicans, though. As Anglicans, we have committed ourselves to the belief that the Christian gospel is effectively and completely mediated in the habits and patterns laid down in the Books of Common Prayer. We are a Western church. Our liturgies partake of the Historic Western Liturgy grounded in the doctrine and practice of the Latin Fathers. There have been points of cross-pollination at various times both before and after the Reformation and I’m not trying to deny nor diminish these. On the contrary, I think a realistic appraisal of these serves to reinforce our ecclesial identity as fundamentally Western.
Learning about the Eastern churches and learning from them is good and important.
But we do this best and most faithfully when we are grounded in an understanding of who and what we are as Anglicans. We have to know who we are, what we believe, and where our commitments lie to get the most out of an encounter with any other tradition. While learning Eastern ways can provide a helpful alternative angle on the faith for those grounded in prayer book practices, all too often liturgical lingering looks over the Bosporus have more to do with a desire for exoticism than anything else.