Unity Faith and Order - Dialogues - Anglican Orthodox
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The Moscow Agreed Statement1976
I The Knowledge of God
- God is both immanent and transcendent. By virtue of the divine self-revelation,
man experiences personal communion with God. By faith and through obedience
he shares truly in the divine life and is united with God the Holy Trinity.
By grace he enjoys the pledge and first-fruits of eternal glory. But, however
close this union may be, there remains always an all-important distinction
between God and man, Creator and creature, infinite and finite.
- To safeguard both the transcendence of God and the possibility of man's
true union with him the Orthodox Church draws a distinction between the
divine essence, which remains for ever beyond man's comprehension and knowledge,
and the divine energies, by participation in which man participates in
God. The divine energies are God himself in his self-manifestation. This
distinction is not normally used by Anglicans, but in various ways they
also seek to express the belief that God is at once incomprehensible, yet
truly knowable by man.
- To describe the fullness of man's sanctification and the way in which
he shares in the life of God, the Orthodox Church uses the Patristic term theosis
kata charin (divinization by grace). Once again such language is not
normally used by Anglicans, some of whom regard it as misleading and dangerous.
At the same time Anglicans recognize that, when Orthodox speak in this
manner, they do so only with the most careful safeguards. Anglicans do
not reject the underlying doctrine which this language seeks to express;
indeed, such teaching is to be found in their own liturgies and hymnody.
II The Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture
- The Scriptures constitute a coherent whole. They are at once divinely
inspired and humanly expressed. They bear authoritative witness to God's
revelation of himself in creation, in the Incarnation of the Word and in
the whole history of salvation, and as such express the Word of God in
- We know, receive, and interpret Scripture through the Church and in
the Church. Our approach to the Bible is one of obedience so that we may
hear the revelation of himself that God gives through it.
- The books of Scripture contained in the Canon, are authoritative because
they truly convey the authentic revelation of God, which the Church recognizes
in them. Their authority is not determined by any particular theories concerning
the authorship of these books or the historical circumstances in which
they were written. The Church gives attention to the results of scholarly
research concerning the Bible from whatever quarter they come, but it tests
them in the light of its experience and understanding of the faith as a
- The Church believes in the apostolic origin of the New Testament, as
containing the witness of those who had seen the Lord.
- Both the Orthodox and the Anglican Churches make a distinction between
the canonical books of the Old Testament and the deutero-canonical books
(otherwise called the Anagino-skomena) although the Orthodox Churches
have not pronounced officially on the nature of the distinction, as is
done in the Anglican Articles. Both Communions are agreed in regarding
the deuterocanonical books as edifying and both, and in particular the
Orthodox Church, make liturgical use of them.
III Scripture and Tradition
- Any disjunction between Scripture and Tradition such as would treat
them as two separate 'sources of revelation' must be rejected. The two
are correlative. We affirm (i) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby
the Church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of
Holy Tradition or not; (ii) that Holy Tradition completes Holy Scripture
in the sense that it safeguards the integrity of the biblical message.
- (i) By the term Holy Tradition we understand the entire life of the
Church in the Holy Spirit. This tradition expresses itself in dogmatic
teaching, in liturgical worship, in canonical discipline, and in spiritual
life. These elements together manifest the single and indivisible life
of the Church.
(ii) Of supreme importance is the dogmatic tradition, which in substance
is unchangeable. In seeking to communicate the saving truth to mankind,
the Church in every generation makes use of contemporary language and therefore
of contemporary modes of thought; but this usage must always be tested
by the standard of Scripture and of the dogmatic definitions of the Ecumenical
Councils. The mind (phronema) of the Fathers, their theological
method, their terminology and modes of expression have a lasting importance
in both the Orthodox and the Anglican Churches.
(iii) The liturgical and canonical expressions of Tradition can differ,
in that they are concerned with varying situations of the people of God
in different historical periods and in different places. The liturgical
and canonical traditions remain unchangeable to the extent that they embody
the unchangeable truth of divine revelation and respond to the unchanging
needs of mankind.
- The Church cannot define dogmas which are not grounded both in Holy
Scripture and in Holy Tradition, but has the power, particularly in Ecumenical
Councils, to formulate the truths of the faith more exactly and precisely
when the needs of the Church require it.
- The understanding of Scripture and Tradition embodied in paragraphs
4 to 11 offers to our Churches a solid basis for closer rapprochement.
IV The Authority of the Council
- We are agreed that the notions of Church and Scripture are inseparable.
The Scriptures contain the witness of the prophets and apostles to the
revelation of himself which God the Father made to man through his Son
in his Holy Spirit. The Councils maintain this witness and provide an authoritative
interpretation of it. We recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church
not only in the Scriptures, but also in the Councils, and in the whole
process whereby Scriptures and Councils have been received as authoritative.
At the same time we confess that the tradition of the Church is a living
one in which the Spirit continues his work of maintaining the true witness
to the Revelation of God, the faith once delivered to the saints.
- We note that Anglican members, while accepting the dogmatic degrees
of the fifth, sixth, and seventh Councils, have long been accustomed to
lay more emphasis on the first four, and believe that the concept of 'an
order or "hierarchy" of truths' can usefully be applied to the
decisions of the Councils. The Orthodox members find this concept to be
in conflict with the unity of the faith as a whole, though they recognize
gradations of importance in matters of practice.
- The Orthodox regard the Seventh Council as of equal importance with
the other Ecumenical Councils. They understand its positive injunctions
about the veneration of icons as an expression of faith in the Incarnation.
The Anglican tradition places a similarly positive value on the created
order, and on the place of the body and material things in worship. Like
the Orthodox, Anglicans see this as a necessary corollary of the doctrine
of the Incarnation. They welcome the decisions of the Seventh Council in
so far as they constitute a defence of the doctrine of the Incarnation.
They agree that the veneration of icons as practised in the East is not
to be rejected, but do not believe that it can be required of all Christians.
It is quite clear that further discussion of the Seventh Council and of
icons is necessary in the dialogue between Orthodox and Anglicans, as also
of Western three-dimensional images and religious paintings which we have
not adequately discussed.
- We are agreed that according to the Scriptures and the Fathers the
fullness of saving truth has been given to the Church. She is the Temple
of God, in which God's Spirit dwells, the Pillar and the Ground of truth.
Christ has promised that he will be with her until the End of the Age and
the Holy Spirit will guide her into all truth (1 Cor. 3.16; 1 Tim. 3.15;
Matt. 28.20; John 16.13).
- Both Anglican and Orthodox agree that infallibility is not the property
of any particular institution or person in the Church, but that the promises
of Christ are made to the whole Church. The ecumenicity of Councils is
manifested through their acceptance by the Church. For the Orthodox, the
Ecumenical Council is not an institution but a charismatic event in the
life of the Church and is the highest expression of the Church's inerrancy.
- It is clear that further exploration and discussion of this and kindred
questions will be needed. Among the points to be taken into account are:
(a) The use of the words 'infallible' and 'indefectible' in discussion
of ecclesiology is of medieval and modern Western origin.
(b) For Anglicans, the concept of infallibility has acquired unfortunate
associations by reason of the definition of the First Vatican Council,
and of the manner in which papal authority has been exercised. For the
Orthodox, the concept of indefectibility has ambiguous associations on
account of the way in which it has been used in modern theology.
(c) A theological evaluation is required of processes whereby the teaching
of Councils has been recognized and received.
V The Filioque Clause
- The question of the Filioque is in the first instance a question
of the content of the Creed, i.e. the summary of the articles of faith
which are to be confessed by all. In the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed
(commonly called the Nicene Creed) of 381 the words 'proceeding from the
Father' are an assertion of the divine origin and nature of the Holy Spirit,
parallel to the assertion of the divine origin and nature of the Son contained
in the words 'begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father'. The word ekporeuomenon (proceeding),
as used in the Creed, denotes the incomprehensible mode of the Spirit's
origin from the Father, employing the language of Scripture (John 15.26).
It asserts that the Spirit comes from the Father in a manner which is not
that of generation.
- The question of the origin of the Holy Spirit is to be distinguished
from that of his mission to the world. It is with reference to the mission
of the Spirit that we are to understand the biblical texts which speak
both of the Father (John 14.26) and of the Son (John 15.26) as sending (pempein) the
- The Anglican members therefore agree that:
(a) because the original form of the Creed referred to the origin of the
Holy Spirit from the Father,
(b) because the Filioque clause was introduced into this Creed
without the authority of an Ecumenical Council and without due regard for
Catholic consent, and
(c) because this Creed constitutes the public confession
of faith by the People of God in the Eucharist, the Filioque clause
should not be included in this Creed.
VI The Church as the Eucharistic Community
- The eucharistic teaching and practice of the Churches, mutually confessed,
constitutes an essential factor for the understanding which can lead to
reunion between the Orthodox and Anglican Churches. This understanding
commits both our Churches to a close relationship which can provide the
basis for further steps on the way to reconciliation and union. Already
in the past there has been considerable agreement between representatives
of our two Churches regarding the doctrine of the Eucharist. We note particularly
the six points of the Bucharest Conference of 1935. We now report the following
points of agreement:
- The eucharistic understanding of the Church affirms the presence of
Jesus Christ in the Church, which is his Body, and in the Eucharist. Through
the action of the Holy Spirit, all faithful communicants share in the one
Body of Christ, and become one body in him.
- The Eucharist actualizes the Church. The Christian community has a
basic sacramental character. The Church can be described as a synaxis or
an ecclesia, which is, in its essence, a worshipping and eucharistic
assembly. The Church is not only built up by the Eucharist, but is also
a condition for it. Therefore one must be a believing member of the Church
in order to receive the Holy Communion. The Church celebrating the Eucharist
becomes fully itself; that is koinonia, fellowship - communion.
The Church celebrates the Eucharist as the central act of its existence,
in which the ecclesial community, as a living reality confessing its faith,
receives its realization.
- Through the consecratory prayer, addressed to the Father, the bread
and wine become the Body and Blood of the glorified Christ by the action
of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the faithful people of God receiving
Christ may feed upon him in the sacrament (1 Cor. 10.16). Thus the Church
depends upon the action of the Holy Spirit and is the visible community
in which the Spirit is known.
- The eucharistic action of the Church is the Passover from the old to
the new. It anticipates and really shares in the eternal Rule and Glory
of God. Following the Apostolic and Patristic teaching, we affirm that
the eucharistic elements become, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Body
and Blood of Christ, the bread of immortality, to give to us the forgiveness
of sins, the new creation, and eternal life. The celebration of the Church
in liturgy carries with it the sense of the eternal reality which precedes
it, abides in it, and is still to come.
- In the Eucharist the eternal priesthood of Christ is constantly manifested
in time. The celebrant, in his liturgical action, has a twofold ministry:
as an icon of Christ, acting in the name of Christ, towards the community
and also as a representative of the community expressing the priesthood
of the faithful. In each local eucharistic celebration the visible unity
and catholicity of the Church is manifested fully. The question of the
relationship between the celebrant and his bishop and that among bishops
themselves requires further study.
- The Eucharist impels the believers to specific action in mission and
service to the world. In the eucharistic celebration the Church is a confessing
community which witnesses to the cosmic transfiguration. Thus God enters
into a personal historic situation as the Lord of creation and of history.
In the Eucharist the End breaks into our midst, bringing the judgement
and hope of the New Age. The final dismissal or benediction in the liturgy
is not an end to worship but a call to prayer and witness so that in the
power of the Holy Spirit the believers may announce and convey to the world
that which they have seen and received in the Eucharist.
VII The Invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist
- The Eucharist is the action of the Holy Trinity. The Father gives the
Body and the Blood of Christ by the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Church
in response to the Church's prayer. The Liturgy is this prayer for the
eucharistic gifts to be given. It is in this context that the invocation
of the Holy Spirit should be understood. The operation of the Holy Spirit
is essential to the Eucharist whether it is explicitly expressed or not.
When it is articulated, the 'Epiclesis' voices the work of the Spirit with
the Father in the consecration of the elements as the Body and Blood of
- The consecration of the bread and the wine results from the whole sacramental
liturgy. The act of consecration includes certain proper and appropriate
moments - thanksgiving, anamnesis, Epiclesis. The deepest understanding
of the hallowing of the elements rejects any theory of consecration by
formula - whether by Words of Institution or Epiclesis.1 For the
Orthodox the culminating and decisive moment in the consecration is the Epiclesis.
- The unity of the members of the Church is renewed by the Spirit in
the eucharistic act. The Spirit comes not only upon the elements, but upon
the community. The Epiclesis is a double invocation: by the invocation
of the Spirit, the members of Christ are fed by his Body and Blood so that
they may grow in holiness and may be strong to manifest Christ to the world
and to do his work in the power of the Spirit. 'We hold this treasure in
earthen vessels.' The reception of the Holy Gifts calls for repentance
and obedience. Christ judges the sinful members of the Church. The time
is always at hand when judgement must begin at the household of God (2
Cor. 4.7; 1 Pet. 4.17).
- Although Epiclesis has a special meaning in the Eucharist,
we must not restrict the concept to the Eucharist alone. In every sacrament,
prayer and blessing the Church invokes the Holy Spirit and in all these
various ways calls upon him to sanctify the whole creation. The Church
is that Community which lives by continually invoking the Holy Spirit.
At their meeting in Thessaloniki in April 1977 the Orthodox members
asked that it should be pointed out that, in regard to the words in paragraph
30 of the Moscow Agreed Statement it is inexact to call the Epiclesis a
'formula' since the Orthodox Church does not regard it as such.