Posts tagged Episcopalians
Last week, we discussed St. Raphael’s involvement with the Episcopal Church — his role in an Orthodox-Anglican dialogue group, and his June 1910 letter permitting Episcopalian clergy to minister to Syrian Orthodox people in limited circumstances. Later that year, one of St. Raphael’s top assistants, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, wrote a lengthy open letter, warning the Orthodox bishops in America of the Episcopalian threats to Orthodoxy. “Permit me to remind you, Fathers, that already the decks of the Protestant Episcopal battleships are cleared for action,” Irvine wrote. “Her Diocesan regiments, well equipped and united, are in ecclesiastical array.” He continued:
I say with solemn earnestness that the battle will be fought in the United States between Orthodoxy, by which I mean “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints,” as saith St. Jude, and now alone kept by the Holy Orthodox Church of which you and I have the honor of being members, and all others, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Unitarian or Nothingarian.
Irvine’s full letter is a highly significant document, and we will examine it in detail in the future. For now, suffice it to say that Irvine warned the Orthodox bishops that these seemingly harmless ecumenical dialogues posed serious threats to the survival of Orthodoxy in America. In part, this is because such dialogues seemed to legitimize the Episcopal Church in the eyes of the untrained Orthodox layman. Combined with statements such as St. Raphael’s June 1910 letter, the door was opened for Episcopalians to say to the Orthodox, “Look, we are just like you! You needn’t worry about seeking an Orthodox priest; come to our churches instead!” Irvine warned,
Samson lost his strength when he played the fool with Delilah, who pretended love so as to disarm him of his source of power over the foes of the ancient Israel. We Orthodox, both Clergy and Laity, will lose all our strength if for the sake of society blandishments, whether clerical or lay, of those who hold not the Faith, betray our trust. Sooner or later we will find the Philistines rushing in upon us.
On September 25, 1911 — so, 15 months after issuing his letter of permission to the Episcopalians — St. Raphael formally withdrew from the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. He sent a letter to the Union, tendering his resignation, and then sent a pastoral epistle to his flock. Irvine’s influence is apparent in both letters. In fact, it is clear, based on the language and writing style, that Irvine himself authored both documents. This is not to say that St. Raphael had no hand in their content; on the contrary, he most certainly agreed with everything expressed in the letters, and he signed his name to both. But given Irvine’s position as a trusted advisor, his vast knowledge of Anglicanism, and his considerable writing ability, it is understandable that St. Raphael would delegate to him the actual task of letter-writing. (Incidentally, I can document at least one other instance in which Irvine ghost-wrote a letter for St. Raphael, and he almost certainly did the same for St. Tikhon on at least one occasion.)
To the letters. In the first, to the Union itself, St. Raphael (via Irvine) said,
There is a great and growing misunderstanding on the part of the Laity to wit, that, there is actually a union, or that, there will be, in the very near future, a corporate Union, between the Protestant Episcopal Church and the Holy Orthodox in America at least. The result is that the Laity in some sections are being confused in their doctrinal belief as well as growing careless about other requirements of the Holy Orthodox Church. In fact they neither know what to believe nor to reject, – much less which Church it is their duty to sustain.
To make matters worse, as we noted above, some Episcopalian clergymen had taken too far the limited permission in St. Raphael’s June 1910 letter:
Some of the Protestant Episcopal Clergy have taken upon themselves, through misunderstanding, to offer their services to Orthodox people, when even Orthodox Priests were within calling distance to minister to them; thus conveying the idea that, they, the Protestant Episcopal Clergy, were accepted as Holy Orthodox and that, there was no need of the ministrations or pastoral care of their own Orthodox Bishops and Clergy.
Thus, St. Raphael respectfully withdrew from the Union. He followed this with a 2200-word pastoral epistle. He (again via Irvine) stated, “I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church.” Therefore, “I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.” But St. Raphael didn’t stop there. It was not enough for the Orthodox to avoid the ministrations and sacraments of non-Orthodox bodies. He went on, “I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines.”
The full text of this letter may be found at this link.
Now, imagine the position of St. Raphael. He was a vice president of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. He had frequent dealings with Episcopalians, as did his associates in the Russian Archdiocese. Talk of union was in the air. His June 1910 letter was well-received by Episcopalians and not publicly criticized by any Orthodox people. But he saw, and Irvine called attention to, the error of that 1910 letter. It must have taken immense humility for St. Raphael to rescind his permission and withdraw from the Union. I’m sure he had many long discussions with Irvine beforehand, and he must have ultimately instructed Irvine to draft two letters on his behalf. St. Raphael read them, and perhaps edited them (for an unadulterated Irvine letter could be abrasive).
The whole affair must have been painful for St. Raphael, but, a century later, I am amazed at his openness and humility. As the June 1910 letter proves, he was not perfect, but his actions in 1911 are evidence of his genuine love for his flock. He was a great bishop.
At the turn of the last century, relations between the Orthodox and Anglican Churches were quite warm. They cooled a bit in 1905, when St. Tikhon ordained the former Episcopal priest Ingram Nathaniel Irvine to the Orthodox priesthood, but even so, many on both sides of the dialogue felt that full union would eventually happen.
In England in 1896, a body was formed called the “Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.” A dozen years later, in 1908, a group of High Church Episcopalians decided to establish an American branch of the organization. Several Orthodox leaders attended the first meeting in New York City, including the Syrian Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny and two of his clergy, the Fr. Benedict Turkevich (representing the Russian Archdiocese), and Fr. Methodios Korkolis (representing the Greeks). During the meeting, St. Raphael was elected to be the Orthodox Vice President.
The Episcopalians had an ambitious agenda: they wanted the Orthodox to recognize their holy orders as valid; indeed, they wanted to be recognized as a Local Church, just as “Orthodox” as Russia or Antioch. The Orthodox, and St. Raphael in particular, had much more modest goals. They wanted to promote friendly dialogue, with initiatives such as seminarian exchanges.
All the while, St. Raphael faced a monumentally difficult pastoral situation. His flock was scattered across North America, and many lived far away from any Orthodox church, Syrian or otherwise. In 1909, the Episcopalians suggested that he have the Anglican Book of Common Prayer translated into Arabic, so that the Syrians could worship with the Episcopalians. Raphael responded that it would be better for the Episcopalians to buy some Orthodox service books for their churches, so that the Syrians could use them if they visited.
In June of 1910, Raphael went even further, granting formal permission for his people to seek the ministrations of Episcopal clergymen in the event that no Orthodox priest was available. Here is his letter, which I am reprinting from the Journal of the Proceedings of the One Hundred and Ninth Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Hampshire (November 1910):
Right Reverend and Reverend Brothers:—
I thank God for the great work which is being done by our Union, in the way of promoting fellowship and a better understanding between the Holy Orthodox and Anglican Churches.
I assure you also of my full appreciation of all the kindnesses and courtesies extended to me and my people.
Now, in order that all complications may be avoided in the matter of mixed Services, that is, when a Syrian Orthodox may desire to have any Sacrament performed by a Bishop or Priest of the Anglican Communion in North America, I offer briefly some of our rules, as Orthodox Catholics, which, if possible, I beg to have enforced.
However, in this matter I am only speaking for myself personally, as an Orthodox Bishop, and in no way binding my brother Orthodox Bishops in North America. I speak alone for the Syrian people.
First:—It is against our Law to marry two brothers to two sisters.
Second:—It is equally contrary to the same law to marry a man to a deceased wife’s sister, and vice versa.
Third:—We do not permit marriage within the fourth degree of consanguinity.
Fourth:—Civil Divorces are not acknowledged by the Orthodox Church, unless for causes she sanctions; and, therefore, no civilly divorced person can be reunited in wedlock to another party, unlets divorced by the Church, as well as by the State.
Fifth:—The Orthodox Church requires that a child shall be baptized by a Trine Immersion in the water, and be immediately afterwards Chrismated.
Inasmuch as there is a variance between your and our Churches in these matters, I suggest that, before any marriage Service is performed for Syrians desiring the services of the Protestant Episcopal Clergy, where there is no Orthodox Priest, that the Syrians shall first procure a license from me, their Bishop, giving them permission, and that, where there is a resident Orthodox Priest, that, the Episcopal Clergy may advise them to have such Service performed by him.
Again, in the case of Holy Baptism, that, where there is no resident Orthodox Priest, that the Orthodox law in reference to the administra
tion of the Sacrament be observed, namely immersion three times, with the advice to the parents and witnesses that, as soon as possible, the child shall be taken to an Orthodox Priest to receive Chrismation, which is absolutely binding according to the Law of the Orthodox Church.
Furthermore, when an Orthodox Layman is dying, if he confesses his sins, and professes that he is dying in the full communion of the Orthodox Faith, as expressed in the Orthodox version of the Nicene Creed, and the other requirements of the said Church, and desires the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, at the hands of an Episcopal Clergyman, permission is hereby given to administer to him this Blessed Sacrament, and to be buried according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Episcopal Church. But, it is recommended that, if an Orthodox Service Book can be procured, that the Sacraments and Rites be performed as set forth in that Book.
And now I pray God that He may hasten the time when the Spiritual Heads of the National Churches, of both yours and ours, may take our places in cementing the Union between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches, which we have so humbly begun; then there will be no need of suggestions, such as I have made, as to how, or by whom, Services shall be performed; and, instead of praying that we “all may be one” we shall know that we are one in Christ’s Love and Faith.
Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn.
Not long after issuing this letter, St. Raphael did an about-face, withdrawing from the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union altogether, and instructing his people to disregard his previous letter. We’ll discuss those events in the near future.
Last week, I introduced Archbishop Dionysius Latas of Zante, a Greek hierarch who visited America in 1893. When we left his story, he had arrived in New York City and was en route to Saratoga Springs, where the Episcopalian Bishop Henry Potter had invited him. We’ll pick up the story there.
Abp Dionysius arrived in Saratoga Springs just as another international visitor, a Sikh Maharajah, was leaving the resort town. “Since the Maharajah’s departure the reigning foreign favorite has been the Archbishop of Greece,” the New York Times reported (8/6/1893). The paper went on, “The distinguished prelate is as approachable as his recent predecessor in Saratoga, and all who meet him find him most companionable. He is a man of fine physique, with a strong, intellectual face. He speaks excellent English and fluent French, which latter language he likes to use.”
By all accounts, the 57-year-old archbishop had a great time. “He has a keen eye,” the Times said, “which twinkles with humor.” He gave the New York Mail and Express his initial impressions of America (quoted in the New Orleans Picayune, 8/7/1893):
My impression of your country? Well, I started long before the date of meeting in Chicago, because I was so anxious to see America, and the longer I stay here the more I congratulate myself on this resolve. There is just one way to sum up my ideas as impressed upon me by this great city [New York City], and that is you Americans travel along much quicker than we do in Europe. Your rate of progress has not only enabled you to catch up in the comparatively short existence that the United States has enjoyed, but you have outdistanced us.
Within a few days, Abp Dionysius had made his way to Washington, DC, where he hoped to meet President Grover Cleveland. As it turned out, Cleveland was out of town. A Washington Post reporter caught up with Abp Dionysius, and observed that he had “a jolly face, a hearty laugh, and although he cannot always understand questions in English, he is quite communicative” (8/12/1893). He had decided to write a book about his experiences in America, and aimed to publish it upon his return to Greece. The Post reporter watched as the archbishop’s “scribe” (presumably his deacon) copied his Greek text.
Here are some more of Abp Dionysius’ observations, courtesy of the Post:
“It is very hot here,” said the archbishop, as he mopped his perspiring forehead. It was hot enough for him in his native land, he added, but there he spent his time in the country. He thought the country the best place in America as well, and with evident delight told of his visit to the Catskills in company with Bishop Potter of New York.
The archbishop spoke in high terms of America and Americans, and he evidently meant what he said. He had been impressed by the hospitality and “good heart” of the people in this country.
“Americans and Englishmen are different,” he said. “The Englishman is like this,” and then he drew in his head and put on a stiff, gloomy, and morose expression, which was comical in the extreme. “But the American,” he continued, changing his mood, “is always this way,” and the archbishop burst into a hearty laugh to illustrate what he meant.
“How long will you be in America?” he was asked.
“Perhaps three months,” was the reply, and the perhaps possibly meant if he did not go broke before that time, for he added that it cost a great deal more to travel here than elsewhere, and explained that what took a franc across the ocean requires a dollar here.
From Washington, Abp Dionysius returned to New York and then departed for Chicago, to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions.
In 1893, the World’s Fair was held in Chicago. In conjunction with the Fair, something called the “World’s Parliament of Religions” was held from September 11-27. This was a remarkable gathering, which brought together not only Christian leaders of various denominations, but people of every religious stripe — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. It seems to have been more of a spectacle than anything substantive, although, as we’ve discussed previously, the crazy Antiochian archimandrite Christopher Jabara thought that perhaps the Parliament could come up with a brand-new, global religion. His hopes were unfulfilled.
Anyway, besides Jabara, at least two other Orthodox leaders gave speeches at the Parliament — Fr. Panagiotis Phiambolis of Chicago’s new Greek church, and Archbishop Dionysius Latas of Zante (Zakynthos). Latas was by far the most significant Orthodox figure at the gathering, and from the time of his arrival in America, he was a media sensation. He also happens to have been the first non-Russian Orthodox hierarch to set foot in the New World. This is the first of several articles that will chronicle his visit to America.
Latas arrived in America at the end of July, and on August 1, the New York newspapers ran stories about him. Here’s a brief biography, from the New York Tribune:
Dionysius Latas was born in Zante in 1836. At an early age he attended the Greek Seminary in Jerusalem, where he remained for ten years, afterward spending four years at the University of Athens. Later he studied for a year in the University of Strasburg, before the annexation to Germany, and three years at the universities of Berlin, Leipsic and other German universities, and then spent some time in England. From 1870 to 1884 he was the eloquent preacher of Athens, when he became Archbishop.
Latas was thus about 57 when he came to the United States. He was accompanied by his deacon, Homer Peratis, and one of their first stops was the new Greek church in New York. “I preached yesterday in the little Greek church in this city,” Latas told the New York Times (8/1/1893), “and it reminded me of the little churches I preached in years ago when I was an Archimandriti.”
Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but Latas was a very, very popular preacher when he was an archimandrite in Athens. I have a letter from a Protestant visitor to Athens in 1870 — so, just at the outset of Latas’ preaching career. This letter, written by a certan Rev. Dr. Goodwin of First Congregational Church in Chicago, was published in the New York Evangelist (7/21/1870), and provides a glimpse into the sort of figure the young (34-year-old) Latas was:
The chief sensation of Athens just now is a priest named Dionysius Latos, and among the mummeries dinning the ear on every side during these festivities, it was refreshing to find one service that was an exception. This young priest was originally one of the candle-snuffers, a lad of no education, and with no apparent gifts, except a fine rich voice. Promoted because of this to assist in the chorals, he somehow obtained leave to talk or preach, and astonished every one, and greatly captivated the people by his eloquence. He speedily acquired a wide notoriety, and won many friends. Among them was a rich Athenian, who proposed to him to spend three years in the schools of Germany and France, at his expense. He accepted the offer, spent time in diligent application, and has just returned, and is creating the highest enthusiasm.
I went on Friday morning to hear him preach, and found the church literally packed. And the Greek churches having no seats, admit of such a crowding as is entirely unknown to American audiences. There was no getting near the main entrance, the throng extending into the street. I found a side door, however, to the women’s gallery, and there at last succeeded, by climbing upon a pile of boards, in getting a view of the preacher and his congregation. Below me was a sea of men’s faces, all upturned toward a man of fine intellectual features, and searching dark eyes, and who in the black gown and round brimless hat or high stiff fez of a Greek priest, stood in a pulpit projecting from one of the columns near the middle of the church.
I was impressed at once with the earnestness of the preacher’s face and manner. There was that in the kindling of the eye, the tone of the voice, and the sweep of the hand even, that witnessed unmistakably to the preacher’s deep conviction of the truth and importance of his words. One could not look and listen without a conscious sympathy in response It would have been no common privilege to hear the language of Socrates and Demosthenes spoken, and that in their own Athens, with the distinctness and grace and fervor which marked the speaker’s utterance. Certainly there was a rhythm and music and richness about it that I had never imagined, and that seemed to thrill and move the people somewhat as did the great orators in those earlier days.
But when in the course of a fervent passage my ears caught in Greek the words, “Ye men of Athens,” and then following the whole discourse of Paul from Mars Hill, in the very words he used, and under the very shadow of the spot where he stood, I felt as if centuries were suddenly rolled back, and not a Greek priest, but a greater than he, and a greater than Demosthenes or Plato were there before me, preaching in this wonderful language Christ and Him crucified. I could only now and then understand a word, but caught enough to divine that the theme of the discourse was the love of God as revealed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
The preacher continued for a full hour and a half, closing with many quotations of Scripture and with much impassioned eloquence, and the people stood eager to the end. It is believed here by those who know Latos intimately, that he is in every respect heartily in sympathy with evangelical religion. And the hope is warmly cherished that he will prove to the Greek Church in Athens far more than Pere Hyacinthe to the Latin Church in Paris — a fearless and mighty apostle of the truth, that cannot be cajoled from his purpose by flatteries, nor silenced by threats.
Latas was a genuine sensation, and as a bishop, he remained a prominent figure in the Church of Greece. He spoke out against anti-Semitism, advocated (as did so many in those days) dialogue with the Episcopalians, and was skeptical that any sort of union would happen with Rome. When he came to the United States, he was warmly welcomed by the various Episcopalian bishops that he encountered. Immediately upon his arrival, he was invited by Bishop Henry Potter to join him at Saratoga Springs. We’ll pick up the Latas story there.
It is well known that, at the turn of the last century, thousands of Syrians/Lebanese made the trip across the Atlantic to New York. What is less well known, at least here in the US, is that many Syrian emigrants went to other parts of the New World, including South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. A lot of these travelers found their way to Jamaica, which, to this day, has a sizeable Syrian contingent.
Unlike the Syrians in the US, however, these Syro-Jamaicans didn’t obtain a permanent Orthodox priest, or establish a functioning Orthodox community. They stuck together as an ethnic group, but in terms of their religion, they eventually became absorbed into the existing Anglican church of Jamaica.
That said, the Syro-Jamaicans did receive occasional pastoral visits from Orthodox clergy. In 1913-14, Fr. Raphael Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America (who was serving under the Church of Greece at the time), visited Jamaica and served the Divine Liturgy (aboard a Russian ship) for the Syrians he met. But he wasn’t the first Orthodox clergyman to visit Jamaica. Three years earlier, in August of 1910, a priest named Fr. Antonio Michael came to the island. Here is an account of his visit, from the Kingston Gleaner (8/4/1910):
It will be remembered that during last year the [Anglican] Archbishop addressed a meeting of Syrians on the Rectory Lawn. Since that time many of the Syrians have been worshiping with us regularly. A step towards closer fellowship was taken on July 17th, when the Rector, taking advantage of the visit to Jamaica of a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church, arranged a special service for Syrians. The priest in question, Father Antonio Michael came with authority from the Patriarch of Antioch to visit the Syrians scattered through these Islands.
Having inspected the Patriarch’s letter the Rector invited Father Antonio to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the Altar of the Kingston Parish Church. The invitation was accepted and accordingly on Sunday we were privileged to witness a fine illustration of the friendly relations which exist between the Anglican and the Greek Orthodox Church.
At 8 a.m. the Rector celebrated and Father Antonio sat in the Sanctuary in his robes. At 9 a.m. Father Antonio celebrated for the Syrians in the presence of a large congregation of Jamaicans, following the Eastern rite, the Rector being present within the Sanctuary. The services lasted altogether two hours and a half, but many remained to the end, though the Syrians’ service being in Arabic was difficult to follow for those not acquainted with the language. To those who knew something of the Eastern rite it was full of interest. At the close of the service Father Antonio commended the Syrians to the pastoral care of the Rector.
Father Antonio concluded his address on the Gospel for the day in these words:
“May you live together in peace and love. I raise my heart and hands to God Almighty asking Him to be with every one of you. May He prosper you in all your undertakings. May He bless the Island of Jamaica and grant to His Majesty King George V. strength, wisdom and length of days; to His Excellency the Governor and to all associated with him in the Government of this Island, knowledge and understanding. I pray that our Heavenly Father may keep and bless the Archbishop and the Ministers of the Holy Church especially Mr. Ripley who has allowed me to have this service to-day. O God, guard Thy children from all dangers ghostly [spiritually] and bodily. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and finally of His great mercy obtain everlasting life. Amen.”
Clearly, Fr. Antonio did not plan to remain in Jamaica, and he saw nothing wrong with commending the Orthodox people there to the care of the Anglican clergy. As I said, the next Orthodox priest (that I’m aware of) to visit Jamaica was Fr. Raphael Morgan. While he was under the Church of Greece, most of the other Orthodox clergymen to visit Jamaica in the early 20th century were Antiochians. However, no permanent priest was ever assigned to for the Syrian community, and today, the descendants of those Syrians are predominantly Anglican.