Eastern Rite Anglicans FAQ (Pt 1)

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I craft a phrase that keeps getting hits. “Eastern Rite Anglican”, mentioned only once on this blog (and rather deep in a post) is one of those phrases. Seems a lot of people like the idea and keep Googling it.

OK, so off I go. For this purpose we pull out the rare, and esoteric HTML coding of the Definition List!

What are Eastern Rite Anglicans or Anglo-Byzantines?
Essentially the idea is to do with traditional Eastern liturgies and theology what Anglo-Catholicism did, via the High Church, Ritualist and Tractarian movements, to traditional Western liturgies and theology.
Um… Why?
A couple of reasons. Three, maybe. And one bad historical pun:

1) The English tradition has often felt closer to Byzantine and Russian practice than Roman. This is seen even in the venerable “Sarum Rite”. When performed with a “Latin liturgical idea” in mind it is very exotic, but very easy to do. It has some eccentricities, but ok. Yet when performed with a “Byzantine liturgical idea” in mind, it is neither exotic nor eccentric. It is simply the local form of the liturgy.

2) The Anglican mindset fits well with the Byzantine tradition of multiple patterns coinciding in a non-linear liturgy. The claim is, essentially, that Eastern Liturgy is more Anglican than Western Liturgy, that Roman liturgy at its most traditionally ornate and “baroque” is not as Anglican as a full Russian rite with choir and tinkling censor bells.

Maybe 3) The claim of traditional liturgy to be incarnational – involving all the person, mind, spirit and flesh (all the senses) seems to be not as well manifest in Western liturgy with its robes, postures, colours and incense, as it is in Eastern liturgy with its robes, postures, colours, incense, non-linearity, (traditional) lack of seating which moves the laity closer to the rite and (archaeological) lack of division in the worship space which is restored in more recent practices. This is, however, a subjective point rather than an objective one. More on this below.

Optional Bad Historical Pun: for a certain school of Uberfrum Orthodox, the Holy Spirit lived in the Holy Orthodox Church of the West, prior to the Great Schism. But in England, it lasted right up until 14 October 1066 when the Evil Schismatic Pope Alexander the II sent William the Evil Schismatic Conqueror into England to slay the Good Orthodox King Harold II. On that day the Holy Spirit left the Anglo-Saxon People, never to be seen again save by those who journeyed into enlightened Russia or Greece and found Orthodoxy. So this Idea of Eastern Rite Anglicans might just be the last sign of the Impending Apocalypse for this group of folks.

Speak more of this incarnational issue

Again, I want to be clear, this is a personal experience rather than a theological claim but during my years as an Anglo-Catholic (rosaries, statues, votive lights, etc) it all seemed rather stilted and “pious”, more like “Let’s be stodgy English people pretending to be prim French or Austrian Catholics. But upper class ones…” There were elements of misogyny and racism as well. When we really cut loose, we’d deck out a statue of Virgin Mary with twinkly lights and make jokes about “Mediterranean” or “Latin” piety. The official face was called “liturgical boredom”.

I never had this problem in Eastern Rite worship. Between kids running around on the carpet (I remember, especially fondly, my Godson learning to toddle back and forth in front of the candle stands) and the choir singing one thing while the priest was singing another and the congregation singing along (as and when they felt like it, with or without skill or even knowing the words) and the deacon censing the walls and the icons, and the adults moving around in the center of the room, and the monks making smirky smiles when the Abbot wasn’t looking…

Yes, everything was involved, and every part of Life was present (sorta).

It’s a personal bias: I think perhaps based in no small part on the mind I learned to have in such situations growing up. Yet even now when I go to WR Orthodox worship (at the Monastery in Hamilton), it’s theologically rich, mentally engaging, while the rest of me is bored. Again, your mileage w/ WR worship may vary. This is not a critique of Western Worship. But of an experience within western Worship.

As the assistant Bishop of New York once said to me, “The word became flesh, but Anglicans wallow in it.” I think we can wallow very much in an ER setting: we can be all that we can be. Yes, we can.

So what kind of liturgy are you imagining?
Well, to start off, the Antiochian Book Divine Liturgy for Clergy and Laity as it has easy-to-use music and all the words written out. Yes, yes, I know: it’s missing some of the litanies, but so what? The vast majority of ER worshippers in the world do not use those litanies any more. In the long run, however, I imagine using the books produced by the Monks of New Skete. They are more modern, less awkward and, to some extent, easier to use.

And there is a wealth of music out there – as well as a whole world of Anglican music waiting to be adopted and adapted into ER services.

Where is this being done already?

Nowhere. Some of my friends seem to have imagined that my former parish, St Gregory of Nyssa Church, in San Francisco, was doing Eastern Rite worship. No. They do have a very eastern flavour to their worship, but their words are (largely) right out of the BCP and the NRSV. Collects and standard Victorian hymnody make up their worship. Not a thing wrong with it – I go when I can, listen to the CD when I need to, watch the DVD when I need a fix and get the sermon podcast every Sunday. But not a thing ER about it (in the sense of this post).
But you’re not Theologically Orthodox? And you’re gay?
Kinda but Yes. And there you’ve hit on a point: I want to underscore again, Anglican theology and Anglican approach to liturgy plus Eastern Wroship. Heck, I could be a member of the United Church of Canada for all that the denomination is important. I do imagine we’ll read the Church Fathers more often, and the Synaxarion (or, more to the point The Prologue from Ohrid) but I do imagine some more theological play back and forth than most Orthodox or conservative Anglicans might like. I do imagine some debates about all the usual things that spark debates among Protestants, and, like the Good Anglo-Catholic divines before us, I imagine having people insist “that’s not Anglican” and “that’s not Orthodox” and “Neither Fish nor Fowl” and “neither Fresh nor Foul” and the like. And, joy, I’ll not care.
Is this that “Emergent Church” thing I keep hearing about?
No, not yet, anyway. But it could be. Later.
Will you have “Russian Easter” and “Russian Christmas”?
No and No. But the New Martyrs of Russian (including the later Royal Family) might be important.

14 Responses to “Eastern Rite Anglicans FAQ (Pt 1)”

The Other James
February 20th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

“Liturgical boredom.” I remember sitting through a four-hour liturgy once. I think that was the beginning of the end.

February 20th, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Sitting being the problem I think :)

In this case the “face of liturgical boredom” was a sort of stolid, pious that looked like a cross between the pained look one gets when trying to secretly pass gas and the face of a small child looking as if she’s praying when, really, she’s thinking about how to get some more jello after supper. Neither smiling nor frowning, neither present nor vacuously distant, it leaves one with the impression that the person before one is slightly north of “zombie” but only just.

For what it’s worth, I’ve seen this face on ER folks who were pretending to be “Dead to the world”. They are decidedly not enjoying the liturgy.

But yes, Anglo-Byzantines will have longer services just as Anglo-Catholics do: both of longer duration than the BCP’s 60-75 mins.

Fr. Andrew
February 20th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

In our little Metochian Chapel we do a full Byzantine Liturgy with all the Litanies and all the Psalms. Unless I preach a really long time, we are done in about one hour and forty minutes. Now, there are some things we need to slow down even more on — like the Cherubic Hymn and the Holy, Holy, Holy, but I chant at a reverent measured pace. The Byzantine Liturgy doesn’t have to take that long — even when done at a measured reverential pace.

The Anglican Church used to be called the “Orthodox Church of the West.” Unfortunately, with the normal Anglican desire to talk everything out, pinning down Anglican theology is more like nailing Jello to the wall. I applaud any attempt to bring reverence back into the liturgies of the West.

I wonder though, is Eastern Rite Anglicanism more of an attempt to collect some new vestments and equipment than an attempt to bring orthodoxy back into Anglicanism? I remember, way back when I was still and Anglican, teasing an Anglo-Catholic priest about, “who cares what they believe, what do we get to wear.” The Eastern Rites, regardless of whether they are Oriental, Byzantine, or Catholic come from a firm and (relatively) unchanging orthodox theology. They are plenty of folks who use an Eastern Rites but have no idea what they are doing or why (Google the Charismatic Orthodox Church). I’d hate to see my beloved Byzantine Rite watered down by inadequate theology. Heck I hate seeing my beloved Anglican rites watered down in the same way.

I’ve written many times about how the particular rite is unimportant, but rather it is all about the intent of the heart of the participants.

Fr. Andrew
Eastern Orthodox Priest

The young fogey
February 21st, 2009 at 10:34 am

There is so much to say on this.

Spot-on regarding the überfromm and the ‘Saxon Orthodox and Evil French’ myth. (Trouble was, good King Harold’s mother was… and he grew up mostly in… No matter. ‘I spit on facts!’)

IIRC you knew the late Canon Edward West, a friend of the Serbian Orthodox in NYC who would suit up and do the Byzantine Liturgy in a side chapel at St John’s not to fool anybody or pass himself off as something he’s not but as a tribute and for his own edification.

I understand that Anglo-Orthodoxy (either a sub-group of Anglo-Catholicism or sui generis) went defunct in England after 1992 (logically concluding corporate reunion will never happen and converting) but still exists somewhat among Episcopalians including in the isolated parishes of what’s left behind of the AC Movement. Priests throwing icons on the walls and using all of the Byzantine options in the 1979 book. (Any use of Byzantine vestments like the Lutherans in the Ukraine or of an iconostasis?)

During my years as an Anglo-Catholic (rosaries, statues, votive lights, etc) it all seemed rather stilted and “pious”, more like “Let’s be stodgy English people pretending to be prim French or Austrian Catholics. But upper class ones…” When we really cut loose, we’d deck out a statue of Virgin Mary with twinkly lights and make jokes about “Mediterranean” or “Latin” piety.

LOL. Of course there’s a lot of truth in that (and we know some of the same people). The trouble with stereotypes is not that they’re not true but that they don’t tell the whole truth.

There were elements of misogyny and racism as well.

True but abusus non tollit usum. (Fact: the AC Movement was a big force in the anti-apartheid movement; I knew one of those priests.) Those were on the offenders not the faith.

The official face was called “liturgical boredom”.

Yes, good, maligned objectivity.

Fr Andrew makes several excellent points.

The Anglican Church used to be called the “Orthodox Church of the West.”

That it really was so seems an ecclesiastical urban legend to me; on paper it was somewhat so for the Carolines, Non-Jurors and first ACs who were all about theology (and wrote the beautiful Scottish Liturgy) but not ceremonial. (Newman famously decided it was only a paper church.) But certainly not for the Protestant majority then (‘nothing comes between me and my Calvin’) or now (Dr Jensen or Dr Schori)! (Why St Raphael Hawaweeny backed off 100 years ago: he found out it usually is not true.)

Unfortunately, with the normal Anglican desire to talk everything out, pinning down Anglican theology is more like nailing Jello to the wall.

Back to infallible vs fungible church, Catholic vs Protestant. (Cardinal Kasper: choose one or the other and get back to us.) The Anglicans essentially agree with the Mormons: revelation is changeable so everything is up for a vote (like when the Mormons back-pedalled 30 years ago and repudiated Joseph Smith by allowing blacks to be full members), a power the Pope for example has never claimed. So I reckon if a change has been made according to its own rules (again, in which General Synod or General Convention claim more power than the Pope) the losing side has no right to complain.

I applaud any attempt to bring reverence back into the liturgies of the West.

As do I.

The Other James
February 21st, 2009 at 11:34 am

No, actually I was standing. There were only a few pews in this church. No, I was bored. I am completely burned out on long services. I don’t go to the Episcopal church that is literally just about 100 yards from my house because it takes them an hour to get through the pro anaphora.

There are some independent catholic churches that offer both eastern and western liturgies, but I don’t know how well they’re done. So, you’re wanting to start your own church?

February 21st, 2009 at 11:38 am

yes. no. yes…. no…. wait… yes. No. right.

I’m in discernment.

But more on the other parts of your post in Pt 2 of the FAQ (which I working on).

The Other James
February 21st, 2009 at 11:45 am

Well, it’s time I came out of the closet. No, not that closet Huw. I have loved liturgy for years now and recently I’ve come to suspect that it has been a distraction from actually loving God and serving my brothers and sisters in Christ. For me, it has been magic. For me, it has been “zombie.” If I were a priest I could probably serve up a nice solemn high Mass or whatever your preference is, but what do I really believe? I dunno sometimes.

I used to think that because I wasn’t crying or levitating during Mass something was wrong with me. (Imagine Father telling me to come down from the ceiling during the Sanctus.) It’s only now that I realize that it is because I desired those things instead of quiet communion with God that something has been wrong.

February 21st, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Canon West (my homiletics professor, and a personal hero) did a couple of Byzantine things: 1) had an Orthodox Community using St Saviour’s Chapel in the Cathedral. I don’t know what jurisdiction they were, but they were always there after the Sunday Morning Service at the High Altar. It was very wonderful to hear their chanting wafting over the cathedral during our coffee hour… (which will say more about me, my mind in the early 80s etc than about the Cathedral). 2) Many many many of the liturgical peculiarities of the Cathedral in that time were from then-current research into the Typikon of the Great Church. The Offertory Procession – smoke, crucifer candles, plates, candles, smoke, cross, candles bread candles, wine, candles – was right out of the the Great Entrance. Many vestments in use at the Cathedral were Byzantine rather than Western (most from his own collection). Many of the side chapels were laid out in such a way that a liturgy might be ER or WR without much trouble. And, of course, his personal style of dress was always ER. I shall add him doing ER liturgy as another point on this (although I’d never heard it before). Funny you should mention him, he came up in my confession this AM as well.

I don’t want to make too much of a point about the bad parts of my experience. I want to make it clear that I’m not maligning Anglo-Catholicism, per se, but it is my *experience* of it. Equally, I’m coming to realise I had a bad go in Orthodoxy. It was my experience. But not the experience of many (or certainly most) in Orthodoxy!

(Father Andrew) The Anglican Church used to be called the “Orthodox Church of the West.”… (Serge) St Raphael Hawaweeny backed off 100 years ago: he found out it usually is not true.

The thing that caught St Raphael (my Patron Saint), as he indicated in his rather famous pastoral letter, was that

I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definitions of truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic-minded members can call out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulous is her pathway in the doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are quite heterodox on others.

The same is true now, the same will be true in the Continuum and in the mainline for quite some time.

The same is true in Orthodoxy’s world too – you don’t have to dig so deeply to find out this is true. THIS has been my point over the last few years. That’s all I want to make known – St Raphael, even, had experienced it.

I’ve been listening to the lectures from St Vlad’s liturgical symposium. And I’ve been struck right between the eyes at what is – finally – a believable definition of (T)radition and (t)radition. Ironic that, at an Orthodox conference it should be spoke by a Roman Catholic. But there it is. More on that in FAQ2, but I think it will make clear my current thoughts on this issue.

I think.

February 21st, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Oh, very Anglican. Nothing else, though. Fr. Andrew, for example, is not in communion with *any* Orthodox church on earth. So an “eastern” or any other flavor of Anglican. All good fun and imaginative.

February 21st, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Howdy! I wondered if you were still around. Good to see you still in the same old spirits :) At least I didn’t mention the Western Rite! But yes, “very Anglican.” I’m nearly finished with the second volume of the FAQ which will explain why it is “very Anglican” to be doing so.

You seem to know more about Fr Andrew than I do. Please do not throw rather meaningless (in the context of these pages) accusations around. Fr Andrew may or may not care to respond to you, but, again, feel free to keep your comments *to the topic* of the post rather than Ad Hominem attacks. If I didn’t know who you were (by recognising your email address) I’d delete the comment entirely.

Be at peace.

Justin Cannon
March 11th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Please contact me. I am an Anglo-Orthodox gay Christian pursuing priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I’ve always dreamed of an Anglican Eastern rite.

Justin, founder

March 11th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Hey, Justin – Nice to see you again. We’ve corresponded before on the idea of Gays and Orthodoxy. I’d no idea you were looking to use ER worship as well.