Orthodox church appeals to ex-Anglicans wanting stability

 — Apr. 30, 200530 avril 2005

by Don Retson, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – David Johnston says he’s been troubled for years over “compromises” on faith and doctrine by the national leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Last Saturday, Johnston, a former Anglican priest in Fort Saskatchewan, and seven of his former parishioners, were received as lay members of the Orthodox Christian Church.

Johnston said they chose the Orthodox church because it seemed to be the faith that had been compromised the least over the centuries.

“We’re excited about the Orthodox church,” Johnston said on the eve of a service of chrismation at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church in the city’s west end.

“We were looking for a stability that doesn’t exist any more in the Anglican Church. And stability is exactly what we’ve found — a stability that is rooted in the doctrines and teachings of the apostles, and that doesn’t shift with the last public opinion poll.”

The Orthodox church is touted as the world’s oldest and second largest Christian church, with an estimated 230 million members worldwide.

There are numerous Orthodox churches locally, catering mainly to a variety of ethnic language groups, but also a few churches where services are conducted in English.

Rev. Elias Ferzli, who presided over Johnston’s service of chrismation, said later that his archdiocese has been stepping up its evangelizing activities.

“We respect everyone, but if some people want to learn about Orthodoxy, we’ll be willing to talk to them,” said Ferzli, a native of Lebanon who’s been priest at St. Philip for less than a year.

“We have nothing against other churches, but we’d rather live our faith the way we understand it.”

Until last summer, when he handed in his resignation, Johnston had been the priest at St. George’s Church in Fort Saskatchewan for seven years. He was ordained as an Anglican deacon in 1982 and became a priest the following year.

Johnston isn’t the first priest, pastor or minister to quit a church over differences with policy or leadership, though few leave with as much fanfare as Johnston.

In an interview, Johnston said his motivation for sending out a press release that takes a few jabs at the Anglican church and its national leadership was his wish to inform media, who may not be aware, that “some people have already left” the Anglican church.

A “precipitating factor” in his departure was the same-sex issue, specifically the governing council of the Anglican Church of Canada voting last May to affirm “the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”

“That was the line in the sand,” Johnston told The Journal.

“At that point our eyes were opened to see that there were a whole lot of other things and that it’s been compromise after compromise after compromise over the years. We just had the sense that it wasn’t going to stop.”

On Wednesday, Canada’s Anglican bishops unanimously passed a resolution to place a moratorium on future church blessings of same- sex unions. The decision is intended to put a halt to the ritual for the next two years and give the church leadership time to fully study the issue as it relates to the official doctrine of the faith, said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Hutchison cautioned that the moratorium must still be approved by a May 6-8 meeting of the church’s Council of the General Synod, which includes the bishops, clergy and members of the laity. The 40 bishops also agreed to officially “withdraw” from a meeting of the worldwide Anglican Consultative Council, slated for Nottingham, England, this June, to appease conservative elements in the international church. Hutchison said that decision must also be approved at the May conference.

Johnston’s broadside against the Anglican church came on the same weekend where the Roman Catholic Church’s new leader, Pope Benedict XVl, made a plea for Christian unity. One barrier to that unity is the division in Christendom over blessing same-sex unions.

Johnston is currently pursuing ordination to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church. Until that happens, he’s been given permission to conduct lay services at an Orthodox Christian mission church in Fort Saskatchewan.

Services are held twice weekly at the chapel of Riverview Funeral Home in Fort Saskatchewan.

Very Reverend Father John Finley, an Orthodox missionary priest from Santa Barbara, Calif., said that at least 30 former Episcopalian priests in the United States are now priests in the Orthodox Church. “Episcopalian” is the term Anglicans go by in the United States.

Finley, who was in Edmonton for the conversion ceremony of the eight former Anglicans, said he’s delighted to travel far and wide to provide religious instruction to those interested in joining his church.

“We’re not standing there like wolves at the fence looking over into the Anglican chicken coop,” said Finley. “(But) if the Anglican Church continues down the path that they are, and people are in search of a true home where they can live the Christian life, we will open our arms to them and say: ‘Welcome home!’ ”

Johnston’s decision to quit the Anglican church came as no shock to Victoria Matthews, bishop of the Edmonton Anglican Diocese.

“David Johnston has exhibited signs of restlessness for years and years and so we’re not surprised when he spoke of leaving the Anglican church and seeking membership in the Orthodox faith,” she said.

Despite his strong rebuke of the national leadership of the Anglican church, Johnston said he bears no grudges against anyone. In particular, he described Bishop Matthews as ” a very, very holy woman” and “one of the most capable bishops” in the church.

“My prayer and desire would be that the Anglican Church recover its ancient spirituality and ancient faith, and return to that once more,” said Johnston.

“I’m enough of a realist to suspect that that is unlikely to happen. But God can do miracles. I just believe that I wasn’t being called to stay and fight that battle.”

Posted: Apr. 30, 2005 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6205
Categories: NewsIn this article: Anglican, Orthodox
Transmis : 30 avril 2005 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6205
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Anglican, Orthodox

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