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The Crisis in Anglicanism

Ten years ago, in 2002, we expressed our thoughts concerning the then new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams ( We had met him over twenty-five years before in Oxford when he was completing his doctoral thesis. In 2005 we wrote another article about his relationship with the Orthodox Church ( This Archbishop has now announced that he is soon to retire. Apart from the, to us Orthodox, bizarre idea that an Archbishop may retire, especially when he is so young, other things are also to be regretted.

As Archbishop, Dr Williams has shown himself to be a rather impractical and indecisive academic. He has not known how to speak to ordinary people, to whom he seemed to be merely a lefty eccentric whose actual beliefs were impenetrable. Finally, he has disappointed both modernists and conservatives, losing all authority in the maze of his intellectualism. Little wonder that he is retiring to the ivory towers of academia. In his time the bitterly divided Anglican Communion which he heads has been pulled in various directions, to ‘flying bishops’, to breaking point, to ‘ordinariate’ and to schism. Africa, where the vast majority of its membership lies, now lives under a different jurisdictional and ethical situation from most of its half-believing and indeed non-believing white membership. Indeed, many have left the Anglican Communion altogether. In England its actual membership is under one million and decreasing.

It now seems unlikely that the Communion which was founded by the State as a political compromise in the sixteenth century can last much longer – though this is no fault of this Archbishop. The State-imposed task of keeping people of both Catholic and Protestant leanings inside a Protestant grouping, called a ‘Church’, in effect a sort of Protestant Uniatism, is no longer relevant or possible in today’s world. As to whom will be the next Archbishop, John Sentamu, the African Archbishop of York, or another Establishment choice, we have no idea. The Prime Minister, in his own words, ‘vaguely Christian’, will choose the next Archbishop in typical erastian, or ’Anglican’, manner, just as he chooses all bishops. The fact is that in this country Anglicanism is more or less a spent force, a relic of history.

Today, in England at least, the majority of serious Christians are Catholics. However, Institutional Catholicism, crippled by its clerical celibacy and celibate clericalism, has attracted to itself many a pedophile and many a scandal. Some traditional Catholics whom I met last year, informing me of their struggles against their own Catholic episcopate in England, consider them to be ‘little more than Protestants’. And both Italian and Polish Catholics, who come to our Church regularly, tell me that the Catholic Church in this country is not a Catholic Church, but ‘a spiritually empty Protestant Church’. Indeed, they have told me that for them the only serious Christians left are Russian Orthodox.

And it is as the Guardians and Missionaries of Authentic Orthodoxy that we Russian Orthodox live.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

5/18 March 2012
Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross

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