Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans: Diplomacy, and the Politics of Interwar Ecumenism

By Wright, J. Robert | Anglican and Episcopal History, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans: Diplomacy, and the Politics of Interwar Ecumenism


Wright, J. Robert, Anglican and Episcopal History


Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans: Diplomacy, and the Politics of Interwar Ecumenism. By Bryn Geffert. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010, Pp. xi, 501. $60, cloth.)

The author is to be congratulated for the massive amount of research that has gone into this history of the ecumenical efforts towards rapprochement between Anglicans and Orthodox in the period of the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the years between the two great world wars. Spanning over fifteen chapters with no less than a total of 1630 footnotes as well as twenty-seven illustrations, this extremely detailed coverage makes for tedious reading at times, but it does represent a significant amount of investigation in obscure sources both primary and secondary.

The foci of this book rest mainly in England and Russia, and readers knowledgeable of the wider dimensions of Anglican relations with the Orthodox will look in vain for coverage of the considerable North American involvement in such matters, or for much detailed treatment of such American Episcopalians known for their pioneering work with the Orthodox as Lauriston Scaife, Edward West, Charles Reuben Hale, Isabel Florence Hapgood, William Chauncey Emhardt, Paul Anderson, Charles C. Grafton, Frank Gavin, and Edward Hardy. The background of that earlier, and very intense, crescendo in relationships of the Episcopal Church with the Orthodox was formed especially in the decades of the 1860s and 1870s under the sponsorship of the "Russo-Greek Committee" that was established by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Gelfert may be correct that English bishop John Wordsworth "established for the first time [1898] direct correspondence between the ecumenical patriarch and the archbishop of Canterbury" (20), but it needs to be said that the founding of the Russo-Greek Committee in America had already preceded and directly influenced the establishment of the similar committee in England. The author would have done well to acknowledge and build upon this precedent of efforts (and success) from the Episcopal Church, for in many ways this earlier period of diplomacy from America was the necessary and substantial precursor for the later developments chronicled in the present volume.

Although the great strength of this book lies in its investigation of countless secondary sources, especially rescued from obscure periodicals, there are nonetheless just enough slips of the pen, so to speak, to make one wonder just how familiar the author is with Anglicanism itself. It must be said that the book suffers from a constant but ill-defined and very un-Anglican use of the term "confession" where the word "church" is probably intended. "Confession" is used not only to describe all the various separated churches of the west but also with reference to the Orthodox themselves, who are described as "lacking in confessional identity" ( 1 0) . To write of " confessions" that are "like-minded" to the Church ofEngland (75), or to write of "a given confession's ordere" (89), or of any single grouping of churches such as the Roman, or of all the non-Orthodox (e.g. 202, 231), or of the Christian east in contrast to the Christian west, as each being a "confession" (272) in any of these ways is both confusing and unhelpful, not the least because these churches do not normally employ such terminology to describe themselves.

Also, there are other inaccuracies. The first archbishop of Canterbury was Augustine, not Matthew Parker (11). Henry VIII was not the "founder of the Church of England" (17). The "Book of Ordinations" (22) was not called that but is generally known as the English Ordinal. There was no "archbishop of Gloucester" (79), an erroneous description for Arthur Headlam who was bishop ofthat see (82). The same misunderstanding of British episcopal terminology is present in the reference to "Kenneth Brechin" (400). The first Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1549, not 1550 (122). There was never an archbishop of Can terbury named William Fisher (253). …

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