Joint Statement Breaches Divide (Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion Present a Joint Statement on the Divinity of Christ)

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History was made recently when the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion presented a joint statement about the divinity of Christ.

Rev. Harold Nahabedian of St. Mary Magdalene's, Toronto, and the sole Armenian Anglican priest in Canada, has been an Anglican delegate to the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission since 1998 and attended the commission's recent meetings in Armenia.

"The joint statement overcomes 1,700 years of division over the Christology of the church," Mr. Nahabedian said in an interview. "It brings these two communions together. Basically, it says that what each has taught over the centuries has been the faith, even though we have used different language."

Mr. Nahabedian helps as an interpreter and translator on the commission. "The sessions were in English, but we were in Armenia, so I did translate quite a lot," he noted.

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of faith, worship and ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada, said the statement is significant, meaning "a schism starting in the fifth century will be healed."

The point at issue, she said, was mostly over an ancient disagreement in use of theological terms.

"It has to do with the relationship of the human and divine nature of Christ. Christ is at the same time fully human and fully divine, but is one person," she said.

"Attempts to explain how this can be in the philosophical language of the fourth century led to misunderstandings between east and west - that is, between churches which we now call `Oriental Orthodox' and the rest of the Christian world."

In the last few years, Ms. Barnett-Cowan added, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches had agreed that what they fought about centuries ago was based on a misunderstanding, The Anglican agreement, she noted, is similar.

There are six Oriental Orthodox churches - Coptic, Syrian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Eritrean and the (Indian) Malankara. …