Jason Zengerle: Evangelicals Turn toward…The Orthodox Church?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From a spiritual perspective, however, [Wilbur] Ellsworth was suffering. Over the past 20 years, a growing number of evangelical churches have joined what is called the "church growth movement," which favors a more contemporary, market-driven style of worship--with rock 'n' roll "praise songs" supplanting traditional hymns and dramatic sketches replacing preachy sermons--in the hope of attracting new members and turning churches into megachurches. First Baptist of Wheaton was not immune to this trend: Ellsworth increasingly found himself fighting with congregants about the way worship was being done. "They wanted to replace our organ with a drum set and do similar things that boiled down not to doctrine, but to personal preference," he explains. "I said, That's not going to happen as long as I'm here.'" It didn't. In 2000, after 13 years as the pastor of First Baptist, Ellsworth was forced out.

For Ellsworth, his departure from First Baptist triggered both a professional and a spiritual crisis. But, before he could deal with the former, he felt he had to address the latter. He devoted himself to reading theology and church history. At first, he seemed headed in the direction of the Calvinist-influenced Reformed Baptist Church or the Anglican Church, which are where evangelicals in search of a more classical Christian style of worship often end up. But, as Ellsworth continued in his own personal search, his readings and discussions began taking him further and further past the Reformation and ever deeper into church history. And, gradually, much to his surprise, he found himself growing increasingly interested in a church he once knew virtually nothing about: the Orthodox Church. "I really thought he'd go to Canterbury," says Alan Jacobs, a Wheaton College English professor and Anglican who is friendly with Ellsworth. "But he took a sudden right turn and wound up in Constantinople."

Ellsworth began reading more and more about Orthodox Christianity--eventually spending close to $10,000 on Orthodox books. By 2005, he was regularly visiting an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago (the Antiochian Orthodox Church is Middle Eastern in background and the seat of its patriarchate is in Damascus). By late 2006, Ellsworth realized that he wanted to be Orthodox himself. On the first Sunday of the following February, an Orthodox priest in Chicago anointed him with holy oil and he was chrismated--or formally received--into the Orthodox Church. A month later, at the age of 62, he was ordained as an Orthodox priest himself.

Ellsworth's story is hardly unique. Most of the approximately 150 members of the Orthodox parish he now leads are former evangelicals themselves. Even Ellsworth's transition from evangelical minister to Orthodox priest is not uncommon. Of the more than 250 parishes of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, some 60 percent are led by convert priests, most of whom are from evangelical backgrounds.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOrthodox Church

58 Comments
Posted August 27, 2007 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Brian of Maryland wrote:

If I remember my history correctly, it was this branch of the Orthodox Church that assertively moved into new circles when they ordained a group of Campus Crusade for Christ leaders in the 1970’s.  One of their early congregations was/is located outside Fulton, CA (inland from Santa Cruz).  When I was in the Bishop’s office out there we watched that congregation continue to grow (in pagan California no less), while our local ELCA congregation just couldn’t get moving and eventually closed.

I made good friends with an Antiochian priest while I was in Orinda, CA.  We’d let them use our facilities for their middle eastern festival, something that became all the more important after 9/11.  He was a pretty good recruiter - almost had me there…  grin  Pastors and priests looking to move on in an orthodox direction, they need faithful priests.  Ellsworth has made a great choice.

Maryland Brian

August 27, 7:16 am | [comment link]
2. VaAnglican wrote:

The natural home for someone like the Rev. Ellsworth should plainly have been Anglicanism.  And I suspect it would have been—and the same as well for the many other hundreds that have left for big-O Orthodoxy, had it not been for the innovations in the Episcopal Church and the lack of any other reasonable Anglican outlet in most parts of the country.  Everything he says he was seeking he could have found in a (small-o) orthodox Anglican church (save perhaps those that have become indiscernible from the praise-band-PowerPoint worship groups he found so shallow).  But the revisionists have caused huge washed-out, unbreachable chasms on the route that once attracted “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail,” forcing them elsewhere.  The damage done to the Episcopal Church cannot be measured only in the dollars lost, or the remarkable shrinkage in membership through the years, but also in opportunities lost, like those described here.  The extent of that damage, not just to the Episcopal Church, but also to the reputation of Anglicanism in America, won’t be fully known for some time—probably after it’s too late and most have gone away.  One can’t help but thinking when reading this, “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

August 27, 7:27 am | [comment link]
3. the roman wrote:

“they also thought the East was right to insist on equality among the Holy Trinity, rather than relegating the Holy Spirit to a lesser place than God the Father and God the Son. “

I think this is an error. I thought it was Rome who insisted that the Holy Ghost was of the “same substance” as the father while Constantinople argued that He was of “similar or like substance”. If so then how does “Filioque” relegate the Holy Ghost to a lesser place? I may be confused or mistaken on this point so please feel free to enlighten me. Thank you.

August 27, 7:53 am | [comment link]
4. Sarah1 wrote:

VaAnglican, I agree with you.

In the business world it’s called “opportunity cost”—the cost of something *lost* when an opportunity was not pursued and another path chosen.

A business may choose to pursue as its “target customer” for a vastly appealing gizmo all boys under the age of five.  But the opportunity cost of *not pursuing and not selling to* the little girls age 10 and under who would have loved such a vastly appealing gizmo, while at the same time their closest competitor pursues that target market and “mops up” is “ginormous”.

They may make sales to little boys under five, but those are far exceeded by the sales they might have made to little girls 10 and under.

Opportunity cost.

August 27, 9:00 am | [comment link]
5. Nikolaus wrote:

Roman, the issue is procession not substance.  As written in Nicea, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.  Rome amended the phrase to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

August 27, 9:36 am | [comment link]
6. skippy wrote:

“they also thought the East was right to insist on equality among the Holy Trinity, rather than relegating the Holy Spirit to a lesser place than God the Father and God the Son. “

I think this is an error. I thought it was Rome who insisted that the Holy Ghost was of the “same substance” as the father while Constantinople argued that He was of “similar or like substance”. If so then how does “Filioque” relegate the Holy Ghost to a lesser place? I may be confused or mistaken on this point so please feel free to enlighten me. Thank you.


The “filioque”[and the son] was added precisely to show the equality in the trinity. It was added to combat the heresy that the Holy Spirit was not a person and equal to the Father and Son.

August 27, 9:38 am | [comment link]
7. Ed the Roman wrote:

I am exercising my constitutional right to believe what I am taught because it is taught on the Filioque without having an understanding of my own.

Nevertheless, I have read that the word translated into English as procession has divergent meanings between Latin and Greek, and that it may be that the Latin refers more to the way in which we receive the Holy Ghost than His ontology.  That we do not receive Him without the Son is pretty well established from Scripture.  How He is I am content to be told.

August 27, 9:58 am | [comment link]
8. Philip Snyder wrote:

Actually, Skippy, the filioque was first added in Spain during the moorish invasion to preserve the divinity of the Son, Jesus.  The Moors insisted that Jesus was not divine and to combat this, the Spanish Christians started to say that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, and the Son to show that the Son was coequal and consubstantial with the Father. 

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

August 27, 10:06 am | [comment link]
9. the roman wrote:

Thank you for your comments. I understand better. Perhaps I reacted emotionally to the statement inferring Romes’ “relegating the Holy Spirit to a lesser place.”  I must have missed catechism that day because in my life I do not recall that being a part of RC dogma. Please excuse my thin skin.

August 27, 10:17 am | [comment link]
10. Phil wrote:

This is a pretty good article.  While not an evangelical, Orthodoxy is the path I’m likely to take once Anglicanism collapses for good - in fact, even if it doesn’t.  The first time I visited an Orthodox church, it was bewildering (and it would have been worse without the internet to provide some preparation).  Now, on my “non-Orthodox” Sundays, I really sit in church and think a lot about how much I miss it.  Really, the more I learn about and experience it, the more it just makes sense.  That isn’t something I can explain in a systematic way, not having kept careful notes over these many, many months, but I’ve had that feeling over and over.

I encourage everyone to learn more about Orthodox Christianity and spiritual practices, even if you have no desire whatsoever to leave Anglicanism.  It can’t hurt, and it might help.  After all, we’re all Christians, and what the Orthodox have preserved to a great extent is the way of the early Church - our ultimate forebears.

August 27, 10:27 am | [comment link]
11. skippy wrote:

I don’t want to beat a dead horse but…
Actually, Phil, the first instance of the filioque is Eastern in 410 only 20 years after the council almost 300 years before the West added it in Spain
From orthodox wiki
It is useful to note that a regional council in Persia in 410 introduced one of the earliest forms of the filioque in the Creed; the council specified that the Spirit proceeds from the Father “and from the Son.” Coming from the rich theology of early East Syrian Christianity, this expression in this context is authentically Eastern.
Therefore, the filioque cannot be attacked as a solely Western innovation, nor as something created by the Pope.

August 27, 10:44 am | [comment link]
12. Bob from Boone wrote:

I think that this article is an excellent piece of journalism: informative and positive in tone. Baptists are often attracted to Orthodox traditions, in my experience. I know some former Southern Baptists, one ordained, who converted to the Antiochian Orthodox Church. One, a woman, got a doctorate at St. Vladimer’s Seminary in New York, has become an icon painter, and served before retirement as a campus minister at a non-denominational Christian college. The Antiochian Church is the inheriter of Syrian Christianity (which, btw, took seriously the fact that the word for Spirit in the ancient Syriac language, is female).

I think one of the things that attracts many Westerners to Orthodox traditions is that the eastern Church has remained grounded in the mystery of faith and cultivated a mystical dimension to the Faith that the vast majority of us Westerners do not appreciate. Mystery is simply absent from Protestant traditions (with the exception of some individual Christians), and, sadly, jas largely disappeared from Anglicanism (though the elements and opportunities are there). This mystical dimension was well illustrated by a Greek Orthodox bishop/theologian who responded thus to an Episcopal priest who asked him to explain the Trinity: “Ah, thee Treenety. Eet ees a grea-a-a-t meestery,” and strolled down the hall. Indeed, it is. it is instructive to know that the Greek term for the Nicene Creed is “Symbolon.”

A friend and Sewanee classmate who became an Episcopal priest is now an Orthodox monk. He has found home.

August 27, 11:26 am | [comment link]
13. Jon wrote:

Interestingly, one of the many ways that ECUSA/TEC has departed from classical Anglican tradition is that they officially rejected the Filioque—I think it was at GC 1994.

Don’t get me wrong… I have tremendous respect for the Eastern church and I do indeed believe them to be 100% part of the universal (catholic) Christian church.  It’s just that what ECUSA did was a significant step: saying that a fundamental claim about the Trinity, a claim goes back many hundreds of years, can be casually altered at a GC.  Once you establish that, then maybe other kinds of changing of church doctrine can happen easily too.

August 27, 11:26 am | [comment link]
14. Id rather not say wrote:

A distinction needs to be made between arguments over the filioque.

The first is whether it is theologically sound.  I’m dubious, but I suppose it CAN be explained in an orthodox (small o or even big O) manner.

The second is whether it is canonically legitimate.  Here the arguments in favor are much, much weaker.  The early canons are clear that nothing should be added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan (or is you prefer, just Nicene) creed without an ecumenical council.  No such addition was ever made with ecumenical consent, and the filioque was in fact resisted by the popes at first for that very reason.  Only if you consider papal approval of existing western custom sufficient authority to alter the creed can the filioque be canonically justified.

I believe as well (and some one will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong) that Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are not required to use the filioque, which if true says something about just how “essential” the Roman church actually regards it.

August 27, 12:22 pm | [comment link]
15. Nadine Kwong wrote:

“Interestingly, one of the many ways that ECUSA/TEC has departed from classical Anglican tradition is that they officially rejected the Filioque—I think it was at GC 1994.” (post #13)

Is this true?  The BCP 1979 hasn’t afaik been amended to omit the filioque, and every TEC service I’ve ever been to keeps it in the creed.  In what sense was it ever “officially rejected”?

August 27, 12:41 pm | [comment link]
16. Words Matter wrote:

The RC Church doesn’t consider the filioque “essential”, which is part of the problem, since the EO get in a dither about it. I have also read that it was inserted (actually in France, as I read it) in response to a resurgence of an Arian-like heresy. It is about the divinity of the Son, not the subordinance of the Spirit. If I remember correctly, JPII recited the Creed without it during the visit of an EO prelate since years ago.  Personally, I wish we (Catholics) would just drop it, since we can.

In fact, one suspects the Persons of the Trinity would not approve of our framing their relationships in competitive terms, united as they are in the Divine Love.

August 27, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
17. Phil wrote:

Nadine, I remember reading one time on one of these forums that a GC had made the omission of the filioque permissible - it did not “reject” it.  For that matter, in my experience, Roman Catholics claim the creed is an identical statement of faith either way (usually while attempting to convince Orthodox why they should stop being so dogmatic about it).

August 27, 12:53 pm | [comment link]
18. skippy wrote:

The first is whether it is theologically sound.

Yes it is. It protects the integrity of the Trinity. It is only extra deductions and interpretations that distort it.

The second is whether it is canonically legitimate.

You correctly assert

nothing should be added

but you incorrectly add

without an ecumenical council.

The original prescription does not add

without an ecumenical council.

What is your authorization for limiting the original statement that

nothing should be added


nothing can be added period yet much was!!
Certainly nothing can be added to change the meaning . But the filioque was added to clarified the meaning for the Latin.

Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are not required to use the filioque

True but incomplete.  The Eastern churches do not have to speak the words in their Creeds but must admit to the truth of the filioque.

how “essential” the Roman church actually regards it.

So your complaint isn’t valid for its essentialness.
You also neglect to ask why it was added.
Adding filioque to the Greek creed would be wrong because it wouldn’t fit in with the Greek Creed but does fit in the Latin Creed.
The languages Latin and Greek are not the same. The words used for “proceeds” in Latin and Greek do not have the same meaning. The Greek word means as the source. The Latin word just means proceeds without saying whether it is from the source or not. The English also carries a third meaning closer to the Latin.

Another real problem is what it means in English in deciding whether it is theologically sound.

August 27, 1:11 pm | [comment link]
19. Ross wrote:

Nadine and Phil:

You can find the Nicene Creed without the Filioque in one of the Enriching Our Worship books—I think the first one.  The EOW material is canonically sanctioned (maybe contingent on the approval of the diocesan bishop?... I don’t remember), so any TEC service could quite properly use that version of the Nicene Creed if they wanted to.

August 27, 1:14 pm | [comment link]
20. Nikolaus wrote:

Coincidentally, if I may point to another blog, Matt Kennedy + has a wonderful discussion of the Holy Spirit and the filioque over at Stand Firm.

August 27, 1:35 pm | [comment link]
21. nwlayman wrote:

This is the same move made by Katherine Schori’s mother in the 1970’s.  A very intelligent woman.

August 27, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
22. Patty Mueller wrote:

A resolution passed at GC 1994 to omit the filioque from the next revision of the prayer book.  There was also a resolution to omit the filioque from supplemental worship materials that were being prepared.  That’s why it isn’t in Enriching Our Worship I believe.  Most people don’t know this happened because the prayer book hasn’t been revised yet.  But it will happen, and when it does the filioque won’t be in it.

August 27, 3:10 pm | [comment link]
23. Jon wrote:

Hello all.  The language of the GC 1994 resolution is mentioned at this link:

http://www.seabury.edu/faculty/pbarker/filioque/sld007.htm

The web page doesn’t download in text format easily or I’d give the words here.

You’ll see that the resolution expresses a clear desire to change the language of the Nicene Creed “at the next revision of the Book of Common Prayer.”  That’s the sense in which I meant that the GC rejected the language of the filioque.  The GC was saying: we aren’t going to reprint all the BCPs right now just for this, but at the next available opportunity the filioque is gone.

Again, please give me the opportunity to say that I love and respect my brothers in the Eastern church who are absolutely (in my view) part of the church catholic.  After all I am basically a raging Protestant and yet would say the same about my brothers in Rome. So I am not critcizing anyone who objects to the filioque.  I am however concerned by the easy precedent ECUSA set by such a resolution—changing a significant theological plank of the Nicene as it has been spoken in our tradition (e.g. the West) for many MANY centuries.

August 27, 3:25 pm | [comment link]
24. skippy wrote:

The change in the ECUSA has several motives.
1-To be more scriptural. Yeah right!
Where are the women priests in the Bible?
The Jews never had any and Christ didn’t make any!

2-To separate itself from Rome as much as it can.
That’s ok. Henry VIII did a fine job.
The irreparable harm to unity is
a-female goddesses(preistesses)
Oh the Jews did not have goddesses either whereas all the surrounding nations had goddeses and priestesses too.
Coincidence no! Part of the faith!
b- active homosexual clergy
You talk about sexual scandal in the Catholic church!
That one is biblical!
Let’s wait and see if the Orthodox side with officially approving priestesses or officially approving homosexually active bishops.
The slope is slippery and the temptation is great!

August 27, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
25. NewTrollObserver wrote:

#23 John,

The GC was saying: we aren’t going to reprint all the BCPs right now just for this, but at the next available opportunity the filioque is gone.

Look on the bright side. Things could have been worse. At least the filioque wasn’t replaced by the filiaque.

August 27, 4:15 pm | [comment link]
26. Ad Orientem wrote:

The natural home for someone like the Rev. Ellsworth should plainly have been Anglicanism.  And I suspect it would have been—and the same as well for the many other hundreds that have left for big-O Orthodoxy, had it not been for the innovations in the Episcopal Church and the lack of any other reasonable Anglican outlet in most parts of the country.

VA Anglican,
I must respectfully disagree with your comment.  At no time did Anglicanism ever really come that close to Orthodoxy other than maybe while Henry VIII still reigned (not a good portent).  Even then he retained many of the post schism innovations of the Latin Church.  The closest we ever were was during the first part of the previous century when a few Orthodox bishops flirted with Anglicanism under the mistaken impression that the so called Anglo-Catholic movement was representative of the entire church.  Low church Anglicans have never been anywhere near Orthodoxy.  The theological gulf between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy has always been wide.  The only difference is that today it has become the Grand Canyon.

One of the defining aspects of Anglicanism is its tolerance for diversity and its ability to promote and live with compromise.  But that is ontologically inconsistent with the very term “orthodox” which means “right belief.”  One is either Orthodox or one is not.  Without wishing to sound harsh, Anglicanism is not and never was Orthodox.

August 27, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
27. Ad Orientem wrote:

A quick note on the filioque issue.  Most Orthodox no longer see the this as an absolute impediment to reconciliation with the Christian West (Roman Catholic Church).  Rome has “developed” its understanding of the filioque to a degree that it is not really that far from the Orthodox understanding.  We still think it should be removed from the creed though since it was added illicitly and most RCs (and Anglicans) in the pews do not grasp the highly tortured explanation now employed by Rome to make the filioque “Orthodox.”  They read “and from the son” and rather foolishly believe it means exactly what it says.  Thus irrespective of what the learned theologians in the Vatican say it means it is a major source of trouble among the faithful.  It needs to go.

The real deal breaker in terms of reconciliation is Vatican I.  Papal Infallibility and absolute Universal Jurisdiction as defined in crystal clear language by said council are a non starter on this side of the fence.  We will never accept either, and I don’t think Rome can fudge (oops I meant “doctrinally develop”) that one.

As far as Anglicanism goes, there is no belief in any possible corporate reunion within Orthodoxy.

August 27, 4:32 pm | [comment link]
28. Nadine Kwong wrote:

“A resolution passed at GC 1994 to omit the filioque from the next revision of the prayer book.  There was also a resolution to omit the filioque from supplemental worship materials that were being prepared.  That’s why it isn’t in Enriching Our Worship I believe.  Most people don’t know this happened because the prayer book hasn’t been revised yet.  But it will happen, and when it does the filioque won’t be in it.”

Thank you, Patty Mueller…  I had had no idea this action was taken!

“The language of the GC 1994 resolution is mentioned at this link:

http://www.seabury.edu/faculty/pbarker/filioque/sld007.htm

Thank you, John Stamper…  In reading the resolution, it appears they even imply that this is in accord with resolutions of the Primates and of the ACC…  Does anyone know whether the latter Instruments actually approved the omission (or “optionalization”) of the filioque?

August 27, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
29. David Fischler wrote:

Two books that those of you who are interested in looking more deeply into the filioque issue might want to take a look at are John Zizioulas, Being As Communion and Thomas Torrance’s The Trinitarian Faith. Torrance especially helped me understand the Trinity from both Eastern and Western perspectives better than anything else I’ve ever read.

August 27, 4:50 pm | [comment link]
30. skippy wrote:

Ad orientem,
Certainly your pessimism and mockery of the papacy isn’t conducive to any reconciliation of Rome and Orthodoxy.
fortunately cooler heads prevail in the filioque resolution.
As noted before, it was an Eastern innovation (410) repulsed to maintain unity with the East and later adopted 3 centuries later by some of the west.
The agreement on the filioque has to do with the eastern and western understanding of the trinity and equality of the persons as well as the literal meaning of the filioque phrase.
They are not as naive as you think.
Neither faction wants to give in or lose anything.

August 27, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
31. Bob from Boone wrote:

Interesting discussion. Not having spent time pursuing the history and interpretation of the filioque, I’ve learned some things. From teaching NT, especially John and Paul, and seeing so many references both to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus, I’ve personally come to identify the two as one and the same, and accept a filioque understanding of the procession of the Spirit in the Godhead. From the little I do know about the historical conflict between the Western and Eastern churches on this, the argument and declarations of councils seems like another example of the politics of theology.

I wonder why (as it appears) the Primates and the ACC took this step. Was it part of a movement toward relations with the Eastern Churches? Was it primarily theological?

Regarding the next revision of the Book of Common Prayer, a friend of mine who served for many years on the Standing Commission on the Liturgy said several years ago that the view of many he has talked with in the leadership and commission members is that 1979 is likely to be the last revision, and that what the Commission will recommend to GC is that in the future separate service books, including new Eucharistic liturgies, be issued. EOW may be the first of these. Frankly, that is a little too fluid for me. I’d rather see a revised prayerbook, though there would likely be a donneybrook over it. The Anglo-Catholics won the last one.

August 27, 4:58 pm | [comment link]
32. Jon wrote:

You are right, Nadine.  Most of us, including myself, had no idea that the GC had taken action to alter in a material way the Nicene Creed for the next BCP. 

As I have made clear already, I imagine, I have no trouble thinking of a person from the Greek Orthodox church (for example) to be absolutely one with my in Christ, even though we might disagree on the filioque.  And in that sense I regard that disagreement to be minor compared to the way Spong, for example, would like to see the Creed changed.

But it is the precedent it sets that makes me nervous.  When the time comes for the next BCP revision we will have already established that a simple vote of the GC enables us to materially change the Nicene Creed as it has been received for centuries in our church.  When the next prayer book committee wants for example to cut from the Creed the word ONLY (as in THE ONLY SON OF GOD), out of deference to the idea that Jesus was a Child of God just as are we all, then they’ll be able to look back to 1994 and say “Hey, we cut some significant theological language from the Creed before, right?”

August 27, 5:04 pm | [comment link]
33. nwlayman wrote:

It’s a little academic to think Anglicans are interested in the Filioque any more than they are about any other part of the Creed.  Recall, there are at *least* two ECUSA parishes that have dropped the Creed altogether from their services.  Takes care of that little problem doesn’t it?  St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco is one, a “Church of the Redeemer” on the east coast another.  Is there anyone who thinks the Creed actually matters in ECUSA?  Recall VG Robinson was simply told to recite the parts he believed.  Some don’t believe any of it, and say nothing accordingly.  It was a great refreshing thing to find the Orthodox Church in 1982, I recommend it to anyone.

August 27, 5:09 pm | [comment link]
34. Phil wrote:

skippy, I don’t get your point.  Nestorianism was also an eastern innovation that was “repulsed.”  Is it OK if we pick that up in the west?  Is it an acceptable heresy because somebody else thought of it first?

August 27, 5:18 pm | [comment link]
35. Patty Mueller wrote:

John Stamper, I understand your concern about the politics of GC changing theology in TEC.  But it hasn’t been quite as simple as you think.  It was more than just a vote at GC that allowed the change to occur.  There was a resolution at the 1979 GC to request conversation on the issue.  It may have started even earlier than that, but the online archives only go back to 79.  Then there was a resolution later on to have the dioceses study the question.  Then the first resolution concerning striking the filioque was at the 1985 GC.  1994 GC was only reaffirming what GC had already done. 

Don’t forget, also, that actual revisions to the prayer book have to pass 2 consecutive GCs in order for them to take effect.  That means that even after the revision is made, it will take another 6 years before it will be “law.”  So, it does take a little bit more than just a vote at GC to change longstanding theology.

It is a reminder, though, that important things DO happen at GC.  A lot of people just don’t pay attention.  And if we leave it to others to take care of the business of the church without really learning what’s going on, then we lose the right to complain when things happen we don’t agree with.  These things don’t happen in secret.  They are out in the open for the whole world to see.  It’s just that many Episcopalians just aren’t looking.

August 27, 5:29 pm | [comment link]
36. Id rather not say wrote:

skippy wrote

As noted before, it was an Eastern innovation (410) repulsed to maintain unity with the East and later adopted 3 centuries later by some of the west.

I believe that this is wrong on the facts. The OrtodoxWiki citation you give points out that it appeared (for whatever reason) in a regional council Persia in 410, which would be outside the borders of the Empire and (since it was in Eastern Syria) quite possibly Nestorian, and in any case not Greek.  Furthermore, the same OrthoWiki makes it plain that additions to the creed were specifically forbidden by the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus 431), so if it first appeared in the ‘east’ in 410, it was specifically condemned there less than twenty years later. 

To my knowledge, the earliest attestation of the filioque in the west is an interpolation from the Third Council of Toledo (Spain) in 589, which can have nothing to do with anything that happened in Persia one hundred and seventy years previous.  Pope Leo III (d. 816) specifically repudiated it.  It only received general acceptance in the west after 1000.

I am not sure than anyone can state with absolute authority why it arose in the first place, or just what ‘error’ it was originally supposed to correct, if such was the motive behind its introduction.

The effort to remove the filioque in TEC began (at least in my memory) with the proposed 1976/1979 BCP, from which it was omitted.  It was added back by General Convention.

However, I would also suggest that the interest and import of this article far transcends the issue of the filioque.

August 27, 5:29 pm | [comment link]
37. Id rather not say wrote:

Readers may judge for themselves, by the way, skippy’s use of source material by going directly to his citation:

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Filioque

August 27, 5:32 pm | [comment link]
38. Jon wrote:

Thanks NWlayman.  Are you certain about those two parishes?  It doesn’t surprise me, but if so it’s an amazing step.  I agree that disbelief in the Creeds is rampant, but for a parish to formally drop the Creed from its service is a BIG deal.  Does anyone know whether that violates the formal rubrics of TEC?  Can anyone comment on whether such a parish is required to be disciplined by its bishop?

I think this kind of information is immensely helpful.  So thanks again for letting us know.  My own feeling is that I have more in common with these people who wish to drop the Creed altogether—and do so!—than the people who think it is “beautiful” and who like it because it makes them part of a “community”—and who privately redefine every sentence in it so that Athanasius (and Augustine and Aquinas and Luther and Cranmer) would scarcely have recognized it.  If you don’t believe it any more as a parish than yes be honest about it!  (Of course at that point I’d suggest the next step on the path of honesty is to go join the Unitarians—some of them have nice clothes too).

Anyway, again I hope we are entering a time where apostate Episcopalians will start doing a lot more of that, a lot more honesty about the many parts of traditional Christianity they no longer believe.  That makes things much easier for the rest of us.  The last two decades have been an uncomfortable and frankly duplicitous time—lots of people reading books by Borg and Spong and Crossan, lots of these books being used in Sunday school classes, and yet lots of the same people standing up and reciting the Creed that they just got done trashing (“I just have a different interpretation of it”).  Hopefully we are entering a time when these kinds of duplicitous stratgeies will end.  An increasing number of people on the left end of the reappraising spectrum have been rightly bothered by the dishonest posturing of TEC officials regarding the actions the church has taken in the last 4 years.  E.g. they sharply and rightly criticized KJS for signing the Primates statement—why sign something you are opposed to?  Why should GC come up with lukewarm resolutions designed to appease and deceive?  Think of how much time would have been saved if at GC 2006 they had passed a series of principled and clearly worded resolutions repudiating Windsor and affirming their intention to consecrate more gay bishops and perform more gay weddings!  And (what would make me even far happier) start boldly admitting how many of them disbelieve in the Virgin Birth and the Atonement and Original Sin and so on—or at least pass a clear resolution saying that these things are no longer essential doctrines.  Man, that would be so open and honest and clear!  I would buy them all a beer if they did that!

August 27, 5:39 pm | [comment link]
39. TimW wrote:

Ellsworth increasingly found himself fighting with congregants about the way worship was being done. “They wanted to replace our organ with a drum set and do similar things that boiled down not to doctrine, but to personal preference. . . .”

How sad to see the perpetuation of the idea that what happens in worship is a matter of personal preference rather than of theology (“doctrine”).  Ellsworth will soon come to find that the Orthodox are fully aware that “orthodoxy” means “correct worship” as much as it does “correct belief.”  The adoption “of a more contemporary, market-driven style of worship—with rock ‘n’ roll “praise songs” is not simply a matter of “personal preference.” 

Sadly, while many Anglicans are fully aware of the important role the language of worship (the “common prayer”) found in the BCP plays in Christian spiritual formation, too few think about either musical texts or style in theological terms.  Indeed, given the widespread nature of musical illiteracy in our culture and the fact that music is generally seen as entertainment rather than as an essential part of education, few are even capable of substantive thinking about music.

While such attitudes are prevalent in Evangelicalism as a whole (and one of the reasons I left an evangelical denomination), Anglicans ought to know better.  Because worship is about God and not about us, everything we do in worship should be evaluated in theological terms.  For people without a substantive musical education, this will necessarily entail learning enough about music theory and history to be able to apply theology intelligently to issues of style.  It will also mean locating and studying some of the work that has already been done by scholars with training in both theology and music.

August 27, 5:51 pm | [comment link]
40. HowardRGiles+ wrote:

Classical Anglicanism would not have been a refuge for Gilquist and subsequent groups because they know the importance of accepting all seven councils, without stipulation.  They also know the importance of using leavened bread for Holy Communion, not separating Baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation and the value of obedience to authority. 
As for the understanding of the place of the Holy Spirit within Anglicanism or Western theology; this can be placed at the feet of the filioque. 

A proper understanding of the Trinity is as a triangle with the Father at the top, from whom the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds.  Turning that triangle on its side disturbs the Father as the Source and the Spirit as proceeding from that Source.

August 27, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
41. Nadine Kwong wrote:

“A proper understanding of the Trinity is as a triangle with the Father at the top, from whom the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds.  Turning that triangle on its side disturbs the Father as the Source and the Spirit as proceeding from that Source.”

Howard+, without disagreeing with that understanding, would turning that triangle on its side—even while maintaining faith in Christ as one’s Savior, and that faith causing one to feed the poor and otherwise follow Christ—cause one to be kept from heaven?  What exactly would an “improper,” filioque-laden understanding of the Trinity lead to?

Would using unleavened bread in the Eucharist merely make for an absence of metaousis, or something worse?

What do you think will be the practical implications for one’s salvation?

Sign me,
A concerned Filioquist and partaker of unleavened Hosts (and btw, wasn’t the original bread unleavened that night?)

August 27, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
42. Nikolaus wrote:

Not that Fr. Giles can’t answer for himself.  But again, Ms Kwong, I highly recommend Fr. Kennedy’s discussion of Article 5, “Of the Holy Spirit” at Stand Firm.  http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/5306/

And while Christ did indeed use the unleavened bread for the Passover meal, He has added Himself as the leaven.

August 27, 8:40 pm | [comment link]
43. Nadine Kwong wrote:

“And while Christ did indeed use the unleavened bread for the Passover meal, He has added Himself as the leaven.”

Well, I’ll try again to leave the Realm of Theological Abstraction, and speak in terms of One’s Personal Salvation.

Does lack of leaven mean no Real Presence?

Are centuries upon centuries of unleavened hosts in the Western Catholic Church invalid, ineffective, etc.?  Does lack of leaven block metaousios?

And if I add the filioque, and believe it, what implications are there for my salvation?

By “turning the triangle [of the Trinity] on its side,” what effect is there on my soul?

If I have faith in Jesus as the Way, and as the only begotten Son of God, and as my personal Lord and Savior, but misapprehend the exact mechanisms by which the persons of the Trinity arise in relation to each other, what then?

I wasn’t very good at geometry.  Will the Triune God judge me to have flunked my Theo-Geometry quiz and keep me from theosis?  Is the Risen Lord I think I meet in the Eucharistic Bread, whether leavened or not, simply a figment of my imagination whenever the Bread is unleavened?

What are the *practical* implications of these abstractions?

August 27, 8:58 pm | [comment link]
44. skippy wrote:

Nadine, I love your questions.
1-Watch out for the leaven of the pharisees!
2-No soup for you!
2-Don’t flip the triangle. Is that a trick question?

I’m sorry I couldn’t resist. Too many Seinfeld reruns.

August 27, 9:29 pm | [comment link]
45. Nikolaus wrote:

I’m not sure it is possible or effective to discuss the Holy Trinity or the Eucharist outside of the realm of theological abstraction, however you might define that.

Does lack of leaven mean no Real Presence?

No, why would you think that?

And if I add the filioque, and believe it, what implications are there for my salvation?
By “turning the triangle [of the Trinity] on its side,” what effect is there on my soul?

My apologies for sounding like a broken record. I think Fr. Kennedy answers your question with this portion of his summary

I think it best for Christians at this point not to come down too firmly on either side. I do think the following can be said and affirmed:
1. Ontologically speaking (ontology is the study of “being”), the Creed without the filioque clause secures the principle that God the Father is the source of all things; that the Father is the ground of divinity.

2. Functionally speaking the Creed with the inclusion of the filioque clause affirms the relational role of the Holy Spirit both within the Godhead, within the Church, and between the Church and her Lord and it secures the principle that without the Son one cannot be related to God through the Spirit.

Hope that helps.

August 27, 9:49 pm | [comment link]
46. HowardRGiles+ wrote:

My understanding is that it was leavened bread, in that the Greek has several words for the different breads, but I defer to an actual Greek scholar illuminating us.

Does lack of leaven mean no Real Presence?

  There is a more subtle question of how do we know what kind of bread to use and what role does Holy Tradition play in this and all other matters of practice?  Do we abstract from the text alone or do we rely upon the way that the text has been interpreted in the Church?  The belief in the real presence as a dogma is one of Holy Tradition, and so we should return to Holy Tradition to understand it.

Likewise, the Father as the Source is not a pass/fail geometry question but a matter of practice within the Holy Tradition as we strive for theosis.  When the Holy Spirit is subverted to a lower strata, then we need to constantly return to the emotional or ‘spiritual’ revivals of the Western church, especially familiar to us in the Great Awakenings.  When we forget that the Father is a single source from whom is begotten a same-essence Son and from whom proceeds a same-essence Spirit, then we forget the practical applications of praying to the Father and pointing to the Father, as did His Son.

August 27, 9:52 pm | [comment link]
47. Alice Linsley wrote:

I joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church in February 2007 to get away from evangelicalism which I regard as a deficient version of Christianity. The influx of evangelicals isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Often evangelicals attempt to bring evangelical church culture with them.

August 27, 10:15 pm | [comment link]
48. Id rather not say wrote:

Alice, I have yet to join the Orthodox Church, but my sister has (OCA), and they seem to be handling the influx of evangelicals just fine.

Some years ago, when there was a threatened exodus of Anglicans to the Orthodox Church over the “ordination” of women, some Orthodox were voicing concerns similar to yours.  However, I recall Fr. John Meyendorff pointing out that, if the Orthodox Church could handle the mass conversion of eastern slavs in the 10th century, a few thousand Episcopalians really shouldn’t be a problem.  I suspect the same is true for evangelicals.

August 27, 10:32 pm | [comment link]
49. Alice Linsley wrote:

Many Episcopalians have come into Orthodoxy over the past 20+ years.  I want to think that they have added to the common life.  It isn’t former Episcopalians that concern me.  It is evangelicals who prefer “market-driven style of worship” with praise bands, performance style preaching, and come forward and get saved theology.  In the Antiochian Church we don’t even use musical instruments and the focus is entirely on the Triune God, especially the saving work of Jesus Christ.  The words of the liturgy are so rich that a sermon is icing on the cake.  I attend Matins before Divine Liturgy and stand for almost 2 hours.  Strange, but those 2 hours are the shortest hours of the week.

August 28, 1:30 am | [comment link]
50. Ad Orientem wrote:

For those interested in a discussion of the filioque from a rather unusual perspective I recommend <a >this article</a> over at Energetic Procession.  As a side note that is a really good web site for serious discussion of Trinitarian issues and other points of difference between East and West.

August 28, 3:26 am | [comment link]
51. Ad Orientem wrote:

Ah.  Once again foiled by the non working HTML.  Sigh.  The web address to the article I meant to link above is
http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/an-apologetic-two-fer/#more-145

August 28, 3:27 am | [comment link]
52. Id rather not say wrote:

If anyone is still paying attention to this thread, they might find the comments on the original article on The New Republic’s website interesting, a mixture of insight and ignorance that shows what the readership of a secular magazine makes of an article like this.  Very few are hostile, somewhat to my surprise.  Revealing.

August 28, 7:24 am | [comment link]
53. libraryjim wrote:

One of my biggest pet peeves is former baptist ministers who joined the Episcopal church, became ordained and then tries to re-make the liturgy into a little Baptist Church service (overheads, so-called praise bands instead of choir; hour long sermons; cutting out parts of the service such as the Gloria; etc.). 

My question for them is: if all you want to do is re-create the Baptist style of worship, why did you leave the Baptist Church in the first place?  Why can’t you appreciate the traditions of the liturgical church which drew you here?

So, is there a similar problem with this in the Orthodox Church?

Jim Elliott <><

August 28, 2:56 pm | [comment link]
54. Nikolaus wrote:

I would rather doubt it Jim.  The Orthodox are generally much more careful about the formation process than TEC.  You don’t just get your name added to the Mailing List.

August 28, 5:51 pm | [comment link]
55. Ad Orientem wrote:

Jim & Nikolaus,
While sermons from former Protestant now Orthodox clergy can sometimes get a little long I have never heard of tampering with the liturgy.  Thats a big no no over here.  Remember we actually have bishops who care and who remember that part of their job description includes enforcing both doctrinal and liturgical orthodoxy.

August 28, 10:55 pm | [comment link]
56. justinmartyr wrote:

“I joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church in February 2007 to get away from evangelicalism which I regard as a deficient version of Christianity. The influx of evangelicals isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Often evangelicals attempt to bring evangelical church culture with them.”

A big white sheet is lowered from heaven into the sparkling Cathedral of the Anunciation. Inside the sheet are some dirty evangelicals. A voice booms: “St Linslely, feed my sheep.”

August 28, 11:52 pm | [comment link]
57. Alice Linsley wrote:

I receive that rebuke in the spirit in which you offered it in Christ.  I agree that evangelicals need feeding, but I am only a worm, not the Apostle Peter. The Orthodox Church itself spiritually forms and feeds these newcomers, just as it forms and feeds me. As Ad Orientem states, “I have never heard of tampering with the liturgy. Thats a big no no over here.  Remember we actually have bishops who care and who remember that part of their job description includes enforcing both doctrinal and liturgical orthodoxy.”  Faithful bishops, right belief, and ancient worship form and feed the Flock of Christ. The degree to which we submit ourselves to “That faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all” we become one flock.

August 29, 7:18 am | [comment link]
58. libraryjim wrote:

While sermons from former Protestant now Orthodox clergy can sometimes get a little long I have never heard of tampering with the liturgy.  Thats a big no no over here.  Remember we actually have bishops who care and who remember that part of their job description includes enforcing both doctrinal and liturgical orthodoxy.

Would that were true in the Episcopalian/Anglican churches, too.  <sigh>

August 30, 2:51 pm | [comment link]
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