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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

By Any Other Name

Some unenlightened Orthodox folks annoy me by referring to the “English church.” They mean the Church of England and however much this might delight a beleaguered Anglican bishop right now the reference just ain’t Orthodox.

There is no “English” Church ... just in as much as there is no “Greek” Church or “Roman Church” either no matter how often these phrases are carelessly used. The Church most definitely exists but the use of a preceding adjective defines nothing at all other than location.

It is simply GPS pseudo-Orthodoxy.

Orthodox ecclesiology may rightly speak (as in New Testament terms) of the Church IN or AT such and such a place or such and such a city. The only admissible adjectives for the Church then are Catholic and Orthodox, by which we also mean, One, Holy and Apostolic. These are terms referring to the ecumenicity of the Church, (the old meaning of the whole world), her unity, her mission, her universality and her inclusiveness ... but not a mention of geography or culture as defining the Church as a local denomination or branch. We have no such concept in Orthodoxy.

So, I indeed beg to differ. The ORTHODOX Church is the “English” Church and every other nation under the sun so let’s drop “English” shall we? What we must say is that the Orthodox Church must express itself locally in the language and culture of its indigenous people. The infusion of its life SHOULD draw on the whole of humanity in God and not any one part, but, most definitely in such a way as to embed the Church WHERE IT IS respecting local traditions and whatever is good and true .... as Pope St. Gregory once counselled St. Augustine of Canterbury.

So I pray and work for the day (however many decades distant) when the Orthodox Church will once again become the Church IN England, (not OF England!)

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