Archives: Constantinople Recognizes Anglican Orders (1922)

Patriarch Meletius IV of Constantinople, 1923 | Wikipedia

The following news article and editorial appeared in the September 2, 1922 issue of The Living Church.

The most momentous chapter in ecclesiastical history in a thousand years, scarcely excepting the chapters written during the Reformation period, has just been completed in Constantinople. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in session in that city on August 1st, pronounced in favor of the validity of Anglican orders. This report, which first appeared briefly as a special dispatch to one of the London daily papers, is now fully confirmed. The decision will be communicated to the other patriarchates and to the autocephalous Orthodox churches, which must also express opinions before the decision becomes final, though there is little doubt but that the latter will concur in the view of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, after centuries of questioning, the validity of the Anglican episcopate and priesthood is established by the Patriarchal See of the most ancient branch of the historic Catholic Church.

To some extent, this grows out of the acceptance, by the late locum tenens [temporary office holder] of the patriarchal throne, of the Concordat submitted by the American Commission. The succession of the present patriarch, however, who had some in close contact with the Anglican churches in America and England, paved the way for the more definite and far-reaching acceptance of our orders, and the decree of the synod will be formally transmitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The American church, however, is honored with a formal part in the final action. It so happened that the Rev. Dr. W.C. Emhardt, of the Bureau for Work Among Foreign-Born Americans, who is in Europe on credentials from the Presiding Bishop and Council in the interest of finding better methods for protecting immigrants and bring them into touch with our church authorities, was able to be present at Constantinople on August 10th, when the final ceremony took place. His credentials did not allow him to take part in any negotiations on the subject, and he was careful not to exceed his instructions, but yet, as an informal representative of the American church, he was greatly honored in the course of that ceremony.

The Holy Synod was gathered in the State Chamber. Dr. Emhardt was escorted by the secretary to a seat of honor next to the patriarch. The latter addressed the synod at length, relating the conditions which had led up to the present action and stating his desire that the message conveying the friendly action of the synod to the American church be transmitted to the latter by Dr. Emhardt as their representative, His Holiness having become well acquainted with Dr. Emhardt while resident in New York.

The patriarch thanked Dr. Emhardt for the interest he had shown in the Eastern Church and in caring for the children of that church in America, and then, in the name of the synod, placed a large gold crucifix around his neck, and gave his blessing and the patriarchal kiss. Dr. Emhardt made a response to the address.

The Holy Synod asks that a chaplain of the American church be sent to Constantinople. The ancient church of St. John the Baptist in a suburb of the city and in the heart of the American institutions – Robert College, the Women’s University, the Near East Home, etc. – will be assigned to him. This was formerly the summer patriarchal church, and the parents of the present patriarch live in the close. The American chaplain will have the right to use any church, after the liturgy has been said in the morning, and always in the evening.

So the schism of a thousand years’ standing bids fair to be healed in our day, and the healing process is all but complete.

From Editorials and Comments

Eastern Recognition of Anglican Orders

Just as we go to press we have received the information relating to the acknowledgement of the validity of Anglican orders by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople… It is the most momentous ecclesiastical happening in many generations. It is the culmination of the hopes and prayers of innumerable churchmen through at least three centuries.

For it is proof to us from an impartial examination of those outside our communion that the conviction which we of the Anglican churches firmly hold, that our orders are valid by the strictest tests that can be applied, is warranted. The strongest charge that Rome has ever made against us during those centuries of estrangement is that no impartial forum has ever heretofore accepted the Anglican view concerning our orders. That charge is now forever nullified; and Rome is left in a position of isolation, clinging to a disproven position that grew partly out of prejudice, partly out of misunderstanding, and which has been fanned by controversialists for propaganda purposes. Roma locuta est; and Rome was wrong. Constantinople is right.

Of course, this decision does not, of itself, establish unity between Easterns and Anglicans. It does, however, make unity, each communion being wholly autonomous and preserving its own characteristics, the inevitable next step if all of us preserve that attitude of friendship and sympathy which means so much in mutual ecclesiastical relations.

To the Ecumenical Patriarch, Meletios, this forward step is, under God, immediately due. To him we express our sincere appreciation and thanks.

And it is a gratification to us that Dr. Emhardt’s “chance” presence in Constantinople at the time of the synod has given the opportunity to his Holiness to transmit through him to the American church, duplicate copies of the formal letters that are transmitted primarily to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Patriarch Meletius (born Emmanual Metaxakis, 1871-1935) served successively as patriarch of Greece, Constantinople, and Alexandria. Acting on concerns about bringing order to the scattered Orthodox mission efforts in the Americas, he took steps that resulted in the creation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, and was engaged in ecumenical talks with Anglicans on both sides of the Atlantic over several decades.

The Rev. Dr. William Chauncey Emhardt (1874-1950) was secretary of the Episcopal Church’s Advisory Commission on Ecclesiastical Relations, and a prominent figure in ecumenical relations with the Orthodox and Old Catholics. The Episcopal Church’s Bureau for Work Among Foreign-Born Americans, which he led for several years, provided humanitarian assistance for immigrants, especially refugees fleeing the Russian Civil War. It also encouraged Episcopal churches to share their buildings with Orthodox congregations and helped establish foreign-language Episcopal congregations among the large numbers of Southern and Eastern Europeans who were coming to America prior to the Immigration Act of 1924.

The Holy Synod of Constantinople’s 1922 recognition of Anglican orders, though controversial, was followed by similar statements over the next 17 years by the Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Cyprus, Alexandria, Romania, and Greece. None have ever been rescinded. For more information about Anglican-Orthodox ecumenical relations, see: http://anglicanhistory.org/orthodoxy/

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