Watching the Other Hand: Nashotah House Meeting

NFTU– Well, the two day ecumenical meeting between the conservative Anglicans and Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA concludes today. Virtue Online has put another news story up, entitled “Orthodox Chancellor Blasts Liberals, Anglican Dean Upholds Faith“. The Orthodox Chancellor in question is none other than Father Chad Hatfield of St Vladimir’s Seminary. One gets the impression, not just from the title but from the article in question, that these two parties already hold the same faith from different perspectives (there’s a reason for this, and we’ll get to that after the quote):

“Reminding the conference that clergy and the schools that trained them had once been trusted, Fr. Hatfield went on to state that this was no longer the case. Much of the fault for this lies at the foot of seminaries which have become “places of speculative theology and bad behavior.”

The Orthodox chancellor went on to say that “faithful candidates arrive at our seminaries from across the country and walk out… wondering what it is they believe.” This has had a disastrous effect on the Church, “A heavy diet of low-cal theology has left our Church emaciated and thin.”

For Hatfield, the solution to this is a return to the substantial nourishment offered by the Fathers and Councils. Quoting Russian Archbishop Hilarion, he addressed the need to counter the twin threats of aggressive secularism and resurgent Islam: “Knowledge of the Fathers prevents Orthodox Christians from losing their way in the multitude of currents… the councils of the Fathers radiate a healthy spirit” a spirit that combats “sinful desires and promulgates good deeds.” It’s this spirit that will disprove the “forecasts” that “predict the disappearance of Christianity by the third millennium and its absorption by Islam.”

Dean Munday followed, delivering an unequivocal “no” to the pansexualist agenda and the pantheist theology that supports it. He gave an uncompromising “yes” to “obedience to the Apostolic Tradition of Faith, order and Morals as consistently proclaimed in Anglican tradition.”

At first, one would think this is an accident or perhaps Virtue Online overtrivializing the details of the faith. This is not actually the case. And this is where we get into the question: why was Father Chad Hatfield Metropolitan Jonah’s right-hand man at this meeting?

To get an answer to this question, we need first to look at the reason for this meeting. Supposedly, it was to restore the dialogue that began with St Tikhon and Bishop Grafton in the 19th century, the theme of the meeting. The controversial positions taken by St Tikhon until his return to Russia weren’t respected at all by the Holy Synod; St Nicholas of Japan expressed rather harsh distaste for this early example of ecumenical dialogue. In any case, the dialogue failed once the Russian Synod was able to examine the theological and liturgical stances of the Anglicans and expound on the matter at length.

However, one well-known Anglican Dean– one could almost say he was the architect of this whole current series of events, even seeing the venue as the right place to restart this dialogue– wrote and proclaimed that this was indeed a failed opportunity, and pointed out even one of the Anglican clergy who was recieved into Orthodoxy, a Dr. Irvine, at the time believed:

“…that he had been [taught] the essentials of the Orthodox faith in his boyhood by D r. Morgan Dix, Rector of Trinity Parish in New York City, and at The General Theological Seminary. A year after his ordination as an Orthodox priest, Irvine wrote: ‘To me, who from childhood, was an Anglican, and who now is a son of the Holy Eastern Church, I see no irreconcilable differences between the actual doctrine of both churches.'”

By contrast, both the Orthodox and Anglicans were well aware that this was not the case, and this early foray into ecumenical dialogue was a marked failure.

This famous Anglican preacher was, in his own words “an avid, staunch, committed ecumenist. I
believe that this is a normative part of the Anglican vocation, which I learned in this very place, (Nashotah– Ed.) and this Anglican divine continued musing, even after noting the collapse of any possibility of union:

“Yet, how should we proceed? In our day there is a revised interest in what is called Western Orthodoxy and the liturgy of St. Tikhon, which was born out of the exchange Bishop Grafton and Tikhon. This is an Orthodox liturgy based mostly on the Book of Common Prayer. Can Nashotah House make a contribution to the study of Western Orthodoxy and ecumenism? Can Nashotah House be a seminary in the next century which reflects the thanksgiving inscribed on the icon in our sacristy, an icon given by students who were trained here, Orthodox students, trained at Nashotah House? These are questions which are facing us today as we celebrate the Sesquicentennial of this seminary. A bold, daring response is required. I close this paper with these questions unanswered. I close this paper seeking the intercession and prayers of St. Tikhon of Moscow, and Blessed Charles Chapman Grafton….”

Why do I keep quoting this Anglican prelate? (If you followed the link to the essay above you have a clue.) Well, the timing of this man’s magnum opus was interesting. His name was Father M. Richard Hatfield. He wrote this in 1992, just two years before he officially became the pastor of a mission for the Antiochian Archdiocese as– you guessed it– Fr Chad Hatfield. (Don’t even ask how he was received: we don’t know!)

Like Metropolitan Jonah, Father Chad was raised in the Episcopalian religion, but unlike Metropolitan Jonah (at least to our knowledge), he was a high-ranking Anglican ecumenist. It’s clear he makes no apologies for his earlier writings (in fact, he still lists this ecumenistic essay on his curriculum vitae on the St Vladimir’s Website). And this is who the OCA sends over for its ecumenical witness to the Anglicans. (And has running the seminary– and whom the Orthodox Christian Mission Center has as vice-president?) Someone who is surely going to explain to these men the truth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Right.

Keep watching the other hand, folks, and start connecting the dots. The conspiracy to overthrow Orthodoxy is nasty, but if you want to beat it, you have to identify it. Get to a safe corner and start the fight. Ask. Tell. Keep watching the other hand. Let’s see what happens when we get our hands on the “Covenant Partnership”.

Any connections I missed this round? — Till next time,

In Christ–
Subdeacon Joseph Suaiden, NFTU