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Ecclesiology, Scripture, and Tradition in the Dublin Agreed Statement

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Victoria C. Miller
General Theological Seminary, New York


This article analyzes some of the ecclesiological issues raised in Anglican-Orthodox ecumenical dialogue, particularly in the Dublin Agreed Statement of 1984, one of the documents produced by the international discussions between these two communions. It also examines the theological background to these issues. How Anglicans and Orthodox Christians understand the nature of the church is an interesting question in its own right; perhaps more important, however, is the fact that ecclesiological concerns have formed a critical, if not always explicit, backdrop to the unsteadiness of Orthodoxy's ecumenical relations with Anglicans and other Christian churches in recent years.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1993

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1 Because of space limitations, I have not looked at how other levels of Anglican-Orthodox discussion, such as the dialogue in the United States or other bilateral dialogues involving Anglicans or Orthodox, have assessed the topics raised in the Dublin Agreed Statement. Furthermore, I have not thoroughly compared the language used in the Dublin Agreed Statement with the language used in the discussions of the Anglicans or Orthodox with other ecumenical partners.

2 Ugolnik, Anthony, “An Ecumenical Estrangement: Orthodoxy in America,” Christian Century 109 (1992) 610–16Google Scholar.

3 Ibid., 616.

4 Anglican Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement 1984 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1985) 1Google Scholar. 3.

5 Ibid., 1.8.

6 Ibid., 1.9.

7 Ibid., See also 4.100.

8 Ibid., 1.10.

9 Ibid., 4.99.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid., 1.12.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid., 1.14.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid., 1.17.

16 Ibid., 1.21.

17 Ibid., 1.29.

18 Ibid., 1.30.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid., 4.107.

21 Ibid., 3.47.

22 Ibid., 3.48.

23 Ibid., 3.49–52. The Dublin Agreed Statement refers to the Moscow Agreed Statement (1976) (in Ware, Kallistos and Davey, Colin, eds., Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue—The Moscow Statement Agreed by the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission 1976 [London: SPCK, 1977] 8291Google Scholar) between Anglicans and Orthodox as a way of filling in some of the gaps here. The Moscow Agreed Statement refers to the books of scripture as authoritative because they “truly convey” God's revelation, which the church “recognizes in them.” The New Testament is said to “contain… the witness” of those who had seen the risen Christ (2.6–7). The Moscow Agreed Statement goes on to state that scripture and tradition are correlated, but they are not to be understood as “two separate ‘sources of revelation’” (3.9). The relationship of scripture and tradition will be discussed in more depth below.

24 Dublin Agreed Statement, 1.20.

25 Ibid., 1.19. The internal quotations are from Intercommunion: A Scottish Episcopalian Approach (1969). An interesting discussion of the terms “full communion” and “intercommunion” is contained in “Full Communion: A Study Paper for The Anglican Consultative Council,” Ecumenical Bulletin 52 (1982) 3339Google Scholar.

26 This is addressed in the Report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Communion and Women in the Episcopate 1989 (London: Church House, 1989)Google Scholar. It is interesting, in light of the discussion of “holiness” above, that the church's sinfulness is one of the factors to which the Report points in its explanation of the existence of ambiguity and anomalies in church life (for example, 3.48–49).

27 Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, in Edelen, Georges, ed., The Folger Library Edition of The Works of Richard Hooker (gen. ed. Hill, W. Speed; 4 vols.; Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1977)Google Scholar 3.1.10 (1. 201).

28 Ibid., 3.1.14 (1. 205).

29 Newman, John Henry, “Prefatory Notice,” in Palmer, William, Notes of a Visit to the Russian Church in the Years 1840, 1841 (2 vols.; London: Kegan Paul Trench, 1882) 1Google Scholar. v–vii.

30 Palmer, William, A Treatise on the Church of Christ (2 vols.; New York: Appleton, 1841) 1Google Scholar. 87, 118–19.

31 Ibid., 84, 97. Fouyas, Methodios (Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism [Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1984] 6465)Google Scholar argues that the Orthodox are “confused” because Anglicans never officially broke communion with Rome (or with the Orthodox Church) and claim never to have separated from the undivided Catholic Church. The Orthodox interpret this claim as meaning—among other things—a lack of separation from the faith of the Orthodox Church. According to Florovsky, George (“The Orthodox Churches and the Ecumenical Movement Prior to 1910,” in Rouse, Ruth and Neill, Stephen Charles, eds., A History of the Ecumenical Movement 1517–1948 [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954] 197Google Scholar), the Orthodox Church considers the Church of England to be in schism by virtue of having been part of the Western church which separated itself from the Eastern (and only true) church.

32 Palmer, Treatise, 1. 236–37.

33 Ibid., 86.

34 Ibid., 87–89.

35 Ibid., 119.

36 Ibid., 113.

37 The Book of Common Prayer (New York: Seabury, 1979) 510Google Scholar.

38 See, for example, Archbishop Basil of Brussels, “The Authority of the Councils,” in Ware and Davey, Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue, 57–58.

39 Gavin, Frank, Some Aspects of Contemporary Greek Orthodox Thought (Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1923) 242–3Google Scholar.

40 See, for example, Lossky, Vladimir, “Ecclesiology: Some Dangers and Temptations,” Sobornost 4 (1982) 2229Google Scholar.

41 Bulgakov, Sergius, The Orthodox Church (2d ed.; trans. Kesich, Lydia; Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1988) 3Google Scholar.

42 Ibid., 4–5.

43 Ibid., 87–88.

44 Ibid., 64. See also Zizioulas, John, Being as Communion (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1985) 115Google Scholar: “[I]n this way of understanding Christ as truth, Christ Himself becomes revealed as truth, not in a community, but as a community. So truth is not just something ‘expressed’ or ‘heard,’ a propositional or logical truth; but something which is, i.e., an ontological truth: the community itself becoming the truth.”

45 Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, 88.

46 Clement, Olivier, “Orthodox Ecclesiology as an Ecclesiology of Communion,” (trans. John Bolger) One in Christ 6 (1970) 118Google Scholar.

47 Khomiakov, Alexei Stepanovich, The Church Is One (ed. Grabbe, George; New York: Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in America, 1953) 1920Google Scholar.

48 According to Davey, Colin (“The Doctrine of the Church in International Bilateral Dialogues,” One in Christ 11 [1986] 142)Google Scholar, one of the most carefully discussed phrases in the Dublin Agreed Statement concerned whether the church could sin. In the context of the opening comments of the document, which deal with the divisions of the world and the responsibility of the church to heal these divisions, a sentence was included to take note of the partiality with which this has been accomplished. Apparently, the original form of the contested sentence was: “We know the temptation for the Church to retreat into herself.” The Orthodox participants objected to this, and the final version of the sentence is: “We know the temptation for Christian communities to avoid this challenge [of healing divisions among humankind]” (Dublin Agreed Statement, 1.2).

49 Hopko, Thomas, “Catholicity and Ecumenism,” St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 17 (1973) 67Google Scholar.

50 Hopko is also outspoken about the extent to which Orthodox practice falls short of theory, and he asks his fellow Orthodox why they can tolerate these lapses in their own communion and at the same time be so intolerant of similar lapses outside Orthodoxy. See Hopko, Thomas, “The Lima Statement and the Orthodox,” JES 21 (1984) 5563Google Scholar.

51 The term “sobornost,” according to Alexei Khomiakov, “contain[s] a whole confession of faith.” (quoted in Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, 60). Sobornost encompasses catholic-ity, harmony, conciliarity, “the state of being together,” and the freedom that unites believers.

52 Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1978) 84Google Scholar.

53 Zizioulas, John, “The Eucharistic Community and the Catholicity of the Church,” One in Christ 6 (1970) 328–29Google Scholar.

54 For an Orthodox view of how the East and West understand the position of the local church differently, see Emilianos of Meloa, “The Nature and Character of Ecumenical Councils according to the Orthodox Church,” in Margull, Hans Jochen, ed. The Councils of the Church—History and Analysis (trans. Bense, Walter F.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966) 338–69Google Scholar. For an Anglican look at the renewed appreciation of the local church in liturgical theology, see Weil, Louis, “Anglican Understanding of the Local Church, with Special Reference to the BCP 1979,” Ecumenical Bulletin 50 (1981) 915Google Scholar.

55 Clement, “Orthodox Ecclesiology,” 110. This is also a major theme developed by John Zizioulas (Being as Communion, 106) as a basis for his eucharistic and trinitarian ecclesiology: “The person is the horizon within which the truth of existence is revealed, not as a simple nature subject to individualization and recombination but as a unique image of the whole and the ‘catholicity’ of a being.”

56 Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 116.

57 Ibid., 116, 168.

58 Ibid., 118. It is interesting to note here that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his opening address to the Lambeth Conference of 1988, stated that “Anglican unity itself is most characteristically expressed in terms of worship. Here we have much in common with the Eastern Churches, whose very name implies a unity through right worship—Orthodoxy. This is a proper corrective to an over-institutional view of Christian unity and to an over-intellectual understanding of unity through assent to confessional formulae…. [T]he glue which binds us [Anglicans] together is not so much juridical, but personal, informal, and expressed in worship. An impairment of communion for Anglicans is not essentially about canon law but at the much deeper personal level of sharing in the eucharistic worship of the Holy Trinity.” (Runcie, Robert, “The Nature of the Unity We Seek,” in Nazir-Ali, Michael and Pattinson, Derek, eds. The Truth Shall Make You Free—The Lambeth Conference 1988: The Reports, Resolutions, and Pastoral Letters from the Bishops [London: Church House, 1988] 14Google Scholar).

59 Clement, “Orthodox Ecclesiology,” 109.

60 Ibid., 102.

61 Congar, Yves (Diversity and Communion [trans. Bowden, John; London: SCM, 1984] 71)Google Scholar discusses this in connection with the apophatic character of the Orthodox tradition, which emphasizes the impossibility of “knowing” God.

62 “Epilogue,” in Dublin Agreed Statement, 2.90.

63 Ibid., 2.92.

64 “Committee Report on the Anglican Communion,” in The Lambeth Conference 1948—The Encyclical Letter from the Bishops: together with Resolutions and Reports (London: SPCK, 1948) 8485Google Scholar.

65 Runcie, “The Nature of the Unity,” 16. For a discussion of this and related questions, see Wright, J. Robert, “An Anglican Comment on Papal Authority in the Light of Recent Developments,” in Sykes, Stephen W., ed., Authority in the Anglican Communion (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1987) 242–43Google Scholar.

66 “Report on Dogmatic and Pastoral Concerns,” in Nazir-Ali and Pattinson, The Truth Shall Make You Free, 81–120. See also Macquarrie, John, Christian Unity and Christian Diversity (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975) 3436Google Scholar, for a discussion of conflict in theological discourse as it is understood by an Anglican theologian.

67 Stephen Neill, “The Anglican Communion and the Ecumenical Council,” in Margull, The Councils of the Church, 389.

68 Griffiss, James E., “Anglican Ambiguity and Authority,” Ecumenical Bulletin 81 (1987) 13Google Scholar. See McAdoo, Henry R., The Unity of Anglicanism: Catholic and Reformed (Wilton, CT: Morehouse-Barlow, 1983)Google Scholar for an examination of how scripture, tradition, and reason were understood to function in discerning what was and was not authoritative for Anglicans of the seventeenth century. See also Sykes, Stephen W., The Integrity of Anglicanism (London: Mowbray, 1978)Google Scholar for a critical assessment of how well these traditional sources of authority function in Anglican theology.

69 “The Thirty-Nine Articles and the Anglican Tradition,” Addendum to “The Renewal of the Church in Faith,” in The Lambeth Conference 1968—Resolutions and Reports (London: SPCK, 1968) 82Google Scholar.

70 It should be noted that not all Anglicans consider the Anglican enthusiasm for the essential/nonessential doctrine distinction well placed. In a lecture given in Tubingen, Henry Chadwick stated that making fundamental doctrines of the “essence” of the church was “to put the criterion for the existence of the Church in doctrine and not in the continuity of the life of the community” (quoted in Congar, Diversity and Communion, 120). For a positive Roman Catholic development of a slightly different way of drawing distinctions, see Congar's discussion (pp. 126–27) of Andre Pangrazio's hierarchical ordering of truths, distinguishing truths “relating to the final order” from those which do not.

71 “The Renewal of the Church in Unity,” in Lambeth Conference 1968, 140–41. The Lambeth Conference of 1920, in its call for a new approach to ecumenical relations, also stressed the importance of appropriating the “rich diversity of life and devotion” found within Christianity in order for the fullness of Christian truth to be manifest to all people (“Report to the Committee Appointed to Consider Relation to and Reunion with Other Churches,” in Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion Holden at Lambeth Palace, July 5 to August 7, 1920: Encyclical Letterfrom the Bishops, with the Resolutions and Reports [2d ed.; London: SPCK, 1920] 134Google Scholar). On the subject of the coherence and utility of the notion of “comprehensiveness,” see both Sykes, The Integrity of Anglicanism, and a critical reply to Sykes by Wiebe, Donald, “‘Comprehensiveness,’ The Integrity of Anglican Theology,” in Bryant, M. Darrol, ed., The Future of Anglican Theology (New York: Mellen, 1984) 4357Google Scholar.

72 Runcie, “The Nature of Unity,” 13; “Report on Dogmatic and Pastoral Concerns,” 108.

73 Book of Common Prayer, 877.

74 Ibid., 513, 526, 538.

75 It should be noted that the Thirty-nine Articles as well as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral hold varying degrees of authority throughout the Anglican Communion. See Wright, J. Robert, “The ‘Official Position’ of the Episcopal Church on the Authority of Scripture: Historical Development and Ecumenical Comparison” (ATR 74 [1992] 348–61Google Scholar, 478–89) for a thorough presentation of the understanding of the American church. See also Philip H. E. Thomas, “A Family Affair: The Pattern of Constitutional Authority in the Anglican Communion,” in Sykes, Authority in the Anglican Communion, 119–42, for a survey of how the Thirty-nine Articles and scripture figure in Anglican constitutional documents in various parts of the communion.

76 Book of Common Prayer, 868.

77 Ibid., 871.

78 Ibid., 874.

79 Sergii of Staraya Russia, “Holy Tradition,” in Waddams, H. M., ed., Anglo-Russian Theological Conference (Moscow, July 1956) (London: Faith, 1958) 3233Google Scholar.

80 It was noted in the summary of the Moscow Conference in 1976 that the “two sources” language was also characteristic of the Anglican-Orthodox consultations at Lambeth in 1931 and of the Interorthodox Commission's report on divine revelation endorsed at Chambesy in July 1971 (Ware and Davey, Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue, 54–55).

81 Konstantinidis, Chrysostomos, “The Significance of the Eastern and Western Traditions Within Christendom,” in Patelos, Constantin G., ed., The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement—Documents and Statements 1902–1975 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1978) 221–22Google Scholar.

82 Ibid., 222.

83 Ibid., 224. Other listings of the content of Orthodox tradition vary somewhat (not unlike the differing inventories of Anglican formularies that would be given by Anglicans). For example, Frank Gavin (Contemporary Greek Orthodox Thought, 206–10) discusses some of the disagreements within Orthodoxy over the status, within the tradition, of doctrinal formulations following the break with Rome.

84 Konstantinidis, “The Significance of the Eastern and Western Traditions,” 223.

85 Gavin, Contemporary Greek Orthodox Thought, 17.

86 Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, 11–18.

87 Ibid., 21.

88 For a discussion of this charismatic understanding of tradition, see also Scouteris, Constantine, “Paradosis: The Orthodox Understanding of Tradition,” Sobornost 4 (1982) 3234Google Scholar.

89 The Moscow Agreed Statement, 3.9–10.

90 Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, 31.

91 Meyendorff, Living Tradition, 16–17.

92 Ibid., 20.

93 Ibid., 21. Meyendorff, following Khomiakov, has concluded (p. 20) that the reliance of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism upon criteria of truth other than God himself (i.e., the magisterium or “scripture alone”) is one of the most important differences between Orthodoxy and these other Christian groups. Orthodoxy has never felt the need for such criteria of doctrinal security, he says, because “the living Truth” dwells within the Orthodox Church. See also idem, “Historical Relativism and Authority in Christian Dogma,” Sobornost, 5th ser., 9 (1969) 629–43Google Scholar.

94 See, for example, Ware, Kallistos, “Church and Eucharist, Communion and Inter-communion,” Sobornost, 7th ser., 7 (1978) 555Google Scholar.

95 Lossky, Nicholas, “The Church as a Eucharistic Community at the Local Level,” Ecumenical Review 31 (1979) 7071CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

96 “Minutes of Theological Discussions,” in Waddams, Anglo-Russian Theological Conference, 82–83.

97 Meyendorff, “Historical Relativism,” 640–41.

98 Meyendorff, John, “Does Christian Tradition have a Future?” St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 26 (1982) 148–49Google Scholar. Theodore Stylianopolous seems to hold a more positive view of the contribution that modern biblical analysis (along with critical analysis of other ancient documents) can make to Orthodoxy. He suggests that such study may, in fact, strengthen the Orthodox orientation toward the apophatic. See his “Historical Studies and Orthodox Theology Or the Problem of History for Orthodoxy,” GOTR (1967) 400. See also Carnegie Samuel Calian, “The Eighth Day in Human History—God's Revelation and the Historical Process,” Sobornost, 5th ser., 10 (1970) 737–49Google Scholar.

99 Meyendorff, “Historical Relativism,” 640.

100 See, for example, Staniloae, D., “The Orthodox Conception of Tradition and the Development of Doctrine,” Sobornost, 5th ser., 9 (1969) 652–62Google Scholar; “Minutes of Theological Discussions,” 73–76; Archbishop Basil of Brussels and All Belgium, “The Authority and Infallibility of the Ecumenical Councils,” The Eastern Churches Review 7 (1975) 4Google Scholar; L. N. Pariisky, “The Orthodox Idea of the Church,” in Waddams, Anglo-Russian Theological Conference, 22.

101 Florovsky, George V., “Sobornost: The Catholicity of the Church,” in Mascall, E. L., ed., The Church of God—An Anglo-Russian Symposium (London: SPCK, 1934) 67Google Scholar.

102 Konstantinidis, Chrysostomos, “Authority in the Orthodox Church,” Sobornost 3(1981) 206–7Google Scholar.

103 See, for example, Zizioulas (“Eucharistic Community,” 337): “[T]he church is revealed to be in time what she is eschatologically.” See also Florovsky (“Sobornost: The Catholicity of the Church,” 63): “Tradition reflects [the Church's] victory over time.”

104 Dublin Agreed Statement, 1.3.

105 Unfortunately, Avery Dulles, in his Models of Revelation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983)Google ScholarPubMed does not include a paradigm that adequately accommodates the Orthodox understanding. The five models that he elaborates are revelation as doctrine, history, inner experience, dialectical presence, and new awareness.

106 or an example of an “official” attempt at dialectical or dialogical ways of theologizing in the Anglican communion, see The Nature of Christian Belief (A Statement and Exposition by the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England) (London: Church House, 1986)Google Scholar.

107 Lambeth Conference 1968, 141.

108 Macquarrie, Christian Unity, 13–14. Macquarrie goes on to relate (pp. 14–15) this moderate pluralism to creation: “It would seem that in his creation, God has aimed at the utmost diversity. … The fact then that God himself seems to maximize variety in his creation and, more especially, the fact that he meets men and women in many modes of experience suited to their differing needs provides a theological justification for pluralism in the Christian community,” although not, he adds, justification for rampant individualism. He argues that in order for the fullness of God to be manifest and experienced by women and men, there are compelling reasons to have a number of diverse churches in one location, rather than only one church (pace John Henry Newman).

109 Nazir-Ali and Pattinson, The Truth Shall Make Your Free, 105, 108, 132; God's Reign and Our Unity (The Report of the Anglican-Reformed International Commission 1981–1984) (London: SPCK, 1984) 1Google Scholar.29–30; 2.35, 37; 5.106.

110 Nazir-Ali and Pattinson, The Truth Shall Make Your Free, 18. See also Lambeth Conference 1968—Resolutions and Reports; and God's Reign, 1.7.

111 God's Reign, 2.35; 5.124.

112 Macquarrie, Christian Unity, 34.

113 Ibid., 100.

114 Ibid., 3.

115 A paper prepared in connection with the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Consultation in the United States also concluded that a more self-consciously eschatological approach would be helpful (“Joint Reflections on the Nature and Unity of the Church” [Report of the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Consultation in the United States, January 1990] vi).

116 Pannenberg, Wolfhart, “The Significance of Eschatology for the Understanding of the Apostolicity and Catholicity of the Church,” One in Christ 6 (1970) 410–29Google Scholar.

119 Ibid., 417.

118 Ibid., 424–25.

119 Ibid., 429.

120 Ibid., 428.

121 Anglicans have already taken a step in this direction in the Anglican-Reformed International Commission Report, God's Reign.

122 Macquarrie, Christian Unity, 38–46.

123 Ibid., 40.

124 See, for example, the Dublin Agreed Statement, 3.51, 53, 59, 62.

125 Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 123–42.

126 Ibid., 140.

127 Irenaeus Adversus haereses 1.31.4.