As the Ordinariate of the Church of Rome makes big headlines about taking in former Anglican clergy the Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is quietly growing.
The Vicariate was given a large boost two years ago with the entrance of Archbishop Anthony of the Former Exarchate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and his Western Rite parishes.
Archbishop Anthony resigned his position and now serves the Russian Church as a Benedictine monk who is the Pastoral Vicar to the Metropolitan for Western Rite. To date there are 50 clergy who have come into the Vicariate in the past two years inclusive of the original group. There are many former Romans who became Anglicans and who now have found themselves wanting to leave the Anglican Communion or even the Continuing Churches.
Some former Roman Catholics turned Anglicans have applied to the Ordinariate only to find out after many months of waiting that they are considered “unsuitable” and would not be allowed to be Roman priests. So they find themselves wanting to leave the continuing churches but thinking that they would have to give up the priesthood if they do.
Some wish to be Orthodox but thought that they would have to learn Greek or Slavonic and celebrate the Eastern Liturgy…but then they find out about the Western Rites in the Russian and the Antiochian Churches.
Many have applied to the Antiochian Archdiocese, but having gone through property issues in their former affiliations, are very dismayed that they must turn over ownership of the property to the Archdiocese. The Russian Church’s Western Rite Vicariate does not require this.
We are interested more in their theology and spirituality and their salvation in the Ancient Church than their property. Many are seriously exploring entrance into the stability of Holy Orthodoxy.
At present we have received close to 30 applicants in the last two months. They need to go through the process which includes a criminal background check and canonical examinations. The examinations are ‘open book’ and their main purpose is diagnostic so that we are assured that the candidate will ‘read, learn, mark and inwardly digest’ the Orthodox Faith then live it and teach it faithfully.
The sensitive issue of ordination is oftentimes brought up. Father Anthony replies “The Orthodox Church does not make judgments on the ordinations of other Churches. All she knows is what is essential for the celebration of her own grace-filled Mysteries, which is their celebration by an Orthodox priest ordained by a canonical Orthodox Bishop.
I keep reminding candidates that there is no perfect Church so stop looking for one. But there is a Church that has continued to have the theological stability that this world so desperately needs and it has now opened the doors even wider to Western Christians.”
The transition is easy for most Anglicans. They never had a problem with the married priesthood, or believed in the Immaculate Conception or the treasury of merits, indulgences, papal infallibility, or immediate and universal jurisdiction. “Why if an Anglican bishop and his parishes come in we generally will show him the respect due to his former office and elevate him to a Mitered Archpriest so that he can continue to celebrate a Pontifical Liturgy should he wish to do so.”
Some thought that the use of the Julian Calendar would be a problem. The Julian Calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian one. However, we find that many like that, after the hype of Western Christmas is over, our Christmas rolls around on January 7th (December 25th Julian), (we have taken advantage of all of the post season sales) we can quietly celebrate the Incarnation of the Word made Flesh.
Recently a seeker said that he was reading the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and found his answer to the question what should he do? “It was right in front of my eyes and written over a hundred years ago. “But furthermore, we do hereby affirm that the Christian unity can be restored only by the return of all Christian communions to the principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence; which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men.”
He picked up the phone and called me that night and said, “I’m coming home.”
Fr. Anthony is the Pastoral Vicar for Western Rite to Metropolitan Hilarion and a monk of Christminster.